Sunday, December 13, 2015

Week in Review 12/13/15

Welcome to the week that was!

In last week's review I mentioned  I'd need to clone myself if I wanted to add to the workload around here.

Matt Adams asked:
 But if you do clone yourself, can she go by Janey? That way if my fingers slip on the keyboard, I won't end up offending either of you.
I was thinking more along the lines of Her Majesty, Queen of the Unknown Universe.


Dena Pawling added:
I definitely understand not wanting to add more work to an already-high workload and backlog of ms to read. And I'm not a fan of you cloning yourself. The thought of TWO sharks loose in the publishing waters is right frightening.
Three: Barbara Poelle, Shark #2 now,  is already swimming around sucking up preempts and boatloads of cash.


But it was of course 2Ns who has the last word:
To clone, or not to clone that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer a slacker’s reputation
The slings and arrows of outrageous workload,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
Clone and take a nap.

Yours truly,
BS

aka - Bill Shakespeare
He lives in Brooklyn too, in a tree.


I'd also mentioned unnecessary words like "on her face" [when talking about a grin -cause who has a grin on their ass?] and that prompted this from CynthiaMc

When I did Romeo and Juliet, our Mercurtio painted a smiley face on his fanny as an inside joke but it showed through his tights and he died onstage with his rear facing the audience. We thought we were doing the show for an audience of serial killers until he told us what he did.

"for an audience of serial killers" is such a great phrase!

Adib Khorram commented on my observation that I really hadn't seen NaNoMoWriMo novels in the incoming queries on December 1.
Interestingly, Scott Westerfeld's AFTERLIFE is about a girl who does NaNoWriMo, sends her MS off straight away, then lands an agent and a six-figure deal for it.

I don't think that's the source of the misconception, but rather a symptom. I wonder where it originated?

I know the answer to that: a writer who had just finished NaNoWriMo and was day dreaming about what would happen next!



On Monday, the results of thehelluva week writing contest were posted. Nate Wilson was our winner, but as usual there were some entries that really grabbed me (and y'all!)

Kregger is spot on with this observation:
For the most part, if you skim these entries it's easy to miss the jewels.

And sonja's comment was interesting:

    And Emi, that's a Miracle on 34th Street reference, right? Made me smile! (And cringe...)

because I did NOT get the reference to Miracle on 34th Street at all! (I've never seen the movie, which means I have to surrender both my claim to being a New Yorker and a movie lover.)

But this underscores the power of Emi's entry: even without knowing the reference, it was a sox knocker. The reference adds a layer to the story, but the story doesn't depend on the reference.
That's one of the things you  have to watch for in writing novels: does the joke, or the point of a  paragraph require the reader to already know something? Does the joke or the paragraph survive if the reader doesn't?
And this is different from the negative space I sometimes talk about in entries. Negative space (like the space between strands of a spider web) is filled in by what the reader can intuit. It doesn't require knowledge of a specific movie or cultural reference, just the reader's abilities to make connections.

If you look at CynthiaMc's great phrase in this comment:
When I did Romeo and Juliet, our Mercurtio painted a smiley face on his fanny as an inside joke but it showed through his tights and he died onstage with his rear facing the audience. We thought we were doing the show for an audience of serial killers until he told us what he did.
 A reader can understand that the audience laughing here with just a bit of general knowledge of Romeo and Juliet.  Appreciating the beauty of that phrase requires we bring something to the reading, but not detailed knowledge.


This is where people go crazy trying to figure out what's in The Canon: ie what people have to know to be educated enough to get the jokes. 

(And here you thought story telling was just putting words down on paper in the right order!)

 And to return to the actual topic at hand: Miracle on 34th Street:  Emi PdeS replied:
Bahaha! That scene in the movie was on when I read Janet's prompt words, and I couldn't help myself
… And you just made my day. I'm just a little overjoyed that someone caught it!

On the general subject of entering these contests Gabby Gilliam said:
Every time Janet posts one of these contests, I hesitate with my entry because they're all so freaking good. This contest was no exception.
I really encourage everyone to enter, even if you think you're not up to it. What's the worst that can happen? I promise you no one laughs at anyone, and no one shows up at your door to demand you turn in your "I am a writer" card. Besides, one of the rules for writers is BE IMPERFECT!


Lucie Witt agrees:
Gabby, I lurked forever without commenting or entering a contest because I was intimidated by the sheer talent on display. If anyone else out there is thinking the same, I strongly encourage you to give a flash fiction contest a try. It's great fun, improves your writing, and isn't nearly as scary as it seems.

Steve Forti does too:
A hearty seconded on Lucy's comment about this improving your writing. It really helps make clear how to get your story told in the fewest, most powerful words you can. And shows you just what parts are truly important to the story, and what can be cut because it's mere fluff.

and Her Grace, The Duchess of Kneale, has a very cogent comment here about the value of contests:

    Gabby, don't let the quality of other entries deter you from entering because there's really two contests going on here:

    Contest #1: Impress Janet with your mad writing skillz for fun.
    Contest #2: Improve personally as an author. If you can notice an improvement in your contest entries over the course of a few months, you're winning Contest #2.

    I never place in Contest #1, but by watching others' skills and attempting them on my own, I'm improving in my mastery of the craft at sentence and paragraph level. The hundred words is constraining me to write tightly. (Hey, I managed to cram an entire month into a hundred words yesty.) I'm also learning the value of subtext and supertext.

    Give it a go. While trepidation may niggle in your guts, be bold, be mighty and post something. This is one of those things that you have absolutely nothing to lose.

And as Kastie points out, it's not just about winning!
Holy crap. I completely forget that I entered this. An exquisite sentence mention?! Turns out I don't need a win to bounce around the apartment with joy.


Timothy Lowe had me reaching for Amazon with this comment:
These contests set the bar! BTW, a bit off topic, if anyone wants a read that sets the bar almost impossibly high, try A Free State, by Tom Piazza. A runaway slave pretending to be who he is?? Holy hell! - and the writing is absolutely exquisite.



On Tuesday the topic was using italics for more than a word or phrase: (for those of you interested in this kind of data: this is the blog post that garnered the most comments this week!)

I said don't do it!

Lisa Bodenheim asked:
And I'm puzzled by one part of the Shark's response. Is it because I don't have enough caffeine? I'm not getting the sample the Shark gave of 12/7/15 with the To and From. I notice the TO is completely capitalized. And I notice there's a space between the From and the next line. Is that the point?

Use a completely different line to create emphasis?

Here's what Lisa is referring to:
12/7/15
TO: SharqueForBrains@thereef.comic
Fr: WriterWhoHasQuestions@perplexed.com

One of the (many) reasons I value the comment section of the blog is that it often reveals when a post has not been written well enough to be clear.

What I meant is that instead of using italics to separate a  section, such as email text, you'd use the heading above to show it's an email. 

NO:
Felix Buttonweezer finished the email draft with a flourish. He was fairly certain Janet was sending him to Carkoon for this one, but no matter.
Yo SharkForBrains, you incompetent coral sniffing reef killer. How about you quit muddying up the waters and provide some clarity on use of italics?

YES:
12/7/15
TO: SharqueForBrains@thereef.comic
Fr: WriterWhoHasQuestions@perplexed.com
Yo SharkForBrains, you incompetent coral sniffing reef killer. How about you quit muddying up the waters and provide some clarity on use of italics?

Does this help?

nightsmusic asked:
My question then is, if it's third person omniscient and you're in someone's dream, how do you differentiate that? I don't want to read huge blocks of italicized text, but I want my readers to know this is not the norm that they're reading, that there's something going on with the character that isn't a normal waking moment.

This is exactly WHY you do not use the crutch of italics. If I, as a reader, can't tell from the writing, it's the writing you'll want to tinker with. Since I can't see the actual paragraph (or section) in question, this is the place for those second sets of eyeballs on your manuscript, and the very important crit phrase "when did you get confused?"

And Donnaeve makes a good point:
So, there's this book of mine, you know, the one that's going to be published? :) And it has italicized sentences throughout. Got example, each chapter ends with my little character (Dixie Dupree) writing in her diary. Those entries are italicized. As to the rest of the book - which has now been seen by a copy editor, and I've gone over it and made the suggested corrections, etc. etc., there are italicized sentences - and the copy editor even added a few.

So, no paragraphs or whole chapters, but yes, italicized sentences.


Did I just hear teeth snapping?

Well, no, but only because you're right. There IS a place for italics in this world. I'm not suggesting they be banned from use. But, using them sparingly is better than using them as a crutch for what should be clear from the writing itself.

As for entire chapters in italics, which Donnaeve mentions here,
Then I think about the book DESCENT, by Tim Johnston, and I believe I used this book before as an example when a different discussion about italics came up - because this book has WHOLE chapters italicized. I read the book a year or so ago, but if I recall, I believe it was to differentiate between POVs.

I'm not sure I'd actually be able to read it. Which may say more about me than italics.

Colin Smith always likes to raise the stakes:
Like Steve, I was about to jump in and say, "But no, wait--what about first person inner dialog?" e.g.:

I approached the body. It was still. Dead? Remember the last time, you idiot! I glanced at my prosthetic hand...

Without the italics, it might seem a bit disjointed:

I approached the body. It was still. Dead? Remember the last time, you idiot! I glanced at my prosthetic hand...

But with quotes, it seems a bit clunky to me:

I approached the body. It was still. Dead? "Remember the last time, you idiot!" I told myself, glancing at my prosthetic hand...

So I can see some value to using italics, but certainly not to overuse them. Indeed, if half the novel is inner dialog like the above, perhaps the POV or voice of the novel needs to change, not the font style?
I had a long paragraph here on how revising that would eliminate the need for italics, but Leah B said what I was thinking:
In Colin's example, "dead?" for me reads as internalization. Nature knows if the body is dead or not; the one doubting its status is our narrator. So then of course it's going to read a little wonky, having both thoughts next to each other, one set off and the other not.

I've been deep in the revision trenches while on holiday from FO4, so I took a stab at how I would revise Colin's example with no italics:

I approached the body. It was still. Dead? I glanced at my prosthetic hand... Remember the last time, you idiot.

There's a slight difference in meaning here from what Colin posted. When the thought triggers the narrator to look at his hand, it feels more like his instincts are yelling at him, DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER. When he looks at his hand and then has the thought, it feels more like he's chastising himself. Maybe a little regretful too.

Which version our author would go with would depend on what type of character our narrator is and what else is happening in the scene.

My 2 caps, anyway.

My revision was slightly different:
I approached the body. It was still. Dead? I glanced at my prosthetic hand. Remember the last time, you idiot!

I think when you're tempted to use italics, the first step is to see if the sentence can be re-written to avoid doing so.


Dena Pawling hearkens back to old-school rules on italics:
When I was first starting out, I was advised to underline everywhere that I wanted to show up in the finished product as italics. Then I learned [from a few publishing types who comment on this blog] that this is “old-school” thinking and to use italics.

I remember those days too (and they didn't end all that long ago. For YEARS everything we subbed to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine required underling in place of italics.)

I think it's cause old typewriters didn't have italics keys. If you underlined, the copyeditor knew it was to be italicized. On the other hand, how you showed just plain underlining I do not know.

There was a wail of despair heard all the way to Brooklyn from Susan:
Oh, this is not the answer I wanted to hear... *headdesk*

My current WIP is a non-linear novel with three timelines for one MC (Present, Past, and past through letters). I finally figured out a structure wherein I'm combining snippets of the letters with more story (set further in the past) in third-person POV, separating the two with italics. I hope that makes sense--it makes my head spin and I'm writing the damn thing.

Thus:

" Dear Character:

Remember when I learned that italics were bad news bears...

She always thought italics were useful as a writing tool, not only for emphasis, but to differentiate between writing conventions and format. She thought wrong. Now, her whole world was turned upside down, and she didn't know how to fix it."

I did the same for my first book, which used journal entries at the beginning of each chapter: the entries were formatted in italics. Like Donna, and based on published books I've read, I thought this was standard.

So, do I continue with this WIP as is or figure out a way to restructure the novel to remove the italics? This makes my heart sink and my head hurt.

Journal entries at the start of a chapter don't need to be italicized. The format alone (centered, indented twice) with a credit line does the job of italics here.

This is what a correctly formatted journal entry at the start of a chapter looks like:

                        "The day started like all other days. I cleaned up the blood from
                        last nights Open Mic Query then turned to the incoming mail.
                        Surprised to find an outraged letter from the Italic Love Society.
                        Cheeky buggers!
                                                                                                ---Sunday, 12/13/15

There's a lot to be said for the very simple strategy of captioning location/date changes with the subheader that shows the shift: Paris 1910. (or whatever)

Kara Ringenbach asked:
My WIP is written in close 3rd person. I used to have the main character's thoughts in italics until I realized the above issues. I removed as many as I could but there are a few spots where it wouldn't flow (as in Colin Smith's example). I wonder if it is OK to have some italicized and most not? Or would an agent look at that and think, 'sloppy'?

If it distracts from the story I'm going to think "add this to the revision notes." None of this stuff we're talking about is going to keep me from reading a good story.  I may re-format your ms if you insist on blocks of italics, but I have Cntrl A, Cntrl I and I know how to use them!

LynnRodz said:
Dare I go against the QOTKU? Well, what worse thing can possibly happen when I'm already in the slush pile? Italics are necessary for distinguishing foreign words which I use throughout my WIP. It's also important to show that I didn't make a mistake in misspelling a word, but using the spelling of another language. Ex: I use quai instead of quay throughout my ms. My understanding is, the foreign word is suppose to be italicized the first time and thereafter it's not.

As others have said, it's subjective. Some agents/editors mind and others don't as long as it's done in moderation.

I agree that foreign words and phrases should be italicized. Thus when speaking to my shark pals we italicize nice and sweet since they are not found in the Language of Chomp. D'accord?

Well I agreed until I read ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist)'s comment!
Craig, LynnRodz, and Jenny C (and maybe others that I missed) brought up the issue about foreign language. I used to go with this until other authors educated me. Basically, their point was that when we italicize "foreign" words, we are assuming our reader is solely an English speaker. I think editors/publishers are not in agreement with leaving "foreign" words in plain text, but I know of one author who negotiated successfully that the Spanish words and expressions used in his novel should not use italics. (Daniel José Older).
Sacre bleau!

And Robert Ceres points out another use:
Dammit. I'd been using italics to indicate song lyrics sung. Happens a lot in a book featuring music, but I'm realizing lyrics are already evident from the indentation.

Yup, song lyrics in italics is no problemo.

Janice L Grinyer has a very interesting question:
In  my Forestry outdoor mystery novel, I have a Deaf character who plays an important part in the storyline. When anyone signs or converses through writing, I italicize (and describe the sign language hand motions at times, non-italicized) so you can differentiate between speech, writing and signing. She also uses speech, which I don't italicize.

Having worked in the Deaf community, this happens quite frequently, Deaf persons speaking, writing and signing with hearing persons - three forms of communication. Since this is American Sign Language (ASL, I've got 32 hours credited), it is a language of its own (like French!:). BTW one of the cultural aspects of ASL is that you never eavesdrop by watching/staring at a private conversation - that's considered rude - just like eavesdropping on a vocal private conversation. Also, if you do understand ASL and someone signs to someone else in front of you, it's considered rude of you not to let them know you understand I can HEAR you! Makes for a great mystery however, that nasty eavesdropping bit :) Anyhow...

Is it okay to use italicization to differentiate languages in this circumstance?

This is a really interesting question, and I think it will depend on how much italicizing is used. I wouldn't worry about it at the query stage. If it's a problem, it's something that's easily fixed in revisions.

And Robert Ceres further said:

I like the way Jane Austin (the best author ever, BTW) used italics in the dialog to indicate a slight emphasis on a particular word, sometimes not always the one you would expect, to subtly convey alternative interpretations.

That's exactly why you want to use italics sparingly for other stuff. Sometimes it really is the right tool for the job.

This comment from Stephen Kozeniewski cracked me up:
Seems like good advice. Italics lack that certain...je ne sais quoi.
                                                         
As did this from Dave Rudden, who is, I hope, pulling our collective leg:



Which reminds me of why I love some of the non-standard punctuation symbols. Like this one, which Dave Rudden could have used above!

The Percontation Point is used to raise awareness of another layer or alternate meaning in a sentence - more often than not an ironic or sarcastic one.

My favorite non-standard punctuation mark is still the interrobang:





And Adib Khorram is correct:
My understanding was that most imprints have their own style guidelines and that those guidelines would cover the use of italics, too.

And really in the end, do what works. Know the rulez, sure. But this is your book, and your vision, and there are a lot of people who will be glad to undermine your confidence by telling you that you MUST follow the rulez, but pay them no mind.  If you need help remembering this, here's our own Julie M. Weathers in fine form:

A few years ago I sent my query in to one of those helpful online places where the stud duck held court and the minions piled on with all sorts of "helpful" comments. Mainly the minions tried to see who could be snarkier than the last person, but I felt I might get some good advice if I waded through the duck doo.

Stud Duck (TM) shreds my query, which I really thought was pretty close, but might need just a bit more polishing. The crew at Books and Writers had generously helped me with it.

Stud Duck took particular delight in tearing apart one passage with a sentence he hated. Then he gave me a lesson in writing. He explained how to write a sentence correctly and demonstrated what nouns and predicates are.

The minions piled on. Ha ha ha! She's querying and doesn't even know what a sentence is.

I finally got irritated and lost my southern charm. "Well, thank you for all your help and demonstrating how to write correctly. I'll pass this on to Diana Gabaldon who is the one who actually wrote that passage for me."

Stud Duck ™ may just be my new favorite description. And given I've been guilty of saying noun, verb, clause, simple sentences over at QueryShark (and more than once!) I'm really hoping I didn't say that when the sentence actually works.







How the blog turned blue that day I do not know:












On Wednesday I posted my list of ten plus one
(not to be all picky, but your list is ten plus two, Ms. I-Can't-Number-Lists).--kdjames
two outstanding  books of the year.


JennyC mentioned her list included (as did lizosisek's, and Adib Khorram):
MORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera
which is my colleague and libations consultant Brooks Sherman's client! Adam is tearing up the place with accolades and it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy!

and further said:
So happy to see THE DRIFTER by Nicholas Petrie on Janet's list! It comes out in January. The author lives here in Wisconsin and I'm looking forward to seeing his book do really well!

I hope it does well too. It's a fabulous book and I'm a rabid fan of the author now. I hope he's busy writing the next book!

Susan reminded me of a book I've been meaning to read:
The other most recent memorable read is Brooklyn by Colm Toilbin. I feel torn about this book. On the one hand, I really loved it. It was exactly the kind of book I love to read--loved the setting, loved the story, and I read it easily in one sitting. On the other hand, I felt like the MC was a bit one-dimensional. It's been a couple of weeks since I finished this book, and I still feel unsettled by my opinion of it--I really want to love it, but I think I just merely liked it. Blah. It's such an uneasy feeling.

I know what you mean by unsettled in my opinion. I had that same feeling about City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg. I desperately wanted to love that book, but I didn't. I think it's a monumental effort but not a monumental achievement. It took me a solid week to read the whole thing (900+ pages) and it was time I don't regret, but still, it's not on my sox knocker list.


Craig asked:
For time immemorial, or at least since I have been following her, My Queen has said no to Sci-Fi. There are two books on her list, Orphan X and Station 11, that I would identify as Sci-Fi. I would probably also call Patrick Lee Sci-Fi.

I have to wonder if it is just the name Sci-Fi that she doesn't like and why?

Orphan X isn't sci-fi at all. Station 11 got put in that category, but I don't think of it as that, much as I don't think of Patrick Lee as sf at all either.

However, there are books I've read and loved that ARE sci-fi, as there are books I've read and loved that are romance or women's fiction.  I just don't rep them because I'm not knowledgeable enough in the category to be doing so.  Sure I've read Dune and Anne McCaffrey and Ursula LeGuin and Robert Heinlein, but I don't know enough about the CURRENT market to be an effective advocate for a writer.  I like to be good at my job so I try to avoid taking on things where I don't know what I'm doing. That way, if it turns out I don't know what I'm doing it's a nice cold shock, not a foreseeable one.

Stephen Parks consigns himself to the kale-only section of the Shark Café with this revelation:
Well, I had some real problems with Station 11, so I guess it’s official that Janet and I can’t be friends. I found the writing to be evocative but the storytelling to be weak. Too much of the story happens off page, including a very important event which is glimpsed on the horizon. (Sorry to be vague, trying for no spoilers)
The interesting thing is that Stephen makes valid points, ones I can see in hindsight. However, when I read the book I was so immersed in the story I didn't care about some of the details that now, after reading Stephen's blog post are much more apparent.

A client of mine and I are in discussion about his work in progress. The discussion is exactly like this: some of the plot just doesn't "make sense." As we finally realized, his job as the author is to write the story so I don't notice.  That was a major epiphany for both of us.
For me, because I've always thought of myself as someone who notices when things are "wrong." I've yammered on at length here on this blog about getting dates/names/places right in books. Yet clearly I've overlooked things that are "wrong" in other books.

My job requires a delicate balance between reading as a "just a reader" and with a more critical eye "is this going to be publishable today?"

Many people involved in law enforcement can't watch cop shows on TV cause the shows have so much "wrong", while the rest of us are devoted fans of Law & Order. I have to turn off my inner cop sometimes to just see if I enjoy the story. That's a whole lot harder to do than you think.


So while Stephen is munching his kale cookies, and I'm not inviting him to share MY Mallomars, he's  not out on his ear…yet.

I'm still gobsmacked from this by Megan V
 This was too darn difficult. I almost didn't bother. And then I thought, you know, I'd hate for others to miss out on something fantastic just because I was too lazy to put together a list. The trouble is, I've got a list of 493 books I read this year, thanks to last years New Years resolution— I resolved to read two books a day(one reread, one new read). I'm well below my goal, but it's still a lot of books to choose from! So I picked a few from varying genres and age categories

493 books?
HOLY FUCKAMOLY!


And Luce Witt mentioned a book I have on my list of books to give to anyone on your Christmas list and know you've gotten them the perfect thing:
Tiny Beautiful Things - Cheryl Strayed (advice columns/essays that are gorgeous, raw, loving, hilarious, true, sad)

I love this book with the passion of a thousand suns. You will too.

John Frain asked
How do you guys keep track of these? I swear, some of y'all must get more than 24 hours in a day and I'm jealous.




And Julie M. Weathers pointed out why keeping track of books is so important:
While I was doing research for RAIN CROW, I ran across the story of an interesting soldier who later became an editor and novelist. Out of curiosity I looked up one of his books. They are very obscure, but I found one and was able to read a sample of it. My stars, what gorgeous writing. I thought I'd get it just to fix the language and speech patterns of the time more in my mind. I'll remember him.

I didn't. No idea who he was or what rabbit trail led me to him. I can't find him and I have searched.

Don't trust your memory if you run across an interesting book.

Kae Ridwyn agrees:
@Julie - this is SO true! For decades now, I'd been trying to find a novel I read when I was 13-ish (didn't write down title or author; just remembered the plot) but this year, I discovered Jane Yolen's A PLAGUE OF UNICORNS while reading comp titles for a book I wanted to start querying. I absolutely LOVED her writing style; so I bought another book of hers several weeks ago when browsing the second hand titles at my local Op Shop. It turns out, this book A SENDING OF DRAGONS, was number three in the series of the novel I had been searching for since forever! It's hard to describe the rapture I felt on the re-discovery.
Moral of story: ALWAYS write down the title / author! Memories just don't cut it!


On Thursday the topic was debunking the oft-heard advice to write your query like flap copy:

nightsmusic asked:
This is an interesting example to me because the first two paragraphs of that flap copy give me all the basics of the story. So if the third covered the stakes involved, would that still not be good body to send? I'm not explaining this very well, but by the third paragraph, I would expect to see the; The attack and consequent imprisonment halts Stahl's chance to pass on information that could bring a swift end to the war. The cat and mouse game that ensues at the prison camp while he makes his plans to escape...yada yada.
Potentially, yes. The problem with using 2/3 of your real estate to establish time and location is you don't need to. It's enough to know it's Paris 1938. Any agent worth her salt is going to know what this means.
Bookstore readers might not, that's true, but your audience for the query is the agent. Even young agents will know what Paris 1938 means. They may not be as well-read in it as someone with more years (harrumph!), a degree in history, and a shelf of books on the topic, but that's why you query me first. And by ditching all the pretty description you have room for the plot. And plot is what distinguishes your book from Alan Furst's and all the rest of the novels set in Paris in 1938.

Jenz nails this perfectly here:
We've all heard this dust jacket advice and most of us were puzzled when we also heard not to take it literally. The dust jacket tip is often given in response to the lament "but I can't sum up a 100K book in 250 words!" It's a demonstration that, yes, in fact, you can be that concise.

But the dust jacket is aimed at a reader while the query is aimed at an agent. Two distinct audiences with different goals and views. It's like the difference between an advertising firm pitching an ad campaign to the seller of a product versus what that campaign will look like in the actual ads.

Mark G cracked me up with this:
'Now, can you tell me what the plot of the novel is?'

As I read this I got a mental image of Faye Dunaway leaning over me holding a wire hanger

and Jerle made me a tad sheepish here:
Well, in my writing career I've been rejected by the best (JR once stopped reading and passed on the 25th word of my query). No sour grapes; that's how we learn.

really? yikes! I think you  might need one of these:


and here is the perfect end to the entire post + comments:





because of course, Friday was  the announcement of the next writing contest.

I love it when a plan comes together!




Tomorrow we'll have contest results, and then some suggestions on things for people on your gift list this holiday season!

Have a great week!


Blog subheader noms:
And now we know: the etymology for "query" comes from the Latin for "burned at the stakes."--DLM

"Entice" and "engage" two words which always establish relationships, be them ancillary, skin-to-skin or eye to page.--2Ns











38 comments:

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Such a superb WIR and the best discussion on italics I've ever seen.

Like anything else, they are strong sauce and should be used sparingly.

I look forward to my standard lunchtime read of the contest entries.

Terri

Megan V said...

Thanks for another great WIR, your majesty, QOTKU! :) I loved the advice to nightmusic...need to apply it to my own MS.

One quick note. Scott Westerfeld's book is titled AFTERWORLDS. (It's currently sitting at the bottom of my small sci fi/fantasy—book-tree, and practically shouting at me to speak up).

About the 493...I want to clarify that the count was for books not novels. I read a lot of MG books, which are significantly shorter in length than a novel (but were/are very helpful for me as I also write MG).

Julie is so right about trying to remember books without writing them down. Don't rely on memory!

I'm in love with the subheader this week. It's spot on!

nightsmusic said...

Thank you, thank you for both answers to me this week. I just keep learning and that's a wonderful thing. And a great WIR with the perfect sub-header choice. I laughed out loud when I read that line.

I too can only catch up on the fiction entries during lunch this week. Two weekends down, two to go. Last night's Holiday Nights dinner at Greenfield Village was superb as usual, but it was 60 degrees out and felt like we were watching Memorial Day rather than Christmas fireworks at the end. Crazy weather!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Nom-ed for subheader and given a last word on clones, my life is complete. Ah, unless I won the lottery, then my life would definitely be complete.
But I gotta buy a ticket, which I only do when the numbers fly into the hundreds of millions and then the odds are so against me that I'd have an easier time finishing my WIP, getting an agent, a publisher and hitting the NYTs best seller list as a debut senior-novelist and make the mag-covers of WD and AARP the same month. Now THAT would really make my life complete.

Ah, does Santa bring lottery tickets?

Long live the WIR.

Donnaeve said...

Wow! What an epic WIR, thank you!

I love all the pics to enhance the points. Too funny. Dilbert is SO reflective of what the Nortel culture was like, and one of my fave funnies just b/c of that.

I am bone tired today having spent Friday night all gussied up for Cape Fear Cotillion, then an all day cooking baking spree with Mom, daughter and grands in tow + Little Dog too, topped off by an evening on the back deck of a friend with a fire pit, roasted oysters, and steamed shrimp. There may have been a drink - or two.

As tired as I am, I was thrilled to read all the highlights of the week, and yet I realized I somehow missed Gabby's comment about her hesitation on entering FF. I get that - it's totally understandable. Even after a couple years (I think?) of participating, I'm still nervous when I hit publish, but I'm also driven to enter because those five little words are always enticing and challenging to me. Even if I'm not 100% happy with my entry (most of the time) I'm still happier for having tried than not.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Wait, is Barbara Poelle Shark #2, or is she a slithery snake? Is she perhaps a slithery sea serpent? Maybe we just need to put agents in a separate part of the Internet with a splash page that says "HERE BE MONSTERS" so you can click "savvy" to sail those seas or "abandon ship" to return to safer waters.

That said, I've gotten another full request. And I have a short story in the final round of consideration at a magazine (the editor in chief emailed me to say so, and thanked me for the "fine" story) (!!!)

I vote for 2N's on the subheader!

I think my best "books read in a year" total has been more than 200 but less than 300 (fewer than?) This year I'm at a woeful 41 or so. But, I spent a month or so sick and staring at Netflix (and then Fallout 4), and I also spent two other months writing novels (and assorted short story writing time, though I can't remember how many shorts I wrote and finished this year). So there's that. I also don't separately count short stories I've read, so maybe I should start doing that, because I consume an awful lot online nowadays, amongst the markets I'm submitting to.

On the topic of jacket copy....I hardly ever read it. And when I do read it, it's almost always after I've finished the book. I frequently find jacket copy to either be maddeningly inaccurate, or to give too much away, and I much prefer to read the first couple pages of a book to gauge if it's for me. But, I also don't much like book covers (especially book covers with people on them), so this is probably yet another arena in which I'm not within normal expectations range for the target audience.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I second Donna, an epic Week In Review.

It's interesting to know law enforcement agents don't like cop shows. I can see that. My ex is an expert in ballistics. It used to drive me mad when we watched a movie and he'd tell me a certain firearm would have already emptied the magazine or no way that gun could make a hole that big, or blood doesn't spill so fast and it would have made a different kind of hole.

Lucie, I too feel intimidated to enter the contests, and often to comment here. I don't understand many of them and read in awe. My ability to make connections is obscure. I guess my writing reflects that.

Megan 493 books is huge even for MG. I could do that in picture books. I haven't counted all those I read this year, only the novels. I'm a slow reader. I like to read every word, reread passages and even chapters.

Jennifer, congrats on the new full request.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

QOTKU didn't mention her awesome podcast hosted on Gabriela Pereira's DIYMFA. If you don't follow Janet's FB page you don't know what you're missing. Here's the link to the podcast

http://diymfa.com/category/podcast

Colin Smith said...

A classic WiR. The whole discussion on italics is so useful--and where else would you find such agent/writer banter on the topic?

Of course, I have to laugh when a vegetarian is told he's raising the stakes... ;)

Once again, I'll echo the encouragement about entering the flash fiction contests. The first of these I entered, I didn't even get a mention. The second, it seems I wrote a story but never entered it. My third was a semi-finalist. My fifth won. Out of 74 contests to date (by my reckoning), I have entered 55, and won 2. But more importantly, my writing is so much better than it was back in August of 2011. I think a lot more about word selection. My editing is sharper, and perhaps more brutal than before. There's so much these contests have taught me. Which is why, in the end, I enter, even if, like last week, it feels like the well of inspiration has been drunk dry.

Don't enter the contests to prove you're a writer. You don't have to prove that to anyone. Enter because you are a writer, and you know the challenge will help make you a better writer. And if you don't think you could be a better writer, then tell us all when you're setting up classes and we'll all come learn from you. :)

Colin Smith said...

Angie: Thanks for the reminder. I need to find time to listen to this:

http://diymfa.com/category/podcast

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and CONGRATULATIONS Diane for quote of the week!! Excellent! :D

Colin Smith said...

Is the 3 comment/100 word-per-comment rule actually a 300-word rule, so you could conceivably post 10 30-word comments? Or two 150-word comments? And what if you wanted to italicize the second comment because you're really only thinking the comment, not actually saying it...? Or what if your comment character quotes Shakespeare a lot, so you really need to use an Elizabethan-style font to convey that--how do we do that in Blogger?


:)

Susan said...

Love this WIR! So much fun and such useful information (and the pictures are perfect). Seriously--those dogs. Priceless.

A couple of comments:

- The italics debate/conversation is still making my head hurt, but I appreciate the clarifications. It's interesting, though, because I'm reading a book where, like Donna mentioned, whole chapters are italicized, and I find myself skimming over these much more quickly (though I'm not too impressed with the book to start). I'm taking the advice to just write the thing without worrying about the formatting, but I'll be bookmarking this WIR to torture myself later.

- I had no idea there was a punctuation mark called an interrobang, and now I want to litter my manuscript with it. But I won't. Because I'm a good Reider. But the urge is fierce!

- I'd be interested to hear your thoughts when you read "Brooklyn," Janet. Sometimes, when I read a book that makes me feel unsettled like that, I'll check the reviews to see if I missed the mark somewhere along the way. Sometimes, I have. For example, I loved Zusak's "I Am the Messenger," but gleaned something completely different from the ending. Sometimes, I find other people who feel the same ("Allegiant," I'm looking at you.). At least reviews are helpful in that they can clarify or validate how you're feeling (as in the case of "Brooklyn").

Thanks for the WIR!



John Frain said...

This is where I laughed loudest:
"Thus when speaking to my shark pals we italicize nice and sweet..." (I'm laughing again as I type it!) Makes me think, what foreign words would I italicize? I think cleaning and patience might lead the long list.

Since epic and classic have been taken, I'll say this was a brilliant WIR. Just loved it. The images might be responsible for the idiom that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Jennifer, congrats on your requests and good luck on both fronts. That's fantastic news to share. I don't even feel jealous yet, but give me a few minutes.

I learned an interesting thing about being a writer on Friday. My son (who is okay now, so I'm safe to type) had a horrific accident on his skateboard that gave him a concussion and massive amounts of blood from a head wound. As a nurse was helping him, this thought occurred to me: I need to make a change to my manuscript where my character gets a head wound -- it bleeds much more than I showed in the pages. I was completely lost in my ms until the nurse asked me a question ... for a second time. Writer 1, Parent 0.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Great week in review as usual. I always look forward to them.

"Ah, does Santa bring lottery tickets?"

My ex used to buy lottery tickets for the boys for Christmas. I didn't really approve as I am not a fan of lotteries, but they had fun for a few minutes and it taught them how seldom people win. They never won anything. I'm sure they would have rather had to $20 to go buy something they wanted.

Anyway, my oldest son is ten years older than the youngest. OS commandeers YS to help him with something and tells me he's going to take him to the store and buy him a treat for helping.

"Don't buy him candy. I don't want him getting the idea you reward good behavior with junk food."

"I won't, Mom. Sheesh. I'm going to buy him some lottery tickets."

"Many people involved in law enforcement can't watch cop shows on TV cause the shows have so much "wrong", while the rest of us are devoted fans of Law & Order."

That is the reason I can't watch most movies and tv shows about cowboys or even read 90% of the novels. Especially western romance. Kari Lynn Dell can be trusted and is recommended, but most make me want to hunt down the author, slap a post hole digger in her hands, tell her to take her shirt off, oil up, dig post holes all day, and see if that was a good idea. Criminy, my hands are still scarred from barb wire breaking when we were stretching it and it zinging around my hands where I was holding a post.

Horses don't snort and squeal nearly as much as television shows and movies would have your believe.

Just once I want to read a romance novel with Hunk LaRue and his arm inserted up a cow butt to his shoulder. Actually, I'd like to see those hairless, oiled, male models be told that's what the shoot is going to be. I'd pay money to see that.

"You want me to put my hand where?"

McMurtry got westerns right. Louis Lamour. Elmer Kelton. A few others, but for the most part, ugh, especially books about rodeo cowboys.

"Hunk LaRue climbed onto the back of the killer bronco Hurricane, knowing the horse had ended fifteen champion cowboys...and ate them. They should have named him Wheaties. He makes a breakfast of champions."

My son's bucking horses all run up to him when he shows up so he can pet them. The biggest danger is getting run over in the stampede for scratches.

I've bought several books about the old time lady bronc riders and I really have to space them out because they make me gnash my teeth in my sleep.

Congratulations Jennifer!!!

My obsessive whatever has kicked in. I shall be moving super heavy desk down four feet to the corner so I can put a bookcase on the back of it. I tell myself this is so I can keep all my research books handy. The big bookcase is overflowing.

So, if somewhere down the road you hear, "Julie Weathers fell off her desk while fetching a book," you'll know how that happened.

Amy Schaefer said...

Thank goodness for the WIR; I've missed everything. I have been elbow-deep in packing up the Paradise office. The time has come to trade my tropical sunrises, dolphins and fresh coconut milk for long, cold nights, squirrels and chai lattes (eew), at least for a few months. The road to departure has not been smooth; I am starting to feel like an unwilling participant in my own C-grade Hollywood holiday caper:

The race is on. Amy has two days make it home for Christmas before her brother, or she'll miss out on the good guest room and be stuck with creaky 100-year-old single bed on the windy side of the house. It should be easy - except she is trying to get from Papua New Guinea to Toronto. Between reluctant children continuously unpacking their bags, a husband on the verge of running off to meetings on the other side of the planet and a byzantine list of flight changes, the trip looks next-to-impossible - never mind she is fighting off pneumonia and wandering around wearing the facial aftermath of a lost fight with a closet door. Will Amy and her family make that 41 minute connection in Chicago? Or is it going to be a windy Christmas?

I wish I could say I made up a single word of that. Wish me luck, woodland creatures. Wish me luck. And I'll see you on the other side.

DLM said...

I must agree, this is an *epic* WIR - and to find myself on the header is a fun grin. And I'm going to be honest: when I came up with that, it was 100% intentional header-bait. Full disclosure, I didn't really imagine it would MAKE it to the header, but I was courting it, no question.

My thanks, Janet!

I shared with Our Host a pic or two of Gossamer this week and a non-flash short story ...

A little over a year ago, I got a new desk. I have LOVED this desk.

This year, my employer has adopted three Wounded Warriors families, whose Christmas wish lists we are probably more than going to fill up completely. One of the familes’ sons, fourteen years of age, is already a published writer, having written a story about himself and his father.

He wants a desk.

I am beyond excited to be able to give this boy my own old desk; it is small, but REALLY well built, looks nice, and it is where I have written so much of my own work.


Merry Gossness to all, and to all a good Sunday Night!
Gosspics here: http://dianelmajor.blogspot.com/2015/12/festive-heat.html

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Amy I too am swamped with goings on and can't enter the contests, let alone read everyone's posts.

Having said that, AMY may you have a safe trip, make your connections on time and arrive home early enough for the comfy bed.

Welcome almost home !!

Lance said...

What a synoptic tour de force! A discussion of italics found no where else in captivity. Thank you Ms. Reid for taking the time and consideration to produce such valuable and enlightening instruction for us wee woodland mammals and invertebrates. Congratulations, Jennifer. Good luck, Amy.

Dena Pawling said...


Love the sub-header. Love the interrobang.

There's already two sharks in the publishing waters? Yikes!

Congrats to Jennifer and safe travels to Amy.

It rained here last Friday. The forecast calls for rain tonight. Rain next weekend. Has El Nino finally arrived? We here in CA are very hopeful.

Thanks for the great WiR.

Craig said...

Thank you, my Queen.

For both the WIR and for explaining that you do like sci-fi but are not up to date on selling it. I do remember, sometimes, things like when you talked about not restricting your query with excess genre qualifiers. Your example was that if something is a speculative thriller it should just be called a thriller. Personally I think that many things speculative are sci-fi in sheep's clothing but I realize that a high-concept thriller is a speculative thriller. Therefore it is a thriller.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

DLM

What a great effort. I'm sure he'll be thrilled with the desk. I am forgoing a few repairs to buy a Victorian bedroom suit. It's dirt cheap and not the prettiest by any means, but very solid and in excellent condition. Solid wood is hard to beat and will last this
young man a very long time and will mean more because it came from a writer.

The bedroom set I'm buying belonged to the lady's great grandmother when she was growing up. I asked her to write some stories about her grandmother and the history of the set if she didn't mind so I could honor not only the furniture, but the owner.

It would be cool if you could tuck little words of writerly advice in the desk.

Donnaeve said...

Jennifer - that's GREAT! I'm happy for you! Keep us posted...?

Amy, oh my word. I don't know how you go from Paradise to Toronto (well, I suppose given your comment, you'll be flying - haha) but what I mean is THAT weather to THAT weather? What a shock. It's been in the 70's here for the past few days, which is unusual, but Winter will gobsmack us upside our heads by this weekend with approx a 30 degree daytime difference in temps. I can do sunny and 50's. High's in the 40's - that gets a big ICK.

DLM - congrats on the sub-header! Luv it.

I like Julie's idea to tuck writerly notes into the drawers.

Side note - we too, are huge supporters of Wounded Warriors!

CynthiaMc said...

Janet, thank you. You made my day.

I really do know how to spell Mercutio, I swear. That's what I get for posting backstage between my scenes.

I so appreciate the WIR -life is running at warp speed right now.

DLM said...

Julie, I've been mentally composing a letter to give with the desk; you have cemented me, I will write it. (The topless table in my basement has upon it the letters both my dad and my grandfather wrote about its provenance, and I treasure those as much as the beautiful legs someday I will top again.)

Donna, I have been eating ice cream to cope with the high temps. Mid-70s today; it is ridiculous to be unable to wear even the lightest long-sleeved shirt. Decorating the tree yesterday, I was sweating the whole time. I have my AIR CONDITIONING on. This ain't right. Sigh.

SiSi said...

Epic. Brilliant. Mind blowing. All words that fit this WIR. I aapreciate all the details since I missed almost everything last week.

I might miss most of this week too. I have to go to LA-- which would sound fun if I didn't know I'd be in hotel conference rooms all day!

Amy, my travel plans sounded really complicated until I read yours. Good luck with the journey and I hope you get the good guest room!

BJ Muntain said...

Thanks for the wonderful WiR.

Good luck, Amy. Wishing you the best air experience ever.

Kara Ringenbach said...

Always more entertained and informed at the end of a WIR. Thanks for answering my question, Janet!

I had missed the 493 books comment earlier in the week. Wow!! I am in awe of Megan V no matter what genre.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

A moment ago I was reviewing notes on a draft of an old manuscript. I had written this to myself:

"Since I’m seeing people groan at italics and that they skip over them, revise to be able to get rid of them. Just a line will do it, I’m sure."

Haha. Time to listen to everyone (and also my past, annotating self).

Lucie Witt said...

Angie: I have found that when I only enter every 3rd or 4th contest here, it's a lot less stressful. I don't know how other people come up with such creative, unique stories every week.

Thank you for another great WIR - I really do look forward to these.

Craig said...

Damn Diane, you think Virginia is odd this winter? Since November down here, Fla, we have had one day that had an average temperature. The rest have been above average. Not just a degree or two above average but 10-14 degrees above average. We set three forever and ever h daily highs recently.

What most distresses me about it is that I have seen baby gators in December for three straight years. They are usually born in June.

On the bright side, I have an even dozen different orchids in bloom at the moment. That might be good until spring when some of them should have waited until blooming.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

A fabby WiR to end a long and wonderful day here. Thank you, Janet, for answering my pre-caffeinated question about italics.

Congrats Jennifer on another full request.

And Amy, I hope you make it home in time to snag the good bed!

And it's time for lights out for this woman.

John Frain said...

Amy,

Remember the scene in Gone Girl, Amazing Amy Flies A Plane. Okay, you probably don't because I just made it up.

But hey, Amazing Amy Snags the Spare Bedroom. That one was ... also not real.

Then again, Amazing Amy turned out to be more like Unbalanced Amy, so maybe I should encourage you to set your goals elsewhere. Like an uneventful trip. Until you get home. Good luck. Also, wear comfortable shoes.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Julie, a family member is a livestock vet professor. She's small and does sink her arm into a cow's behind to demonstrate to her students. She loves to talk about it, arms outstretched.

John, I hope your son is okay

Amy, safe travels and stay warm.

DLM said...

Craig, YOIKS - baby gators out of season, yes, that is more concerning than a little sweat while putting up the tree.

The concerning thing is there have also been rumors that the forecast for later this winter looks brutal. Again. So I know I am, er, whistling in the wind with a complaint like this. I may live to regret wishing it were cold.

But still. 74 degrees in the house a couple days ago, NO heat on. It ain't quite normal.

nightsmusic said...

@Craig

Sixty-two degrees here yesterday. In Michigan. On the 13th of December! Oy! Some of the trees are budding again and my garden is starting to grow. This is not good...haven't seen any baby 'gators around though! ;)

Dave Rudden said...

I knew it would stand out.

Emi PdeS said...

Good lord, John Frain, "Writer 1, Parent 0" had me in tears (in the best of ways). Be honest now, because it seems you're the perfect one to ask: Say it's the other way around, and you're a doctor having a discussion with a patient's parents, when they suddenly something that fits perfectly with that plot you've been tinkering with. Would it be terribly frowned upon to ask them to hold that thought mid-diagnosis while you scribble something down in your shark-sticker-plastered notebook?

On a separate note, what I really want to know after this delightful WIR, is whether Janet ever got around to watching Miracle on 34th Street. Her claim to New Yorker status truly is in question, and the proper authorities have been notified pending her answer.