Sunday, January 31, 2016

Week in review 1/31/16 (oh where the hell did January go?)

Welcome to the weeks that were. This post goes back two weeks cause I was lollygagging about last Sunday.

Mister Furkles asked:
what if a robot writes a killer novel and wants to comment about querying. How is it to comment on your blog?
They** will have to suck it up and lie about their cold mechanical heart, just like agents do when asked about their humanity.

**they singular of course, per the first part of Mister Furkles comment

Sarah Meral found my diddybop mentions in What It Takes! I had it as two words; it's actually one.
Janet when I use the look inside feature on for WHAT IT TAKES and enter "diddybop" (without space) I get 15 results, let me know if you want me to send you screen shots of them :)

Just another example of the value of the blog readers! (there are so many!)

Jessica Snell mentioned my favorite books as a young reader:
Lucie - I remember Trixie Belden! When I was younger, I read a few of the Nancy Drew books, but Trixie Belden? I read them all, and more than once.

I think what made me love those books was the group dynamic. Trixie was the focus, yes, but you couldn't understand Trixie w/o knowing her family and friends. And she wasn't a perfect little saint of a detective: she was a smart girl, but one who messed up a lot and then had to fix it.
Come to think of it, I still love heroines like that.

Oh my god YES! I loved Trixie Belden too. I had the first ten or twelve I think. To this day I can name the characters and probably tell you the plot basics of each. How I wanted to live at Crabapple Farm!

Turns out  quite a few blog readers did too!

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked:
Janet, I think there may be a t missing in promoing. Or that's how it sounded when I first read it. Maybe you do want to write promoing.

I do use promo-ing without the t. I'm not sure how I got started. It's probably not a real word, but it's what we use in the office to talk about book promos.

Janice L. Grinyer mentioned the Loaner Cat posts.
Another great WIR - Did Loaner cat assist? Bet they did - at 2:14 am...Your posts on FB were hilarious!
Here's the link to the Facebook page with the Loaner Cat stories.

Speaking of cats, kdjames cracked me up with this cat story:
And that Shopkins video! I'd never heard of them so I watched it. The cat was sitting on my lap and I think she was attracted to the crinkly wrapper noises and got all tense when she saw the cat come on screen. I don't think she's ever "seen" anything on my laptop before. She put her face all up close to the screen and then the cat walked off and she went around to the back of my laptop trying to find it. Gone! And then she ran to the windows looking out at the deck to see whether it was outside. Then she glared at me for a good 20 minutes, unhappy that I was hiding other cats from her. It was pretty funny, so thanks for that.

And John Frain just cracked me up with this:
My assumption is that car dealers started this Loaner concept when they give you a loaner car while yours is in for repairs. So my first thought was that one of Janet's cats cashed in one of its nine lives and she had a temporary Loaner Cat while hers reincarnated.

So it could work anywhere, right? I'm ready to march into Subway with an old bologna sandwich and see if I can upgrade to a Loaner Roast Beef. And my shoes need new laces. Could take a while to get to Target, so I've confiscated my son's Loaner Shoes because of course ALL his shoes are better than my best shoes. Imma start calling my dog Loaner, see how he reacts.

Oh, I do love a WiR that gets me thinking of story ideas, and this one does the trick again. Thanks, Ms. Reid. You're awesome. Did I mention I misplaced my agent? I might need a Loaner for a ms I'm working on...

And I love love love Janice L. Grinyer's Sniper Writer designation, and her point about being visible:

    Yes, you who writes great flash fiction and then has NO LINK on your name, I'm talking to YOU. I have a small jar of cash (and lots of screws & bolts in others, and...nevermind) with a book budget. If I like your writing (even if you don't make it to the mentionables/semis/finalists!) I would be willing to gamble to buy YOUR book. BUT HOW CAN I IF I DONT KNOW WHERE, SNIPER WRITER??? And if you don't have a book, I might want to follow your writing. WHY? Because, WRITING. I like to do it, read it, and enjoy it. We all do. You write good stuff, it's okay to come out and own it! Do we need to get Glinda the good witch out with that wand and have her wave it around a bit, singing the "come out" song? I have my own cat I could dress up; she sings pretty 4 am.

    Okay. Can you tell we are on day four of snow here? Yes. Day four. I'm feeding everyone and everything in sight, keeping things from getting frozen and I need at least three days to sleep to catch up. IN the meanwhile, I am now an official member of "Women writing the West", "a nonprofit organization of writers and other professionals writing and promoting the Women's West." Though I won't be posting comments over there until I get that sleep. Don't want to scare anyone or get kicked out too soon.

A LOT of you ran into trouble with ditty versus diddy. That was an interesting lesson for me.
And of course, this was the contest where I got the name of the winner wrong: Ink Stained Wench, not Wretch. I'm sure it says something about me that I got that word wrong. Sorry Wench!

And of course your comments on wench/wretch were hilarious, particularly this from french sojourn
Way to go Wretch....I always read it as wench as well...must be my aixelsyd?

And John Frain asked:
And, confession: To further prove my ignorance, even on second reflection I'm still not sure why Colin's entry isn't a story.

As in all things flash-fiction, the results are subjective. As sorry as I am to admit this, it's true: my opinions are not actually facts. In other words, you can think it's a story and both of us can be right.

I didn't think it was a story because it doesn't have an arc to it. It's more of an elegy, a prose poem. If you look at the entries I picked I think there's more movement in them. But, you can disagree with me. Colin himself has pointed out that a different judge would have very different results most weeks.

And OnlyTheGoodDieYoung asked:
PS - am I missing something with the 'your not Sam" line? Isn't the word "you're" or is there something there I'm not seeing?

Ahhh…this is the "on purpose mistake" that a careful reader has to watch for. Yes, you're quite right that "you're not Sam" is correct grammar. But recall that the story is essentially text transmissions, where "proper" punctuation goes by the wayside.

But more important to the story, this is the reveal, the moment when folks realize something has gone horribly wrong. The lack of proper punctuation SHOWS the reader this.
This is why you know the rules of proper punctuation: you can break them to great effect when you need to.

On Tuesday we talked about the query submission service

Interestingly I heard from the CEO of after the blog post. She emailed:
I smiled this morning when I read your blog, "They certainly didn't ask ME what would improve the query process."

So I'm reaching out now! Of course I'd love to get your opinion and show you how it works. We've interviewed so many agents before, during, and after the release of the platform. You perpetuated a good bit of misunderstandings in your blog, but I understand why writers and agents are a suspicious group. They've put up with a lot through the years. And we are always trying to communicate better on the website-- you have certainly pointed out areas for improvement.

I can point out the terms which are very protective of the writers' manuscripts, and also tell you about the problems we do solve for the agents and publishers. On our last customer survey we got 10 out of 10's on the question, "How likely are you to recommend AUTHORS to a friend or colleague?"  So, we're doing something right.

Let me know when you want to jump on the phone or skype. I have several windows available this Thursday and am pretty open next week or over the weekend. 

Look forward to talking to you! 

Since I'm not going to spend any time at all on the phone with these folks, I'll just post the questions here:

1. What's the vetting process for agents and publishers wanting to use your service? In other words, can anyone calling themself an agent or a publisher sign up?

2. What exact problem are you solving for agents?
3. Do you offer writers information on the status of their query? (ie Open/Read/Requested/Passed) ***

And in what can only be described as a hilarious coincidence, and from which nothing should be concluded I ran into an agency that uses this service. It was an agency I was researching for a blog reader who couldn't find an actual physical address for the agency; one she could use  to send a termination letter to.
I'd never really thought about having an actual physical address being something you'd want to verify for an agency.  The Publishers Marketplace page for this particular agency says "NY NY" but no street address. There's no address on the website, or any other place I could find.
I thought that was strange.

Dena Pawling asked:
>>There's a fundamental flaw in the logic here. "Making the process of discovering new manuscripts better for writers" implies that the process in use now doesn't work well. It works just fine. You write to me about your novel. I write back. There's direct communication. No forms to fill out, no perplexing multiple choice. No money changes hands.

Here's the fundamental flaw in Janet's logic. “You write to me about your novel. I write back.”

More and more agents are NOT writing back. Colin's NORMANs. Shall we blame all our writer angst and the proliferation of these query outfits on them thar folks who don't write back?

Maybe. On the other hand, that's something we don't know here. Does this service let an author know when their query has been read and passed on? ***

Mark Ellis had an experience with this kind of service for scripts:
Years ago, when I thought that screenwriting was my ticket, I tried a service, ostensibly run by people with Hollywood cred, that promised to scattershot a pitch for my script all over Tinseltown. For $100 bucks they rewrote my pitch (made it better, actually) and pushed a database button. When I got home from work that day I had approaching 200 emails. Most were form rejections, many were out-of-office notifications (one from Farah Fawcett Major's production company) and about six requests for the script, which came to naught (there were inherent flaws in the script).

Manuscript querying is a horse of a different color, of course, but I didn't feel the pitch site ripped me off, because I got six requests and had my chance. Later, at a conference, a big-time Hollywood agent told us that when he or most of his colleagues received such mass pitch emails, they were summarily deleted.

My books to film agent is adamant about discarding any kind of unsolicited script unread. Particularly in film, where ideas get thrown around a LOT,  we need to make it abundantly clear that the scripts were not read at all, lest someone come out of the woodwork later and say "hey, that was MY idea you used in that mega-successful film."  And that kind of thing happens ALL the time.

And Colin Smith has been back from Carkoon for less than a month but clearly itching to return:
In other words, if writers had to stick to the "rules" of querying, writers wouldn't be so quick to query, and agents would get fewer and better queries?
One solution to this problem might be for every agent/agency to have a Query Form on their website. This form would have fields like: NAME, PEN NAME (if different), AGENT TO QUERY, HAVE WE MET (Conference, Twitter, Comments, etc.)?, TITLE, WORD COUNT, GENRE (as best you can determine), COMP TITLES (optional), BRIEF DESCRIPTION (250 words), PUBLISHING CREDITS (if any), OTHER BIO, BLOG (optional), WEBSITE (optional), CONTACT INFO (email, phone), FIRST FIVE PAGES (copy and paste).

If every querying writer could ONLY use such forms to query agents, might this help increase the quality of queries? It would certainly help agents get to the info they need, and force writers to be succinct and keep to the point.

It sounds like a good idea doesn't it? I'll make it even simpler: write me an email and tell me about your book. That's all. You know how many people do that? Fewer than half.
I've kept a blog for MORE THAN TEN YEARS about how to write effective queries, and I still get stuff that's half-baked, half-assed, and half-witted.

A colleague of mine did subscribe to one of those services that regulated submissions into that kind of format. It didn't help.
And truthfully, direct queries help me weed out the folks I don't want to work with. People who can't write even a half-assed query letter are generally not people I want to work with.

On Wednesday 1/20 we talked about writers working as lit agents.

This was the post that got the most comments (well, a content-based post anyway. The post saying I was out ill got more but that was just ya'll being nice and sympathetic)

Lucie Witt mentioned her experience agreed with my assessment that doing two creative things is really hard:

I've done the teaching thing on the side for almost five years. The first two years of teaching my writing output plummeted. Horribly. I was creating new classes, developing my materials, and getting used to managing my time reading, preparing lectures, answering student emails, and grading. This consumed my time and my creative energy. After a few years I got a system in place (and experience), and started writing regularly again.

Donnaeve made my blood run cold with this:
On the other hand, and depending on the position in the publishing company (agent maybe) or editing assistant, or...whichever it is, I could almost see inspiration coming from seeing other people's work. Sort of like when I read REALLY good books, and I'm so inspired I want to get up out of bed at 2:00 a.m. and go write something down. If you're driven like that, it MIGHT work. It depends on your inner gumption and drive, I suppose.

Some years ago when interviewing prospective interns we had an applicant who said she wanted to be an intern so she could be inspired for her own writing. That was the end of the interview although she didn't know it.
Nothing makes my hair stand on end faster than the idea that an agency employee is reading queries while thinking of her own writing. Or worse, reading client manuscripts! Or worse reading manuscripts on submission!
Talk about a situation just begging for problems!
Several of my clients say they can't read novels at all while they're working on their own stuff because voice and ideas from elsewhere can drift into their heads with little cat paws.

The last thing I need is a writer I rejected thinking "wow, that plot sure looks familiar" about a book written by an employee.

I really liked what Colin said here about passion:
If this is what I'm stuck with as a full time job, I can live with that--it can be fun and creative at times. But my passion is elsewhere, which means I'll never be as good at my job as I could be. *looks over shoulder, checks boss isn't reading*

And BJ Muntain pointed out something that I think is really important:
One thing I found was that, if you want to make writing a career while you're working full time, you have to understand that it's going to take longer. If you think that starting a career takes a certain number of hours, and if you can only afford an hour or two a day, rather than eight or more, it's going to take longer. Unfortunately, writing doesn't compress into the time you have available. You just have to make sure that you spend that time productively.

And congrats to Kat Waclawik on the birth of your daughter! I love what you said here:
Laura Mary: Congratulations! I just gave birth to my little girl 11 weeks ago. (Eleven weeks?! It seriously does go so fast!) I had all these grand ideas about using my maternity leave to make a serious dent in the WIP. Ha. That was crazy. I think I had two main problems:

The first, obviously, is time. Newborns consume all of it. I know you've heard the old adage about sleeping when the baby sleeps. My favorite response to that: so am I also supposed to do laundry when the baby does laundry, dishes when the baby does dishes, etc.? There is SO MUCH TO DO, and so little time when your arms are not full of baby. Besides, if you're anything like me, you need sleep to be creative. Writing takes mental energy. Don't worry--it gets better!

My other problem (which is not a real problem) is I've just been too darn happy. We tried to conceive for five years before finally having success with IVF. She is everything I'd ever dreamed of and prayed for and more. I couldn't make conflict for my characters when my entire world was floating in a rosy, baby-scented haze. Now that I'm back at work part time, I've relearned how to make trouble for my characters.

In her first 8 weeks of life, I wrote about 100 words. I was really beating myself up about not writing, which was dumb. So I hereby give you permission to take a break, if it's what you need. You still get to call yourself a writer. Your stories will be there when you're ready.

From Thursday 1/21 through Monday 1/25 I was lying on my couch contemplating death. Your comments were very cheery and as therapeutic as chicken soup. Thank you!

Sherry Howard offered up an idea for using this time wisely:
There once was a shark named JR
Who ruled her kingdom from afar
One day she fell sick
Now's our chance, hurry quick,
Entertain her today
Make the blues go away
And she'll unbanish all Carkoonish miscreants.

And of course Adib Khorram had to do it:
I'm surprised no one has started a flash fiction contest in the comments section yet.

And Colin Smith was right there aiding and abetting:
Prompt words: snark, malevolent, evil, booze, vitriol
"Contest" closes: Midnight according to your timezone.

2ns "entry" just cracked me up completely (particularly the parts I  underlined)
Okay, so I made up my own prompt-words. Not sure which ones they are, just pick five.
Here goes, my less than a hundred (96) begins here:

Janet liked books, the authority of books and the power of the words in the books. So one day she decided that her passion was to help word-people share with the reader-people, that which itched their souls.
Word-people from all over looked too Janet for the guidance she offered which soothed their writing irritations, their tickles and tingles and made them feel worthy.
They wrote, readers read and everybody lived happily ever after.
Janet found fame and fortune as the really smart agent-queen.
Moral of the story:
Read this blog and learn, once written twice sly.

Turns out Jearl Rugh is on the injured reserved list as well:
Wow, and I was feeling bad yesterday because my arm had ached for 26 hours, only to find that I broke my the elbow of my mouse hand, my fork hand and, most importantly, my coffee hand.

OW!OW! OW!!!!!

as is Susan Helene Gottfried
Three days? Lightweight.

Today marks three weeks since I fell off my bike. I still have six weeks to go... minimum.

And the impromptu flash fiction contest has a winner:
LC-2 leapt at snarky lark on the window sill.
One down – Eight left;

LC-2 od’d on booze tainted milk.
Two down – Seven left;

Prancing 200 feet above on high-voltage powerlines, sneezed.
Three down – Six left;

Attacking the evil live extension cord.
Four down – Five left;

LC-2 caught a plague carrying malevolent mole.
Five down – four left;

LC-2 took vitriolic advice and smoked sulfuric-acid laced catnip.
Six down – three left;

LC-2 played tag with neighbors Doberman.
Seven down – Two left;

LC-2 got a shark sick.
Eight down – one left;

Shark sick, day 2.
Nine down…countdown reset by QOTKU.

LC-2 now immortal.

Congrats french sojourn! This is brilliant. And those prompt words were brutal!

S.D. King's comment made me laugh with horror;
Aside: people really need to be more aware of how they look on a FUZE screen sharing meeting app. We had one woman who seemed to think the screen was more a mirror for her grooming (some of it quite personal). It is going to be awhile before I can get some of those images out of my head.

and honest to godiva, Lance knows how to set a scene:
I was in the most unusual bar the other night. Not in the classiest part of town. The clientele had evolved as a hangout almost exclusively for retired, female, Marine gunnery sergeants and nuns bitter over not making Mother Superior.

and if I hadn't been feeling bad already, this from luciakaku would have sent me wailing with despair into a tailspin:

On a writing-related topic, someone was stirring up the woodland critters in my writer's FB group with an old article (written five years ago about experiences five years before that) about how your query isn't "done" until you get a 75% request rate.

To make it better, the article starts off by calling everyone who disagrees with him "wrong" in so many words. Gotta love it.

I'm so glad you recognized this "advice" for the crapola that it is.

Megan V offered up "sick movie"
Oh, and sending you some dvds. If you don't have some comfort movies—you know, the ones you have to watch when you're sick because they make you feel a little less miserable—it'll have to be a copy of our favorites.

*Packs Newsies, You've got Mail, Funny Face, North By Northwest, LOTR, Sense and Sensibility(1995 version), Gladiator, Flight of the Navigator, Monty Python, Gone in 60 seconds, Matrix, Jurassic Park, Oceans Eleven*

All five seasons of The Wire for me. Followed by seasons six and seven of The West Wing.

Lennon Faris's comment here
Spammers, ugh. In undergrad, a friend from Korea pulled me aside one day after ESL class. She seemed slightly embarrassed but showed me an envelope she had just gotten in the mail. "YOU'VE WON A MILLION DOLLARS!!!" it said. As a super intelligent, grown woman, she suspected it was false, but still felt the need to confirm because she just didn't know for sure. So, as BJ Muntain pointed out, I could see how someone not very computer-savvy would think it harmless to click something to investigate.

reminded me of an incident when I was an undergrad. I had an engineering class in Statics and Dynamics (don't ask) and the man who sat next to me was from a different country (Asian as I recall only dimly now)  We had used textbooks for this class and one day as we were working through some sort of example he pushed his book over to me and asked what a penciled in word meant, as  he could not find it in his dictionary.
I was one of  three women in the class. I think I turned the color of Superman's cape and fumbled to explain like Clark Kent.  There was NO WAY I was going to tell him what it meant of course but what to actually say?  I wrote "obscenity" on my notebook and said "that word is one of these."
He thumbed his dictionary again, his face turned brick red (we were a pair, oh yes) and I don't think he spoke another word to me all term.
Oy oy oy.

And no, I'm NOT telling you what the word is.

And I was delighted to see this from Jessica Snell
I also wanted to post this morning because I am feeling very thankful to the QOTKU and to all the other Reiders. Some time ago, Janet congratulated a commenter on her (his?) first fiction sale, and I'm sorry that I don't remember who it was (sieves-for-brains here, I blame my four kids), but that link led me to my first sci-fi flash fiction site, which led me to others, which led to (deep breath!) my own first fiction sale*!

And I'm not sure how AJ Blythe got pictures from inside my apartment:
So I was imagining Janet with no power: snuggled under every dropcloth she owns, loaner cat wrapped around her neck, empty whisky bottle at her feet, muttering "Reiders, Carkoon, Rant, Kale, Flash Fiction' over and over while staring at a blank screen.

Finally on Tuesday 1/26/16 we got back to normal. Our topic was proposals for a novel.

I'd never really seen one but reader Joyce Tremel has
My Brewing Trouble mystery series was sold on a proposal. An editor read a previous manuscript that didn't quite fit their line, so she asked my agent if I'd be interested in writing a cozy. I wrote a synopsis and three chapters, plus ideas for the next two books. I also included info on why this series would fit their line, comparing it to some of their published books. Maybe this is different than a proposal for a single novel, but I know several mystery authors who have proposed series this way. 
This is good info, thanks Joyce. I should also mention that I read and loved Joyce's debut novel. We've been pals for a long time (thanks to the PennWriters conference!) and it was great to finally get to buy a book with her name on the cover.

Megan V also mentioned she'd seen requests for novel proposal on agent websites:
As to the OP-the few times I've seen agency website request a proposal for a novel, it said to include the query or cover letter, a synopsis and/or outline, and a partial or complete manuscript, a bio, and anything else the editor has requested.

On Wednesday I was waving my arms and harrumphing about bad first impressions when I google you:

DLM made a very good point:
One tip: try Googling yourself from a computer or device YOU DO NOT USE regularly, and if possible, not from a friend's, if they happen to read your blog.

With Google's algorithms, you're a lot more likely to find yourself with ease on your own devices because Google's intuitive search will "learn" that you spend a lot of time on your own blog. Try it at a library or something, see what the results look like from a computer that's ignorant of your patterns. You may discover you're not as close to the top of Google's stats as it looks like when you use the laptop you blog with to search.

Colin Smith asked:
What I want to know is, what on earth do you look for from Goodreads? I have a Goodreads account, and up until a few years ago, I listed every book I had read along with a review. When it got to the point the thought of writing a review for every book affected which books I chose to read, I stopped doing that. Now I review selected books on my blog, and only enter those in Goodreads. So, what should my Goodreads account be like? How do I make sure it's not off-putting to a reader or agent? Are you looking to see what I'm reading? Or more? Or less?

I just wander over to see what you're reading. Goodreads is much lower on the priority list for what I like to see about a prospect, but if it's the only thing I can find, I'll look. Plus, yanno…if you're writing Goodreads reviews, that's writing.

Kitty makes an excellent point:
Most of the blogs I've visited by the BIG NAME writers have been a waste of time. They don't respond to comments, so I quit going. I cut them some slack because I figure they're busy writing the next book, which of course I'll read.

I have stopped following some big name authors on Facebook and Twitter simply because I want social media to be social. Without interaction, it's just broadcasting. There are some exceptions: Bloom County. The Rockettes. Humans of New York. But not authors.

this from Amanda Capper just cracked me up:
Recently Donnaeve replied to something I posted on her website and though I could see she responded(my smarter than I android phone told me), I couldn't find her comment. I checked my website, Google, Gmail, everywhere. I thought.

There was a clue. My phone showed a WP icon. So I checked my website (again) because it's a WordPress. Nothing there. But I didn't even think of my WP blog site (that I don't remember ever setting up), so when I finally thought to click on the icon next to my post on Donna's site...up came this sprightly little lamb and...nothing else.

In my enthusiasm to be known I created my presence everywhere and then forgot where I was. If it wasn't so pathetically needy it would be funny.

And DLM had a great suggestion:
Amanda, hee. I think most of us have defunct profiles lying around; you should perhaps write the detective story hinging on these clues!

Janice Grinyer asked:
My blog is basically for my enjoyment and others entertainment - "Gowestferalwoman" is basically what I am known by or "feral woman" :D. However, I do list my real name. I have combined followers of over 400+ who are a great bunch of people, and a good amount of traffic per month.
But my blog is just for fun - funny writing, poetry, photos, stories, what's going on with the animals/work etc. There are no rants of any religious/political/cursing nature, but there is no mention of any writing process as a writer. I also have a Forestry business website but I do not link to my blog. I am currently working on setting up an author website for when I query. Should I link to my blog I currently have (do I have to go and grammar check all 350+ posts?! wah!), or should I set up a new blog that is more "professional" and link to that?

Link to it if you don't mind me reading it. I strongly urge you NOT to set up a blog just for writing if you've already got one going. Keeping two blogs going is HARD (trust me on this!!) A website yes, a blog no.

The purpose of reading your blog is not to find out about you as a writer. It's to find out about you as a person. How you write your blog is more important that what you write about (unless you're trashing publishing, my clients, me ---in that order)

Lucie Witt asked
Am I the only one who thinks comments on blogs are not the metric they once were? In the age of Twitter and tumblr it seems less and less people comment, with the exception of communities like this. In my mind, if you have a nice, accessible website/blog with good content and contact info that would be a plus to an agent even with low comment count

I don't really look at how many people comment although I do look at the comments. I understand that most writer blogs don't get lots of comments. The effort required to build a blog that gets 30+ comments a day is effort that could be better spent WRITING.

Julie M. Weathers said
I am totally disappointed my posts on Wrangler patches are not what I'm supposed to post. Or how to starch Wranglers. It's my most popular post. The legend of black eyed peas complete with recipe gets lots of hits every New Year.

Your posts on Wrangler patches and ironing are exactly what you should post. The purpose of your blog is to introduce me to you, the person. I can't think of a better way to do that than talking about real stuff. Like ironing.

And here's  Botanist, headed for Carkoon on his debut comment:
Janet, you did such a brilliant job with Query Shark coaching people on their queries. That forum has quietened down because you must have shredded almost every possible example of bad query form, and amassed an impressive reference archive in the process. How about a similar venture for web sites now? Seems you have a lot of valuable advice to offer there too...

Actually I was thinking of first pages. But don't tell anyone.

On Thursday we talked about agents who only do very limited submissions then call it day.

I really liked what Matt Adams said:
I am always amazed at how easily the words "Write another book" slips from the mouths of people other than the one who's being told to write another book. The singer Dar Williams described it as "the easy courage of my distant friends," the idea that something as hard and personal should be discarded simply because it's the logical next step. Or as if just writing another book is a minor thing.

And he's right. I did just blithely say "write another book" as though it was some sort of do-over on a fallen soufflé.
And it's not. But, my experience tells me that most writers have inventory. If this one didn't sell, there's more in the hopper. When my clients have come up short on submissions, we've moved on to the next book fairly quickly.

As to whether the book is dead, I should have been more clear. This book is dead in terms of acquiring an agent. As several of you pointed out,  the next new agent may be able to shop it as a second or third book. It's not so much dead as not useful for right now.

Colin asked
Janet: Is this kind of scenario more likely among newer, or junior agents, or is this something you see across the whole spectrum of agenting?

Actually I see it most amongst established agents.

Karen McCoy asked
My other question to Opie is one that has been addressed in the past: does this WhamBam agent have other clients, and if so, is Opie allowed to contact them to see if they had similar experiences? That might help put some of the puzzle pieces together.

Allowed is an odd word choice here. No one can prevent you from talking to other writers, or other writers who have the same agent. It was a bit daunting the first time I realized my clients were talking to each other but experience has proved it to be a very good thing. They help each other, torment each other, cheer each other on, and so far at least, have not decided to fire me.

I think it's entirely appropriate to ask other clients about this. If the agent objects, well, now you know something more about that agent.

Claire asked
I'm always a bit dubious about the idea that certain topics are 'in' or 'out', like Capri pants or hipster beards. Surely if the book is good enough, it doesn't matter what it's about? Like I might enjoy a really well-written novel about the Gold Rush, but it wouldn't necessarily make me want to read other books by other authors about the same subject.

Certain topics or tropes or even genres go in and out of fashion. Chick lit (those delicious frothy tales of young women making their way in the world) are largely out of fashion now.
Dystopian YA? Tough sell
Vampires of any kind? Tough sell.
Westerns? A small but devoted niche market that probably won't be expanding any time soon.

What makes things in and out of fashion for a publisher is largely how many successful writers there are working in that field right now.  If you're publishing a dozen successful thriller writers, there isn't a lot of room to add even one more. And given that even when writers die, they still "keep writing" that shelf space isn't loosening up anytime soon.

Charlotte Grubbs asked a very astute question:
Janet, I had a question: I know that, when talking to an agent that has offered representation, you should ask what happens if the book doesn't sell. Is it also appropriate to ask where the agent plans to submit, how many submissions they plan to make, which editor do they think would be a good fit for the book, etc? It seems like knowing an agent's submission strategy before signing with them is the only way to avoid the OP's situation, but I don't want to offend an agent by micromanaging or appearing to doubt their abilities. If I signed with an agent who then told me "oh, btw, I'm only submitting to ten editors," I would feel very misled, but at the same time I'm worried that asking "you're not just going to submit to ten editors and then call it quits, right?" would make me seem pushy and paranoid.

It's certainly fine to discuss submissions in general. I do that with prospects all the time. I do NOT get in to specifics. For starters, I'm not going to invest time in creating a submission list until I know I've got the client.
And second, there's no way I'm going to tell a prospect about my sub list on the off chance they sign with someone else and then pass along all that info to a different agent.
I've seen some very unhappy things happen when prospects get revision notes, and shop a revised manuscript widely and sign with someone else. I see this particularly with younger agents; those who have more time to offer revision notes and then get left in the lurch when the writer uses those revisions to query others.

I will talk generally about submissions means I'll talk publishers but not editors. I'd never share a pitch unless a writer had signed with me.

A.J. Blythe asked
Janet, at the risk of finding myself with a one-way ticket to Carkoon, I was wondering if you could blog about what authors should do/ask an agent before signing (a la the things Charlotte mentioned and anything else we don't know to ask) and accepted protocols? By the latter I mean things like... Is it okay to ask questions and then think about saying yes? I'd be so worried they'd think I wasn't keen that they'd change their mind, so I'm liable to agree in panic and excitement.

I know you've talked about a lot of these things in the past, but I can't remember a post where it's all on the one page. Please forgive me, your Sharkness, if my brain is just faulty.

Google is indeed your friend. Search terms "Janet Reid" and "Questions to ask agents"
will cough up a couple places. This is the one I wrote.

Colin Smith had another

Panda in Chief related this
When I was first dipping my toes in the kid-lit river, I went to a SCBWI event to hear an agent speak, and she said she rarely (if ever) gives up, and had submitted work as many as 32 or more times before selling it. And that she would have kept on submitting until it sold or there were no publishers left.

And let's all just remember that Phil Spitzer had James Lee Burke's first Robicheaux novel on submission for 17 YEARS before he sold it. I revere Phil Spitzer, and that's just one reason why.

But, I'm also really clear with prospective clients: if this book doesn't sell, I'm not kicking you to the kerb for that reason alone.

On Friday we talked about the importance of consistent email addresses:
Colin Smith said
Of course, I would never presume you actually *want* to get my emails, so I would never presume to bother to notify you with a change of email address. I would just hope you check the spam filter once in a while, and that somehow you would recognize my message as not being spam and fish it out. :)

While that is generally true, if a writer has sent a manuscript and doesn't hear back from me, it creates anxiety. I prefer to induce anxiety in writers only when I can sit back and enjoy it, not inadvertently with an email glitch.

Colin asked
Janet: Do you only look at the social media someone says they have, or do you search Goodreads (for example) to see if that person is there, or do you just Google that person's name and see what comes up? At the moment, I'm operating on the assumption that you (or any agent I query) might visit my blog because that's listed on my email signature, and you might then visit any social media I list on my blog. So if I have an outdated MySpace account, if I don't mention it, you'll never visit it or go looking for it. Is this incorrect?

if you've sent a query, I generally look at the sites you reference in your query letter.
If a client or a blog reader or someone-not-you says they are referring me to you, then I google you. Thus you want to clean up your electronic presence before you ever whisper to a soul that you're agent stalking. As in: start NOW.

E.M.Goldsmith said:
At least one request got bounced back to me due to volume. I do wonder if agents have a way of keeping their inboxes from becoming full because that will bounce your request as well. I think this was how this agent took vacation myself- spam full the inbox, hit the sunny Caribbean for a week, clear out the inbox, and resume the madness. It's better than Norman- you get a lovely notification that your email was not delivered because there was no room for it. Sigh. I needed to do one more revision anyhow.

We had that problem here till we figured out not to leave mail on the server after it had been forwarded to us. Fortunately we realized we had a problem before too much time had passed.
That's one reason I run everything through gmail: no volume limits.

Colin Smith asked:
Since we seem to be tallying, let's see how I do on the "friend of the Shark" checklist:

* Contest Winner: CHECK!
* Regular Commenter: CHECK!
* Have corresponded with QOTKU via email in the past: CHECK!
* Has a Carkoon record: STRIKE!
* Consistently and painfully violates commenting rules: STRIKE!
* Likes kale and lima beans: STRIKE STRIKE!!!
* Uses italics: STRIKE STRIKE STRIKE!!!!

Does your spam filter have an address, Janet? Maybe I should just cut out the middle-person... :)

Priscilla, Queen of the Just Desserts does indeed have an email address; FictionNovels@JetReidLiterary.LOL

On Saturday, the question was why big name authors don't just self publish and it was a chance to trot out my Econ 201 notes from undergrad school.

Kitty's comment here
Self-pub books used to be called PODs (print on demand). Ten years ago Goldberg thought PODs were a waste of time and money, that a great book will get noticed eventually. Then he discovered Amazon’s self-pub service. He’s written a lot on this subject. I searched his blog for “POD” and “self-publish” and found quite a bit.
reminded me to emphasize POD is a way to print books, NOT a way to publish books. Trade and academic presses use POD technology all the time.

The reason it came to be associated with self-publishing (which simply means that you the writer are the final word on the book being published) is that POD made self-publishing affordable.
Previously, you'd need to order hundreds of books to self-publish something that looked like a real book.
With POD technology you can order one or a hundred or a thousand.
The difference is there is no price break for multiple copies
One book costs $5.00
Ten books cost $50.00
100 cost $500.00
When  you buy books from an off-set press, you pay $75.00 for one and $500.00 bucks for 100.
It's like pricing at Kinkos: one copy is 25cents. 100 copies is $10.00

The problem with POD printing was the lack of quality control. It looked like a book but the production values were often so bad they were laughable. And of course, the content was ..spotty.

Craig said
I notice you didn't put Patterson on the list with Rowling and King. I know why I wouldn't have done it; he is a franchise and not a writer. Would you explain yourself or can you not read formulaic crud either?

I don't think James Patterson was included in the questioner's list. And I suspect  James Patterson doesn't actually write his books anymore. I think he has writers. He's the creative leader (he comes up with the concepts or the stories) but the actual writing is done by others, or certainly with others. Thus his opportunity costs are much different.

This is a long week in review since we missed last week. There wasn't a lot of time for revision and letting this sit for a while to catch those pesky typos. Let me know when you find them!

I can't believe January is ending!

Blogger sub header noms:
"I am slowly slipping into madness. Is that usual during revisions?" E.M. Goldsmith

"Oh, hello horse. Is that cart in your way ... ? " DLM

"When you put a lot on your plate something will inevitably fall off." Lucie Witt

"The flash fiction contests are a devastatingly effective gateway drug." Mark Thurber

Next time someone asks me where I live, I'm gonna reply: "The Known Universe. Have you met our Queen?" --John Frain

"can't imagine my time being worth $10,000/hr." --kdjames
"kd: And yet every minute of our lives is priceless"-- Colin Smith


Dave Rudden said...

Another fun week. Thanks for making me laugh, making me cry and making me want to stick my head in the sand. BTW, I am a robot who knows how to lie.

Kate Larkindale said...

I'm first? How did that happen?

Great WIR. I always feel like I get in so late, I can't have missed too many comments, but every week the WIR proves me wrong...

Donnaeve said...

"Donnaeve made my blood run cold with this..."

BUT, I thought your blood ran cold already? Well, I can answer that myself...some sharks are endotherms - adapting body temp to their environment. :)

By inspiration I certainly didn't meant copying or lifting an idea. As writers we are told to read for inspiration, to study pace, plot, setting and everything else in between. That's all I meant.

Thank you for the WIR!

Donnaeve said...

Ooops, also, I missed this last week - CONGRATULATIONS to Jessica Snell on her "fiction sale!"

Dave Rudden said...

Sorry to steal the honor of being first from you Kate.

Helen DeWitt said...

I kept thinking about the OP who was dropped after 4 months and 10 submissions. My first novel was shopped around in London by an agent who claimed she could get an advance fast with 6 chapters; instead of getting me time to finish the book she disrupted work with submissions for 18 months. I went away to write some other books. A year later a friend showed Book A to a Brit who had moved to an American publishing house; he loved it, sold a lot of foreign rights, and the book was in fact sold at auction in the UK for a lot of money. He'd been very senior in the UK, but hadn't been sent the book when my agent was submitting.

This was bad in many ways: there was no agent to run interference; once Book A shot from being unwanted and unloved to being a brilliant debut, any successor that avoided the things first-round editors disliked was doomed to look like a disappointing second novel. What it suggests to me, though, is that I might have done better to query agents in the US while working on new books, and OP might think about trying other territories as well as writing something new.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yeah, I thought Sharks were cold-blooded? It's ok Donnaeve, don't panic and don't move. Shark vision is based on movement. If you sit very, very still, well, you'll be fine. Probably.

Another great WIR. Looks like our queen is back at full swim. Yippie. Time for a snoopy dance.

Lance said...

Thank you again for a great week (x2) in review. Glad you're back. Thanks for the mention. Congratulations to french sojourn. Excellent. And what Donnaeve said.

John Frain said...

I think this WIR qualifies as a novella! Great stuff, Janet. Great memories.

Who woulda bet on a mixed-doubles sub-header of the week! (Sorry, lame attempt to bring a laugh to our Australian friends.)

I've taken Janice Grinyer's message to Sniper Writers to heart and tried to clean up my online presence. Thanks for the slap, I needed that! Probably not alone, so anyone else paying attention should take heed as well.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Another awesome week in review. The WIR is my weekend highlight.

I've read almost every comment but don't have much to say. I did miss the impromptu flash fiction. I'm also using my writing time to clean up my old blogs and turn them into online archives. It's interesting to see how my writing has evolved from sloppy to better. I eliminated 70 posts from one blog.

Thank you for clearing my mind about promoing. After rereading I imagined it was what you intended, Oh Great Queen. Thank you for mentioning my wee arse.

My dyslexic brain read Lucie Witt's possible header "When you put a lot on your plate" as when you put a plot on your plate.

Congratulations Kat Waclawik for your baby. How exciting. And to Theresa for her article she linked to yesterday. And to Jessica for your fiction sale.

I'm curious to know which of QOTKU's authors doesn't read while writing so they can preserve their voice. After the discussion about diverse books I decided to spend my 2016 reading African American authors. I discovered K'WAN whose crime novels are totally addictive. His voice is so strong it's invaded my brain. I listened to five of his hood rat novels (Cary Hite narrates them) in ten days and read the first, Hood Rat, in one night. If you can't deal with the profanity in his hood rat series (you can skip the graphic parts) read his novella Black Lotus.

nightsmusic said...

Perfect timing on the WIR this week for me. I'm sitting here, reading a great collection of comments, question and advice while the husband watches the last 2 hours of the 24 Hours of Daytona. He's got a horse in this race today, and it's up front so there has been lots of...loud encouragement. In the meantime, I'm quietly sipping my coffee and enjoying the fact that The Shark is back, the WIR is great and I've managed to go through a bunch of my novel, fixing things right and left. (That last is for you, kd ;). )

Can't vote on a subheader, they're all too good.

Mona Zarka said...

Thanks for all your insight, Janet!

Mmm... so many sub header noms, and each of them fantastic.

And given that even when writers die, they still "keep writing" ... As in their work is published posthumously? Or other writers take up their stories?

Joyce Tremel said...

Ooh, ooh, ooh! I got a mention in the WIR! *jumps up and down and scares the cat* And to think I almost didn't read it this week.

Thanks for the kind words about TBorNTB. I appreciate it!

Mark Ellis said...

Look, I know a lot of you have been wondering, but no worries, I've been here reading everyday. :)

Lucie Witt said...

Man, I love these things.

It's always nice to get a subheader nom! I like E.M's myself.

Angie, putting a plot on my plate seems like it might be the next thing I try as I wade through revisions (see also, why I like EM's quote).

Also, congrats to Jessica, I don't think I caught that last week.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Colin Smith said...

WOW! A Double-Bill WiR!!! How awesome.

Reminds me of when I was a child--8, 9, 10, somewhere around there. BBC2 used to have a Double Bill of Horror every Saturday night. The would show an old black-and-white movie from 10:30-12:00 (some classic Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff), then a color horror movie from the 60s or 70s from 12:00-1:30am (I recall one time they showed "The Reptile").

My older brother and I were allowed to watch the 10:30 movie, but had to go to bed at 12.

"Awww--can't we stay up for the next one?" we would whine.
"No!" was our parents' emphatic response.

And then, for some reason, our parents allowed us to have a portable black and white TV in our room. Did they ever get suspicious when we stopped asking to stay up for the next one? I don't know. But sure enough, we'd turn the volume down low, stretch out on our beds, and enjoy the second movie.

After a few weeks of this, however, my conscience began to sting. I can well remember that Sunday morning, when I could bear it no longer, and I told my Dad we had been staying up to watch the second movie.

"Did it scare you?" he asked.
"No," I replied.
"Did you sleep alright?"
"Yes," I said.

And nothing more was said.

Sorry... got nostalgic there for a moment... anyway, that to say, it was a cool double-bill WiR, Janet!

More to say, of course, but in another comment... :)

Theresa said...

Thanks for the WIR, Janet. The perfect accompaniment to today's lunch. Now I get to head over to the library to pick up a book I've been looking forward to for a while.

"I am slowly slipping into madness..." gets my vote.

Colin Smith said...

OK... my other comments. First, thanks for the answers to my questions, Janet. I presume the .LOL at the end of "FictionNovels@JetReidLiterary.LOL" is to hint to me that I shouldn't actually try to use this address? You know me too well... :)

I thought POD was different to self-pubbing, so I'm glad you clarified that both for Kitty and me.

After all the discussion about blogs/websites/Goodreads, etc., I'm just going to carry on doing my thing and not worry about it. I enjoy maintaining my blog. It's to a point where I'm okay with the number of hits I get. Sure I'd like more comments, but I'm pretty bad at remembering to leave comments myself so I can't complain. More importantly, I'm finding a balance between blogging and actual writing writing. So, thanks for all the tips and insight, Janet and my fellow Reiders. :)

The Query Form idea is about the only way I can think of to improve the quality of queries. But if Janet, as an agent who actually has to deal with an inbox full of queries, can handle the traditional method, then I'm not going to argue the point. Besides, I'm not that anxious to return to Carkoon. Unlike Botanist. But I will plead mercy on Botanist's behalf. First time commenting, you know. You don't want to discourage people from commenting by putting the fear of Carkoon up them on their first time, do you? :D

Capri pants are out? *snaps* I guess I should stop wearing them to work...

And WOW! I get to DOUBLE-BILL with kd in the header this week!!!! A few weeks ago I won the ff contest, now a comment-of-the-week pick! This January might be over, but it won't be forgotten. :)

Colin Smith said...

Mark Ellis: Thanks. I was going to send out a search party. ;)

nightsmusic said...

WOOHOOO!!!!! I know no one else here is going to give two hoots about this, but I have nowhere else to shout this so... the race is over and the husband's motor WON!!!

*going back to her cave now*

Colin Smith said...

Sorry, fourth comment, but I meant to say...

Janet: As someone who has read EVERY QueryShark post (I still have the notes I made before I wrote my first query), I agree that there is enough in that archive to answer just about every query issue. This may be a bit harsh, but if you don't know how to write a good query after reading QueryShark, then I'm not sure what else you need. Perhaps now's the time to retire QueryShark? I like the idea of a First Page critique, though that's potentially more work for you. I, for one, would benefit from it. My first pages suck like a black hole, I'm sure.

Maybe run a contest to name the new site/service...? :)

Colin Smith said...

NM: Wonderful! *High Five*!! :D

Brigid said...

Julie's wrangler post is downright hysterical, y'all.

nightsmusic said...

I know, I'm sorry, totally OT, but that #4? That's the car my husband's motors run in.

Corvette Racing

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Wow, I missed the sub-header nom. Because I am slowly slipping into madness.

The cat started talking to me about inter-dimensional travel. Which is probably normal cat behavior. Only I don't actually have a cat. I do, however, have revisions to make. See you guys on the flip-side if I ever make it there.

Anonymous said...

What a great week in review. I'm so glad Miss Janet is feeling better.

The Author.Me person didn't do anything to assuage my skepticism. I'm still convinced you just write a danged good book and do the routine. If it doesn't work, write a better book.

"Some years ago when interviewing prospective interns we had an applicant who said she wanted to be an intern so she could be inspired for her own writing."

I've heard people say similar things before and it's frightening. That's one reason I tend to read out of my genre or at least the sub genre when I'm writing. I don't want my subconscious tainted inadvertently, let alone mining other people's work for ideas.

Right now, I'm reading Three Years With Wallace's Zouaves The Civil War Memories of Thomas Wise Durham He was from Indiana with the Union bias on a lot of things, but the insight into the daily life of the soldier is wonderful as well as the thoughts going into battles. What makes the book truly remarkable, though, is the exquisite job Jeffrey Patrick did editing it.

One of my cowgirl books is all right, but dry as September cotton.

Fiction wise, I need to start a new book, but it won't be a Civil War or old west novel. Probably Blood Ties by Humphreys.

Hemingway, as I've said before, felt you needed to replenish the well by getting your mind off your own writing and reading.

"The purpose of your blog is to introduce me to you, the person."

Since the Wrangler patch post is about cowboy butts, I'm not sure how much that will impress agents, but it seems to be an ongoing favorite.

I'm still irked about losing the two blog posts, including the review for The French Executioner. I have to get back on schedule and get one hammered out today.

Oh my gosh, I missed that, but Sir Lance did a wonderful job of setting scene.

"I am always amazed at how easily the words "Write another book" slips from the mouths of people other than the one who's being told to write another book."

It's not easy to give up on your darling. Trust me, I know this up close and personal. It all boils down to one thing. Are you a writer or are you a writer of one book? Once you convince yourself you're a writer, it will be a natural state of being to write. You can't keep recreating something you've finished.

I interviewed a trainer once who was talking about how aggravated the winning mare had been at losing her previous race. The trainer always bonded each horse to a stuffed animal. Once the horse picked out the animal it really liked, that toy always got hung up in the stall as soon as they arrived at a new track to help the horse settle in. They were home, they had their animal, they could relax, and focus on their job.

Well, the mare was so mad about losing she bit her blue bear's head off, shook it to pieces, and ate the stuffing. They had to sit up all night with the mare to make sure she didn't get sick. The trainer then re-stuffed the bear and sewed it back together. All was right with the world and the mare went on to win the next race.

And you're wondering how this applies to writers. This is our job. Find something that settles you into writing mode, a place, a time, a cup of special tea, a blue bear, something that signals your brain this is writing time. This is what you're here for.

If you fail, bite the head off the blue bear and then get started on the next project. You're a writer. Inspiration ought to be overwhelming you. You've got more than one idea.

And I have added another tome to the collection. sigh

Claire said...

I get it, Donnaeve. When I hit a wall in my writing I'll often pick up an old favourite for inspiration - not to give me ideas for the plot, but just to remind myself what good writing feels like. However, I'd imagine that 90% of what a reader at an agency has to work through on any given day is going to be pretty rubbish; even the good stuff is likely to be in an unpolished state. I guess it might be good for the "Well, I can do better than this!" type of inspiration...

(By the way, at least one of the big London literary agencies is now only accepting queries via their online Query Form. I know this because I've been spending my time researching agents when instead I should be finishing the damn manuscript...)

John Frain said...

I was thrilled to read this:

"Several of my clients say they can't read novels at all while they're working on their own stuff because voice and ideas from elsewhere can drift into their heads with little cat paws."

For a long while, I've been thinking this was a horrible weakness of mine and I was desperate to move past it.

Now, I still think it's a horrible weakness, but at least smarter people than me share it so I don't feel as desperate to move past it.

Thank you!

Lance said...

If you fail, bite the head off the blue bear and then get started on the next project.

Julie.M.Weathers, you nailed it so beautifully. This is it!

nightsmusic said...

John, I have that same problem. If I'm writing, I'm not reading. It messes too much with my mind. Especially when the book I might be reading is so well done, the characters seem like they're standing before me. So I can read, or I can write, but it's not good for my writing voice to do both at the same time.

Mark Ellis said...

Colin, no need for search party, I'm here vacuumning---

S.P. Bowers said...

Just thinking about how long it took me to read this I can't imagine how long it took to write. Thanks again for your time and help. :)

LynnRodz said...

Thank you for this extra long WIR, Janet, and the time you put into doing it. As usual I've missed so much ever since I've taken to skimming the comments, but I always know I can catch up on Sundays. I did happen to see Botanist's comment and right away I knew he was heading to Carkoon.

Botanist, look at it this way, it wasn't in vain. You got some behind the scenes info from Janet about doing a First Pages blog. Still, Janet, I really don't see what's so special about getting the first pages sparkling when the rest of the ms is just as important. I mean yes it can get you a request for a partial or a full, but if the rest of the pages aren't as shiny, all you do is disappoint an agent and waste their time, right?

Hey, Botanist, maybe you can take a peek at my cave and make sure the heat and water are still turned on. I get a feeling sooner or later I'll be heading that way.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I, 2Ns cracked up the Queen. And, I did it while she was crapified.
My existence here on earth is fulfilled.

I just added "crapified" to my dictionary:)

I think this has been a hell of a week for a lot if us, congrats to all who made it through.

allierat said...

I googled my name yesterday. My web presence is next to nothing. I have no website, no blog, and am not on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Should O Great Sharkly One look for me, she will find some mis-information (I have lived my entire life in Michigan, and I am not Sagittarius). I have been mentioned in a couple of articles by a well-published friend of mine. That's about it.

I have thought about starting a blog, though it would be something that takes time from my WIP. Even if it is writing, which is a good thing.

What would it say about me if I blogged, say, once a month? I hesitate to take on a project that will get lost in the jumble of my life. Or do I just need a push (and some direction) to get started?
Any advice for us wall flowers who might like to dance, but know that everyone will laugh when we trip over our own feet and fall flat on our faces?

Anonymous said...


"Still, Janet, I really don't see what's so special about getting the first pages sparkling when the rest of the ms is just as important."

First pages are your first impression. That becomes painfully obvious when a person sits through some Idol panels. I've heard so many people afterwards say, "If they could just keep reading to page (x) where it gets interesting. It's so unfair." Probably 80% of the rejections at the Idol at Surrey last year got stopped because the agents felt the story started in the wrong place and the first pages weren't interesting.

Yes, the rest of the story has to sparkle also, but it doesn't matter if they aren't enticed past the first pages.

french sojourn said...

Great T.W.I.R., so much content, so little time.

Thanks Lance, another asterisk...

Janet: Glad you're back in fighting form! I also just went five rounds with something similar.

Cheers and thank you for the nice comments, stay well.


Karen McCoy said...

Wonderful WIR! I tried the impromptu contest, but couldn't come up with a compelling enough story--drafting it did keep my writing juices going though.

And yeah, "allowed" is definitely not the best word I could have used. It's a symptom of my default setting of not wanting to offend. *attempts to re-program default setting*

Kat Waclawik said...

My daughter was thrilled to hear about our mention in the WIR! At least, that's how I interpret "oooohwa" followed by lots of hand-flailing.

Speaking of hand-flailing--First Page Shark?! Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease! I love Query Shark both for the query advice and the more general writing advice. First page critiques would be invaluable.

Kitty said...

Janet, I wanted to say again that I'm glad you're back in action. My brain is only half functioning these days. I'm waiting on a grandchild. My daughter is supposed to deliver in 2 weeks but they may take it early. She said her stomach is so big she can't even eat, and forget about sleeping. This will be her 2nd, and last, child. The first one is a freshman in high school.

Lena Mae Kirk said...

I've been reading the blog posts and comments for a while now. I must say I adore you all. I sometimes feel the little voices in my head are alive and scattered around the world, but they all meet back here for a cup of tea (or a glass of whiskey). Kudos for creating such an amazing and supportive community for the curious, the more daring "swims with sharks" crowd, and for us silent, observant woodland creatures. Oh, and the advice is amazing too!

Donnaeve said...

E.M., I haven't said anything else in the comments b/c I've been following your advice. :) (not moving) haha.

Claire - yes, exactly! When I'm writing crap, (most days) I can choose a book - any book - doesn't have to be in the same genre even and it sort of unlocks my head. It's WEIRD. I will usually be able to read a few passages and there's something magical that happens. I will suddenly be able to lay down a sentence worthy of a stinking whole chapter. I don't know why this works but it does.

And sure, someone at an agency could say, well hell, I could do better, but we've also heard time and again - even out here, that only YOU can write your story.

allierat - better no presence than DEAD or in JAIL. Just sayin'. :)

Donnaeve said...

*waves* at Lena Mae Kirk. Now there's a name I could use in a project. Lena Mae. LOVE it.

Jessica Snell said...

Wow, I got congratulated by the Shark! Blushing, scraping my foot in the dirt, trying to see if I can get away with muttering "oh shucks" without sounding like a complete goober . . .

Thanks, too, Donnaeve & Lucie!

About POD: I edit for a small press, and we use that technology. We're a royalty-paying press and all, but, well, we're *small* and POD makes a lot of sense for us. So I agree: it's not just for self-pub.

No more Query Shark? Noooo! Maybe there's no more to learn (though I doubt it!), but surely there's no shortage of canon fodder (i.e., bad queries).

I like the stuffed bear analogy. I think mine is music. I make playlists for each book I write. Music really is an easy cheat to get to the right emotion. I feel like I'm a thief, stealing emotions from the music I'm listening to and transferring it onto the page instead.

AJ Blythe said...

Wonderful WiR as always *bowing to QOTKU*. Thanks for the links Janet and Colin. Clicked through and bookmarked. Will google for more =)

John Frain - re the mixed-doubles... the problem is the cricket's been on at the same time!

nightsmusic - might be in Oz but The Hub is an avid motorsport fan (used to race motorbikes) so he's been following. Congrats to your hubby.

SiSi said...

Another great WIR. My main takeaway this week--how on earth did I miss the Trixie Belden comments? I LOVED those books as a kid and I hardly ever meet others who love the Bobwhites of the Glen!

(I also took away some good stuff about writing and blogs and publishing but most Trixie Belden!)

nightsmusic said...

AJ, thank you! This is like my little, extended family and I had to tell someone. ;)

And Oz isn't that far away. Husband's uncle met the love of his life, married, and lived in New Zealand for 50 years and that's just a hop, skip and a jump from you. :)

I want to toss in my two cents now that the excitement has calmed down here. I absolutely love this blog. I so appreciate Janet and all she does for us. She posts every day, healthy or sick, she works on this wonderful WIR so those of us out of the loop for a few days can catch up with things, she posts the occasional Query Shark still (one today as a matter of fact,) but the one page critique...the problem with that is twofold as far as I'm concerned. I don't think, unless half your first chapter is on that front page, that most people can do a first page that is amazing. I think it takes at least three to get a real feel for the voice, story and writing. At least for me. And that takes time. With everything QOTKU already does for us, as much as I'd love to see that, I think her plate is full enough and couldn't bring myself to vote for that.

That said, I'm an itty bitty minnow in a great big ocean. Minnows usually get eaten by bigger fish, so what do I know?

Panda in Chief said...

(Just wanted to pop in and say hello!)
Great WIR, as usual.

AJ Blythe said...

nightsmusic - New Zealand is really just another state of Australia *grin*

I've heard from many agents and editors at conferences they often don't get past the first page - which is why it's so important for every page to be a good one.

Kristin Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency) does an "Agent Reads the Slush Pile" session at conferences. Attendees sub the first 2 pages of their ms, they are read aloud and Kristin tells where and why she'd stop reading. I attended one of these and in the 60 minutes she hardly got to a second page and there was only 1 (maybe 2) she read to the end.

So if there was to be a first page crit I think it would be really useful.

Anonymous said...

Well, would you look at that. Colin!! We're collaborators! Couldn't be in better company. Could have sworn I used a pronoun in that sentence. Probably will stop using them now. :)

Janet, glad you were entertained by the cat story. Your mention of little cat paws brought this to mind, which I can't help but think was your intent:

FOG, by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

NM, double congrats, to you for progress editing and to your husband for the win.

Hank, congrats on the FF win! Loved that piece.

And Sir Lance (I'm still smiling about your comment from weeks ago, so clever) I had missed your comment about the bar. You do have a way with words.

Welcome, Lena Mae!

Colin Smith said...

Hey there, Lena Mae!! :D Sorry, just wanted to say hello to the new commenter. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, forgot to say, I'm intrigued by the idea of a first pages critique. I will refrain from asking all the questions scurrying around on my brain's hamster wheel and wait to see what materializes, if anything.

RKeelan said...

For what it's worth, I also think a first pages critique would be invaluable. Frightening, perhaps, but invaluable.

BJ Muntain said...

Great WiR, Janet - 2 weeks worth! Thanks.

And I'm always happy to contribute something good enough to make it to the WiR. Thanks for that, too.

And I'm really glad you're feeling better now.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

One vote for the double-barrel Colin/KD subheader for a double-barrel FIR (fortnight in review).

Love the idea of a first page critique.

The effort required to build a blog that gets 30+ comments a day is effort that could be better spent WRITING.

THANK YOU!! I confess some worry over the dearth of comments on my blog. I'm hoping it's because I've focused my blog to be interesting to readers (not writers) and I simply don't have enough readers to reach the necessary saturation of the more vocal ten percent of the population.

Honestly? I can't be bothered blogging unless I have something interesting to say (like TASE Day) or something coming up that might be of interest to my fans. I'd much rather be writing. To spend the time building up a blog readership isn't as important to me as spending the time building up a book readership. Now, it's my book's birthday today. I made cupcakes for the Day Job.

allierat said: I have thought about starting a blog, though it would be something that takes time from my WIP.

There will be many things that will take you away from the WIP. Some of them, like promo and research and accounting will be necessary. Blogging may also be one of those necessary things, especially if you're infrequent but regular. It's part of your online author profile, and will help in marketing your brand. Blogging is only a problem when it becomes the central focus of your efforts. Somehow, I don't see that being a problem for you.

french sojourn: congrats. I loved your contest entry.

Julie.M.Weathers said: And I have added another tome to the collection. sigh

Fret not. You're the exception to the 100 words/3 posts limit.

Craig said...

Frustrating day, obviously, but glad to see a great WIR waiting for me. Thank you my Queen.

On the Patterson thingie. I have nothing against him; I am trying to figure out why I can't read him anymore. I read a lot of him for a while and then something happened. It was like it was no longer written but programmed. It was like they were all the same with only the names changed to protect the guilty.

I have tried six or eight of his books in the past few years, some of them several times. I can't finish them.

If and when I get there I might do things kind of the way he does. I would prefer to give more credit to those that do the writing. David Weber at least has co-writers that get their names on the cover.

On the frustrating side:
I live in a city that has at least the same population as Iowa. I like buying locally and all of that crap. I have spent three days trying to get a 120mm by 25mm 12v 3 pin case fan for my computer. Not a single local PC repair and parts place had one. It was disgusting. Now I have to buy one from Office Depot.

Thank you again my Queen

Lennon Faris said...

Thank you for the wonderful WIR! Much to love!

Sara Halle said...

My immediate reaction to reading about Sniper Writers was that they seem really cool -- just pop up on the Internet, fire off some great words, then melt away into the mist.

Upon further consideration, perhaps being drawn to a Sniper Writer's existence may explain why I'm only slightly better at creating an online presence than Caligula was at practicing self-restraint.

LynnRodz said...

Julie, I agree with you, but I think Janet should do a blog called Where To Begin Your Story rather than First Pages. Nitpicking perhaps, but just MHO.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

What a great WIR this week; the Shark works well in all circumstances, even while recuperating!


Why do I imagine the Shark still in bed, waving her fins around while dictating to a fancy feline wearing a little red beret, whose typing with tiny sharpened talon tips, acknowledging QOTKU back in short articulated meows, while secretly ad-libbing her words?

Cats can be brilliant. Except for that "Whiskey, no cream, and btw hold the fur" coffee thing they seem to struggle with (that's why I don't ask my cats to pour...that, and they don't have opposable thumbs), Loaner cat has game. It works.

Anyhow, we took our time reading tonight, and once again also took notes- so much good information here, and on query shark (new post!). My aptly named "Shark pile file" is filling up with excellent advice.

Thank you also, Janet, for taking the time to answer our questions :). I will forever be grateful for your willingness to share your wisdom with all of us, and for giving advice. I especially like that I do not have to come up with a "writers" blog, that an Author's website will be enough, and I should be using that time to write. Makes complete sense, and I am relieved!

This Spring, one hour will be taken away from all of us (I know, right, Reiders? Except for those in Arizona!), and I am finding it hard just to cope with that news (although this seems to happen yearly for some reason...). If I had to find the time to write another blog, I would have been forced to move to Arizona, or worse- become A SNIPER BLOGGER. A really bad one. Now, off to find the notes on the "there are so many good things in life, but we cannot do them well all at the same time" reminder...maybe I need another cat.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

One more thought, second comment (Though should be the third, because, well, lots of words.)

I would read a new blog on First pages! Janet mentioned on Query Shark that "If you think of a query as a piece of flash fiction it might help. It has to hold together as a complete entity" - this makes total sense. I consider the Shark's Flash Fiction contest an excellent example of why a first page is very doable- if you can write a great full-fledged story in under a hundred words, then why not a first page? First impressions are really important.

We lived in a small town once with a wonderful, small performance theater revived from the 1940's. One of the new features was going to be a wine bar on the second floor for intermission. On opening night, a few minutes before we arrived, someone had gotten violently ill... right on these gorgeous Art Noveau tiles in front of the handsome brass-framed double doors. That theater is now forever entrenched in our minds as "pukey theater".

No matter how beautiful the theater, how wonderful the performances were, every time we went back, we were reminded of that first night when we made eye contact with those beautiful tiles. So much so that I could call up one of my daughters right now, mention "pukey theater" and she would know exactly what I am talking about. This event took place over fifteen years ago. First impressions, people. They count whether we want it to or not!

Kim Batchelor said...

If I come here AND go to the Loaner Cat page, how will I ever have a life?