Welcome to the week that was.
In last week's review Steve Stubbs said:
Leatherface from the Texas Chain Saw Massacre becomes Snow White and Her Electric Toothbrush.
and, of course, I am adding that to the list of what I'm looking for on my #MSWL
Although, got to say, Julie's subhead makes me want to consider a career in nursing...
[Julie's subheader nom: "Cowboy logic: Ride bulls, meet nurses."--Julie M. Weathers]
John Frain referenced an old favorite of mine:
I think JR was the model Lawrence Block used when he wrote "The Thief who Couldn't Sleep." Fun book, read it a long time ago, and this thief got almost as much done in 24 hours as the Queen does. Almost.
Good old Evan Tanner! I read all those books Xyears ago and loved them!
And this from Stacy just cracked me up:
I'm always late to these discussions, but I just saw something that reminded me of a conversation from a while back about grammar. Have trouble remembering the difference between "desert" and "dessert"? Eagle lyrics can help.
On a dark dessert highway
Cool Whip in my hair...
I think the conversation began with my spam filter Priscilla Queen of the Just Desserts
which someone thought should be deserts. Which it should if you're not trying to be hilarious, but clearly this joke is too subject to misunderstanding to keep using. Thus Priscilla has been demoted to Duchess of the Last Desserts. She's still one helluva pricklepuss though.
On Monday the writing contest results were posted. Ya'll are getting downright diabolical in your clever use of the prompt words. I'm not even sure we can say "words" now, just letters in a certain order.
Timothy Lowe said:
BTW, I wonder how many of the rest of you looked at the words for this week's contest and said "Ffffuck..."
On Tuesday we talked about how long to let a manuscript"sit" for revision
and french sojourn just takes the knife and strikes:
And most importantly, the painting...choosing innumerable variations of cottage white. (insert scene of Cary Grant and Myrna Loy meeting with the painters)
Paint! It's almost painting season! I have to wait till the Duchess of Yowl decamps before prying open the paint cans, but I can hardly wait. Well, I don't want Her Grace to leave of course, but painting will be kind of a solace when she's gone.
And yes, I saw that movie, and yes it was funny…but not really. I mean I have 27 paint sample cans here, I am long past the point of laughing!
I like what Lucie Witt said
I think it helps to understand what type of revisions you're doing. After the first draft and any major revisions, I think it's important to let the draft sit at least a few weeks. If you're doing smaller revisions you sometimes don't need any down time at all. For example, near the end of editing I read my book out loud to myself and circled typos, made notes. I started fixing them the morning after I finished the read through, no down time needed.
and MB Owen too
I always have two projects I'm working on. When I'm finished with one, I'll turn to the other. This gets my head (and heart) in another place, and another voice quicker than anything. The time between revisions varies, (few days, weeks, even months) but because I'm not stuck on the one project, it always has a freshness when I return. That's when the revisions are most valuable: when the heart isn't connected.
and Brigid too
I'm noticing a common theme of stories starting later than we expect. We're the mamas and papas, proud as punch that little Johnny Novel learned to crawl early and almost won a spelling bee in 5th grade. But Johnny's employers expect his resume to start with college, since he's grown.
On Wednesday we talked about what to do when the world of publishing is kicking your asterisk up and down the block.
Lucie Witt identified the problem exactly:
I could be way off but I was under the impression it's not the first book's sales that are the problem, it's the second book.
Yes. While some slump in second book sales is the norm, this was a huge drop. It's the kind of drop that gives us all the shivers because it means we're no longer talking about just increasing pr and marketing efforts for Book #3, we're talking about whether anyone will even publish the book.
When I take on a book, I have confidence I can sell it. That confidence may not always be warranted but I start out with it at least. I would not have that confidence here, due solely to those sales figures.
Adib Khorram asked:
For those who wonder about 30,000 being good sales (Janet, correct me if I'm wrong!), the problem is that the 30,000 was followed by 5,000. And in sales you want that trajectory to be going the other way. A 5,000 debut followed by a 30,000 follow-up would sound much more enticing, no?
But there seems really to be no "middle class" in traditional publishing now. You can't be *dependable*: you have to be a breakout, and - never mind the pressure, it's just a matter of numbers, and the numbers dictate, we simply cannot all be The Next Big Thing.
We call it mid-list but you're right. It's like the Army; you can't spend five years in the same rank or your career is pretty much over. Get promoted or get out. Like baseball: you can play on the farm teams for a while, but either move up, or hang up your glove.
Publishing is not the only place this up or out pattern applies. But it only applies to COMMERCIAL publishing. You can publish and sell your own work forever. That's one of the many great things about the electronic marketplace: it's easy to access and it actually works. I'm not saying it's easy to self-publish (well, it is, but let's assume I mean self-publishing well here) but that the barriers to buyers are much diminished from where they were 20 years ago.
Dena Pawling asked:
Is there anything OP can do to promote book 2 to generate more sales?
Can OP get his/her rights back and self-pub to generate more sales?
Would doing either of those things help get an agent and traditional publisher to look at book 3?
I don't know the answers to those questions, but they are good questions to ask. And they speak to the importance of having a contract that allows for reversion of rights when sales fall below a certain threshold.
I really liked what Lennon Faris said:
"the world and publishing are wired to kick your ass"
- that is actually one of the most encouraging things to hear, even without the sentence that followed. It is so easy to think, "what's wrong with me. My writing must suck. I must suck," when actually that's just the way the system is. They really are out to get you. Or, leave you in the dust might be more accurate. You have to break the system to get what you want. Even then it may not work out, but at least you know it wasn't ever supposed to be easy, or even possible.
And frankly, I just loved the writing in DLM's comment to Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli
Angie: you made my day even more than they did, and that's a job. I want a t-shirt that says Clovis is my king on it. THOU ROCKEST MIGHTILY WITH THY BAD SELF (and, for everyone else, no indeed, I do not indulge that sort of gadzookery of language in my histfic!). I shall have to go home and perhaps do a booty-wiggling dance when Penelope the Publishing Pup and I sally forth on our walk this evening. Like nobody's lookin'.
and then everyone kinda went nutso and started talking about knives.
Rachel Erin said
Wow. Knives. Now I have an image of woodland creatures with bundles of knives like chefs, only next to the paring knife, the chefs knife, and the cleaver is an obsidian blade, an army tactical knife, and depending on genre, a silver blade.
I'm at the broadsword stage of editing myself, hacking and whacking and breaking scenes cracking.
I think the Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale had the very last word on that:
I use a laser scalpel. Cuts and cauterises in a single swoop.
On Thursday we talked about how to break the news of a series in a query letter.
I pointed out that telling the agent that several plot points were unresolved was the problem, not the fact it was intended as a series.
Jennifer R. Donohue made me laugh with this one:
But when I first read the post title, I was all huffy "It isn't an agent's business if you decide you're going to have childr---oh. Of course."
Then AJ Blythe offered up:
Hah, I thought the post was going to be about this
I've always wanted another me so I can write all day. The copy can do all the drudgy stuff that gets in the way of writing.all I could think was ME TOO! (pardon the pun)
nightsmusic's comment exemplifies the readers I was thinking of when I wrote the post:
From a reader's POV, I have quit three 'first in a series' books because:
1. I didn't know until the end that it was a first in a...
B. Thee major plot point/romance/big blue hairy bear was left hanging with no resolve in sight
8. When I get to an ending like that, it's a wallbanger moment because I've lost all trust in the author to be able to bring things full circle in a reasonable manner.
Please, don't do that to your readers. Or your prospective agent. Just...don't.
As a reader I agree completely with Janet. It's bad enough when TV shows end on a cliffhanger then get cancelled. It's even worse with books.
Oh my god do not get me started on the last season of The Glades, and the final episode.
And if this doesn't beg for elaboration, I don't know what does. Where There's A Quill:
I live in fear of middle-of-the-night phone calls. Nothing like getting a call at 2am from frantic clients who have been denied boarding because their passports don't have enough validity/they opted to organise visas themselves and WHOOPS we screwed it/we forgot our kid's birth certificate and South Africa dun' want us!
Apologies in advance to any agents who might call me at 2am one day if I answer the phone with "Let me put on my pants and I'll meet you at the airport".
And then Craig just upped the ante with this
You can call all you want at 0300. I will not be answering.
I still get cold sweats from one of those calls. It was right at about two years ago. It went like this:
"European Championships are coming up."
"I hope you guys have been practicing."
"You build us special boats. We need them faster."
"I think you need to practice more."
"You build us boats or we send people to visit."
"I build you boats and your neighbors will send people to visit. Practice harder. I am going back to sleep."
Two days later I went to Miami and bought some things. I will not tell you what those things are. Plausible deniability is a lovely thing.
Julie M. Weathers said:
Ringing me at 3:00 am is going to merit a prayer. It is the witching hour after all. Yes, I have been known to pray for people who call me in the middle of the night. Crazy comes in all forms.
I got a call one Sunday morning from a nice young man some years back. It was a wrong number and when I was pleasant to him, I reaped the reward of a return call. He was interested in a date. Being fresh out of jail, he really was a "wrong number." I told him I didn't date, I was a nun and he'd reached me in the office of the convent. Which was hilarious right up until he asked "Sister, do you think God still loves me?"
On Friday I ranted about queriers who seem to disdain commercial fiction.
french sojourn cracked me up with this:
When my book is done, even someone like you may like it.
Sherry Howard hit the nail on the head with this:
I'm a pragmatist. Putting aside the boot-in-the-ass issues pointed out, why would anybody include that in a query letter?
That is a VERY good question.
luciakaku cracked me up with this reminder:
I'm reminded of a moment in Castle, specifically the face Castle made as his mother said this:"Never mind them! Harper Lee only wrote one book! You've written dozens! ...Of course, hers was literature...."
He appeared torn between suicide and homicide, in fact.
Umm. A bit of a tone fail on the part of the querier. But I have some sympathy with him/her. It's because of the popular, simplistic misconceptions of literary vs. commercial fiction that writers are reluctant to self-categorise as the former. Because to describe oneself as writing literary fiction can come across as making a qualitative statement about the value your writing, rather than a simple one of genre. So then you get this silly pussy-footing around the term, with the author simpering that "I'd like to think of this as literary fiction, but really that's not for me to say..." And then The Shark gets enraged.
I'm not sure what the answer is. Does there need to be a better term for character-driven, thoughtful mainstream fiction that doesn't fit into a particular genre? 'Cause that's a bit of a mouthful...
There's a big difference between "that's not for me to say" and "my ego would like to think it's literary" Tone deaf indeed but indicative of a state of mind.
And John Frain, now gussying himself up as John Davis Frain cracked me up;
I would reward you with my comment, but my ego doesn't allow me to post beside all you commoners. Had my ego not intervened, you would be reading three poetic remarks, each assembled at 100 words, discussing the literary relevance of blogging. But I'm above all that. And above you.
Meantime, will you Like me on all my social media outlets?
Joseph Snoe has a very funny, and pointed, comment:
At the conference earlier this year, the moderator read the first page of submitted manuscripts. Four agents listened and were instructed to raise their hand when they would reject the submission. Attendees were told to put the genre at the top of the page. One person denoted his or her entry as something like “Literary Romance.” Bam! Rejected before the first sentence.
Two agents jumped all over this. “How dare you call your novel Literary. It is not for you to decide that. It is for us to decide.”
I felt bad for the writer. She classified it the best she knew how.
Ironically, one of the agents gave me her card. She called herself a “Literary Agent.” I wanted to make a joke about it, but she would have been the one to decide if it was funny, and I didn’t risk it.
I hate those Literary Idol events. They seem to bring out the worst side of us. While it's true that "literary romance" isn't a category at all, you'd think most agents would have realized that writers get category wrong at least half the time.
It's one thing to comment on flaccid writing; it's another thing entirely to castigate a writer for not knowing the mores of category. It's not like any of us were born knowing this stuff OR that we don't struggle with it ourselves in our pitch letters.
And the scene Timothy Lowe sets here cracked me up for days:
I guess this sort of thing is equivalent to describing what you look like to someone across the table from you at a speed dating event. Even if you do it in modest terms, you still come off as pretty stupid.
"hi, as you can see I'm a good looking smart well-read hunk o'love, just looking for a good home."
And this from Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli made me laugh:
So... Back in February I read seven of K'Wan's Hood Rat series. While I was overdosing on the violence and the sex, I had dinner with a friend who is a director of lyric opera. I raved about K'Wan and she raved about Moliere. She said Moliere wasn't much different, he rode around France in a wagon with a bunch of hooligans and performed in the streets. And she said Shakespeare wrote for the thugs.
Literary writers. Yowl.
On Saturday I posted an excerpt from AnthimriaRampant on editing
Gee, thanks a whole hell of a lot, Janet. And by extension, Mr. McIntyre. I just spent way too much time reading and enjoying all the posts on that site (subscribed now). OK, fine, not all-- I skipped the one about Star Wars language.
Throughout the week on Facebook, there was more from Her Grace, The Duchess of Yowl:
The Duchess of Yowl at your serviette
The Duchess of Yowl has some notes
The Duchess of Yowl gets ready
The Duchess of Yowl is peckish
The Duchess of Yowl makes an observation
The Duchess of Yowl is set upon
Is this the first week with no subheader noms?
I must be losing my eye.
I can't believe it's almost the end of May!
Have a great week!