Friday, November 24, 2017

You're doing a great job driving me crazy

I've previously mentioned here that I'm on the hunt for new projects to take on; I'm reading more fulls and signing more new clients than I have in the last few years.  In other words, your chances are better now than they have been in a while.

But of course a few of you have taken this opportunity to wreak revenge. You've queried in ways that make me NUTSO.  Well, job well done. I am mad as hatter these days, and the head of Hat Wearers of the World has noticed:

How have you accomplished this?
Here's a list:

1. Start your query with some sort of startling statistic or news event, only to tell me later on that this is a novel, not a non-fiction book proposal.  Don't gear your novel to statistics or current events. Just do NOT.

2. Tell me how well published you are, but tell me nothing about the new book. I discard those cause I am not going to presume to instruct you on how to query if you're well-published.

3. Insert page numbers or headings (like ms title/author name) by hand rather than using the commands in your word processing program.  This means that when you send me a full manuscript, and I change the font, or the margins, the page numbers are NOT at the bottom of the page any longer.  I can't imagine why anyone inserts page numbers by hand anymore (perhaps a reader here could shed some light?) but DO NOT DO IT.


RosannaM said...

A weird thing is happening! I am the first commenter and I am on the west coast. Are all the rest of you folks in a turkey coma?

Surely, Janet, the crazy-making queryers are not coming from this space. Surely.

Ashes said...

People inserting numbers by hand are, quite simply, people who are not very computer literate. It probably took those poor souls ages to type a whole MS and number the pages.

And for anyone sheepishly reading this who doesn't know how to do that. On Microsoft word it is under the Insert Tab, in the "Header & Footer" ribbon. Right before Text Box.

I used to teach beginner computer classes to adults. And this to me, is a strong indication of someone just getting started. They can use their word processor to type, but aren't totally comfortable with formatting yet.

Craig F said...

Carb loaded and turkeyphan addicted I jump slowly into the land of the dreaded synopsis.

Not necessarily a turkey coma but kind of stuffed to the gills.

I hope everyone had a nice turkey day. Mine was pretty good, my sister is actually exploring the gift box of spices I gave her and the food was tasty. Many points of conversation were passed by, hopefully, because the food was good.

I hope my queries don't make anyone crazy. I know that I am capable of doing crazy shnitt when I am apprehensive. Querying makes be apprehensive and any crazy crap in my query can be blamed on that.

By the way, my favorite old woman crazy is the purple dress and red hat type.

Janet Reid said...

RosannaM I was late posting today so the early birds not only didn't get the worm, they didn't get the comment column!

The Duchess of Yowl and I were too busy admiring her to get the blog post done on time.

Colin Smith said...

Rosanna: I think today's article went up late, so us East-Coasters couldn't comment on the new one because, well, it wasn't there yet. :)

I'm going to be a little harsh now, but this is the 21st Century. I don't care how old you are, if you want this writing gig, you've GOT to learn the tools of the trade. If you are that uncomfortable with formatting in a word processor, get someone to help you--better, TEACH you how to do it. I'm not unsympathetic. My mum's the same way with computers/digital devices. She knows how to do what she needs to do (email, FaceTime), but outside that, she is, frankly, a little scared. But unless you are the most special of special snowflakes (and none of us should assume we are), you have to move with the times.

Unfortunately, Janet, by the time this NaNo novel is ready to query (assuming it'll be worth querying), this golden moment to query you will more than likely have passed. Oh well... I don't doubt you'll hear from me anyway. :)

RosannaM said...

For a moment it felt like it sometimes does when you're driving at night and you realize you are the only one on the road and you, for a moment (or two), think you have just entered the Twilight Zone and begin to freak out a little....that's how it was for me this morning. Am so glad there was a reason!

Janet, I am glad you and DOY had a lovely morning.

Kathy Joyce said...

If hats were queries, here's what the queen's would tell us:

1. The black hair flying every which way suggests a horse, or a wild pig, or possibly, a rather unkempt young woman. Instead, the wearer is an old woman. She has a story, and she likes horses, and possibly wild pigs, but not girls with messy coifs. The hair misleads, and also covers the fabric of the hat, which is made from the suit fabric. Highlighting, not concealing, the suit fabric is the point of wearing the hat in the first place.

2. Too many feathers in the cap. They camouflage the brim and the button. Brim and button show bits of the whole suit, but we can't see enough to know if we really like it. Forget the feathers. Show the suit through the hat; don't hide it with accents that don't matter. (And frankly, the accents make the whole outfit look like a hunting party gone wrong.)

3. Those purple-y feathers? Why are they there? They don't go with the rest of the hat, or the suit. But they're embedded, so they can't be removed without disassembling the whole hat. For people with a honed sense of style, those feathers ruin it, but taking them out is too much trouble.

Moral of the story: A hat should complement a suit, make it more accessible, entice someone to buy the outfit, (or at least admire it), not grab all the attention, look ridiculous, or clash with the suit.

Can you tell I'm avoiding prodding kids with their sophomore projects? "Mom, it's vacation," they whine. "It's due next week," I scold. What else can I write first?

Dena Pawling said...

In honor of Nano month, yesterday I finished edit pass #1 on my current WIP. It's shaping up nicely and I just may have it ready for beta readers by the end of the year. Yay me!

And to commemorate this momentous occasion, I ranted on Twitter about my frustration with Scrivener.

I can do WordPerfect. I can do MS Word. I can even do Open Office.

Scrivener is way too complicated. I love certain aspects of it. But after 3+ years of tutorials and YouTube videos and actual practice, I still can't figure out most of its features. If the creators scaled it down about 80%, it would be perfect for old dogs like me. As it stands, even after I compile the MS, I still have more work to do with formatting and stuff.

This is the first MS I've tried writing in Scrivener, and it may be the last. Not sure yet. I'm currently undecided between ditching it altogether, and using it for the good features but not the entire project.

This isn't to say that when submitting a requested full, the writer shouldn't use the header/footer and similar features, but sometimes despite best efforts [and trust me, I've really spent time trying to learn, and even asked my IT hubby to help me and he can't even figure out some features], new technology is just too complicated. Several people in the Twitter thread mentioned they only use a small portion of the features, so I'll probably try one more MS in Scrivener before deciding to give up on it altogether.

Thankfully, it appears agents still accept MS Word. Now THAT, I have figured out.

Adele said...

Janet? Wreak revenge.

PS: I love the Queen's hat.

Colin Smith said...

Dena: I tried Scrivener, but ditched it. My issue is not so much an inability to use it, but the simple fact it doesn't work the way I work. The "neat features" people rave about are things I don't care about, which instantly puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to learning them. If you can use the tool you use to produce a manuscript that conforms to what agents/editors/publishers/self-publishing presses require, then that's all you need to know. I wouldn't demand that every writer become an expert at Word, Scrivener, Writer, Pages, WordStar, WordPerfect, or whatever software they use. Proficiency to the point of being able to write your novel and send it in an acceptable format is sufficient. Anything else is up to you and your comfort level.

Boris Ryan said...

Perhaps it would benefit you and your queriers to offer a Chum Bucket or two?

Ashes said...

I mean, I'm not disagreeing, Colin, but I think the big problem here is not knowing the function exists.

To someone who grew up writing assignments by hand or on a typewriter, they might not assume that those numbers can be automated.

It might seem like they should, they did write and query a manuscript. But even though it takes hours to write, typing a manuscript in a word processor is still only one thing. Numbering the pages, to some is a *new thing*. So first they have to realize they can do it. Then, assuming they have already typed in the numbers, they have to fix it. And it very likely won't occur to those newbies that there is an automated way to do that too. So now they're looking at taking the numbers all out, by hand again. So what seems like not a big deal to us (because it isn't), is looking like a HUGE job to them just from lack of information.

I once told the story about how I posted a question about character motivation in a form for 'Writing Queries', because I thought the word 'query' meant question. The problem was not that I didn't know how to write a query, it was that I didn't know query letters *existed*. Some people are just that new.

There's this learning curve when it's not that you don't know how to do or aren't capable of learning a thing, it's that you didn't know that thing was a thing.

It is completely within an agent's right to dismiss a manuscript for that reason (or any reason). But ignorance is different than stupidity, and usually treatable.

Colin Smith said...

Ashes: You make a valid point. If you've never used a word processor, then it is likely you don't know such a feature exists. And it doesn't help when the software assumes you know it's there, so you should know to go looking for it. I still think such a scenario would be an exception these days. Word processors have been around long enough, and most tutorials would mention things like page numbering, setting margins, and automatic line spacing. So it comes back to taking the time to educating yourself in the tool, making note of things that seem important, and not worrying about things that aren't.

Sherry Howard said...

I hope I'm never too old to learn new stuff, even when a five-year-old is the teacher. 'Cause that's all you need to learn technology.

Seriously, there are so many resources on formatting a ms for submission that NOT doing it shows you haven't taken it very seriously. And I did some STUPID things when I first started writing for publication. I still do, I'm sure. Fortunately, there are plenty of kind writers and agents (QOTKU) who help guide us toward the light.

Adele said...

Video tutorials are mostly produced by software experts. They show you the basics the way a realtor shows you a house - all the great stuff; none of the foundations and framing. They never tell you that twiddling the thingy on the wall will make the house warmer; it doesn't occur to them that you might not know.

I love Scrivener, but their '1-hour tutorial' takes me 6 hours to complete, and by then I've forgotten the first bit. I did it twice and, still feeling foggy, I decided to learn Scrivener the way I learned Word - by using it. Now I use it for everything I write. I know the bells and whistles from the tutorial; I use some and I will learn others when I need them.

By the way - back in the 90s, it took me days to figure out how to double-space a manuscript in Word.

Julie Weathers said...

I love the queen's hat and her expression. I was sick yesterday, so it was macaroni and cheese for me. I may go try to find a buffet that has leftover turkey today. I'm not proud.

I wish I were ready to query, but I'm not. It won't be done by the end of the year either. But I'm close. I don't even want to think about querying. It sends the creepy crawlies through my stomach.

Karen McCoy said...

Adele caught it. As much fun as it is to "wreck revenge," the connotation is slightly different than intended. (Of course this probably only adds a few more feathers to the mad hat. Apologies.)

Also agree about Scrivener--tried it a few months ago, and I could never figure out how to export a novel and get it formatted the way I needed.

As to formatting a novel before submission, this site offers some good instructions.

Beth Carpenter said...

I sympathize. It was many years ago, but it took me longer than it should have to get the hang of headers and footers in Word. I'm still confused about whether the header with author/title on the left and page number on the right should be centered, left aligned, or right aligned, but I figure if the info is there and looks neat, it's okay.

John Davis Frain said...

You do realize, that picture alone is motivation to send a query for a fiction novel where the query opens with "In 2015, forty-two percent of homicides in the United States went unsolved. In 2025, that number will drop to four percent because the protagonist of my fiction novel invented a Time-Elapse Virtual Reality Creator."

Purse those lips, Queen!

Tighter! I'm handwriting PAGE 1 on my query letter now! Don't TELL me about your disappointment--SHOW me!

That is all. 800 words in Nano, and I'm back on pace after a rough week.

S.E. Dee said...

ASHES & COLIN:I've been writing for over 15 years on Microsoft Word and had no idea that creating a 'page break' was an actual function. I understood what a page break was and what it was meant to look like and I saw it mentioned often in submission guidelines but I always did it using the return key. The same goes for the function that highlights all the extra spaces that you may have at the end of sentences. I mean, I don't even know what is called but I use it... Point is. I consider myself knowledgeable when it comes to these things but I'm always still learning. I can imagine that for some, learning how to use word alone is a struggle let alone page breaks, footers, numbering, etc...

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I have a friend in her late eighties who comprehends tech stuff waaay more-better than me. And I have friends who are decades younger who struggle with this stuff. We're all individuals. I suppose what you're hoping to accomplish is a motivation for educating yourself.

I'm motivated to learn and truly wish I was savvy, but I'm not. Colin, I'll be candid and admit that your perfectly reasonable explanation for doing the linky thing (on our group fb page) is confusing to me. It's not you, it's me. I could send you photos of my husband ripping his hair out and/or banging his head on the desk as evidence of my shortcomings in comprehension, but it isn't pretty. Let's not go there.

The Sleepy One said...

Dena, I love Scrivener. Being able to break my project into chapters and scenes, and easily move the chapters/scenes when needed, is invaluable to me. I love being able to save my character sheets and research within the binder (but not within the manuscript).

But I always do my final edits, especially copyediting, in Word. Side note, I've heard people celebrating the way the recent changes to the compile function (which always worked fine for me).

Sam Hawke said...

As I said on Twitter, I love Scrivener but I never did tutorials, I don't think. I just got in, started writing scenes and figured things out as I went. Which means there are likely zillions of features I don't use.

When I had to completely restructure my MS last year I could have all of the scenes on index cards, colour coded by POV character, with summary/metadata and physically move them around to re-sort them into the new structure, chapter-by-chapter. I think I would have died trying to do it in Word. Literally cannot even think how I could have done it. I draft exclusively in Scrivener but then export the file into Word when the substantive edits are done and then do line by line edits from there.

I also love having the character sheets and any reference material I need just sitting in the sidebar. You can drag pictures, web pages, pdfs, whatever you want, and it's right there instead of me having to sort through the computer to remember where I put that cool photo of a statue, etc. There's other cool stuff like the name generator, and I'm extremely fond of the little project/session target box that you can set up in the sidebar which gives you a progress bar for the day and for the book. Extremely useful when doing something like Nano. Speaking of which, I am still in the judgmental red/orange stage of my word count so I have a long way to go... back to it!

BJ Muntain said...

Did you know, some editors (usually e-zine editors) complain about 'Word crap', like curly quotes and automated indents, because they make it more difficult to format? And then others complain when people use tabs instead of the automated indents, etc. I think it's natural some writers may get confused. For about a decade, I had curly quotes and automated indents turned off in my programs. Now, I figure, forget it. I'll only change those if an editor insists on it.

Kathy-of-the-bestestest-last-name: I think the reason for the purple feathers is to give it some colour. Without a wee bit of colour, and with all the neutral colours she's wearing, her face would disappear completely. And it is not the Queen of England's job to be invisible.

BJ Muntain said...

Colin: WordStar? Seriously? I think I had that on my Commodore 64...

As for Scrivener, I've never tried it. Regular word processors work just fine for me. People tell me how wonderful it is, but it seems like a lot of learning to be able to do things I normally do on paper or in my head (I have a very big head.) And I have enough trouble writing without learning something new. Good thing I took a fair bit of Word - and other computer-related - training in my many previous jobs.

Janet Reid said...

Thanks to y'all for helping me wreak correctly.
Also, Boris Ryan Carkoon is lovely this time of year. Enjoy your stay!

Boris Ryan said...

Chum Bucket is a wonderful way to give your blog readers a final push towards correct querying, and helps a Chum Bucket mentee feel comfortable querying.
What could be disagreeable in the suggestion?

BJ Muntain said...

Boris: The Chum Bucket is more work for Janet. Suggesting she do more than she already does for us non-clients is often a Carkoonable offense. Hope you like kale...

JEN Garrett said...

I can't help but wonder if *sometimes* (though I hope it's rare) the documents get exported through so many applications during drafting and revising - scrivener, notepad, memo pad, mobile app on phone, I don't know what else - that by the time it gets back to Word doc, the page numbers are imported with the rest of the text but not put in the footer where it belongs. So it might not have been put there by hand at all.

This should be a lesson to us all because - is that blood in the water?
Swim! Swim! Swim faster!

Unknown said...

Jen G has a good point. Once upon a time, I submitted a requested MS to an agent who pointed out that there were 'return key' marks in the MS. I had not placed them there, since I use the auto feature in Word. I researched the issue, and was told that sometimes, not always, but sometimes, the different versions of Word for Mac and the other computers do not talk to each other. So, what we send out is not received in the way that we sent it.