Saturday, December 30, 2017

Holiday Flash Fiction Contest Round 4 (final round)

Round Four
Posted: 12/30 (noon)
Opens 12/31/17  9am 1/2/18 9:31am
Closes: 1/1/18 9am 1/3/18 9:31am


prompt word: SENT
Number of words: 20

You can enter Round 4 even if you did not enter Rounds 1, 2 or 3.

You may continue the story you wrote for Rounds 1, 2 or 3 OR use someone else's post from  Rounds 1, 2 or 3 as your "starter"
If you use a starter, you MUST include it in your post WITH ATTRIBUTION.
It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that you use someone else's work with respect.

You can NOT use 29 words in this entry if your previous entry was "only 26 of the allowed 30" In other words, no carry overs.


1. You must use the whole prompt word (sent) but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: sent/sentence is ok, but sent/scent  is not.

2. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

3. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

4. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

5. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

6 If you use a STARTER post, those words DO NOT count for word limit for today's entry.

7. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

8. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

9. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.
Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

10. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

11. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

12. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.


Round 4 opens: 9am, 12/31/17

Round 4 closes: 9am, 1/1/18

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock



If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's
an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!

ENTER (sorry about this snafu dear readers. I may have vacationed a bit too much!)

Sorry, contest is closed!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Round 3 Flash fiction contest

Round Three
Posted: 12/28 (noon)
Opens 12/29 (9am)
Closes: 12/30 (9am)
prompt word: colly
Number of words: 25


You can enter Round 3 even if you did not enter Rounds 1 or 2.

You may continue the story you wrote for Rounds 1 or 2, OR use someone else's post from Rounds 1 or 2as your "starter"
If you use a starter, you MUST include it in your post WITH ATTRIBUTION.
It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that you use someone else's work with respect.

You can NOT use 29 words in this entry if your previous entry was "only 26 of the allowed 30" In other words, no carry overs.


1. You must use the whole prompt word (colly) but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: colly/collywaddle is ok, but colly/college year is not.

2. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

3. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

4. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

5. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

6 If you use a STARTER post, those words DO NOT count for word limit for today's entry.

7. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

8. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

9. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.
Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

10. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

11. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

12. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.


Round 3 opens: 9am, 12/29/17

Round 3 closes: 9am, 12/30/17

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock



If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's
an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!
ENTER! 

oops, too late, this round is closed.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Holiday Flash fiction contest round 2


Round two
Posted: 12/26
Opens: 12/27 (7:47am)
Closes: 12/28 (9am)


prompt word: ring
Number of words: 25


You can enter Round 2 even if you did not enter Round 1.

You may continue the story you wrote for Round 1, OR use someone else's post from Round 1 as your "starter"
If you use a starter, you MUST include it in your post WITH ATTRIBUTION.
It must be differentiated from the entry in round 2. (A line, five stars, something) (I need to be able to calculate the word count for each entry readily)

It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that you use someone else's work with respect.

You can NOT use 29 words in this entry if your previous entry was "only 26 of the allowed 30" In other words, no carry overs.


1. You must use the whole prompt word (ring) but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: ring/ringding is ok but ring/rousting is not

2. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

3. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

4. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

5. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

6 If you use a STARTER post, those words DO NOT count as the 25 limit for today's entry.

7. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

8. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

9. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.
Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

10. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

11. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

12. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.


Round 2 opens: 7:47am, 12/27/17

Round 2 closes: 9am, 12/28/17

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock



If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's
an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!
ENTER! 
oops, too late, this round is closed.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Holiday Flash Fiction contest Round 1

Round One
posted: 12/22
opens: 12/23
closes: 12/25

Prompt word: bird

Number of words: 30


1. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the
prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: bird/snowbird is ok but bird/binary code is not.

2. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

3. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

4. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

5. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

6. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

7. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

8. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.
Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

9. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

10. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

11. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.


Contest opens: 6:37am, 12/23
Contest closes: 9am, 12/25


If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock


Questions? Tweet to me: @Janet_Reid

Ready?
Set?
NOT YET!
ENTER!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The holiday flash fiction contest is nigh!-your help is needed here!

Here are the guidelines:

Round One
posted: 12/22
opens: 12/23
closes: 12/25

Prompt word/s:
Number of words: 30

Round two
Posted: 12/26
Opens: 12/27
Closes: 12/28 (9am)

prompt word/s
Number of words: 25

Round Three
Posted: 12/28 (noon)
Opens 12/29
Closes: 12/30 (9am)

prompt word/s
Number of words: 25

Round Four
Posted: 12/30 (noon)
Opens 12/31
Closes: 1/1/18 9am

prompt word/s
Number of words: 20


You can write an individual story for each round OR you can write a story that builds on previous entries.

IF you write a story that builds on a previous entry, you MUST include that entry above the new entry. The previous entry does NOT count for the current entry word limitation.

Example

Round One: The Shark laid in wait for Santa Claws.

Round Two:  The Shark laid in wait for Santa Claws.
Fortunately, Santa was aware of Shark's plan and came down the drainpipe, not the chimney.

Round Three: The Shark laid in wait for Santa Claws.
Fortunately, Santa was aware of Shark's plan and came down the drainpipe, not the chimney.
Unfortunately, Shark had filled the drainpipe with Tears of Writers and Santa arrived drunk and disorderly at the Christmas feast.



And for today's fun, we need some good prompt words.  Make suggestions in the comments section. They do not have to be holiday themed.



Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Old letters

 
A neighbor approached me yesterday regarding what I consider to be an amazing "find." Her mother recently passed, and my neighbor discovered a box containing a huge stack of handwritten letters to her mother from her father, written from 1940 through 1949 during his service overseas. The letters were from Germany, France, and other locations where he served during the war. She said they were not romantic in nature---though some are more intimate than others---but more of a detailing of what was going on around him at the time, his observations, and things she believes to be details most people simply didn't/don't know. The first letters begin when her dad was a corporal, and as the years progressed, so did his rank in the military and, naturally, the scope of the letters. I believe he earned the rank of major by '49. 

Also in the box were items he saved, such as pamphlets carried by German soldiers which detailed how they expected to be treated in the event of capture. 

My neighbor thought I might like to have these letters and memorabilia for a possible novel. I told her no, she needs to keep every scrap. It's like a living history!

My recommendation was for her to read each letter again with Post-its standing by so she can put the letters in chronological order and color code them for location and contents, i.e. political, day-to-day operations, military expectations, or too-intimate-to-share. I explained that in this way she can have them indexed by year, topic, and location which will make it easier for her---or someone---later on who might want to turn this into a book. I also suggested she scan every slip of paper as the originals are beginning to deteriorate.

Now my question. I don't want to mislead her or send her down a rabbit hole with this. She is a schoolteacher, not a writer. I am a writer of fiction with zero nonfiction experience. What can she do and where would she start? She has no interest in trying to self-publish. Are there editors at houses that publish nonfiction that would be interested, maybe have someone on staff capable of turning this treasure trove into a book? Who would read these letters to determine if pursuing such a thing is even worthwhile?


What a terrific find! But let's not get the cart before the horse, and if the paper is beginning to deteriorate the very last thing you want to do is handle it, or subject it to the heat and light of a photocopy machine.

I don't know what to do here because my expertise is in publishing, and your situation here is about archiving. Archiving means saving it correctly for the person who does want to use the material later on.

This is where you consult your local librarian and/or historical society.  They will have staffers who have seen this kind of situation before and will know what to do, or where to direct you for information.

Indexing the information is NOT for a relative amateur. Indexing is a real art form. There's even a society of people who practice the art and magic of indexing.  Indexing is one of those things that sounds easy but getting it done right is a whole lot harder than you think.

While your friend may not want to turn these letters in to a book, she may be interested in learning how to index and how to preserve them.

I hope you'll encourage her to do this. This kind of first hand information is vital to historians both now and in the future.  I have several clients who emerge periodically from the archives of libraries far and near, clutching their notes, beaming with joy at the information they've uncovered there.  It's akin to watching a kid unwrap presents on Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Current events

After I began querying my crime novel, an incident somewhat similar to an incident in the book, and mentioned in the query, happened in real life - and appeared in the news. How should I handle future queries?

I'd appreciate any advice you can give me.


Violence is such a part of our lives (to my deep and abiding sorrow, and yours too I bet) that you can't NOT write about it these days.
If you're worried about appearing to exploit a tragedy, you might consider a line at the close of the query that says "Events have overtaken my book and what was fiction now looks like the news, to my very deep sorrow."

There are so many towns now that have some sort of recent violence that even if you tried to change the name or location, you have no way of making sure that events didn't catch up with you again.

My client Dana Haynes and I used to laugh very ruefully that he should work for the CIA cause he was so good at writing about things before they actually happened. 

One of the reasons we read crime novels is to help us deal with the chaos of real life violence. Novels where justice prevails and the bad guyz get their comeuppance are solace.  Think  of your novel as something that will provide respite from fear and worry, and you won't be worried about seeming exploitative.





Monday, December 18, 2017

Loglines are from hell


Agent Luvvin D. Loglines likes her queries with a one-sentence pitch/summary up front.

Two questions:

1. Are Publishers Marketplace deal announcements a good model? To use an example I pulled out of my hat: In SHIPWRECK, INTERRUPTED, a 19th century Japanese mermaid must choose between her gang's mission to destroy foreign ships and super-hottie Admiral Perry, in a ludicrous deal, etc. etc.


2. What if your hook is in the title? If you're querying IT, it behooves you to mention killer clowns will make an appearance. But if you're querying the novelization of KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, how do you pitch it without re-mentioning the clowns' motives and place of origin? (Title-Hook Syndrome pops up frequently with children's books-- e.g., FROG AND TOAD ARE FRIENDS.)

 Pub Mkt listings can be good examples. I save ones that I think are good so I can look at them when I'm writing my own deal announcements. Not all of them are though. And how you'll know the difference I do not know.

Which brings us to why I despise asking writers for log lines in a query: log lines, good ones, are BRUTALLY hard to write well. I practice (as do all the agents here) in a group meeting with our film guys, and I learn something new every single week. And I've been doing this a LONG time.


Some examples:

Here's my starting point for Crude Oil, Crude Money:
A swashbuckling, smooth talking billionaire signs the deal of a lifetime to control all of the Saudis' oil shipments. Multiple sinister and divergent interests ally themselves and plot to reclaim the golden goose.

Here's what got posted to PM

Former Washington Post Mid East bureau chief Tom Lippman's CRUDE OIL, CRUDE MONEY, examining Aristotle Onassis' bold gamble to corner the crude oil shipping market by signing a deal with the King of Saudi Arabia, to the dismay of British and US oil companies, the Dulles brothers in DC, the newly elected prime minister of Egypt Gamal Nasser, and the encroaching Soviets eager to build power in the region to Hilary Claggett at Praeger, in a nice deal, for publication in 2019, by Janet Reid at New Leaf Literary & Media (World English).


Here's the logline for a short story by Phillip DePoy
In "Accessory", Foggy in his role as Child Protective Services officer is called in when a young girl is a witness to a murder that makes no sense to anyone hearing about it. Now he's got to figure out whodunit and more important whydunit, before things get a lot worse in Fry's Bay Florida.

And here's the logline for a short story by John Haggerty

In "Shelter" Chekhov's gun is a bomb shelter.


None of these follow the same rules or format.

I think they all do the one thing a log line has to do: entice someone to read on.

There is no template, there's no one right answer.

Generally however log lines should show the decision a character has to make, be liberal in use of adjectives (rather than verbs--which makes me nuts as you might imagine) and convey the tone of the book.

And a partridge in a pear tree would be nice too.

Like I said, loglines are brutal. Since most of you have trouble just getting plot on the page, if someone asks for a logline I'd ignore it for a more complete rundown of what's at stake in a novel.




Sunday, December 17, 2017

Whores

So, how many prostitutes, call girls, sluts and/or whores does your book have?
Any of them men?

I'm so so so tired of prostitutes of all kinds and stripes in crime fiction that I've reached the point that when I see it I stop reading.

Here's why: prostitution isn't interesting. Not then, not now, not ever.

All too often I believe female characters are cast as prostitutes because the author (usually a man) finds it titillating.  May be to them the whole idea of a prostitute is titillating...but it isn't actually titillating on the page.  In fact, to this reader it's essentially two dimensional characterization and thus boring.

There are exceptions of course. Off the top of my head Michael Connelly; I'm sure there are others. The reason it's not boring in Michael Connelly's books is because the character is Bosch's mum first, and a prostitute is just PART of who she is.

In movies, setting a scene in a strip club is an excuse to show naked women.
In a book, I have no idea what it does.

If I had to guess, I'd say more agents feel this way than not, particularly lady agents.

Any questions?









Saturday, December 16, 2017

Code

Yesterday's blog post comments revealed that some of you are unfamiliar with what code means for a character. (Later in the day there are some very savvy comments about code; I encourage you to read the entire comment trail.)

Code is what a character thinks is right and wrong. What they will do, what they won't do. What they think is important. And unimportant.

To use my favorite example, Jack Reacher: Reacher's code is he's on the side of the underdog.  We see this over and over again when Reacher steps in to balance the scales of power. He hitches a ride east with an old black couple who have a gig in Atlantic City. He sticks around, counts the people paying admission, lets the club manager SEE he's keeping count, and when the time comes to settle up, he's the muscle enforcing the contract for the couple who would have been victims had he not been there.

What's in it for Reacher? Nothing, except he couldn't let the situation slide without breaking his code.

To use another favorite example, The Wire.  "A man must have a code."



Omar, who robs drug dealers of Baltimore and has been seen to shoot more than a few of them too, will not put his gun on someone who isn't in the game.

The trick about code is to SHOW it, not necessarily tell it. Omar in fact doesn't say this is his code, he agrees with Detective Bunk Moreland who says it.

Reacher never says "this is my code" but we readers know what it is pretty early on in each book.

And one of the reasons Robert Parker's books ceased to entice me after The Widening Gyre was that Spenser kept talking about his damn code, to the point I wanted to beat him over the head.

 Blake Snyder talks about an element of code in his essential book Save The Cat (page xv)


Friday, December 15, 2017

R&R versus "just nice comments on a pass"

I have several fulls out (holy hell) with respectable NYC literary agents (no, you're not one of them because you don't rep my genre). In the last week, two agents rejected - but with very positive feedback. The few criticisms I received could be fixed with an easy revision. This makes me wonder: what prompts an agent to ask for an R&R versus rejecting it entirely? If you can give some perspective on this thought process - it would help me sleep better. Well, that and a nice 20-year old Scotch.


I'm not one of them because very few people would call me respectable (barroom floozy that I am) Respected might be the better word for what (other) lit agents are.

But I digress...

I can only speak to my own practices here and I really don't know how other agents do this (it's not a topic at the DisReputable Bar and Grille where I hang my hat at 5pm)

I ask for a revise and resubmit if there's a structural problem that can be fixed. Examples of this are plot holes or inconsistencies; lack of chapters (my newest client had this!); a more compelling ending.

Structural problems that need a general overhaul generally are passes. Examples: no sense of the protagonist's code; the plot didn't have any kind of twist or surprise element; lack of a narrative arc (more common in non-fiction than fiction); lack of tension.

As to your situation: you don't know if the "few criticisms" are the extent of the problem. When I pass on a manuscript I'll generally give the writer an idea of why, but it's NOT an editorial letter that lists ALL the things that need to be revised.

This can lead to authors thinking if they fix the "few criticisms" the agent will then have a novel ready to go on submission. That's almost never the case.

Instead of trying for a revise and resubmit here, look at the feedback you have. Is it consistent? If so, that's definitely something to fix.

And read the manuscript with fresh, critical eyes. Does it have twists? Can you identify the main character's code?

But mostly, keep querying. I've signed and sold things that other agents didn't want.




Thursday, December 14, 2017

"I don't want to be a nuisance"

A few years ago I did a year-long internship for a fabulous, huge literary agency. Since then I've had an agent and lost her again in an amicable breakup.

I've now written another manuscript, and the agent at the head of the agency I used to intern for is my #1 querying choice. However, she's closed to unsolicited submissions.

When I interned for her, she told us she was always interested in work her interns did. But that was a few years ago, and I can't find out whether or not this is still the case, and I can't find information about whether or not ex-interns count as exceptions to "unsolicited".

What should I do? I don't want to be a nuisance, but I don't want to miss out on what could be a great opportunity.

We're following each other on Twitter, so one option is to DM her, but the idea makes me nervous. I definitely have the patience to wait for her to open to submissions again, but knowing how popular she is, that could take years, and I don't want to wait if it would be okay to just ask her.

Thanks for reading, and for any advice you might have!


Under no circumstances (unless specifically told to do so) should you DM an agent about anything related to querying. Twitter is not where most of us conduct business, and there's no way to know if she'll ever see the message. (In fact this prompted me to check direct messages since I haven't thought of them since summer '16)

The other thing you need to do is believe people when they tell you they're interested in your work. If I had a nickle for every author who has said something akin to "well, she said that but maybe she says that to everyone" or "yes but, maybe she's changed her mind" I'd have enough money to buy myself a bar.

And you're not annoying her if you write to confirm she's still interested in looking at former intern's work.

Well, you're annoying her if you write to her sixteen times asking sixteen questions, and phoning to confirm her email address, but that's not what you intend to do is it?

While I respect your effort to behave professionally, never let that interfere with advancing your career in a polite, prepared way. When I say prepared I mean you are ready to send the query or manuscript the same day she replies with "yes I'm still interested, please send."

And by polite I mean you say thank you not apologize for writing.

The bottom line is this: Yes, you need an agent, but agents also need writers. Assume your work is something we want to see. We'll let you know if that's not the case.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Vacation flash fiction contest

I have an idea to torment you so much you start the New Year as weeping sodden pool of writer tears. In other words, just like always.

Here's what I thought of:

Round One
posted: 12/22
opens: 12/23
closes: 12/25

Prompt word/s:
Number of words: 30

Round two-building on or continuing what you wrote in R1
Posted: 12/26
Opens: 12/27
Closes: 12/28 (9am)

prompt word/s
Number of words: 25

Round Three-building on or continuing what you wrote in R1 &R2
Posted: 12/28 (noon)
Opens 12/29
Closes: 12/30 (9am)

prompt word/s
Number of words: 25

Round Four-building on or continuing what you wrote in R1, R2, and R3
Posted: 12/30 (noon)
Opens 12/31
Closes: 1/1/18 9am

prompt word/s
Number of words: 20

To be eligible for the Grand Prize, you have to write a story that is complete by the 4th round.
Each round will also have winners.

And of course, the prompt words will be utterly brutal.

So, let me know your thoughts and what questions you have.

That guffawing sound you hear in the distance is me chortling with glee. 



Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Consensus shmensus

In the last few months, I've had several requests for my full manuscript ... eight to date. Yippee! However, three have come back (in the last week, Happy Holidays!) as rejections. These rejecting agents pointed out many things they enjoyed about the book, but only gave me a single constructive comment to work on. Even more exasperatingly, the constructive comments contradict each other. Like jellied cranberry sauce served without the ridge marks, I can't quite figure out what's happening here.

For example,

Agent A: I love your character and plot. Needs more pacing
Agent B: I love your pacing and plot. Needs more character
Agent C: I love your character and pacing. Needs more plot.


I'm at a loss for what to do.

I have no issues with revisions... I welcome them. But if I make changes only to change things back again, it will feel like eating turkey without wearing stretchy pants. None of these agents have asked for an R&R. Which leads me to believe, they just don't LOVE it.

What's your advice? Besides more pie?


Ignore them all.
The little secret we hope you never find out is we're they're not always right.

We've all had the experience of reading a book that a previously trusted friend said was terrific, only to find out they'd taken leave of their senses.  And I've loathed books that enough people liked it to  get to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list. And I kid you not, there are some people who don't like Jack Reacher. I know, I didn't believe it either, but it's true.

What's wrong with a book is in the eye of the beholder.
Keep looking for the agent who sees what you see: a damn good book.







Monday, December 11, 2017

The option clause


I'm the author of a series of six novels. The company that publishes the books offers a small advance and I've made only enough to cover the costs for me to attend a conference in my field once a year. Income does not seem to be increasing, just declining as the books go along.

The publisher has an option on my next work with these characters. I'd rather get out of that option so that I can write another book in the series, if and when I feel like it, and self-publish it as an e-book, thus satisfying my fans, who keep asking about the next book.

I've been considering talking to my agent about this but wonder what would be in it for him? I mean he only makes money if I make money and obviously this cuts him out of the loop. On the other hand, neither he or the publishing company are making much money on my books.


Don't worry about what your agent wants. If this is what you want to do, talk to him about this. He'll explain that self-publishing isn't as much fun or as easy as you may think.

He can also get you out of your option with some cleverness that only agents know how to do.

The question he'll ask is do you want to write another book, and have it NOT go to your current publisher. Because the option is limited ("with these characters") you can write something new that won't be covered by the current option.

Publishers are generally reluctant to let go of options because they want to reap the reward if one of the books suddenly earns a lot of money (think film here.)

If you let the books go out of print, you can get the option cancelled pretty easily.

This is something to discuss with your agent and NOT with your author buddies. The last thing you want is for your publisher to get wind of this before you're prepared to discuss exactly what you want to do.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

You asked on Twitter about how to query me

I'm so glad you asked me on Twitter about how to query.

The first thing to know is you should read ALL the following instructions before sending a query. Don't be tempted to just hit send.


1. You should know that I only accept queries by mail.

2. Your query letter should be 250 words. It should tell me what the book is about. It should be in Times New Roman font, 12pt.

3. Make sure you include all your contact information including your cell phone and your home address.

4. Include five pages of your manuscript. Again, Times New Roman 12 pt, 1" margins all around.

5. Include a stamped, self addressed 9x12 envelope so we can return your pages if we need to. We like to return pages to you in case other writers are scouting through our garbage for manuscripts to steal.

6. Expect to hear back within 90 days or so.

7. If this seems like a lot of work, you might try what every other writer in the world does: google "query Janet Reid" and see what you find.



Saturday, December 09, 2017

Format guidelines were not instituted to drive you crazy. That's just a perk.


Format guidelines were not instituted to drive you crazy.
That's just a perk.

I ask for full manuscripts to be formatted as follows:
12 point TNR
1" margins all around

page numbers in the header or footer
name/title in the header

Tabs with the tab key, not five spaces
Page breaks between chapters by command, not manual return/enter
Tab at the start of a new paragraph or line of dialogue


Recently I've had several authors who have inserted page numbers by hand, and a lot of you
seem to have lost your tab key.

When this happens, I generally send the manuscript back to you to fix.
It's easier to do it this way at the start and almost every agent or editor is going to ask for this
kind of formatting.

Here's why:
I'm reading (as are all other agents and editors) a LOT of manuscripts. When mss follow a consistent format, it helps me assess the pacing.  If I get to page twenty and I haven't yet gotten a glimmer of what's at stake for Our Hero/ine, then I know there's a problem. It's essential that page twenty be about the same amount of words across the board.

Send me a manuscript in Times New Roman, and page twenty is about 6000 words.
In Courier it's 4400 words.
In Verdana it's 5000 words.

Drop the size from 12 to 10 and 20 pages of TNR goes down to 17; 
in Courier 6500 words goes from 29 pages in 12 point to 21.


That's why when you send me something in anything other than TNR 12 the first thing I do is adjust the font and size.

Which means if you've inserted ANYTHING by hand that needs to come at the end of the page, it's now nowhere near the end of the page anywhere.

And if you've inserted manual line returns, those are affected by font and point size as well, and your sentences are now cattywampus.

A character takes up a different amount of space in various fonts. Change the font, you change how many characters make up a sentence, or how big the spaces are that you're using for a tab.




Some authors, frustrated by what seems like nit picky requirements want to send PDFs. I sympathize but it doesn't solve the problem.  A PDF in Courier still takes 29 pages for the number of words TNR 12 only needs 20 for.  I need to read a consistent format.

 So, get in the practice of using your word processing program for commands, not your keyboard.

Bottom line: don't format with your space bar. Don't use your return key for a new line unless it's a new paragraph or a new line of dialogue.





Friday, December 08, 2017

My agent is alive and well; it's my editor who's AWOL

What happens when an editor leaves a publishing house?

In my case, an editor my then-agent had submitted to left the publisher. It was a great publisher too. And my agent decided not to resubmit there. (I still often still think about emailing that publisher and explaining the situation, but I know they probably won’t take a submission directly from the author.)

But it made me think - what does an agent do if they submit to an editor who leaves? Does the editor usually give these subs to another editor or should the agent resubmit to someone else at that house? And what if the author had directly submitted to an editor at a house that takes unagented subs. Would does subs be passed along? Or in these cases (whether by agent or author) is it always best to resubmit?
I'm not sure how a publishing company that takes unagented stuff works, so I can't answer that question.

If I've submitted to an editor who then decamps for greener pastures, I send the submission to another editor (usually). It can be the case that the now-gone editor was interested in this kind of book, and other editors are not, so there might not be someone to send it to, but generally there is.

And  yes sometimes I've found out the hard way that an editor is gone (a bounce back on a follow up email) but generally editors send out an email blast saying "sayonara sweetheart, it's been good to know ya."

The problem arises when they don't so much decamp as move to another team.  Often I will have sent the ms to another editor at their new house, and you can't send to two editors at the same place. Oh yes, ain't we got fun!

I never assume that a submission gets passed on to someone else, and you shouldn't either.  If an editor leaves, it essentially restarts  the shot clock.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

R&R and R&R and R&R I need an R&offer! (with update 12/20/17)

I know you’ve covered R&Rs a lot recently, but I thought I’d reach out because the discussions left me feeling more alone. R&Rs were often referred to as “rare,” but I keep getting them…and I can’t seem to get over the R&R hurdle.

Over the last two years, I’ve queried two novels. (About 40 queries each.) Both resulted in 15+ fulls/partials…with no offers of rep. I mainly received R&Rs, which also didn’t work out. Either the advice didn’t resonate with me or the revision didn’t resonate with the agent, though the agents often said the revisions were really good, which…*confused* (Once, I received a R&R on a R&R.) I’m super grateful for the R&Rs, but I’m now jumping into a third novel to try again. Though I’ve learned a lot from R&Rs, I can’t help but feel like I’m stuck on repeat.

I have beta readers (new and old), I attend conferences, and I have previous publications. I expect revisions at every stage, but many of my writing friends received offers before revisions (even heavy revisions).

Is there something else I can do? 

There's something wrong with your manuscript and no one is willing to engage in the conversation that will tell you.

I certainly don't with passes on fulls, even those with requested revisions. I say exactly what you heard: this is good, but not quite there yet.

I think you need a bloodthirsty outside editor, preferably someone who worked at a major publishing house, and knows what it takes for a manuscript to get to that final level. You're going to need to shell out some cash for this, cause they need to read the whole thing.

You've got one question and one question only for this editor: what's not working.  And beg them for brutal honesty. PROMISE you will not hurl invectives at them even if they tell you your manuscript stinks. (I'm sure it doesn't.)

If I had to guess without having heard anything about the manuscript or read a single line, I'd bet it's just not fresh and new enough. That's really hard to quantify, and I hate telling writers that because there's no way to help them fix it.

I also think I'm right because all the feedback you've gotten is writing based, not sales based. And "not fresh and new" is a measure of marketability, not your writing.

This is very frustrating place to be. Time for a stiff drink, a break from all this insanity during the holidays to gather your wits, then start looking for an editor in January. They'll all need money then cause they need to pay their taxes in April.

Good luck!


Update from the OP:
I'm in the midst of this, thanks to your advice dear Madame Shark. While it is not a blissful experience, it is exactly what I needed.  
One thought to others who may want to try this: interview the editor! I talked to three, all equally qualified, and one stood out because of natural chemistry. She was not the cheapest. We are halfway through and I can already say the money was well spent.  
My motto - listen to the shark!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Querying after a pass on an R&R

I've been doing a lot of requesting and reading this year. From that has come, sadly, a lot of rejection. When passing, I try to give writers some sense of why the manuscript didn't work for me. Frequently I mention tension, pacing, character development. I think about these emails carefully. I try to mention published books, sometimes movies, as examples of pacing done well, or characters developed in a way that makes them compelling.

This sets up my expectation that when that author queries for a new manuscript (and many of them do) the problems I saw in the first manuscript are solved.

Too often they are not.  All too often on a new manuscript from an author I've read before, I get ten or twenty pages into the new book and it's deja vu all over again.

What you should take from this: if you're going to requery agents who've read your work pay special attention to what they said in the pass letter. Chances are they've got a copy of it and they'll remember your previous work.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Hi there Author Dudes! I'll help you promote your book!**

I just got this pitch on my author website. Should I do this?

I came upon your work and am interested to interview you for our popular author series. We will share your story as a writer, promote your books and feature you on the (name redacted) to air for a full 52 weeks. We currently feature over 150 authors of all genres on the air right now. The last quarter of the year also historically attracts more listeners so the timing is right. You can take a listen at the links below.

You'll be interviewed via the telephone by me (name redacted) hostess of nationally syndicated radio programs and founder of (name redacted).  The interview is pre-recorded to allow for edits if necessary to help make you and your message shine. Your interview airs for a full year 24/7 on the
(name redacted) and you enjoy 52 weeks of exposure with your very own page on the website that features your audio interview, logo, contact information, description and links back to your site.

The small hosting donation helps to fund (charitable project) We will add your name as the donor with our next delivery following your interview.


No.
Generally speaking any media outlet that asks for money to promote your work is a place to avoid. If you're paying for placement it's called advertising, not promotion. If you're buying advertising, the first question to ask is "how many eyeballs, and show me the stats on how many books they buy."

Places that are pay to play are usually populated by authors and books that can't get any other kind of attention. With a modicum of work, that's not you.

Consider this: even stations that rely on contributions to keep going ask their listeners for money, not their radio show guests. (Think public broadcasting radio here.)

The first red flag was the money.
The second was when I checked out the website.  It's so poorly written and so un-compelling that I almost wept.

And unfortunately the people listed as guests were all unknown to me.  It's not that you have to know every single guest, but if you don't recognize any names, the show isn't drawing middle tier, let alone top tier, authors.

Well, what can it hurt you say? Well, if you've got more money than god, it won't strap your wallet, but why spend money on something that's got a lot less chance of being effective than ways you know ARE effective.

And it really never helps you to be listed on a site that looks like hell.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Preliminary contest result-FINAL

Honestly, I think you are all gathering in some undisclosed location and plotting to torment me with these contests.  This is some damn fine work, y'all.

Herewith the results:

Special recognition for writers who used words I had to look up
I see you've upped your game this week. Some of you must have worn out that dictionary looking for new and difficult words!  I think this is the most I've ever had to look up!


Uckewallist-dellcartoons 9:10am
gluhwein-Rosanna 11:14am
bondat -Craig F 2:17pm

A double helping of recognition for the writers who had TWO words I had to look up
vesicles-Kerry Bernard 1:11pm
Stochasticity-Kerry Bernard 1:11pm

taita taiga- Rkeelan 12:29am
leukism-Rkeelan 12:29am



Nominees for the Steve Forti Prompt Words Acrobatic Performance
Dellcartoons 9:10am
Nate Wilson 12:57am


The start of a story I want to live!
Mori 9:03am


This cracked me up
Nathan Holland 9:15am
Sherryl Clark 6:16pn

A phrase I want to work into more conversations
Those carbon catastrophes Kerry Bernard 1:11pm

Big Orange Interregnum  Craig F 2:17pm





And here are the finalists:
Mallory Love 9:10am

It’s luck, they said when the new heart came right as my fragile one was about to give out.
It’s
fate, they told him when she couldn’t be revived after the accident.
I toasted to second
chances when I got the call about the job not long after my surgery.
He mixed soda and bour
bon most nights to burn away her memory.
My new boss was callous. Rough with his words. Cold with his stares.
For months, I hated him.
One day, he told me. Then, I understood him.
Now, I love him.
It’s
kismet. My heart was always his.
well of course this tugs at our heartstrings, and I'm always up for a good twisty story that does that. I love the cadence of this story.  Consider "Cold with his stares" versus "he stared coldly." That's just pure voice and style. I love it.



Laurie Betzel 10:19am
It seemed like chance when we bumped into each other at the bon voyage party on the Lido deck. It seemed like luck when neither of us had a partner for the ballroom dance class. It seemed like kismet when he quoted my favorite Pablo Neruda poem, If You Forget Me, at dinner. It seemed like fate when he offered to share a cab ride home. Now, bound and gagged in a windowless room, staring at a wall papered with photos printed off my social media accounts, I knew it was none of those things. He had planned it all.
My ONLY complaint is that the last sentence is superfluous.  The reader gets it all in the last phrase "I knew it was none of those things."  Taking out "He had planned it all" lets the reader have an aha moment (which is a very good thing)  Putting it in means we don't (not a good thing.)

I have a feeling that if this story had sat a bit longer Laurie would have excised that last bit.  The artistry comes in revisions!



Rio 11:21am
Bonilla looked around. “There’s nothing here.”

“Exactly,” Torres said. “Scene’s been stripped.”

Bonilla’s innards went cold. “Stripped?”

“All cells with human DNA, gone. Blood, hair. Even dead skin cells floating in the dust. All disintegrated.”

Oh, dear
fate, no. The KISMET-II particle stripper. “You think one of my scientists did this?”

“There’s a good
chance,” Torres said. “Someone’s been stripping crime scenes all over the city. No evidence left at all.”

“That’s some hard
luck there.”

“Sure is.”

“And you’re saying the suspect is —”

“Yes, Dr. Bonilla, a physicist by day, stripper by night.”

Damn, Bonilla thought. Another one.

This cracked me up completely. 
It's also darn good writing.



Casual-T 12:13pm
The 3:20 was on schedule, my life was not. 46, divorced, missing my kids. I always did my best, but, as my ex had so eloquently put it, "Your best just isn't good enough." Thanks dear.

Luck, chance, fate, kismet, call it what you will, all I know is that, if it hadn't been for that French girl, it would have been me. Her hand gently touched mine, as I stood, wavering, by the platform edge. She looked at me, smiled, and whispered, "C'est bon," and let go.

I don't think she felt any pain as the 3:20 pulled in.
Zowie! So much left unsaid here. I love those kinds of stories that let you fill in all sorts of things with your own imagination.


KathyJoyce
Friends, I wanted to participate in the contest, but I won’t get a chance to write today, barring a miracle. I planned to work on it yesterday. My brother had knee surgery, so my butt was bonded to a post-op waiting room chair for five hours. Talk about a perfect opportunity to spin a tale! No such luck. I tried to conjure an idea, but got bupkis. META bupkis. As a pantser, lack of inspiration is a fate worse than banana pudding. So, unless my fingers miraculously type something without my brain participating, I’m out. Sorry! Prosperous writing, all.

This cracked me up completely when I read it the first time.
Then I noticed the prompt words were used.
Clever clever writer!


Brian Schwartz
There are three ways to survive a bear attack.

First, you can run. But Edward wasn’t a runner. Too bold for that fate. He’d brought down giants in prison. Finding a bear, it was kismet.

Second, you can play dead. But Edward wasn’t the pretending type. He didn’t mind the color under his girlfriend’s eye. “She’s clumsy,” he’d shrug. And she’d never leave him.

Third, you can fight back. But with Edward’s
luck, he’d survive. And since I couldn’t leave it to chance, I watched the finessed bear meet my daughter’s boyfriend through the scope of a rifle.

Bon appetite.

What makes this story is that lovely phrase "finessed bear" because it says a lot without using a lot of words.

This is very elegant writing.


Rkirkman 5:31am
Bleedin’ luck. My heel, snapped in a crack in the sidewalk.

I leaned against the building to break off the other heel—the zombie stride not being attractive, or efficient. I would miss the
Chancellor’s reception now.

I looked up. Our eyes met through the
Kismet Cafe window.

It was
fate. In Prague, he had shoved me away from a runaway motorcycle.

He motioned me in.

“Rabbit.” He pointed to the Chinese Zodiac placemat.

“Rabbit?” I sat. “I never got your name.”

Bond. James Bond.”

“Double-oh seven,” I said, as I screwed on the silencer in my purse.
It's really hard to top a James Bond reference.
Let alone a lady with a silencer in her purse (wait, I have an electric cattle prod, does that count?)



As usual, you all are making this very difficult.
How about you weigh in on the comments and tell me who should be the winner, and if you think I missed an entry that should have been a finalist.

Further results later today!


I changed my mind twice on who wins the flag today.  I loved all of these and all of them are prize-worthy. In the end though I had to go with the entry that required that second read to truly appreciate. I love that kind of subtlety.


KathyJoyce, send me your mailing address and I'll send you a prize!

To all of you who took time to write stories and enter the contest, thank you! I enjoyed reading each of these and many of them were quite amazing, even some that didn't make that final list.

I am conjuring up new and unusual ways to torture you with a flash fiction contest over the Christmas holiday. I will have my revenge on all of you who are making these so hard to judge!
The winner today is Kathy Joyce.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Some housekeeping on queries here at the end of the year

I've  been requesting manuscripts and reading like crazy this year.  I just added 2017-90 (my 90th requested full) to the data base on Friday. 

I am bound and determined to get answers to as many of  these authors as I can by the end of the year.
(I only have 43 unread adult and 14 juvenile ms unread, not all 90!)

Yea, I know, I need my head examined.

What that means for you: this is not a good time to query. I'm not closed to queries, I've always got an eye out, particularly for non-fiction, but I'm hoping to slow the incoming tide for a couple weeks so I can get caught up.

If I read a good query and want to request the full or proposal, I'll most likely email and tell you I'm going to request in the new year. If you get an offer before then, my loss, and I'll kick myself of course.

But at some point, I want to feel like I'm not stranded on dry land (see, OTHER agents say 'under water' but since I am a shark...) as we close out the year.



Any questions?


Friday, December 01, 2017

Rabbit! Rabbit! Flash fiction contest

Have you heard about the good luck associated with saying "Rabbit Rabbit" on the first day of a new month?  I read about it in a Trixie Belden book and then years later, heard someone say it on Facebook.

Well, we could all use some good luck this month right?

Let's have a flash fiction contest (prize to be determined) to focus on luck!

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:

luck
chance
fate
kismet
bon

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the
prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: luck/lucky is ok, but kismet/Kiss Me Ted is not.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again.  It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!"  This is grounds for disqualification.

8a. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

9. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.
Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

10. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

11. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

12. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.


Contest opens: 8:39am, Saturday, 12/2

Contest closes: 9am, Sunday, 12/3



 If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock



If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here http://www.colindsmith.com/TreasureChest/

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!

GO!

oops too late. Contest is closed