Sunday, April 10, 2016

Week in Review 4/3/16 & 4/10/16

Welcome to the week that was! (And the week before that!)

In last week's the WIR from March 27, John Frain cracked me up completely with this:
And wasn't it cute how Janet referred to "an acquaintance" getting locked in the psych ward of a hospital by mistake.
Of course it was an acquaintance. Of course it was. Because, well, who else could it have been

Of course y'all would think that! As if I don't carry lock picks and an airhorn with me at all times.

E.M. Goldsmith added
And just for the record, I was always crazy. I wrote my first book when I was 15. I overheard the AP English teacher tell a group of students who had read my book that I wrote because I was crazy. His feeling was that no sane person would choose to write. I figured that sounded about right.
Creative people are always a bit off plumb. Thankfully!

And just to be clear, I don't want to make light of people who need the psych ward. I'm currently working on a book proposal with a client about mental health in kids. 1 in 5 kids need mental health help before they're 18. The author of the proposal has a son who told her he wanted to kill himself when he was four. When she told me that, I literally had to pause in the conversation to regain my composure. When I sent out the proposal I actually cautioned the editors not to read it on the subway. One editor replied "why is that" and when I told her, she too had to pause for a moment and catch her breath.

We joke around about being crazy and that's just fine, but people who struggle with this stuff in their live, and in the lives of their kids are fighting a terrible war that claims far too many casualties. One of them was my beloved friend Robin Raible

On the subject of writing in just one category, CynthiaMc said
The thing about being a Gemini is we are easily bored and we hate being pigeonholed, which is why I break out in hives at the thought that I have to write one thing for the rest of my life. Looking back, the thrill for me is seeing if I can do something, then I want to go on to the next thing to see if I can do that.
I agree it's entirely possible to write well in many categories. What I don't think is possible is to write in several categories at a publishing/career level at the same time.  Just for starters, you have to know both categories very well. The reading alone would be daunting.

Now, this is my OPINION and you are more than welcome to take up the challenge and prove me wrong wrong wrong.

kdjames thinks my YoYo Ma analogy is incorrect:
Since it seems this is my week (only this week? HA!) to be irritatingly disagreeable . . .

Yo-Yo Ma's instrument is the cello; mine is the written word. A more apt analogy than either of us switching to a different instrument: saying I should only write one thing is like saying Ma should only play one type of music. Yes, he is primarily known for classical music, but has played/recorded many other diverse styles of music. I assume he does it all extremely well.
I can write op-ed columns, funny blog posts, serious blog posts, ridiculous/irritating blog comments. I write one hell of a rant when motivated and truly excel at the college thesis format. I'm not so great at query letters and the dreadly synopsis, but I'm learning. My poetry is laughable. I write a passable novella and hope to excel at longer length fiction. Yes, in more than one genre. But time will tell. Someone should definitely stop me if I ever decide to pick up a paintbrush. Or a cello.

And Panda in Chief has an interesting contrary view as well:
I have been turning over the idea of doing only one thing well, when you are pulled in multiple directions. I have decided that I need to reject that advice, but with a major caveat. I think you can only LEARN to do one thing well at a time. In other words, while it took me 40some years to perfect my painting chops, after, oh, about 25 of them, I could learn various printmaking techniques and get pretty darn good at them, and then mumble mumble years after that, decided to turn my hand...paw? to writing and illustrating for children. Really, it was kind of a natural progression as my paintings became more narrative.
I don't put myself in the same category as all of you writers that have such a wonderful way with words. Truly, I am in awe of your talent and the years you have taken to hone it. But I do think I have a way with storytelling with pictures and words, and I believe that to continue to grow as an artist, I need to through additional vegetables in the soup. Not kale though. You have to draw the line somewhere.

Jenny C had offered to mail a synopsis on a pumpkin should an agent ask. Last week I challenged her with "pics or it didn't happen" and she replied
Well, you won't believe this but not one agent requested a synopsis written on a pumpkin.
Which of course makes me want to track down an agent she's queried and say "hey, how about requesting a pumpkin." Oh wait…where are my lock picks and airhorn before I do.

And roadkils-r-us advised Jenny:
Jenny, small is in this year. Try writing your synopsis on a bell pepper.

On Monday I asked for input on a blog post about "How to Get an Agent" and you all responded with some very very helpful info.

The most fundamentally helpful was this from Ashes
have to ask, are the people messaging you actually using the word 'query'?
Way back when I first joined an online writing forum, I had a ton of questions. So I posted them to the "Queries" section of the forum and was met with a lot of help, but also a lot of 'why are you posting this here?'.

Well, back then the word 'query' only meant 'question'. In fact, if you google 'define query' that's the only definition you're going to get. I didn't know what a query was, let alone how to write one or how to query agents.

My advice is to be careful with the language you use because it really is a rabbit hole full of new vocabulary and concepts.

I now realize I need to  quit saying "how to query" and start saying "how to get an agent" or "first steps toward getting published." I can still remember the first time I heard the word query (it was from a friend who was querying magazine editors) and I had no idea what it meant.

And Brian Biggs said
A glossary would be a HUGE help. One agent said “I want your COMPS in paragraph three.”

oh my god yes, yes, yes. I know I have a link to "publishing terms" here on the blog, but clearly a glossary would be very useful too.

The rest of the suggestions were also very useful and I'm going to incorporate a lot of them and repost this sometime down the road.

On Tuesday we discussed parting out the old novel to build the new one;

Colin missed his catechism lesson when he was exiled on Carkoon:
Within that (Catholic)system of thought, objects can be invested with power (holy water, crosses, the elements of the Mass).

Correct Catholic theology does not invest objects with power. Crosses and holy water are aids to prayer, to remind us of things, not to actually be transformative. Now, if you want to get started on the transubstantiation of the elements of the mass, well, let me just say this about calling it superstition. We ALL believe in the transforming power of books. Of the written word interacting with the human mind. The mass is no different. You just have to believe.
 And in the words of the great Sean Connery: "Here endeth the lesson"

DLM had some very wise words to our questioner:

it's in no way my place to tell another author their vision must be blinkered, but I can at least speak to the necessity (sometimes) of putting away a novel. And it does not come lightly.

OP, I spent ten years learning how to write a novel, and writing it. Some of those latter years, I queried. I learned I had more work to do, I did it, I queried again. What came out of that was a VERY good novel; a good read, a fascinating look at a little-regarded piece of world history. And a book I cannot sell.

It's been a year since I first allowed myself to even conceive of the idea of putting this work away. But I quickly realized it was necessary. Years of my life. A story I still love. All those dreams. And the universe's answer was "no."

Believe me when I say, I know how hard it is. I know how heartbreaking.

But I also know this: to put that firstborn book away, to let it rest, to stop asking more of it than the market can realistically yield ... is LIBERATING.

BJ Muntain makes a good point here:
As I've seen recently, the same event can be seen differently, even moments later, by different people.

If you ask me, a story about a different person's view of the same event is a completely different story.

This Rashomon like effect was done brilliantly in Chum by Jeff Somers. First person POV, but different people. Chum is the book I signed Jeff for. I love that book with a passion. Editors who passed on it (it took nine years to sell) still ask about it years later.

John Frain cracked me up with this:
Also, I thought this to be the most interesting/hopeful part of the Karen Hall piece:

The plot, like the prose, is tighter, but that’s the confounding thing about novels: They’re often better, or at least more alive, when they’re flawed and messy.

Yessssssss! I have mastered flawed and messy! Agents, here comes my query sooner than I expected!
Panda In Chief said
This discussions reminds me of a painter I know that used to occasionally sneak into people's houses who owned his paintings and touch up things he decided he could have done better the first time around.

True story.

Which made me think of a terrific novel I read last year that will prompt you to call the locksmith about chapter 3 even if it's at 3am.

When I read about this book it wasn't yet pubbed in America, so I ordered the UK edition from Book Depository (free shipping around the world!) and it was GREAT.

And Christina Seine just wins the world with this one:
Carkoon: The Pit of Despair (soundtrack)

Let It Go – the dangers of literally grabbing an agent

I Wanna Be Like You – what not to say to an author at a book signing

Bippety Boppety Boo – an author mangles his elevator pitch and babbles incoherently

I’ll Make A Man Out of You – why there’s no diversity in books these days

Can You Feel the Love Tonight – A song about getting full requests

Go the Distance – About getting sent to Carkoon

Under The Sea – a famous lit agent sings about painting her lair

Oh I Just Can’t Wait to Be King – how writers all feel hitting SEND on their first query

The Bare Necessities – An ode to the tools for writing: Scotch, chocolate & Kleenex

Poor Unfortunate Souls – About writers who fail to read QueryShark (ALL of them)

On Wednesday the topic was whether to tell an agent the novel being queried started as flash fiction (a topic of interest to many of our flashers I think!)

Lisa Bodenheim asked the question I overlooked in the blog post:
Awww, you mean even if Opie won a Flash Fiction contest here at the Reef, it doesn't even merit a mention in the query?
I have signed a flash fiction contest winner, but the novel itself was not based on the winning entry. I think if you're querying ME, you mention the flash fiction connection (whether it was the start of the novel or not) because I think that's terrific. You wouldn't mention it to other agents cause they're not as invested in my blog contests as I am.

Ravens said:
One concern is whether it may count as 'previously published work', but I think that would only be the case if there were several stories were cut and pasted 'as-is'.
Entries on the blog don't really count as "previously published work" in that they weren't published, they were posted. There's no editorial oversight in flash fiction contests. There's no curating. When you query, your "previously published works" include only things that actually were acquired, curated and edited. That's why self-published books don't really hold much sway as a publication credit. No, not even if you hired an editor.

Dena Pawling reminds me to never drive in California:
Dear future agent –

I got the idea for my story Misery while I nursed my previous agent back to health following a car accident. I REALLY hope you like it.

Signed, Unbalanced Writer

On Thursday we talked about publishing work on your blog that has been licensed elsewhere previously.

As usual we need to work on some terminology so I'm going to pick on some of you.

CarolynnWith2Ns said
The newspaper I write for holds first time (one time) publishing rights. My older articles, they're mine after the papers and magazines spread my wisdom and amazing self-centered writing abilities, to the world.

There's no such thing as "first time (one time) publishing rights." What you've licensed to the paper is either exclusive publication rights for a period of time (while they spread your wisdom to the world) or non-exclusive publication rights (you could post the column on your website simultaneously) My guess is that it's an exclusive with a time limit.

Heidi the Duchess of Kneale said
if you've sold the Flash Fiction (or Short Story) Rights to a story, you still have the Novel Rights.
There is no such thing as flash fiction rights or short story rights. Flash fiction and short stories are the things which HAVE rights. When you license rights to a short story to a magazine it's only for that short story. Yes, you can use that story to build a novel. Licensing the novel has ZERO to do with the short story license.

Often times writers get these botched terms from actual publication contracts so it's no wonder there is confusion. I've seen publishing terms misused in small press contracts to the point the contract literally makes no legal sense.

There are good reputable sources for publishing terminology; find them and keep them handy. If someone asks you to license "first time publication rights" you'll know to ask for the language to be clarified to "exclusive rights for x months" or "non-exclusive rights"

And thanks to our commenters for providing the examples for all of us!

Jason Magnason asked
Janet, when a writer gets an agent will they represent them for all their publishing needs, even if its a small thing like a short story or poem in a magazine?
It depends on the agent. I look at every contract my authors sign. I don't take commission on anything I didn't sell. Not all agents do this.

Jennifer R. Donahue pointed out something that made my hair stand on end:
Interesting, I've noticed in a recent set of short story submission guidelines that they considered your submission to the magazine as permission to publish. Which, on one hand, okay fine, you'll want them to publish you if you submitted (right?). On the other hand, with no actual contract or terms posted....I closed that tab. Reading the blog here has made me far more discerning.

Under no circumstances should you allow your work to be published unless there's at least a basic understanding between the parties of:
1. how long they can publish it
2. how you get paid
3. how the rights to publish can be reclaimed by the author and

I cap #4 because I have seen presses that ask the copyright be registered in the press's name. Of course I negotiated that out of the contract but if you're just publishing sight unseen, that could be a problem.

And lest you think that this is all small potatoes let me mention this: a film deal licenses characters, not books. If your short story or flash fiction piece features a character you use in a novel, you have to make sure that you are the ONLY copyright holder. This is the stuff of which lawsuits are made.

Panda in Chief had a current example of this kind of rights grab:
It also pays when you are entering contests to read the fine print (whines: do I HAVE to?????) there was a contest set up by Amtrak last year maybe, for writers to win a free cross country trip to write about the journey or some such thing. Okay, that sounded like fun, till I read further. They wanted the worldwide unrestricted rights of the writing samples that ALL applicants supplied.

In Amtrak's defense, I think they changed that when we howled about it, but you're quite right that was the initial set of submission rules.

Contests are FAMOUS for this kind of rights grabs, just to add something to your list of things to fret about.

Julie Weathers said:
Anyone remember the Firefly episode Mrs. Reynolds. Mal finds out he's married because he accepted a cup of liquor from a woman and danced with her. I think a natty flower wreath about his drunken brow may have been involved also. Shepherd confirms according to that culture he is indeed married. It's a binding contract, but if Shepherd assures him if he consummates the marriage with innocent girl, there is a special level of hell reserved for him.

The special level of hell is also reserved for "people who talk in the theatre." Dear godiva I miss that show!

John Frain was the first person to mention this:
We (the Royal "We") interrupt this blogcast for the following special announcement. This just in (at least in my mailbox), and I hope I'm not spoiling anything...

According to the May/June 2016 issue of Writer's Digest -- cover story "101 Best Websites for Writers" -- they report something most of us already know.

Under the subtitle Everything Agents, WD hails "Best of the Best" status upon stating "For years, FinePrint Literary Management's Janet Reid has offered writers good-humored, candid advice for their publishing journeys. Her query letter tips are especially helpful (and she offers even more of them on

Which is lovely and I was totally surprised to read John's comment since I hadn't heard anything about this. If anyone has a copy of the actual magazine and is willing to send it to me, I would be grateful.

On Friday, April Fools Day, you guyz went batshit crazy. It was GREAT.

Lynn Rodz admitted to falling for the prank which made me VERY happy:
Omg, I thought wtf! Then I realized what day it was. You got me.

In the spirit of the day, here are the top entries:

Megan V
The crowd applauds politely as April takes the mic and regales us with her award=winning tale.

"Floggy the flog is tan. He goes in water spurt less because he is a nanimal. He eats the square root of pie. His BEST friend is a typeulater named Quertymctypebyte. Quertymctypebyte typed Floggy’s favlit books until he topped oer and bloke. His blidger topp oer too. He asked Floggy for help. Floggy hopped on him. Quertymctypebyte topped up again. He was fixed. The end.”

Grinning, I join the fool's standing ovation. My niece might not be Hemingway, but she's got Kindergarten chops.

Awww...too late to ENTER? Rats.

Celia Reeves
Dang - I was determined to enter every contest this year, and I missed this one! I can't believe I blew my resolution already, and it's only ... wait ... never mind.

Mark Ellis
These are all words that I have used, and will continue to use, I can tell you that-- Donald Trump

John Frain

John's entry just cracked me up.

If you don't get it, here's a hint:

and of course the winner is John Frain. The prize is John Frain's manuscript.

Patricia Cox said:
Good one! At first I thought the Jabberwocky was on the prowl! Reminds me of a test I give my sixth grade students every April 1. The first thing at the top of the test says they are to read the entire test before beginning it. Of course, hardly anyone does.
There are about 25 items to complete. One has them standing and clucking like a chicken. Another one has them hopping to the whiteboard and writing their name. The very last one tells them it is a joke and to only put their name on the paper, do none of the other 24 items, then sit back and watch their classmates perform. It's a hoot to see which students read all the way through to number 25 and realize it's a prank.

I remember getting this test in sixth grade. I was one of the faster readers in the class so when I got to "stand up and announce you are the leader from this point on" I looked up, and no one else was doing/saying that, and there was NO WAY I was going to be first, so I just kept reading. As the instructions got sillier and sillier, I was practically crawling under my desk wondering why NO ONE was doing this. Then I got to the end, and there it was "hey, follow the damn directions."

I think my career as a literary agent was born that day.

On Saturday we discussed querying under your real name when you have previously published books under a pseudonym.

Sam Hawke asked:
Follow up question for Janet - since this issue comes up a fair bit, what sort of difference does it make trying to sell a strict debut vs a first novel by someone formerly self-publishing novellas, say? Are publishers more likely to be excited about a debut author? Does it affect the terms they offer?

Publishers love debut novels because there's no sales record to overcome. Every debut has the potential to be The Next Big Thing and don't think for a moment we're not all pushing that idea. Self published novellas don't hamper that optimism too much. Self published novels sure do. That's one of the reasons books that have been self-pubbed need to have sold a LOT of copies to interest a publisher. (Generally speaking, of course. There are exceptions.)

Donnaeve asked:
If OP says "I've published two novellas under a pseudonym," and that's all they say to potential Agent, is this simply to set the stage for more questions - if potential Agent wants to ask? I have to think a query with that in it would prompt more questions, for sure.

It wouldn't lead to more questions at the query stage. It might generate some questions when we're discussing representation, as in "are these works, that if your name was attached to them, would cause problems for us." As in, if you're publishing novellas about the joys of Hitler Youth yes, that's a problem if you're now writing mainstream novels. Novellas like that would alienate more mainstream readers**

**this is called agentsplaining I think.

kdjames asked:
I thought that past experience (and related sales history) DID matter to an agent. I could swear I remember you saying that a non-debut author with less-than-stellar sales would be less attractive to an agent (or editor/publisher) than one without that history. Hope you can clarify.

Self-published books.

Novellas and short stories are a different ball game.

On Sunday, there was no WIR cause I was reading Rae Carson on Saturday. I regret nothing.

As it turns out there was VERY good news to share:

Panda In Chief
I'm taking this opportunity to be completely off topic with some good news.
O.M.G. I. Have. An. Agent.

On Monday we discussed how to write about a character who does not have gender:

Jason Magnason asked every writer's most anxious question:
Is 'cool concept' or 'never seen that before' something to aim for? I mean most of what I hear is that there is nothing new under the sun. So just write a good story and it won't matter. But even if I have a good story am I going to be trumped by someone who has something they have never seen before?

While there may only be seven basic plots in the world, and "nothing new under the sun" there is certainly a new spin to be put on old tropes.

Just look at Ten Things I Hate About You…updated Taming of the Shrew.

And while Anne Rice may have owned the vampire category for a good long time, add sparkles and you've got Twilight.

Crime novels featuring hit men are pretty common. Crime novels with hit men who only kill other hit men? Well that certainly caught some eyeballs.

InkStainedWench (not wretch!) said:
The a-gender aspect is certainly interesting, but the use of "they" as a singular would make me itch and reach for my red pencil.

(I know some reputable editors are coming around to accept it, but I am not a reputable editor.)
My red pens leap on that too but I'm coming around solely because he or she and s/he is so damn clunky it offends my ear. However, I'm not yielding on safe deposit box or impacted (as in to hit.) Those are to the death!

JaneC asked
Is it just me, or has the term 'androgynous' disappeared from the lexicon?
I haven't seen that word used since early David Bowie days! It does seem to have lost favor.

Gin said something very interesting:
Someone else mentioned Ann Leckie's series -- I too was kicked out of the story at times with everyone being referred to as "she," but I actually thought that was a GOOD thing. It made me aware of how much I felt the absolute need to know the gender, which is, in itself, interesting. Once I knew what a character's gender was, I had no problem with them being referred to as "she." But I think that discomfort is part and parcel of the story's meaning.

Several of you suggested inventing a pronoun rather than using they which reminded me of how delighted I am that with the advent of same-sex marriage we did not have to start inventing words. Husband and wife work just fine. It's kind of like a cosmic blessing.

How well I remember the throes of anguish brought on by the New York Times intransigence about female titles when Geraldine Ferraro was the vice presidential nominee. Up to that point the NYT had insisted on Mrs or Miss for female people. Ms. Ferraro was neither unmarried nor married to Mr. Ferraro (her father.) The Times in fact ASKED her what title she preferred (and when they refused to use her choice: Ms.) she said, call her Mrs. Ferraro. I think that was just a special form of torture for the Times and oh so well deserved. It will surprise none of you to learn they began to use Ms. shortly after the 1984 campaign.

Off topic but important:

Lucie Witt said:
It's Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I REALLY don't want to be a creepy self promoting jerk, but I posted on my blog about my experiences as a teen, believing it was my fault, and how I ended up teaching about sexual assault today. If you're a survivor it might mean something to you. It's the hardest thing I've ever written, terrifying to share, but y'all mean a lot to me and on the off chance it might mean something to one of you ... It's there. ♡

Sexual assault is one very clear instance (of many) where we had to create language to describe what was happening. I didn't know what "date rape" was until long after it happened to me.

If you need help on this topic, if you've just realized that what happened to you was rape, here's a place that can help: RAINN.

On Tuesday we talked about book promotion.

The terrifically talented Allen Eskens asked readers to "like" the Facebook page to support the book.. I loved the book so I wanted to follow through, but I couldn't find the page.

Fortunately you clever readers found the page by looking for the book title, not the author name, which prompted me to remind myself and others that actually doing the thing you're writing instructions on can help point out places to revise and clarify.

In other words, that's the reason I post stuff here (like query guidelines) and ask for your input. There's always something that needs improvement.

What that means for you is when you're writing newsletters or Facebook pages with "how to" items, actually follow your own instructions first and then ask someone Not You to also try.

And putting that in the acknowledgements was a very savvy move.

LucieWitt said:
That is such clever, genuine promotion. When I finish a book I enjoyed I am usually dying to share it with someone, and that would be just the reminder I need.

AJ Blythe said:
I would totally love it if you thought it was wonderful and posted me a glowing review on Amazon or Goodreads. (note, this is a quote from one such book).

This sort of request makes me cringe and is guaranteed to have the complete opposite affect on me. I don't review/rate.

That italicized request set my teeth on edge too. I think the difference is both tone and what the writer asked for. Allen asked for a like on Facebook. That's not asking for a "glowing review" or a rating. I agree that asking for a "glowing review" would be just the thing to not only get me to NOT write a review but not really want to mention the book again.

Asking for promotional attention is a delicate art. You've got to be present but not pushy. In my opinion (and opinions on this will vary) what Allen did was just right. You can't please everyone of course, and as I learned when I moved to a very Spanish neighborhood in Brooklyn, what one person thinks is LOUD is what someone else thinks is conversational. Who's right? Both of us.

And as Mary points out here, it's the over the top stuff that is self-defeating:
I think it's a fine line. I have an author page on Facebook and a website, but I think you have to be careful to not hammer people over the head to like, spread the word, buy, etc. I know a fellow author who added all of us to his/her group email and told us that to help out we needed to all buy two copies each. Also every review, every publication was endlessly promoted. There can be a point where readers just say, enough!

It's genuine devotion that all authors need. Like that described by Lucie Witt:
Julie isn't joking about the The Gabaldon Army. My aunt is a member. Last time she was visiting Kentucky I casually mentioned how I've always meant to read Outlander, but just never have. She made me get up, took me straight to the book store, and bought me a copy.

No one sells your books better than someone who genuinely loves them.

Notice the "bought me a copy" That's one way to make sure someone has a copy! I love this story.

Therese said:
I'm earning a solid F in book promotion. It makes me very uncomfortable. If someone mentions they are reading my book, I thank them and ask them to post a review if they are so inclined. At the end of any talk or reading I give, I say the same thing. I know how important it is to reach that magical number of reviews on Amazon. I hope it happens sooner rather than later.

I don't think that's an F in promotion at all. I think you're doing what you can, right now. Later you may improve but that's true (we hope) with all things: the more you do it the better you get. As long as you're as good as you can be right now, and you KEEP AT IT, you're getting an A for Effort, and C for achievement. No Fs. Not a one.

And I think the final word on this post belongs to Allen Eskens himself:
Janet, Thank for posting about my book, The Life We Bury. It is an honor to appear in your blog. It was my idea to include that paragraph, and at the time I was hesitant because I didn't know whether it would be perceived as savvy or desperate. I am happy to see your take on it. Further, you should know that The Life We Bury is in its 10th week on the USA Today's Bestseller's list. It didn't get there until well over a year after it was published. It has definitely benefited from word of mouth promotion. Thank you again for the post.

Kitty said:
I checked out the [The Life We Bury] on Amazon, and this is how the description of the novel begins: College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person.

Before my mother died, she had a college student interview her for the same assignment.

I really hope it's not cause your mom was just paroled from prison (as it is in the novel!)

And Amy Schaefer is off to sea:
I'm going to do a terrible thing and skip most of the comments. We're putting out boat back in the water in 90 minutes, and so this is my one break for the day - sucking back scalding coffee, picking at cereal, and reading Janet's blog.

Fair winds and smooth seas! and No One Overboard!

On Wednesday we talked about a "meh" query getting a request for pages.

Kitty said:
I seem to recall that Janet has said that sometimes dreadful queries come with great pages attached. Or something like that.
oh my godiva, all too often.

Jason Magnason led the discussion parade off on a synopsis tangent but I refuse to follow. I loathe synopses like the lettuce leaves (as in let us leave it) they are.

Although I really liked what Sherry Howard said here:
I think of a query as my book's handshake introduction. When you meet new people you tell them the things that present yourself in the best light and make people want to know more about you. Hopefully, a query does that for your MS.

I was struggling with a synopsis, then someone said: You're relaxed in a bar telling your best friend about your whole story. He's fascinated. Tell him what he needs to know to understand your story from start to finish, but only the really important stuff. I whipped out my synopsis once I went to the bar and recorded that drunken conversation.

And what Mark Thurber said here too:
My synopsis-writing trick is to imitate the style of a synopsis in an opera playbill. Most opera plots are fairly Byzantine, so you can see how the synopsis writers have to work hard to boil them down without losing key plot points. This spare quality of opera synopses also lends them a certain wry humor in my opinion. Pretending I'm writing a synopsis in a program makes the process a lot more fun for me. And maybe something's working because the one full request I've gotten so far was for an agent who required a synopsis as well as pages!

And then avidreader995 just stopped me dead in my tracks with this one:
I hope that isn't the initial query sent to Janet from Jeff. If so, then what is this entire blog, and Query Shark, and all the other blogs and books written about how to send a proper query doing wasting everyone's time?

At the least, it is totally unprofessional and in offices where I've worked, it would be brought to the attention of HR for sexual harassment.

The whole mentioning of liquor, the xxxooo, and of course saying he's wearing no pants, sent to a woman, decries everything the women of publishing have been fighting against for years.

I wonder how this would be received and what would be thought of her work ethic, if a woman sent a query to a man, mentioning liquor, xxxooo, and the fact she's wearing no top(or pants), instead of writing about her ms?

I see gender bias, double standard and the good old boys network is still alive and well in publishing.

I've known many women who try to fit into a "man's world" by allowing themselves to be disrespected. I didn't expect to see it on this blog. It's an eye-opener, to be sure.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but all opinions should be welcomed here.

At first I thought this was a joke, as in very dry humor, and if so, it's a good one.

If it's not a joke, I don't even know where to start.

Sufficient unto the day to say this: if you haven't cottoned on to the fact that this blog often uses exaggeration, imagination, and downright fiction to liven things up, you'd do well to write it down and read it before you post any other comments.

This isn't the Roland Park Ladies Tea and it's not a meeting of the Politically Correct Ignorant Tight Ass Club either.

On Thursday we talked about one book Oneders/wonders**

**The reference is from That Thing You Do, one of my favorite feel good movies of all time.

InkStainedWench noted:
"We'll burn that bridge...when we come to it" is a fine and useful aphorism. I've done it many times.
I believe I lifted that from Bethany Elizabeth.

Susan Bonifant said:
Writing a book is an act of love, or it should be.

I think it's perfectly normal to be so in love you can't, nor do you wish to, imagine the next relationship.

I love the metaphor but as I might have mentioned before, I'm in favor of plural marriage (no really! I am!)

LynnRodz said
Janet, you probably can't answer this, but then again maybe you can. Do you know other agents who feel the same way you do about a one hit wonder? I know you've stated over and over that you're looking for writers you can build their career with, so I'm a little surprised by your answer.

Actually I think most of us feel that way. I'd rather help you get one book published than none. And as Jennifer R. Donohue said,
Recently, one of my writer friends had her sequel rejected, which chills me.

having one book published is no guarantee there will be two.

One of my beloved clients is in this position. A book I love with all my heart is most likely to be one book only. And let me tell you it ain't for lack of trying.

Karen McCoy said:
This brings me around to a question I constantly wrestle with, which is how much time one should spend egg polishing versus egg laying. I've laid five eggs total(first-draft finished novels), and polished two eggs to a near-shine. However, when I'm editing, I feel like I'm not growing as much as a writer. Like Colin said--a singer should sing, a writer should write, and the year I spent polishing egg number two might have been better spent writing more and not dwelling so much on edits.

"Nooooooooooooo," she howled into the open seas, and woodland creatures fled.

Revising (what you've called polishing) is the very essence of how you improve as a writer.

Revising is where you learn the art of writing. Don't EVER think of it as time wasted. Not even when all you're doing is moving one word or one piece of punctuation. (If you're moving the same word endlessly, then you're done and it's time to query!)

John Frain said it too:
I'll respectfully disagree. I think when writing your first draft, you get everything out of your head and on to the page. Sure, you use your writing skills while doing it.

But when you hit the editing stage, that's when you really stand out from the crowd and polish. That's when you bring your writer's toolbox out and start strengthening your structure, turning ordinary sentences into spellbinding sentences and making everything sing.

I don't want to imply that writing a complete first draft is easy because it isn't. But editing it into something publishable requires more skill and significantly more effort. IMHO.

So I think you've learned a lot by doing the editing work on your piece over the past year. There's a pretty good chance you've learned a lot more than you realize, and it'll become more apparent when you're working on your next.
And lemme tell ya, John Frain is a guy who knows about revising.

And E.M. Goldsmith
I have to agree with John. The art of writing is revision, and first drafts always suck. Even if you are Stephen King.

And in the very good news of the day Jenny C said:
So thrilled and happy and excited to say:

I have an agent.

On Friday we talked about a non-offer offer.

Celia Reaves said
Schrödinger's client indeed. To those of us who haven't yet gotten any reply from any agent (perhaps because, like me, they're not even at the query stage yet) this seems like heaven, but it's got to feel like hell. There's only one thing to do, and that's to take advice from JR (of course), including the subheader from weeks ago: Query widely and prosper, friend.

On Saturday I ranted about sloppy descriptions; things like "blonde bombshell" and "leggy physicist"

From the number and content of the comments, it seems to be a common complaint.

CynthiaMc said:
Bring blonde and pretty worked for me all my life. Now it's a bad thing?

I don't want to live in this world. I'm going back to bed.

The interesting thing here is of course, none of us know Cynthia is blonde and pretty. We know she's an actor and a writer. We know she's witty and charming.

The other thing is "blonde and pretty" can mean a whole range of images.

 And as E.M. Goldsmith pointed out:
Of course, there is nothing wrong with being blonde and beautiful but is that all there is? Then what, pray tell, would be the story? Now if this blonde and beautiful character was mistaken as a call girl instead of the powerful attorney she is, then it might be relative in her introduction because now we have conflict. This did happen to a friend of mine working in Italy. Anyhow, I think this is on point. Janet will snap her lovely jaws at me if not. Or maybe I need more coffee.

I think Lee Child is one of the best male writers for female characters. Yes, Jack Reacher sleeps with a lot of them, but hey, what woman doesn't want to sleep with Jack Reacher?

I've mentioned my affinity for his description of women before. 

Now, on to the week to come!

Subheader noms:

This is certainly the Library of Alexandria sans the fire when it comes to writing advice. --Julie M. Weathers

I want to be a one hit wonder over and over again. --Jason Magnason

"We'll burn that bridge...when we come to it" is a fine and useful aphorism. I've done it many times.

Writing a book is an act of love, or it should be.--Susan Bonifant

I didn't say it was your fault. I said I was going to blame you. --Julie M. Weathers

The art of writing is revision, and first drafts always suck. --E.M. Goldsmith


nightsmusic said...

Thank you, thank you for the WIR. I have been reading but not always commenting the past two weeks. So much to do, so little time.

One thing, I thought Jeff's query was hysterical! I'd have asked for pages. And I'm an old lady. Take it for what it's worth...

I can't choose a subheader. They're all too good this week.

Mister Furkles said...

With regard to Saturday's trivial descriptions of young women. The problem is general. The descriptions tell the reader what to think. Readers are like juries. The jury members do not want the lawyers to tell them what to think. Juries want evidence.

Oddly enough, readers are the same. A psychological survey—I wish I had kept the reference—found that readers don't believe novelists without evidence. When you tell the reader what to conclude, what to think, the reader believes you are lying.

That's right. It's your story and you made it up out of your own head. But if you tell the reader what to think, they believe you are a liar.

You write “John Hyde is a hateful son-of-bitch.” We readers don't believe you. We suspect he spends hours growing petunias in his hothouse, dotes on his five rescue cats, and volunteers at a charity rest-home.

Evidence, please.

Cheryl said...

Man, I need to check in with the comments more often during the day. I seem to miss a lot of discussions I have opinions on.

That West Wing scene is one of my all time favourite TV moments.

Julie Weathers said...

Great WIR. I have to admit, I, being sort of vain, use my pretty blonde picture on my website. *sigh*

I love the sub-header. It's so true.

Once again, congratulations to all those who hooked up with their dream agents.

We are so fortunate to be able to do what we do. We spin magic with our words. Create worlds, destroy gods. We lure people into places they've never been. Who has more power than a writer?

I'm looking forward to the new week and could spend untold hours pontificating here, but I have a man eeling through a window I need to deal with.

CynthiaMc said...

Janet, you always make me smile. Thank you for that.

After years of trying to make myself write one thing (and failing miserably out of sheer boredom) I decided to do what I want for the rest of the year. I went to the dollar store and bought a ton of lined paper (because I do my best writing longhand even though I can type a zillion words a minute) and a bunch of brightly colored notebooks, one for each project. I am writing all the things I love to write and whatever gets done and out and sells, hurrah! I haven't had this much fun since the last flash fiction contest. I've done more writing in the past week than I've done in the past year. Sounds crazy, but it's working. And it's a lot of fun.

Jack Reacher is welcome at the beach house anytime and so are all of you.

Leah B said...

Oh, West Wing! I'm in the market for a new binge-watch, and I was too young to appreciate it when it originally aired. Time to disappear down the rabbit hole.

BJ Muntain said...

Thanks for the lovely double week in review, Janet! So much good stuff was covered! Good news, good advice, and good humour.

Theresa said...

E.M. has my vote for subheader.

It was so nice of Janet to treat us to a WIR doubleheader. Kind of a nice way to mark opening season.

It was also nice of Janet to be a less harsh grader than I am. I'm constantly thinking about ways to get my book noticed. It's not my particular brand of creativity, but I keep trying.

Cheryl said...

I'm in favor of plural marriage (no really! I am!)

Janet, I suppose this is the point at which I should state, for the record, that no, I am not writing my polyamorous romance about a homeless New York opera student with PTSD because of anything you've said on this blog.

Although looking at it stated that way I'm now wondering if draft three should be of a more literary bent.

Cindy C said...

"I'll have a shot of WIR to get me going." Pause. "Make that a double."

Dena Pawling said...

>>and of course the winner is John Frain. The prize is John Frain's manuscript.

Congrats to John Frain for winning the best prize of the year. Not sure whether it matters that he supplied his own prize? At least the postage cost is low. And, did y'all hear the price of a US first class stamp actually went DOWN by two cents today? Obviously the postal service is NOT happy about that.

Great week/s in review. It's raining her in sunny SoCal and my #1 son is home on leave! Have a great week.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I used to be blonde and beautiful just like your golden clucker. Now I'm a pigeon colored flyer circling for day old popcorn and stale bread. That's Cracker Jacks,(with a prize,) and croutons.

Been family-busy this week, God bless the WIR. It's great to be back to the reef.

I vote for Julie's,
"I didn't say it was your fault. I said I was going to blame you."

Unknown said...

John Frain is a lucky guy -- now he gets to see the mythical manuscript all of us are dying to read.

I caught the news of Panda landing an agent but missed Jenny C.'s. Congratulations, Jenny C.!

All the subheader noms are terrific. I like the zippiness of Jason's, and Julie's second one cracks me up.

Thanks for a great WIR as usual, Janet. It's just the thing to brighten up a rainy Northern California morning.

Megan V said...

QOTKU—thank you for the wonderful double WIR and for this:

I didn't know what "date rape" was until long after it happened to me. I'm sorry that it happened to you and to Lucie. I'm glad that you both are willing to share with this community that it did happen. Thank you.

Colin Smith said...

I had to stop for a moment to remember why on earth Roman Catholic sacramentalism came up... and then I remembered. Vampire stories. OK. Well, clearly this is a discussion for another time and another venue. And it's not one I am completely unschooled on either. But... another time. :) I know we won't agree, but I still think you're the cat's miaow. :)

Great week in review, Janet. And well done for taking on two weeks of comments!

Anonymous said...


Wow, talk about a lot of work. You are a wonderful human being, shark, woman... This was an awesome two weeks in review. Thanks for answering our questions and for the patience.

As always, I hope all is well with you and yours, and may harmony find you.

Celia Reaves said...

I didn't fully realize how much I missed last week's WIR until I got to read this one. Thanks again for this and everything you do for us all. Thanks for reminding me of my favorite West Wing scene. Thanks for mentioning me (twice!). Thanks for trusting us with you date-rape experience and knowing we will have your back about it, you and everyone who's had to deal with sexual assault. Thanks for answering our questions and challenging our mistakes. Thanks for it all.

RachelErin said...

Somehow I missed the editing/revision conversation, and I'm glad I got caught up a bit here. Last week, typing furiously on the bus, I reached "the end." I am now officially editing.

I was listening to an old episode of writing excuses about editing, (season 1, #3, Killing your Darlings), where they mentioned that sometimes your entire first book is a darling that needs to be killed. Move on. Write #2.

I'm willing to accept, theoretically, that this WIP might need to be trunked (is getting stuffed into a crowded box really less gory than being killed? I guess if you can't breathe lack of O2 isn't an issue), but how do I know when? Like John and Janet and so many of you mentioned, I learn the most from editing. How do I know when I've learned what I can from the first story, and how do I tell if its fate is to be tried or trunked?

Also, editing. A bit daunting. My list of plot things to add/subtract/move/changed is going to approach 50, even before I go scene-by-scene for description/exposition/dialogue (I have too much dialogue in large chunks of it), and then line edits, and then betas?

Anyone have editing resources to recommend for a writer skilled in short, occasionally narrative non-fiction, who is a first time novelist?

Kate Larkindale said...

Thank goodness for the WIR. I realized I must have missed an entire day somewhere along the way. Not sure how since reading this blog is as much a part of my morning as coffee.

Lennon Faris said...

I love Susan's subheader, resonates strongly.

Thanks for the WIR, Janet!

Donnaeve said...

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, for this lovely double header WIR and for answering my question.

Also, an even BIGGER (as in YUGE - ala Bernie style - no I'm not in for the "Bern" but I love the way he says "huge") laugh for this:

"This isn't the Roland Park Ladies Tea and it's not a meeting of the Politically Correct Ignorant Tight Ass Club either."


Have a lovely rest of a Sunday, ya'll!

Kitty said...

I wrote: Before my mother died, she had a college student interview her for the same assignment.

Janet: I really hope it's not cause your mom was just paroled from prison (as it is in the novel!)

Well...kinda. She was a retired high school librarian.

Karen McCoy said...

A lovely double-dose of the WIR! As far as the comment that provoked the full-throated shout, I have to chalk it up to some bad advice I received not too long ago, and your insight (and John's and E.M's) helped me realize how far off the mark it really was. Full exhales of relief over here. You are right, John was right, and so was E.M. (who is also my vote for the subheader).

John Frain said...

Wow, where to start. Janet, you must feel like Mozart after he finished writing a symphony when you finished putting together this double Week in Review.

I got stopped once with the flashback to your friend, Robin. Like a great story, there was so much more unsaid and it really made me think about a lot of things in my own life.

And nothing like winning my own manuscript which is laid out before me as I type this. I feel like your friend Robin's father when he walked into the kitchen to interrupt the party -- the yolk's on me!

But my favorite moment here was the scene from West Wing, which I've never seen and which acted as the cherry AND whipped cream on top of your splendid answer. Such a great scene, I might have to go back and see it again.

Thank you (and I'll repeat myself!), thank you.

Celia Reaves said...

RachelErin: Don't those two words, The End, feel marvelous! Kind of like putting on the gown and listening to Pomp and Circumstance and collecting your diploma. It means you accomplished something hard and worthwhile. Yay!

And then the rest of your life begins, the part where you turn that accomplishment into something hard and worthwhile and REAL.

Good luck with the editing. Don't give up, don't lose hope.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Coming in late today but what a wonderful afternoon treat- a double WIR. Nothing better. Trying to find energy to get back to proof reading my extensive edits and cross Query Lake again, but so tired. Send cake and coffee please.

Susan Bonifant said...

Well, all I can say is, writing the WIR is an act of love too, and back at you.

Thank you of course, for the mention. But thank you times a hundred for all you have given this blog, and to us. It remains a fixed stop on my morning internet travel and I am very grateful for you AND this community.

Brian M. Biggs said...

Janet thank you for the HUGE WIR. And most certainly John Frain's entry should have won the April Fools contest. I'm VERY literal. I did not get it until I was finished writing. Sweating all the while and looking at the clock until my wife told what day it was. But then I thought the contest was still going because of the time difference here on the west coast. I would have been clucking like a chicken in Patricia's sixth grade class.

Beth H. said...

WIR for two weeks in a row? Hats off to you, Janet. It took me nearly an hour to read this. I can only imagine how long it took to write!

I value all of the information on this blog, but some of the most interesting to me can be discussion of copyright. I'm halfway through a six month copyright course. When I entered, I thought I had at least a rudimentary understanding of copyright. Three months in, I can only marvel at how little I knew before, and how much more there is out there. The biggest takeaways for me: when it comes to copyright, never assume you know anything. When in doubt, always look it up, and talk to people more knowledgable than you.

Timothy Lowe said...

Janet, I think you wrote your own header. Nothing could be better than "This isn't the Roland Park Ladies Tea and it's not a meeting of the Politically Correct Ignorant Tight Ass Club either."

Lance said...

I had to Google Roland Park. It was mentioned in the 1913 edition of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, volume 35, where ladies and some of members took tea. I'm guessing of course, but I bet this is not where you got that reference. This was the eighth listing in the search. I skipped over the first seven because they looked like they had something to do with the Baltimore PD.

Thank you one more time.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I wish I could remember what the magazine was, that said "submission = permission to publish", but like I said, I disembarked rapidly from those dubious shores.

I've got an Author Question for you guys: When writers do book signing/autograph type things, do they use their legal signature, or do they have an Author Signature™ they develop just for that?

(I apologize if I've asked this before/we've discussed this here before, my memory since my October illness has not been great.)

Janet Reid said...


Here's the reference.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

A double Double-u-eye-R. SO appreciative of this Sunday afternoon fun read. And that's right. I'd forgotten that you HAVE signed on a flash fiction contest winner here from the Reef.

Congrats Susan Bonifant, on being subheader. A true sentiment.

I'm looking forward to the week ahead. I'm on a staycation. Lots of revising yet in addition to a couple of other (non-writing) projects.

See y'all tomorrow.

Lance said...

Ms. Janet, thank you for the reference. It did have something to do with the BPD!

What I have read, Jennifer R., is to not sign with your legal signature. Otherwise, you're passing out free samples of how to sign your checks, etc.

Timothy Lowe said...

The fact that the quote is from The Wire makes it all the better. Has to be one of the best written shows in the history of TV.

AJ Blythe said...

I'm late starting work (it's 9:10am here), but I didn't allow for a double-banger WiR! My working week doesn't start until I've read JR's post.

Dena, your comment about US post costs going down caught my eye. Here in Oz, our postage for a first class letter (which I assume means fastest delivery?) recently went up 80c and takes 2 days longer to get anywhere. Standard mail went up 30c and now takes 6 days longer to get anywhere. Needless to say it's caused havoc with bills arriving after they were due! Not to mention invitations, birthday cards and similar date driven mail also arriving after the fact.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Thank you, Janet.
You continually amaze.
We appreciate you!

Steve Stubbs said...

Yo Yo Ma playing someone else’s composition is analogous to someone reading someone else’s book. So yes, we would expect anyone who plays classical music at that high a level could do a mean rendering of “Happy Birthday.” But can he compose a symphony like Beethoven’s Ninth at a comparable skill level and then compose hillbilly music with the same level of skill? If he can, he really is a genius and how.

BTW, I do not know if it is possible for any ordinary mortal to compose like Beethoven (although Brahms is said t o have been contemptuous of him), But you absolutely CAN listen to his music and extract details of the creative process.

One thing I did not understand. I understand why literary agents need a set of lock picking tools. But did Houdini ever have an airhorn?

Joseph S. said...

Janet Reid, if no one else sends you a copy of the Writers Digest, email me and I’ll send you mine.

I don’t mind it when women refer to me as a handsome greek god with eyes to die for; or wouldn’t if one ever did.

RE Saturday side reference, I almost represented Berke Breathed (creator of Bill the Cat) back in the day, but he broke his back in an ultra-light accident, and missed his appointment.

Anonymous said...

While reading this, and reading it, and reading it, I remembered Janet's admonishment that when people complain about how long it takes to read all the comments, we're commenting too much . . . and cracked myself up. Very worthwhile read, as always, and thank you for the time and effort it took to put it all together. So much knowledge over here, I'm beginning to look like a sponge.

Thanks as well for the clarification re previously pubbed novellas/short stories vs. books.

And hey, no worries about the continued disagreement re writing in different genres. You're not wrong (I hope I'd never say that), we just disagree. I always enjoy a good argument/debate with a worthy opponent. :)

Congrats on the subheader, Susan B! So very true.

BJ Muntain said...

Joseph Snoe: Eek! Berke Breathed? Wow. Just wow. One of my heroes.

I'm sure you're one of the hundreds of thousands now following the return of Bloom County on Facebook? Maybe I'll see you in the comments section... ;)

LynnRodz said...

Thank you Janet, for this double WIR and thank you for answering my question. You can't imagine how much I/we appreciate all the work you put into it. You are truly amazing.

This post today has shown me how much I miss coming here. I decided some time ago to read your post, leave a comment, and then not return until the following day. It was a question of, do I spend hours on this blog, or do I spend those hours finishing my WIP? I chose the latter, but I have to say I miss all the craziness that goes on here at the reef. This WIR is proof of that.

I laughed out loud at Brian M. Biggs comment here today. I didn't go as far as he did, but my reaction to your April Fools joke was, "Damn, the contest finishes in 5 minutes. I can't do it!" Only then did I remember what day it was. Anyway, thanks again for these WIRs, it keeps those of us who spend less time here still in the loop.

Panda in Chief said...

Gee whiz...I don't know which is more exciting...getting mentioned FOUR times in one WIR or signing with my agent this week. *
It's fun to hang out in Ms Sharkley's neighborhood.

* Um, I am not going to answer that question.

Thanks for reminding me of The West Wing. it's about time for my annual binge watch of all 7 seasons.

May the pandas be with you all.

Christina Seine said...

Yay, I won the world! =D

I don't want to be greedy, so I'm giving back the US. Y'know, kind of like leaving that one bite of food on your plate so your hostess doesn't think you really wanted more but were too polite to ask. Actually, I always thought that was wasteful & silly, but oh well. And if the plate happens to have chocolate cupcakes on it, all bets are off. Furthermore, since it's mine now, I am renaming the rest of the world Notcomboverland. Trump that, if you can. ;D

This biweek in review was awesome. I actually sat down with a margarita and read the whole thing twice. Mostly that was because by the end of the WIR I had also gotten to the end of my margarita and forgot what language I normally speak in. But it was just as good the second time around. Now, off to read the comments!

John Frain said...

Salt with the comments, Christine? Don't get up, I've got you.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

That was kind of my thought, Lance. Thank you!

On the subject of Yo Yo Ma, he certainly plays Bach's cello suites quite nicely, and had recorded them 2 separate times. Could that be considered revision, even as the performer and not the creator? Interestingly, I may prefer the earlier recording (I may not; I know which cd I like better, the one with the suites listed in order, but don't remember if that one's the earlier one or not)

french sojourn said...

A double shot, or rather a large fluted glass of W.I.R. Kir---champagne, writers tears and a spot of shark blood for color.

A day late and an euro short, but great summary.

Cheers Hank.

Joseph S. said...

BJ Muntain

Berke Breathed kept me sane when I was in law school. He published a strip called Academia Waltz in the Daily Texan (school newspaper). No Opus or Bill the Cat. But drunken frat boy Steve Dallas was a mainstay.

kdjames -I agree with you that the time and effort Janet Reid puts into these (in particular the Week in Review) is incredible. Just reading the comments takes half an hour to an hour a day.

As to the writing in one genre issue, I'm sure most of us could easily write in multiple genres. I was under the impression writers stuck to one genre for marketing purposes.

Tamlyn said...

I have fallen off reading comments of late, but I did want to slip in to say congratulations to Panda in Chief and Jenny C.

Jennifer D said...

I was not expecting the beautiful blonde chicken ("Nobody expects the beautiful blonde chicken!") and I want to thank you for it. That, and "Schrödinger's client" earlier in the week gave me some much needed belly laughs.

Boris Ryan said...

Since you referenced my post, I feel I should respond.

You didn't answer my question, which was, was that the actual initial query to you by that author?

My point is, there is so much pressure put on writers these days to perfect their queries, they are staggering under the weight of it. Writers are encouraged to scour social media, books and blogs, have beta readers and spend upwards of $300.00 a pop to attend seminars and conferences with query writing clinics.
"Only the best!" announces submission guidelines on many sites.
"You have to be savvy, and know how to produce the most effective query for your ms." says another.
"You must know how the query process works." One agent blogs, then proceeds to tell us exactly how the system works in her office. Her assistant opens all queries, sorts them by noting if a query mentions a personal connection to the agent, has a referral, or paid to meet with her at a conference and was suggested by the agent to query. All other queries are rejected unread.

It's enough to make the head spin of any writer trying to break into the business. It's certain the head of the person who submitted the question to you spurring your blog post was spinning as she wondered if her query was good enough, and therefore pondered if the agents who requested the ms were good enough, since they were enticed by something just "meh".

But, not to worry, inferior, meh queries get chosen over superior ones every day, as long as you know someone, have $300.00 burning a hole in your pocket, or dash off sophomoric queries containing jokes Milton Berle would find dated.

Since the publishing business is all subjective to the personal opinions of those individuals in power, it is a gigantic contradiction in terms.

Coincidental to my post, that same day I saw in an agent's guidelines under her what not to send, NO pics of shirtless writers included within the query. Do not send food or any type of glitter/confetti.
Then I read another agent saying she enjoyed eating the chocolates a querier sent, so she requested the ms, even though the writing was less than stellar.

Well, that's my rebuttal. I have to sign off now, my head is spinning. It's either from writing this post, or having one too many nightcaps. Did I mention I'm not wearing pants?

Perhaps you'd care to look at my query? It's a meta about beta readers who dare to be different, yet strangely regurgitate the same nonsense everyone else in the business spouts, but no one follows. As soon as they can raise $300.00, they're off to a writer's conference, where they'll attend a symposium on how to cope with the marginalization of the female in literature. Then they'll hit the bar where a drunken SFF editor from a top house announces before passing out he has never and would never acquire an SF written by a woman. The story ends with our heroines, emboldened by everything they learned at the conference, graduating from beta readers to co-penning a novel about blonds in space. It's actually a BDSM fanfic they wrote when they were 12, but have changed the names and venue while retaining annoying, out-of-place vernacular British writers use for characters who are supposed to be American. Their skills now honed to perfection, they send a glitterized query including selfies of themselves topless(as attachments instead of in the body of the email) to the famous, drunken, misogynist editor. The rest is as we say, history.