Tuesday, March 26, 2019

I'm boring

I always laugh when writers say they struggle with the bio section of a query. Of course all y'all do! You're woodland creatures who wouldn't tell someone you were on fire unless you'd already googled "instant fire extinguisher delivery services."

You like to sit at your keyboard and make up things, not dance the fandango in waterfront dive bars.
Your characters are riveting.
You yourself (you think) not so much.

I garundamntee you 100%, full money refund, that is NOT true.
You just don't know what other people find interesting about you.

This is where your BFFs are helpful.
Tell them you need to write three things about yourself.
(don't use the word "interesting" cause then you'll star that self-censoring stuff that caused this problem in the first place!)
Ask them to help.

If you need prompts for this little descript-a-thon, here's a list:

1. Why are your children wild ruffians?
2. Which section of the library would you live in, if you could?
3. When did you last forget to eat because you were nose-deep in a book, and which book was it?

4. What book made you want to be a writer?
5. What book made you wonder if you could ever write that well?
6.What single event shaped your life significantly?

7.  What is your guilty pleasure in books?
8.  If you could be a character in a book (not your own) which one would you choose?
9. Do you follow a professional sport?

10. What superpower would you give your kids or your sweetheart?
Bonus points: Name one of the superpowersLaSlitherina Herself, the estimable Barbara Poelle has (yes there's more than one)---oh! Wait! Flash fiction contest theme???

If all else fails, talk about your dog.

You meant cat, didnt you, Thumbs?


AJ Blythe said...

I love that photo of DoY. The bio bit of the query is something I used to struggle with, but I think I'm a little better now. I change mine according to the query to try and relate it to the book (style, voice etc). I assume an agent will be more interested in the story than about me, so I've stopped worrying quite so much about the bio.

Amy Johnson said...

So, today's takeaway is that if I want to be a successful writer, I have to stop dancing the fandango in waterfront dive bars. Which can be rather dangerous anyway. Especially when there's a shark in the water.

Miles O'Neal said...

Amy, what I got out of it was that you are ahead of the game and should emphasize that dancing- mention awards or the time you danced with Kevin Bacon.

I approach the bio like everything else- a fun writing project. I definitely agree with AJ on changing it to fit the circumstances. Within reason. I have not, for instance, claimed to have been POTUS. Not yet, anyway.

julie.weathers said...

So that's what prompted the tweet.

I don't think I'm boring, but there is that Chinese saying about an interesting life being a curse. Not that I think I'm cursed, but it's more of a, "Wait, you did what? Why?"

So, I'm not sure how much agents want to hear about stupid Julie adventures either. I think I'll follow Marilyn Monroe's advice. Wear a simple little black dress with minimal jewelry and gold shoes. Be straight forward and add one little pop of interest.

Bios are still the pits. I hate writing about myself. I haven't done it for my new website yet. I should.

Amy Johnson said...

Miles, ha! Are those photos of Kevin and me in our fandango costumes still floating around? If anyone in the Reef Fam wants to insert yourself into a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, feel free to count me as a degree.

Smelling kale and moving on. I like the advice to ask BFFs for help. Made me think of the Johari Window, which I find fascinating. Fascinating!

Brenda said...

La Slytherina’s Superpower is obviously manuscript x-ray vision, as is yours. I read that you both acquired the mutation at an after-hours party at Boucheron. Or was it a radioactive book bug?

Karl Henwood said...

Oh dear lord, who would want to be a character in a book? I mean all we do as writers is invent people to subject to horrific emotional or physical torture. Who in their right mind would sign up for that?

Here's an interesting spin though... A glowing figure appears before you and announces you're a character in a novel. You get one question that can only have a single word as an answer. Which question do you ask:

- What genera?
- Am I the protagonist?

InkStainedWench said...

InkStainedWench is an author and poet who leads a life of quiet anonymity until she hears the opening chords of "Mustang Sally."

Claire Bobrow said...

Here's one for the bio: I don't do the fandango, but I love the movie. (It's with a different Kevin - Costner - for those who have yet to have the pleasure.)

JanR said...

The trouble with a bio is I know so much more about myself so it just feels way too simplistic. Kind of like trying to answer question 6. Probably just means I have too much ego to squeeze into two sentences :( It feels a lot better to take this approach – it’s like a conversation starter, not a whole picture. Thanks for the questions Janet!

Love the idea of a superpower themed flash fiction. Karl’s is clearly inventing agonizing dilemmas :o

Karen McCoy said...

I've seen a picture of La Slitherina. Like Mary Poppins; practically perfect in every way. No offense to the DoY, of course.

Superpower-themed flash fiction! I'm in yesterday. I was buried under other things for the other contests of late, but things are (finally) starting to calm down.

Theresa said...

I would look at DoY's face all day for judge-y inspiration.

ISW,that's a great bio line.

InkStainedWench said...

Thanks, Theresa! Still waters run deep...

Joseph S. said...

I guess i don't get it. To me, none of that stuff in today's blog belongs in a query (though I once mentioned I was an Astros fan - it didn't help).

Craig F said...

I have not yet included a bio with any queries, but Annie Tibbets will open for queries at her new home in two days. Her submission guidelines ask for a bio, so here goes.

The author has been bored by many different jobs. A home was found in the environmental sciences until a hobby turned into an in-demand business. It is time to see if another hobby can also come into demand.

(Kayak design was once a hobby. I don't mention it because for every person who can see all that it entails, there are three others that see no value in a query with it.)

AJ Blythe said...

Julie, you hate writing your bio? I would have thought of anyone here yours would be the easiest to write! You've got such fascinating, amazing stories to tell. Or is it narrowing down what to include? That I would understand =)

Craig, my Dad would find your bio fascinating. He's a mad keen kayaker and owns at least 4 of different sorts. Since retiring he's taking any chance to kayak around the world (Croatia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands etc). His next, later this year, is to paddle the Arctic circle off Norway.

Jo, I think (Janet, please chomp if I get this wrong) the purpose of the bio is multi-purposed - an agent might relate to it (they also love holidaying in the kale fields of Carkoon), it gives a glimpse of your personality, more of your voice etc. I remember hearing an agent at a conference once say the bio let him know that the writer had more to their life (balance) than just their writing and for him that was important.

Anonymous said...

I always thought the bio was to "show why you are the right person to write this book." Translation : do you have a writing degree, previous publications, a huge fan base? "I've been reading and writing fiction since I was ten" immediately brands you a wannabe, even if it's your best qualification.

Karl: I would ask the genre question of course. Then I'd be able to figure out who the protagonist is and help him/her.
Oh, wait, that's already our situation!

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I used to struggle with bio stuff, but now I actually have publication credits and organization memberships (The Codex and the SFWA) in addition to mentioning a Doberman, so that's actually been pretty great to watch develop!

Brenda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Panda in Chief said...

I think that the bio is one more way to see who you are as a person (not necessarily a list of accomplishments) one more chance to show your "voice" and how it relates to the project at hand. I agree with everyone who said they tweak their bios depending on what they are querying. I save all my bios and artist statements in a file so that I can look at them for inspiration and customize for what the project/query/submission calls for.