Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Dispatches from the Consult Fest Battle of Wits 2019
Over the course of four days last week at ThrillerFest, I met with 43 writers to discuss their query or pages, sometimes both.
As I was carried away on a stretcher with an IV of bourbon, the ConsultFest volunteers applauded. Whether to laud the effort or encourage the departure, 'twas not quite clear.
So, what did I/they learn?
1. Many writers receive conflicting advice about their writing. Change this/don't change that. Dumb it down/it's perfect as is.
How the hell do you know what to listen to?
Trust your own instincts first. Most of you know when something isn't working. How to fix something is different than does this need to be fixed. How to fix something is where your writer friends are invaluable. Does this need to be fixed, not so much. Every writer thinks their own style is the best way to write. Their style may not be yours, and that's NOT a bad thing that needs fixing.
2. If you've self-published a book, make sure it looks successful. There's nothing worse than sitting across from a writer and saying "you have five reviews on Amazon, that's an almost instant pass for this next book in the series."
2a. It's VERY hard to get interest for Book 2 in a series if you self published the first one.
3. Understand publishing jargon. A review is not what an agent does with a query. A query is not a synopsis.
4. Understand the requirements of your genre and category. A thriller needs a ticking clock of some kind. Science fiction needs to have things that are not real as a meaningful part of the story.
Romance needs a romance!
5. You need a killer first sentence.
6. Comps need to be from current books.
7. You should not use anything super-successful as a comp. And you should not be offended when I tell you this. You can't comp your book to JK Rowling until you've sold 1/10th as many books as she has. That's a rule.
8. If you describe female characters by appearance, and male characters by action/achievement, I'm going to call you on it. Count on it.
9. When I tell you the category you're writing in has a hard time finding an audience, I'm not telling you this to hurt your feelings. I don't care about your feelings. I'm telling you this so when your query is met with a vast swath of silence you'll know it's not your writing. It's the category.
10. If you think I'm full of hot air and an idiot, just say thank you and move on.
"You're full of shit, SharkForBrains" burns bridges. Forever.
at 7:00 AM