I put all the thank you notes from HitRECord for my writing / other work over various rejection letters for my novel. C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER! :D
Obsessively refreshing Query Quagmire.
Auwe, the agent who asked for an 8 week exclusive on my novel (after 3 months exclusive on the first 3 chapters,) decided she didn’t feel “passionate enough” about selling it. >_< Bleh. Oh well! Onwards and hopefully upwards!
I don’t think I’ll be giving any more exclusives, though. That came out to five whole months of querying that I’ll never get back.
Err, unless I was super duper into the agent I guess. :) Then I’d consider it.
Still, I think it’s a good sign that this is all totally subjective now. Like, lots of agents have said that they thought the writing was great, it just wasn’t necessarily their thing. And we know it has to be a perfect match.
AND I’M NOT OUT OF CAKE.
Actually, I don’t have any literal cake. But I do have girl scout cookies. ^_^
Are you sitting down? You better be. Because I am about to knock your socks off.
After months of putting it off, I, QQ, overlord and master of Query Quagmire, am hosting another educational, instructive, and—above all!—entertaining game. This game will function a lot like our last two rounds of the Elevator Pitch Game, but with a slightly different theme.
Are you ready? Here goes.
THE RULES OF THE GREAT FIRST LINES GAME OF QUERY QUAGMIRE
- In this game, you may submit the first lines of your manuscript to me for brutal and honest feedback.
- “First lines” are defined as the first 1-3 sentences. Single-word sentences, sentence fragments, and stylistically long or short sentences all count as single sentences. Basically, if it begins with a capital letter and ends with a period, it counts as a sentence.
- You may submit your first lines to me via my askbox, Tumblr fan mail, or via email (QueryQuagmire@gmail.com).
- You MUST include your name or pseudonym with your submission. Completely anonymous submissions will not be considered. Tumblr handles count as names.
- No plagiarism. Don’t try my patience.
- You may submit your first lines between right-the-fuck-now and Thursday, March 14th. At midnight on the 14th I will stop accepting submissions. This gives you just about a week to pull yourself together.
- I reserve the right to publish as many or as few submissions as I see fit. In the last Elevator Pitch Game I was not able to publish every single one because of time constraints, and the same goes for this time. I’ll shoot for about 10-20, which will be chosen based on their usefulness as instructional tools. If I do not publish your submission, it does not necessarily mean your first lines are bad, just that I don’t think anyone else can learn from them.
- My feedback will consist primarily of whether or not I would keep reading based on your first lines. I’ll be reading these first lines as I would any manuscript partial I’d received through my slush pile. So the pressure’s on.
- I will begin publishing submissions with my own snarky feedback starting on Friday, March 15th, right here on Query Quagmire. BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH, BITCHES.
If you’re curious about how the Elevator Pitch Game worked so you know what to expect, just search the tag “Elevator Pitch Game” or go back through my archives. The reason we’re doing first lines this time instead of elevator pitches is because I asked for feedback and my minions said they wanted to try something new. So blame yourselves if you don’t like it as much as the Elevator Pitch Game.
You have your marching orders, minions. At dawn… WE RIDE!
Dear Ms. Agent,
I’m very excited that you’re interested in the entire novel. As per your request, I’ve enclosed the entire manuscript, including the original query letter and contact info. It’s in a .doc file, again formatted for an eReader, since that didn’t seem to present any problems last time. I work from a Mac and I know conversions can be a little wonky, so if there are formatting problems, please let me know and I’ll re-format and re-send.
I’d be happy to grant an exclusive look for eight weeks, and I will refrain from submitting anywhere else until then.
Thank you for taking an interest in my work. I look forward to hearing from you.
Any good? That sounds about right, right? I know it’s a little less formal than the query, and then less formal still than the reply to the original request of 3 chapters. I’m not trying to be bros or anything, but I figured that saying conversions could be “wonky” wouldn’t be too bad. Or am I wrong?
It’s sitting here on my desktop, staring me in the face, waiting for me to hit send. This is ridiculous of me, but I might wait until it’s like, 3:33 to send it. O_O
This is so weird of me, I know. But I’m crazy happy because my corrected manuscript is 94491 words and that adds up to 9. And when I attach the original query letter as requested, it’s 94752, which adds up to 9. This is a total “me” thing but it really makes my day.
THE LITERARY AGENT WHO REQUESTED AN EXCLUSIVE ON MY FIRST THREE CHAPTERS WANTS TO SEE THE REST OF MY BOOK
I CAN’T EVEN WORDS RIGHT NOW
“The point is that many of these Clichés are USED in good books, or even movies. The first time, great! The next time, not so great. The hundredth time - it is overused. If you use one of these in a new work, you are guilty of using an idea that has appeared often enough in the past to be an obvious overused cliché.”
For more on clichés in Science Fiction writing, see:
For more on clichés from WriteWorld:
- Literary Criticism, the Mirror Cliche, and Describing a First-Person Narrator
- Kick the Fantasy Cliche (And Some World Building Tips)
- 7 Instant Fixes: Some Extra Help with Fix #5
- 12 Clichés To Avoid When Beginning Your Story
- Speaking of Clichés…
- Some Replies Regarding the “Speaking of Clichés” Post
- Characters You Need to Stop Writing (Or Reinvent)
- Stereotypes, Tropes, and Archetypes
eternalrulerofthesunrise said: How do things like 50Shades managed to get published in the first place? I’ve read a lot of shitty literature but that one really takes the cake…And no one takes my cake damn it.
It’s very simple, actually.
As I’ve said on this blog many, many times: there’s something for everyone.
Don’t like “Fifty Shades of Grey”? That’s ok. You don’t have to. Somebody else does. About 65 million somebodies.
Don’t like “Twilight”? That is also just dandy. But there are people out there who literally love it enough to get Twilight-themed tattoos, and there must be a reason.
Can’t stand “Eat, Pray, Love”? Me neither. But millions of books sold and Julia Roberts in a goofy hat can’t be wrong.
What I’m saying is that humanity as a vast and terrible force does not have unified taste. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and all that jazz. And editors try to keep that variegated taste in mind when acquiring books. It’s like feeding a very fickle Hydra. Every head likes to eat a different thing and you have to keep all of the heads happy if you hope to survive. If you think you’ll make your life easier by starving one head of the Hydra, it’ll just come back… only now it’ll be two heads, neither of which has the same taste as the others, and both of which are mad at you for starving it.
Absurd analogy over. In other words: if people can’t find books they like to read, then they won’t read at all. So we have to keep publishing books across a variety of subjects in order to keep people reading and buying books. Because if people don’t read and buy books, then I don’t have a job and no one, regardless of their taste in books, has new books to read.
And so we placate the Snooki fans of the world by following up “A Shore Thing” with another two-book contract, despite nearly everyone in the world going “What kind of brainless lunatic gives two shits about what an overly made-up basketball has to say?”
Now, to what many aspiring writers see as the real problem. And it’s a big one, one that I hear a lot as an Evil Publishing Overlord:
If X can get published, why will no one publish MY book?
I’ve explained why terrible books get published, but this explanation probably leaves most aspiring authors unsatisfied. Because if there’s something for everyone, up to and including the point where “Fifty Shades of Grey” becomes an international literary phenomenon, then it naturally follows that there simply must be an audience for your book, right?
Because your book isn’t ready yet. Or you haven’t found the right editor yet. Or you approached the right editor at the wrong time. Or maybe your query letter sucks. Or maybe there are too many books like yours out there just now and you need to wait a little while before there will be a place in the market for yours. Maybe your title sucks. Maybe the intern misfiled your query. Maybe the structural integrity of your plot has been compromised by the appearance of rogue space mermaids who took your finely-crafted historical fiction at the eleventh hour and transformed it into a sci-fi epic and you didn’t bother re-working the first 9/10ths of the story before shopping the manuscript around. Take your pick.
There are hundreds of reasons why your manuscript is not yet under contract, most of which lie squarely with you, the author. Almost none of them has anything to do with the frightening existence of awful and/or offensive erotica. Editors are not publishing the likes of “Fifty Shades of Grey” INSTEAD of a debut novelist’s heartbreaking work of staggering genius. They are publishing “Fifty Shades of Grey” IN ADDITION TO the first-time novelist’s undoubtedly brilliant work. But you’ve never heard of “The Submission,” have you?
Don’t be discouraged because other people (people who make no earthly sense to you or I) actually liked “Fifty Shades of Grey.” That’s their thing. It’s not yours. Instead remember that other people liked “Harry Potter” and “House of Leaves” and made “The Hunger Games” a huge fucking deal. Remember that good books get published all the time, books that are good in your estimation, and which coexist quite peacefully with the purple prose of teen paranormal romances.
You are not competing with “Fifty Shades of Grey,” so don’t act like you are. The editor who acquired “Fifty Shades of Grey” (is currently taking their $5,000 bonus on a vacation to Maui, but that’s beside the point) has no interest in your book and never will (unless of course you’re writing wildly problematic BDSM fiction). But another editor does.
Keep working. Keep trying to reach that editor. And don’t fucking quit just because you’re discouraged that we live in a world where “Fifty Shades” is a book club top pick right after “The Poisonwood Bible.”
It is discouraging to see such problematic stuff out there, but I personally really have hope that my stuff will be out there too, someday. It doesn’t have to be as crazy popular as 50SOG or Twilight and in fact I hope it’s not. (Because people dig up dirt on super famous writers, and that’s a big DO NOT WANT for me. Let whatever powers forbid that anyone should ever find stuff I published in the college newspaper.) I’ll be crazy happy if I get a rad agent whom I really get and who gets me, and who looks out for me, some super duper editing, and maybe a check or two, who knows. I know that steampunk SF (with solid female characters, hookers, religious cults, time travel, and electric zombies, hello,) isn’t the biggest seller ever. That’s cool. I have a job. :)
Mostly I’m reblogging this because I honest to god thought that last paragraph started off with the phrase “Keep whoring.”
Well… okay! If I must.
Chuck Close on creativity
The rest of this quote is glorious as well:
“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.’ And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you did today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere.”
Normally I dont reblog these things, but this has been especially true to me this year.
Adding to this with Nick Cave’s quote
“Inspiration is a word used by people who aren’t really doing anything. I go into my office every day that I’m in Brighton and work. Whether I feel like it or not is irrelevant.” Inspiration is nice, but if you only work when it strikes, you’re going to be an unhappy artist. This is especially true if you want to earn a living at it; you don’t hear about surgeons getting “surgeon’s block” or garbage men getting “garbage men’s block.” There are assuredly days when the surgeon doesn’t want to be removing gall-bladders, but she does it anyway, because that’s her job.”
This is so true for me. I never wait around for inspiration and, to me, “writer’s block” is a myth. I don’t get it. If I’m not being productive and not working on something, it’s because I’m being damn lazy. Not because I don’t have “inspiration.”
Gacked from Day Glo.
What cool stuff went on this year?
Joe (or Joseph Gordon-Levitt to the “old media,”) really liked a brief essay that I wrote and said he wanted to write a feminist book. He asked for more contributions and he picked one of my snarky feminist dialogues and a naughty poem for publication. He really liked the poem and did a reading of it from the book.
Then I got pregnant. Not because of that, obviously.
I also wrote a porno which I personally found hilarious, and also went over really well, with brilliant voice-overs and show-stopping musical numbers. You get a little addicted to HitRECord, honestly. A few months go by and you’ve made nothing really fantastic, it gets you feeling a little down until the next time you come up with something. This whole thing really made me happy.
Meanwhile, I got a few more nibbles to a few more query letters, some good feedback, but ultimately no agent. Yet. The HitRECord credits seem to help a lot though.
I had a ton of starlings over the summer and a bluejay in the fall. (The bluejay didn’t make it.)
I continued to write lots of poetry as well as fandom stuff, which went over pretty well and was really just for pleasure and practice.
I spent lots of time with family, went to the park a lot with the dogs, took lots of walks, went swimming in the pool, hung out with my best friend, got a raise, saw some good movies and some silly ones. I watched Doctor Who and Torchwood, Dexter, Lost and One Upon A Time.
Other than that, not much. I didn’t go on any trips or anything, didn’t see any shows or do anything super exciting aside from all of that. Well, I haven’t in about four years.
I never make much of the new year, but either way, here’s to 2013!
Lately there’s been a trend where bloggers read through popular books like “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Twilight” and highlight badly written bits to make fun of them. Do you think as this trend gains popularity, it will make for choosier readers and impact the quality of books that are being published? Just curious to hear your thoughts.Anonymous
I assume you’re referring to the brilliant Reasoning With Vampires, and to Katrina Lumsden’s wildly popular reviews of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” And if you haven’t heard of these two amazing corners of the Interweb, then go read them right the fuck now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Obviously I love this trend. This is partially because I am an evil bitch and I delight in the public shaming of bad writing and authors. It’s also because I am a staunch believer in analyzing problematic media and forms of entertainment as a way to expand our minds and progress as a culture. Part of what Reasoning of Vampires does (besides tear apart Stephenie Meyer’s terrible grammar and syntax) is illuminate how horrific a story “Twilight” is. Dana of Reasoning with Vampires doesn’t just hate “Twilight” because of Meyer’s liberal use of nonsensical commas, but because it is at its core a rather anti-feminist tale that glorifies an abusive relationship to young girls. And it’s terribly boring.
Likewise, in Katrina Lumsden’s gif-laden reviews of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” she doesn’t just talk about the bajillion uses of the phrase “inner goddess” and the purple prose. She talks about how this is a horribly inaccurate portrayal of a BDSM relationship, and that the author’s research into the subject was not only embarrassingly absent, but also harmful to the perception of what a healthy sexual relationship actually is.
Books do not exist inside of a vacuum, and discussing their problematic aspects is important. Even if that means risking the wrath of Twi-moms who cry “Leave Edward alone!” I would absolutely support more projects like Reasoning With Vampires and Katrina Lumsden’s reviews. Let’s have a blog that examine’s misogyny in the works of Ernest Hemingway. Let’s have a blogger review a variety of YA fiction for their shitty use of the English language.
I have no idea if projects like these are making for an overall more discerning reading public. I hope that’s the end result. But in truth, I have to admit that there’s a reason “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades” are popular. They are someone’s cup of bizarre, disgusting tea. And for those people a more realistic goal would be that RWV and Katrina Lumsden would serve merely to open their eyes to what they just read and force them to admit that “I like this thing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I can’t admit that it has its problems.”
I do think it’s practical to hold publishers and writers accountable for the work they publish. I think it might be a little too bold to assume that this type of bad-literature-shaming project would have any affect on the publishing industry other than to make some editor go “Wow, we need to publish more hilarious literary criticism!” As I said, there’s something for everyone, and as long as people like “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades,” books like them will continue to be published.
Anyway, if any of you know of any other blogs like Reasoning With Vampires, I would love to hear about them.
Every single word of this, but I bolded my favorite parts.
Page 1 of 6