Yeah, yeah, rejection, blah blah

Favorite quote of the day:

“Rejection always stings. It stings me, you, everybody. Nobody likes to be rejected. A writer who likes being rejected is a writer who is secretly a robot and must be smelted down into slag before he tries to kill us all because he hates our meat. Pain is instructive. And it’s not permanent. Not if you don’t let it be. Some writers savor misery like a hard candy endlessly sucked in the pocket of one’s cheek, but fuck that.”

Taken blithely from Chuck Wendig’s blog.

I read that earlier today and it brought up so many memories. I’m not currently submitting anything, but I distinctly recall most of the rejections I’ve gotten. Many have been the puzzling form rejections. Some of have been handwritten little gems. Only one suggested I try something different with the work. The rest were veiled ways of saying, “I don’t think I can sell this.”

My favorite rejection was from an assistant who said she tried really hard to convince her boss to take me on. It was handwritten on the first page of my manuscript, wrapped around the form rejection as if she couldn’t leave a paper trail. Utterly heartwarming. I hope she some day gets her own agency. ^_^

I think I’m going to have a thoughtful day. How about you?

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Prologues must die

I’ve joined several different writers groups recently, trying to find one or two that are a good fit for me. I think I’ve found one, but I’m having several issues with the others. They’ve proven one thing to me, though:

For many authors, the prologue is alive and well.

Also, I see now reasons why it should die.

I never really had a problem with prologues, but I’m thinking that was because of the kind of books I read—Fantasy adventure books—often had prologues. They were usually little teasers about either the villain or a magical artifact (that might also be the villain) that would be a driving force for the plot. I liked seeing the demon rising out of the volcano or the unaware explorers unearthing the Widget of DOOM. I usually forgot about the prologue halfway through the book until the heroes discovered either demon or widget (sometimes both!) and I got to have a little ah ha moment.

These are not those kinds of books. I’m coming to understand that many writers use prologues as a history lesson, an enormous info dump for backstory that should be threaded through the narrative. I understand why editors might cringe when they just see the word PROLOGUE, especially if it has dates just below it. Do readers really want to begin a novel with a history lesson? Can they even remember it as the novel goes on?

How do you feel about prologues? Do you avoid them mercilessly? Cut them whenever you critique? And if you feel like telling me, how would you suggest I phrase my suggestion that authors cut their prologues entirely and weave the information into the narrative? Maybe I’m just too obsessed with not hurting feelings, but I remember my first novel. It was bad, and I ultimately appreciated all the tactful suggestions I got on how to change it. Any and all advice appreciated.

Cleaning, a bizarre dead actor story, and getting all your backseats deleted

So, I’m cleaning my house to prepare to show it to perfect strangers, many of whom will probably go through my stuff. Who snoops when you go to look at a new house? Get your hands up.

Anyway, I scrubbed and polished and did all that I could. My realtor sent maids out today to “get what I had missed.” HA! I thought. I’ve missed nothing. Every surface is now a dinner plate. Spider-Man could eat from my ceiling.

Not so.

These ladies are like Dust Whisperers. They’re coaxing filth from all corners of my house, getting in cracks I didn’t know existed. I think they’re recalling grime from years past, teasing it from the very walls. There’s a pile of pet hair and crap sitting outside my office door right now, a huge pile, and I have no idea where the fuck it came from.

It’s kind of creeping me out. I only hope they can clean my shower this well, as we have a form of black mold that seems to bond directly to caulk. It’s taken over my shower, and I think it’s eaten one of the cats.

Looking around my office right now, it’s cleaner than it was, and I’ve been in here the entire time the maids have been in the house. When did they clean it? I didn’t see them. They either called the dirt out from around me, or they’re actually ninjas.

While I’ve been cleaning like a maniac (not as good as a ninja, apparently) I’ve had the television on for company. What Netflix guilty pleasure did I pick? Xena: Warrior Princess. I know, I know, but for fantasy/cheese, it’s a good bet. I ended up look up some of the actors on Wikipedia (because I have no life), and discovered that the man who plays Ares, Kevin Smith (no, not that one), died in 2002. To quote Wikipedia:

“On 6 February 2002 Smith completed his work on the set in…Beijing. …while waiting for a ride back to the hotel, he decided to walk around the Central China Television film studio grounds, and climbed a prop tower on the set of another film. He lost his footing and fell several stories, suffering severe head injuries… He died on 15 February without regaining consciousness.”

O_o ?!?!

Just randomly decided to climb a prop tower, eh? This was something he was known for, randomly climbing things? I know when I’m in a strange city, waiting for my ride at night, the first thing I do is find something to climb. Sounds like he pissed off someone he shouldn’t have in Beijing. The article says he was also on the cusp of launching his Hollywood career. Muy suspicious, no?

As for all your backseats being deleted, that’s a story I heard about editors at publishing houses. Seems they can change stuff in your story without your knowledge or say-so. One random author had all instances of the word backseat deleted from her novel and replaced with something that made no sense. A friend of mine had most of her commas removed (though they were grammatically correct) because an editor claimed it made the manuscript “too comma-y.” That’s a thing? I heard another story about a cat that made a whuffling noise in the manuscript, but the editor decided that was a typo and changed it to waffling. I had it when my cat waffles. Get off the fucking fence already and make a decision. I guess it doesn’t matter anyway since the shower ate him.

Any good horror stories?

Query trials and tribulations

I’m querying again. And we all know what that means. I’m either chewing drywall in anger or consoling myself with brownies. Does eating brownies while walking on the treadmill do any good? That cancels out calories, right? I’m pretty sure that’s how that works.

I was going out of my mind the other night. I read one agent blog that said, “Never put your word count and genre at the top of the letter. That’s dull business info that should come at the end. Lead with a hook!” And then I read another agent blog that said, “Putting the genre and word count at the end of your query is highly unusual. Let the agent know right off if this query is right for her.”

0__0

Querying isn’t confusing! Nah, it’s easy peasy lemon squeezy. Mind you, this info wasn’t front and center on their agency submissions pages or agency bios. It was floating around in their blogs. I did find it, tho. And if I query either of these, I’ll make sure to follow instructions. It makes me wonder if those agents who never specify what they want in a query will take any damn thing, if they’re just more laid back and relaxed. “Baby, I’m so chill, I didn’t even MAKE a webpage. Send me any old damn thing.” You could mail them a query that says, “Dear Sweetie, here’s my query. Get in on the ground floor of this cornucopia of awesome, and we’ll make some serious cash. Righteously, Barbara Ann,” and they’d send for pages in the following seconds.

Or maybe not.

How thorough is your agent research? A quick scan of Publisher’s Marketplace or Query Tracker? Or do you click on every Google reference AND shell out some serious dough for the Agent’s Market book? Or are you at the stage of your career where you’re done looking or don’t yet give a shit?

Flummoxed!

So, I’m reading an agent blog, looking for whether or not he reps my kind of work, when I see in his archives a post about what he hates to see in queries.

To my astonishment, he asks people not to say science-fiction novel in their query, as it’s the same as saying science-fiction fiction. 0_0

Now, I’ve heard that agents don’t like to see I’m querying my fiction novel, as novels are, by default, fiction. And that if you have a novel that is genre-less (general fiction), you should simply say, I’m querying my novel. So, novel isn’t the word they have the problem with.

In the comments section of this particular blog, helpful readers did point out that in the words science-fiction novel, science-fiction is simply an adjective and saying it is the same as saying fantasy novel or crime novel. His response was something like, my pool, my rules, and he suggesting saying, I’m querying my science-fiction work or project. That’s fine. He can ask for whatever he likes. But he also said, I know many agents who stop reading when they see science-fiction novel.

I would never in a million years have suspected this. It seems so odd to me that this adjective/noun combo would create so many problems. My query letters have always contained the world novel so as not to be confused with graphic novel, screenplay, poetry collection or short-story collection. A science-fiction project could be any damn thing.

So, please tell me, have you ever encountered anything like this before? And those of you who’ve written queries, did you include the word novel after the adjective describing it? Please reassure me that this guy is actually a one-off.

Oil filters, how like life

So, I need to change the oil filter in my car, only, I don’t know how to change an oil filter. Internet sites dealing with this topic assume you already know something about cars. I’m definitely in unknown territory and will most-likely take my shiny new oil filter to someone who knows what they’re doing.

It made me think of how much info is out there for new writers. In a way, it’s good. In another, it’s still a little confusing. With so much info, it’s easy to get contradicting opinions. And when you’re sending off your first query and you want it to be perfect, contradicting opinions is the last thing you need.

I saw a person on one blog asking if the fifty pages an agent had requested needed to be double-spaced. Everyone exploded in the comments. “Of course it needs to be double-spaced!” They assumed she wasn’t ready for submission if she didn’t know this. She had a pretty good retort. Requested pages need to be double-spaced…except when they don’t. She cited an agent who wanted single-spaced pages. It just goes to show that there’s never an easy answer. There’s always an exception. And if you saw one agent asking for single-spaced pages, and you weren’t very experienced, it might just make you question whether double was the unspoken rule.

I’ve walked a lot of people through the submission process. I’ve been doing it a long time, and I hope I never just assume a new submitter has attained mystical knowledge about it. I hope I never jump down anyone’s throat. There’s so much knowledge out there to be processed, and sometimes, it takes a live human being to tell you that you’ve been looking at the wrong side of the car. The oil filter is actually underneath. I didn’t know that until someone told me.

Anyone got questions? Concerns? Bust them out. I really have been submitting for a long time. I’ve also been honing my craft in the meantime. If I can’t answer your submitting questions, I probably know a site that can.

Woo hoo! Freelance contract!

I got a freelance editing contract! It’s money coming in, so that’s good, but now I’ve got to be extra disciplined and make sure I spend as much time on my own manuscript as I do on this one. This is the first time I’ve ever edited a novel, so I’ve no idea how long it will take. I’m just going to do it as fast as possible while still making sure that my client gets my best work.

On an equally good note, I just wrote a love scene, and now I’m working on the morning after. It’s a good morning after, and that always puts me in a good mood. I wonder what other scenes put writers in good moods. You tell me.

Two cents are worth just that

Some of my writer friends are struggling with query letters right now. I struggle with them from time to time, and I hate them. Desperately. You have to condense your novel into a couple of paragraphs while still making it exciting and including what other stories are similar and how yours is refreshingly different. Oh, and everyone and their dog has an opinion on how they should be written. Well, maybe the dogs don’t really care…
But should you have one, two or even three paragraphs about plot? Should you jump right in with the plot or have your leading paragraph sound more businesslike? Should you include your degree in your bio? If you’re writing fiction, should you include non-fiction writing credits?
No, I can’t really answer any of those. Not only does every different person have an idea, nearly every different agent has one as well. The best you can do is to get a letter that you think looks good and exciting, include details of the plot that take up as small a bit of room as possible, and if you’re lucky enough to have credits in the realm that you’re trying to publish in, be sure to include those. After that, you’re just left with a letter you like, unless the agent or editor you’re querying has specifics for what they want, and they published those specifics somewhere you can find. One thing is for certain, you can’t please everyone.

Great big bubbling panic

Got another request for pages today, and even though I’ve had three of these (wow, three!) I’m still getting a little panicky about the whole thing. Which brings us to today’s lesson, when you get a request for pages, they’re usually sent through the mail. You must write, “Requested Material”, on the front, and then you state inside when or where the request came to you. This puts your stuff at the top of the pile. And you shouldn’t try to lie your way through this one and put requested material unless it actually was. Contrary to popular belief, agents do remember some things, and if they didn’t request it, and you say they did, that’ll probably put your stuff at the top of the trash can.