Thursday, September 27, 2007

There is an agent in the family!

Not for me yet -- I still have to finish that novel -- but my husband landed an agent for his supernatural thriller. Hoo, hah! I can take some credit because I wrote the query for him, since the one he'd written kind of rambled all over the place. After studying 700 hooks on Miss Snark's blog, I had a better idea of how to compose a query for him, and the first mailing to 10 agents resulted in about half that many requests. The agent who picked up the project has just started shopping the manuscript around. One rejection from one well-known publisher, another highly reputable publisher asked for a look. We hope there will be more good news soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Get your NaNo engines in gear

The National Novel Writing Month forums just closed for renovations prior to the October 1 opening date for registration. NaNo addicts like me are waiting with fingers poised over the keyboard, ready for NaNo pre-plotting during October, and the race to 50,000 words in November. If you've never tried it and always wanted to, how about this year?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Ah, neglect

A pity when one gets too busy and blogging falls by the wayside. It's not like I haven't been writing these past months. I have, indeed -- an entire dissertation's worth of writing (which can be read here, in case, you know, you have insomnia or something). A novel-length piece of work that was probably the most difficult writing task I've tackled yet. But it's done, and I shall march in commencement on Sunday, and no one can take it away from me. Yah!

I've also got a nibble from a publisher on a new children's science book. It looks promising, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Critique Circle - So far, not bad

There was a time, in the golden long-ago of publishing, when a fresh new author who showed sufficient talent might be nurtured along by a good editor who, in those halcyon days, actually edited.

Times have changed.

Editors fret about it, but there's no denying that actual editing is only a small part of what editors do any more. Much of what they do is manuscript acquisition, and the expectation is that those manuscripts will come in clean, shining, and ready to publish.

So who helps the author edit the manuscript? An agent?

Hahahahah.

To make a living sufficient to support even a modest apartment in New York, agents have to hustle constantly, reading queries, reading pages, hoping to find something that's marketable. It's a tough job. Editing? Not what they're paid for.

So who gets to edit your priceless prose?

You do, author.

Increasingly, the advice on writer's boards is: "Find a critique group." Fellow authors may or may not be expert critiquers, but several sets of fresh eyes may be just what's needed to spot the typos, the long passages of exposition, the boring backstory, the howlers, and other writing mishaps that you can't find because you're way, way too close to the words. There are many, many critique groups on the web.

One that I decided to try out and report on is Critique Circle.

It works like this: You sign up for free. You can't read any works at all until you sign up. Once registered, you get two free credits. You need at least three credits to submit your own work. You earn credits by critiquing other people's work. Since you're new, you can have a newbie helper look at your critique before sending it. When you have enough credits to spend, you submit a piece of writing (short story, chapter, etc, preferably under 4000 words) to the Newbie Queue. Your work goes up with the next critique round, which happens one a week. People read your work, critique it, and you get to read the critiques as you receive them. You rate the critique and send a nice thank you note.

You can submit up to three pieces, one at a time, to the Newbie Queue, or after your first newbie critique you can submit to the regular queues. The advantage to the Newbie Queue is that your work goes up at the next critique round. In the regular queues, only a set number of pieces go up at any one time, so if you don't get your work in quickly, you may have to wait another week or two for your next critique. But if you have a piece up for critique already, it will cost you double the points to have a piece waiting for the next queue. Not a problem if you are an active critiquer, but if your time is precious and you can't spare time for a lot of critiques, you may not be able to race through your novel at a chapter a week.

What makes or breaks a critique group is the quality of the critiques. For newcomers, there are examples of good and bad critiques -- if newbies read them. Newbie helpers will assist with early critiques -- if newbies make use of their services. Those are big "ifs."

So far I've had two pieces critiqued: a picture book and the first chapter of a fantasy novel. They've gathered eleven critques. Two were too short to rate, but were helpful short comments. One was terrific -- quiet long and detailed. Five were very good. Two were pretty good. And one was, "Would you please discuss the world I created instead of the cliche D&D pseudo-medieval-vaguely-Celtic world you keep trying to force it into?" The critiques confirmed what I thought might be a problem with the novel chapter (too much backstory) and also picked up some problems I wasn't able to spot (of the "Okay, what is it the main character doing here?" variety). The not-so-hot hotshot who gave the poor critique said "I don't get this, this is stupid, this doesn't belong in fantasy" to the unique features of the fantasy world I'd created, and brushed off everything else as "cliche."

Can't win 'em all. At least it's free.

There are some writing tools that I haven't explored too much yet, though the manuscript submission tracker might be useful. There's also a discussion board that I haven't delved into too much (I waste too much time at discussion boards already), communal writes to a given writing prompt, and a bookstore where Critique Circle authors can list their published books. The titles link to Amazon and the links contain an associate code, so this appears to be not only a showcase for authors but one way that Critique Circle generates income to support the site.

The other way they generate income is to offer a subscription membership. For $34 per year, there are raft of extra features and services for premium members, including setting up private queues so your fans can critique a continuous series of chapters of your latest hot novel, or fans of a particular narrow genre can trade stories with others who appreciate what they are writing.

Is it worth it? So far I'm going to say yes, it is. I have a tendency to fall in love with my own words, so hearing others say, "You know, you could have said this in half so many words" is helpful. One of my goals with my novel is to trim it by about 1/4 to 1/3, since it's already too long and I haven't even finished the ending yet. "In love with my own words" doesn't even begin to cover it. Having other readers is a tremendous help in spotting what needs to be said and what doesn't.

Whether it would be useful for you depends on how good you are at self-editing.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Publishing: Where Men are Men and Women are Wives and Daughters

The other day I was on some discussion boards, talking with Momisafan, reading comments from Momofagreatkid, trading ideas with TiffanysMom and BradsGurl. And ya know, I didn't notice anyone going by BradsDad, TiffanysBoy, or Dadofagreatkid.

You know what I'm saying here? I see a lot women online who identify themselves not as themselves but as their relationship to others. I don't see a lot of guys doing the same.

Maybe it's a social trend that somehow I haven't been privy to. Maybe it explains the rash of "woman as relationship" book titles I've been seeing on the shelves.


Here are just a few:

The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan

The Minister's Daughter by Julie Hearn

The Lightkeeper's Daughter by Iain Lawrence

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan

Mozart's Wife by Juliet Waldron

Rasputin's Daughter by Robert Alexander

So when you spot a trend like that, you wonder if it's really a trend, or if you're just noticing it because you're looking for it. Okay, to be fair, then, I figured I'd look for the So-and-so's father, husband, or son, and see how many titles I could find.

It took a lot of looking. This was all I could scrounge up between Amazon.com and Audible.com:

The Son of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Son of a Wanted Man by Louis L'Amour

The Ambassador's Son by Homer Hickam

The Keeper's Son by Homer Hickam

A Son of the Middle Border by Hamlin Garland

Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley

Notice I had to go back a bit for these titles, back to the era of "Son of Godzilla" and "Son of Hercules" and earlier. And the last title doesn't even tell us whose son is so fortunate while the second to the last is about the fellow's geographical identity. Lots of books about women who are identified by their relationship with someone else. Few books about men characterized in the same way.

I'm not sure what's up with all this. But I've noticed it, and it set me to wondering.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Writing the Query: One-hundred-and-some samples from Miss Snark

If you've not formed an acquaintance with Miss Snark, the Literary Agent it's high time you did, especially if you've been slaving over query letters and opening pages. The Divine Miss Snark ran another Crapometer contest, inviting her readers to send in a query and the first page of their novels for her commentary, and from over 450 qualifying entries, she randomly selected just over 100 of them. Hurry over and have a look.

For those who didn't get selected for a thorough snarking, Evil Editor has opened a Lottery Loser Query blog, providing even more examples of what to do and what not to do.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

How NOT to pitch to an editor

This article from the Publisher's Weekly website shows the sales pitch from the other side of the desk -- or funeral, examination table, operating room, and other highly inappropriate places where aspiring but oh-so-clueless authors have pitched their manuscripts to hapless (and sometimes helpless) editors: Weddings and Funerals and Everywhere in Between.

Consider yourself warned.