Monday, June 28, 2010

Anatomy of a Rejection

Agent Jennifer Laughran of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency has a fascinating post on her blog about various stages of querying and the percentages of queries to requests to offers. See it here.

You might find the percentages discouraging but I don't, actually. If you get a personalized rejection, by Jennifer's accounting, you're in the top 15% of submitters. Not too shabby!

Yes, to only 1% of people who send her a full does she make an offer to rep them. But still - if she kind of likes something, but rejects it, there's a decent chance that another agent might like it even more.

The key, as always with subbing to agents or editors: Do. Your. Research. Check it out: 20% of the folks who sub to Jennifer get deleted without a look because they didn't follow guidelines. And it ain't hard to follow guidelines, people. If you can't follow simple guidelines in submitting your manuscript, how on earth are you going to survive when an editor gives you notes to change your manuscript? How can your judgement be trusted? Research, folks. After all the time and effort you put into your manuscript, a few minutes of agent research is more than worthwhile.

Been rejected and need some soothing? Check out her post On Rejection here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Read Your Own Book Aloud

...before you show it to agents or publishers.

I heartily recommend this method for catching typos, awkward wording, poor grammar, word repetition, voice adjustment (that is, the "voice" of your manuscript), finding inconsistencies, and much much more.

When I do it sometimes I get all dramatic and pretend I'm auditioning to read my own audiobook. But that takes longer than reading in a monotoned rush, so I usually fall back into that. Either way, it works wonders.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Today's Cuteness

I watched this whole, long thing with a giant grin plastered on my face. My cheeks hurt now, but it was worth it. Maybe it's nostalgia. My Aunt Barbara had shelties when I was a kid.

Writers, Be a Pro When You Get Notes

I got a bunch of great notes from my critique partner on my manuscript, and I'm now implementing them at speed. Most of them. No reader's notes are going to jibe 100% with your thoughts, but if you can get someone like Elisa, where it's pretty damned close to 90%, jump on that person, tie them down and force them to be your critique partner.

No, not literally, you weirdos.

Even with someone as sensitive and smart and in sync as Elisa, I find getting notes can be tough. I had lunch with my friend Ruth the other day, and she helps people write screenplays for a living. She too had the same question - why is it so hard sometimes for the writer to get notes? She gives notes all the time and sees the struggles that ensue.

Ego is the easiest answer. And that's part of it. After spending months writing something, to have someone else come along, read it once, and point out a problem means either that you're an idiot or that they are wrong. Which answer would your ego prefer? And sometimes the note-giver isn't right. But a LOT of the time they are (I'm talking about trusted note-givers here, not your grandma or butcher - DON'T give your book or script to them and expect anything useful to come out of it.) So you feel like an idiot.

But you're not, because writing is hard. It's harder than giving notes. Solving the problems is ten times tougher than pointing it out. So you're not an idiot. But your note-giver is still probably right.

And that's the other reason getting notes can be tough emotionally, because writing can be tough emotionally. Hell, it's tough all over. I find that I get so enmeshed in tying up one thread, I'll forget another. Or (and this happens CONSTANTLY in my writing) I assume I've made something perfectly clear when in fact it's as murky as the Gulf of Mexico. (Don't get started on the oil spill. Just... grrrr!) I resist telling people flat out what's going on. I want them to infer it. And sometimes that works. Sometimes, especially in a book, you just need to fricking spell it out. You don't have actors saying your words to help add emotion or a great director shooting your scenes to imply something with a camera angle or spot of light.

Writers can get too close to the material and lose perspective. You may know your book better than your note-giver. You may know these characters like you know yourself. But just as a good friend can sometimes point out a pattern in your own behavior that you never recognized, a good note-giver can do the same for your manuscript.

So be a pro. Take the notes with a smile even if your heart trembles with pain and rage. Then put the manuscript down, and take a walk, hug your dog, or have a nice glass of Toasted Head chardonnay while watching True Blood. Then go back and realize how the note will help you make your book better and go for it.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Rewriting on Vacation

...can happen. It helps to have a father who is also a writer. And a mother who gets it. And a laptop. And a book you're very motivated to finish.

But I won't be done by the end of the vacay, alas. Perhaps by mid-June. Then - watch out world!

Hope you all had a marvelous Memorial Day.