Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Awarding the Leibster and some literary agency internship questions answered

First! I'm awarding the Leibster to Matt over at Matt's Writing Lair. And thanks to the fabulous Jess McKendry nominating you for this award, Matt. For details on the Leibster Award, please see this post.

Second! I only received one comment asking me questions re: my internship, but Rena (of Doctor Faerie Godmother) provided MORE than enough to work with (thanks Rena!). As you'll see below, I've reposted her comment and added my answers in between.

Rena: Questions? Oh yeah, I'm full of questions.
me: Great! Bring 'em on!

Rena: I'm going to just make the worlds biggest comment here because I really have so many. The first, I know tons of people who say things like: "Why did this book ever get published? The characters are terrible, the language is sad, and the plot could use some help." I've always assumed that books like that made it through because of the personal preference thing: how much of that did you see?
me: The agent I worked with did pick things based on personal preference. That said, she had a pretty high standard for what she would shop around to publishers because, while an agent may have a personal preference, the publishers are less likely to. It's still a waiting and guessing game for an agent shopping a book. They have to figure out which publishers will be likely to pick up a manuscript, the same as you... it's just hopeful they will have more experience and/or contacts than you (which is why you bother with them in the first place).

Rena: Did you ever pick out a manuscript and basically get laughed down? Or was everything you liked also liked by the agent/s?
me: There were two cases where I really liked a manuscript and the agent, after she had reviewed them, rejected them. One because she wasn't feeling the backwoods southern dialect the author chose to use (I found it to be accurate and appropriate for the novel). And one because she felt it just wasn't ready yet (where I thought it was a hot YA novel that really will sell, and it may if the author gets a good editor). And then there were a couple that I really loved that she agreed with me on as well. So, yeah, there's definitely some personal preference involved. An agent has to really love a manuscript to want to take it on because they have to be in a relationship with it, and you, for at least the year it will take to sell it. Therefore, your novel could be amazing, but just not right for that agency.

Rena: How important is the query letter? Is a good query letter really going to make it, or is it all about the pages? Did the agency you working with go to pages even when the query wasn't that great?
me: The agent I worked with, as a general rule, didn't read queries. That was my job. And to be honest, there were days when I didn't look very closely at them. I would skim a query for the synopsis of the work and, if it grabbed me, would look at the pages sent as well. A query is as good as the synopsis, in that regard, because the point of it is to make me want to look at your pages. However, if your pages are terrible, no amount of great querying will help you. There were a few that I rejected just based on the fact that the query was SO terrible grammatically (how can your manuscript be any good if you can't compose an e-mail?). And there was one query that I deleted without a response because it was just plain offensive. So I guess it's important to know your audience and approach them accordingly.

Rena: Statistics, I'm sure everyone wants to know the stats: How many queries a week, how many requested manuscripts, etc.
me: I'm not sure how many came to the agent's personal e-mail, because she forwarded many to another account where we also received queries for me to read. I read anywhere between 25 and 40 queries in a week... and requested 7 manuscripts in the 2 months I was at the agency. Of those manuscripts, 2 will actually be signed, I would venture.

Rena: I know that I'm not the only one who wants to know: what made the stand out manuscripts stand out? I know this has been answered a million times, but so often the only thing people will say is "Voice," but we've all seen plenty of manuscripts with killer voice but unenthusiastic everything else (from concept to dialogue). What did you notice about the manuscripts?
me: Voice is definitely important. Also, timing. Occasionally I would read a synopsis that sounded great but when we got more pages I would find it wouldn't pan out accordingly. If the pacing of the plot wasn't just right, didn't keep me interested in what was going to happen next, then I would end up putting it aside, not recommending it to the agent. In those types of situations we would always send a note to the author explaining that while we like the idea/style/characters/etc., the manuscript still needs more editing before it's ready to be marketed. So yes, voice... but have pity on your reader! Move the plot along. (And just a note: You may never see this in your own work... which is why it is important to have someone else look at it with a critical eye. Professional edits and crit partners are a MUST.)

Rena: Did any new clients get signed while you were there?
me: Yes. One. She was the author of the first manuscript I read when I started. The last intern had requested it, but I was the first to review it... and it was amazing. I can't wait to see it on the bookstore shelves (in a year or so. It hasn't been picked up by a publisher yet, but it's really a gem of a work, so I have confidence that it will be soon).

Rena: Did you get to work on any existing clients' work? How did that go? Specifically, did you get to read any of the already signed clients' first drafts? and how did those compare to the manuscripts in the slush? What I'm trying to get at here is, in your opinion, did most of the manuscripts in the slush suffer from first-draft-to-query-itis? Would most of the manuscripts in the slush have benefited from some word smithing? Or were they doomed by concept?
me: I don't know if other agents work differently, but the agent I worked with did not want a first draft from anybody. Anything that looked like it still needed major work (and ALL first drafts need major work) was told to find a professional editor and then contact the agency again once you had followed that editor's advice to fix the manuscript. I assume that people who were signed with her already knew that. I must say I'm amazed at the amount of querying and pages sent to the agent that looked as if no one had ever read them (including the author). The best chance you can give your manuscript is to have people whose skills you trust look at your work and offer you suggestions for improvement... over and over again... maybe even through 10 revisions. The agent, and the publisher, are not going to help you fix fundamental issues. There's likely no money in it for them. Your manuscript needs to be the best that it can be before you start sending it out. A lot of rejections you get could be solved if you had a professional editor look at your work.

Rena: You know what, I think I'll stop there, but I could sure keep going.
me: Thanks for playing! I hope my answers were helpful. If you have more questions, please leave them in the comments and I'll be happy to respond!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Leibster award and internships abound

I'm starting off this post with a big THANKS to Dave at Dave Wrote This and Kathy at Imagine Today. Thanks to Dave for bestowing on me the Leibster Award, in all it's glory. And thanks to Kathy for nominating me for it!

Rules for accepting this award:
1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.
2. Nominate up to five others for the award.
3. Let them know via comment on their blog.
4. Post the award on your blog.

I like the idea of awarding this honor to 5 people who have less than 200 followers on their blog. So! If you know someone who fits that criteria and deserves a shout out, I'm leaving it up to YOU to nominate them in the comments below. I will treat these on a first come first served basis, as well. So hurry and get your nominations in!

On the internship front... this is my last week with the Agency in NYC. I am so grateful for the experience I have had there these past two months. I think that the Agent would have kept working with me forever if I had let her... but I'm not necessarily in it for the long term yet. I'm still trying to figure out my path. I have read so many queries now... and I can tell you what mine WON'T look like... I have seen how to professionally submit a manuscript for review... and I have seen that even if your novel is really amazing it's not always likely to get picked up by a particular agent.

Everything I have learned so far will, I hope, make me a better writer in the long run. We'll see.

I'm leaving the internship with the Agency after only two months, though, because I have landed ANOTHER internship... with a publishing house satellite office only 30 minutes from my home (instead of a one and a half hour train ride). I'm excited because here's a new angle of the publishing industry I have not seen yet! I'm headed from the agent's world into the publisher's world! By the time I am done interning my resume will be thick with experience!

The next challenge is what to do with all that experience.

I have one more response request. A couple of you mentioned wanting to know more about my experience the past couple of months at the Agency. There's a blog post here, that I think sums up a lot of what I have learned, but I'd like to open the floor for questions. Please ask me questions regarding the internship and I will compile and answer them in a post next week!

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Friday, April 13, 2012

5 tips for writing from C.S. Lewis

I read an article today wherein a letter from C.S. Lewis to one of his fans was described. They listed the following 5 rules as Lewis recommended them to the young person who had written him for advice regarding her own WIP. I thought the rules were worth sharing with you:

  1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn't mean anything else.
  2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don't implement promises, but keep them.
  3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean "More people died" don't say "Mortality rose."
  4. In writing. Don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was "terrible," describe it so that we'll be terrified. Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, "Please will you do my job for me."
  5. Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
Good advice for any writer to live by. Thanks, C.S. We'll take these rules to heart.

In other news, I did NOT see the fabled Matt Smith and Karen Gillan... although they did arrive on set later that evening... around 10:30 p.m. with 1,200 other fans all clamoring for their attention... Yeah, I left earlier... because it's a long train ride home and because while I LOVE Doctor Who, I'm just not that kind of girl. If they had been there earlier I would have been excited... sigh... how complacent I have become.

Although... if I had been waiting for THE Doctor, not the man who plays him on TV, I would have stayed until he came and happily run away with him in the T.A.R.D.I.S. Ya know? If only...

Photo from Wikipeida

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A girl's gotta have her Doctor Who dreams

I was totally on my way into the City today for my internship... but then what should pop up into my Facebook News Feed but a post from Doctor Who saying that they are filming in the City today! Eeek!

What is a girl to do? I could be responsible, yes... but I've done that before. And sometime's a girl needs to be ridiculous. So I ditched.

I'm crashing at a friend's place for the moment, and hoping to catch a glimpse of Matt Smith and Karen Gillan... or at least the T.A.R.D.I.S. a little later.

Likely I'll miss them altogether, but I'd hate to say I didn't try!

Sunday, April 8, 2012


In case you were wondering... this is what I do when I'm trying to distract myself from writing or obsessing over a scene that is getting me no where... (well, when I'm not lazy and watching re-runs of Doctor Who instead :)).

This is actually my first still life attempt.
I'm not usually so studious.

Noah decided he wanted to do a still life as well! Fun!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group, yay!

Hi all! It's time for a monthly installment of Insecure Writer's Support Group, as hosted by Alex Cavanaugh.

I don't know about you, but I can't believe it's already April! Where does the time get to?

I wanted to post about blogging memes today... because they make me insecure. Currently, when I look through my blog reader, it seems like I am the only person I know who is NOT doing the A-Z Challenge, a monthly meme started here.

Now, part of the reason I didn't join in was because I've been doing an internship in the City (which ends April 19th). The internship has been intense and educational and I'm SO glad I have had the chance to take part, to get dressed up professionally, commute into NYC, and learn about the art of discovering a marketable manuscript. But it takes up a lot of time! So I haven't been posting very regularly, anyhow... and the idea of writing a blog post a day within the loose theme of the alphabet (much less the more planned out themes that I see some of you are doing)... well I'm not super woman.

But also, I don't want to be a joiner just because I think I'm supposed to attach meaning to something that everyone else does. I'm not just referring to this particular challenge. There are "blog awards" and weekly/monthly memes all OVER the place! How does a girl choose between them all without feeling like she's missing out on something, or more importantly, without feeling like she's losing her blogging identity?

Obviously I am choosing. I'm participating in a meme right now! IWSG has been very useful to me - from reading other writers' insecurities to sharing my own insecurities to receiving supportive feedback. I will definitely continue to participate in this one. I just wonder, does anyone else out there besides me feels overwhelmed by the flood of daily/weekly/monthly blog memes?