rhienelleth: (Default)
A question for all you authors, or writers who may have been through this - my crit partner, [livejournal.com profile] woodrunner has run into an unusual (to us newbies) request from the agent currently reading her full manuscript. She could sure use some advice before she fullfills their request.
rhienelleth: (mercy1)
So, I promised back when I started this journey almost two years ago, that I'd post about it as it happened. You've seen me complete the drafts, you've seen me struggle to write queries and synopses, you've seen me post query stats.

Now comes another leg on the road to publication: serious revision.

I mean, sure, I've revised before. But this is different. I debated about whether or not to post about this, but I think it's kosher so long as I'm not too specific, and this is just as much a part of the path to publication as struggling to write a good query.

Last night I talked to the agent - I say "the" because so far, she's the only one to read all of Nemesis and come back with comments for me. Because I've certainly never talked to an agent in an actual conversation before about my work, making this as much (more, in fact!) of a milestone as the first request for a partial, or the first request for a full manuscript. Okay, so I have talked to an agent about my work before - in workshop at a writing Con. But looking at a handful of pages is miles from having a professional in the business tell you what works and what doesn't in your book. Not only that, she didn't do it because I showed up to a Con and she was signed up to give a workshop. She did it because she actually read my entire book, and saw something worthwhile in it, enough to take her valuable time to write up some notes for me, and talk to me for an hour and a half and tell me what she sees.

This is a precious, rare thing, and I value it as much as if someone had handed me a rare gemstone. (And since I make jewelry, I know just how much that rare gemstone is worth!)

Let me preface this with a caveat - whenever someone critiques your work, you should take a step back, look at it, and decide what you agree with and what you might not, decide what you're going to incorporate and what you're not. Whether or not they're your best friend, best beta reader/critique partner, or whether they're a pro editor or agent. It's still your work, and you get to decide what's best for it. HOWEVER, if we're honest with ourselves, there are always parts of a book that we aren't 100% happy with. And sometimes it takes someone not as close to it as you are to see what those things are and point them out.

I can't tell you all how pleased I am with the critique I got from the agent. Will it require a lot of serious revision? Yes! Do I think the book will be better for it? Absolutely! Some of the things she said, I found myself thinking "That's such an obvious flaw/fix, why didn't I think of that when I was writing it??"

I am excited to revise, excited to get rid of those flaws and make the book better. I can already see in my head some of what I'll do differently. I look at Nemesis now and think "Wow, this is not the version I would want people buying and reading."

I'm going to be 100% honest and open about this: to start, just to start, I'm cutting the first five chapters and totally rewriting them. More than 17,000 words. Sure, I might be able to salvage a paragraph here or there, but I'm literally going to open a new doc, name it 'Nemesis2', and start fresh. I'm also going to keep a copy of Nemesis v.1 open for reference and the possible pilfering of lines and/or paragraphs. We shall see. I don't think at this point that the rest of the book will require quite the same wholesale rewriting, but you never know.

I wrote Nemesis over a four month period. I'm hoping to complete the revision in much less time. Expect word counters and updates.

And seriously, I thank that agent so very, very much. That conversation was probably the most invaluable feedback I've ever received. It made me look not just at Nemesis, but at how I structure things as I write in general. I think this will make me a better writer, especially when it comes to novel length fiction.
rhienelleth: (handbasket - marinarusalka)
I haven't posted about writing for awhile, nor querying. Well, the holidays being what they were, there was no writing to post about, and nor was there any query news to post about.

There still isn't, but I'm hopeful to hear something soon from at least one of the agents looking over material. (That would be the full manuscript - there is another agent still looking at a partial, ie, first three chapters for those uninitiated in publishing terms). Over the holidays, I've kept up reading Publisher's Marketplace, various industry blogs, message boards, etc, and I've noticed something. It's a phenomenon linked to another, i think, that is largely why I no longer participate in crit groups. It's bothered me enough, I've decided to post about it.

I know some of you out there have written, or are working on, your first or second novels. You haven't gotten to the query stage yet, and you might be looking for a crit group. There are some things you should know, both about your fellow writers, and the publishing industry as a whole. Please take this as merely my own experience talking - there are people out there far more knowledgeable than I in these matters, and not every writer's experience is the same. Still, you might find some of this helpful or interesting information.

Let's start first with critique groups, and why I no longer use them. Cut for length - this gets long. )
rhienelleth: (cats at play)
Wow, that was the fastest response time yet! Query sent - nine minutes later, a partial request! That brings my overall percentage of 'positive responses' up to 37.5%.

Of course, this partial request wants a synopsis, too, so now I really REALLY need to finish the dang thing.

Speaking of agents, Bookends has a really great post this morning about what an agent actually does to sell your book, and how much responsibility they have to to that end. Some excellent things in comments, too.


Oct. 20th, 2008 01:41 pm
rhienelleth: (mercy2)
Two rejections in two days. Sometimes it feels like you're on pins and needles waiting forever, and then the bad news all comes at once.

On the other hand, here are the current stats for Nemesis:

Queries sent: 7

Partial Requested: 1

Full Requested: 1

Rejections: 4

Still waiting: 1

So, I need to get some more queries out there. And two out of seven is 29% positive.

...and, wow, only in the world of writers and writing does 29% seem like a glowing, wildly positive number. Heck, that's almost one third!


Sep. 23rd, 2008 11:10 am
rhienelleth: (mercy1)

So I've finally gotten the query for Nemesis to a place where I'm pretty pleased with it. As in, pleased enough to actually click "send" on it if I so choose. As with Dark Vision, my plan here is to query a few agents at a time, allowing me to revise for the next wave if I decide some other wording is more effective.

For the moment, though, this is the query letter as it stands. It is 296 words in total, including the greeting and signature line, which falls within that 250-350 word "sweet spot" of query length agent Nathan Bransford talked about. Though honestly, I didn't think to check that until it was done and I was satisfied.

I'm posting it here because I know some writers on my f-list who have not yet reached the query stage themselves, who might find it interesting. Also, anyone who wants to suggest any changes, please feel free to do so! I know there are also writers on my f-list with more experience at this than I have. :)

Query behind the cut )


Aug. 22nd, 2008 10:04 am
rhienelleth: (mercy1)
Two days in a row where I'm actually in a good mood! The week is finally looking up now that it's almost over.

My sister is coming over tonight, and we're going to have a girl's night, watch movies, and work on a corset for her. I haven't done any sewing in awhile, I'm muchly looking forward to it. :) Also this weekend, I get a massage. THAT I definitely can't wait for. I so need one.

Also, I am biting the bullet and getting ready to send out a few queries for Nemesis. In the process of this, I have come back to waffling about that prelude. Sure, it sets up the universe, but now that the book is done, does the prelude really need to be there? Any of you out there who have read it, please give me your thoughts! I'm not asking if the prelude works, I'm asking if you think it's necessary. Because if it's not, it needs to go.

See? I can be ruthless.

ETA: Still hate query writing.
rhienelleth: (ironman - mizkit)
I talk fairly frequently here about writing, and querying, and basically the ongoing search of landing an agent and eventually getting published. I talk about it, obviously, from the writer's perspective, being a writer. And we do face a frustrating gauntlet of rejection, it is true.

But I also read a LOT of agent blogs, and let me tell you, I don't think I'd want to be on the other side of the desk. It's embarrassing, sometimes, the stuff that people will send in as a query. You know, I love writing. I love it like a lot of people aren't lucky enough to love their jobs - Lord knows, I don't love my day job. But I also try to treat it like a job. I'm not published**, but I try to write as if I have deadlines I have to meet - meaning I self impose deadlines, like the current one to finish this WIP by the end of May. I try to have the discipline to write via a schedule, because that's the only way to meet deadlines. And lo, doing this actually gets books finished! (But wait, that's a whole different discussion.)

Beyond the actual writing of things, before I ever sent a query letter, I researched how to do it right. Sure, my first ever submission to a publisher was years ago, when what I was writing really wasn't ready, but hey, I was young, I was excited, I wanted very badly to be published, and even with all of that, I researched exactly how to submit before I sent anything off. I followed submission guidelines, I agonized over where to position the page number on the page, how to mail the manuscript, etc, etc. Since then, I've attended many a conference panel on querying and writing effective queries, et al, and like I said, I read a LOT of agent blogs. And those agents inevitably talk about queries, and what's right to do, and what irks them that people do.

Which leads me to the whole point of this post - I know that a lot of you following my journey here may not read industry blogs with the same devotion that I do. You may not have ever heard stories from the other side of the desk. So here is a little perspective on that, from the point of view of a baffled writer who can't believe what some people will do, via various True Stories that cross an agent's desk.

Seriously, if you're going to write with the goal of professional publication, why in the heck would you not research how to properly write and submit a query? Why would you not, at the very least, read an agent's submission guidelines before sending it off? Because if you did, you would know that:

ETA: Caveat: these apply specifically to previously unpublished, unrepresented writers. The rules for published/already represented authors are somewhat different.

~ a 200,000 to 400,000 word first novel is NOT going to impress - 100K is the going size of a mass market paperback these days, with wiggle room either way by only about 30,000 words at the most. For adult, mass market paperbacks, that is.

~ Addressing an agent as "Dear Sir or Madam" does not impress them with the professionalism of your query. Instead, it tells them you didn't bother to even learn their name, much less what they represent, or enjoy reading. Misspelling their name, or addressing them by the wrong gender falls into this category as well.

~ Sending in your entire manuscript with your query, either via snail mail or as an attachment to your e-mail query, will NOT get the agent to read your novel, even if it is the next Harry Potter - I don't even have to read their guidelines to know this breaks them all to heck. No agent wants to see the entire manuscript without asking for it, and none of them like attachments without asking - seriously, we live in the computer age. Unknown attachment = virus, people.

~ DO NOT under any circumstances, query an unfinished novel, especially if you're going to lie and say it's finished. Why? Because if they DO ask to see it, this could be a turnaround time of days, maybe less, and you aren't going to have anything to send them for, what? Weeks, months, possibly years. By then, the agent has forgotten all about your manuscript, and even if they haven't, the publishing world is an ever-changing beast. What an agent is looking for this week is not what they're looking for next month, or next year. And none of that even addresses the complete lack of professionalism in querying something before you have it finished. To be perfectly, brutally honest, a huge percentage of writers never even finish the WIP they've started. Querying something you never finish isn't a good career move.

~ So, once you've sent your query and received the politely worded rejection, even if it seems unnecessarily harsh or totally impolite, do not, ever, ever, EVER write back and tell the agent what a huge mistake they've made passing on your special and unique snowflake of a manuscript, that is destined to be a million dollar bestseller. Especially do not do this, and include an angry rant about how they clearly do not understand your genius, and you find them rude and a whole bunch of other uncomplimentary things. First, this is so unprofessional, you might as well be back in grade school, throwing a temper tantrum on the playground. Second, they will definitely remember you, and not in a good way. And they will tell ALL of their agent friends about you. You do not want this. Publishing is a much smaller world than you think. And third, wow, this is the sort of thing that makes agents want to stop taking unsolicited queries. This is the sort of thing that shuts doors for the rest of us, who do try to conduct ourselves in a polite, professional manner. Thanks a lot!

~ However strong the urge to do so is, do not include 'presents' in your query. This says "psycho stalker" much more than it does "professional writer". Someday, when you have an agent, you may bake her cookies or send her chocolates. Or him. Whatever. You get the idea - when you are no longer a stranger, this sort of thing becomes acceptable. Common sense, people, common sense.

There are, you know, lots more. But these are some of the main ones I've seen listed time and time again on multiple agent blogs. And it always baffles me that people out there actually do these things. Repeatedly. Kind of like listening to my husband talk about teaching high school, and thinking "Wow, okay. So that's a job I could never do." Agenting is becoming another one of those. Because really? There's a reason I don't work customer service anymore. I have no patience at all for stupid/rude/entitled people.

** As [livejournal.com profile] kistha pointed out to me just days ago, this is actually not true. I am published, just not in novel length. I have a short story that was published a few years back. But mentally, I'm so in this realm of novels and novel publication now, honestly, half the time I forget about that. Which is strange, because at the time that short story publication was the bestest thing to ever happen. Ever. Seriously.
rhienelleth: (queen elizabeth)
So, I dusted off the query for Shuv'hani (working title) last night, the one someone *cough - not sure if I should name you?* brainstormed w/me and then wrote in an act of great generosity a couple of months back.  I sat down with the intent to fiddle with it, re-word here and there, etc, and ended up writing something new from scratch, because it just sort of (FINALLY) suddenly clicked and flowed for me.

Though I don't think it would have without that original query -- again, huge thanks to that person!

And then, because I want it as perfect and polished as possible before sending it out, I asked about someone giving it a read through for me at one of my fav writerly hang outs, the newsgroup of a particualr SF author, which happens to have a bunch of pro authors/editors and struggling writers like myself who hang out at it. The SF author kindly said I could post it, so anyone who wanted to offer advice could.

This resulted in some invaluable advice, which I'm going to re-post here behind several cuts for anyone who may be interested. I know there are several writers on my f-list who have, are, or will again need to be writing queries and synopsis.

(Also, it is a thrill to have someone like Elizabeth Moon commenting sympathetically that she, too, struggles with writing queries. !!)

So, without further ado My original query )

Okay. And here is what editor/writer Russell Davis had to say about queries in general, and then how he broke down my query in particular: Russell's comments )

Pretty informative, from the editorial side. And also makes me cringe at the idea that an agent or editor might decide my work is cliched before ever even reading it. I had to remind myself after reading this that so far, none of my betas have said "oh, sorry Rhien, but this is boring and cliched". Then i took a few deep breaths and prepared to revise. BUT before I could, another writer came forward and revised it for me, and Russell then responded to THAT by saying "John's is much better than mine", so this is what John did with my query, which pretty much blew me away:John's comments/revision )

Except then Russell came back with a comment I'd made about Parr, and the fact that I have two POV characters. Russell's further comments )

Which, yikes! I have no idea how to go about that. So far, that's the extent of the conversation. As more is said/commented, I'll post. And as I refine the query, I'll post. Hope some of what these folks had to say helps someone else out there.

More comments on query writing from John )


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