8.04.2005

Miss Snark is bored...so fucking what

Comes a Snarkling:

I have now seen two comments (one from you and one from another
writer/blogger) about being bored with serial killer plot devices. On the
one hand, they do seem overused, but on the other, stories featuring them
continue to be published.

We writers constantly hear that we should write for ourselves and not for
the market, and many crime writers (along with readers) continue to have a
morbid fascination with serial murder. Obviously the more creative and/or
understated the better (as in "The Lovely Bones"), but where do you
personally draw the line? Do you think other agents and editors share your
boredom, and are thus less likely to accept serial-killer books? If so,
isn't there an implication that writers should in this case adhere to the
market?


Do not, repeat NOT, think of what Miss Snark likes or dislikes about content.
You have heard "write for yourself" and that is good advice.

That being said, you DO need to bring something new to the table. Fresh perspective, fresh vantage point, fresh vision. So, yes, I'm bored with serial killers. It's cause they all seem the same and I want something new. If you bring me serial killers told from the perspective of the goldfish, and you make it work, you've got me.

The cover letter comes into play here. If you say "my book is about serial killers" even if the writing pages are good, I'm less likely to bite. In fact, not likely at all.

BUT if your cover letter says, "it's about serial killers and this is what's new fresh exciting and is going to keep you reading SnarkieBaby"...then I'm gonna read.

But in general you must write for your own vision. If you want to do serial killers, do it.

Horrifying as it is, and I know this will come as a severe shock to you, Miss Snark's taste is not the taste of the world. It should be of course, and she's working on implementing that, but so far, it's still in negotiation.

3 comments:

Rene said...

I think what is disheartening is when you submit something that is unique to an agent and you get rejected because although they liked the writing and thought it was strong, the agent didn't feel they could market it. I have received at least 3 rejections that made that statement. When I submitted my first ms (which was utter and complete crap) I got rejected based on the locale and time period. It never got a chance to be rejected based on its crappiness.

Sorry to whine, but we keep hitting triple digits and I'm trapped with three mini-orcs all day. I get crabby.

Anonymous said...

Rene, It's striking that you posted this just after I sent the following email to Miss Snark:

The Chinese have a curse, "May your children be
artists."

I may have a related problem. More than one agent has
responded to my narrative nonfiction submission with
something like, your writing is terrific, funny,
poignant, blah blah, but I wonder about the commercial
potential of your book. I don't think they were bs-ing
me. These are personalized, non-form responses. They
respond with enthusiasm to my sample material, but
after seeing my proposal or just thinking it over some
more they say something like I don't think I could
sell it to a major house. For all I know, you might be
one of them.

What's a struggling artist to do?

Are they simply lacking in vision?

Or are they just not sharing my vision and it's a
matter of time before I find one who does?

Are they correct in their assessment and should I turn
my talents to other perhaps more formulaic projects?

Am I doomed to small, independent, and university
presses?

Christa M. Miller said...

Thanks, Miss Snark. Two comments may not make a whole trend, but looking at the glut of serial murder books out there made me wonder if it was a dying fire.

And yes, I agree there's a very fine line between writing something creative and writing something unmarketable. Is the answer a fusion of literary and commercial elements - like "The Lovely Bones" or "House of Sand and Fog" or even the 87th Precinct books?

Not that we should set out to write like Sebold or Dubus or McBain - that crosses the "writing to the market" line, IMO - more like nailing down the story first, letting it come directly from us, then considering how to put it across.