Yes, we have a nitwit winner today

Dear Miss Snark,

When a writer is directed to include 5 pages of a manuscript, what is expected? The first 5 pages starting at Chapter 1, (double spaced with 1.5 margins all around) or the first 15,000 words (approximately 5 pages of a printed book, genre pending)? Would a good snarkling also include the title page and prolog, should one exist? If so, is this part of the 5 page count?

ok, here's a MAJOR clue about directions: follow them.
ok...let's break this complicated theory down to small steps.

"When a writer is directed to include 5 pages"
...notice it says PAGES. Not words. Not phrases. Not bon mots. Not even pearls before svine-golly, no.

"Pages" means just that. Pages of your manuscript. Your manuscript is not a book yet, and directions are written for the form you are submitting in. Thus, we say "pages" and mean 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper, not trim cut stylish pages fresh from the webfeed.

"Five pages" means pages of the writing. Not title pages. Not pages of dedication.
Not pages quoting po-ems that illuminate the dialoge on page 72.

"Five Pages" means pages 1-5 that start with something like "Miss Snark set her hair on fire and then sat down to answer this question. KY arrived and commented that her 'do was particularly hot this evening".


Bill Peschel said...

Gentle Author also needs to brush up on his math skillz. Books can have between 250-350 words per page. Five pages equals 1,250-1,750 words, not 15,000 words.

And, yes, I used a calculator to figure that out; I know my limits.

Anonymous said...


PJD said...

Following up on anonymous' comment (the first anonymous up there, which may be moderated out by the time this gets moderated in):

What if I want to do my first five pages in text messaging format? That is, shorten words and phrases? I am no expert in that format, being just at the fringe of Gen X, but it seems that one could, perhaps, get to 15,000 words in five pages in this case. For example:

"MS st hr fir, sat 2 nsr q. KY sed do wuz hot." This uses approximately 20% of the physical space that the venerable Miss composed. Still does not get us to 15,000 in five pages (more like 6,000), but a tremendous improvement, no?

McKoala said...

But hard to read pjd! For us old folks over 12 at any rate.

Mindy Tarquini said...

I dunno PJD, words just aren't the same without the vowels. One could achieve a metaphorical 15K words by removing all the nouns and most of the verbs, squeezing it all down in a kind of literary black hole or letting it suck out through a vocabulary vortex.

Miss Snark? If I included the title page anyway, is it permissible to skip that first paragraph where I recount the title and word count and what not? That way I could squeeze in two more lines of description or maybe find room to tell you about my cats or my most recent trauma in the swimsuit fitting room.

Anonymous said...

"MS st hr fir, sat 2 nsr q. KY sed do wuz hot."

This looks much like a 'troll post' over at Making Light... they get 'disemvoweled'. It's too cute, and frustrating as hell for the p'o'ed troll.

Maybe TNH will share the script that makes this happen?

And yes, 5 pages means 5 manuscript pages. How could it not?

The more common question I've seen on this subject is, 'should I start with the prologue or with Chapter 1'? But that leads to the dreaded prologue-wars, which intermittenly flare up across the internet like white phosphorus fires under an artillery range (my summer job back in the Reserves). So let's all pretend I didn't mention the 'P' word, okay?


Anonymous said...

My goodness. It is clear, MS, that you were expected to abandon your usual tone and address this query in a special and sensitive manner. Or perhaps anonymous in not the author of the query, but rather a web-wandering Tourette syndrome sufferer?
No, wait! A spourned suitor of KY!

none said...

Evidently, that anonymous mistook Miss Snark's blog for the toilet stall they're usually published in.

Anonymous said...

tsk, tsk, Anonymous - such language! I take it you're the nitwit (and foulmouthed too - what a winner) - if you couldn't stand the heat, you should never have stepped into the kitchen!

Please excuse him, Miss Snark! Some of us just ain't got no brought upcy as my gran used to say.

Unknown said...

Oh how charming, Anonymous. (Note heavy sarcasm!)

pjd, even knowing what Miss Snark had written herself, I found that incredibly difficult to understand. It might be due to the time of day and the fact I'm not 100% fully awake or to something else. I'm not saying that something like that should *never* be used, but if it is used, it should be done very sparingly.

girl on top said...

It's sad how just a bit of gentle disapproval can turn our anonymous children against us so quickly.

Anonymous said...

Still no beverage alert: will Miss Snark never learn?!

And to first anonymous: quite a sense of humor you got going there.

Lizzy said...

I've had the best luck with fanning the manuscript out like a deck of cards and having my husband pick five random pages. A unicorn sticker and a row of staples across the top and voila! ready for submission!

Emmy Ellis said...

Oh dear re:post.

Laughing quite hard re: anon's comment - because it is anon!

If you have something to say, say it in your own name! It's not as if we KNOW you either way! We can't see you!

Lord that was funny.


Anonymous said...

If correction and rejection hurts you so badly, perhaps you should forget about writing.

Cynthia Bronco said...

Would anonymous's word count be 2 or 3?
Anyway, I'm relieved that the title page doesn't count. I'd just sweated over the same question and am most likely a nitwit.

Sarah said...

Fifteen thousand?? That has to be a typo. 1,500 maybe. 15,000 words in manuscript format is more like 50 pages. I doubt actual books cram that much in 5 pages.

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing, Miss Snark, and the reason we have to keep writing in all these nitwit questions--everything that's common sense to you is completely foreign to us. It's not like doctor slang or lawyer lingo that we can pick up from TV. Even within the publishing community, when someone asks for an outline/summary/synopsis/short summary/short synopsis, it could mean anything from one to twenty pages. You're PO'd if someone uses Ms. instead of Miss, even though honorifics are insanely hard to find because nobody uses them in directories or online. The guidelines are obscure, often contradictory, and little things can get you written off.

Which is why I'm very grateful for your blog, and the chance to get some of this explained. But I'm not sure anyone deserves to be tarred with the nitwit brush for trying to be as anal as the ones who will receive the query!

Anonymous said...

And I thought my morning started off bad. Thanks for the laugh.

Georgia Girl

Elayna said...

Hmmm, maybe there should be a show. Call it "Slush." I'd watch it.

Anonymous said...

dear m.e. ellis,
re: "If you have something to say, say it in your own name! It's not as if we KNOW you either way!"

I'm not the foul-mouthed anon above, neither am I the nitwit in question [who admittedly may be one and the same]. But I think I should point out that urging people to say what they have to say in their own name on a blog run by an anonymous agent strikes me as hilarious.

And most of the IDs here are just as anonymous as plain old 'anon', so what's your point?

Mark said...

Maybe the poor bastard got "disemvowled?"

lizzie26 said...

Wait a minute--no one noticed "genre pending?" Or am I reading his/her question wrong? The manuscript better be complete and you better know the genre before you submit. Duh.

Anonymous said...

I will take you seriously, o Confused Writer (wuz there m'self at one point, and frequently at this time also):

I'd set your margins to 1" unless the publisher's guidelines specifically state to use 1.5". I haven't seen a pub site yet that recommends such big margins. And you will get more of your MS pages into their hands--this is a good thing, no?

I wouldn't bother sending the prologue. Like many Faithful Snarklings, as a reader I just skip 'em. Start with the action!


Miss Snark said...

Dear Last Anon:
it's not that you're anon, on an anon blog. The point to a name is that it separates you from the "others"...unless of course you are THE anon in which case that call caps "FUCK U BITCH" is probably the funniest thing I've read today on a blog about writing and publishing.
Oh wait, you're not that one?

Anonymous said...

and if you can't think of a name just choose your verification word!

Anonymous said...

This information is covered in every beginner's writing class, and if you ever attend a conference and listen to editors or agents talk about submissions, they'll always say send the first five pages. Not the five pages you think of as your best writing, THE FIRST FIVE PAGES. It's really very simple - why make a Rubic's cube out of it? And, oh my yes, "FUCK U BITCH" is quite original and clever isn't it? I must admit, it made me chuckle.

Stacia said...

LOL Lizzy!

And oh, maybe if we're lucky that first anon will come back one day to let us all bathe in the glow of his/her eloquence.

Anonymous said...

I've apparently been known to say some shocking and controversial--and unpopular--shit in my day (or even yesterday,haha), but at least I own up to it.

Really, anon the first, there's nothing clever about F*** U B****. There isn't even anything shocking or controversial. You'll have to do better than that, if you want to impress the likes of me.

Maya Reynolds said...

When I saw the 15,000 words and "genre pending," I thought for sure this was written tongue-in-cheek.

Writers need to understand that, when they indicate they want to submit pages 24 to 29, they are essentially saying, "My first 23 pages were just me warming up. On Page 24, I really get down to business."

Anonymous said...

not anon #1 said:

"But I'm not sure anyone deserves to be tarred with the nitwit brush for trying to be as anal as the ones who will receive the query!"

I agree. While the question showed a lot of naivety on the writer's part, at least he/she asked.

Before this blog came along, I had no idea that "query" meant "send 5 pages" to most agents. But not ALL agents. A writer I know was scolded by a top NY agent for sending the first 5 pages. And no, his guidelines didn't say "letter only."

On Monday, PubRants agent Kristin suggested that sending an e-query on Memorial Day was inappropriate. (As if those writers really were expecting Kristin to be in her office on Memorial Day.)

Most of us are doing are darndest to get this submission thing right.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Well, this is confession time. I managed to send material to a major publisher without reading their web site.

Instructions? You mean there are instructions? I got a very nice "not for us" letter back. It didn't mention that I'd been a total twit!

I learned my lesson. I'm being good. Some of the publishers who take author submissions will answer your questions via email.

Edge Press, a Canadian SF/Fantasy publisher managed to impress the devil outa me with an email. Very professional. Very nice. Small press? Certainly. But high on my list at the moment. And they appreciated it that I asked my questions before submitting.

AND ... anon. No. 1, you, the rude idiot! Shame, shame, shame.

I bet you've spent your life cussing out everyone who's ever pointed out you inability to function in life. Yup. I do. I'd win a bunch on that bet ... if anyone was silly enough to take it.

Anonymous said...

I just loved the way that the first anon used all caps. Writers use all caps for their proposed titles in their query letters. Therefore, I am all aflutter waiting to read the fabulous tome which surely must be attached to "FUCK U BITCH." I just think, as query letters go, there's a little left to be desired in the description here -- and I'm not even an agent, so I don't have a lot of queries against which to compare it.

If it's not a book, well, then, it was just the biggest laugh of the morning. He/she dug deep down into his soul and coughed up this tasty quip? Wowzers! Ooo! I'm in awe of such scathing reproof! -- *Not*.

Anonymous said...

This whole post makes me sputter with laughter.
Can Anon not come up with something more original? I mean talk about cliche!
I'm anon but not anon, because I swear much more colorfully than that.
Hey do you think its the Baue lady? So far we haven't seen any responses from her!
Oh, now I'm stirring the shit stick, *sigh* its probably not fair-con- person lady agent but one of her mini-me's.

Emmy Ellis said...

I see your point, anon, regarding the 'other' anon! Of course, I'm forgetting that not everyone here uses their real life name on blogs anyway, as I do. *Slaps self on head, hard!*

I tend to forget Miss Snark is anon herself, so your point was well made!

Of course what I meant was, anon could have at least used some kind of blogger account name to be so abusive. The fact that it was anon was showing us that they didn't have the balls to be themselves, or at least a named persona. Which in turn shows that anon knew that abusive term wasn't exactly a very nice thing to do.

Still, it was funny either way! Rather like a small child shouting at an adult from behind a wall and running away.


I'll blame my dopey comment on...well, me being dopey today! Have a nice day everyone - including anons!


Anonymous said...

Maybe the desire to send more words than you need to is because you're thinking - not enough "happens" in the first five pages.

This problem might be solved by taking out all the adverbs and adjectives. In this way you can get a little farther along in your story.

Or, you could start the book where the action starts. Just a thought. :)


Anonymous said...

Mr/Ms Anonymous #1 has apparently not spent a lot of time on this site to understand the term *nitwit* - we've all been there at some point (at least I have!) and we're grateful that Miss Snark points it out before we put the stamp on the envelope.

Anonymous said...

Dear Miss Snark,

I am the anon who wrote "And most of the IDs here are just as anonymous as plain old 'anon', so what's your point?" to m.e.ellis.

I gather, MS, that you're not happy that I pointed out that you yourself are blogging anonymously, hence the hilarity of ellis' take on the 'anon' issue.

You yourself could have posted the silly FUCK U BITCH post, just for the fuss it would kick up. Any other Snarkling with an ID could also have done it. Come to that, it's possible that, as everywhere else on the net, people assume multiple IDs just for the fun of it. It has even been suggested that Miss Snark is not one person, but a group. And that's not entirely impossible.

So, my argument stands. 'Miss Snark' is anonymous. Many of the people who comment here with IDs are anonymous. And those of us who aren't interested in cultivating a persona here post as 'anon'. We don't know who the others are, and I for one don't want to know. If that means that the legions of us who post as 'anon' will be branded as the same anon with the restroom post, then that's just plain stupid. And the bottom line is that it does not matter. This is a terrific blog, and I come here for fun and info, not to find out exactly who is making a potty-mouthed fool of himself.

Thank you, m.e.ellis, for your greeting to me and all the other anons. I appreciate your point of view, and am glad to see that mine was taken in the spirit in which it was given. You have a nice day too!

Mark said...

It continues to be somewhat bold, or perhaps unwise to use your own name. Problem is once it's done it's too late.

Anonymous said...

That first anon is not a writer. I think writers generally have evolved beyond the point of yelling inarticulately FUCK YOU BITCH when they're ticked off. We really know how to wound with words when we want to. That post is either a joke or the work of the seriously language-challenged.

Probably a troll passing through, and Shael is very likely right about his inability to function anywhere, not just on a writing blog.

Thank heavens for the net - it gives deranged people a safe place to be weird.

AzGhostWriter said...

I did just miss something, again. I could have sworn that when I read the comments before "fuck u bitch" was all in lower case.


Anonymous said...

Of course the only thing I could think of after reading THAT anon was, "Is school out for summer already?" The kids are running loose again on the internet. AAAaayyyyyy!

Anonymous said...

I suspect this is the kind of person when you tell them to turn right ask you which right.

Anonymous said...

I think it's hilarious that so many people have commented on the lack of originality and cleverness in the first Anon's post. Yep, I'll bet that's exactly what Anon was striving for, but he/she just couldn't come up with the goods.

When people are angry, they just want to vent, and what FU lacks in originality, it makes up for in traditionalism. Maybe you brilliant writers say something witty and original when you stub your toes, but most people I know say something like "Shit!" That doesn't mean they're incapable of originality under other circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Stubbing your toe and bellowing "crap on a cracker!" or something is not the same as typing out a message, clicking on "anonymous," and then destroying your eyes trying to decipher the word verification before publishing your comment. One would think that if I can consciously choose not to say the F-word in front of my mom after nearly severing a toe with a shovel, Mr. Anonymous could have come up with something more original than FUCK U BITCH.

otto said...

The first anonymous comment was most likely just spam. They do this just to get goggle hits sometimes, or just to mouth off on random sites.

Anonymous said...

I prefer the word "jackass" to "fuck you." When you scream "FUCK U BITCH," everyone looks at you. When you yell "Jackass!' everyone looks at the ass.

- not anonymous

nlp said...

Hello All --

The 'anon 1' was not the response of the nitwit. However, it was the response of one who may very well be a nitwit.

I am aghast. And I am ashamed. The kitchen is hot. I get it.

We claim to be aspiring authors who believe we have something to say. What is the benefit of acting like hellions? Do we believe the pen in mightier than the sword or not? Books change the world because they can change people’s minds. Swords oppress... even those the sword claims to protect. We all know the old adage -- live by the sword, die by the sword. So I ask -- which do you wish to be? A world changer or an oppressor.

Beware of the choice.


T2 and djt -- thank you.

Sharon Maas said...

"We don't know who the others are, and I for one don't want to know. If that means that the legions of us who post as 'anon' will be branded as the same anon with the restroom post, then that's just plain stupid. And the bottom line is that it does not matter. "

You miss the point, Anon number xxx.
The reason most people don't like anonymous comments is just so that they can maybe address those comments without having to go back and count.
It's really hard to carry on a conversation - which is what a comments thread often grows into - if everyone is anonymous. We don't mind the anonymity but the confusion of having several posters with the same name. Because yes, anonymous is a name.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I've got a great idea. I think Miss Snark should run a new contest. How about a contest for a one page synopsis on the FUCK U BITCH manuscript. Bet we could all come up with some pretty funny ones.

And Kis, omg, you cracked me up, Said there was nothing shocking about it, but couldn't even bring yourself to type it. Used all those *** instead. Thanks for the funny.

Anonymous said...

Delilah way upthread -- you should know by now that just entering Miss Snark's kingdom means everything is under a beverage alert.

Though perhaps something like the terrorism warning system would work. For example: "The beverage alert code for the day is: Orange."

Emmy Ellis said...

Anon who wrote the 'Dear M.E Ellis' above.

Of course your post was taken in good spirit. Life is too short to quibble over something like this!

These comments have got even funnier as more and more anons reply. The confusion as to who may be who is giving me a good chuckle.

Great idea to do a synopsis on FUCK U BITCH. What a great laugh!


Anonymous said...

Hey kiskadee,
All you have to do is copy and paste the little bit of comment that you want to respond to if the writer is anon. It's not hard.

But I do see your point, since some people go: 'anon #846 - or is it #938 - whatever! the one who said..."

I might even change my stubborn stance and get an ID one day if I'm convinced that not having one is REALLY posing this HUGE problem for others on the comment trail...

Still anon

Anonymous said...

Oh, that's too complicated. Just pick a stupid name, for God's sake. It doesn't have to be your own, and you can change it any time you like in case you think the internet pottymouth police are after you.

I'd get a bigger headache than the one I already have if I have to pick through all the anonymouses and find their numbers in order to respond.

Oh, yeah, I don't really respond to anything specific - just the general mood of the thread.

Hi Kis! Hi Buffysquirrell! I'm supposed to be watching hockey but I'm just listening with one ear. No. No. I'm supposed to be writing!!!

I didn't need the clue gun for this thread - I know I have to send the FIRST five pages (title not included) but I've cheated and maybe snuck in an extra page so my stuff wouldn't end in the middle of a sentence.

BUT... I guess I was clueless enough to provide insufficient postage. Being from Canada, maybe the agents forgave me. I still got rejections, though (sigh).

Anonymous #1: Save your knee-jerk comments for the bar. Hopefully the one with big bikers with PMS.