Where Art Thou, Oh Crapometer?

Dear Miss Snark,

I am a newish snarkling and have never had the pleasure (breakdown of all that is sane and sensible) of submitting to the crap-o-meter. I hear it is on a summer/winter schedule and since summer is quickly approaching I wanted to make a request.

From all your amassed wisdom it
seems that the first page is an author's most important tool for snagging an agent. I like my query letter and have no idea about my synopsis, but it is my first page that I lay awake at night fretting over. I would love to see my ambiguous fears spelled out into something more helpful (Crap Crap Crap(or maybe not)). Would you consider convincing the crap-o-meter to eat first pages this summer?

Crap or Not Crap that is the question.

Lord(andTaylor) love a duck, y'all are just in a frenzy for Miss Snark to eviscerate the sweat of your brow. This is the fifth email in as many days pining for C'ometer. Are you guys all nuts or what??

Yes, it's summer. Miss Snark has her summerweight suit and Killer Yapp his straw boater. Of course, we both have sun specs; KY's are festooned with red hearts, Miss Snark's are red cat's eyes.

The crapometer left town as soon as the clocks sprang forward, but the NYC Film Bureau reports the crapometer is currently filming a documentary in a maximum security facility in an undisclosed location. Wrap up or jail break, which ever comes first, will be announced here as it happens.

Meanwhile, Elektra's crapometer picks up the slacker's slack, and I believe there are some other places that do this too. Throw yourself at Elektra and offer bribes.


kis said...

The main difference between the Elektra's crapometer and yours, Miss S, is that you are an agent with the experience to back it up, and the critiquers on Elektra's, though helpful, are aspiring and mostly unpubbed authors. They do a wonderful job, and make many helpful suggestions, but they are not professionals. So please, bring it back!

Jim Oglethorpe said...

"Yes, it's summer. Miss Snark has her summerweight suit and Killer Yapp his straw boater"

That is just f-n hilarious.

Chumplet said...

Oh, crap! More bribes? Sorry, I don't ship to the U.S.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I think Elektra's crapometer is very helpful. I would like another shot at the real Snarkie Crapometer too.

What I really need is a good, long vacation to the sunny shores of some atol off the coast of Oregon. Hey, do they have atols off Oregon's coast? Don't, do they? Just a buncha rocks. Ok, so I need a BIG rock all of my own for a couple of weeks. Anyone want to watch kids for two weeks? Feed the goats? Got body armor?

Snarkling In Dixie said...

The Crapometer reviewing first pages would be a true act of mercy for us all. That first page has such a big job to do, we could all use a little help with it.

I love Elektra's crapometer but the comments lack your snarkly wisdom and I understand that you haven't visited there in a while.

The great thing about your comments is that we learn from all of them -- whether we authored the piece or not -- and we never doubt that you know your stuff.

Elektra said...

Bribes shall be accepted in the currency of stamps and ink cartidges (though a pair of labradors say that Milk Bones will not be turned away either)

Michelle said...

I vote that you bring back the Crapometer but limit it to the first 25 or 50 entries so it doesn't drive you insane. :)

Miss Snark said...

I think the last one had 100 entries and the window was 24 hours (I haven't double checked..that's just memory) so I will need to limit it.

Any suggestions on HOW to best limit it will be gratefully received.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Limit it to the first 10 paragraphs of a first chapter. Limit submissions to a twelve hour window.

OR, limit it to people who own goats. ok, maybe poodles too. and no cats allowed!

snarkling in dixie said...

One way to limit would be to give the same 24 hours for entries but based on the understanding that not all submitted will be reviewed. Miss Snark could pick the 25 or 30 first pages that she thinks illustrate some common errors or that (not mine but someone else's perhaps)manage to avoid those errors.

Another possibility, (less favored because we would all like to learn from the great one) does Miss Snark ever collaborate? Wonder if evil editor or some of Miss Snark's colleagues would be willing to anonymously take on any overflow pages?

Elektra said...

Perhaps no one who subbed to the COM before can submit?

Chumplet said...

Let's give Elektra a shot! Does she offer her own input as well as those of her followers?

Don't forget, although Elektra's critiquers may be unpubbed authors, they are still readers. In the end, we are all trying to attract the attention of READERS.

Getting the attention of an agent is a different battle.

Poor Mademoiselle Snark deserves a break. I missed the last Crapometer session, I'll keep my eyes peeled for the next one. In the meantime, I plan to pay Elektra a little visit.

I wish I could do it personally, but now that my third boss gave me a third job on top of the first two, when am I going to have time to take a week off?

Man, I have to get back to writing!

BuffySquirrel said...

Many writers make poor readers, imo. They're too hung up on counting evil adjectives and noticing how many adverbs you've stupidly used and trying to persuade you to eliminate "the" and counting any, any, ANY occurrence of the verb "to be" as passive tense (sic) and trying to remember which are the "inactive" verbs and looking for the one single unique occasion on which you haven't used "said" in a dialogue tag and "correcting" your British spellings to have anything useful to say about, yanno, the story.

It is often useful to remind yourself that you are not, in the main, writing for other writers. Unless you're writing short stories in the SFF genres. Then you're screwed.

Elektra said...

Add to bribe list: high praise.

Note to self: offer chumplet first COM priority

M. G. Tarquini said...

hmm...how about limit it to the first 250 words and keep the submission window short...six hours or so?

just have people complete the sentence so you,re not left hanging.

McKoala said...

What happened buffysquirrel? Hope it wasn't Elektra's Crapometer.

I agree, it would be lovely to see Miss Snark's Crapometer chomp up some of our work. I can't approve a short admission window, though, as some of us in different time zones might miss it entirely due to needing at least some sleep. Picking the best/worst for instructional purposes is a good suggestion, but it still means Miss Snark has to read them all. Limiting length could be misleading - it's hard to discuss something that hasn't really started.

You could limit it to regular contributers, but that seems a bit mean and how do you define that anyway? How about random selection? Reading, say every fifth entry? Multiple submissions would be eliminated instantly.

Oh my, oh my, maybe the Crapometer should just stay in jail for a while.

December Quinn said...

I agree, please don't limit it by so short a time period. It's usually about 3-4 am here when you post, as near as I can figure, which barely gives me time to wake up and get the kids breakfasted/off to school before I check my email and the deadline's already gone.

I think the best suggestion is to skim them all, pick the ones you think illustrate a particular point or that are especially un/attractive for whatever reason, and go with a few of those. I'd suggest picking those who've never subbed before, but that's kind of biased since that's me.

Or just don't bother. It's an awful lot of work for you, and considering the number of entries the Bat Segundo contest got...I think we'd all understand if you said, "No more".

-c- said...

I suspect that when you actually do read pages attached to your queries, you do not read a whole first page, or sometimes a whole paragraph.

If this is true, I would love it if you stopped where you actually would stop (even if it was after the first sentence), told us exactly where and why (even if that amounted to "the writing isn't good enough"), and moved on. I know I'd love to see where I lost you.

And if you need to limit further, why not just open submissions for 24 hours, read like you would read your own slush, and put a time limit on yourself. X hours, then you quit? Read in the order they come in.

December Quinn said...

Oh, and by the way, incorporating advice from Elektra's COM led me to a sale...so I wouldn't sell it too short.

Elektra said...

I've been meaning to E-mail you about that, December Quinn--have you got a link where we can buy your book? I wanted to post it at the COM, but keep forgetting to ask you.

December Quinn said...

It isn't out yet, E...still waiting for my release date. Hopefully I'll have some idea soon.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

-c- said...

"I suspect that ... you do not read a whole first page, or sometimes a whole paragraph. ... I would love it if you stopped where you actually would stop ..., told us exactly where and why ... and moved on. I know I'd love to see where I lost you."

This is a great idea! If you take on the strain of another Crapometer adventure, let's do it this way!

You will have to limit it by a word count too, otherwise you'll get entire manuscripts.

Even Bill E. Goat likes this idea.

kis said...

I would never disparage Elektra's crapometer--the commentors there found a lot of things in my pages I agree needed to change, and about two-thirds of their advice was right on the money, IMO. There are taste issues, but that will occur anywhere. But Buffysquirrel has a point, too.

Honestly, I don't know where some of the critiquers find the time and energy to do those agonizing, line-by-line nitpicks. Do they have kids? Do they have JOBS? There are four blogs I try to visit every day, but I don't always have time to leave more than a comment or two. Sometimes I can't even get to all the posts. Visiting blogs isn't what I do instead of writing. It IS what I do instead of housework [turning to stare hopelessly at an unmade bed swamped in dirty clothes].

The nitpicks CAN get a bit out of hand, and I can see how an author might get discouraged when a critiquer finds something wrong with every other sentence. Especially if the general feedback--did you find it interesting, were the characters believable, would you read on?--is overwhelmed by them. Those who are serious about writing can often get carried away with it. Miss Snark, on the other hand, is more succinct in her evaluations. Rather than a 70-item list of grammar/spelling/stylistic errors, she gives us: "Too much passive voice," or "Unbelievable dialogue," or "Too many adverbs," or even, "I just didn't like the main character."

In many cases, that can be even more helpful.

wd ver: nereb. I think I'll name someone that.

Anonymous said...

-C- is onto something. I too would love to know exactly where I lost your (most illustrious) attention.

Chumplet said...

La, la, la! Coming soon to a blog near you: First nine pages. Please be kind.... (erk!) Thanks, Elektra! Please visit, Miss Snark! And Kis, and Buffy, and Oh, Mr. Evil One and Only.... and George, especially if you play hockey.
(I feel like I'm standing on a stage with my underwear on - or less - with a spotlight on me.) Please don't laugh. It's just a bit of temporary weight gain.

Robin L. said...

You could just limit it to the first 20 received, or pick at random your favorite 20. Anything to bring back the crap-o-meter!!!

kis said...

I most certainly will visit, fellow Canuck Chumplet! The crapometer is one of my favorite haunts, and I do love it, but I recognize its limitations, as well. Voice and style are clearly subjective issues. Because critiquers are naturally biased (even more than your average reader because they are also writers) you can end up sitting there with your lower jaw on your computer desk, wondering how on earth you ever could have thought you were good when these guys can find soooooo much wrong with it. (How's THAT for a run-on sentence!)

I'm not saying they're not helpful, because they are. And I'm not saying they aren't right, because often their opinions are bang-on. I'm not even saying they're discouraging, because they all go out of their way to point out things you did right. But there's something to be said for getting one person's opinion of your writing (whether they like it or not) without the accompanying mile and a half of info and numerous dissenting viewpoints.

Miss Snark is an agent. She makes a living in this business. That means I will give her opinion more weight than even the most detailed critique.

-ril said...

The Elektra and the Snark crapometers are indeed beasts of different colours.

Miss Snark gives everyone what they are really looking for: an nod from an insider. A publishing professional who is giving an opinion on whether the work is worth a damn or not. It's a one shot thing, though: so comb your hair, polish your shoes and wipe your nose.

Elektra's site is a peer group - everyone is (assumed to be) essentially in the same boat. Unpublished, aspiring amateurs. So the feedback is not as pointed as Miss Snark's, but it tries to be constructive.

A big plus with Elektra is you get lots of points of view. Some are right; some are not so right; some conflict. It's all feedback, take what is useful, discard the rest. No one has all the answers. As long as enough people contribute feedback, you're going to get a pretty comprehensive view of your work - plot, viewpoint, character, technical structure: it's all important.

I always worried I was weak on story, but pretty much OK on grammar, punctuation, etc. until I got called out on technicalities on Elektra's site. That was valuable to me.

I hear the argument that the grammatical nit-picks can be discouraging if taken out of context. Fair enough (although it is one key aspect of the craft of writing).

For those who do have the interest, time and energy to critique at this level, though, I would hesitate to suggest they are neglecting their jobs or families: they may just be trying to invest time in improving their own craft, and hoping to help others in the process.

Miss Snark helps us from one perspective; Elektra helps from another. They are complementary.


McKoala said...

I've got to say I've found all the comments on Elektra's crapometer helpful in some way, whether story/grammar/what the **** were you thinking when you wrote this... It's also fascinating to see what others are writing, particularly the regulars who critique and contribute regularly - you know who you are...little round of applause!

mcbun said...

I'd be happy to take a little pressure off the honoured Miss Snark with the 'Rabbitania-o-meter'. All submissions written in Rabbitanian welcome.

bonniers said...

I like the idea of submitting an opening and having you tell us when you stopped reading and why.

The why wouldn't even have to be detailed. "Don't like your prose style," "You haven't convinced me there's a story here," or "Why should I give a rat's ass?" would all give a pretty clear idea what we need to work on.

Elektra's Crapometer feedback is good, but sometimes one needs the blow from the goddess herself.

kis said...


I'm not accusing anyone of neglecting their jobs or families. I have a friend who has three kids, two dogs, four cats, two birds, a bunny and a guinea pig, eight different hobbies (including quilting and gardening for god sakes), coaches soccer, teaches dance, AND teaches elementary school full-time. I don't know how SHE does it, either!

Me, I'm discovering how easy it is to ignore things like dirty dishes and 12 loads of laundry (clean but not folded or put away) while I cavort with all of you in the blogoshpere. Even something as simple as getting a great book from the library can seriously cost me in other areas of my life. I salute those of you (you know who you are) who do those detailed critiques, but there is no way in hell, Hades or British Columbia that I'll ever be able to devote so much effort to it. :)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I've been to British Columbia. Lots of beautiful things in B. C. that aren't at all like Hell is supposed to be, unless you count parts of Vancouver. Hell dwelleth in Vancouver.

Now there's an idea for a book. Mr. Cho, an inscrutable German who has a rather Chinese sounding last name, has dinner in a Chinese restaurant. He thinks his intimate knowledge of Doh Ci Doh, a little known martial art that originated in Namibia or Arkansas (no one is really sure which) will save him from any circumstance. He decides he needs the potty and wanders down a rather dark hall searching for the men's room.

He passes ten doors. The first opens onto the kitchen. He's not too sure about what they're cooking, but it looks a lot like lizards with huge bulging eyes, and the pot of noodles looks a lot like boiling hair. He thinks he's had a tad too much Liebfraumilch and Vodka.

The next nine doors are all marked with the international sign for "women's room." But each sign is progressively distorted. He thinks he's getting a huge migraine.

Finding no little boy's room, he decides to slip into one of the women's rooms. He slinks through the door only to find himself in hell. The only thing is, hell is indistinguishable from the rest of the "who knows what part of Vancouver we're in now, but I don't like the looks of this" that he just came from. The only way he knows it’s Hell is by the pointy tail that slips from under the skirt of the woman at the sink.

He turns around, only to find that the door won't open. What to do? With whom must he negotiate to return to the normal world of say ... Seattle. Oh, I forgot! Seattle is not normal at all. ...

Does it work for you?

kis said...

Actually, Sha'el, I don't get to Vancouver much, if ever. The most I do is drive through it, as fast as I legally can, while holding my breath. I live on the remote northern tip of Vancouver Island. The nearest Wal-mart is over 200 km away--that's about 130 miles to you Yanks. I agree that Vancouver could hold the corporeal doorway to Hell--in fact, I'm certain of it. Although listening to my three sick kids shrieking at each other upstairs, maybe hell is where the hearth is.

AnonyNoNo said...

Miss S. Why don't you limit the crapometer to my entry. Think about it - only one first page to read and the rest of your time is free, free, free! Free to suck up gin and scratch KY in that special spot.

Anonymous said...

Dear Miss Snark,

I am oh so desperately waiting for your crap-o-meter!

You asked for suggestions on how to make it manageable.

Please don't limit it to 12 hours (I'd be sure to miss it since I'm not on NYC time-or anything close). But I do understand your need for sanity (or whatever passes for that in the 212)and so offer these ideas (no doubt not worthy, but perhaps they'll help you think of something better).

You could have us ID genre (chosen from your list) and take the first (5? 10?) of each specified genre.

You could take the first x number that you desire.

You could throw them down the proverbial (virtual) stairs and choose a step.

You could read first lines and chose the ones that don't make you choke.

You could let Killer Yapp do the sniff test. (I'm sure your pooch has discriminating taste.)

Or you could (as the devotion of snarklings would humbly be forever more grateful for) do each and every one submitted during a 24 hour period, but take your time and polish your reading glasses (not that Miss Snark could be old enough to need reading glasses) and sip from your chilled pail of gin.

It must be sweltering in NYC--nothing like a crap-o-meter to make you think of breezy country days! And time for another chilled pail of gin (what is your brand?)

Down on my knees, begging.

A devoted snarkling