9.18.2006

Fiction novels: is there more to be said? Yes, yes there is

Dear Miss Snark:

After reading through the latest round of crapometer entries, I found a common mistake: people writing that they have a "fiction novel" I understand that this is redundant so I wanted to make sure I wasn't making the same mistake inadvertently.


The story I've written is science fiction, so if I write "I'm seeking representation for my science fiction novel, [Insert Name Here]”, is it understood that it is a "science fiction" novel, and not a science "fiction novel"?


I've sent out some query letters with "I'm seeking representation for my science fiction manuscript” to avoid the problem altogether, but that has never sounded quite right to me either. I figure I'm going to have enough problems landing an agent without turning them off on the very first sentence.


Any and all comments are greatly appreciated. (ya ya ya, they all say that till they hear the snick of the clue gun being cocked)

Even non-genrenarian Miss Snark understands science fiction novel means a novel to be shelved in science fiction.

However you're hitting yourself over the head with a brick, and while it's certainly fun to watch, I'm increasingly afraid of getting brain splatters on my poodle skirt, not to mention the actual poodle. Thus:


I'm seeking representation for my novel MISS SNARK SNEERS AT SPLATTER. It is science fiction; 300,000 words; with maps, power point presentations, and clue gun illustrations.

or

I'm seeking representation for MISS SNARK PEERS AT A LADDER. It is is science fiction; 300,000 words; and illuminated with illustrations of ladders, peerages, and poodles.


Get the idea?

14 comments:

Kimber An said...

Poor guy. Sounds like his brain is fried on revisions and trying to polish the perfect query letter. It's hard work! Makes me bug-eyed. Here's my advice: place both hands on your desk and push, stand up, take a deep breath, grab your wallet and run out the door, don't stop running until you're exhausted, sit down and drink a large bottle of Mountain Dew, take a few deep breaths, bark at the moon or scream at the top of your lungs if there's no fear of being dragged off to the loony bin, and then walk slowly home. Leave the computer off until the next morning at least.

Alan said...

Or just ask someone, anyone, to suggest how you could rephrase the query. Miss Snark proved how easy it is when you're one step removed from it. Next time, do it without the popular blog publicity.

Simon Haynes said...

It is science fiction; 300,000 words; with maps, power point presentations, and clue gun illustrations.

300,000 words in the science fiction genre? Pah, 'tis but a novella.

And I'm happy to announce that my publisher has gone along with my idea for a map joke in my next novel. In the front, there'll be a completely useless star map with three dots on it. It's like providing instructions on a box of matches ... and please don't tell me matches come with instructions. 'Rub head on sandy paper' doesn't bear thinking about.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

Why would you say "it is is science fiction"? That seems more redundant than the original phrase, "science fiction novel".

I wonder if you have to mention the book is science fiction at all. By the time the ray-guns come out on page 20, the reader will probably figure out it isn't real.

I'm more concerned about how to make clear that my writing is new and original. Is it OK to describe something as a "novel novel"? Since I've been hacking away at it for 10 years, do I have to call it an "old novel", or a "formerly novel novel"?

Michele said...

How about this variant:

I'm seeking representation for SNARKLINGS SURPRISED, a 75,000 word novel of literary fiction.

Anonymous said...

Is it okay to just write, "I am seeking representation for my novel THREE GENRES IN A BLENDER...", and assuming the agent will figure the genre out based on your summary?

I have a novel that crosses multiple genres -- would it be better to leave it up to the agent or editor to decide where it fits?

Or will the agent decide I'm a nitwit who doesn't even know what her own novel is?

BuffySquirrel said...

There wouldn't be a page 20 in a query letter (unless the writer is entirely clueless). Agents want to know the genre up front. If it isn't one they represent, that saves them reading any further.

And no, genre isn't always obvious, even to those who are aware that "ray guns" rarely appear in SF these days.

Christopher Willard author of Garbage Head said...

At 300,001 words I'd consider it. It's the one extra that often makes the deal. And of course if it were science fiction, then it would be a shoo-in.

HawkOwl said...

Simon Haynes: I've seen instructions on a squeegee and a can of peas, so matches probably have them too. Along with safety warnings and disclaimers.

Anonymous said...

Brain splatters on the poodle skirt? Ick. You have my sympathies. I hope you have a good dry-cleaner.

Anonymous said...

Simon Haynes: I think -- and I could easily be wrong about this -- but I think I've seen boxes of matches with instructions on them (and the little booklets too).

Sorry to burst your bubble (well, maybe only a little sorry).

BuffySquirrel said...

I have a few boxes of matches lying around because, yanno, I like to burn stuff.

These are the instructions:

Danger--Fire Kills Children
Strike Softly Away From Body
Keep Away From Children


I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Sarah said...

In Douglas Adams' HHGTTG, isn't there a character who realizes he is sane and the rest of the world has gone crazy when he finds instructions on a matchbook?

Or wait, I think it's a box of toothpicks...

Xopher said...

The four words 'Close cover before striking' were once the most frequently read in the English language. Of COURSE matches have instructions!

The purpose of instructions is not to instruct, but to forestall lawsuits.