Casting spells

Deer Miss Snark,

I no there's no such things as a "stupid" question" but I've noticed that alot of so called "Writers" who's questions you post to ur blog often mispell works or use the wrong word, for example saying "complement" instead of "compliment" or "they're" instead of "their" and so on.

So I've been thinking that perhaps you and KY should, in addition to pointing out they're nitwitery-ness, you could also point out that reel Writers spel cheque and grammer check before sending their dumm questions to You're Royal Highness.

Maybe its jist my pet peeve and not other peoples, but I'm shore there ate othur people out there who read this blog that don't like reading badly written questions, usually wirtten, by the way, by people huffing and puffing about how their fristrated because agents won't respond to their queryes and talking about how Dan Brown is such a horrible writer. At least he can put and freakin' sentence together and beside, he's sold more books than the peeple asking thr dumm questions. Yes?


I'm not getting caught up in the false logic of "you can't spell worth a shit" or "you messed up a word" ergo you are a bad writer.

Besides: pot/black. I drive people crazy with my punctuation, my misuse of fewer/less than, not to mention my dangling modifiers, participles and mismatched adverbial forms.

I assume the questions here are pretty close to first draft; I know my replies get a spell check and a review, but I'm NOT giving each post the three day intense scrutiny I give a cover letter, or the year long scrutiny you give a novel.

Let's talk about ideas here, or substantive issues, and leave the spelling wars to people who knit picks for fun. You can be a nitwit for a lot of reasons here but it's a compliment to be in the complement of those who have risked public scrutiny to ask a question.

And yes, there are stupid questions in this world; here are two:

What does pages mean in a manuscript?

Does Killer Yapp like cookies?

How many times can you send a ms to 175 Fifth Ave?

Dear Miss Snark (alternately read: Oh, Wise One):(Miss Snark, the potato chip?)

I just finished reading Some Writers Deserve to Starve by Elaura Niles.

Niles says, "Most publishers will not consider a manuscript twice." She says the big houses keep a database of everything submitted to any of their imprints, and that if you try to submit to another imprint in the same house, the new editor will check the database and reject your manuscript without even looking at it.

Is this true? I certainly understand not subbing all the editors in an imprint, but can we really only sub one editor in one imprint of a major house?

As always, thanks so much for providing wisdom and insight to all of us newbies,

Well, what may apply to unagented writers in the slush pile certainly doesn't apply to me.
Of course, I don't exactly try to put one over on an editor either.

And "house" is a hard thing to define given that there are groups of imprints all at one address, but they not only don't all talk to each other, they sometimes compete with each other.

Remember too, I've never been an editor so I have no idea what the data base at Dutton looks like.

You might ask Miss Genoese, given she works at a big house for one of the imprints.

A Fifth To Start the Day

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm not sure how to proceed. Earlier this year I finished my first novel. I sent out query letters and a well respected agent asked to read a partial. Ultimately, she passed, writing "while you are obviously an intelligent writer, the story did not grab me as it must. By page 80 I simply felt distracted."

So I revamped the first section of the book and queried a new group of agents. Subsequently another well respected agency requested the full, writing they were "fully engrossed" in the lives of the characters in the partial and "wanted to see how it all turns out." This week they also passed, thanking me for my great patience but declining on the grounds that they weren't convinced enough "of the strength of the writing to be a good advocate for the book".

What does this mean, in your opinion? Story problems, character problems, these are areas I think I know how to fix. But "strength of the writing" seem to imply something more fundamental. It is a first novel. Should I shelve it, as you advise about all first novels, and wait until novel #2 is ready to shop around? I cant help but be encouraged by the interest I've received in such a short time by some very well respected agents. But since I haven't been able to close the deal, I'm beginning to think perhaps I'm shilling the wrong product.

Thanks very much!

How many agents have you queried? It sounds like less than ten...and you've got several reading partials and a full. That's not bad at all.

First, "strength of writing" is so subjective that there's no way you could truly use that as a bench mark for fixing something. I use this when the language seems tepid or there just isn't enough clarity to the narrative, or the plot falls apart, but other people use it to describe other things. There's no industry standard for what "strenght of writing" means.

Second, it won't hurt at all to go ahead and write that second novel WHILE you keep shopping this one around. At the end of the second novel you may have some insights into the first one that you don't have now.

Third, go re-read your ten favorite novels in the genre you're writing in. Read with your writer's eye fully engaged. Look for what you think makes the novel work so well. Then look at your novel and see if you're doing that. One of the truest mark of a good writer is someone who can step back enough from their work to really see how it works (or doesn't). People who are so emmeshed in their work, and defensive about criticism, can't ever see the forest for the trees, and their work suffers for it.

Fourth, remember agents are always going to give very amorphous comments because they are afraid if they say "this doesn't work" or "your plot falls apart on page 10" you'll fix it and resubmit. General rejection letters are bad schematics for novel repairs.

Fifth, you might dig around for a critque group. Good ones can give you perspective and help. Bad ones suck worse than rejection letters, but you'll be able to tell which side of the line the group is on without too much investment.


Clap your hands three times if you believe...

Dear Miss Snark, I'm critiquing chapters in a mainstream novel where the MC sustains an injury that's quite serious and extremely painful. He's alone and can't get help. The author then has the MC do things which aren't physically possible according to a check of some medical sites. The novel is billed as mainstream, not science fiction, fantasy, or James Bond type thriller. I think the novel is fatally flawed, and will probably remain so for me, but is it really in terms of being published? The sad thing is, I like this person's style.

Well, it wouldn't work for me. I have a disgustingly literal and practical mind. This manifests itself in all sorts of useful ways for my clients. Some of them actually keep the pictures I've drawn of why something is physically impossible. (Get your mind out out out of that gutter..and you too!).

That said, a good writer can make me believe boys can fly, anything is possible, and the dead can speak. When you start reaching for the medical textbooks cause you don't believe...it's too late.

DaVeni, DaVidi, DaVici *

Miss Snark,
Is it just me, or is Dan Brown an average-poor writer?

I don't know ... maybe it IS just me, but hearing so many people use the term "the next Dan Brown" as a complement really befuddles me. That's not a complemet. To me, it means that someone writes with obvious ploys and a laziness for providing information in innovative ways. It could also mean that the main reason a person will sell anything is because he or she is writing something "very" controversial ... or that maybe his or her wife/husband is doing all the research (as I've heard is true for him). I guess it much just be my writer-brain going on alert, or maybe it isn't ... I need the Wise One's opinion!! Would you have bought THE DA VINCI CODE?

When people compliment you by saying "the next Dan Brown" they mean your sales numbers not the quality of your writing. When they want to compliment the quality of your writing they say "Colson Whitehead would like this" or "Has the Pulitzer Committee read this?".

Every year or two there's a big book that does really well and frequently it's a book that people think isn't well written. Bridges of Madison County leaps to mind; everything by Nicholas Sparks; Tom Clancy.

When someone tells me he's the next Tom Clancy, it's an automatic pass. I don't like that kind of book, and I wouldn't recognize a well written one even if printed with explanations and footnotes..oh wait...he does that already. Never mind.

If someone says he's the next Dan Brown, same thing. I like mysteries that hold together and plots that make sense. I'll probably never have "the next Dan Brown" on my list, and I'm ok with that.

And no, I haven't ever bought a copy of the DaVinci Code.

*I came, I saw, I sold books

ahhhhhh....Miss Snark reads her New Yorker

Miss Snark has a love hate relationship with her New Yorker subscription.

She loves it cause it's chock a block full of good writing (mostly), hilarious cartoons (always) and adverts for adventure trips that Miss Snark lusts for (mostly on Mondays).

It also arrives every week.
That means every week, there's MORE. Miss Snark finally had to institute a rule: only one living New Yorker at a time. A fresh one comes in, the old one is evicted. This has led to some entertaining scenes when KY (who had not finished reading the movie reviews) tries to persuade Miss Snark to leave him alone in the apartment long enough to fish a previous issue out of the Le Recycle Bin.

KY: "Look! It's George Clooney"

MS: "KY, you are nine inches tall even in my stillettos, don't think I believe you can see out the window"

KY: "Hurry! The UPS man is trying to steal your doorbell"
MS: "Let him, maybe I won't have to listen to "some enchanted evening" on the door chimes ever again"

KY: "oh my human, the gin pail is empty"
MS: (sound of door slamming) (faintly in distance) "Hold down the fort while I'm gone..."

But I digress.

Today's New Yorker arrived and as I read it on the subway I discovered it has a story by Alice Munro. If you've never read any of Alice Munro's short stories, just hit yourself with the clue stick right now, and log onto your library's website and get any of her books. Just do it now.

KY: Ya!

Foot notes fa la la la flat

My dear Miss Snark,

How do you feel about footnotes in fiction works (outside fantasy linguistics)? Say a few characters were talking, and mention something in passing which most readers are probably unfamiliar with, but with which all the characters are; would a footnote be preferable to an "as you know, Bob"? Or should we just make like Dan Brown and add in an arrogant, patronizing narration?

Before I read Jonathan Stroud I would have poo-pooed the idea of footnotes with a great deal of snarkiness. After reading him, I'm not quite so sure. Done well, ok. Done badly, ew ew ew.

The trouble with footnotes is that they break up the narrative drive with a sledgehammer. Even Stroud's have that effect but his are hilariously funny, develop the character, give some of the backstory...and did I mention funny?

As You Know Bob is to be avoided at all costs. I'll keep the footnotes if I can Kill Bob.

Patronizing narration? ew ew ew. But Dan Brown sold sixty gazillion copies so yanno...have at it.

Miss Snark is not penning a book

Your Snarkiness,

In this era of platforms and blogger book deals, surely you've been offered one yourself? Is Miss Snark's Guide to Getting an Agent (and Living to Tell The Tale) forthcoming? Would you broker the deal yourself? Would you do press interviews with a chic black veil and voice disguising apparatus?

Thanks for the grace with which you suffer nitwits,

Som very kind - but clearly addlepated - editors and agents have fired shots across Miss Snark's Canoo-dle, but so far she has resisted the siren call of fame and fortune.

Besides, this is fun. I like it. And I am the Master of my Domain Name...no one telling me to cut the prologue or spice up the dialogue. Why mess up a good thing. Besides, I'd have to clean up my language or Grandmother Snark would faint dead away...not to mention what Page Six would print about KY.

Miss Snark Thinks this one is not quite right (and not just for the list!)

O, Glorious Light Of My Blog-Run -- She Who Raises Hopes, Dashes Dreams, And
Renders Liquor Stores Out Of Stock With A Single Pen-Stroke,

The recent nitwit has become somewhat of a phenominon, causing Bauer-level comment activity on the blog. You're just a magnet for nitwittery, aren't you? I feel inspired. Would you ever, perchance, hold a contest to see who can write the most insipid, egotistical, make-you-spit-out-your-gin-bad query?

It could be an educational experience -- learning by counterexample.

And this would be different from my slush pile how?

The people who write the worst queries are the ones who don't know they are. They aren't trying to recover from recto-cranial inversion--they think it's the normal posture.

So, short answer, no. Besides..I'd have to READ them. Ew ew ew. I'd rather ....well...I'm trying hard to think of anything I'd rather do LESS and that answer approaches infinite zero.

More on Prologues cause it's SOOOOO much fun!

Good morning, Miss Snark.

I hope you don't mind me adding to what I'm sure is a daily deluge of e-mail questions. I recently read on Kristen Nelson's blog, and again on yours, that writers should avoid sending prologues when they get requests for partials. No problem. I can do that. My question stems from Ms. Nelson's comment, in which she said she had yet to see a well-done prologue in the sample pages. I went back to my bookcase, skimmed several paperbacks and noticed most contained prologues. My question is this: in your opinion, what makes these so difficult to craft in comparison to say, chapter 18 of a book?

Sorry if this is nitwittery, but I figured after the last J.K. Rowling/Dan Brown-wannabe post, I probably fall pretty far down the food chain when it comes to nitwit posts/e-mails. : )

Oh, and one last thing. I went through the archives again to get tips from the Cover Letter crapometer for drafting my cover letter. I don't remember which entry it was that got this response from you, but it's a gem. It's currently taped up near my monitor while I draft the letter. You said:
"Give me six sentences of less than ten words that tell me WHO is doing WHAT to WHOM and WHY I should give a rat's ass."

Well, I'm glad the Snarkism of the day is helping out! And nary a hand chopped off...es su milagro.

Now, about prologues.

The problem with prologues is that, generally, they only achieve fullness of meaning in the context of the entire book. Some prologues don't do this: they are used for things that can't be explained, for example, in the first person POV of the novel. Those then are just a distraction from the main part of the novel, and in queries and partials, I just want to see if you can write well enough to read past page 10/50/whatever. I don't start thinking much about how the overall novel looks/holds together till I'm reading the whole thing.

The reason prologues are difficult to write is cause mostly you DO NOT NEED THEM. Like crossword puzzles, if it gets harder and harder to figure out the right way to do it, you're on the wrong track. Trust me on this: 6 down is MISSSNARKKNOWSALL

I agree with Kristen on this one, and for those of you who are busily crafting what you think is the the exception to the rule, remember this: I skip them when I read your work. I read the first page of chapter one. If that grabs me, I might go back and see if you've managed to craft the Only Living Prologue Not to Suck.

Signs your prologue sucks: it's about a dream, it's about the weather, it's about someone who is dead, it's about someone who never appears again in the book. The first sign you are not not not the exception to this rule is if you think you ARE.

Did Ebay run out of Clues?

I swear, anyone this low on clues needs to be on auto-reorder:

Today, my slush pile coughs up a true cluefree querier who managed to send his query letter and pages postage due. And not cause he missed it by half an ounce. He stuck ONE first class stamp on an envelope with five pages and an SASE. THAT is clue free.

When you start the query process you don't have to weigh every single envelope but you should weigh ONE to get an idea. And if you don't have a postage scale, your local supermarket does. They keep it in the deli department. The post office will even tell you the amount of postage to put on various weights via their website.

As for clues, well, I keep mine in a jar by the door just to make sure I never leave home without one.


Yesterday's Nitwit Returns....and boy is she paged off

Miss Snark

I may be kind. I may even be a kind nitwit. I am certainly not as learned as you when it comes to the world of publishing. And if you wish to have fun at the expense of one who may be the next J.K Rowling or Dan Brown, so be it. The loss is not mine. There are others who will honesty answer my questions.

You web site says Comment moderation has been enabled. All comments must be approved by the blog author. Considering the first anon's comment, I doubt the integrity of you're site's claim. I also seriously doubt your integrity and you're back handed claims to help aspiring writers. A challenge, you ask? Yes. Honestly answer my questions.

Some of the content of the 40 posted comments would indicate we are unsure what to do. We want to learn. We are asking. We are so hungry some of us are even willing to risk having our writing hands chopped off. But, this is not a game we are playing. You are a literary agent. At least that is your claim. You know the history of books, the power they hold and how they have molded the world. I implore you to treat history with the respect it deserves and the power it wields in the future. Your future Miss Snark. And mine.

You don't like how I answered your question? Golly.
You don't like how I answered it, so there must be something wrong with me. Sure. Yup. That's how I see it too. And of course a complaint isn't a real complaint unless the "integrity of the site" is called into question.

By dog, you just might be the next Dan Brown. Conspiracy! It's a conspiracy!

Here's your first clue of the day: I do moderate the comments. I thought "FUB" was pretty damn funny...and I thought you wrote it. Did you?

If you don't like what you see on this blog, go read someone elses. There are LOTS of people who'll be glad to give you all sorts of earnest, humorless, grim visaged help with no Snark. You can tell who they are: the titles of those blogs do not include the word SNARK. In fact, why don't you go resubmit that question to some other writing or publishing blogs or forums and see what you get.

Here's your bonus clue of the day: if you don't want ME to answer your questions, don't send them.

Swave and sofa-skated, c'est moi

Periodically Miss Snark takes a day trip to hell.
Usually it is she herself who makes the travel arrangements.
Today was such a day.

First, she had a lunch date followed by an editorial meeting.

It's never good to have two important events back to back cause you never know when the trains are going to stall, the counter chick is going to place cherry pie in your lap and a la mode sur ton tete, and all taxicabs develop a sudden aversion for Lexington Ave.

Or...what happened today.

Miss Snark is seated at the lunch table with her guest. She asks about the soup of the day. No soup. A review of the lunch menu ensues. I hate food fussbudgets almost as much as I hate ...well..I think actually I hate food fussbudgets more than anything. You know..those people who ask how the biftek is prepared at Hatties House of Hash? Well, I'm not one of those people I hope..but I don't eat some things that are common on menus so soup is usually an easy, no fuss choice.

So now, here I am, going over the menu item by item with the server. Miss Snark knows she's creating the impression she's the WORST sort of fussbudget. And it's one of those things that only gets worse..and worse...and worse. Finally we find something. Miss Snark at this point would rather eat the napkin than ask about ingredients one more time.

Lunch progresses. Laughter all around. Then the bill arrives. Miss Snark seizes it, noting she has only 15 minutes to get across town, gathers up her parcels, flings the check with Amex at the waiter...who sneers at Miss Snark and says "cash only".

oh dear dog.

Miss Snark's lunch guest pays the bill. Did I mention it was a prospective client?
Miss Snark insists on rushing off to the nearest bank to extract funds. PC protests, Miss Snark insists.

Miss Snark goes to ATM...gets two twenties. Realizes with horror that the bill and tip was $30. Oh the dilemma...does one hand over the two twenties, or only one? Both choices seem wrong somehow. Miss Snark races to the teller!! Get change! Yes! Just as she gets there, an elderly lady with a red wheelie cart (ubiquitous in NYC) reaches the head of the line and goes to the only free teller....and proceeds to count out ...very very slowly...quarters, nickels and dimes. Then she gets to the pennies.

PC waiting patiently of course (probably thinking Miss Snark is a NITWIT for carrying no cash, a sentiment MS is also entertaining).

Finally the teller is free, Miss Snark races to the window, gets the two tens, races back to pay the PC...and realizes she's not left herself enough cash for the taxi to the next meeting...which is now about 60 blocks and 60 seconds away.

Sartre famously said "hell is other people". Miss Snark says "I am my own hell".


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".

Reject me? ME? I think NOT!

well, if a picture is worth a thousand words
this dvd=10,000

(thanks to JM for the link)

It's over...how long do I have to pay?

Dear Miss Snark,

I've searched the Snarkarchives (thanks, Miss Adventure) but can't find anything about this.

Five years ago an editor said she'd like to see my story again if I made certain changes. I wasn't able to do them at that time but now I have.

The original submission was made through my agent. Two years ago we parted ways and I'm planning to re-submit on my own. Is that horribly unethical? If the editor makes an offer, should my ex-agent get 15% since she made first contact?

Get out your contract with your former agent. Look at the paragraph that says "bloodsucking leach-length of time fangs are inserted". Sometimes this will also say "duration of agreement" or "commissions".

Most likely there will be wording that addresses this issue. Mine says I get a piece of you for a year after the contract is over if you sell to someone I pitched to.

If you DON'T have a contract, well, now you know why you should. Still and all, a year is pretty much fair, and five years is more than fair.

Bottom line: It's not unethical to resubmit and if you sell it, not pay a commission.

Miss Snark's Translation Service at your service

Dear MS:

Some NY agents are lately calling 'good' fiction writing 'transportive,' or, even more baffling, 'transportative.' Aside from wondering how I am to compete, in terms of prose quality, with the reader's experience of having her molecules split apart, shot through a light beam and reassembled by either Engineers Scott or O'Brian, can you offer any background on where the lleh the NY agent community came up with this uncrackable gem of jargon and What The kcuF it means to a fiction writer? (A)

Is there any possible way for a writer to follow this advice: "I am looking for fiction in which the writing is transportive, with characters I feel I can see before me"? Have the Klingons smuggled a new holograph device into the NY publishing industry for top-secret deployment between the hardcovers at a Goldsmith's near me, in time for this summer's beach-read season? (B)

Every time an agent says something like this, it only causes more confusion, not less -- and, I have to conclude, more mis-targeted submissions resulting from the confusion (?). Can you beam me out of this vortex in the fabric of the sales-word
continuum AND rescue the snarkling crew of our common Enterprise from the conceptual chaos of its gaping maw? (3)

A. We buy little velvet bags full of words (they are called word hoard and don't let any lame ass scholor tell you it's from Beowulf, no sirreee) that we use on our website to describe what we are looking for. It bears no resemblance to what we actually want; we do it just to confuse and befuddle you. And, see, it's working. I think transportative is one from the 2005 bag (they are updated annually--unlike our websites which we never update because why would we?), and I think it was very popular that year cause of the subway strike. We really did want transportative fiction..much like we wanted a bronzed pedicab peddler to arrive at the front door at 8am.

B. Yes, the best way to make sure that any agent who has this on their web site will take you seriously is to include story boards, or paper dolls, or even better a troupe of mimes to act out the plot whilst s/he reads your query letter. Items can be found on ebay of course..but you may need the secret code to access that part of the site. Again, this is a way we have to find out if you are really serious about your work and not just some dilettante starving artist who thinks fiction should yanno...move you.

Alternatively you may consult with the NY Department of Transportation which -silly you- you thought meant subways. No no...they're in charge of fiction.

And really, any good movie producer can hook you up with a Transportation Captain. If you don't know any movie producers, just check the credits of a recent movie--they're listed write there.

3. Yes, of course. Never submit any work of fiction to an agent who is so clearly unable to write, recognize good writing, or describe what they seek in simple terms like : fiction-novels, short stories, literary, no genres.

Now, away with me, I'm feeling the need to be tranportized.

POD-dy Break!

Oh I love it when you all drop little tidbits of deliciousness at my emailbox, ring the bell and run.

Today at Pod-dy Mouth comes this VERY good suggestion:

Buy your agent flowers. Or a box of cigars. Or both.

I spent the majority of my Memorial Day weekend sitting in the sun, reading PODs (both digital and print) in an effort to catch up. Maybe it was the unbearable heat, but I cannot believe what a bad streak I am on. I've read 92 horrible books in a row. (MS: yowza!)

If you are blessed enough to have an agent--regardless of how influential he or she may be--give that person a gift. Or at least a hug. (MS: gift good. hug bad. repeat as often as needed)

Why? Because they spend countless hours sifting out decent books for a living. I can walk away anytime I want, but these professional folks depend on our trite, derivative ramblings to pay the bills. If my income was generated by finding hits among the misses, I 'd be completely insane by now. (MS: wait wait, I think she just called me deranged. KY: ya, so, like that's news?)

Not to mention livid.

Man, let me tell you: You've got to have a serious love of books to be able to read (and get past) stuff like this:

"Tracy was a cool cucumber. She had ice running through her veins and the erect nipples to prove it."

I stopped on page four.

"Crayton Hurgenbotther was not the man you'd think he was."

Probably. But after reading Hurgenbotther seven times in the first two pages I really didn't care; the book closed itself.

"She was sweeter than cherry pie, and as I moved my mouth to her pie and tongued her with all my might, her true flavor rushed upon me, a flood of molasses syrup."

Okay. So this guy's girlfriend might come in handy down at IHOP. But wouldn't cherry pie be sweeter than molasses? The visual here is not good. Page seven was my last.

Do you see? Vetting is much like torture. I want you guys to pick up the phone and call your agents and thank them for doing this miserable job. Editors have it easy; everything they get has already been cherry-picked and they would (probably) never have to suffer through the examples I listed above--because an agent somewhere did his or her job and found something better.

Next time you finish a book you absolutely loved, the kind of book you rush to tell your friends about, thank an agent--because, other than writing the book, the agent did the hardest part: They found it.

(Thanks to the "other" MS for the treat)

Plucked from the Slush

Dear Miss Snark, (well at least it wasn't Greetings! or Hail Felon Well Met!)

(lots of stuff about the book)
(more stuff about the credentials)

You'll find I'm easy to work with and open to editing.

Whoa Nellie, Katie bar the door and Halto Bat Segundo!

I don't know if you've ever noticed this but it's my experience that people who feel the need to tell you what they are like (easy to work with; honest; chaste) are by and large the very ones who ain't.

My clients who ARE easy to work with and open to editing don't even think to mention it -- I don't think it occured to them that they wouldn't be.

Almost to the last one, every person who has said "I'm very easy to work with" has been a total PITA.

Do yourself a favor. Act like being easy to work with and open to editing is such a basic fact you don't even need to mention it.


Clue Gun on Aisle three please

Dear Miss Snark,

A literary magazine has accepted an excerpt from my yet-to-be-completed novel. While I'm very excited about this, now my partner is concerned it might actually hinder my chances of getting the entire novel published once it is finished.

So I put it to you: Let's say you receive my query letter. Reads well, you love the premise. My last paragraph touts that the first two chapters are already in print.

Does that put you off, strike you as a plus or it doesn't matter either way?
Finally, if it is a plus, would it be wise to include the tearsheets from the magazine or does that come off as arrogant? (Oh, god I think I just answered my own question)

Thank you O, Great and Wise One.

Oh dear dog, have you forgotten everything I've been yapping about for a solid year?
Put DOWN the coffee cup, go over to your trusty Writers Market, look up the phrase "first serial rights".

That is what you sold.
It's so NOT a negative I'm almost laughing.

This is a GOOD thing. Feature it (unless the mag you sold it to is the AuthorHouse inhouse newsletter).

What makes this good is that right off the bat I know some one other than Mom likes your work enough to buy it. This is persuasive. Do not include tear sheets. It is worse than pretentious and you only need to tell me the name of the mag. If I want proof, I'll send KY down to the library for a copy.

There are lots of posts about "writing credentials" in the snarkives. That's what this is.
Use it well.

Now, back to the coffee.

You don't want me now? Well, ok..thank you?

Dear Miss Snark,

I received a rejection with a very nice hand written note saying to consider this agent again in the future. What is the etiquette for such a compliment (besides, of course, contacting the agent with my next project)? Is a thank you note in order?

Thanks and the blog rocks.

Yes, that would be very nice. I'm much more likely to remember you after gracious, sincere thank you note than I am from "you told me to query on the next project."

Sincere is the hard part.

Here are the bones of a nice note I got this week:

Dear Miss Snark

Thank you for considering my partial (title).

I am sorry it wasn't right for your list.

Your time and effort are much appreciated.

Your comments provided very helpful guidance I will use in my further efforts.

Rejected but not snotty about it

You see the structure, right? Follow it.
No groveling. No whining, no bribes (unless of course Mr. Clooney hand delivers the letter).

Well, Barbara Bauer is good for ONE thing

man oh man, my site stats went throught the roof on Thursday.
I posted "and now 3000 more people will know you're a scammer" but 7000 was closer to the mark that day.

Maybe I should write her a little thank you note?

Miss Snark Attacks the Slush Pile

Here are some of the treasures hauled in today:

1. To Whom It May Concern

Even the weirdest advice sites that counsel against using "Dear" in a business letter
(Miss Snark understands you are not professing love
when your salutation is Dear Miss Snark.
To think otherwise is egotism of the most humorous variety)

do not advise using To Whom It May Concern. If you don't know my name (and it's right there on the list you got my address from cause you misspelled my street exactly like they do), at the VERY least start with Ladies/Gentlemen. To Whom it May Concern is just stupid.

1A. "Attention Miss Snark" and "Greetings Miss Snark". Unless you plan to show me my enlistment papers, this is never ever a good way to start a letter. Ever. If you are bound and determined not to soil your missive with the word "dear" you might consider that fresh new bon mot "hello". Now drop and give me ten....dear.

2. "He wore" "his hair was" "his shoes were size"...blah blah blah. Does the description contribute to the story in a meaningful way? Do I need to know he's wearing pressed chinos? that he's bald? that his feet are size whatever? Description just to watch your cursor move on the screen is BORING. Every single thing you do that slows down the pace of the narrative in the first three pages is one step closer to "no". You don't have to be eaten by a crocodile but you also don't need to tell me that she's wearing alligator shoes unless it means something.

3. Pausing the action to take meticulous note of what everyone is wearing right after a gun is drawn. Only if you've never been on the wrong end of a gun would you think this is even close to the realm of possibility. You see a gun, you're looking at the gun. You may, just may, be aware of your heart which has stopped beating, but you sure as hell aren't looking at the gunsel's neck chains. Action is spare. You don't have to sound like James Ellroy, but neither is William Faulkner such a hot idea for action packed narrative. (Ya ya ya, I know what Nobel means)

Memorial Day

A lot will be said today and tomorrow about honoring the men and women of our Armed Forces. Some of it will be tinged by the fervent opposition to the war in Iraq, particularly here in NYC (although the sailors here in the city on leave this weekend seem to having a LOT of fun!).

No matter what you think of the war, or the military, I think today is a good day to remember there are real people serving, and they have parents and families who love them.

I'd like to recognize the parents of the people in the military. Yes, your sons and daughters volunteered but when they did, they volunteered you for the toughest parental challenge: love and support your kid's choice knowing it could be, is, dangerous.

Perhaps it's not a coincidence that Memorial Day falls between Mother's Day and Father's Day.

For those of you with kids in the military today, thank you.

"They also serve, who only stand and wait"