But enough about me...

Dear Miss Snark,

Help! I've got a murder mystery I've been writing, self-editing and polishing, and I want to try to get an agent. Unfortunately I don't have much relevant experience to offer: never committed or investigated a murder; never published anything; never won (or even entered) any writing contests. Basically the Bio section of the query process scares the crap out of me, so I hope my writing will stand on its own. But as I desperately scour my background for signs of relevant experience, I find myself wondering, "Would Miss Snark consider any/all of the following to be legitimate accomplishments worthy of a mention in a query?"

- I have a B.A. in English from a Top-25 university.

- I'm a part-time freelance proofreader and, among other projects, have been involved in preparing 8 books for self-publication.

And a part of my history that I doubt is relevant but I'll run by you anyway...

- I have had exposure to criminal law, as I went through a training program for paralegal certification. (Although to you I must admit that there were only about 15 hours of class time devoted to criminal law. Additionally the paralegal job I worked in pertained to family law, not criminal!)

You don't need any experience to write a novel. You can make it all up. You can imagine it. Your bio can be as simple as: Miss Snark is a New York literary agent with a low tolerance for nitwits and a high regard for herself.

Don't sweat the bio.

Write well. That's all.


Anonymous said...

Before I felt qualified to write my book, I became an assassin. I felt it was necessary to do the right research before I jumped into such an important project. Since my character also engages in other shady activities, I learned to pick pockets and break locks.

I put all that information in my query letter (which I delivered into the agent's right jacket pocket as she was leaving the subway that evening) she was absolutely ecstatic. That night she eagerly signed me, right there in her own apartment! I must have a really great book, because she was positively quivering with excitement.

So you could go that route.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, anon! Be sure to let us know about the sequel. . . you know, the one about the serial killer. . .

word veri: ggbwq. My dog woke me up at 5 this morning making this exact noise.

Anonymous said...

This is not totally true: if you're writing a medical mystery/thriller, you'd better be Michael Crichton or Tess Gerritson (or sleeping with a doc.)
Ditto for legal thrillers. They are very hard to pull off (well, except for Michael Connolly's THE LINCOLN LAWYER, but then MC is to writing what Eric Clapton is to guitar).

Do I think you have to be an assassin? Uh, definitely no. But after you make up all that stuff, you'd best find a friendly police officer or similar expert to check with that your facts are right. Like the types of bullets, etc.

Mackan said...

Sure, I love it when I get all the facts straight in a story (and I usually have professionals in the field I'm writing about check 'em) but....

...let background be background. Tell me the story. If I run into a factoid that isn't exactly on the money, I don't mind too much. But if you start weighing down the story with unnecesary background info, just to show off, that's when I put down the book.

Don't let the facts get in the way of the story you want to tell.

(Not that the original post was about this...)

cm allison said...

Rbt Heinlein stated that the ONLY reason he started writing was because the TB he suffered from precluded him from doing physical labor. He saw an advertisement for a short story contest, quickly drafted out a story and submitted it to another magazine than the one holding the contest. The rest is history. His back-ground as an author? Engineer, miner, salesman. Not much writing bio there. Everyone has to start somewhere, just tell a good story, WELL.

Judy said...

anon #3

It's not necessary to be in a profession to write about it or in it's world - it is necessary to research in the field.

One of my favorite authors talks about his research and consultation of expert advice in his blog and newsgroup. He has published novels and shorts stories in a wide variety of environments - it's amazing what good research can do for you.

jonathon said...

Judy, would you share that blogsite, please?