Sunday, December 17, 2006

Read and Weep

Looking at motes can help remove beams.

Seems condensation may cause cliche.

Along with half of the writers in blogland, have been reading Miss Snark's Happy Hooker Crapometer entries.

I also moused my way through some of Evil Editor's query letters.

Blinded by the need to compress their story arc, some writers fail to perceive that their shorthand synopsis may not achieve the eye-opener effect they intend.
While their writing may be fresh and original, their plot summation is not.

When skimmed like an agent with a full in-box, certain repetitive phrases in queries stick like grit.

-race against the clock
-web of deceit
-determined to unmask
-wants nothing more
-spins out of control
-torn apart by
-vows to expose
-world falls apart
-forced to confront

and that's just a sample.

My all-time bleeder is personal demons.

A nod and a wink here to December who deliberately turned this cliche on its ass with a story that includes literal demon bodyguards as personal demons.
No safety glasses needed for that one.

But one sees certain glaring phrases repeated over and over and over.
Might pay to watch it.


December Quinn said...

Heh. Mine is "sets off a chain of events/sets a chain of events in motion".

Like every ation or situation doesn't do that.

anna said...

How true
for me it's teeth
A friend pointed out how in almost everything I wrote there they were grinning clattering shiny as something - sharp as something
Now I never use them - except when I can't resist them
teeth: hiding behind snarly lips

Erik Ivan James said...

Excellent point, Bernita. If I were an agent or editor, I'd be looking for the fresh and original in the summary before I even thought about looking at those "fifty pages". The old wisdom, "First impressions....".

Bernita said...

Good example, December.

An favourite writerly image isn't the same thing, Anna, and isn't necessarily a cliche. Might not be necessary to clamp down.

Thank you, Erik.
These tired expressions really stand out when one scans a number of queries in quick succession.

EA Monroe said...

Hi Bernita. I love the way you get to the nitty gritty of what's going on over at Snark Central. I need to head over there. Enjoyed your Heroes post yesterday, too. I've been siding with the wicked witch for quite a while.

Ric said...

Over on Agent X, she goes bonkers when someone starts with "He awoke." or driving or dreaming. Hard to get past that first line. So is a question the way to do it?

"What keeps you awake at night?"

Do you remember the first guy you were really in love with? The one in high school who could take your breath away with a glance, a touch?

I cheated - that second one is from my query letter.

Daddy said...

I'm sure I'm wrong, and I DO agree with you entirely, originality is where it's at -- but after spending time on Miss Snark's page, it is my personal opinion that she, like most agents, desires cliches. It's what sells -- for the most part.

Very few Original books sell well. Some do and they are a breath of fresh air (oops).

MissWrite said...

I really think that's the real beauty behind the crapometers and posts like evil. How much they help individual authors with there particular piece is negotiable. However it gives writers a broad look at what comes in tidal waves into the offices of editors and agents. Like you said, when you look at it with an eye of being inundanted with like material you begin to see the flaws glaring out at you. THAT can only help in our own writing.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Liz.
Miss Snark is probably the single most valuable resource out there.

Ric, that's an entirely different thing from describing someone waking up and you know it.
Agent X's responses focus more on what she doesn't care for, rather than general no-nos. But, much useful stuff just the same.
As charming as she is, she doesn't like terrorists in the plot, however, so I can't query her.

Sweet Daddy, it's the cliche of style and language that sinks many writers, not of plot.
What sells is what satisfies the readers.
Same-old plot is not always the same as same-old telling of it.
It's a business, not an altar to art.

Indeed, Tami. If one sees cliches of description, one might expect the novel to be similarly replete with them.

raine said...

(Raine, having spotted a single bit of grit from one of her queries here, off to revise...) :-(

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