Friday, December 29, 2006

War Games


Often wondered why some agents and editors indicate a certain revulsion and weariness with slush piles.
A certain animosity, even, towards writers.

I begin to understand.

We. Just. Keep. Coming.

Like hoards.
Like zombies.

They must feel like trench soldiers facing wave after endless wave of the undead.

Miss Snark - who has always expressed respect and admiration for writers - is up to her ass in alligators while trying to drain the swamp.

Her latest Crapometer gives a superior overview of the virtual battlefield and the tactics needed to slip past the thin red line and capture the flag.

The Crapometer also illustrates how no plan survives the first engagement with the enemy - but that's another story.

Imagine one hundred assaults per day.
And one begins to understand why a chevaux de frise is erected in front of the redoubt, why some regiments are wiped out to the last man, and why some plots are shot on sight.

Reading the entries makes me feel a little like the scavengers who come down out of the hills after battle to rob and despoil the dying and the dead.

30 comments:

Erik Ivan James said...

Keeping things in perspective. You do that better than anyone, Bernita.

Why buy books about writing books? Just come here to learn.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Erik, but...ptooie.
Just a bird's eye view from a VERY small sparrow.

Ric said...

Cream always rises to the top. Teenagers get 6 figure advances. Unknowns get 7 - for vampire books.

The computer makes it possible for everyone/anyone/to kick out a novel in record time.

This whole business is akin to playing the lottery. Each of us just knows our numbers are going to come up. But millions play, only a few win.

Anonymous said...

We. Just. Keep. Coming.

Like hoards.
Like zombies.

That's an awesome observation, bernita. After reading MS's COM, the imagery is perfectly discriptive. The bodies just keep piling up.

Bernita said...

Certainly may seem like a lotto from where we sit.
The thing to remember, Ric, is that it's not a machine choosing the lucky winners.

Thank you, Anon.
No wonder they get frazzled and let loose with broadsides at times.

Zany Mom said...

I think the Crapometer has great value. Yes, I'm one of the casualties. But, I see now what's wrong with my hook, and I see ways to strengthen my novel. These are invaluable.

I see how huge the slush pile is now. I see the obvious crap. And I see where my novel and idea fits in (smack in the middle, neither great nor crap), but needs some tweaking to rise to the top.

Steve G said...

After stopping by earlier and seeing that Ms Snark is involved, I had to visit her site before comming back. Correct me if I'm wrong. She is reviewing letters that potential writers prepare when looking for an agent. She gives her well qualified opinion about the letters and what should be done to make them enticing.

Sure are lots of folks submitting. I wonder how many, who have submitted, have a completed novel to go with it?

Does she ask for more if she likes the letter?

Lots of effort on her part to teach how to write a hook in an inquiry. I guess one has to start somewhere.

Gabriele C. said...

I'm amazed how many people think botched relationships, childhood trauma and lots of navel gazing make for interesting books. Self insert Mary Sues without the Sue.

Gabriele C. said...

Steve, she asks for the first pages if she likes a hook. I sent her one for an unfinished novel, but with the first chapters already written.

Not that she was hooked. :)

MissWrite said...

Yeah--what you said.

Bernita said...

Zany, I agree. I think Miss Snark and her crapometers are treasure beyond measure.

Steve, if she feels the hook hooks, she will review the first 750 words of the novel. If I remember correctly, one did not have to have completed a novel - as this was simply a teaching exercise.
She never expected this quantity of response.

I'm with you there, Gabriele.
But. Makes one feel better about one's own plot.

Steve G said...

Gabriele, thanks. Are there other agents doing a similar thing or does she have the market cornered?

Bernita said...

I'm sure you entirely sympathize with MS, Tami.

December Quinn said...

I can't even bring myself to comment on them anymore. It's just too deadening.

Steve, Rachel Vater (Agent X) talks about queries in her blog pretty regularly, and is planning to do another query workshop soonish.

Bernita said...

Miss Snark is pretty well unique, Steve.
She has run earlier Crapometers on various aspects - first pages, synopses ( in her archives).
Other blogging agents sometimes make general comments about types of queries that do or (mostly do not intrigue them.
The closest is Lit Agent X (Rachel Vater), who does a query run-down fairly frequently.
But an on-line workshop like this. No.

Bernita said...

True, December.
There have been a few I've actually itched to edit - because they just missed being good.

Bernita said...

Steve, I forgot Evil Editor.
I have no idea whether he is an actual editor or an agent, but he critiques both openings and queries and his comments are good.

Steve G said...

Bernita, you may have answered my next question which was, why is she doing it?

Or I should ask, what you and your readers think the reason is for her doing this? Nice person, likes attention, loves pain, looking for customers, or parts of all of the above? It just seems a little crazy that a full time agent could do this and their job at the same time.

Bernita said...

Steve, most agents attend/teach at conferences and workshops for aspiring writers.
Miss Snark is utilizing the internet to reach and teach far more writers far more effectively.
She says we teach her a lot too.
She has also said she gets so frustrated when she sees a good concept ruined by awkward presentation in a query.
She is not looking for customers. (No legitimate agent has to.)She must be queried by the normal procedure. None are accepted from her blog.

Anonymous said...

Please excuse me for interjecting here, but I have often wondered about Ms Snark. Is she like ESPN, who first creates the news, then reports on it? Or is she a self-accredited agent with a puffed up ego? Or just altruistic? And one other point, her opinion is just 'one' opinion, and my Mama told me that the criticism usually says more about the criticizer than the one being criticized.

However, you all seem to adore her, so I'll begin dodging the tomatoes, eggs and other flying objects.

kmfrontain said...

"Reading the entries makes me feel a little like the scavengers who come down out of the hills after battle to rob and despoil the dying and the dead."

There. You put into words how I felt when I read her blog a few times a year back. I've learned a great deal from you and the comments on your blog, and in a more pleasant manner, than I would have from Snark. Reading her blog had too many negative effects that took away from anything I could have learned.

Bernita said...

Anon, Miss Snark has always emphasized that her opinion is her opinion and has always advised writers to query widely because of that subjectivity.
I don't know quite what you mean by "self-appointed agent", or the "puffed-up ego."
Much of her personna is for comic effect.
I might point out that a number of respectable and non-pseudonymous agents have no trouble with her qualifications, and would certainly neither quote nor link with her if she were a parvenue.

I don't go for exaggerated agjectives like "adore"; however, I've found her advice to be generous, logical and sensible.

Zany Mom said...

What I like about Miss Snark is her ability to cut to the real deal without the niceties. I mean, really, some people take any hint of encouragement and run with it: An agent LOVED my work!! When she really was only being polite.

When Miss Snark says: wtf? You know it's crap. I think most of the blog entries were fairly decent, but the writers got bogged down in the details. For those, suggestions to focus, pare down, start here, name the villain, and toss out the kitchen sink were invaluable.

Steve G said...

Bernita, thanks for the reply.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Karen.
But I'm a clumsy beginner.

One needs to read her consistently to get the contextual hilarity of her so-called snarks.
But she calls it as she sees it.
I appreciate the honesty.

raine said...

Okay. I've finally made my way there, lol.
Your point about the endless waves of oncoming authors is well taken, Bernita. Personally, I wouldn't last six months in that end of the business. I'd finally be arrested, the criminal known as 'The Query Killer', going state to state on a seek and destroy mission, hunting the authors down one by one... (hey, that's not a bad hook...lol!!).

But must admit, I found her opinions generally right on the mark, whether I appreciated her sharp-edged wit or not. And must confess, she did make me laugh out loud, even when I felt badly for the writer.

spyscribbler said...

But I find that even in her snarkism, there's a caring that shines through. That's why I like her; it seems she genuinely cares, every bit as much as she snarks.

Kinda like some of the meanest teachers in school, eventually became your favorite and most respected teachers.

I can't keep up with her ... I'm exhausted, and I think I'm on 200!

Bernita said...

I like that about her too, Zany.

Ah, Raine, neither would I, and the queries are only a very small part of an agent's job. The flogging to editors, the contracts, the rights...

Exactly, Spy, tough love, and she really lets it rip at agents who ignore/abuse writers and scammers.

Anonymous said...

I would like to make it clear that anon 11:45 is not me (anon 9:59).

Bernita said...

Thank you, Anon.
Unless you tag a letter or name at the end of your posts though, we have no way of distinguishing anons.