Friday Links

Happy Friday! This month is zipping right along, isn’t it? For this last Friday in September I have a nice assortment of links for you all, including some podcasts! So I hope you have a bit of free time soon to check them all out without procrastinating too badly.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, and happy writing!

New USPS Prices for 2014 – Yup, stamp prices are going up again. If you’re planning to write letters in the new year, might want to stock up on those Forever stamps.

A Chat with Paul Cornell – A podcast chat with this triple threat: novelist, comic writer, and screenwriter.

You and Your Bad Reviews – Words of wisdom from Chuck Wendig.

When Fail Happens in Your Career – Rarely does a writer’s career slope straight up with nary a dip. Some great advice on how to handle various moments of negativity.

2013 National Book Awards Long List – For those of you looking for something good to read…

Mid-Week Entertainment

You know how I encourage authors to read their work out loud to see how it sounds? An even better option is to hire someone with a really sexy voice to read it for you. Because some people can make anything sound better. Of course, it helps if you start with Keats…

Benedict Cumberbatch reads ‘Ode to a Nightingale’

You’re welcome, and have a lovely day.

Levels of “No,” or Why I Reject Manuscripts

A few weeks back, I asked you all for input on what you’d like to hear more about here on the blog in coming months, and received a number of lovely suggestions. Among them was a question from Jacquelyn Ayres regarding manuscript rejection, and if I’d ever taken on a project for a writer after having rejected a previous manuscript. The short answer is yes, I have, but the actual response is more complicated, so today I’m going to chat a bit about rejections in general, and all the reasons that might lurk behind any given negative response.

As an agent, I generally consider projects at two levels: partial manuscript and full manuscript. Queries go through the agency and get screened there, and when I request material at a conference, I mostly ask for at least a partial. So when I sit down to consider material, I’m starting off with the first three chapters.

What Do I Look for in a Partial?

Partial manuscripts need to pull me in, hold my attention, and leave me anxious to read more. I’m already interested in the premise, or I never would have gotten to the partial stage, so at this point I’m looking to get wowed by the execution. I want a vivid voice, good characterization, a strong opening paragraph, steady build of tension, a nice blend of action and narrative with an emphasis on showing vs. telling, and a high level of general mechanics — word choice, rhythm, grammar, etc.

And I’m looking for an excuse to stop reading.

That may sound harsh, but the reality is that I have an in-box full of manuscripts waiting for my attention, so any serious flaw in the first three chapters — which have ostensibly been written and rewritten and polished and critiqued — will lose me. If the first three chapters don’t hold up, I have little hope for the complete manuscript and so I will pass.

Please keep in mind, that’s a pass for the project, not the author. I’m always happy to take a look at another project down the line. Writers get better at their craft, so the potential of one project rarely has much to do with the potential of the next one.

What about Complete Manuscripts?

Things get tricky when we get to the full manuscript because the longer the material, the more places there are for me to say no. I go in looking for a continuation of the promise I saw in the partial — all the same qualities, plus the addition of excellent pacing that keeps up through the end of the manuscript, a lack of plot holes, a strong climax, and a satisfying resolution. I also want to lose myself in the story; in essence, I want to forget I’m reading an unpublished work and feel like I’m reading something I picked up at my local bookstore. The closer I can get to that feeling, the more excited I get about a project.

But the reality is that I still reject most full-length manuscripts, for many reasons, but 98% of the time, those reasons can be boiled down to “I don’t feel like I can sell this.”

At the end of the day, publishing is a business, so there is a difference between not liking a book and not thinking you can sell a book. I need to have both to take on a project — enthusiasm for the story and the writing and the author on a personal level, as a reader, and also a gut feeling that I can sell the work. If I love a project but don’t think I can sell it, well, there’s not a lot of point in my taking it on.

Most manuscripts I reject are not ready for publication. Most writers send out work that still needs to be edited and revised. Many unpublished writers who are submitting material are still in the early stages of learning their craft and acquiring the skills they need to be successful writers, and in these instances it’s likely that they will write one or two (or more) additional projects before they break out and publish something. In other cases the writer is close, but the project itself has major flaws — issues with motivation, believability, plot holes. Sometimes a project is well written but too predictable or too similar to what’s already in the market, while lacking a spark of originality to set it apart. ¬†Other projects have poor or non-existent resolutions.

If I love a project and believe that I could sell it if only one or two issues are resolved, I will let a writer know that I’d consider revisiting the manuscript if they make certain edits. The ball is entirely in their court; they don’t need to take my advice if they disagree with my suggestions, or if they decide to keep looking for an agent willing to take the project on as is. But on occasion those writers do consider my comments and come back with a revised submission — and I have been known to sign clients as a result.

But Do I Ever Just Not Like Something?

Very rarely do I read a full manuscript and just dislike it. I’d say that’s only happened one or two times since I’ve become an agent. And that’s not because I’m easy to please, but because I generally rule out projects that aren’t to my taste long before I reach the full-length manuscript stage. So while I’ve rejected projects from a writer only to sign them on for a later work, I’ve always had some level of interest and enjoyment in the earlier manuscripts. When I pass because I don’t “love something enough,” it’s not because I don’t love it at all, but because it’s not where it needs to be or because it isn’t something I believe I can sell.

Sometimes the submissions process can be magical. A writer submits a project, I love it, and I offer representation. But mostly it’s a process, where I might read a partial for a project and reject, then get to a full manuscript with that writer’s next project, and perhaps sign them on a third. The journey varies from writer to writer, and project to project, as does every aspect of the writer’s career.

ARC Winners!

No Angel cover art

Thanks to everyone who entered to win an ARC of Helen Keeble‘s new young adult novel, NO ANGEL, out October 8th. The winners are: Meg Wirick of Idaho for the US copy, and Melissa Seynaeve of Belgium for the international copy. Please watch your email for instructions on how to claim your prizes.

There will be more giveaways in coming weeks, so make sure to drop by regularly in order to catch the announcements. Happy weekend and happy reading!

Friday Links

Happy Friday, everyone! This has been a jam-packed week for me, and things aren’t really tapering off any time soon, but that’s how I like it. How about all of you? Busy week winding down? Exciting weekend to come? Some serious writing time in your future?

Whatever your aims for the next couple of days, I’m happy to offer up some fun and educational links to distract you. Well, maybe just a little bit. Need to hit those word count goals, right? Have a great weekend, everyone!

Eight Creativity Lessons from a Pixar Animator – Some inspiration for any art form.

List List #73 – A roundup of bookish lists, bound to keep you busy.

Eccentric Habits of 13 Classic Writers – And you thought your critique partner had an odd routine…

A Teacher and Her Student – An interview with author Marilynne Robinson.

The 12 Types of Procrastinators – How many of these resemble you?

Book Giveaway!

No Angel cover art

Rafael Angelos just got handed the greatest gift any teenage boy could ever dream of. Upon arriving at his new boarding school for his senior year, he discovered that he is the only male student there. But Raffi’s about to learn that St. Mary’s is actually a hub for demons–and that he was summoned to the school by someone expecting him to save the day. Raffi knows he’s no angel–but it’s pretty hard to deny that there’s some higher plan at work when he wakes up to discover he’s sprouted wings and a glowing circle around his head…

It’s time for a giveaway! I have TWO shiny ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) of FANG GIRL author Helen Keeble‘s hysterical new young adult novel, NO ANGEL, due in stores October 8th. For this contest, one copy will be available internationally and one copy for U.S. only. To enter, please leave a comment below on this thread, stating the country where you live, by 12pm, noon, Pacific Daylight Time, on Friday, September 20th. I will return later that day to announce the winners. Good luck to everyone!



The Autumn Agenda

Welcome to a new week! I hope you all had a lovely weekend. As promised last week, I’m here to make a few announcements regarding business in general and this blog in particular. Today is just the beginning, so be sure to keep dropping by for all the updates.

First and foremost, and I suspect most anticipated, I will be reopening to submissions as of next Monday, September 23, 2013. Please note that standard submissions guidelines will apply, so if you’re interested in submitting materials to me, please do head over to the agency site and read over the rules carefully before you send anything. Submissions that fail to follow guidelines are routinely deleted or relegated to the circular file. You’ve been warned.

In addition, I’ve got some giveaways coming up. The first one will be announced tomorrow and run through this week. In the past, all of my giveaways have been open internationally, but going forward I’m going to be making announcements on a case-by-case basis. I’d love to be able to open them to everyone every single time, but the cost of postage and the time it takes to deal with customs forms is making that less than practical. So please be sure to read the giveaway announcements in full, and I’ll do my best to make sure there’s fun stuff available for everyone from time to time.

Finally, those of you who participate in NaNoWriMo know that November is suddenly on the horizon. With that in mind, I plan to look at different ways you can prep ahead of time if you’re disinclined to just fly by the seat of your pants. So keep your eyes open in October for some discussions of plotting, characterization, and other building blocks for your NaNo-novel.

Regular, informative posts will be resuming, and Friday Links will continue as always. I’m looking forward to a great autumn season of writing and book chatter, so I hope you join me!

Friday Links

TGIF! Though I suppose if you’re of a suspicious nature, you might not be too thrilled with the Friday the 13th end of things. But whatever your feelings on the subject, it is still the gateway to the weekend. Try not to walk under any ladders or anything today and all will be well.

So, before I get to the actual Friday Links, I just want to say that I know it’s been a bit quiet around here lately, but things will start picking up again next week. There are more real posts on the horizon — with thanks to the folks who left questions/suggestions a few weeks back — plus giveaways and some other exciting things. Please be sure to drop by and check it all out.

Now, without further ado, I give you linkage. Enjoy, and have a fabulous weekend!

30 Indispensable Writing Tips from Famous Authors – I suspect I’ve posted to this or something similar before, but they bear repeating.

Spoiler Alert – What happens when a good book gets turned into a bad movie? Endless Love author Scott Spencer shares his experiences.

One Week after 9/11 – An interview with Joan Didion, who was one of the first people to fly out of New York following the 9/11/01 attacks.

Books Are My Bag – This celebration of books and bookstores kicks off in the UK tomorrow. Makes me wish I was heading for London before Christmas…

The Most Stylish People in Literature – In honor of the end of fashion week in NYC.

Friday Links

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve all got something lovely planned for the weekend. I’ll be searching out some cool spots to escape the ongoing heat wave here in Southern California — going on two weeks or so of ridiculously high temps. But before we all run off for places weekend-y, I’ve got some links for your edification and entertainment. Enjoy!

People of Color in European Art – Looking to instill some diversity in your sff or historical fiction? Check out this great tumblr for inspiration/historical accuracy.

Endings that Hover – Some thoughts on ending stories.

Italo Calvino’s 14 Definitions of What Makes a Classic – Interesting round up.

Holly Black Resurrects Vampires – While I’m personally still a bit burned out on the genre, I like Black’s explanation about why she chose to write a vampire YA right now. it’s a good attitude for a writer to have.

Chasing the Light: On Not Quitting the Writing Life – A nice look at persistence and the way different writers advance at different speeds.