Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Line I Found In My Notes For My WIP

I love finding something awesome I'd forgotten I'd written:

Rationality, I think, is the enemy of romance.  It grounds one in one’s flesh and anchors one to the earth.  This sad condition is inevitably fatal, and its devastating effects can only be delayed by the regular consumption of powerful intoxicants.   I know writers who never partake, who put pen to paper in a state of stony sobriety.  They’re terrible. 

The new project is called "Fouler Lips Than Thine."  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Creamy Cliches and Sticky Adverbs

Courtesy of Awful Library Books, here are a couple of hilarious pages from a "Romance Writer's Phrasebook."

Every single example here is bad.  You would think that, statistically, someone spewing this much stuff would come up with one evocative phrase.  But the figurative language never once manages to be novel or clever or particularly apt.  This is like a field guide to telling-not-showing.

Also, some of these phrases get bonus points for improper grammatical construction.  

This book, incidentally, is not merely an anthropological or historical artifact. While the copyright date of 1984, it is still in print. Readers are powerless to resist.

Monday, September 20, 2010

If competent adults existed in children's fiction

"I don't care if this is your side of the mountain. You can't live in a tree, kid."

"I'm from child protective services. We heard there were children living in a boxcar."

"Fudge almost ate Peter's turtle, but I stopped him because I am capable of providing proper parental supervision."

"I'm Count Olaf. I want the children's inheritance." "I'm their attorney, the executor of the parental estate, and court-appointed guardian. See you in court."

"What'd you do today, Hardy Boys?" "We went to school."

"Pevensie children, please stand back from the platform when the train is approaching."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Unboxing 6th Gen iPod Nano

This isn't ordinarily my style, but I know these things are popular, and I need more blog hits so I can feel like I have friends.

I am a BlackBerry user, so I am a big fan of iPod standalone music players.  I like to be able to sync my device into iTunes and I prefer to have a sleek music device to carry when I run or work out, instead of using my phone to listen to music.  I don't want to carry something like the iPod Touch along with my BlackBerry, so I am a fan of the iPod Nano.  This morning, I picked up the latest generation of the device at the 5th Ave. Apple store.

Apple cut the size of the Nano roughly in half compared to the previous model. The video playback function, which has been a nano staple since the third-gen device, has been removed; this thing now just plays music.  Apple has replaced the click-wheel interface with a multitouch screen. 

Here are pictures of the packaging:

As you can see, the Nano is now very small; nearly as small as the iPod Shuffle.  This thing has come a long way since the iPod Mini.

This is the new Nano compared to my 4th-gen model.  As you can see, it's much smaller, and about half the weight.  However, some of that size reduction has come at the expense of screen real-estate.  Also, since the interface is now multi-touch, you have to select albums or songs with a finger, so each name or title in your list of artists or albums has to be larger.  That means that, while the old Nano could display ten names on its screen at once, the new device can only display three.  For what it's worth, though, the multitouch display is very responsive. 

This photo shows the profile of both devices.  Apple has added a clip onto the back of the device which is convenient for working out, but it adds a little bit of thickness.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dialog is hard to write

"So, you tell me about chaos theory, and I'll tell about dinosaurs."
"Dr. Goosepimple, I'd like you to meet Mr. Hardwick. He'll be your security chief for the expedition."

"We're peaceable scientists and we know how to comport ourselves in the jungle. We don't need to be escorted by armed men."

"Yes, but the enigmatic Baron Von Sinister is funding your research, and he believes security is a top priority."

"I spent seventeen years in the bush, Doctor. And you may think you know your way around the woods, but these ain't like any woods you've ever seen. There are guerrillas, gorillas, and space-panthers. There are mosquitoes with six-foot wingspans."

"Do you even know anything about our research?"

"I'm just paid to shoot things."

"Wonderful. We'll have to stop periodically and explain what we are doing to you and tell you what our incomprehensible jargon means."

"And I'll probably have to tell you about my guns, so that when the attached grenade launcher on my H&K MP5 becomes relevant to the story later, the reader will already be aware of it."

"Yes. It seems our ignorance of each other's specializations is going to be a helpful expository device."

"I think we shall be the best of friends."

Here is some helpful advice for writing dialog from someone who provides helpful advice.  Here

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Why the hell are you tweeting instead of reading my manuscript?"

"I told you, Glenn Close, standard response time is six to eight weeks."

Here's another for the "don't-be-crazy" query file: an author asks agent Jessica Faust why agents are on Twitter when their attention should be focused on the majesty of the thing he has created.

As a writer, it really helps not to seem like an awful person.  That's true with regard to editors or agents who might be considering working with you.  It's true with regard to readers who might be considering spending money and investing time to see what's in your head.

Submission, whether to agents or to editors, is emotionally taxing, and it will make you a little neurotic, even if you are a balanced person.  But try very hard not to be a jerk.  There are other things going on in these people's lives besides your manuscript. That's true even if you are a client. 

You need to understand what demands on an agent's time and attention are reasonable.  It is not reasonable to ask somebody to set aside everything in their life to pay attention to you immediately.  If you respect your agent and recognize that their time is valuable, they will like you better and work harder for you.  It's good to have confidence in your work, but expecting extraordinary special treatment, especially prior to signing with the agent, marks you as difficult and potentially crazy.

Also, keep in mind that prospective clients are an agent's lowest priority.  Waiting a month to six weeks for an answer on a full is considered fast turnaround; two months is industry standard.  Agents won't move you to the front-burner unless there is a time-sensitive issue like another offer on the table.

Also:  Yesterday, Nathan Bransford had a helpful post about how to deal with conflicting query advice, after several agents gave different answers about whether authors should query under pen names.

My advice on the subject:  The only rational response to conflicting query advice is to disregard all of it and do the opposite. Specifically, you should:

Query as your main character Pen name? Real name? Forget it. Query in character. Especially if your character is a sex offender, a serial killer or an angel. If you open your query with "I am an Angel of God, sent to Earth to serial-kill the women who won't date me," there's no friggin' way an agent won't ask for your pages. That's what they call a 'baller hook' in the biz.

Insult the agent If you can diminish their sense of self-worth, agents will become desperate to associate with you, so that they may shine with some of your reflected glory. If you tell an agent that you think he is an idiot but that he can prove you wrong by representing you, he will be filled with an unquenchable desire to prove he is not an idiot. That's just psychology, or something. 

Mass e-mail queries You're busy and your book is a hot commodity. Let everyone know it by sending your query to everyone in Writer's Marketplace in one e-mail with the salutation: "Dear Sir or Madam." That way, they know they have a lot of competition and they had better get around to requesting your full immediately.

Good luck to you, Noble Writer, and godspeed.