Sunday, April 17, 2011

What The-?

We've all had those moments where it feels like the rest of the world is completely out of touch with our personal reality. I thought it would be fun to share some of our writing-related WT-? moments. I'm not sure we'll learn anything new from our examples, but I think they'll reinforce the truth that in this biz, you just never know...

I'll get us started with two WT-?s. I hope to read YOURS in the comments.

 WT-? #1

Some of you know the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition is in full swing right now. Most of you don't know I entered. The competition has rounds through which your manuscript is elevated, much like an agent looks at a work: query, partial, full. ABNA limited the number of adult book entries to 5000. In the first round, they eliminated 80% of the entries judged on the query alone (although, oddly, they never used the term "query"). That hefty slice scared a lot of people. And for many folk who didn't have a decent query -- and especially for those who didn't even know what one was -- rightly so.

To me, 20% getting through based on a query for goodness sake seemed quite generous. I entered Sector C: high concept, not too science fiction-y for a general competition, with a decent query that had garnered several agent requests for partials and the full. (Have I mentioned the half-dozen personal rejections where the agents actually stated in no thinly veiled language that they expected this novel to sell and that I shouldn't have a problem getting representation for it? Believe me, you don't know what rejection really means until one of those babies lands in your inbox. And when it happens 5 or 6 times ... but I digress.)

Well, considering today's theme, you all know where this is leading. My query didn't make the cut. Let me repeat that. My query didn't make a cut that, at 20%, is up to 4 times more generous than agents requesting from the slush pile. Yeah, WT-?

I console myself with having the full currently being considered by two "Big 6" imprints.

WT-? #2

Considering this has to do with another contest, you would think I really should have learned my lesson about entering contests by now. This happened a couple of years ago, in a competition hosted by a popular multi-author blog, with published authors as the judges. The contest had two rounds: query and the first 3000 words. I entered a WIP (which is still a WIP for reasons wholly unrelated).

The query passed easily. The excerpt was posted with an anonymous judge's comments. S/he had gone through the first few hundred words "correcting" grammar and sentence choices. About a third of the way through, s/he made this (paraphrased) comment:

I'm tired of correcting all the mistakes, so I'm not going to correct any more. I suggest you get a good manual on usage or, better yet, take a course at your local community college. An agent would never have read this far based on all the grammatical errors.
So, um, yeah. Let me apologize right now to all my former students, employers and folk I've mentored for leading you astray all these years. I have been outed for the fraud I am.

What are YOUR WT-? stories?


Wilkins MacQueen said...

Your WT #2 - Ouch. Unbelievable.

fairyhedgehog said...

Those really are Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moments!

Jo-Ann said...

Here's one: a writing comptetion web-site listed the conditions of entry and judging criteria. It emphasised the proper use of spelling, grammar and punctuation for all entries, and that "manuscript's" (sic) showing poor use of such would be eliminated. WT!

I reckon the writer and the judge of your ms was the same person.

Slush said...

I have nothing to compare. Your WT moments are definitely mind boggling.

My best response to those fools is a profanity laden, 3-word sentence that involves my favorite word.

Just remember to laugh evilly when Sector C gets published. That will show 'em.

Sarah Laurenson said...

My favorite one didn't happen to me. It involved a male author writing a male protagonist. He was told, in no uncertain terms, that as a woman tryng to write a male character, he wasn't any good and should stick to writing women. He posted about it last year some time and there was the usual uproar for a bit. Still sticks with me though as a great example of how stereotyped this business can be. Perception is everything.

Chelsea P. said...

Yowza! It's wild how authors can be so much crueler than agents are, often without even realizing it.

This one isn't that bad, more amusing, but Sarah's comment made me think of it. Recently someone told me my teenage characters are clearly written by someone over thirty. Not a bad observation (I don't want my characters to sound too old), but um, I'm under thirty. So apparently when I write characters younger than me, they sound older than me.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

@Mac: Scary, huh?

I realize my first example might sound a bit arrogant. I just meant that if a proven query can't crack the top 20% (that's 1000 submissions), then ANYONE getting five or six rejections for a query shouldn't immediately take it to mean that the query is at fault. Obviously there's a lot more at work here than the query itself.

@FHH: Have you been listening in on Sylvia's conversations with Air Traffic Control?

@Jo: Too funny! Is the lesson here: If you can't do, judge?

@Slush: Nothing to compare yet just means you haven't been trying long enough yet, sweetie. Won't be long before you do.

@Sarah: Wow! Amazing that still happens these days. *shakes head*

@Chelsea: Arrgghh. Or, hmm. Rowling was over 30 when the first HP book was pubbed. Meyer was 30 when she wrote Twilight. Suzanne Collins was over 40 when she wrote Hunger Games. Maybe it was meant to be a compliment? ;o)

smcc said...

I had a beta reader tell me that he didn't care for what he read of my novel because he didn't like 1st-person narratives.

Which would have been helpful criticism, except my novel was written in the 3rd-person, with multiple POVs.

AA said...

"Which would have been helpful criticism, except my novel was written in the 3rd-person"

It's hard for him to tell POV with his head up his @$$.

Word verification: mockese. I know this language well.