Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Definitions, Labels & Nice Tidy Boxes

NONE of that applies in the writing world. Period. If it does, please prove me othewise.

First you have your book. No one will tell you how many chapters. No one will tell you how many scenes. And that's okay. That's not what bugs me. What bugs me is that no one can seem to give me a CLEAR CUT definition on things:

Chick lit: 1st person or not? 1st and 3rd? Only 3rd? Present or past tense?
Contemporary: What exactly is the difference between short contemporary and CATEGORY? Or are they the same thing? I don't think I've ever seen a short single title. I understand long contemporary. That could fit into category or single title.
Mystery/Thrill/Suspense: Why the hell do we need three words that say the same thing. Pick one and use it exclusively.
Blaze vs. Temptation vs. Desire: Well, they're all category. And Temptation is being weeded out of the States. So what exactly is the difference between Blaze and Desire? Same word count, and same type of "situations". I have yet to find a clear and defined definition that separates one of these from the other.
Misc Issues: Single Title vs Womans Fiction vs "With Romantic Elements". WTH? Wouldn't SINGLE TITLE cover it all?

And how, exactly, am I supposed to have a flippin' clue about MY work when the professionals that have been in the industry for YEARS can't even agree. It's quite frustrating. And in a bad way. Not frustrating in that really cool sexual tension kind of way.

Then, let's say I'm magically finishing a new piece of work. Some say print it in Times New Roman. Some say Courier. Some say word count is from the Word Processing count. Some say it's per word per line per page.

Shall I even start on the next phase?
Query Letters: One page, two page? I followed the query in a class from Nationals and sent it to one of the agents I have on my A-list via email. AFTER sending it, I showed it to a published author whom I adore. She told me that what I sent wasn't remotely a proper query letter. Great. Then WHY was that twit allowed to teach it that way at Nationals AND provide an example for us to use?!
Synopses: First of all, who the heck came up with this word? Have you tried to say the plural form outloud? It's not easy. They should be stoned, and not in a good way. Then, how long should it be? Some agents/editors want 10 pages, some want 1. Some want a varied length in between. BUT, they ALL want to "hear my voice" and tell them the plot twists and the flaws and strengths of the main characters and blah blah blah. Okay, I can do that: In 10 pages. Originally I had a three page synopsis. Why? I don't know. I guess I read somewhere that three pages was the desired length. Another multi-published writer from my local chapter said: Ohhhhhhhhh no, for that lenght of book, pull it out to 10 pages. (My paraphrase.)

So I did. Then I had to whack it down to five for one contest. Then to seven for another. Why can't anyone say "THIS ___ is the perfect length of a synopsis."? You can tell me what font to type in, but you can't come to a basic agreement on the length and detail of a query letter or synopsis? I don't GET that.

Then there's the agents. I just LOVE this part. We are HOUNDED, beaten into our very flesh, that we should ALWAYS know who we are addressing. Research and know the editor/agents name, address, correct title. Plain white paper. No scents (hard when you're a smoker, btw.) We spend money on our printer cartridge ($28), printer paper ($4), special folder to present it in ($3), water-proof mailer ($3), then postage, anywhere from $3.85 to $17 (Yes, I had one like that for a contest.) So we have their name, their addresses, the right font, the right query, the right synopsis, the right title of their position. We have it all perfectly put together and have not only sweated blood from wicked amount of anxiety, but also used up a crapload of time AND money. Right? Right. If you're a writer out there reading this, you're nodding your head in agreement? Right. Yes, I see the nodding again. THEN, after all of that, we STILL have to pay the little bitty $0.37 on a SASE! This KILLS me. We can fork out tons of money (not making any as a writer yet, yanno!) but they need OUR 37 cents when THEY are the ones actively being paid in the field. That's a RIOT. But we do it. The industry as a whole may not agree on pages or chapters, or fonts or queries, or synopsis or pitches or anything else, but they ALL agree on that little SASE. So fine. We do it. We've wandered through all the above things, all without definitions, get it together and send it off with our hearts bleeding and our brains exhausted.

And we wait.

And eat.

And our reward? A GENERIC rejection letter that doesn't even have my NAME on it. All of the proper etiquette of business what we make sure is PERFECTED is totally ignored by the real professionals. And it's OKAY because no one calls them out on it. Now, don't get me wrong. I've had rejection letters that were personalized and very kind. In fact, I've never had a 'nasty' rejection letter. (I haven't even had a rejection in 7 months, but this was bugging me today, so I spewed my venom. Deal.) The double-standard of it is appalling. And I consider the photo-copied-so-many-times-I-can-no-longer-see-your-signature-rejection letters, as well as the little postcards, or even my personal fav, where they crossed out "writer" and scrawled out "Brenda", to be the epitome' of unprofessionalism. If I'd sent my stuff to you at one time, and that's what I got in return, you can bet your lily-white you'll never see a piece of my work again. Agents like that lack the BASIC professionalism that I want from an agent. No, not want. EXPECT.

I guess I just contradicted myself. I said I wanted little boxes and definitions in the beginning of this. I've changed my mind, at least a little bit. I want my future agent to be so OUT of the box that I can be proud to say they represent me, knowing they don't consider the new writers out there to be scum on the bottom of their Ferragamos.


Linda Winfree said...

Brenda! I love it, I completely understand it, and I am definitely coming back to visit!

Gina said...

Brenda, I've decided you're crazy. :-) Could you hang around some editors and agents for a spell and see if you wear off on them?

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Hi Linda! Hope you come back often!

LOL Hey Gina!!! You think I'm crazy? Really? HUH? DO YA? Why would you SAY THAT? TELL ME! TELL ME!

Heck yeah, I'd hang a looooong time with editors and agents. They just won't LET me.

Dang it all.

Anonymous said...


I understand your frustration re" the SASEs, but you have to understand that agents are not sitting there waiting for your query! The good ones, the ones you want, get most of their writers by referral, and rarely from slush, so you are taking up their time, and it's low on their priority list. They are busy selling and working with their current clients. Keep in mind too that agents are paid 100% on commission, so it simply doesn't make sense for them to foot the expense of sending you a rejection letter if they won't be making any money off of you.

But, hopefully that won't be the case, and you'll have your pick of agents.


Brenda Bradshaw said...

Of course, you're absolutely right. But still. It kills me that's the ONE thing everyone can agree on, yanno? I don't mind it, but I just think it's really funny.

I have no idea about the referral to an agent thing. I mean, I take that back. I did meet a fabulous author at Nationals last year who took my card to her agent without reading one word of my book, simply because she liked my personality. Even today, it means the world to me. Unfortunately, her agent was a flaming ass. On a good note, she pissed me off SO much that I created a new character to open my book, whom I shot. So good did come from it.

Other than that, I've really never heard of one writer referring their agent to another writer. Interesting. I don't know when/if I'll query again. I'm working on comedy now, and have no completed projects. I think I could send them out on proposal alone, even though that's a huge newbie no-no. But, the way MY luck runs, that proposal would be accepted and I'd be staring at a blank screen trying to figure out how to quickly finish the project that was requested. So, I do nothing. For now. For awhile. I don't know.

Just yesterday my CP said "So now what are you going to do?" I couldn't even ANSWER her. I'm lost in writer-limbo, I think. And it's such a lonely little place.

Thanks for your reply. Even if you do post anonymously, I wish you'd make up a name or initial to sign it as, so that if you come back and post again, I'll know it's the same person. And I DO hope you visit often! You sound like someone I'd like to know :)