Thursday, May 12, 2011

My Mother Hen Moment

There is so much great information on the Internet for beginning writers. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the process of distilling the information. Certainly, I believe, there are better blogs than mine, though I don't know which they are, nor do I really care who is better than me, as long as I'm my best.

Writing is a craft. It is also an art. It is also a profession. Here are a few tips, and as always, they are IMO. (IMO is In My Opinion. Most often it is IMHO, but there is nothing humble about my opinion. I very rarely apoligize for it or for calling it like I see it, therefore, forget thinking I'm humble when it comes to this craft and this industry.) we go!

It takes most people hours, months, and sometimes years to write a novel. I'm among the fortunate few who can write a complet draft in 40 hours, eg, a couple hours a day for three weeks.

That said, it totally amazes me that such lack of care is given to soliciting publication. Seriously, folks, this isn't an entitlement. Anyone wanting to be part of this wonderful and sometimes bizzare thing of writing must put at least equal effort into the submission process as into the writing process.

Here are a few obvious things that result in me not reading the first three chapters of a submitted ms: When a query letter begins, "Dear Sir," it is nearly sudden death then and there. Besides the fact, that as a woman, it annoys the hell out of me to be addressed as "Sir," it also indicates that the person sending the query hasn't bothered to find out if I am a sir.

A quick look at Cactus Rain Publishing's website reveals my name. A google will find First Draft, and I'm pretty sure the photo of me doesn't look like a "Sir."

The next arogant thing that catches my attention is the brush off query letter. It goes like this: I wrote this novel (please don't say "fiction novel" - novels ARE fiction) and have attached the synopsis and first three chapters for you to read.

It tells me nothing about the submission, assuming I'll jump over the correctly written query letters and rush to read the synopsis attached. Um...let me think on, no.

This isn't a complete list of what should go into a query letter, but it is a business letter that is your first and best attempt to get the reader to consider the ms. It should include the genre, the length (word count), and a two or three sentence paragraph that pitches the the manuscript (ms).

The pitch to readers (blurbs and such) is different from the pitch to an agent or publisher. There should be no fluff to it. For example, Kathryn's Beach is an 80,000 word contemporary woman's lit story of a social worker who returns to face the case that ended her career. It is set in Southern California near Los Angeles. That is very bare bones and wouldn't get a reader excited, but in this case, that isn't the point of the pitch.

The next problem area that results in a decline email is the synopsis. There is a search feature for this blog in the sidebar to the left. Search 'synopsis' for tips about the form and substance of synopsis, especially if you intend to query Cactus Rain.

It is heartbreaking to tell hopeful authors that their work is not a good fit for Cactus Rain. But at least it shouldn't be because the query process was slopped together and doesn't represent the work submitted or the writer's intent to become a professional, not a hobbiest.

Good writing, good luck, and God-speed.


  1. Rewrite done and now writing the synopsis and query. These are the hardest thing to write!

  2. Glynis, I agree. They are much more work than writing a novel. They are not written in a creative voice, and that is our natural voice. God-speed.

  3. Hello Marit, Welcome to First Draft. Jump in and comment. Everyone is welcome to participate, and you don't have to agree with what I post. Sometimes that makes for better content.

  4. You go, girl! I love it when you have a mother hen moment. Make professional writers out of these folks!

  5. Mother Hen noted and filed. Every tip you post is exactly what I need to hear. I'm a sponge =)

  6. Dear Susan and Peggy, I went back and read what I wrote hoping I hadn't imbarrassed myself. How are you ladies doing with your writing projects?

  7. Hi Nadine!

    I'm currently taking a writing class, I just joined a local writing group, and I'm writing a lot. I keep waffling on what I want to write about - real life or fiction - I think there's a non-fiction memoir in me that's begging to come out but I have a few fiction story ideas that I want to follow.

    I did, however, finally submit the story I submitted for the short story contest last year...Just sent it off to One Buck Horror. My one and only "horror" story =)

  8. Peggy, sounds great. Let us know how the One Buck Horror thing works out for you...

  9. I really liked your comment " really care who is better than me, as long as I'm my best"

  10. Drat. It would be nice to be able to sign on so I could post another bit of wit.