Thursday, November 16, 2006

Diet Plans That Work

I am collecting all of your questions, but things have been crazy between NaNoWriMo, school, and work. I also would like you all to know that I am currently in the same boat as many of my readers - I am awaiting a response from a publishing company about the three chapters I sent in. Contacts within the industry only get you so far. Now my writing has to stand on its own like everyone else's. I feel your pain.

Today a query came in for a diet book. This would hardly be exceptional if not for the total idiocy of the writers. After jabbering on for three paragraphs about how much weight this husband and wife had lost (not mentioning how long it took them to lose it - it could be years for all I know), they finally got down to the actual amazing plan: "DECREASE YOUR CALORIE INTAKE AND YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT."

...Wow. What a revelation.

Monday, November 13, 2006

One of those rare posts where I talk about myself

A couple people have emailed me about a reference I made to 6-MP, an immunosuppressive drug commonly used for various chronic illnesses involving a hyperactive immune system. Since Yahoo mail "lost" two weeks worth of stored mail and a number of those emails, I'll answer it here.

I have Crohn's Disease (link NWS). It's one of the reasons I live in New York - all of the best doctors are here and my case is rather complicated. It's also why I don't work full time, aside from also being in grad school full time - I'm always rearranging my work schedule around procedures and emergency appointments, and my boss is incredibly understanding about it.

Someone else with Crohn's asked me why there isn't more books about it. After all, we get plenty of submissions every week from cancer survivors, or friends of people who died of cancer, or crazy doctors who think they've found a cure to every disease and it's apparently eating dirt.

The answer is probably that Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and the rest of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease family are all pretty gross to discuss in any detail. While I'm not ashamed to say I have the disease and describe the symptons to anyone who actually really wants to know, most people who have it do not come forward, because it's embarassing. And even if/when people do write about it, it probably wouldn't sell to people who don't have the disease or relatives who have it. Anything exceedingly well written will sell, but very few things are exceedingly well written, and it's even more important if the text is a sensitive topic. I've seen very few narratives, fiction or non, about waste management. (Except by environmentalists) I've never seen a protagonist who had a job cleaning septic tanks. The closest I've ever seen to that is Lore from Slow River working in a water filtration plant. It's not that the topics are "off limits" - nothing is - but they're not palatable, so they won't sell to a large audience.

Mysterious Questions from an Agent

Dear Rejecter,
I queried an agent who emailed me asking two
questions: 1)if the book had been workshopped with any
writers' groups and 2) if any publishers had seen the

Why do you think the agent would be interested,
especially in the writers' groups?

The answer to the second question is obvious. He/she wants to know if you have been rejected by any or all of the big five companies, which would be a serious reason for the agent not to take on the manuscript.

The answer to the first question is not so obvious. The agent might be implying that the book needs to be edited, but I don't know why the agent wouldn't have come out and said "You need an editor." Writer's groups are a mixed bag, and I don't know an agent who would send a client to one. What the agent is probably doing is fishing for big names - if you did a workshop with a famous author or attended Clarion or whatnot. But that's just a guess.

Creating a Synopsis

I have finished my first novel and am embarking on the
terrifying process of trying to find an agent. I have
been researching how to write a good synopsis.
However, nowhere have I found an answer to my
question: should my synopsis narrate events in
chronological order? Or should it narrate events in
the order in which they occur in the novel? The two
are not the same, in my case. The story takes place
over a span of 60 years, and is told through
alternating points of view, so a chapter set in 1949
might follow upon a chapter set in 2005.

That's a tough call. I don't pay particular attention to a synopsis unless I have to, but I know a lot of agents and assistants do. I would say .... it depends on how often you flip back and forth, because you don't want to be writing "Meanwhile, in the future" all that often. I wrote a manuscript with two parallel storylines - one involving a news reporter in 1996 and one involving his brother in the year 2016, and honestly, I would probably be stumped on a synopsis, and then eventually end up just writing it the way it appears in the book. There's not a hard and fast answer to this question that I know of. You may want to check with some other agent's blogs.