Pub Rants

Parlez-Vous Olympics?

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STATUS: I have to admit, I’m definitely being distracted by the 2008 Olympics. Last night instead of reading queries, sample pages, or doing the editing I was supposed to, I watched Michael Phelps nail the 200m butterfly gold. Folks, I swam swim team my whole life until I was in college (breast stroke and freestyle (aka. front crawl) if you want to know). The butterfly is one dang hard stroke and to do it in that many seconds for 200 meters. Holy cow! The Men’s Gymnastics team bronze wasn’t half bad either.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? The Olympics on TV, duh.

Here’s a thought from the query slush pile. Even if your novel is based on events from your life or were inspired by what you’ve experienced, I still think it’s best to leave that info out of the query itself. For some reason, writers simply cannot relate those details without lapsing into hyperbole.

I do think it’s a pertinent discussion once an agent or editor has expressed interest in the full manuscript after reading sample pages. After all, if spun right in the editorial letter, it can be a plus but writers themselves rarely manage to capture that appropriate balance (maybe because it’s different when an agent says it to the editor versus when writers are talking about themselves).

And when you finally do share that personal detail, keep the narration short and concise. It’s really just on a “need to know” basis. Too many writers are seduced by the melodrama and include every single detail. And even though writing the novel itself might be cathartic, no agent really wants to know that the writing was therapy (if that makes sense).

And in an aside, good agent friend Janet Reid is talking on her blog about going contracts alone. The ten things you need to know (above and beyond everything I talk about in my Agenting 101 entries).

9 Responses

  1. Natalie Hatch said:

    Now the mens gymnastics is just full of amazing research potential, it’s not perving really, you’re actually doing work and people should be understanding if you end up lodged in your couch as you watch those biceps, sorry athletes was the word I was looking for. Love the olympics.

  2. Nancy Naigle said:

    Hi Kristin
    Don’t feel bad. Raise your flag, wave your arms and cheer for the most amazing of amazing. I’m right there with you. I get swept away by the skill and grace those athletes have.

    The Olympics, and we think getting published (or dare I say — an agent!?!) is hard. Enjoy it, they deserve our applause.

    Have a great day and even better evening cheering on your favs.


  3. JES said:

    This reminded me of something Nathan Bransford said… uh… last week, maybe: how tired he is of the phrase “coming of age.”

    I’ll say one thing for the various authors of whoops-it’s-not-memoir-after-all books in the news recently: they sure seem to have messed up the word “memoir” for anybody else’s work.

  4. Amy Nathan said:

    Excellent advice, because we writers do love our words!

    I can see how it might seen relevant to say “guess where I got this idea” when querying, but I realize now it doesn’t matter how or where, just that the idea came to fruition and that it’s a good one.

    Thanks. I will tuck this away until I need it!

  5. ORION said:

    My boat was hauled out all this week so I haven’t watched. I feel so out of the loop!
    Kristin is it true!!!!! Are you really going to be on Oahu at the Maui Writers Conference???!!!!

  6. Marian said:

    You’re right. The most difficult stories to critique are the ones where events (or perish the thought, the entire story) has actually happened to the author. So when you say, “this could be made more plausible”, the author doesn’t understand why. It’s believable, because it happened to the author. And it was so real and heartbreaking that the author won’t change a thing. In fact, the author’s a bit upset that you’d even suggest this.

    I’ll take fictional events any day.

  7. Kate Karyus Quinn said:

    I have also caught Olympic fever! An interesting thing I heard about Michael Phelps on the ABC news this evening was that part of what makes him physically awesome is: a. his arm span across from fingertips to fingertips is longer than he is tall and b. his feet actually flex back further than normal essentially turning his size 14(!) feet into fins! I thought it was important that as a swim fan you have this information:)

  8. pugnaciously said:

    I recently queried you, and I included two sentences about myself. Something, I was completely uncomfortable doing. I had the impression that I was expected to do so. A second after I hit send I finished reading the blogs I’d missed this week and Wammo! I made the mistake I didn’t even wish to make.