Thursday, December 28, 2006

I feel a need to BITCH: Good Advice/Bad Advice:

Ah, yes, so bitchy Zoe comes out to play now. This version of me is alternately called 'evil Zoe' for those keeping notes in a file somewhere. Yeah, so Pollyanna just took a coffee break and I'm slipping in here to bitch while she does. I was reading a book called "The Romance Writer's Handbook" and I stumbled across some of the worst advice I've ever seen and I feel absolutely compelled to share it with you.

Good Advice: Sending out a professional, intriguing query letter to catch the interest of an agent.

Bad Advice: Being unpublished and calling an agent, interviewing them about their methods, badgering them for a list of references, and then talking about yourself. (I promise you this advice was in this book.)


I should have been much more careful in buying this book, I'll admit. But I happened to skim past one page that had good advice on it, though now in hindsight I'm going to have to check another source to make sure it was right in light of THIS advice being published in the same book. To be fair to the author of this book, the chapter about calling agents was not written by her.

For all intents and purposes, this is very much a "noob" 'hello I just discovered the concept of typing the other day' kind of publication. So unless you are just brand new to writing, at least the first half of the book has very little new or helpful information. But I wouldn't recommend the book if you were brand new because then you might think that chapter 32, entitled "Bagging the Right Agent" was actually good advice.

The author of this chapter suggests instead of "wasting time with a letter" CALLING agents and asking them questions about how they run their business etc. to see if they might be the right agent for you. a perfect world. What the frilly heck? And no, she isn't just suggesting it to "name" authors (although surely a well known author has better sense than to call an agent interviewing them like she's going out for the high school paper.)

I felt compelled to rant about this. This is like the writer's version of telemarketing. How do all agents not HATE this woman for suggesting this to people? I can just hear them now: Oh, yes...please encourage a thousand publishing noobs to call my office. I'd be so very grateful.

Here is a direct quote from this chapter: "But whatever you do, don't commit. This is what I call the "******* Rule." Even if you really like talking to this person, and like what they have to say, don't commit during that first telephone call. Wait until you've had more time to think about it. There is still a chance the next agent might impress you more."

Right. In a perfect world. In what reality does an agent offer a noob who just wasted five minutes of his/her time, a contract over the phone? And I did double check this article. She's speaking to ANYONE looking for an agent, not just 'name authors.' And if she were speaking just to name authors it would be ludicrous because this book seems to be mostly aimed at newer writers.

I blocked out her last name above due to the fact that since then, she could have rethought this some and not want reminders of it possibly floating around on the internet. I googled her, out of morbid curiosity, and she's had a lot of success (at least according to her website). This makes me even more determined to be published. I was going to talk about the "magical book of crap" today, but that'll have to wait until tomorrow, or the next day cause I'm on a rant here.

So, now that I've ranted and been insane and come off very much like a manic depressive on speed...let me get to my point gentle readers...

Not all writing advice in published writing books is good. In this same book in another chapter it was actually suggested to describe your character using the mirror know... "Grace looked in the mirror. She didn't feel she was incredibly attractive, but her eyes sparkled blue and her golden hair framed her face like a halo."

This is something I hate reading. I think some people REALLY overestimate how much I care about what the heroine of a romance novel looks like. I want to relate with her, and I'll do that best, not by knowing all her physical traits, but by getting to know HER. Who she is, what she loves, what she hates, what scares her. Not what color her hair is. I'm not saying you should go a whole book without even mentioning hair color...get it in there early and be stealthy about it if you have to...but the mirror method IMO is not stealth.

So where then, is the writer supposed to turn? I would suggest picking up a book on critical thinking if you haven't already been taught this skill in schooling or in life. Don't ever take any one piece of advice as the gospel. Weigh it. Look for the reasons why it was suggested. If you hear a hundred people say QUERY THE AGENT DO NOT CALL. And then one published author comes along and says: "letters are a waste of time, you should call." Keep in mind that said author's success may have caused him/her to put blinders on to the way it was/is for a new writer.

Don't use ONE piece of bad advice spoken with authority as an excuse to take a road that deep down you know is the wrong one. If you aren't sure, keep studying and reading and eventually you'll find your way. And this includes my advice. (This should go without saying) There are many bridges I haven't crossed yet and many things I don't know. I'm on the same road you are on, you may be behind me or in front of me on it, but it's the same road.

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