5.12.2006

Slush Pile Report

Here are some of the things you said in your query letter that made me pretty sure I didn't have to take you seriously:

1a. 190,000 word thriller
1b. 220,000 word historical fiction

2. "I gave my heart and soul to writing this, hardly had an ounce of sleep, lost all my friends, but I finished it."

3. Speaking of yourself in the third person (making you not only sound like an idiot, but also hard to figure out if you're perhaps a character in the novel yourself)


Here's some first lines/ first paragraphs that confirmed "not right for me" without further reading:

"As the two women in tank tops continued their walk beyond the lonely square , the taller of the two was clearly agitated."

"He glimpsed his reflection in a dusty pane" followed of course by a detailed description

40 comments:

stay_c said...

It's so fun to read bad writing.

Unless you are overwhelmed with examples.

Thanks for sharing

G. Jules Reynolds said...

Me, I always make sure to get at least a pound of sleep each night.

Anonymous said...

If you had read further, you might have come to appreciate the heart-stopping story of two babes who like their tank tops tight and their narrow escapes even tighter.

Thank you for continuing to post the worst of your slush pile. It gives hope to those of us who haven't yet descended to that level.

Eika said...

Do these people do ANY research?! I know much better, and I don't think I'll be ready to try agents for another year or more!

Christopher said...

I thought the mirror/reflection device was by now genetically encoded into writers as something to avoid.


I hope my first lines are better:

Mom killed herself on a Saturday. I was eleven, the same age as Justin when he died. For three years she had held it together enough to eat the microwave dinners I made for us, and to bathe herself when I reminded her.

It took me 5 paragraphs of rambling, whining exposition to come to that first line. Once I wrote it, I knew the rest was crap.

blaironaleash said...

I coulda written either of those. either a nitwit or a first draft submitting idler. you'll never know, and some of your faves made me heave anyway.

i'm on the gin due to salicylate sensitivity: it's OK, but it's no White Zinfandel. what's wrong with the grape anyway? what's your excuse?

Anonymous said...

Tank tops?

Say it ain't so!

Anon
I heart Killer Yapp.

Mark said...

Wow. That is discouraging, and 220,000 words of it to boot. Talk about a "lonely square."

Anonymous said...

880 word historical? Can you say epic?
Assuming it is formatted properly.
Plus author intrusion.
Ugh. What travails you must face Miss Snark!

Rei said...

I'm wanting to defend the authors. I really, really am. I know how much work they put into their novels, and dearly I want to find some excuse with which to defend these por souls.

And yet I just can't. Ow.

#1) How can you write a novel and not take the time to look up standard word counts for your genre?

#2) How could a person possibly think that writing without sleep and antisocial behavior would be taken as a good sign? I mean, yes, you're dedicated to your craft, but.. ouch.

#3) Someone did this and didn't mean it as a joke? Rei is shocked when she reads #3.

Line #1) That's worse than Ing-disease ;) Comma-space, too? As I continued my reading of this, I was clearly disappointed.

Line #2) A kindness would be sending him/her a rejection telling him/her to read limyaael.livejournal.com's archives ;) #1 from this thread in particular:

http://limyaael.livejournal.com/490944.html?mode=reply

I wish I could stand up for them, but I just can't.

Corn Dog said...

"As the two women in tank tops continued their walk beyond the lonely square , the taller of the two was clearly agitated."

How about...
As the two women in tank tops continued their walk, the larger of the two was clearly ... agitated.

lizzie26 said...

I'd think a pail of gin wouldn't suffice after reading such...such...dregs of writing! But then when I go through my files of writing from many years ago, I reach for the nearest bottle of scotch. And I hate scotch.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Gotta tell ya, I live in fear of my own first line, or lousy query popping up on here.

Anonymous said...

Instead of, As the two women in tank tops continued their walk beyond the lonely square, the taller of the two was clearly agitated.

How about:

As the two tank-topped women [is it important that they are wearing tank tops?] walked beyond the empty square, the taller of the two stopped abruptly. "This just pisses me off," she said.

As the two women walked beyond the empty square, the taller of the two stopped abruptly, adjusted the straps of her tank top, and said, "This just pisses me off."

BTW, how can a square be lonely? Does it have feelings?

Great slush pile examples. Glad they weren't mine.

BuffySquirrel said...

Eep, I have a bad habit of putting my bio into third person because that's what's conventional in magazines. Eep.

ColoradoGuy said...

I know that you're a one-woman operation, but you could use a slush bot.

Manic Mom said...

What's a slush bot? Did you mean a slush boy? Were you volunteering? I can only imagine what Miss Snark could do with a Slush Boy.

Ken Boy said...

"It's so fun to read bad writing."

Unless it's your own. :(

"It was a day when tank-top encased torsos, of women, walked by the surf of a nearby ocean, one being taller, feeling with agitation."

McKoala said...

I do third person bios too, buffysquirrel, for the same reason as you. I think that a third person bio is OK, if it's a separate document from the query letter which should be first person. Hope so anyway!

I think all the tall women in tank tops have pov issues.

Anonymous said...

Ken boy's version of this is such perfect satire it scares me a little...like the English version of "The Office," you know? Like it's so good, it sort of stops being funny and starts being amazing. Nice work, Ken.

Inkwolf said...

Wow, I'm amazed at the number of people trying to rewrite that opening line. Are y'all into tank tops?

(Inky wonders in the third person how long it will be before Slush Boy turns up in Miss Snark's menagerie, and how KY will react.)

archer said...

Maybe these people accidentally sent drafts. I have an annotated edition of Charlotte's Web with some of the draft pages, and the original opening line was "Where's Papa going with that mirror?"

Anonymous said...

Anon who asked about the sensate square:

Of course a square can have feelings. It's called personification. But the example given is a lame attempt to create atmosphere. You can attribute feelings to 'most any damn thing - but you've got to do it well.

Note to Miss Snark: Some day, some one of your devotees will recognize her work in your slush pile excerpts and blow your cover. There are, you know, people who send submissions one... at... a... time...

Beth said...

Call me a nitwit, but...what's wrong with a 220K-word historical novel? Unless, of course, Miss Snark doesn't handle historical fiction. But otherwise, that's not an unreasonable length. I've read much longer ones. SHOGUN was half a million.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Ah, but perhaps clever Miss Snark is changing some of the aspects of the actual query letters she received for her posts, in order to avoid such recognition by vengeful rejectees.

In "tank tops," maybe the actual submission she received says "As the two men in Speedos continued their walk beyond the lonely triangle, the taller of the two was clearly inebriated."

One never knows what slushy delights Miss Snark has actually received.

(And how did he see such a detailed reflection of himself in a dusty pane?!)

Kimberly said...

You've got to love the watch me describe myself by looking at my rugged reflection bit...good time good times. hehe

Miss Snark said...

Very astute of you, SWV! That is exactly what I do.

Anonymous said...

The sad part is, books written this poorly do get published.

pedant said...

I don't think that "lonely square" is personification, precisely. I think it's more of a tranferred epithet.

Sleepless nights

The walls of high Rome

Blind mouths

Embalmed darkness

Manic Mom said...

So they WERE wearing Speedos!??

ColoradoGuy said...

Slush bot, slush boy: either one could prove useful, but they would need to be serviced in different ways.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Thanks, Miss Snark *blush*

Of course, I would expect no less from you. You're just as creative as your authors -- see, you can write fiction too!

For a while I even entertained the notion that you are actually a man. That would really send all the people trying to guess your identity barking up the wrong tree. :-)

Anonymous said...

Didn't Dan Brown have Langdon look at himself in a mirror at the beginning of Da Vinci Code? He didn't leave out the handsome features. How did he pull this off? Inquiring minds want to know.

Miss Snark said...

Beth, Shogun was published in 1974 I think...perhaps earlier.
It's extremely rare to find a book of that length on the front list today.

Mostly 220,000 words means a writer is not in control of his story. Yes there are exceptions. Chances are pretty good those exceptions are not in my slush pile

Anonymous said...

Off topic here, but I must cry in pain.
CODY'S BOOKS on Telegraph Ave. is closing!!!

Anonymous said...

s w vaughn,
You're right, of course. Silly me, underestimating Miss Snark like that.

As for her identity, I've been thinking along the same lines. She's a man, lives on the west coast, and hates poodles. Owns two rottweilers. And represents only SFF.

The Clooney part is probably true, though. :)

BuffySquirrel said...

I'm meant to be in control of the story? This explains so much...

Bill Peschel said...

The description by mirror is still encountered frequently. Susan Elizabeth Phillips does it in "Match Me If You Can" and "This Heart of Mine"

Of course, she attached a pretty compelling story to each, so that probably had something to do with it.

Oh yes, she also didn't make put it in the first paragraph of the novel.

Anonymous said...

In my spare time I'm a college professor -- and I thought I had funny down with "The constitution is a copulation of documents."

Anonymous said...

Mirror, mirror, on the wall . . .

I stood in front of the full-length mirror and saw a man with dark brown eyes looking back at me. He was clean-shaven with a dark complexion. His hair was short, neat, and about the same color as his eyes. He was not quite six feet tall. Under the dark blue suit jacket were well-defined muscular arms and shoulders, flat stomach, and trim waist. You couldn’t tell by looking that his favorite meal was a twenty ounce sirloin steak-medium rare, with a side order of steak fries -heavily salted, washed down with two bottles of Kirin beer–chilled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I smiled and he smiled back. White, straight teeth seemed to make the room brighter. He reached up with his right hand and needlessly straightened his already perfect tie.

What!?!? -JTC