Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Musings

Did y'all read Nathan Bransford's blog yesterday? He had a guest blogger with a post entitled Re: Your Query for the Hobbit. I have to shamelessly repost this from Nathan Bransford's blog yesterday - it is hysterical and I think all writers can relate!

NB: I'm not sure if my sympathies are with J.R.R. Tolkien or with the
(fictional) agent. Herbert makes some good points!!

By: Peter Cooper

Dear Mr. Tolkien,

Thank you for submitting a query for your children's
novel, "The Hobbit". I regret to inform you that while the proposal shows merit,
this agency may not be the best fit for your work.

If I might venture some feedback, your query letter needs to be improved if future submissions are to be met with success. Although well written, with some of the strongest grammar this agency has ever seen, your outline of the dilemma facing the main protagonist failed to engage me on an emotional level. You also spent far too much time talking about your professorship and expertise in Norse mythology and foreign languages. What has that got to do with anything? Tell me about your book!

On to the sample pages you supplied. From what I can see, most of your first chapter is taken up with back-story concerning "hobbits" and their unusual living
arrangements. Indeed - by the end of this first chapter, the story still hasn't
started. Might I suggest commencing at a different point in the narrative? Your
best bet would be to open with Bilbo in the grip of the Trolls, and gradually,
as the tale progresses, present the back-story of how he came to be there. This
will grab your young reader's attention from the start, enticing them to read
further while moving the story along at a much quicker pace.

As for the main protagonist - is it likely that children will relate to a fifty-something man with hairy feet who lives in a pit? Might I suggest making Bilbo younger and
perhaps a tad less hairy? How about having him as a young tear-away living in
his parent's attic, perhaps escaping one night by tying his bed-sheets together,
that sort of thing. This demonstration of a rebellious attitude and a desire for
personal empowerment will far better capture the imagination of a young reader
than a middle-aged man running off without a pocket-handkerchief. Trust me.

This might be a good place to mention the apparent gender imbalance in the work.
There would appear to be just a slight deficiency of female characters in the
story. To put this another way, there are none - zilch - zero. There are men
with hairy feet, men with long beards, men with pipes, men who can see in the
dark - there are even men who can turn into bears. There are men of every size,
shape and smoking habit imaginable, but the closest you come to a female
character is the inclusion of several slightly effeminate elves. This just won't
cut it in today's publishing world. If you want to attract a female audience,
you must include strong female role-models. My suggestion would be to make the
wizard a woman. Gandalina has a nice ring to it. But lose the beard.

A final comment - the conclusion of your story is far from satisfactory. Having brought Bilbo across miles of uncharted wilderness and ever-present danger, someone else kills the dragon! I can already hear the wails of your young readers, devastated at such a radical deviation from accepted norms of children's literature. I for one will not subject them to such a trial.

I wish you all the very best for your future submissions. Remember, publication is a highly subjective business, and one person's trash may indeed be another person's gold.

Yours Sincerely,

Herbert T. Agent

Reminder – Check out Christy Condoleo’s scavenger hunt that starts today! Click on her name which will lead you to her site – the details are on the blog page of the site.

To Enter:
1) Send an email with your answers to ;
in the subject heading please be certain to type "Scavenger Hunt Answers".
2) Have Fun and Good Luck!!
Here are the links to the author's MySpace pages where you will find the answers:
Luke Romyn:
M.J. Allaire:
Mark Wisher:
Paige Jackson:
Colin R. Parsons:
Marna Loftis:
N.A. Sharpe:
Chris Condoleo:


Galen Kindley--Author said...

Ha. This is good, Nancy. So much of the “advice” sounds familiar. Who knows, if Tolkien had to submit, perhaps he would have been rejected.

Submission and query requirements are so capricious. For example, one agent says include a log line, absolutely critical to do so. I spoke with a woman who works in one publisher’s acquisitions department. She said *don’t* include a logline. Waste of space. Said it was like giving the recipe for cookies, when what the person wants IS the cookie.

Look at more than three agent submission sites and you’ll find differing and contradictory requirements. But, it is what it is. Don’t know about you, but, I love to play this game…keeps my young.

Best Regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Karen Walker said...

Nancy, this is priceless. Thanks so much for passing it along. I love hearing about famous writers who were rejected over and over again. It is so subjective.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Interesting post. To me, it shows how crazy the writing business is. Everybody tells you something different. Loved reading it.


N A Sharpe said...

Hi Galen - I loved this one. I got home from one of those never ending days and started scanning through email and blogs and I could not stop laughing at this! As much as I adore Tolkein's work...I kinda gotta agree on the opening being slow on this one. I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I started reading this before I actually got past chapter 3 but I kept hearing it was so good...and they were right!

Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

N A Sharpe said...

Hi Karen,

I agree it is a very subject thing!

Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

N A Sharpe said...

Hi Bev,

While a ficticious letter, I agree, it is a very enlightening look at how very subjective this business is.

Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

Marvin D Wilson said...

Very clever, humorous and lots of truth at the same time, Nancy. Enjoyed this a lot. :)

The Old Silly

N A Sharpe said...

Thanks Marvin, it made my day, lol!

Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

Patricia Stoltey said...

That's a wonderful post. The rejection letter is stuff I've seen in so many books on writing, and I've said a few of those things myself in a critique group.

I guess that's why the best advice to give a new author is, "Keep submitting."

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