Saturday, August 30, 2008

People who know you better than you know yourself

For a very long time, I wrote and never showed my stuff to people. Editors and agents didn't count, because they were anonymous. You sent stuff in, it came back--usually with a big "NO!" attached, or some random form letter done back in the days of mimeographs. Most agents, I've noticed, don't even bother signing their form letters. Guess that means you didn't pass the first hurdle, the screener.

On a loop the other day, I followed a thread where someone wanted to be a "reader", the person who goes through an agent/editor's slush pile. Her reasoning was that if she read so much, she might as well get paid. The impression I got was that she thought it'd be fun.

It's like Kaige the other day, "play games for a living? Sure, if you like playing broken games." Same with readers. A slush pile is ninety percent garbage, eight percent moderately okay with revisions, one percent okay, and one percent wow. That means out of a hundred ms, you'd have to work your way through ninety broken games. You don't do it for pleasure. You do it in the hope you'll find that one percent and it'll knock your socks off.

Maybe it's the way my mind works, but the minute she started coming up with reasons to be a reader, all I could see was someone who, out of personal prejudice, or adherence to guidelines, would reject the one-percenters. It doesn't have to be a grammatical tour de force, or in perfect shape--it just needs the potential to be extraordinary.

But I was at my website, where my own personal web-god, Cowboy, was doing updates. I suck at updates. Never enough to say(where it'd be permanent). Nothing going on. I understand maybe one word in four and have to listen extra hard. However, I now know what "divs" are and how hard it is to create perfect code--apparently, my site incites envy in the hearts of programmers everywhere, because my code is perfect--and Cowboy, being the nice guy he is (most of the time), wrote my coming soon blurb.

He sounded so much like me I had to wonder if I hadn't sent him something without knowing it. "Advice thrown out like liquid ballast. You don't want to hear? I'll tell you anyway."

Archived craft advice, coming soon(er, or later) to a website near you. From the only person I'd send my rough drafts to. He knows me better than I know myself.

8 comments:

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I did work as a reader for an agency for a year or so. It was... fun, yeah. Frustrating. Enlightening.

And very, very poorly paid.

Unhinged said...

Cool. You're going to be starting your own advice column, then?

:-P

The thing about YOUR advice, though, is that you're right on target. And fast, too.

I'd never want to be a first reader. I barely have the patience and sensitivity to critique, alas.

jodi said...

lol, Susan--writing, editing, reading. The world's most poorly paid professions. Well, except for training day at McDonald's, but close...very very close.

*sigh* Unhingey, according to Cowboy, I throw advice out like liquid ballast, (otherwise known as bilge water, or the stuff in the bottom of the head). I'm collecting old posts for him on things like plot threads and subplots, character arcs...he's persistent. :)

Kaige said...

Sounds like it'll be a treasure trove of Jodi-goodness. Glad you have someone like him around. Looking forward to seeing what you guys put together.

deanna said...

I like your discourse on the slush pile, broken games. I also like your site (wow, thanks for the link!) and will read your good advice whenever it wafts forth. :o)

Alice Audrey said...

I could see doing it for the education factor. It's amazing how many people think they are being original and come out looking like everyone else.

Jeanna said...

Someone actually wrote "NO!" like that?
Asshole.
I got a writing sample back from a place that didn't expect to see me at their desk asking for my sample back and the ENTIRE damn page was full of red ink. There was only one editor and some gofer there, who in the hell was all that for?
Assholes.

Unhinged said...

LOLing at Jeanna's comment. And kinda snickering at Alice's, too.