An aspiring author confronts the literary demons of the world and sets off in search of an agent.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Bulwer-Lytton inspired query letter

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's (in)famous opening line, "It was a dark and stormy night..." has inspired much ridicule and the ever popular Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest . That got me to thinking: what would a Bulwer-Lytton inspired query letter look like?  Below is an excerpt from such a misbegotten missive.

Dear Literary Agent:

What would happen if Frodo Baggins was inspired by the Eat This Not That series of books? You would have my debut novel, LORD OF THE RING DINGS, an ambitious fusion of the Fantasy-Adventure genre with a Healthy Diet book!

It all begins when the Evil Sourbun bakes up a host of evil delights to fatten his enemies to the point where they are incapable of defending themselves. Now, Middle Girth stands helpless before the lumbering armies of Morebun as they sing:  

    Three Cupcakes for the Fairy Pigs in their sty,
    Seven Twinkies for the Couch-Potatoes lazy to the bone, 
    Nine Devil Dogs for Junkfood Junkies doomed to die, 
    One Ring Ding for the Beefy Lord on his beefy throne 
    In the Land of Lardor where tasty cakes lie.    

Now, I've got to get back to the serious business of crafting a scintillatingly elegant query letter...but first, I'm off to Krispy Creme for a quick doughnut!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My first rejection: Two viewpoints

Yesterday I received my first rejection from a literary agency. Let's be honest, it'll be the first of many. I've presented two points of view about this (though I'll try to gravitate more towards the Babe's philosophy).

The Positive Point of View

"Every strike brings me closer to the next home run "
  George Herman Ruth

The Negative Point of View



Monday, December 14, 2009

Cartoons for Aspiring Authors





Sunday, December 13, 2009

A dream about query letters

It’s come to this! I had my first dream about writing query letters. It must have been Manny’s reference to Ernest Shackleton because I was aboard the ship, Endurance, which was trapped in the Antarctic ice floes and slowly being reduced to splinters.  I followed the other crew members as Shackleton led us onto the ice:  the time had come to abandon ship and begin a desperate march across the frigid continent towards safety.

To ensure our swiftness, he asked each of us to take no more than two pounds of personal possessions:  to take an ounce more could mean death. Then, to drive this point home in our hearts as well as our heads, he held aloft a bible given to him by Queen Alexandria. From it he tore several pages including one from the Book of Job. He read us this verse:

            Out of whose womb came the ice?
            And the hoary frost of Heaven, who hath gendered it?
            The waters are hid as with a stone.
            And the face of the deep is frozen.

His voice trailed off as he laid the bible in the snow. One by one, the crew members went back onboard to retrieve their essentials. I turned to go and discovered I was holding a ream of paper – it was my manuscript. Then I heard Shackleton’s voice, “leave behind all but what is needed for your query letter.”


Friday, December 11, 2009

Of good readers and good writers, long hours of complete darkness and the search for an outstanding agent

MANNY the manuscript sits on the kitchen table. He is my firstborn novel and like many a first child, has been spoiled rotten. It hasn’t taken long for me to become inured to Manny’s sense of entitlement.

Dude, when am I going to get published?

Takes time, Manny. I’m still working on my query letters.

This is taking forever.  My biological clock is ticking.

Oi! You sound like Marisa Tomei’s character in My Cousin Vinny.
Besides, you aren’t a biological organism.

Oi yourself! When are we going to get ourselves an outstanding agent?

At this point, I’ll be glad just to get an agent – any agent.

Any agent? Don’t be a desperate, weenie, author wannabe – show some chutzpah!

Do you have any idea how frackin’ difficult a query letter is? I’ve got to sell you, a 290-page manuscript, in three paragraphs or less. How the heck am I going to write that?

Don’t write – ENCHANT.


            Dude, remember you read that book about Vladimir Nabokov’s lectures on literature during his days at Cornell? In particular, I’m thinking about the one entitled Good Readers and Good Writers.

If I recall correctly, Nabokov claimed there were “three points of view from which a writer can be considered: he may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A major writer  combines these three— storytellers, teacher, enchanter—but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer.”

So ENCHANT! Quit trying to describe your book; entice the agent with the promise of a great adventure –

Enchantment? Adventure? Where are you going with this?

To Antarctica, with the great explorer, Ernest Shackleton…

Aha! You’re thinking about the ad he placed in a London newspaper to recruit members for his Antarctic expedition:

Men wanted for hazardous journey.
Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of
complete darkness. Safe return doubtful.
Honour and recognition in event of success.

Bingo! Probably the most enchanting ad ever written, eh?

So, if I could do a similar turn with my query letter—

You just might hook yourself a real good agent.

From Nabokov to Shackleton to query letters. You know, Manny, you’re darn clever for a manuscript.

Enough chitchat! My biological clock is ticking!