Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tell Me What You Want

I really want to hear it.

As I ramp down for vacation and look forward to a complete blog break for the rest of the month, I find myself thinking (too hard, probably) about the direction of this blog.

Yep, we've got several more Secret Agent contests lined up.

Yep, we're working on automating the submissions process.

Yep, we've got a decent queue of entries for our 1000-word crits.

But. The amazing shift between Huge Readership (during Secret Agent contests) and Big-But-Not-Remotely-Huge Readership (in between Secret Agent contests) is becoming more disconcerting.

As in, I know this blog has more to offer than the contests. Granted, it's probably THE most exciting thing around here. Heck, it affords me the most fun, too! Working with these agents behind the scenes reaffirms all the good stuff you've heard and read about them. I haven't had a single nasty experience and I don't expect to.


But this is your blog, because you're the ones who read it, learn from it, invest time in helping others through it. So tell me what you'd like to see in between the contests and crits.

Or...perhaps you don't need anything at all. And that's okay, too.

Just let me know what's on your mind. I've put a lot into this blog and I'm willing to put more. But I need to make sure your collective cookies will be flipped. So bring on the feedback! I'm going to sit back and really, really read it. And mull it over. And eat some chocolate. And mull it over some more.

You're an amazing community and I want to provide you with the best.


  1. Hey, Anonymissy. :) How about agent interviews? That seems to be the theme for your blog, so it might be fun for past agents to drop in for some Q&A. Just and idea.

  2. First, I have to admit that I have not read through the entire archive of posts, and I am fairly new to these writers' blogs. Consequently, my interest (obsession) may be redundant for many. But since this is where I’m at with my project, I would love some input on:

    “How do you know when a story is finished, when it’s done, and ready to go and make its own way in the world? I’m not talking about the plot or how to end it; I mean knowing when the revising and editing are over, when you feel with some degree of certainty that this is the best you can produce with a particular work. Are the reservations about a piece more than just the obsessive artistic nature, or does the work merit more attention?”

    Anyway, I love this blog—everything I’ve read is helping me along the way…

  3. I will be happy to provide writing articles on genre fiction or be on hand occasionally to answer writing questions.

    I'm a professional novelist and a writing teacher, by the way.

  4. Your blog is wonderful, you are wonderful, life is wonderful! No, I didn't just get an agent or a publisher BUT I am working on my writing nearly every day and can see so much improvement in the last 6 months that it makes me hopeful. One day I, too, may be a Ms. Authoress.

    As for the in-house critiques, I belong to a couple of super sites that fill that need for me so I don't usually check in on the blog during those times. What would pull me in, actually, is more of YOUR writing - reminiscences, insights, snippets of past or present WIPs. Your fun, caring personality imbues this site and makes it a favorite. That's MO.

    Have a wonderful holiday. I have no doubt that you'll come back better armed to battle the writing gremlins that like to sabotage us.


  5. I have no clue. Seriously, I have this same problem with my blog sometimes. What in the heck do I post today or this week?

    I love the contests, the crits, and everything else about your blog.

    What about posts about your personal writing? Frustrations? Angst? The fact that the elves aren't delivering the chocolate on time? What inspires you? How much of 'you' is put into your characters? How much of your real life - past/present - makes it into your manuscripts? Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what are your favorite playlists? And so on and so forth . . .

    I really find it interesting in how other writers are dealing with the writing experience.


  6. I'm new here. I just began reading at the end of March and I've found the last 2 Secret Agents and the Drop the Needle Posts to be invaluable experiences. Even though I wasn't posting in all of them. I thank you very much for them.

    I admit I was not around for this 1000 word. For a couple of reasons- 1. 1000 words is a big investment of time in one work. Particularly if its a story that really doesn't interest you.

    2. I also joined Critique Circle and was busy earning points there.

    That brings up the trend you've noticed. During this last SA, I saw all sorts of posters I hadn't seen before or since. (And a few bordered on snarky.) I know the idea of those who crit get to be the ones who post is a HUGE headache, but thats what makes Critique Circle work.

  7. I'll admit I'm one of those people who mostly pops in for the Secret Agent contests. And it's not because I'm entering, but because it's valuable to get that insider's perspective. My personal feeling is that most fellow aspiring writers are way too nice when it comes to critiquing others (this goes for my own in-person critique group, too), and I don't learn that much if people are unwilling (or for some beginners, unable) to say what's wrong and how to fix it. So for me, it's all about the experts.

    That said, what about doing some interviews with newly/recently published authors? It would be great info for your readers, and good exposure for the author, as well.

  8. Personal writing trevails is cool, as well as interviews. I also just like having other writers answer their best solutions to perfecting the craft. I mean, I love all the "what to do once my manuscript is perfect" stuff, but there are loads of agent blogs for that and also, I have to get to perfect before I even contemplate what to do after. So basically, writing strategies, etc.

    I'm open though. I like everything that goes on here. :-)

  9. I agree with Karen and Icy Roses :P I'm a quiet lurker here, so don't let my lack of commenting make you feel you have one less active follower. I'm an active reader is all ;)

  10. What about regular writer's prompts. Someone could provide a photo, phrase or something else that sparked their imagination. I think part of the wonderful service you give the the chance to hone our craft and this might encourage regular writing--probably one of the best things for development.

  11. I would love some tips on writing. Character, dialogue, setting, what works well in other novels, what to avoid, writing prompts, plot outlining, etc. Tips or discussions, maybe some examples.

    Also, more help on how to turn of that horrible voice in your head that sometimes gets in the way of writing. I hate that voice!! :)

    Not sure if that is where you want the blog to head, and I love what it is already. Keep it up and thanks for all your work!

  12. I like the suggestion to have recently published authors as guest bloggers occasionally. What if you opened up a Q&A and let and agent or author answer our specific questions? That might be fun every once in a while.

    For the critiques in between contests, what if you only posted one a day? When I see several, I feel like I don't have time and I just ignore the whole batch. But one a day is more manageable!

    I think this is a great blog and I know it's a huge sacrifice of time on your part. Thanks!

    One thing I've always wondered: you have a huge following and great connections with agents. Why have you chosen to go incognito?

  13. I love the in-house critiques. It is super useful for us writers who are not quite ready for submissions to agents. I agree that seeing so many at once feels daunting.

    But I also feel like my time is squashed so much right now that certain things take priority. Maybe it's just a summer slump...or maybe everyone is feeling the heat of finishing their WIP.

  14. Interesting comments...

    I don't have access, unless I take a class, to truly serious crit groups. Those that I've tried were far too gentle or were taking the easy way out. So the SA/crits are why I came.

    Other things that I would find invaluable...

    1. Editing makes the difference between something worth while shopping and that which isn't and far too often we all think we have properly edited. I'd really like to see some serious editors (not the leads that locate, but the ones in their elbows editing day in and day out) posting some advice.

    2. Editing: How about taking some poor person's 250 and let the crits edit it themselves....then let the professional editor pick their favorite.

    3. Rate my editing: take a 250 word sample, have everyone edit it and then have the editor rate the edited piece on a scale of 1 to 10--put it right in my face how good my editing is... Maybe catagories like 5 you're a pro, want a job to 3 you need to touch up on editing with a good editing book or a 1--honestly you might want to try a whole new grammar class! LOL Yes, this could be a real ouchy one, but after reading the SA contests, it might be really helpful!

    4. Take one 250 words--then have them edited by real editors who post them so we can see how much difference there is between editing preferences. Let's face it, what one editor edits another changes back to the original! LOL

    5. Contests that are one-off 250 words or less and not intended to be a completed manuscript. Example: boy-girl romantic argument, contest being who has the best VOICE for their characters.
    Example: best newly created description of a new world not used in a manuscript at this point.
    Example: best biting dialog and character protrayal not from a manuscript in existence.
    Example: best 250 action sequence, again not from a manuscript
    Example: write three sentence lead in and ask for the next 250 words contest.

    6. In recent class I had an instructor who wouldn't let us proceed until we had a one or two sentence marketable premise or hook that she, an editor at a major house, approved. Man, that made life a lot more fun when it came to that query letter! I know that's a little iffy, because the ideas might be borrowed. So how about coming up with a premise and then letting people write the first 250 words.

    Or how about a marketable premise contest(one or two sentences) with a secret agent chosing their favorite and giving a future use voucher for up to a year for a free 35 page reading or something?

    As always, I'm verbose and can always come up with ideas, it's chosing the ones that work that is the problem! Go on vacation already! Get out of here!

  15. Okay, Authoress, you asked me so here goes (sorry if I get a little long-winded on my response). Some of these suggestiong have already been mentioned by other commenters.

    It might help to know what other writing-related blogs some of your readers go to on a regular basis. So, I'll tell you a little about me.

    I regularly follow a number of agent and publishing industry blogs. Mostly, I try to keep up with trends in the industry. I especially like to read about debut authors and even, when available, read excerpts of their work. Sometimes you find some piece of work that's good--but not really that much better than your own, if at all.

    I also like to read about the conferences--like the recent BEA conference, for example. I've attended two conferences, one in Texas and the other in New York. I don't plan on attending any others near-term, but I like to hear about what's going on. I'm not suggesting you fly around the country to all of these and become a roving reporter. However, having a guest blogger now and then who could give us the low down might be interesting.

    One of the other commenters suggested having Q&A sessions with agents or debut authors. I think both of those are great ideas, especially the latter. Perhaps even asking an agent or two to fill in as a guest blogger periodically.

    Another suggestion, and I think someone else may have already mentioned this too, might be to spend some time discussing writing techniques--what works, doesn't work. Granted, we can get those from critiquer's comments but, if it comes from an agent or from you, then it might have more credibility.

    Clearly, based on the overwhelming response to the Agent contests, it sounds like most of your readers are in the category of "aspiring" writers, like myself, looking for that oh-so-elusive agent or publisher.

    Those of us in that category (hopefully I can speak for us all?) are looking for any information that gets us closer to the dream. Anything that focuses on the craft of writing is good. I am constantly trying to improve, so anything that shows me how to improve my narrative, dialog, dramatic throughlines, use of conflict, etc. is good.

    Don't get me wrong. The Agent contests and critiquing sessions are excellent, and I certainly appreciate all you've done to facilitate them. I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of time you spend to make those happen.

    So, keep up the good work. Hope this helps.

  16. yep, I ditto everyone. writing workshoppy things.

  17. Something I would really like to see (if anyone would ever agree to it) is the draft (first x words) that they sent to the agent and a peek at the editorial notes for that first x words. Kind of a heads up of what the work AFTER signing with an agent looks like.

    I like the suggestion about the after-the-con entries. Most of us can't go to many, if any, of them, so it would be nice to hear about them. (I'll even volunteer for a couple as long as you don't mind me cross-posting on my own blog :P)

    The new author interviews sound good too, since that is the boat most of us hope to be in.

  18. Rest a bit easier. I subscribed to your blog, so each time you post a new one it arrives in my email. I don't have to come and visit your site. Have you taken that into account? Your kind of screwed working out the numbers if you look at subscriptions too, cos how do you know who actually READS it? Hmm...
    But yeah, there are more readers than you think.

  19. Wow, there are some great ideas above. I was posting a lot when I first found this great site but spring time demands with the children and the house (is it still spring cleaning if you clean your house once a year but in the spring?) have kept me from anything but lurking. Also, I found that I was reading and posting instead of writing.

    That said, I like the idea of no commenting, no posting. Another idea I liked was the writing prompts. Contests are always fun, even if the prize is simply winning (imo).

    I don't think I saw this suggestion above but what about posting one 1,000 piece (I prefer the longer pieces; I find them more useful and interesting) and the next 1,000 gets posted as soon as 20 people have critted? If people don't participate, the list doesn't move on. And I think it's more valuable if people don't read other comments before making their own. While there is repetition, it seemed to me that more original comments popped out from the critters who said they hadn't read prior crits.

    Finally, for those of us who can't get to this until the kids are in bed (and I have teenagers so that's quite late), it would be fun to have a post at 10:00 so that just once, the late nighters would be near the top. If it feels like everyone else has commented, I (perhaps falsely) feel that there's no point to making comments - everyone's done!

    Authoress, enjoy your vacation and thanks for this great blog!

  20. I guess I jumped the gun when I emailed you today. :)

  21. I like the critiques. I learn so much both from what people write about my post and from what others post. I learn tons from your secret agents too. I'm not really ready for them yet but I read what they say about other people's writing and it's a hugely educational experience. I have become a better writer because of your work on this site (which makes me feel a little bit like a leech or a tick or something). So thanks and if you ever need help with anything, I totally owe you.

  22. I'm not a blog expert, but your SA and other contests, are what makes your blog so unique. It's something you offer that no one else does-- unless I'm not aware.

    That is why I periodically come to your site. You really GIVE something unique and you offer us a chance to GIVE something back. It's really a wonderful set-up.

    I guess you have to decide what you want from this blog.

    Have a nice vacation--don't take the manuscript.

  23. I like the critting. I'd love to see more of that -- you've built up an audience that's pretty darn good about pointing out what's overwritten, confusing, etc.

  24. I have learned so much from you and your wonderful followers. Reading critiques helps me so much, so I would love it if you posted the 1000 word entries more often. And I liked Susanne's suggestion of staggered posting and not moving on until a certain number of critiques have been posted (though I think 20 might be a bit high).

    I also think you should take Marilynn Byerly up on her offer, that was generous. Maybe that could be another feature - writing articles by the pros.

    You've done a great job with this blog. Have a great vacation!

  25. You do a great service to writers with your blog, especially the unpublished. The contests give us an opprotunity to be seen and read by our peers and agaents, and the critiques are eye opening (that's a good thing). I am sure your work will ultimately result in the launching of a few careers.

    As to what I like other than the contests and secret agent pitches, I would like to see more on craft, how to avoid the pitfalls and cliches most beginning writers struggle with.

    Most of all, keep up the good work. This site is a daily stop for me.

  26. Personally, I love the crit sessions, and get a lot out of them, even when I'm not critting or haven't submitted. But I wouldn't be adverse to more stringent crit requirements for submitters as way of evening out the number of crits per submission.

    You could require each even number submitter to crit a minimum of 12 odd numbered subs, and vice verse on the old number submitters. We learn by reading other people's work and other people's crits, so I'm thinking upping the number and spreading out the crits will enhance everyone's experience. Hopefully, it will also prevent one guy ending up with 5 crits and another with 18.

    Thanks for all the time and effort you put into this blog!

  27. I'm late chiming in, but what I like about your blog is the community of equals feeling. I can get how-to "expert" articles anywhere, really. Your blog reinforces that there are many roads to Rome and we're all fellow travelers, which is what I need as I sit here in my lonely writing place reading Publishers Lunch about all the folks who have "made it".

    I =really= don't want to read posts about newly-minted published authors. I've been there and trust me, they're floating on a pink cloud, falsely believing they now have all the answers and giving misleading advice. If you have to have guest bloggers, I'd seek out veteran writers--those beyond the pink cloud and the subsequent disillusion. They actually have more in common with unpubs on the brink, believe it or not.

    I like some of the writing prompt ideas, particularly the editing exercises. Better at sparking us to actual insight, encouraging and improving our writing.

    Which, IMHO, is the strength of this blog.

    Have a great vacation, Authoress! Thank you so much for this site as is. As the great philosopher, T. T. Tiger said, "It's G-G-GREAT!"

  28. I'd love to see work on hooks, querys, etc. You are all about the agent.

  29. I'm with Sairz: I receive your postings via email and therefore only visit the site when I feel the overwhelming urge to comment (which is rare)

    So don't fret: we are here: reading, scribbling, gnashing our teeth, scrounging for get the idea.

    And I also concur with Momwoman and all who said as much before: you're all about the agent, so more assistance with queries, hooks...and how about the dreaded synopsys?? Augh! I think I've mastered the query, but the synopsys terrfies me!!

    Enjoy your vacation! I have a feeling I will be doing such when the next SA contest comes up, but that's alright! There's always next time! (^_^)

    Side note: I am having SERIOUS trouble getting this site to accept my google/blogger accounts, so I cannot sign in. For anyone who cares, this anonymous post is actually from Rook.

  30. I really value the Drop the Needle challenges and I think the SA comps are a major plus for your site.

    I was quite taken with Susanne's suggestion for trying to encourage more crits per posting. Very clever:)

    I feel I've learned a lot about editing (and critting) since I started visiting here, and would appreciate more practice with that.

    I'd like to thank you for all that you do for and with us. The special thing that you have over other writing sites, is that you generously take us on the journey with you, and we are learning alongside you as we go.

    I hope you have a relaxing time on your holiday with Mr Authoress. You've earned it.

  31. Here's an idea: Post an excerpt from a WIP (ask for volunteers) and let the readers rewrite it for the author.

    Or something along that line, so the poster can get a clue on how to rewrite to improve.


  32. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into this venture. It boggles my mind how you do it all. I love the SA entries and crits. Even when I don't have time to read and crit them, I like to see what the SA has to say.

    The problem of way too many people wanting to submit to SA or in-house crits may have caused some to give up trying.( Like me.) It's a great concept, totally unique, and a great service to developing writers, though.

    The calibre of readers/ submitters/ critiquers is high and I think they'd love something challenging if you add anything new.

    Meg in an earlier comment had some great suggestions. I'll just second hers.

  33. Sorry I'm a little late to this post. All I have to say is I love entering SA contests and the, Are You Hooked submissions.

    They have all helped my writing and now I have my own blog too. I honestly don't know how you keep up with it all, Authoress. I just hope you keep going 'cause we all love this blog.

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

  34. Love this site, but I have to say, I can get overwhelmed at times by the sheer volume and number of entries to crit. I wonder if it wouldn't help to simply cue entries and post one of two every few days.

    That way those of us who always miss your deadline have a chance to submit, the task of giving feedback isn't overwhelming, and the community can provide even more input to one particular person.

    Anyway, have a good holiday. You provide a valuable service and work hard, so you deserve it!