Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, December 11, 2008

This Week in Publishing 12/11/08

Yes, TWIP on a Thursday because tomorrow will be devoted to the finalists of the SUFPCx2. I'm up to #1,000 and reading these has been a pleasure! Anyone have any favorites? Notice any patterns developing? Anyone plan to read them all? And remember, you have until 4pm Pacific time today to enter.

I tell you what, HarperStudio's blog The 26th Story has been BRINGING IT lately. Completely indispensable. Anyway, HarperStudio editor Julia Cheiffetz has an awesome interview with former Random House Editor in Chief Dan Menaker, and Mike Shatzkin sent HarperStudio an interesting napkin graph to show what the Long Tail means for the death of the middle.

Also, Collins started their own blog, and Penguin launched a whole slew of new features with a Penguin 2.0 site, including an iPhone app, enriched e-books and more.

Legendary Jossey-Bass editor Alan Rinzler also has a terrific blog, and this week he provides the inside scoop on how publishers (and authors and agents) choose and argue over covers.

In this week's depressing publishing news, Chronicle announced layoffs, while Macmillan and Perseus announced salary freezes. Let us all bang our heads on our desks.

Jeff Abbott has continued his awesome Organized Writer series with a post on his Trusted System for keeping track of ideas.

Over at Buzz Balls & Hype, guest blogger Anne Mini talks about... how to be a gracious guest blogger!! Sage wisdom.

And finally, reader Josephine Damian pointed me to a hilarious article in the NYTBR by Paul Greenberg about a bailout plan for writers that even Sean Lindsay would love: pay people to stop writing.

Have a great Thursday!






66 comments:

Bryn Greenwood said...

Read all the entries? Ha! What kind of maniac would do that? Oh, right...

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan,

Thank you once again for so many wonderful links. I followed the link to Paul Greenberg’s article right away because the subject matter really caught my attention. I’m glad he wrote the article in such a humorous way; otherwise I might be weeping into my coffee rather than chuckling.

I’ve read quite a few of the contest entries. I never realized before exactly how many great pieces are submitted to writers’ contests. I hope to read all the entries at some point. You are very generous to be running this contest and judging the entries. Thank you!

Kathleen Peacock said...

There's been more YA than I expected.

My entry aside, I actually loved Sasha's. Especially the end of the paragraph:

"You're in the women's bathroom," I told him. And then wanted to smack myself. There were a lot of things I'd wanted to say to my dead boyfriend over the past year, but that wasn't one of them.

Professor Tarr said...

I've read them all so far... but they keep coming...

I find certain ones stick for various reasons. Some I have mentioned before, but there are other images that stick. Elyssa's evocative tree images, and the other one where the damsel is lamenting hiding a sword in her dress... Certain repeat themes occur - a lot of sleeping and waking... night... darkness... funerals... but each addressed differently based on the author.

It's great to have a community read like this where we can see our peers struggle and excel just as we hope to do.

That's bully good!

Ink said...

Um... Mike Shatzkin's graph and wikipedia's graph seem to disagree on the nature of a long-tail... The arcs and intersections seem, if anything, to be the opposite. Can someone more graphalytical put these different perspectives into, ah, better perspective? Wikipedia's long tail seems to suggest the idea that it would be the bestsellers that take a hit, with an increase for the midlisters... I suppose I can see why publishing people might reinterpret it based on the publishing model, but I ain't no expert. So, if one of you IS an expert on the publishing interpretation, well, you wanna step forward?

It would be appreciated.

My best, as always,
Bryan Russell

Mark Terry said...

Ooh, ooh! Get paid not to write? Pick me, pick me!

I mean, yeah, I love to write, I do it for a living, but...

How much $$$ are we talking here? Is there a Caribbean beach in my future?

Ink said...

Nathan:

Can I suggest a post topic? (If you have any thoughts on the matter... though it might make a good you tell me, too...)

Ghostwriting.

I just read this post by writer Scott Westerfield:http:

//www.scottwesterfeld.com/author/rants/ghost.htm

It's definitely an interesting subject...

Ink said...

Sorry, should be...

http://www.scottwesterfeld.com/author/rants/ghost.htm

Hilary said...

I made it to six hundred, but I want to see how many will come in under the wire before I commit to the rest. I am curious to see if the entries I like get noticed.

Gilgamesh's, the one about the Israeli hospital (on page three)was the one I liked the best out of the ones I read; it has a nice touch of surrealism and some humor. Good tone, good dialogue, good description. I wanted to read the rest of it.

Ulysses said...

"Paying writers not to write." On the surface, a grand idea. However, since we seem to be such an OCD lot, I doubt it'd have a beneficial effect. As Greenberg points out, without the time-soak of having to earn a living, most of us would spend MORE time writing, not less.

The solution here is to penalize the production of words. Ensure every word processor is connected to the writer's bank account and deduct 1c/wd (I know magazines will pay around 5c/wd, but it's the rare writer who doesn't need to write 5000 words for every 1000 that eventually gets published). Soon, the writer will be forced to either stop writing or face bankruptcy.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, "HA! I'll just write longhand on foolscap pads!" and yes, that'd work, but sooner or later someone's going to notice all that paper, and then we bust you for littering.

Marilyn Peake said...

Ulysses,

We could always write in invisible ink. :)

Anonymous said...

well I said I wouldn't but I could not help it...

(Bwa ha ha)

Anonymous said...

Re: the contest.

People have very disparate views on what constitutes a "paragraph".

Lots of writers like to start their stories with the MC waking up to the sun/a dead body/a hangover/bad weather.

Simple is best.

Professor Tarr said...

Chico: Whaddaya say, boss! We'rea you new writers.

Harpo: Honk!

Groucho: How much could I pay you NOT to write?

Chico: Well, iffa we no write, we no submit, and iffa we no submit, we no need to query and if we no need to query, we no haveta blog neither.

Groucho: How much could I pay you not to blog?

Chico: You couldn't afford it.

Harpo: honk!

Parker Haynes said...

Geezzz... a few hundred entries yet to read, and now you dump a slew of interesting links on us? When the devil are we supposed to write?

Seriously, I've found this contest exciting... really great to see so much good writing... learning... finding ideas and inspiration

Thanks for offering this, Nathan!!

Sara Best said...

I'm doing my best to read as many as I can. It's just fascinating to see all the different stories that live in people's heads.

Way more YA that I ever would have guessed.

Lots of confused protagonists. And lots of dead bodies.

And some really serious stuff. Where are all my fellow chic lit writers? Sorry, Women's Fiction.

Great work everyone. I'm inspired to read so many writers so dedicated to the work they love.

Some really jumped out at me and made me smile, but I can't wait to see what Nathan thinks is good. I think that's going to be very educational.

Sara Best said...

I love the site as it is and check it almost every day. But, since you asked, I think a forum would be great.

Reading the comment section is always interesting, but it would take it to a whole new level if we could really start discussions amongst ourselves about the writing process and the writing life. It gets pretty lonely out here, just me and my keyboard, and being able to chat with other writers would be great fun.

Zoe Winters said...

hmmmm, I might stop writing if somebody paid me, but I would also need benefits thrown in. ;)

Serena C. said...

I've read many of the contest entries, skipping the ones that didn't grab me in the very first sentence.

It seems like the paragraphs kept getting longer and longer and longer...and I agree with Sara, lots of heavy stuff.

I'm kicking myself because my entry has something in it that you didn't like in the last contest. Note to self: next time, read about previous contests FIRST...

Elyssa Papa said...

Such great links . . . my favorite was at the end of the Paul Greenfield article where it writes Paul Greenfield is writing a book about fish. I definitely would read what he writes; I like his style. And thanks Professor Tarr for your kind words!

There was definitely a lot more YA, but I enjoyed reading the many different samples. I don't know how one begins to narrow the list down. Being an agent is hard work---you deserve a gold star and lots of presents this year.

Thanks for everything you do---not only in holding this contest but having a blog where writers can interact with an agent, and also build a nice community-like feel.

Kat Harris said...

Pay people to stop writing?

Wouldn't work for me. Sorry.

Suzan Harden said...

Writing subsidies? Why not? It worked so well for the farming industry.

Ily said...

Nathan, I read up to eleven hundred-something so far. I have learned a great deal and my respect for your profession as well as your generosity in taking this on has just taken a gigantic leap....I could not do this day in and day out.

And I have a favorite :)

LiteraryMouse said...

I liked the entry about the Orca and the fifteen minutes of fame. I'll go back and find out who wrote it, but any opening line that can make me laugh out loud for a good minute is a winner in my eyes.

Maybe it's out of a feeling of guilt, as if Nathan shouldn't be the only one to suffer, but I've been going through all the entries as well and am putting together a personal top ten.

What I've noticed, and this is just my oftentimes wrong opinion, is that some paragraphs seem to try too hard, trying to throw so many elements at the reader at once that my head spins and I stop reading.

Hrm, my own paragraph may be guilty of this though...

The other issue is inappropriate metaphors. Metaphors that just don't fit with the situation or seem so over the top that they're distracting (I know I'm guilty of that one...I love me some crazy metaphors, but during the editing process, I usually tone most of them down).

Nathan Bransford said...

Good advice, literary mouse.

lotusloq said...

I've read a lot of them, but, man, who's got that kind of time and stamina? I'm never going to get any writing done. Still, there are some pretty amazing ones.

Anonymous said...

Some great entries, but I think some people need a refresher course on what constitutes a paragraph.

sylvia said...

I made the mistake of ticking the box that says email follow-up comments - so my mailbox was rather full when I got up this morning!

I've been scanning them, grateful that I can skip right past if the first sentence doesn't grab me. Which is bad news for my first sentence, really...

Dara said...

I've read some of the contest entries and I agree with Anon--some need to remember how long a paragraph should be (harken back to grade school and the teacher saying 3-5 sentences; 7 at most...). But there were so many good ones--it was hard for me to choose a favorite.

Thanks for the links this week! I understand wage freezes very well working as an admin assistant in real estate--another industry hit hard. Seems like that is hitting every market...

Anonymous said...

Great job by everyone brave enough to post their work. The problem I see with many of the entries is that I can not get oriented by their descriptions. We don't know who the protagonist is, where they are and why we should care about their predicament. Having something happen immediately in the first paragraph before you are oriented takes away from the suspense and tension required to build a scene.

Good luck to all who make the final cut.

CapitolClio said...

I've read through 1100 and have really enjoyed it. Lots of spunky characters, tormented souls, and dead bodies. There are some paragraphs that just sing.

I was surprised by the number of YA and the lack of romance. Vampires are still popular, but werewolves are closing in.

Like LiteraryMouse, I noticed the mixed and compound metaphors. One powerful metaphor is better than sprinkling a bunch.

I also noticed a number of paragraphs that did an "info dump" about the character instead of showing us something.

Other patterns:

* Characters waking up from sleep, being knocked out, too much booze

* Characters immediately identified as having an alcohol or drug problem

* Characters who didn't know they were going to be dead

* Characters who didn't know they were going to have a crappy day

* Over describing the setting

Thanks again for doing the contest Nathan!

Olivia said...

I think I read through one page of entries before I started seeing stars. I have to give you credit for taking on such a daunting task.

There were quite a few that grabbed me in the first sentence. If it didn't, I found the sentence after it wasn't much better, and would move on to the next.

Any entries more than an inch or two on the screen...I skipped.

I think the next contest should be "first sentence." It seems to be a determining factor for the rest of the work.

This has given me a new perspective on the life of an agent. I realize how difficult it is to stand out in a pile of slush, and the ones that do, completely deserve it.

I'm curious to see which entries you choose.

Jeanie W said...

"I'm up to #1,000 and reading these has been a pleasure!"

You're so nice to us.

Sophie W. said...

I plan to read the entires on Sunday... the day before my top choice college sends out admissions decisions. It'll dull the edge, I think.

How long do we have to vote after the winners are announced?

MelodyO said...

I don't know, I think there are fewer dead bodies this go-round. The last time it seemed that every second contest entry, someone was tripping over another corpse. Hee.

By far, my favourites are the ones that manage to surprise me, that seem to be going one way then take off in an unexpected and delightful direction. Those ones, I admire and envy in about equal portions.

Professor Tarr said...

John Kenworthy, aka Professor Tarr, noted that many of the contest entries began by insisting upon telling us the protagonist's given name. And then Mr. Kenworthy realized that he careens wildly down that selfsame and other similarly cliche'd paths himself like a Tom Robbins novel shot from a cannon....

Sue L said...

Yes, I definitely saw some trends. Hopefully, you'll do a future post about that. :)

Favorites? I saw several that I liked. Other than mine (of course!) the one that really gripped me and spun me around was one that I think was just posted in the last few hours, about killing the cat, Kit so it wouldn't kill the baby. Very very chilling.

Emily Ruth said...

Thanks for the link about organizing ideas... I think I needed that *blush* :)

I can't wait to see the finalist; this is exciting haha

Dimato said...

Nathan,

Can I tell you again how much I've learned from this blog...well I'll tell you again and I'll probably tell you again and again and again. I've read several paragraphs, it's great to read what others are writing and how they are writing it. Thanks again...I know I'm gushing, but I really like your blog, there's so much GREAT information in one location.

shilohwalker said...

I was trying to keep up but...well, no offense to anybody, when I was reading some of the longer entries, my eyes started to glaze over.

Nothing with the writing or the quality or the voice, but trying to keep up with that many, process, form an opinion? Man, I dunno how agents do it.

I'm still skimming through, but I've noticed that I tend focus more on the shorter entries. There was a fairly recent one by Aimless Writer that definitely caught my eye.

:)Ash said...

I've read (well, skimmed) most of them, and there are many good ones to choose from! I think my favorite belongs to Lacy and her modern wizards.

I agree with Olivia's suggestion that a "first sentence" contest would be fun.

Good luck selecting the finalists!

Vicky said...

WoW! You have lots of followers. I read a lot of fiction and I saw about 8 entries that jumped out at me and would have made me read the rest of the page. I finally figured out what a WIP was but haven't yet gotten a handle on YA.

Thanks for the great blog. I'm a closet writer that hasn't come out and while I posted an entry, your contest scared the bejesus out of me!

Dawn said...

I just paged through 400 of the first paragraph entries...looking for my own when Scott from Oregon's caught my eye and held it. How about that?

Paula said...

The middle comprises books publishers spend between $100,000 and $1 million to acquire? That sounds pretty rich to me. I thought the middle was *way* lower than that.

Can you clarify, Nathan?

Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

Read quite a few and have to say they were the mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good being they gave off the flavor of the story to come, the bad where info dump was not necesary, and the bad showcasing the telling aspect.

Although there were some with dead bodies, it's how the rest of the story, the twist to give it a new seasoning comes about.

Suggestion: maybe next time you can have a logline contest.

Heather Harper said...

I like Kim Whener's entry.

Heather Harper said...

I liked Aimless Writer's, too.

Alexa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alexa said...

I've really enjoyed reading the entries (although I haven't managed to make it through them all) and there were so many that I loved. Im really interested to see what you pick and the reasons.

Anonymous said...

Vicky:

WIP = Work In Progress

YA = Young Adult

MG = Middle Grade

RJM said...

I noticed a lot of cats and dead girls. Never in the same opening, but now I'm inspired.

On a side note, a friend pointed out there were a ton that started with waking up. You agents were right about that. I hate it when you're right.

MBConcerTucson said...

BTW, thank you for doing this.

Jake

writtenwyrdd said...

I read about 200 of them last night and though I'd love to read more, I'm not as masochistic, I mean kind, as you are, Nathan.

Leo said...

I disagree about the first sentence contest. Paragraph is the smallest unit of storytelling, not sentence. There may be good first paragraphs where the first sentence is a brief lead on to the main thing, but a lead on without which the rest of the paragraph doesn't pack quite the punch. So why penalize the author?

Anonymous said...

Can't wait til tomorrow!!!

I think a competition for a single sentence would be fun, too. I'd rather be able to choose the sentence, though... my first sentence isn't the greatest... but I love the fourth one... lol :)

Anonymous said...

Whoa. Tons of entries! A favorite? Hmmmm...I'm seeing loads of genre-generated cliches. But, hey, you can't write a murder mystery without a corpse, you can't write a thriller without either a corpse or at least one potential corpse, and you can't write literary fiction without being quirky and/or pretentious.

Methinks that Me preferred the literary offerings that were structured like thought-through 'graphs that set tone and hinted at what was to follow.

But that's just Me thinking. :)

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Hi Leo,

You wrote: "Paragraph is the smallest unit of storytelling, not sentence."

I would say - the syllable is the smallest unit of storytelling - I might even go so far as to say, a single consonant or vowel is the smallest unit of storytelling.

But, that's just me :)

Sue L said...

LOL about already talking about another contest.

I love first line contests, I think they are fun. Used to be - but I think now people get in habit of posting hooky first lines that don't support a story.

(I noticed a lot of the opening paragraphs were beautifully written and profound, but I didn't really get the start of a story out of all of them)

so - how about a "first line" contest, then the finalists have to post and be judged on the first 250 words :)

Leo said...

Oh come on! Don't confuse the smallest units of speech with the smallest units of storytelling. A syllable does not a story make, though it does make a sound. Can you express a coherent unit of a story in a single syllable? Sometimes, one can--but then, that syllable becomes a paragraph. :)

Leo said...

And speaking of sentence versus paragraph as the smallest unit of a story. Try this experiment. Go through the first paragraphs and only take the first sentence. See what happens to the meaning. Sometimes, it does survive. But, arguably, in such cases, the first sentence ought to have been a paragraph.

Lisa and Laura said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Leo -

You are arguing with a poet.

Wanda B.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Also, I think of the Chinese word for love - 1 syllable - "ai" (in pingyin).

Wait - love is 1 syllable in English too.

That's the story of life on earth in 1 syllable.

**Back to regularly scheduled obsession with auto bailout**

Leo said...

Ah well, I concede. Syllable indeed is the smallest unit of poetry. :)

Kim Stagliano said...

Wow, you had over 1300 entries?? Holy paras Batman! I'm sure you saw yourself on Galley Cat. Congrats to everyone who entered. It takes courage (if I recall my entries to the Crapometer, it takes alcohol too.)

I love Don Draper. My agent now represents Mad Men's other dark haired hunk, "Salvatore Romano", actor Bryan Batt. Maybe he can help announce the finalists!

Kim Stagliano said...

Oops! I commented on the wrong post. I apologize!

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