Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, July 24, 2009

This Week in Publishing 7/24/09

Lots and lots of links!

First off, if you live in the Bay Area or plan to pass through our fair part of the country I will be hosting a workshop at your friendly neighborhood Books Inc. Opera Plaza in San Francisco on September 13th. The workshop is called Secrets of a Literary Agent, it will be about finding an agent and the secrets therein, and believe it or not, after I reveal this top secret classified agenting information I will not then have to kill you. You'll just have to take a memory erasing drug.

Amid all this talk of Amazon's world domination comes more persistent rumors about Apple developing a (potentially Kindle-killing) tablet sized device. T-minus six months until Apple is the new company the Internet thinks is going to bring about the apocalyptic end of books as we know it.

And speaking of the Kindle, remember way back a week ago when everyone was worried about Kindle pricing? Former HarperBusiness publisher Marion Maneker has a terrific article in Slate's The Big Money this week summarizing the issues surrounding the price point battle and why publishers are reluctant to embrace $9.99. Essentially, even though publishers are generally receiving near hardcover-level revenue from the Kindle as Amazon takes a loss, publishers are anxious about Amazon using their books as loss leaders and also about the extent to which readers are fleeing paper books in the direction of plastic whenever a big title comes out.

The article is also noteworthy as Maneker is the first individual to ever utter the following words in a journalistic sphere: "Publishers aren't stupid." HISTORY IN THE MAKING, PEOPLE. Also there is no word on Maneker's whereabouts. Journalists don't take kindly to such loose talk.

For more discussion on the future of e-books: B&N recently announced the creation of a massive e-book store, PBS recently featured a segment on e-books (thanks to reader Heidi Willis for the link), there's an article on demand pricing for e-books by Evan Schnittman, and a 100% must read by Mike Shatzkin evaluating the future of e-books. Shatzkin envisions a near future where there's an explosion of devices and purchase points, an environment in which Amazon and B&N in particular may not have an edge (via Pub Lunch)

Meanwhile, in news that is completely and totally unrelated to this week's Orwell/Amazon Internet freakout, Shelf Awareness linked to an article in Retail Week about how customer service expectations have soared in the recession. Hmm..

In Jessica Faust news, I thought three of her recent posts were especially terrific. First is a list of reasons she would stop reading a query and the second is a fairly comprehensive post on novel word count. The last one is advice for all: "Good enough" isn't good enough.

Also in agent advice, Jane Dystel has a great post on etiquette when submitting to an agent. Some goes just for Dystel & Goderich and some is universal, but definitely check it out.

Still with me? MORE LINKS TO GO.

Anonymous publishing intern The Intern wrote a post about how many spiritual memoirs she's been receiving (she's not alone) and some things to consider when writing one. (via Janet Reid)

And in more writing advice news, my amazing client Jennifer Hubbard wrote about the importance of patience (no, really, you're going to need it), and she also linked to a very interesting discussion by Janni Lee Simner about the distinctions between "girl" and "boy" books and voices.

Many people passed along Editorial Anonymous' recent Publishometer, a point system by which you can see whether you pass the bar for publication.

Almost finally, as many of you know ANGELA'S ASHES author Frank McCourt passed away this week and there have been many remembrances in the media and online. I was particularly struck by the LA Times book blog Jacket Copy's article that remembers McCourt as one of the great late blooming authors, having published ANGELA'S ASHES, his first book, when he was 67 and retired.

And finally finally, I was immediately drawn to this video of the world's fastest everything. I only wish they had included footage of the world's fastest novel (via Andrew Sullivan).

Have a great weekend!


JohnO said...

Holy schnike, my finger's gonna get sore from all that clickin'!

serenity said...

I think the novel word count link is broken?

mkcbunny said...

Hi Nathan,

FYI, in the Apple-tablet paragraph, the link "tablet sized device" doesn't work.

What am I going to do about this Apple news? I have a birthday coming up, and dreams of a shiny new Kindle arriving. Can I wait six months for Apple to make what will undoubtedly be the coolest reader ever? Decisions, decisions.

Your September 13 workshop sounds fantastic. Why, oh why, do I have to be on a plane that day, at that exact time? Cursed vacation!

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, serenity, fixed.

Margaret Yang said...

I'm trying to figure out what "secrets" you can tell in your workshop. Don't the bran fans who read your blog already know all of your secrets? You even gave us a peek at your vacation pictures!

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, mkcbunny.

Someday blogger will fix the bug that randomly messes up links.

Bane of Anubis said...

I swear that those cup-stacking kids are possessed...

And no matter how hard I try, I will never understand the Japanese culture ;)...

Ah, Minesweeper -- nostalgic flashback to the early 90s.

Meg Spencer said...

Hurrah, I was just running out of stuff to read! And um yeah, I wanted to thank you for talking me off the metaphorical ledge over the Amazon thing. I was kind of freaking out about it a little, so the voice of calm reason was quite appreciated.

Chuck H. said...

September 13th, eh? Sorry, I have plans to be in Missouri that weekend. I have plans to be in Missouri most weekends. I think I'm in a rut.

Word ver: bacanbly - sounds delicious.

T. Anne said...

I do nothing quickly, although was quickly amused at your video. thanx for posting.

Ms. Fettleston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mira said...

Lol. Posted as a character.

Okay, now as me:

You're talking??? In town?????????
On a weekend I have plans to not BE in town????????? As in plane tickets??????????


Oh the irony. The sad, cruel irony of life.

Nathan, you did that on purpose. I just know you did. But how did you know? You have magical powers, that's the only thing I can think of. And something I always suspected.

Well, I'm going to have to go kill myself. After that, I'll take a look at all these wonderful links.

Ink said...

I hope those gun guys in the video were in law enforcement and not just yahoos who spend all day in their basements practicing that. Or at leas that they're not Canadian. I'd breathe easier, say, if they were San Franciscans.

And, oddly, I feel like stacking cups. Anyone else here reminded of the symmetrical book stacking in Ghostbusters? Classic movie. And you can't beat book stacking. Who's got the stopwatch?

Mira said...

Oh, and I see you posted a link to the Bookends site where I talked about blacklisting.

I usually like Jessica's posts, but boy did I have trouble with that one. I can see you liked it though - that's okay, we can disagree.

Well, I did wonder about my inexplicable popularity the last few days. I suppose people will now be edging away from me and waiting for the lightening to strike.

But don't worry. My discussion about the unbelievably horrendous practice of blacklisting people in the publishing business will be continued. I started, I'm not stopping now.

But not today.

The First Carol said...

Secret Agent Bransford: Sign me up for the mind erasing prescription, I need to make space up there any! Your funny. Oh, and if you ever write a book, I will Kindle you, hardcover, for sure.

Tomas said...

the best round up since... last week! really, great overview. of everything um, I'm interested in, right now thank you...

Mira said...

Nathan, sorry to post so frequently, this is the last for awhile.

I assume you'll be speaking places around here again. I'm going to type up a list of all my engagements for the next two years and send it to you. Could you schedule around that please? Just as a favor. So, I don't have to kill myself repeatedly?

Thank you.

Thermocline said...

The discussion about Boy/Girl books made me think of the Lord of the Rings movies. The romance between Arwen and Aragorn, which was a large focus of the movies, was not a huge plot point in the books. I don't think of the trilogy as being Boy Books, but it's quite obvious that Peter Jackson thought amping up the romance would help it reach a wider audience.

The covers and marketing of YA and MG novels might turn off boys but I think it's too simplistic to say that boys don't want to read about girl protagonists. Maybe just not girly protagonists.

Marilyn Peake said...

Thanks for so many great links, Nathan.

I loved Jessica Faust’s post about how "Good enough" isn’t good enough. Hooray for insistence on taking the time to make a manuscript as perfect as possible.

I agree wholeheartedly with Jennifer Hubbard’s advice about how important patience is in becoming a writer. I think it’s a requirement.

I felt so sad when I read that Frank McCourt had died earlier this week. His life story is incredibly inspirational.

Loved the World’s Fastest Everything video. Especially loved the cup stacker, and the Rubik’s cube guy. Wish I could solve even two sides of a Rubik’s cube in ... well, any amount of time. What is the world’s fastest novel? THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy written in three weeks?

Your workshop sounds awesome! Wish I could be in California in September, but am scheduled to be there one month later. Sigh.

Have a great weekend!

ryan field said...

Good links, especially the B&N one.

Karla Doyle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristi said...

Oooh, I LOVE Apple and am happy for them to take over the world.

Marilyn Peake - thanks for the links yesterday to the interviews about the influence of the digital age on the music industry. They were great and I forwarded them to my musician hubby.

Happy Friday! :)

Reesha said...

Hmmm. As much as I love my Kindle, I also would be quite happy if Apple took over most of the world.

And btw, what is it with us automatically thinking that because a company is big they're going to take over the world? How do we get to that conclusion so fast?
Personally I blame literature and marvel at its power. Go, literature! Go! Change the masses!

Marilyn Peake said...


I'm glad you enjoyed the links. I had so much fun this week, surfing the web and following links posted on Twitter. Feel like I learned a lot. :)

Anonymous said...

Great links, again. Thanks much.

Marsha Sigman said...

Great links as usual!!!

Anonymous said...

Regarding the DG blog post on etiquette:

If a manuscript is rejected and they don't encourage submitting another manuscript in the future, they are basically done with that writer.

Is this a common attitude or one unique to DG?

It appears they work under the assumption a writer can never, ever improve. One shot and one shot only. Wow. That sounds harsh.

M. Dunham said...

Many your hands must've been worn out with all those links.

Janet said...

A video about the Fastest Everything that lasts over 5 minutes? Fie and for shame! ;o)

Nathan Bransford said...


No, I don't personally agree with that sentiment, although I can't speak for other agents.

Anonymous said...

nathan, thanks for responding. I'm glad to hear it isn't the standard with every agent. I've read where some successful authors have been rejected 100+ times before finding an agent. I like to think we may all have the chance to connect with a different project at another time.

Cheryl Barker said...

Thanks for pointing out an author whose first book was published at age 67. What great encouragement that it's never too late to try!

Other Lisa said...

In case you aren't worn out from all the linky goodness, here's another one about a really unfortunate cover decision.

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Nathan, as always for the newsy, topical links. I have three blog posts to write today - but I promise to peruse them all this weekend.

In the meantime, I just want to say that I'd love to attend your workshop - if only I planned to be on the West Coast that day. Nerts.

Also, yahoo, Bane! Another thing we have in common... I STILL play Minesweeper on my laptop sometimes... er, when I should be working.

And, Mira, please refrain from offing yourself. Some of us would surely miss your wacky sense of humor and ever-changing icons... when I said "some of us," I didn't mean me, of course. I meant Bane and Ink.

Have a groovy weekend, everyone! ;-)

Elizabeth Aloe said...

Hey Nathan,

I rsvp'd for your workshop and I very much look forward to it. Thank you for providing this for us. Have a great weekend.

Mira said...

Hi Laura, absolutely. Already understood. Bane and Ink would miss me.

I'm thinking of changing my trip. Is that weird? Is that stalker-like? That would make it totally appropriate then. I might be able to go the next weekend.

Sheesh Nathan.

Laura Martone said...

Um, er, uh, Mira, hmmm...

I'm not sure how to answer that.

Stalker-like? Nah.

Ravingly psychotic? Maybe.

Haha - just kidding, of course. Do what you must. As for me, while I think Nathan seems like one groovy cat - and I would get a kick out of learning his "secret agent" ways in person... I don't do much rearranging of my schedule for anyone. Not even my husband.

Well, maybe I would for Willie Nelson... I sure do like his braids.

Mira said...

Just ravingly psychotic? That's a relief.

I'm not sure I can. I think when they say discount due to non-refundablity, they might mean it.

I guess he'll talk places again. Oh, but so close. So close! I told people we should have done labor day.

Okay, sorry. I'll stop taking up space here with my personal tragedy. Oh, but sooo close!

Anonymous said...

Amazon will rule us all someday.

Anonymous said...

The links that have been provided in this blog lead to other blogs and articles that are all very interesting and informative - but surely there's something missing there: where's the link to the article written by the unpublished novelist who has to deal with all these people?

Honestly, was I the only person here who was almost offended by what Jessica Faust wrote in the blog in which she listed the reasons she would stop reading a query?

She provides a lengthy list.

So here's my own list (which I posted in her own comments section) - this is a list of just some of the things that irritate me when I have to deal with certain literary agents.

1) Agents who can't get my name correct, even though my name is written right there at the top of the page.

2) Agents who can't get the title of my novel correct even though the title of my novel is written right there at the top of the page.

3) Agents who can't even be bothered to mention the title of my novel when they're rejecting it, and will refer to my novel as being my 'book project' - it's not a book project, alright, it's a novel, and I titled it for a reason. If an agent doesn't even bother to mention the title of my novel in the rejection letter (cough, cough) then I can only assume that my submission received very little attention - at least show me the courtesy of writing down the title of my novel, which, in all likelihood, I had been working on, day and night, for two years or more.

4) Agents who don't request to read at least three chapters of my work - I have no patience for a person who thinks that they can decide whether or not a book will be good in just a few pages. This is akin to sitting down in a theatre and watching a movie and saying, after five minutes, that the movie isn't your cup of tea, and then getting up and walking out.

5) Agents who don't understand that I've spent twenty years living in poverty so that I can spend my every waking moment either writing, reading, or thinking about fiction - these people should become real estate agents instead.

6) True novelists are born out of deprivation. Deprivation. Deprivation. Deprivation. Every older novelist who has written more than just one or two novels will be able to tell you that. Deprivation is at the heart of every true novelist (and quite frankly it's often what separates writers from becoming novelists, or becoming agents or editors instead), and any agent who doesn't understand that should probably not be in this business to begin with.

7) Agents who will clearly state that they're presently accepting unsolicited work - but then when I send them my work it will end up being read, not by the agent, but by the assistant of the literary agent - I didn't send my 'book project' to the assistant, I sent it to the agent. If an agent believes so highly in the assistant then the assistant should become an agent. The simple fact is that if I had been told up-front that my work would end up being read by some assistant, then I would never have sent it in the first place.

Here, I'll even sign my name.

I've been visiting blogs like this for the past couple of weeks now, and what I've noticed is that if I don't sign my name, then the first little jab that's taken at me is from somebody who will say, ah, very interesting, but I usually don't listen to people who are 'afraid' of revealing who they are, and will only post anonymously.

I'm not afraid of revealing who I am, alright.

Michael Younger.

I also posted as The Goose. If I ever post as anything else then I'll let you know.

Mira said...

Michael, you're the goose! I thought it was Ink. You're funny. Welcome. I think you have excellent points. I especially liked 5, 6, and 7. I don't quite agree with 4. I think you can tell in a few pages if you want to see more. Agents need books that 'hook' the reader, and they can tell that early.

Very brave - good for you! I'm posting too much, but I just wanted you to know you have support.

Other Lisa said...

Since I was one person who mentioned that I did not weigh comments from people signing themselves "Anonymous" too heavily, let me clarify. Obviously I have no trouble with people using handles to identify themselves on blogs; I use one myself and have done so for years. What I don't like is people who try to engage me in some form of dialog but who don't adopt some kind of consistent handle for that.

I don't expect everyone to use their RL identity on the interwebz (In fact I think there are a lot of good reasons for not doing so), but I do think it's reasonable to ask a person to use a name of some sort, so I can associate that name with said person's opinions and personality over time.

Speaking for myself only.

Word verification: uncoo. Heh.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to post this comment as well, if I may - well, in fact, I'm going to whether you like it or not.

I am shocked...

Shocked isn't even the word for it.. devastated, maybe.. to learn of Jane Dystel's attitude regarding the submission of subsequent novels after an initial rejection.

I'm not going to hold anything back here: learning of her attitude here made me spitting mad.

To suggest that a novelist can't improve is just insanely stupid - and yes that's exactly what she's implying!

I am not the novelist that I was ten years ago. I've had to learn a thousand things about writing, and each of those things has been its own little battle.

To suggest that a novelist - any novelist - doesn't go through an apprenticeship is just downright offensive.

Nobody can teach you how to write a novel - you have to learn that all on your own, and of course it will take you years - years - to reach the point where you can write and complete a commercial work of fiction.

I should be getting used to some of this stuff by now - but I'm not.

It just boggles my mind that these are the people who have ended up in the positions of power.

Oh well - I'll just continue to post what I think, and live with the consequences I guess.

God I get angry sometimes, though. And I mean 'real' angry. What's up with that, eh? Ernest Hemingway, I was told, would pound his fists against the walls every time he received a rejection letter... yeah, I might try that.

Michael Younger.

Ink said...


Interesting. Got a few thoughts on your list.

1 and 2, I'll agree with those on the first part. 3, I partially agree with, but understand that agents leaving off the title are looking to save time. You may not agree with their desire to save time, but I don't think it's particularly nefarious. Putting the name there doesn't really change anything one way or another. As long as the communication is clear, I'm not really bothered, though I understand where you're coming from.

Number 4 I disagree with. It's simply impossible. Not difficult, not hard, not some extra work. Impossible. If they morally have to read three chapters of yours, they have to do the same for everyone. So on monday Mr. or Mrs. Agent comes in to work and has 75 queries waiting for them. So, three chapters each... let's say roughly fifty pages (thinking average chapter is 15-20 pages). Now, to give a good reading (and not a half-asssed skim) of fifty pages, let's say an hour. So, that's one hour per submission. Times 75. That's 75 hours. That's two weeks of full time work for one day's queries. And they're going to get more queries on all those days. Plus, they actually haven't done any of their job yet, which is actually representing clients and trying to sell their books. So, manifestly impossible. Maybe if they paid a team of assistants. Which would be financially impossible, most likely. Plus you don't like assistants.

5 and 6, to me, seem like dangerous generalizations without much of a basis in anything. Well, 5 could be taken in a very specific sense just for you. But why should an agent know anything specific about you? Certainly all writers don't fall under that description. Many wouldn't even come remotely close. And it would be sort of hard to judge what the agents do or don't think anyway. Number 6 seems an unlikely generalization. All writers come from deprivation... you sure about that? I'm not sure I really want you speaking for me on that.

Number 7 I partially agree with, in that I understand where it's coming from. I think every writer would rather have their work in the hands of the agent, the one making decisions, rather than an assistant. I mean, the writers have researched the agent, not the grad student doing an internship. But, again, the agents are looking for time, and with the idea that the assistant can clear away the stuff that isn't remotely close to being ready yet, with the idea that this will give them more time to examine those who do have a chance (which is what you wanted in number 4). It's a matter of minutes in the day, and you can't have everything.

And I agree it would be frustrating to see agents who toss a query for small reasons, while at the same time making just such careless errors in their rejections. But I always figure you can't control how other people do business - just how you do business. You're reading the blogs, so you'll know the ropes. Don't make the mistakes and don't give them a reason for rejection. Everyone has the same opportunity.

Best of luck,
Bryan Russell

Ink said...

As for the Dystel thing, I doubt they'll remember or care about a query they rejected two years ago if they're queried again. Now, if someone queries ten projects to them in two weeks, they might be getting a little tired... But I agree it seemed a funny sort of thing to suggest.


Nathan Bransford said...

It's Friday afternoon so I won't address all of Michael's points, but let me just say that I do mess up authors' names. Heck, I even mess up the names of people I know extremely, extremely well (Natalie/Nicole, you know who you are).

But I don't mess up as much authors' names as much as the people who query me mess up my name. You wouldn't believe the creative spellings of "Bransford" I see every day.

And Michael, I don't hold it against them. I've never rejected someone for messing up my name. Just saying.

Anonymous said...

Bryan, two points:


If you've actively attempted to make contact with an agent, then in all likelihood that agent will remember you.

Nevertheless, that's not the issue here. The issue here is what Dystel wrote. And what she wrote was downright offensive - to suggest that writers won't or can't improve over time is just plain wrong.

Maybe some people will simply start submitting too early. What? Now they're cut off? Unbelievable.

If she didn't believe in what she wrote, then she shouldn't have written it! It's just that simple!

And two:

I was watching the Charlie Rose show many, many years ago (this was around about the time I was starting my apprenticeship) and Charlie Rose was interviewing an elderly novelist.

Rose asked the man (I can't remember what his name was) why a person becomes a novelist, and the man suddenly went quiet, and appeared to be almost devastated (at least that's how I now remember it):

"Deprivation," he said.

Rose nodded in agreement, having apparently heard this answer before - I could tell though that Rose didn't understand it at all, which was a typical reaction really, since most people don't.

"Deprivation is at the heart of every novelist," the man continued. "You're deprived of something in your life, and so you make up for it in the writing by creating fictional art."

Show me a person who has been deprived of something, and you won't always be showing me a novelist, but show me a true novelist and almost every time you'll be showing me a person who has faced deprivation.

Obviously there have been many people who have completed novels without having had deprivation in their lives' - but are they true novelists? I would argue that, no, they're not. Sorry, but I feel pretty strongly about this. It's the reason I'm living in poverty right now. I never chose to do this. I write morning, noon, and night, not because I'm getting paid to do so, but because I don't know what else to do, or how to do it. Deprivation has been the guiding force in my life, and it's what has sent me down this road.

I have a theory that most great editors would have been great novelists instead, if only they had faced some kind of early deprivation.

The writer John Irving is the perfect example of the true novelist - he was unaware that almost every one of his novels was centered around 'a missing father figure' until, one by one, the critics all pointed this out in their reviews of his books.

And guess what... John Irving's father... yup...

Michael Younger

Anonymous said...

And I would also argue, Nathan, that a true novelist would be writing all the time, and wouldn't know the difference between a Monday morning and a Friday afternoon.

The Goose.

Ello said...

Hey Nathan,

You didn't mention the whole cover whitewashing controversy about Justine Larbalestier's new book Liar. Justine herself wrote a blog post about how publishing will not get behind a cover with a person of cover on it. I was really curious to know what your thoughts on that are.


Laura Martone said...

Michael (aka The Goose) -

I know it's late (well, where I am, it is), and everyone has probably gone elsewhere by now... movie, nightclub, bed, whatever... but I just have to weigh in on this discussion.

While "deprivation" feeds my writing, it's not the reason that I'm a novelist. Being the only child of a broken home, I find that a lot of my stories revolve around characters (with siblings) who have issues with one or more of their unhappily married parents (usually, the mother). But still, I don't feel that the REASON I write is because I was deprived of certain things as a child (or even as an adult).

And I think it's awfully dangerous to make generalizations like the one you've made. Just because someone hasn't been markedly deprived of something doesn't mean he/she is incapable of being a true novelist. Besides, to a certain degree, everyone on this planet has been deprived of something at some point in their lives - whether it's wealth, affection, a dream career, or something much smaller - so, by your logic, everyone on this planet has the potential to be a true novelist.

And another thing... just because you live in poverty so you can write all day long doesn't mean that everyone must suffer for their art in equal measure. Every writer has a different story to tell - whether it's heartbreaking, hilarious, uplifting, or something else entirely - and all of those stories come from different wellsprings of inspiration - real or imagined. I'm not a terribly rich writer myself - in fact, I'm downright poor - but I don't think being impoverished is a prerequisite to being a wonderful novelist, the kind that's remembered through the ages. It's as if you're saying that poor writers are the only ones with a richness of spirit... and that's simply not true.

I wish you lots of luck in your writing, your career, or whatever else you're seeking, but I can't abide by your generalizations. They can only serve to alienate you from your fellow writers and taint your own soul with bitterness and anger.


Bane of Anubis said...

To back up Nathan's point (and I'm not quite sure I should admit this, but it's Friday, so I'll go great guns here -- a british phrase; don't actually know what it means, but I like it)....

Awhile back, I queried Nathan prior to being his blog addict and addressed my query letter to "Mr. Bradford," I believe... I was (am) mortified, but, nonetheless, he requested a partial (and spelled everything in his responses correctly)...

Mistakes are made on both ends, but agents are going at warp speed, whereas we're meticulously grooming ourselves for show (and evidently I was having a Ben Stiller moment from There's Something About Mary), so I'm neither surprised nor offended if they make mistakes - hell, I'm just happy if I get a response (positive or negative)... Even if it's addressed to 'Dingbat Writer.'

As for deprivation - it doesn't feed my writing... Entertainment does... There's nothing like a good story to me. If it's got subtle meaning to it, more power to it, but I'm one of those people who writes/reads to fill holes but to expand horizons/imaginations.

Agree w/ you about the callous sounding tone of the Dystel piece -- use that as a metric for whether or not you want her as a potential representative, nothing more (as w/ rejection letters, remember that agents aren't all the same -- sometimes it may seem like they're a conglomerate, but I'm pretty sure they aren't ;).

Mira said...

Michael, I agree with you more than the others might, so let me weigh in on the deprivation thing.

I don't actually think it's deprivation that makes a writer, but something close. Emotional pain. Maybe that's what you meant by deprivation....? And it certainly helps if you throw isolation in the mix. Being unhappy and alone plus talent will make a darn good writer.

Emotional pain can create very open channels and focus that allow the muse to speak very clearly. Although, I'm not sure if other types of concentrated experiences would create the same condition. For example, someone who felt joy all the time. They may be great art that came from deep joy, that would be interesting to see. Of course that joy could be from the spiritual discoveries that come with the resolution of deep pain and loss, but I don't know. That's certainly not my path. I got the pain one.

But Michael, I have a concern here, and I hope it's not too personal. My concern would be that if someone believed deprivation was what gave them talent and the ability to write, they might not be motivated to give themselves more abundance in their lives. And everyone deserves abundance. You don't want to throw yourself on the cross of suffering in order to elevate yourself to artistic heights. Life is hard enough. Besides, it's also okay to let the world bring some joy in. It will deepen you as a writer, and bring a greater perspective.

Remember, we don't live to write.

Anonymous said...


Do not let online agents get under your skin. Be glad that they have revealed their attitudes and 'quirks' so that you can evaluate their suitability to be your agent.

When an agent has said enough to reveal their true inclinations, or put their foot in their mouth one time too many for you to imagine successfully working with them, then just take their name off of your potential agents list.

Just as in business, where we are told not to send an email when we are angry – do not post anything when you are ‘spitting mad’. Do not be goaded. Create a pseudonym and use it consistently, as so many others do, so that you are not judged years or even months from now, when – as you so eloquently pointed out – you will not be who you are today. There is nothing worse than our past haunting our present.

Case in point: Take Ms. Dystel off your agent consideration list and put her on your NEVER WOULD CONSIDER list. When you do write your bestseller, she has ensured, today, that she will not get an option at it tomorrow. Who knows how many other authors she has offended?

You are an excellent writer. You are very articulate.

Sincerely and forever,


P.S. So do you, Laura

Anonymous said...


I meant that you write beautifully.


Nathan Bransford said...


I was planning on addressing that with a separate blog post.

Laura Martone said...

I agree with you, Mira - everyone deserves to have some joy in his or her life. Just as having nothing BUT joy in one's life can limit the complexity of one's stories, having nothing BUT pain can hinder a writer, too. To be the best writers we can be, it's important to understand both sides of the coin (an analogy that doesn't work, I'm afraid, for Harvey Dent).

I also agree with Bane and Anon 7:47 - as unfair as Ms. Dystel's blanket submission rules might seem (and as much anger as they might engender in many a writer), they are an unfortunate fact of life. Not every agent is the same, as Bane so astutely pointed out - and all that Ms. Dystel has done is given some writers (me and, I'm assuming, Michael the Goose included) a darn good reason to NEVER query her. After all, who wants an agent who doesn't believe that writers can improve over time?


P.S. To Michael the Goose, wherever you are, I apologize if I seemed unnecessarily harsh with my "deprivation" rebuttal. Just as Ms. Dystel's comments boiled your blood, generalizations tend to boil mine. But I appreciate the fact that you expressed your opinion openly - and I wouldn't judge you "years or even months from now" as Anon 7:47 suggested that some might. It's perfectly fine for you to express your opinion, just as it's perfectly fine for me to disagree. As long as we treat each other with respect, we're doing just fine. :-)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, your post worries me a little bit.

It worries me because I fear that you might be correct - should I be signing with my real name?

At forums, or blog sections, such as this, I'm capable of being extremely - what's the phrase I'm searching for here: ah yes, 'hot-headed'... no, not hot-headed, apt to write down my thoughts exactly as they're presently forming in my head. If my head happens to be hot can I honestly help it?

Has this hot-headed-ness thing gotten me into trouble in the past?

Yes it has.

So what you're saying, then, is, just don't sign my real name - hmm? I don't know... that's just not me. I think I'd rather sign my own name and just accept the consequences.

Most of what I write I believe in anyhow (most of us do), so I honestly don't see why it matters?

I fear that you are correct though.

Yours truly,

Michael Jackson.

Matilda McCloud said...

Weighing in on the Dystel thing. I've queried them twice for two different mss--actually the same agent there who was quite nice and requested partials both times (I don't know if she remembered me or not from the first query). Just wait at least a year or more to query with another project. If you really feel your current ms is stronger, then send go ahead and send a query. It's no big deal.

Chuck H. said...

When I read that Frank McCourt was 67 when he finally got published, it made my day. I still have 4 years to make it.

Anonymous said...

Goose Michael Jackson,

You should always be true to yourself and speak honestly.

But as my fictitious Grandpappy once told me: “There's a time and place it’s ‘ceptable to have ye bum out - Broad Street ain’t’ one of dem.”

Of course, that was shortly after a newspaper photographer took a picture of Grandpappy actually displaying his backside on Broad Street. It was an embarrassment for the whole family, but I'd bet he’d do it again, if it suited him. But, then again, he never planned on running for Mayor.

I loved my fictitious Grandpappy – bum and all.

Michael or Goose, either way, you are a character. I enjoy your wit.


Still Anonymous

Anonymous said...

The topic of deprivation on its own is an interesting idea and would be a fascinating detour, detour because I don't find it germane to discussions about the agent-writer relationship. An agent doesn't need to know whether a writer has suffered or vice versa, just as they don't need to know what the writer has gone through in their life. The primary locus of said relationship is the writing. Saying a writer won't work with an agent that doesn't 'get that deprivation is a part of them/the writing process' is like an agent saying that a writer only gets one shot at them with one ms - both don't really have anything to do with anything.

Other Lisa said...

Okay, that world's fastest video? I am so not that fast.

Donna said...

Ok, so slapstick humor is not my style; but some of this stuff is wierd enough to catch even my attention.

That said; I'd like to go off topic a moment.

I'd like to return to the guest blog topic of "what is your writing dream?" Well, it took me a long time to answer that question.
The answer is: I'd like to be a ghost writer. I want someone to dictate to me the details of what they consider an interesting life, and I get to put it down in marketable prose.

Is this ghost writing?Biographical? I don't want to make up the initial story, I want to fill in the details in a marketable way.

So, I want to ask Nathan: what is the fine line between creative non-fiction and biographical. If someone tells you their story as a child, in another era, do you have to give them citation credits; pay the person a fee for discoursing information that might help you sell your novel?

Because I am a social worker, and come into contact with persons willing to divulge ther entire story to anyone willing to let them talk; can I use what they say in a victional environment, or do I need a release of information just because it's an actual revelation? Even if the context of my scenario is a compilation of too many similar stories to count. At what point do so many similar stories become usuable fodder for a novel character?

And yeah, I want to take a workshop run by my favorite author blogger! It so happens that I put in for some leave (vacation) time, then and have been told that since I have the on-paper leave accural they won't tell me no; but there are reasons I shouldn't take the time off.
Yeah, yeah. Close to, I'll see what my finances are to determine if I get to "call in sick".

But in the meantime: biographacials, ghost writing; should a writer take on the project? How to write credits, share royalties; get permission?


Anonymous said...

By the way, does anybody here know which writer I was referring to?

This cat was going on about deprivation, and although what he was saying was truly striking a chord with me, I didn't think to take his name down.

I merely ask, since Mr. Bradford's website here seems to be attracting a slightly inordinate percentage of highly intelligent and knowledgeable... uh, folks.

The interview with the novelist in question was re-broadcast a couple of nights after he died - anybody?

He was old. He was at least in his eighties. The original broadcast aired quite a while ago too. I'm thinking mid-90's.

Apart from the deprivation thing, I remember that this novelist mentioned his wife (then deceased).

He said that when he took her back home (to the mid-west, I think it was) for the first time that his father didn't say anything, and that for this reason his feelings were quite hurt. But that night, as he sat alone with his father on the front porch, his father, not a poetic man, suddenly said: "She's a star... we've never had one in the family before."

The other thing I remember was a comment he made about memory. "I had no idea that being old would be so wonderful," he said. "In my mind I can travel to any part of my life, and re-live it... it's wonderful."

Yeah, that's a novelist, alright.

I always say to people that as a human being I'm really just a collection of memories. And honestly, for the life of me, I can't understand why some people never look back?

For starters, one can't examine one's life if one never looks back.

And you know, and I know, that the unexamined life is not worth living - which cat said that? I think it was that Socrates bird, wasn't it? Did anybody here study Philanthropy in college?

But, more importantly, that collection of memories that we all have is what constitutes one's self - me, I always look back. Some people are always rattling on about the future, but I'll deal with that when I get there. IF I get there.

Anyhow, if anybody could help me out with this - much appreciated. Thanks.

Yours truly,

Michael Jordan.

Anonymous said...

Michael -

here´s a little true story for you. When J. K. Rowling, often invoked on this blog, received the request for her full MS as an exclusive, the agent she had sent her submission to had yet to read a word of her partial. I bet good old J. K. sure is glad her initial package landed in the hands of the office junior who sent off for the full while the boss was presumably out having drinks at the Groucho.
What I´m trying to say, I guess, is, ´tis a gamble any which way you look at it, and your only hand is to query extremely widely to maximise your chances of catching the right agent (or intern) on the right day.

I´m sure I´m not the only one who is a touch mystified by some of the winning query letters we are often presented with by blogging agents, such as Nicholas Sparks´s query for The Notebook, which Nathan has previously referred to ( I can just picture Miss Snark grinding her heels into that one!
There´s no accounting for personal taste or preferences, and therefore no excuse for levels of professional courtesy slipping, on behalf of either agent or aspiring author. Here in the UK I recently received a reply to a query from an agent who was downright condescending about the genre I write in, without having read a word of a partial or indeed having mentioned on his website that he does not represent this genre. I wrote back cordially thanking him for his prompt reply, which I don´t regard as turning the other cheek, but as doing my bit for not letting the tone in this world totally go to the dogs.
There is so much one has to develop a thick skin against in this game, on every level of outside recognition or lack thereof.

Mira said...

Michael - well, hmmm. Well I see you have an anonymous guardian angel, with a very strong writing voice and compelling argument.

I'm going to agree on some points - ranting is problematic. Most people shut down when someone 'yells' at them, and they can harbor feelings about it.

There's also the general truth that people can hear that you're angry, or they can hear what you're saying. Most people can't hear both at the same time.

So ranting at agents isn't always effective if your goal is to have agents hear you - although it may be effective in getting writers to listen. Ranting under a false name isn't a bad idea, if rant you must.

I wouldn't give a second thought to this thread. I seriously doubt anyone would hold this thread against you, and if they did, that's not the type of person you want for an agent.

So, our Anon has laid out two options:

a. Rant and blow your professional writing career because of the despicable practice of blacklisting.

b. Play ball.

There is a third option. It's called expressing your opinion when you're not angry, with professional courtesy, but also integrity. Knowing two things:

a. Allowing yourself to be silenced damages those very channels you've worked so hard to open. It wounds who you are as a writer at the very core.

b. Even if you are blacklisted, the game is changing dramatically. In a few years, the same agents who are working to keep writers quiet, not understanding that lessens them as writers, which is something no agent should ever want to do, will be fighting to find their place.

Agents should work on allying with writers, not silencing them.

Anonymous said...


Blacklisting never entered my mind.

The advice was about maintaining one's professional decorum in a public arena.

As Goose noted, what we write reflects who we are - but in the one-dimensional world of blogging, we can only reflect limited aspects of our multifaceted personalities. Also, there is the old adage about first impressions.

As we stand in judgment (and we do whether we admit it in writing or not) of agents who blog, so do agents who read blogs. If you are actively seeking representation at this time, then alienating any number of unnamed agents by coming off as combative and hotheaded is not an intelligent course. Sometimes we forget that we are not in a vacuum, and we express our emotions in the moment of time. We’re writers – that’s what we do – express emotions through stories.

I assure you that if I expressed myself as blatantly as I so desired in even one business meeting, I’d be without employment. And that would be in one boardroom with identified attendees. In other words, I would know exactly who I was offending.

Blogging in the internet is another universe. We are alone in our homes, in a blog, and can sometimes feel quite isolated. But in reality, we do not know who is listening, drawing opinions and taking names. Aren’t the odds difficult enough without letting one incident in which we’ve openly expressed our more extreme emotions label us as hotheaded or difficult to work with?

We are participating on a professional AGENT’S blog that has many unidentified lurkers. Not spies, but people interested in the topic of conversation, and we all develop opinion of every “named” blogger here. That’s why the Other Lisa wants an identify to associate with a personality. That's normal.

I simply want to remind my fellow authors that the audience is much larger and varied than we sometimes realize or remember.

I am late for a wedding, so I will wrap up with the one thought: I was not giving out heavy-handed threats, conspiracy theories, or blacklists… just friendly professional advice because I like my fellow authors.

Ink said...

Michael Jordan,

Always admired your game, man. Go Bulls. How's my man Pip doing?

On a serious note, I'm still really struggling with this idea of deprivation you've thrown out. There's a very big difference between saying "My writing comes out of deprivation" and "All true writing comes out of deprivation." It's perfectly valid to talk about your own experience of writing this way; it's your experience, and no one knows it better than you. But to then generalize that to all writers is utterly illogical.

As Laura said, all people face some deprivation. It's part of the human condition, and so to single it out seems rather strange, as your formulation either ignores or dismisses any other motive for writing, for creating art, dismisses any other drive behind the creative impulse. There are as many different reasons for writing as there are writers. Some will write out of deprivation, some will write out of joy, some will write out of fear, some will write out of hope and conviction. Most of us, in truth, will write out of many things, for the creative impulse is not a simple or linear thing, but rather a vast complex interconnecting our own complexities with the complexities of the world around us. Great art comes from deprivation? No, great art comes from many things. And great art is not easily reduced.

Just because one writer said one thing that struck a chord with you does not make it right. Because a common thread runs through Irving's works does not mean that this is where all his writing comes from. A single association does not prove causality. There are a few other things going on in his books, too. Some of them he even intended, I'm sure. Such a limiting Freudian analysis of the subconscious literary impulse seems dangerous when it leads to such simplified generalizations as "all true novelists write from deprivation".

A statement like that offers only two paths: either you're pretending to speak for me (I'm deprived, and a true writer) or you're dismissing me (I don't write from deprivation and am not a true writer). Neither one particularly thrills me. The former lacks any logical basis and is full of presumption, and the latter, in particular, is really, really, really (really) insulting. Now, I don't think you meant it intentionally. I admire your honesty here, and your humour, and your conviction in your artistic undertakings. I'm glad you spoke up, and you have some good points. But you basically just called anyone who doesn't write for the same reasons as you a hack.

If I am, say, a humour writer, playing off the quirks of marriage and social life, and utterly uninterested in writing about or from deprivation, am I suddenly not a true writer? It seems a little ridiculous. Art can, and has, come from everywhere. A statement like "all true writing comes from deprivation" is almost meaningless in any sense beyond the personal and subjective. You could equally say all good writing comes from lust. Or fear. Or conviction. Or marshmallows. It's an expressive statement lacking any form of logical context.

to be continued...

Ink said...

So while I agree that the Dystel statement is rather odd, and can be a little insulting, it seems a lesser evil than the one you made (as I'm guessing the Dystel line was meant more as a comment on compatibility, a "hey, if we've rejected you a few times we're probably not the right stylistic or personal match" rather than a "if you're not good enough now, you never will be" sort of comment. I have a feeling they didn't fully think through the ramifications of their statement). Your statement, on the other hand, attempts to define who I am and what I do. And if I don't fit that definition I'm a hack and not a "true" novelist. Which is a very troubling statement.

Having said all that, I have enjoyed your contributions here (you've made me laugh outright a couple times), and think some of your points are important ones to consider. And don't worry about blacklisting, I'd say, as Nathan's little playground here is always a safe place for debate (assuming everyone is sticking to the ideas rather than personal attacks). Lots of room for differing opinions. I mean, I disagree with Mira all the time, and she still gives me ice cream. At least she said she would… maybe once she's finished building her continent hurtling catapult. Butter pecan sounds nice to start with…

My best,

Ink said...

Okay, I admit, that was a really long comment. It didn't even fit in one comment box. Does that mean no ice cream?

Bane of Anubis said...

Youz guyz are writin frickin thesises here... I knew there was a reason I wasn't a liberal arts major (that and all the damn reading ;)

BTW Bryan - 3 posts in a row means some internet monster w/ a Japanese name's coming to get you...

Ink said...

I can take Mothra.

Anonymous said...

It's presently fashionable, at forums, or at websites such as this (and by the way, I would like to thank Mr. Brailford for allowing us to post here - we all benefit greatly from the interchange that occurs in this section of his blog), for a person to preface their every strongly worded sentence with the phrase: in my opinion.

Some people will use this phrase so often that they'll just abbreviate it with imo.

I just don't feel the need to write imo before every sentence that I write (I would much rather write a complicated preface like this one) - it should be obvious that what I'm writing is just my opinion.

So in my opinion then - since we have been discussing what makes a novelist a novelist - here are some of the things that will surely cause one to become a novelist (and doom one to a life of poverty and misery in consequence) should one happen to possess, for whatever reasons, the majority of these traits or characteristics.

1) Deprivation.

Fundamental in its connection with novelists - deprivation is at the heart of every true novelist. A writer is deprived of something, and so attempts to make up for it by exiling oneself from regular society and by creating fictional art. (see Charlie Rose) (See John Irving)

2) Most novelists possess an exaggerated understanding of language that's almost innate in origin - or at the very least have had an early abnormal experience with the printed word.

When I was in the first grade I thought that I was stupid because I didn't know how to read - everyone but me seemed to know what the rules were, and everyone else exuded such an assuredness and such a confidence that I mistakenly thought that they all knew how to read, and what they were doing.

I knew I had to catch up to these guys - the result being that I over-compensated.

On a side note: befriending many of these people, I would later learn how stupid some of them were. "Hey, I've got an idea: let's build a ramp, and then lay down some kids and see how many of them we can jump over on our bikes!"

3) Being introverted doesn't hurt.

Did you know that the scientists have discovered that there's a gene for this? Apparently, an introverted person can no more refuse to be introverted than a sick person can refuse to be sick. I could have told you that!

Also, being introverted means that you'll be... uh, 'pre-conditioned' to spend massive amounts of time alone. The one thing that non-novelists just don't understand is how much time a novelist will spend alone.

I can go months without talking to people - easily. This has made it relatively easy for me to spend massive amounts of time alone, writing. It's also the reason I write in public a lot - I like people, and need to be around them.

Being a good listener, is also helpful. Being downright nosey is even better!

Also, if you're introverted, then you're imaginative - and that helps... a lot!

4) All novelists are liars. Really, really bad liars.

5) Many novelists are alcoholics - there's so much evidence of this that I'm not even going to bother to say anything more about this subject... except, maybe, help!

6) Novelists are fascinated by people, and possess the rare ability to put themselves in the shoes of others and to understand the world from their perspectives.

Novelists will converse with anybody (most homeless people, in particular, have led extremely fascinating lives') - and will often be able to extract information out of people in a rather astonishing fashion.

7) Novelists have time on their hands - it's going to take you ten to fifteen years to pass through your apprenticeship.

The novelist Margaret Atwood was approached at a party by a brain surgeon, who said to her that when he retired from being a brain surgeon he was going to become a novelist - and Atwood responded that when she retired from being a novelist she was going to become a brain surgeon.

It does take fifteen years, at least, to learn how to write commercial fiction.

8) Deprivation.

Mike Younger

Mira said...


I would never deprive you of Butter Pecan, that would be cruel and unusual. But I think you forgot a rather crucial point of our deal.

The deal was: ice cream = Mira's always right.

I realize that is going to require a complete personality transplant for you, so, you know, I'll give you some time.

Can I also say that what you wrote was extremely eloquent and sincere? But it did raise a question for me. What's this mean to Bryan? My goodness, he's protesting.....alot.

Anon - I have to write a paper (!) I am terrified of writing my first 5 page paper for college. Shaking in my boots. Lol. I should type it into this little box, then it will be a 65 page paper and Bane will be happy. Anyway, point is, I'll respond later. Enjoy your wedding.

Ink said...


Well, yes, I know it was your opinion, because I also know it's not fact. The problem is that part of your opinion doesn't make much sense to me, which is why I think it's important to discuss it.

Your list is interesting, but again it's full of misleading generalizations. Yes, many of these are skills that are helpful for a novelist to have. But it's dangerous to say "This is what makes a novelist".

1) The problem with your first item is that if you find one writer for whom this does not hold true the statement becomes invalid. It's very absolutist here. Why not just say "deprivation is a key element for many novelists"? Because there are lots of writers not writing for this reason. Such a blanket generalization makes the idea absolutist, makes it black or white, either/or.

2) Yes, novelists have to be good with language, the same way a surgeon has to be good with a scalpel or a cashier with a cash register. That seems pretty basic.

3) Well, this statement about introversion is feasible, in that it at least isn't a statement of absolutes. Is introversion helpful? Maybe. Or maybe just characteristic. Whether it's actually helpful would be an interesting discussion, I think. Certainly there are lots of novelists who aren't introverted, however. Yes, they have to be capable of spending time alone, but that does not necessarily equal introversion. And even the terms introvert and extrovert are binary simplifications of real people, who will vary much more along a scale (and might, for instance, simultaneously occupy both ends of that scale).

And certainly I see no particular reason to connect introversion with imagination. Are introverts necessarily more imaginative than extroverts? I'd want to see some evidence before believing that. Really, "imagination" is a hard sort of thing to measure, though such a study would be interesting.

4) Bad liars? Or good liars? Certainly writers create something that isn't literally true, and we manipulate words to create specific effects. Though whether that is really "lying" is debatable, as any intended deceit is in collusion with the reader. be continued (again)...

Ink said...

5) "Many novelists are alcoholics"... Sort of getting into that dangerous reasoning again. Many lawyers are alcoholics. Many teachers are alcoholics. Probably some dentists, too. What's "many"? What bearing does it have in any specific sense on being a writer as opposed to being a mechanic? Many novelists are not alcoholics. Most of them, I'd wager. A large percentage majority are not alcoholics. So I'm not sure what relevance the statement has outside of the adoption of the old Hemingway mystique.

6)Yes, successful novelists will be able to put themselves in others shoes (unless they write mostly autobiogrpahical stuff), at least in a fictional sense. They may not be able to do it in real life. They might be able to imagine a character's reality for a novel, but not be able to understand a neighbour's viewpoint.

"Novelists will be able to talk with anybody..." Why? I don't see it. This is another grand generalization with no real basis in fact, as far as I can see. I doubt writers, in general, are much better at speaking to "anybody" than anyone else. I can't say I've seen much to support that idea. And what happened to your introverts? That doesn't sound very introverted.

7) Yes, writing certainly takes some time to learn. It takes some applied effort. But the generalization of fifteen years is certainly innacurate. As an average... maybe. As a rule, no. I mean, one of the blog readers here is having a novel published as a teen. And I doubt she started writing novels at age two. (Though I'm sure she was a precocious two year old) But as an average I could live with that idea of ten to fifteen years, at least until I saw some hard evidence (with the understanding that there will be many exceptions to that average).

8) Well, I already talked about deprivation. As an element for some writers, sure. No problem. As the defining element for every "true" novelist (whatever that is)... nope, I can't buy that. Do you really think the creative impulse is that simple? Void - Fill Void. Seems rather monochromatic to me. And it certainly doesn't apply to me as a writer. So I guess I'm not a "true" novelist. Shucks.

Ink said...


Lol, I guess that's what it means to me. Certainly it got my fingers moving on a lazy Saturday at work. And Bane will be happy, too. That first one was just an honor's thesis. Now I got me a Masters degree. Actually, that's giving me flashbacks. My masters thesis was (cough cough) over 1200 pages. Shocking! you all say. Imagine Ink rambling on for too long a period. Never would have guessed it.

And now it looks like Mothra's going to be bringing a friend...

Bane of Anubis said...

I'll respond :)

1.) Deprivation is overrated - Laura's right that emotional pain is needed to convey greater depth, but not deprivation (which almost implies intentional conceit).

2.) Most think they do; the best authors know when to suppress it so their works communicate w/ the masses and not a select few within their intellectual cabal.

3.) Depends on what you're writing and who you're trying to appeal to.

4.) Not sure what this means, but I'll take this space to say that introversion doesn't give one a better imagination - it just gives one the sense that he should have one.

5.) I don't drink more than twice a year, so I guess I'm screwed :)

6.) Most people are fascinated by people - otherwise magazines like People and Us wouldn't flourish. Good authors use this ubiquitous fascination to enhance their pieces with empathy/sympathy/ observation... none of which are rare traits (though incorporating them effectively into a piece of work probably is)

And again, I'm screwed b/c I'm rather particular with whom I'll converse.

7.) Seriously? Tell that to Stephanie Meyer. Love Margaret Atwood, but she's blowing smoke up her own arse. Some people can write, others can't. Some need 2 years, others 20. Some get lucky, others don't.

8.) overrated

You've painted yourself and others into a nice little box. If your goal is to create a Joycian mindf**k of overworked prose, I'd agree more, but, frankly, this a bunch of mental masturbatory bullpucky that isolates and alienates more than it validates, IMO.

Bane of Anubis said...

Bryan - heck, I thought I was writing a bunch, but you just did another thesis... (mine was only 130 pages, full of equations and graphs and I still felt like it was overly long 8)

Ink said...


I was going to give you a long explanation, but I would've run out of space again. What's with these little boxes? Though, for some reason, that's never happened before. Twice in a day! I'm on a roll. Maybe I should write Mira's paper for her. If she's doing molecular biology I might be screwed. Or need a really good refresher course.

wordver: mullets.

Really. Swear I never had one.

Anonymous said...

Mira, people who can't stop themselves from posting are referred to as being 'serial posters'.

I think that you might be one of them - nothing wrong with that! It's a good sign!

But do you ever post in the morning, while you're eating your breakfast?

Then you're a cereal poster too.

And Ink - yes, that's the way to do it, just insert a very large 'imo' over everything that I write. That's what people should always do. But also, you have to consider that another person might have evidence that you don't have - hey, I love being wrong about stuff and then finding out about it. That's how I learn! If I think that I'm right all the time then it means I'm not learning - obviously.

I don't know how it works with you, but it usually takes me a day or two to digest what somebody else has written, and then to admit that I was wrong. This frequently happens when I'm shaving?

Also, when I said that typically a novelist will apprentice for at least 15 years... I kind of was generalizing... I didn't mean exactly 15 years.

Then again, the Atwood quotation that I provided does hold weight.

Also, there's a big difference, obviously, between a writer who gets lucky, and a person who is born with the qualities of a novelist.

E.M. Forster is a novelist,

Robert James Waller is a person who wrote a novel and got very very lucky.

They're just not the same class of writer.

I appreciate your input on this matter.

(I saw right away that this place could be a kind of forum in which powerful discussions might take place. But of course we also have to try and remember that this is a person's blog - Mr Banddsford is either tolerating us... or he's on vacation?)

Michael Younger

Mira said...

Okay - I wrote the first three paragraphs of my paper. I'm inordinately proud of myself.

I'm stopping for a second because I don't want Bryan to misunderstand me - I didn't mean you wrote too much. I think it's cool that you're so into this. I don't speak for Nathan (although I'd like to - Nathan let me know when I can) about length of posts, I'm not sure what his stance is....but I was misquoting Shakespeare as in the gentleman doth protest....

Okay later gator.

Ink said...

He's tolerating us. :) As long as we play nice, that is. But I wouldn't play if there were personal attacks going on. I like discussion, where the ideas matter. And I like to think I hold my ideas firmly, but am always open to being convinced. Though realizations rarely come while I'm shaving, as I avoid that as long as possible. The beard helps.

And I'd agree that ten to fifteen years is probably a pretty good rough guess at an average for the whole novel apprenticeship thing. And the Atwood comment does have some traction, at least depending on how you look at it. In a literal sense, there's nothing to say that a brain surgeon couldn't become a novelist once they retire. But I think Atwood's comment nicely points out the implicit idea that many people hold that writing a novel is easy. It's just a matter of finding the time, as if the ability to write a (good) novel is naturally inherent.

I'm not so sure about the whole writer/luck division you point out. It's a very subjective thing, that decision of quality, of what's better than what. Waller's sold a lot of books and has a lot of fans. He certainly seems a novelist. Maybe he's not E.M. Forster, but that doesn't necessarily negate the fact that he's a novelist. "Luck" is a little harsh. Every writer needs a little luck... and at the same time luck is never enough. You don't satisfy that many readers without doing something right. Probably many things. It just seems sort of subjective: this one's a real novelist and this one's not because I like this one better.

My best,

Anonymous said...

Also, I remember hearing The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, once say how much she valued debate: "Because that's where your ideas are truly put to the test," she said, "when there's fierce debate between two opposing groups."

Where debate falls apart, obviously (and this is especially true of discussions that take place on the internet), is when people are no longer exchanging ideas, but are exchanging insults instead.

Have I ever participated in one such debate (because my ego got the better of me?) - yes, of course, many times.

Michael Younger

Ink said...


Nope, I took it the way you wanted me to take it. I think.

And, remember, you're only right once I get the ice cream. Until then you're wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong. So, you know, pony up some gelato.


Ink said...


You've been tip top here, and very friendly, so I hope I didn't imply you were making personal attacks. I wouldn't have kept chatting if you weren't open to honest discussion, which you've always seemed to be.

Anonymous said...

For 1:26 and 11:10,

It's BRANSFORD, not Brailford. Do not get that wrong, not here. Not Bradford, BRANSFORD. Don't miss it, don't joke about it, get it right. At least have the courtesy to type the name right, he's humoring you and letting you air your thoughts and the others are humoring you and adding to the discussion even though you essentially hijacked the thread away from a true examination of agent/writer connections which would have been on topic.

That's fine, sort of, you may be a troll but the topic is interesting enough and the others clearly agree. And the first mistake you made on Mr. BRANSFORD's name may have been just that, a mistake, but the second makes me think you are a troll and a disrespectful one at that, which puts everything you're writing into a lesser context.

The antidote is simple: get his name right or don't use it, refer to our moderator or the owner of the blog, etc.

So, rail away, pontificate all you like. But show some respect, please. You're being accorded as such.

Anonymous said...

About Mr. Bransford's name - I was just joking!

And if you had read this section in its entirety then you should have understood that I was just joking.

You're taking this too seriously.

And quite frankly, there's a huge, huge, huge difference between a person who's trying to lighten up his own post with a joke, and a person who's deliberately trolling a public forum or a comments section such as this.

(That said, if Mr. Bransford was offended over the deliberate miss-spelling of his name on my part, then I unconditionally apologize for having given offense.)

Also, I wouldn't want to detract from the discussion at hand, but I actually was responding to the discussion at hand.

Mr. Bradford... Bransford posted a set of links. I was responding to what I read having followed those links. Presumably, that's why he posted them - so that we would read the associated articles and blogs.

I'm not going to agree with everything that I read, however, and being a writer (like everyone else here), I tend to write responses to what I've just read (like everyone else here!).

That's why this comments section is here.

Michael Younger

Anonymous said...

Get his name right. Everything else is fine.

Steph Damore said...

Wow, wow, wow - look at all these comments!

Glad to see you're all having a good time - remember first-grade playground rules are in effect - don't make me get the lunch lady.

Okay, back to the original thread.

NATHAN I have a question - has novel word count changed much in the last few years? Wondering because with the economy and all. Is it cheaper or easier to sell a shorter work say 60k as opposed to 80k? Or does it not really matter?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, wow, I agree Michael, your just joking, some people, sheesh.

Re deprivation I think you have3 a good point, it's something lacking that you feel missing there that you're trying to make up for or something. All artists have it in common, though I think that any person who tries really hard to get something, obsessively, that signals being deprived of something at some point in their life.

I agree too with the others, that's not all that you need, but you can probably trace the development of an artist to something beyond the norm, that most people don't have to deal with. So in other words it's not necessarily heartbreak based on two people not being able to work things out. But it would be there with someone who lost a loved one who died. Divorce too, not everyone deals with that, or disability.

Other Lisa said...

I dunno.

I have always wanted to write. Always. As soon as I knew there were words and books (my first case of writer's block came when I couldn't complete my opus about cats going camping because I could not spell "tent"). Unless we are talking about some very early childhood trauma/narcissistic injury, I can't see where deprivation fits into that impulse.

There are a million theories out there about creative people and what drives them to create (including a number on the relationship of creativity to mood disorders, which is really interesting stuff IMO).

The simplest one I've ever heard is that we create because it makes us feel good. Which kind of works for me.

Anonymous said...

I've come back from a beautiful wedding and reception to find that all my words were for naught.

I weep.

With that said, here’s my response to the list: (I trust that IMHO is understood)

1. All humans suffer from some form of deprivation - every single one of us. But self-deprivation, well, that’s another thing altogether.

In fact, we don’t necessarily write from personal experiences. Some of us explore experiences that are not our own through our writing. Certainly, most readers read to experience situations, emotions, and lives that are not their own. I know that I do.

2. We may or may not possess an exaggerated understanding of language. I believe that we write to satisfy our need to express ourselves. I know that I write as a means to examine life, people, events and possibilities.

3. Many authors are extroverts. I am an extrovert. I love talking to people. Even when I spend hours alone, writing, I am ultimately speaking to my readers. If I am fortunate, I will be speaking to my readers long after I am dead. However, I am an introvert in that I am self-examining. I ask myself, why. I ponder, and, then, I talk or write about it.

4. I am a liar in that I am human – not because I am an author. In fact, authors of superb fiction fabricate stories that contain within them extraordinarily complex truths.

5. I am not an alcoholic. However, my AAA sponsor might not agree. I’m just kidding – hiccup – there I go ‘tale- telling’ again. ;)

6. Some of us like people, but others do not. As varied as humans are – so are authors. Therefore, some of us write humor, horror, revelations, literary, romance, etc. The list is as limitless and as varied as our individual personalities, experiences, dreams and fears.

7. Novelists make time to write because we have something that we want to explore and/or say. How much we dedicate to the craft is based on individual choices and capabilities (i.e. freedom).

8. Martyrdom is not required.

I have genuinely enjoyed this intellectual examination of authors’ motivations. Thank you - Goose, Bane, Ink, Mira, Other Lisa, other Anonymous (es) – for a lively and fun discussion.

Anonymous said...

Martyrdom is not required, says the chap who comes back from his soiree to find his words were 'all for naught.' Sorry, dude, couldn't resist. I completely agree with your pov in that it's yours but there is no one truth for anyone when it comes to writing. There are as many truths as there are writers. Introvert, extrovert, deprived, not deprived, different, same, same, different.

THAT is the beauty.

Laura Martone said...

Woah, woah, woah!

I go away for less than a day... and the whole "deprivation" discussion explodes.

I'm overwhelmed by all the groovy sentiments here - and nearly rendered speechless, so while I ponder my life as a poor, introverted, language-lovin', people-understandin' "true" novelist, I should just point out that I'm not an alcoholic. A tea-aholic, yes. Alcoholic, no. So, I guess I'm not a "true" novelist after all.

Sniff, sniff. Whatever shall I do now? Stop editing my novel and become a park ranger?

Donna said...

I’m very late reading these, but I’m commenting on the 7/24 posting:

INK: Very well said about Michael’s points. You brought up a lot of things exactly as they were in my mind. What an interesting name you have. Can I use it for one of my characters?

MICHAEL: I happen to agree with you about a writer’s ability to learn and improve their craft. Where we differ in our opinions is that years of diligent effort does not always equal proficiency. I have spent years - since the day I first realized crayons can make pretty pictures - trying to draw. After many years spent watching PBS and other networks teach the basics of drawing, I can say that I’ve finally graduated from stick figures, but nobody will ever pay me to draw their portrait. Practice doesn’t make one perfect.

As for not getting the “Agent” to read your submission instead of a clerk, I’m sure the clerks are well trained (many of them aspiring Literary Agents themselves) to recognize obviously amateurish work or specific things the agent refuses to work with. I guess I understand this process because of own career choice. I am the person my clients most want to see, but I am also the last person in screening process. And why would a “novelist” query an agent who clearly states if you don’t meet their criteria on the first try they never want to see your name again?

OTHER LISA: Kudos! Tell it like it is and make no apologies.


Anonymous said...

Laura -

Wow. Sorry, my eyes are popping out of my head. Anyway, take heart, I don't think you need to join Forestry. Definitely don't write while you're out there, it drove Kerouac mad.

Drink instead of writing, get the heightened sense of reality that, I always say.

Other Lisa said...

I am compelled to leave one final comment because of my word verification:


It's like, a new race of Star Trek aliens!

"Captain, the Punkons, they're slam dancing!"

Sorry. I will re-engage the Lurking Device now.

Marilyn Peake said...

Whoa. Interesting discussion going on here. My own opinion of writers ... and other types of artists: musicians, painters, etc. ... is that they need to possess imagination, sensitivity, intensity, creative drive, and the sort of empathy that allows them to understand different types of people well enough to portray them accurately. When an imaginative, sensitive, creatively driven person experiences deprivation, that might give them a boost in empathy and intensity; but the deprivation isn’t actually necessary in order to create great works of art.

I was fascinated when I learned the following in grad school. It’s often believed that intelligent people are loners and don’t get along with other people. However, psychological research has shown that children with high I.Q.s usually get along well with their peers, presumably because they’re smart enough to figure out how to do that. However, geniuses with I.Q.s too high to measure by the usual I.Q. tests (i.e. I.Q.s literally off the charts) tend to be extremely cynical, presumably because they see negative patterns in human behavior that others don’t.

Here’s an interesting report published in 2003 suggesting that creativity and mental illness might spring from the same biological mechanism, BUT clarifying that both creativity and mental illness do not need to both occur for the mechanism to exist.

Writers often say things about the process of writing that’s based on their own experience, whether it’s true for all writers or not. Some great writers’ quotes:

Kingsley Amis: "If you can't annoy somebody with what you write, I think there's little point in writing."

E.L. Doctorow: "Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake."

William Styron, interview, Writers at Work 1958: "The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone's neurosis, and we'd have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads."

Ray Bradbury: "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."

Franz Kafka: "Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself."

Interesting quotes about the art of writing :

Anton Chekhov: "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."

Mark Twain: "Substitute ‘damn’ every time you're inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."

goldchevy said...

That boys/girls book thing has really got me thinking. Let me start by saying that I am the mother of a 9-year-old boy who just threw down a book last night because the word "crush" was used (And it was a Clone Wars book for goodness sake). According to this post, we raise our boys to be this way. But I think this is only partially true. I remember one day, when my son was only one year old, his daycare provider had him play dolls with the girls. But when I went to observe, although all the girls were tenderly caring for their dolls, he was smashing his against the wall. He was really too young at this point to be influenced by our culture (unless I missed an episode of Blues Clues where Steve finally lost it and started slamming animated characters against the wall).

He's nine now and just finished Lego camp--24 boys signed up. No girls. This is most certainly because Lego gears their product towards boys. But Lego seems to me to be in it for the money (Do you know how much some of those Clone Wars battleships cost?) If they could make money off Lego Barbies--I'm sure they'd do it. (After all, they can and do make round blocks as well as square ones).
But girls just don't seem to be as into the build and destroy thing as boys are. Maybe this is because of the way they are raised. But maybe also they just aren't that into it.
Anyway, although I am not denying that our culture is rampant with sexism, I'm thinking genetics might just play a tiny role in this boy/girl thing too.
And whether it's genetics or culture, I think it's a good idea if you're writing a boy's book to avoid using the word "crush." Especially on the first page.

Marilyn Peake said...

And a quote from George Orwell :

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."

Scott said...

Thanks, Nathan. Some interesting stuff here. Some of it common sense, too, but so many of us creative types lack it at different times.

I do want to say that I thought the Boy/Girl article a bit aimless. I grew up with a veritable library of books, many of them aimed at girls as I was the youngest of three with two older sisters. But I was a boy and learning to figure out what that was about. We're action oriented by nature, so it wasn't hard to find boy protagonists to study. My sister and I shared Encyclopedia Brown mysteries, but I have to say I wasn't all that interested in her Judy Blume books or Nancy Drew series. Not that I had a problem with them, I just had enough going on otherwise.

The idea that our preferences for characters reflects how we're raised just seems born of awkward logic. In fact, it feels like those times when a mother forces a brother to let his little sister tag along. It can be sweet and nurturing, but it's not indicative of anything unnatural or improper for the boy to moan a bit and reluctantly agree.

My nephew is digging the Outsiders. I suspect he has a thing for Cherry, as well. And I can tell you that I'm well pleased that he's put down his Gameboy long enough to turn a few pages. Thankfully, girls and all their exquisite mysteries are not yet one more thing to make him put it down.

Anonymous said...

My list (which, by the way, wasn't even complete, since I 'ran out of space' - I'm not sure how a person runs out of space on the internet... but anyway) wasn't meant to be an absolute: I don't, for example, believe that every novelist must be an alcoholic.

I was just mentioning some of the traits that I've recognized in myself and seen in other novelists. I also find it difficult to believe that a person would advance the idea that people who are predisposed towards a certain profession don't all share certain characteristics.

No, I think that they do.

I think that if you were to examine, say, people who are doctors, then you'd begin to see certain shared characteristics emerge. It might be a very general list, but it would be a list nevertheless, and it would be a list that would be apart from other such lists.

Are you going to tell me that if we were to throw twenty published novelists into a room, and, say, twenty accountants, that we wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the novelists and the accountants - that even the accounts would be capable of being novelists?

I don't believe that.

Surely novelists do share certain characteristics.

We could debate about that list (just as doctors would surely debate amongst themselves about their own list).

Well, we're kind of doing that right now, aren't we?

But as far as deprivation is concerned, I won't ever let go of the notion that deprivation has done anything other than drive me to write fiction - that writer I saw on The Charlie Rose show (I still don't know his name) summed up perfectly why I write.

I think that here we're going to have to agree to disagree.

Or let me put it this way: deprivation has guided me personally down this path, and I know of at least a couple of other novelists who have also been led by their deprivation.

Michael Younger

Anonymous said...


That's cool. I don't think it will make a difference as to you getting published or getting an agent (which I believe was what spurred your original post, the idea that agents don't 'get' writers or that Dystel or Lionetti specifically doesn't) but it's cool that you've recognized this element in yourself.

It's not a new idea, that the geeks and loners and broken people become artists, some of them, but it's worthy of discussion, as evidenced by this board.

PurpleClover said...

Great links! I've read a few of them through out the week already but a few I've missed. I did like Jessica's posts but now have the habit of reading them on Facebook which detracts from being able to join the commenting discussions (maybe I'm just not understanding how to use FB

Anyhow, it is interesting about the boy/girl discussion. As much as people would love to have boys learn to like the girl books and not be afraid to indulge, that really isn't the point or the reason boys are uninterested. The truth is, in agreement with the above poster, boys actually do make choices early on that differ from girl's choices before they've even had the chance to observe gender roles and have an environmental influence. Before my son could talk he chose cars/trains over lip gloss or dolls. Over time my daughter has influenced him to take an interest in dolls (OH THE HORROR! please...) but he will throw a doll down in a heartbeat to pick up his hockey stick and start smacking the crap outta my shins while he screams "Goldberg the goalie!" Till this day my daughter has absolutely no interest in hockey even though Mighty Ducks clearly has girl hockey players.

I'm not denying an environmental factor, but it starts way to early to be only environmental. So in the end, yes we do need boy protags and boy words and boy everything for boys. As they grow up, they'll learn (through environmental factors hopefully) that reading the girl stuff is okay and not to put a book down for that reason, but for MG and YA, they need it. I did read the Nancy Drew, Babysitters Club, and other girl protag books but when I reached my late teens I started reading male protags and realizing they were just as good.

Mira said...

I've written 3 1/2 pages of complete b.s. I am so proud of myself I could bust. I only have 1 1/2 pages of more b.s. to go.

A very germane question - Nathan do you rep. 5 page papers? I'm thinking of querying you when I'm done. It's going to be a masterpiece, with references and everything.

That said, Bryan I must address the ice cream issue.

Here's the thing. You're the man. That means you do the manly labor of building a catapult that will fling ice cream from San Francisco to Canada.

I'm the woman. That means I do the domestic work of driving to the 7-11 to pick up Pecan Praline.

I'm not usually one for gender divisions, but I can live with it here.

Let me know when you're done with the catapult. I've already got the 2 gallons of ice cream ready to shoot over the border.

Mira said...

P.C. "Goldberg the goalie?" LOL.

Marla Warren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marla Warren said...

I heard Frank McCourt speak in St. Louis in 2000 and he said people had asked him why he didn't write Angela's Ashes earlier. His reply:

"I was teaching high school English before. You can't write a book when you're teaching--you're dead when you get home and you have papers to grade. You can write a book if you're teaching college but that's the biggest racket there is."

Frank McCourt also said, "You have 20 years to write your first book and a year to write your second."

Anonymous said...


May I pick the accountants?

My degree is in accounting.

I was awarded the Wall Street Journal Student Achievement Award, inducted into Phi Kappa Phi, and graduated magna cum laude.

I have been designing, developing, and implementing information systems (programs) for ten years.

I have won creative writing awards, and I have written a thriller.

And, no, I am not just making this up for the sake of argument. I am admitting to being a real nerdy, nerd. (And I'm proud of it)

Besides, I guarantee you that I could put twenty authors from different genres in the same room and find as many differences between them as the accountants (remember, I get to choose the accountants).

And let’s not forget there are many authors with diverse backgrounds:

• Kathy Reichs (Forensic anthropologist)
• Patricia Cromwell (Technical writer and then a computer analyst)
• John Grisham (lawyer)
• David Baldacci (lawyer)
• Michael Crichton (doctor)

Of course, there are more... I’ve just listed the first few that came to mind.

I am genuinely sympathetic to anyone, author or not, that has experienced a relentless deprivation of any kind. I am especially sympathetic to alcoholics, but I am compelled to point out that your severe generalizations are potentially demoralizing to other would-be authors.

I am confident that is not your intent.

Yes, authors do share certain characteristics to varying degrees. But we do not share them all - or - to the same degree.

I agree with Marylyn’s statement: “writers … possess imagination, sensitivity, intensity, creative drive, and the sort of empathy that allows them to understand different types of people well enough to portray them accurately.“

BTW: I have no doubt that your writing is driven by your personal deprivations. And I agree that severe suffering has driven many brilliant people to become authors – and a few to become brilliant authors .

I suspect that you, too, may be such a brilliant person. And I am hopeful, that your writing will give you the same satisfaction and resolutions that mine has given me – regardless, if I am ever published or not. (but, ugh, I want to be published)

What you and I unequivocally have in common is writing. That’s enough for me.

On the remaining issues, I hereby respectively agree to disagree. I hope to be hearing more from you in the future.

--- Speaking of writing --- I have to get back at it. I just learned that I have to cut more words.

If I don't hurry, the standard word count might drop as production prices increase. I could be chasing this forever. ;)

Have a great weekend.

Donna said...

Whew, finally read them all. And several of the links. And still, I’m behind on reading several of the last week’s postings by Nathan. I don’t normally follow the comments section this long - though I still proclaim myself a Lurker - but it has been interesting reading. Not to beat a tired horse, but on the subject of Deprivation:

What would constitute deprivation in a novelists (or should I use the term writer) life? Does it have to be recent? Can the deprivation change over the years?

For myself (IMO) I am deprived of several things. I am deprived of the empty nest syndrome because my adult children haven’t become employed and moved out. Just as I was seriously getting involved in the discussion between Ink and Michael, the dern brats come out from their own blogging adventures to inquire “whats for dinner”. I am deprived of the time and creativity needed to finish the final flashback scene in my novel because of working a day job. Said day job deprives me of the time I’d like to spend in not only writing on my book, but in researching and querying agents when that last, blasted memory is finally integrated into the revision. I am deprived of an end date for the revision process because when I have time to take classes, read articles or attend classes I learn new things to do to improve the current version.

The most critical thing I am deprived of is a nice geek/nerd boyfriend who understands all the ins-and-outs of creating blogs, websites, profiles. I am deprived of said boyfriend because I lack the skills to navigate such simple programs as Twitter and Face Book. Not to mention a complete inability for the fine art of texting. My dream boyfriend, as an introvert naturally, is waiting out there somewhere in cyber land; maintaining his blog, checking his favorite sites, and not finding me because I haven’t figured out process yet.

I did manage to sign up for Face Book, and completely by accident, managed to upload a picture. I am deprived of the knowledge to change the picture to something much more flattering.

OH! Such a sad story of deprivation. Yet somehow, I carry on; though I haven’t seen an offer of Butter Pecan ice cream in ages. . .

Saddest of all; I am sipping on the last glass of wine in the box and deprived of the funds to purchase a new one because payday is still a week away. Why, oh why, hasn’t an agent contacted ME and cured all my deprivation with a single six digit check?

But seriously folks, I have enjoyed this posting. The discussion has been quite interesting. And Michael, I loved the creative way you managed to insert a misspelling of Bransford at least once in every comment.

AM said...


That sounded like Erma Bombeck meets the modern world.

You may be on to something.

I miss her.

Laura Martone said...

Oh, Donna, I almost spit out my Bailey's nightcap when I read your post... and then I realized you were serious, and I felt bad for laughing. But I'm with AM... we're in need of a good Erma Bombeck these days.

Mira said...

Okay, I read all the comments. Wow. I wouldn't even know where to begin. I feel argued out just reading this - an unusual occurance for me. Nice debate!

Very cool. Love this blog.

Nathan, in my self-absorbtion, I forgot to thank you for running a workshop. I don't know if you've done that before, so I'm not sure if I should congratulate you exactly, but I can say that I have no doubt you will be informative and generally awesome.

Jen P said...

Great links - I'm now late making family Sunday lunch, maybe I can enlist some of those "fastest" skill people and get it done on time - but great links.

What about the Plastic Logic Reader? I keep on about it - and I think even Apple will be competing hard against this device due out in 2010. I expect the different devices will soon start to drive their campaigns for different niches of the market - Kindles for fiction via the big Amazon link. PLR for text book/educational use, Apple for ?Business aka the Blackberry of this space?

And I can't be at the secret workshop, but if it becomes an annual event I would attend in future.

Donna said...

Laura -

No, you were right the first time. It was meant, mostly, as a funny. The only serious comments in that was that I really enjoyed the discussion, and Goose's deliberate name misspellings were a hoot even before he admitted they were on purpose.

My funny bone was definitely tickled..........dhole

Anonymous said...

goose, you seem angry to me and frustrated that you aren't published, but ranting and raving at an agent's website ain't gonna help you out there, bro.

and deprivation - wtf? Does anyboby know what that he's talking about? Doesn't have much to do with writing. Ain't why I write, bro. Speak for yourself, not for others.

Getting the agents name wrong at his own website is not funny, it's stupid and insulting.

Marla Warren said...

I can't speak to the challenges of writing a novel (as I do not write fiction) but in trying to get an agent let me say this:

When you query an agent, you are asking that person to invest time and money in you. The burden is on the writer to persuade the agent that it is in the agent's best interest to do so.

Complaining about what an agent should or should not do is a waste of time and energy. You have no control over what other people will do. Concentrate on controlling yourself. If one agent doesn't appreciate your work or doesn't respond as you would like, try another agent. Or change your work as needed. Those things are under the writer's control.

Mira said...

Donna I liked your deprivation post - that was funny. And I get your point - I think Nathan can take a joke very well - but I'm going to side with the Anons on this one.

Use Nathan's name correctly.

Michael, you've already apologized, so I'm not really talking to you at this point - I'm just stating my opinion. If someone is trying to open a dialogue, starting that dialogue with subtle insults, even to make a point, is self-defeating.

And I'm also stating my opinion that Nathan deserves professional courtesy and respect at all times.

Ink said...


I'm almost finished the catapult. Please send me a few tubs of Butter Pecan ice cream for, um, test firing. Yes. Test firing. Then I'll ship you the catapult.

Ink said...


Sure you can use my name for a character. I accept cash, credit or debit, and offer a number of very reasonable payment plans geared to every income bracket.


Anonymous said...


I've already stated that in no way, shape, or form was I intentionally being antagonistic towards Mr. Bransford when I wrote his name incorrectly - it was an intentional misspelling on my part, and an 'attempt' to lighten up the conversation.

Honestly, it shocks me that people will respond to jokes in this manner. This is the reason politicians are told never to make jokes on the spur of the moment - one out of every ten will backfire on them.

I'm not a politician. I'm a writer - or I should say, I'm 'trying to be one'. (I don't seem to be having much success here, though.)

But honestly, your own comment is a little harsh, and, 'imo', rather unfair.

You wrote:

"Getting the agents name wrong at his own website is not funny, it's stupid and insulting."

Apart from what I've written above, can anybody else see what's wrong there?

(wink, wink)

Michael Younger

Ink said...


I think everyone would agree that there is some truth to most of your statements. But there's a long way between "some truth" and "The Truth". You said you weren't trying to make absolute statements, and yet you keep using words like "all" and "every". "All" is note some, or many, or most, it's everyone. I don't think anyone here is denying your own experience, or your interpreation of what's made you as a writer (deprivation). The problem is that you keep trying to extrapolate this outward onto all writers. You're trying to define our experiences, which you know nothing about. Maybe it's just the structure of your rhetoric, but it seems troubling how you keep trying to label and divide everything. True novelists on one side and the hacks and the lucky on the other. Writers on one side, accountants on the other. This isn't entomology, and we can't pin these things to a board and stick a neat little label on them. They're fluid and shifting. Any such grouping can only, at its best, be summed up by an average, an average which will always have extensive exceptions. And such averages will always be meaningless in any individual sense, as each indivdual will be the result of unique circumstances, the creation of a personal history, a personal geography, a personal genetic inheritance, a personal system of memory. A generalized summary capable of accurately encapsulating evry writer would be so shapeless and vague as to be almost useless.

I think your comments are most effective when you simply admit their subjectivity and offer them as personal testimony. I'm guessing your ideas about deprivation and the drive to write and create will resonate quite strongly with some writers. Just don't try to push it on all of us. We're not you. I think we can respect your experience (it's difficulty and transformative power). I just think you should also respect ours.

My best,

And apparently Mothra's bringing three friends. Maybe I can use the catapult... Anyone know if giant flying insects like Strawberry Ripple?

Ink said...


You did save me from Mothra there, so much obliged. :)

Nathan Bransford said...

For the record, I do appreciate people stepping to my defense but I actually thought the name misspellings were funny given our conversation.

Mira said...

Ink, you're almost done with the catapult. Wow. You're the man, mister.

Although, you know - a catapult that flings things from San Francisco to Canada - we might find some creative uses for that.

But okay, I'm sending you some ice cream for testing. I couldn't squish the round box into an envelope. I tried, but it kept oozing out. So I gave up and just scooped the ice cream directly into the envelopes. You didn't care about the box right?

So anyway, you should get the envelopes in..say...10 days. Enjoy!

Malia Sutton said...

What great links. Thank you.

Marilyn Peake said...

Michael Younger – Good luck with your writing. You definitely seem to have the determination and dedication it requires.

Mira and Ink – May I have chocolate ice cream delivered by catapult as soon as you open your ice cream catapult business? I’d also be interested in mocha lattes delivered the same way. :)

Anonymous said...


I lit up a big fat doob and read the whole thing... get it all published... great read... anybody here ever tried writing a book about peeps leaving their comments behind like this?

could be great if you got all the voices right...

anyhow, my own contribution, I only right when I'm high... don't know why...


Mira said...

Marilyn, absolutely, love to! Ink, would you mind making it so the catapult swings? That way we can hurl some chocolate ice cream and mochas to Marilyn. Yummmm. I'll even throw in some San Francisco Sourdough.

We can send things all over the country this way. What about sending agents would be impressed?

Tim-bo, someone should write about the on-line culture, with samples. It's a fascinating world.

Okay, finished the unedited final draft of my paper. I told the professor the textbook was wrong, wrong, wrong. Boy, this thing should be published.

Mira said...

whoopsie. I left out a word. I didn't mean hurling agents in the catapult. I meant sending queries that way, and wondering if agents would like that.

Anonymous said...


Maybe what you really meant to communicate was that you're only right when you're high?

Michael Younger

Ink said...


The agents can all attend conferences via catapult. Free ice cream for the "landing crew" holding the big sheet.

Anonymous said...


what? huh?


Marilyn Peake said...


I think serious customers will be willing to purchase water towers – with tops that open to receive incoming ice cream or other treats. For mocha lattes, I will purchase two water towers. :)

Darn, I thought you were going to catapult agents directly into our homes where they could read our completed manuscripts ... you know, so we don’t have to write those pesky query letters. I would be willing to serve as many mocha lattes ... or as much hard liquor ... as they require.

Ink said...

That costs extra.

Anonymous said...


I was merely pointing out that you wrote the incorrect word there.

You wrote: "I only right when I'm high."

What you meant to write, of course, was that you only 'write' when you're high.

Get it?


Marilyn Peake said...

Ink -

Ah-ha! But of course. That would only be fair.

Anonymous said...


Yeah well whatever... nope, sorry, can't fix it... won't let me edit it... guess your gonna have to live with it. Everybody needs an editor, ever heard that before. Yeah, i agree with Bryan, i can see why you kind of irritate people... anyway i'm too wasted right now for this.


Anonymous said...


I don't think you're irritating.

This has been one of the more interesting discussions that I've followed lately.

Mira said...

Ink and Marilyn. Lol. Charging extra to have an agent catapulted into your living room. Great idea. We should make up a price list for where the agent lands. Okay, we're going to be so rich rich, why, we might be able to afford an airline ticket.

Come to think of it, maybe the airlines should be nervous right now. Catapult travel might be the way of the future....

Anonymous said...

I've had a funny feeling, since Friday, that some of the people posting here have been posting under multiple aliases.

I know have been.

Are you guys all really who you're saying you are? I don't know, I've just got a funny feeling about this thread.

I like this place a lot though - you guys are a lot of fun.

Mike Younger

Marilyn Peake said...

Mira said:
"Catapult travel might be the way of the future...."

LOL. It's kind of like pre-teleportation. While scientists work away at trying to achieve teleportation , you and Ink could already have your catapults up and running. And airplanes? They will be so yesterday.

Bet J. K. Rowling wishes she thought of catapult travel, instead of flue travel. Of course, the new theme park based on the Harry Potter books will probably take her mind off it.

Anonymous said...

Marilyn, did you ever watch Star Trek: The Next Generation?

You've heard of people who are afraid of flying?

There was an episode of ST:TNG in which one of the meeker characters, Lieutenant Reginald Barclay, was suffering, not from aerophobia (the fear of flying), but from 'transporter psychosis', which is the fear of being beamed from one location to another via the transporter.

Now THIS was great writing.

It was a charming little episode, chiefly because we got to watch the lovable Reginald Barclay attempting to confront and overcome his greatest fear.

Barclay - or Broccoli, as he was sometimes called - was my favorite minor character in that series, and it was always wonderful to see the actor's name crop up during the splash credits (Dwight Shultz is his real name).

Michael Younger

Anonymous said...


Glad you're here.

And I can whole-heartedly swear that in our discussions I have been and remain....

Anonymous ;)

Marilyn Peake said...


I’ve seen some Star Trek episodes, and Next Generation is my favorite of all the Star Trekseries by far. I’ll have to check out the episode about "transporter psychosis". Awesome concept. I’ve been watching the new Outer Limits shows recently – watched one tonight about weird effects of dark matter.

Anonymous said...


Reveal yourself!

Here, I'll reveal myself - I'm convinced that some people here are posting anonymously, anyhow, even though they've clearly registered proper user names.

Anytime you see The Goose, that's me, Michael Younger.

I was also this guy:


"goose, you seem angry to me and frustrated that you aren't published, but ranting and raving at an agent's website ain't gonna help you out there, bro.

and deprivation - wtf? Does anyboby know what that he's talking about? Doesn't have much to do with writing. Ain't why I write, bro. Speak for yourself, not for others.

Getting the agents name wrong at his own website is not funny, it's stupid and insulting."


I also posted twice as Tim-bo (or as Timbo).

My good friend Timbo seemed to be having a pretty good afternoon there - lit up a doob, and sat back and read all the comments, and even suggested a book idea. And quite frankly, I've always wished that I could let loose like that. Why are females always attracted to guys like that? I don't get it.

But then he turned kind of nasty there, as usually happens when a person starts coming down from whichever pharmaceutical medication they've been on.

And all I did was point out that his post was not grammatically correct!



Yeah well whatever... nope, sorry, can't fix it... won't let me edit it... guess your gonna have to live with it. Everybody needs an editor, ever heard that before. Yeah, i agree with Bryan, i can see why you kind of irritate people... anyway i'm too wasted right now for this.



Yeah, that was a pretty nasty comment. I really took it on the chin there.

Thank god Timbo is only a fiction.

Wait - or is he?

Michael Younger

mleaves2 said...

Back on the topic of Justine Larbalestier and the lack of "persons of color" on the covers of books... we lost Frank McCourt this week, but we also lost E. Lynn Harris, who as far as I could tell had great success not only with book covers featuring black people, but book covers featuring obviously bisexual black people.

I worked at the airport in Atlanta in the mid-90s, and it seemed that every woman who passed through was reading "Invisible Life."

(I'm frustrated that I'm not pubished, too, but I don't feel deprived, and I realize that one of the biggest reasons I'm not published is that I'm only a third of the way through my book, which I'm polishing as I go. Over and over and over...)

Mira said...

Marilyn, that's amazing - they have actually transported something? Wow.

I wish they'd transport me to the Harry Potter Park. Now, that's going to be fun! :-)

And TNG is the absolute best one.

Anonymous said...

Great couple threads going on here and a mystery subplot of ´who was who´. Seriously enjoyed myself here this past weekend. Thanks for such a cool place to hang out, Nathan.

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

That sounded too harsh.

Michael, I had alot of fun when I discovered blogs; they can be an amazing playground for a writer.

That said, I'm afraid that I'm going to find it irritating if you play games around identity here at this particular blog. That's just me; I'm not speaking for anyone else. It's just that it's a distraction from some really exciting and interesting things that are happening here.

So, just one person's input and request.

abc said...

I always enjoy the links! However many there may be.

Nathan, I don't think you'll ever be able to eat Guinea Pigs again after watching this:

CKHB said...

Jeez, I was just going to post to brag about my best Minesweeper score. It looked like the "world's fastest" was 38 seconds, and my own record is 40 seconds. I probably could have improved my score, but I graduated college and had to leave the sport behind...

Okay, back to reading the comments about Deprivation.

Anonymous said...


And yet I can't help but comment that you weren't exactly annoyed by Tim-bo's comments when he was saying nasty things about me.

Indeed, the first comment, by the other guy, you actually agreed with!

You weren't actually annoyed by the posts until you discovered that I was the one who wrote them.

So I shouldn't have said anything then - and you would have been alright with that?

I'm not sure what difference it makes: a comment is a comment, no matter who posts it. We should be judging the comments, not the people who are posting those comments.

Michael Younger.

Nathan Bransford said...


Please don't take advantage of the anonymity afforded by the comments. I really don't want to switch off the anonymous option, which up until this point has been very rarely abused. You're welcome to comment about the topic(s) at hand, but anything overly tangential will be deleted to keep things on track.

Marla Warren said...

Nathan wrote:

"You're welcome to comment about the topic(s) at hand, but anything overly tangential will be deleted to keep things on track."

As a professor of mine put it when the class would get off-topic: "We're chasing rabbits now and it's time to stop."

Mira said...

Michael, like all of us, I have to pick and choose which posts I refer to, including disagreements between people. If I commented on everything, Nathan would start.....deleting my comments. Trust me on this.

I understand that blogs are alot of fun. I have done things on blogs that I eventually learned weren't appreciated. So I adjusted. Doesn't mean I can't particpate and feel welcome here.

As can you - be welcome and participate here.

Lydia Sharp said...

I enjoyed the post from Jane Dystel. Thanks for keeping us well-informed, Nathan.

Anonymous said...


Okay, I won't do it again. (I promise.)

And you can delete this comment right now if you like (though I hope you don't): but I find it slightly strange that a person, or people, would get upset about a person's comments only after discovering the identity of the person who wrote the comments.

Doesn't that interest you at all?

When we're reading a work of fiction, obviously everything we're reading has been made up by just one person - the novelist.

Everything on those pages is a deception - and if we're really and truly lucky, then it's not just a deception, but a grand deception.

The difference here, at present, it seems to me, is that people simply weren't provided with advanced knowledge of that deception.

That's it.

That's the only difference.

When I'm reading a novel, and two characters are presenting me with opposing viewpoints, I don't say, 'oh, this is nonsense, the novelist is playing games with me here, I just want to know what the novelist thinks, not about all of these various made up viewpoints' - no, I actually weigh what each character has to say, even though I'm fully aware that, in reality, all of this is being written by just one person.

Why do we need to know in advance what's real and what's not?

I don't understand that at all.

Some people are advancing the idea that what I did was somehow 'off topic', which is why they were irritated by it.

And yes, I'll admit that Tim-bo went a little off topic there (or rather, that he didn't really contribute much) - but I get the feeling that people here would have objected even if Tim-bo had remained on topic.

What if Tim-bo had actually generated the most profound comment here in the comments section! Would we have obliterated Tim-bo from the discussion for that! Holy mackerel that just blows my mind!

Nevertheless, alright, I won't do it again.

I'll just go and stand in the corner.


Michael Younger

Laura Martone said...

Dear Michael Younger/The Goose/Tim-bo -

I can't speak for others here, but as I've been in "lurk mode" over the weekend, quietly reading the seemingly endless conversation about deprivation, catapults, ice cream, and the like, I have found your "hijacking" of the thread a little disconcerting. While it's been entertaining, to an extent, I hope that it won't be a habit with you. I actually did suspect that you were having a conversation with yourself (via Tim-bo) - and I was slightly irritated, even before my suspicion was confirmed.

I've only been a regular visitor/commenter on Nathan's blog for the past four months, but in that time, I've learned a lot about the art of writing and the business of publishing - not just from Nathan, but from all the wonderfully diverse commenters here as well. And while humor is prevalent here - in Nathan's posts as well as throughout the comments - I like that the majority of commenters are respectful of one another, trying to the best of their ability to stay on topic while expressing their unique viewpoints and tossing in a bit of wacky humor from time to time. While I, for the most part, enjoyed the wacky discussion this weekend, I just hope that it won't be a regular occurrence. All I ask is that you bear in mind the overall intention of this blog. If you long to be the main voice of a comment thread such as this one, you could always try starting your own blog.

Of course, it's just a suggestion. As I stated earlier, I can't speak for anyone but myself.

Respectfully Yours,
Laura Martone

Ink said...

I must say, Mike, you have profoundly odd logic. A novel is not a deception - it's a fiction. There's a difference. And the fact that the reader knows it is a fiction is important, even though you shrug it off. Reading a novel is a joint project, a creation that results from the contribution of both the reader and the writer. But you were simply trying to deceive and trick people. No one likes to be deceived.

James Frey wrote a memoir with lots of fabrications that he passed off as true. And when caught out many people were angry - they had been deceived. Does that mean there's no literary merit in the project now? Of course not. But fiction and fact are not the same thing, and people don't like the feeling of being tricked.

And part of the problem is that there didn't really seem to be a point to what you did. Your fabulations didn't seem to say anything substantive - it was more like a silly little dialogue with yourself. And why would anyone comment? Timbo didn't really say anything worth commenting on. "He" said you were irritating, but you're a big boy and can presumably take care of yourself. If he'd crossed the line Nathan would have deleted the comment.

Again, I'm just not sure I see the point. You suggest that Timbo could have said something profound... if he had, people probably would have responded. He didn't. And if you have something profound to say, why not simply say it? Why hide behind Timbo? It seems like gamesmanship rather than an attempt to have an honest discussion. And no, no one else was doing that. The people participating were mostly regulars, commenting as they usually do under their normal names. Most weekend commenters are regulars, the ones who like tracking the friday conversation threads. So that was just you playing that game, I'm pretty sure.

And I don't think the people here are closed off enough to react only to your name rather than to your comments, if that's what you're worried about. Lots of room for both disagreement and respect. Heck, Nathan is a Sacramento Kings fan and I'm still here. Possibly out of pity, I admit. It's very sad when there's no one to ring those cowbells for...

My best, as always,

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Re: Deprivation as motivation for novelists - novelists as alcoholics - novelists as introverted - ??? - I've only written 1 novel - motivation: I remember the '67 riots in Detroit, from my childhood - I could never understand WHY? Why did this happen? So writing the novel was a way of answering why, to my satisfaction (although you probably couldn't tell from reading the novel). And then after the riots (rebellion, civil disturbance), my grandmother wanted us to drive her around, so she could show us all the boarded-up, bricked-up, cinder-blocked-up windows: "Look what THEY did. There won't be a single window left in the city." They? But you live here too, Grandma...

WHY? and THEY?

Maybe it's not just that every novelist has a different motivation, but every NOVEL has its own motivation.

And I hate the idea that only through drug use can writers "loosen up," or get the creative flow going, etc. Someone once told me, the first time he tried pot, he remembered something from when he was 14 years old - I said, "well, you could just write in a journal, and remember something from when you were 14..."

Re: Introverted - sometimes people act "introverted" around others, because they don't feel safe, or respected - or maybe they aren't native speakers of a particular language - or there are class differences (yes I know, US is supposedly a "classless society") - and maybe a novelist puts themselves in more situations where the above holds true...

Regarding "true identity" issue on blog - don't really care one way or the other.

Donna said...

I was also getting the feeling that there were too many "annonoymous" posts, and was starting to think most of those had to be the same person. What happens when you pull a joke like that is that you tend to make it harder for the next annonymous person to be taken seriously. Just because someone may not stick around long enough to create an identity doesn't mean he doesn't have something useful to say. But because the posts from Anon's was getting way out of hand, I'd pretty much decided to ignore anything under the post, regardless of what the end signature said.

So thanks Michael, and whoever else you've been playing at, for letting me know not all "annonymous" persons are here just to get their need for attention satisfied.

hmm, I like my word verif: larail. Larail; what pretty character name.

kdjameson said...

Hi Nathan,
I think I'm first on the waiting list for your workshop - Books, Inc. told me they were just waiting to see if you'd agree to go up to 30.
I've been to a couple of SFWC (but didn't pitch to you) and I've followed your blog for over two years, so I hope I have the opportunity to attend the workshop and meet you in person.
An added bonus would be meeting some of the local folks who are posting here.
So, uh, don't forget to call Books, Inc. back, okay? :-)

Nathan Bransford said...


I gave them the go-ahead so hopefully you'll hear from them soon.

kdjameson said...

*I gave them the go-ahead so hopefully you'll hear from them soon.*

Thank you!


btw, I am convinced you have somehow cloned yourself given how hard you work.

Related Posts with Thumbnails