Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blog OverHaul and Unveiling . . .

As most of you have probably noticed, we here at TKA have all gotten a GIANT boost of blog adrenalin. For those of you who may have missed it, several weeks ago Associate Content ranked our blog as #4 in the "Top Ten Blogs about Writing and Publishing.” Obviously, we couldn’t be more excited. However, #4, well that still definitely leaves us a little room to climb!

And so, we have jumped in, head first, and our blog is about to EXPLODE! We put all of our heads together, did a lot of brainstorming and ended up with a plan which we are mighty excited about!

Our number one priority from the start of this blog was to make us, as industry professionals, more accessible to you, the readers and writers. In keeping with that idea our new ideas are going to bring a whole new level of information to your fingertips! And the best part, its going to happen everyday (yes, that’s right, EVERYDAY)!

Here’s what is going to happen. We have broken it down day by day, and selected a topic that we will handle on that corresponding day every week. It’s going to be a dependable place where you can come and get a whole lot of dirt! Now don’t worry, our muses are all still here whispering in our ears. There will definitely be random and unexpected posts about topics that just can not be left unwritten at that moment. But the best part is, they are going to be IN ADDITION TO!

Over the course of the next week we will explain what exactly we are going to explore on each day. If you can think of something that fits under the topic umbrella, let us know, and we will try to cover that too!

And so with no further ado, I give to you. Thursday Agent Q & A: TKA is proud to have four different agents working for the same team. Each of us bring completely different talents and skills to the table, and we want to share some of that with you. Each Thursday a different agent will open a post where we will give you the opportunity to pick our brains. The first five people to rub the magic lamp, (ok, post a question on the comments) will be rewarded with their wish, (err, answer) on the same thread!

So let’s get this party started. I’m up first. Who’s got a question!?


Anonymous Liane said...

Oh, me, me, me!!!! I have a question!

In going back over my manuscript, one of my characters appears to be speaking in tongues!

Seriously, I'm dealing with a character who lapses into her native Gullah dialect around close friends and family.

I grew up around this rich culture, so I do have a good understanding of both the tongue, and the every day colloquialisms used in the Low Country that came derived from the Gullah dialect.

However, I'm struggling with ways to give the average reader a suggestion of the language without rendering my manuscript unreadable.

I don't want to slow the reader down,or distract from the story, but I also want to leave the Low Country "flavor" with this character.

As agent, you must see accents and foreign words often in the manuscripts that you review.

So, how much of an accent is too much? Not enough? How do you know overkill when you see it, and how do you kill dialect overkill without damaging otherwise strong characterization?

Thanks in advance. What an awesome opportunity! Of course, imo ya'll were always at the top of the blog list!

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 3:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Recapping the question - How do you know when unfamiliar language is too much?

The easy answer is when the language becomes the focus of the novel. I don't ever want to have to go back to an earlier page to remember what a word means. I don't ever want to have to continually reread sentences because I can't understand what is being said due to the language.

Another way of looking at this is how key is the dialect to the story. Ask yourself, is the dialect a factor in moving the storyline along? If this is the case you can play it up a little bit more because it is a fundamental element to the plot.

If this isn't the case however, and instead the dialect is just a character attribute, it should be pretty toned down. The fact that you mentioned you grew up around the culture and you are very familiar with it, makes me believe you are most likely using it too much. 99.9% of the readers won't have this shared experience and it will make the manuscript unmanageable and they will put it down.

The most important lesson, don't add unnecessary confusion. Example, someone might call a "dog" a "Snou". This is pointless inclusion unless a "Snou" is distinctly different from a dog; otherwise you might as well just call it a dog. The only reason it needs to be a "Snou" is if it isn't a dog at all, but instead a dog-like creature that has six legs and speaks.

How is that for an answer?

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 3:36:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an excellent idea! Here's my question:

I've read on numerous blogs, forums and writer's resources that it's best to open your book during conflict or a pivotal moment. This was addressed in a previous Romance Writer's Report where a well-known published author said she accomplished this by putting the pivotal scene in the prologue and the backstory in the first chapter.

This makes sense, except I've read several agents and editors say they dislike prologues and prefer not to see them in submissions. With that being said, would such a technique as recommended in the RWR negatively affect the submission? Would the agent read the sample and be inclined to reject if the pivotal scene wasn't in the first chapter?

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 3:59:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Grace said...

Great idea for the Q&A. Here's mine.

Writing advice I've seen pop up on consistent basis states start your novel with a conflicting or pivotal moment. In a past Romance Writer's Report, a multi-published author stated she did this by putting the pivotal moment in the prologue and the introduction to the backstory in Chapter One.

This makes sense; however, I've also read in different forums that agents and editors dislike prologues and prefer to see sample chapters not include prologues in the submissions.

In your opinion, is this a viable technique or should the writer attempt to incorporate the pivotal scene/conflict in the first chapter?


Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 4:06:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Tom David said...

If you haven't done so in your answer to the question regarding prologues, could you please provide insight on what it is exactly that agents dislike about them. On one hand a prologue still represents the author's style and is the reader's first exposure to that style. But, on the other hand, I'm guessing agents might look at it as a form of cheating? A place where an author can insert a form of short story for the sake of attention-grabbing, only to follow it up with a bla bla main body. Just a guess, and any input you have will be appreciated. Thanks.

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 4:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Question Recapped – To open with a pivotal scene or not?

I know that you aren’t going to like this answer, but I believe firmly that it is all of personal opinion. I don’t think either opinion is right or wrong.

You are going to see some readers that love books which start with them jumping right into the conflict. You have the advantage of pulling someone in immediately, and in many cases this will most likely make your reader want to keep reading.

On the other hand you have people that want to see the novel grow and develop before getting tossed into the action. Some readers would rather have a background, a support for the conflict to stand on. It’s all personal taste and there are uncountable merits and flaws in either method.

I am going to tell you something you have heard undoubtedly a million times. Write what makes YOUR story work. If you do it well, and with enough conviction, it will flow. If you have an AMAZING opening, one that stops the reader dead in their tracks making them say “WOW”, I can assure you they aren’t going to put it down because it’s a prologue (and vice-versa).

Bottomline. Write a great opening and it really won’t matter!

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 4:27:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if the "five question" quoto has been filled, but I have a quick question. How do magic realism novels fit/sell into today's market?



Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 5:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Lis said...

Hope I can sneak a question in here. Some how to query books, sites, ect. recommend comparing your voice or your ms to a published author; is this something that you want to see in a query or would you rather make the comparison yourself?

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 6:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Michele Lee said...

Here's a question on Genre. On another blog an agent said:
The word "gasp" horror has been stricken from the genre vernacular and shall henceforth be known as suspense or thriller or dark mystery or dark suspense/thriller et al.

Is this true? It would open a lot more doors if I could market my work as thriller or suspense. But it feels dishonest when I feel some of the scenes are outright horror.

Thursday, September 7, 2006 at 9:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Ok, we hit our five question limit! Thanks for participating everyone.

I will post the remaining three answers first thing in the morning!

For anyone who didn't get a chance, don't worry, next Thursday it will start all over with a new agent!

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 12:21:00 AM EDT  
Blogger M. Green said...

This is really cool! :)

TKA is growing and expanding and I am so excited to see it. Can't wait to see what other goodies you all have in store.

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 1:42:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 10:26:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Question Recapped - How do magical realism novels fit/sell into today’s market?

It seems that Magical Realism tends to show up primarily in literary novels, it is literature’s answer to fantasy. The concept started out as a reference to art, but then went on to describe a modern school of literature, much of which was Latin America. Think Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s, 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE.

It as been our experience that you really need to get the project in front of the right editor who can really grasp the particular vision that author is trying to attain. It isn’t so much the term magical realism that sells the project, its how effectively the author weaves the story.

You can not write FOR a market, as a writer you must pen the story you feel compelled to write.

However, it must also be noted that literature doesn’t trend in the same way which genre fiction. This makes it much more difficult to track whether it is selling in the current market or not.

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 10:30:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 10:40:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Question Recapped – What is my opinion on an author comparing themselves to a published author/novel in a query?

I think that when done correctly, it is a great contribution to a query letter. I think it is even better if it is a project that we as an agency have represented.

The reason that this idea is so effective is that it gives us an overall summary of your work. A query letter is extremely short, and even the best pitches can leave the reader unsure of the exact feel of a project.

If an author can accurately compare their project to another work it shows two things. First, that that they know the market which they are writing in. Second, if comparing to an inner-agency project it shows that they have a serious interest in becoming a part of the TKA team.

The only way that comparing a project is a complete turn-off is if they use the most obvious of comparisons. “My project is the next DaVinci Code” or “I write romances that are similar to Nora Roberts, but much better.” Don’t laugh, I see supposed projects of this caliber everyday!

Be original in your comparisons, as it will give us a much clearer picture (and we will also be much more inclined to believe you!).

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 10:43:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Elaine Spencer said...

Question Recapped – How is the word “horror” being perceived in today’s market?

We do not represent Horror projects at TKA. That being said, we are not overly familiar with the insider gossip in this genre.

I can give a few brief summary thoughts though.

We never want to market something as something that it is not. A thriller/mystery, no matter how dark, is not a horror. By taking off the “horror” label and trying to pitch it as something else, you inevitably just annoy the reader. An agent/editor is going to wonder why you are wasting their time, and if you have any clue what you are talking about, if you try to sell them a project that isn’t what you claim.

Another way to beat this would be to go out and find novels that are similar to yours. Research the editors and agents that represent those works. These are the people you should target. If they like the content they aren’t going to care about the genre title.

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 11:16:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Michele Lee said...

Elaine~ That is exactly what I thought. It feels so dishonest for a writer to claim her mss is something it's not just to get a read. Once it's past the acceptance phase I guess that's up to the publisher on how to market it, but all I saw in trading thriller for horror was annoying the agent who might end up wasting time on a genre they don't represent at all. thank you for the opinion!

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 2:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

I'm going to pop in here and give the flip side of the coin regarding comparing your work to other books out there. Yes, this can give an agent or editor a quick frame of reference for what your book is like. But if by some chance the person didn't like one of the books you're referencing, you could be in trouble. For instance, someone who compares their work to The DaVinci Code has no way of knowing that I really didn't like that book... Depending on my mood, I might attribute the book's better qualities--a creative concept and some good action sequences--to the manuscript being pitched. But I'm just as likely to remember the lazy writing and long passages of uninterrupted narration, and wonder if I want to bother with a similar project. Mind you, that doesn't mean you should never use a comparison, but just be aware that it's an approach that can backfire.

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 3:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Lis said...

Thanks Elaine and Nephele for answering my question :)

Friday, September 8, 2006 at 5:50:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a thought, but if an amber glass sky or a worn, old cotton shirt that still wraps you in his arms can be described, why not a rich and rythmic language that warms some lost, instinctual place in the soul and leaves the hearer with visions of...

I cannot hear this language as I read, but you might coax from me the same emotions as if I had.

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 5:02:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Ovation Leader said...

A note to Tom David: One of this summer's runaway bestsellers, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen, opens precisely as you've described. Would the novel have gripped the reader by the throat without the killer opening? Depends on the reader. But it sure did work for me.

Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 3:16:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Yasamin said...

Dedicate an entire post to meeting agents in a writer's area and the difference between going with a local smaller publisher and a larger publisher. Like is it wrong to hold out for a larger publisher or should you not "look a gift horse in the mouth" and accept the first that comes along? Is it being too presumptuous to want the opportunity to choose a good publisher? what about choosing an agent?

okay can you tell i have a million and one questions? lol sorry. im ever I'm ever the query girl.

Sunday, September 10, 2006 at 10:55:00 PM EDT  

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