This months tempest in a tea-cup is based on the thin skin of people who might be the topic of discussion. That's right ladies, gentlemen, writers and readers of all ages, we're talking Queryfail. A great summary of the event is posted by Jim MacDonald over at Making Light, and while there's not much to be said about the point of the event that isn't summed up by Colleen Lindsay's early posts on it

Colleen_Lindsay: Remember, if you’re participating in #Queryfail Day to a.) use the #queryfail tag, and

b.) NO PERSONAL IDENTIFIERS from queries. #queryfail

Colleen_Lindsay: It’s about educating, not about being mean! =) #queryfail

This was repeated more than once. And yet, several people got upset about it. Why, who knows. From the admittedly light skimming I did, it looked the usual offal about "My original idea might be stolen!!!!EventyANGST!!!111!!" and the "How dare you mention that I'm not perfect!" crap.

News flash: There are no original stories left, haven't been seen before the written word. There are original executions, but anyone who states that such an execution could be compromised not by a multi-page examination of the text of a book, but by a one hundred forty character (or less) riff on the query is arguing from a well emoted out position.

Were their direct quotes used? Of course there were, they make the best examples, and of course the only people who might be able to identify the writer of any particular query by a one sentence quote are: 1) The writer, 2) other professionals that have seen the query and 3) anyone the writer may have bounced their query off before dispatching it to the Stygian depths of an agent/editors inbox. So how is this public humiliation? It isn't. The agents and editors who might have or might in the future see it will probably reject it or have for the same reason(s). Your friends or family members are either not using a large enough cluebat, or you're just not asking the right questions to get the answers and or help you need.

What Queryfail did was take not just the people who are actively seeking improvement and hold them up as an example, but take some things from a bit further down the food chain. Most of the people who take part in activities like Ms Snark once ran, are close to being at the right level, and that makes it harder (at least for me) to see the difference between right and almost right. I've learned more about good writing from reading bad, bad writing than from reading the cream of the crop. Not because there isn't stuff to learn in the great writing but because the bad stuff is usually disjointed enough to stick out where as good writing is nearly invisible.

I may or may not do something similar to queryfail in the future, but if i do it is educationally intended and if you think I'm being mean, really ask my (real) friends they can set you straight.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jul. 1st, 2008 04:08 pm)
While I avoid politics on LJ and in Fandom like the plague they are, I rarely turn down modest publicity. If you're feeling the need to give to a cause, and have a novel that might need some work. Go here and bid on a critique. It should be obvious, but I will state it anyways. I do not receive any of this money, nor do I run a critique service for fees. 
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Apr. 27th, 2008 08:42 pm)
Well, for another year of excellent con is over. Tear down is done, and the Dead Dog has been doused with booze and food. I had two panels this morning, the second half of Allen Wold's writing workshop which was fun, but i think we'd scared off a couple of the participants. After that was the "How to Critique and be Critiqued" panel. I got to moderate (silly con com) and the poor panelists who had me inflicted on them were Valerie Griswold-Ford, Charles
Gannon, and the amazing Catherine Asaro. This panel to me was very interesting, and we could have gone on for another hour or two easily, between war stories of crit's gone bad, and what to look for in critiques we only just left before the next panel started throwing rocks at as.

I had a wonderful time at Ravencon, per usual, and want to thank all of the con com, the guests, and the attendees.

Thank you.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Feb. 6th, 2008 10:31 pm)
Wow! What a response, it looks like there's about a twenty five percent increase over last year. And quality wise, i think the percent that made it past chapter one is almost absurdly high. Right now, I'm probably going to do the one that's open and then call it a day. Yes I know I'm a slacker, only about twenty six so far since midnight. Unfortunately, I'm starting to get incoherent even for me. At this point I'm too tired to give more than one or two more a fair read.

One the subject of submissions that have made it past one chapter, I would prefer if you each gave me forty five days from the day you receive notice to either offer my services or give a rejection from something past the first chapter.

And while i make no money for saying it: Svedka vodka is nice.

I should get to at least the first chapter of everyone I haven't at least done the first chapter for tomorrow or Friday the latest. After everyone's first chapter has been read I will start those that have been held back in earnest. Please note that this applies to the submissions sent to the email address and not to the ones sent to the regular box, those i should be reading again in two weeks or so.
Let the madness begin. The Winter Workout is here and you may now submit. You may also tell ten friends, or even twenty.


The very firm, probable date for the Winter Workout is 12/28. If I have to reschedule I will post then. Submission period will start at least 24 hours ahead of time and run until about 8am on the 28th.
I shall post three links.

These links are not safe for work.

I repeat NSFW!

The first is a link to something every  writer, editor, and agent should be required to read yearly.
The second is a review and critical analysis of a history on American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.
The third is a video that is just plain funny.

In my last entry I asked what have you learned about writing this year? I was hoping for brilliance among my LJ readers, and per usual was not disappointed. The intellectually incandescent [info]sartorias said:


"When you (meaning me) think you're done, you're not. Then you have to go through and search, sentence by sentence, for this grindingly tedious list of goddamn irritating phrases that you use way too much."


One of the first things I pick up on when reading is how often a phrase, is repeated. It just screams at me. Assuming I get that far I can normally tell you how many times a particular phrase or set of phrases have been used within one or two instances without having consciously counted them.

While most common in dialogue, phrase over repetition is not just a problem in dialogue. A well respected writer most famous for their Mil-SF/Space Opera who’s work I like for example was once ribbed politely by a few fans for using “snorted like a moderately irate boar” or something similar not just once or twice for the same person, but to describe two or three dissimilar people in a book. Granted in tomes the size this individual turns out not everyone is going to catch it, but it looks sloppy when it is caught.

onyxhawke: (Default)
( Aug. 12th, 2007 08:59 pm)
The very short report is that i had fun, and now I'm incredibly tired.

Onward to the long report.


Good Con, go if you can.

Nearest airports are probably Albany and Hartford


Sara Harvey got engaged!
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Aug. 11th, 2007 01:54 pm)

Its amazing since last night I've been on five panels and they still haven't thrown me out!

Voltaire is a very interesting speaker, although I did miss his concert.

Catie Murphy gave a fantastic interview, and several fun panels.

Sara Harvey is being herself!

More later.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Aug. 7th, 2007 03:09 pm)
GoH Interview:
Wherein I interview C.E. Murphy

How to Write Pages 1-5
Kabongo(M), DeCandido, Osborne

Shamanistic Druids
Kane, Kabongo, Murphy, Mach
Myth and Folklore in Fantasy
Laity, Harvey(M), Kabongo
Harvey, Kabongo, Ferrett, Mach, Snyder
Pitch 10 minutes to an Agent
Cliches That Need Banning
Kabongo, Green, K. Williams, Mach, Silva
Urban Fantasy
Harvey, Kabongo, Murphy

8pm, run to the nearest place that serves good dead animal and order without speaking

Critiquing that Counts
Kabongo, Mach
Coming Full Circle
Kabongo, Murphy
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jun. 3rd, 2007 03:09 am)
Infodumpitis n ; a condition where the writer spends seemingly vast amounts of words on artless insertation of background information. Often complicated by needless repetition of all or portions of the information in the same body of work.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( May. 29th, 2007 02:55 pm)
In the past couple months I've been talking a lot to friends, and those submitting to me about critiquing and what it should do. One of the reoccurring themes is that it has to be explicitly honest, and how the recipient of the critique has to create and maintain emotional separation from their work.

For the person writing a critique, it does no good to send a "Squee! Squee! Squee!!!!1!1eleventyone!!1!" email or instant message to the writer unless there is nothing that needs tweaking. And continually doing this, and letting it go on to the point where the writer submits something full of things you should have caught is like letting your favorite female walk down the aisle on their wedding day in a dress that makes them look three quarters dead, with makeup on that makes Tammy Faye's look restrained, the back of her dress tucked into her pantyhose and trailing toilet paper from her mismatched and dirty Keds. Seriously, if you think you're doing someone a favor with nothing but constant praise you're dead wrong and not helping.

On the writers part its a bit more complicated. You have to mentally tough enough to look at negative feedback and decide; A) Is this really a problem? B) Do I know a way to do this better or can I find or devise a way to get the result I want? C) How much do I really care about this particular item? And D) What other mistakes like this have I made?

And on picking your readers; send them something you KNOW is unmistakably bad every once in a while. Anyone who doesn't comment unfavorably about such things consistently is no better than a glorified breathing spell checker. And of course, you need to know what each of your readers strengths is. The person who does your line edits and says stuff like "What the hell did you use THAT word for?" may or may not be you best source of information on 18th century military uniforms Likewise, the math geek who crunches numbers and answers your questions on projectile weapons and mass to energy conversion may just be completely clueless about what the difference between a SSRI and a Tricyclic antidepressant and how either or both of them compare to Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors. This is fine, actually its probably better to have varied backgrounds among your readers. This way when people who start commenting on things they never before mentioned you know that something has changed and this should be the signal to figure out if this is a change for the better or worse. Unless you’re up against a strict and impending deadline it can’t hurt to take a couple days between reading the critiques for the first time and reopening the work in progress to internalize the info and let some of the sting go out.

The bottom line is; don't waste time and energy. If you're giving a critique, give one that counts. If you're getting one evaluate the information for what its worth, apply what you think is prudent and or needed and move forward.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( May. 22nd, 2007 09:04 pm)
I think, one day i may have to write my own lexicon of frequently used writing terms. It'll probably save no amount of time for my friends and clients if i send it to them along with my critiques...

Now if i just had time to write it.


onyxhawke: (Default)


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