Competition for services has reached an all time high, in my view. The buzz words seem to be “Excellent Customer Service.” So now we have customer satisfaction surveys. They seem to be everywhere.
Recently I moved (yes again) and had to reconnect all my former services. At the end of my PG&E service request call, the CSR (customer service representative) asked me to answer a few brief questions about the quality of her service. Then she asked me to take another survey to confirm my answers to her via the computer, and later, a computer called me to re-verify the info I already submitted. Twice. Same with the phone company and satellite service.
My phone rings at 7am or 9pm (it has learned my work hours) and it’s a computer with a survey to spend the next half hour of my life on general product satisfaction. There’s never a button to push for “don’t use any of those products so please take me off your friend list” because the list of products and services to be reviewed is endless and there’s no way to end the survey without hanging up if you don't answer a minimum quota of questions. They will call back; the computer is infinitely patient, and undeterred in it sole task.
I work in Social Services, and am frequently sent to training seminars and conferences. There’s always a survey to fill out at the end regarding the effectiveness of the instructor, my interest in the material covered, and if I’d recommend the training to my co-workers. Its usually a mandatory training, and eventually they’ll get their turn without any reference on my part.
The writer’s conference I attended last year also had a survey for the participants to fill out, but I don’t remember if Nathan Bransford’s workshop had a survey. Maybe it didn’t, and that’s why I wrote the REVIEW. I guess you can say I’m indoctrinated to surveys now.
I am at the stage of my first novel where I’m sending out queries and synopsis to prospective Agents. There are many sites out there that teach aspiring authors the basic query formula (I chose this one to pump up readership of a fellow blogger), and why Agents send form rejection letters (see previous basic query links), and I’m not arguing the validity of the Agent's points. But in an age where customer satisfaction is the utmost concern for most organizations, Literary Agencies consistently request their consumers NOT RESPOND to their, uhm, response. (Exception being one-on-one consultations at conferences/workshops. Correct me if I’m wrong.)
In the interest of adhering to the marketing strategy of surveys, I’d like to present one of my recent rejection letters:
Thank you so much for sending the (name deleted) your query. We’d like to apologize for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter. Rest assured that we do read every query letter carefully and, unfortunately, this project is not right for us. Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one "yes" to find the right match. Good luck with all your publishing endeavors. (Signed: queried agent.)
Had this Agent (or any of it’s like) sent me a survey (critique if you prefer) regarding their services, my response might have looked something like:
What I like most about this response is that it has “rejection letter” clearly written. Some people have received notices so vague that they were unsure (I found an example on an agent blog somewhere but after 20 minutes of intensive search, I cannot find it. If you do, please send me the link.) And that it is succinct, to the point, with all the basic info I require for an emotional response. What I like least about it is that its full of positive reinforcement. Most people love sugar coated bad news, but I’m not one of them. It is not specific enough for me to know if I even have TALENT as a writer, or if some other query verbiage or genre would interest said Agent. As a learning experience, this response is sadly lacking in specific information.
Normally, a well thought out survey has a satisfaction rating scale (such as THIS, an adapted PNWA form from my writer's group) and an area for comments. I admit, on the above response I bypassed the scale and went straight for the comments section. Generally speaking however, I’ve found most people (including me) skip the comments entirely and just fill in the numbered bubbles for whatever the most excellent service corresponds to. (On a scale of 1 - 10, if an 8 gets you fired, who am I to judge?)
And in case you’re getting worried at this point, I’m not interested in a consumer satisfaction survey. You’ll either post your comments or not, positive or negative as they may be. That will suffice for this blogging service provider.
But lets suppose, just for grins and kicks, Authors were allowed to submit a survey with their query letters, synopsis, and requests for full/partials that an agent could fill out and return with their form rejection. What would your survey look like? I’ll start with a possible for mine.
The rating scale for each answer would be 1 - 5; with 1 being the least satisfied (please stop writing now), and 5 being highly impressed (but not my cup of tea at this point in the market, thanks).
Did I properly introduce myself?
Did I fully explain my reasoning for choosing you as a recipient of my query?
Did I provide all the relevant information for proper evaluation of my novel content?
Were the goals of the query properly met?
Was the length of the query acceptable?
If credentials were provided, were they relevant to the overall storyline?
Would you recommend this query to another agent? If so, who?
And, in the Other Comments section:
What would make this query better?
If you received just one response to this survey, would you continue to SWING?
Remember, this is just for fun, because I don’t condone the abuse of any Agent, or Literary Agency. They have their job, and we (as writers) have our own.
Competition for services has reached an all time high, in my view. The buzz words seem to be “Excellent Customer Service.” So now we have customer satisfaction surveys. They seem to be everywhere.
Reviewing the discouraging trend in bloggerland this last couple weeks I was nearly overwhelmed with the possibility that I might never be published. Like many writers, I’ve poured my heart into the creation of my characters and the story I want to tell. The story I need to tell. Unlike a lot of writers however, I’m worried that this one epic tale is all I have in me.
Now before you go all sympathetic and heartbroken for me, read the rest of my post. It is truly not that devastating.
For me it all started with Nathan Bransfords poll on what writers are working on (poll is closed and I’m not able to access a link to the comments). Many writers said they have several projects in the works, some finished, some submitted, some in revision or editing process. But yeah, several works in progress (WIP) at a time.
In case you’re curious, I have three WIPs. Book one is tentatively titled NOT HER MOTHER’S FATE, (originally titled CHASING THE DREAM) which I am currently seeking representation for; book two in that trilogy (SURVIVING THE DREAM) is untitled; and book three is titled ENDURING FREEDOM - the only title not likely to change (unless an agent/editor states it will not sell without a new title). There is a prequel to this series (BECOMING AMY) - which is actually the original book - that is so unfinished its more back story than actual novel. And a fourth book with approximately 20 pages written (CATHY SAYS), an offshoot using a known character, but with her own story tell.
Yep, that’s the extent of my novel writing experience. I’ve got a few flash fiction and short stories I’m proud of, but nothing on the scale of this one concept. So I have to wonder about myself as a writer: if I do publish, will I go into the archives of the “one hit wonder?”
I’ve been involved in the writer’s community long enough to be impressed with National Novel Writing Month. Many people I blog with are participating. Several members of my face-to-face writers group are participating. The creative genius in me wants to sign up and participate. I wrote my first three novels in less than two years (all are over 90,000 words). I’ve experienced the zombie-writer syndrome, and not once thought it a bad thing.
Sheesh, that was a long time ago!
But since I started surfing the net and actively seeking an agent for publication of my first novel in the trilogy, I seem to have forgotten the novels themselves. I’ve gotten caught up in bloggerland: agent bloggs, writer’s bloggs, e-zine bloggs. I research on Agentquery.com, Duotrope, and any other resource recommended by my favorite bloggers. I won’t link to all the e-zines I read for inspiration because I think you may have to subscribe to get the actual stories.
And still, there’s no new manuscript idea. The short stories are short stories - less than 3000 words; the flash fiction is barely 400 words.
One day my son came to me and asked how I get to sleep at night. I told him I think happy thoughts about something I want to dream about, and fall asleep to that scenario. Even at eight he was skeptical. I guess I wasn’t very convincing, but for me to get to sleep, I have to think about my characters. Nothing else works.
IN DREAMS, I relive the lives of the characters in my trilogy; add to their character’s adventures, work out all the emotional and sexual tension. I wake in the night with ideas for revision, but when I actually get up and turn on the computer, I reread and wonder exactly how I should proceed. The dream inspiration is gone with the night.
I’ve read that several of my favorite published authors (sorry, author notes at the end of the novel, so no links) either never published their first works, or published them long after they became famous; and I wonder if this series isn’t my “writing experience”. Something to get me actually writing, but isn’t my genre. Each time I open my novel, I hear my charcters CRYING; wondering if I’m truly invested in this WIP. I wonder too, but my answer is incorporated into this song. When I'm not with my original characters, I feel incomplete.
For the first time in my life, I am bored. The obsession to write remains though I don’t have a next project.
To all those out there who are diligently preparing for National Writers Month, who maybe put off the next project in anticipation of this awesome event, who’s writing obsession is STILL THE ONE thing that keeps them sane; I want you to know that I’m thinking of you, and wishing you all the best. Partners and support come in the most unlikeliest of places, and you need to be aware of your support groups, whoever that may be.
I won’t be joining you in your endeavors (God, that’s an outrageous acronym to type so I didn't) but maybe next year; or the next year.
I will be checking in with my favorites, and the blogs I follow, to see if you're discouraged. I will remind you this is for fun. That the word count is 50,000; but doesn't include a plot or character building, or anything beyond putting words to a page. Forward motion is your mantra; you will not revisit a scene, or dialogue. You will keep on keeping on, and I will be your faithful cheerleader, even if I miss a post and come late to the ralley.
Good luck to all.
Work. Day job.
As many a wannabe Author knows, you don’t quit your day job because someone you love and trust tells you to focus on your storytelling ability and just write for a living; or because some free e-zine published your short story or novel excerpt for a $15 donation and a three month waiting period.
As many a wannable Author knows, that obsession you call a hobby-that-could-turn-into- big-bucks might very well remain, forever, a hobby.
What’s wrong with a hobby? Doctors play golf; stay-at-home housewives and moms create pottery or paint; retired persons go to BINGO. Other hobbies involve beading, latch hook, reading and amateur theater. I’m sure you can come up with your own list of popular hobbies and past times. The point is: All these so called hobbies take an investment in time and money.
To finance those dreams of untold riches, someone has to have a day job. Whether it be your spouse, your parents, siblings or, God forbid yourself; the wannabe author finds him/her self eventually at a crisis of profession.
You are reading this post because I’m having a moment of doubt. Nathan Bransford asked the question “WHEN IS WRITING UNHEALTHY” and there were (as of this date) 242 comments in answer. From what I read, many of these responses agreed that the writing “hobby” should never interfere with the support or daily interaction of immediate family and the obligations of daily life.
Then there’s Bryan Russell’s (Ink) 10,000 Hours Under The Sea post regarding perseverance, and Lady Glam’s wake up call, and it all got me thinking; when is good enough enough for submission. Am I there yet? Or am I wasting my time on a dream that will never be fulfilled.
At what point does my hobby of writing become an obsession? I did not follow all the links on Eric’s post (or is it Laura) but I’d like to use it as an example of something you will never find here. Why? Well, how many hours/days of dedicated internet time do you think this post involved? Seriously, I don’t want to know. That much research can kiss my . . .
By now you must be wondering what this post has to do with “Nobody?”
Well, I’ll tell you. If you clicked on the link for noboy, you know the song basically is about a mistress. An intrusive obsession that, like the White Elephant, is always present, but never talked about.
When I go to my day job looking like I sat up all night, my co-workers ask, “So how’s the book coming?” When I forget back to school night or a soccer game for me last remaining son in the house he asks “So, hows the book coming?” When my friends and family come over and catch me on the computer and aren’t sure what I’m looking at (my novel or a critique I’m working on) they ask . . .
You get the sentiment.
I’m a wannabe writer. I haven’t published anything - even in a free e-zine - or even landed the most sought after commodity, an Agent. But I still keep plugging along at the computer. Long after everyone I know and love has given up hope that my hobby will turn into anything but that. Lovingly put: a total waste of time.
They read the first version avidly, with hope. They read the revision with skepticism - they loved the first draft and don‘t know why you needed to revise - and didn‘t know what you wanted from them.
Now they’re looking at me like I’ve lost my mind. “You haven’t given up your day job yet have you?” “You didn’t sink any real money into this hobby, have you?” “When are you going to give up this silly dream and start taking an interest in your family?”
Ok, so one more song because my eleven year old son asked me to listen to it because he thought it fit me perfectly. I give up his time to write.
But I have to ask: Who is the mistress in an aspiring author’s life: the day job and family obligations that pays the bills and interferes with the creativity; or the writing hobby that consumes all our spare moments and wakes us in the middle of the night?
Well, the post I had in mind for this week hasn't been fully developed because I've been distracted by contests.
And, some really excellent posts by my favorite bloggers, which I will (rudely) not link to here because I spent too much time surfing the net to remember where all I've been this weekend.
But, to speak to the contests: I entered two this week. The first being Nathan Bransford's Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge (good luck finding mine, but it was in the 601-800 comments section). A lot of excellent first paragraphs were entered, and I didn't envy Nathan the task of reading them all, and coming up with a finalist list. I must admit I read (skimmed through) the first about 800, then looked only for my favorite bloggers to see what they posted.
The second contest was a 300-500 word short story about WATCHING PAINT DRY, at The Public Query Slushpile. I'm posting my entry below. I have to say, I'm seriously proud of this little ditty simply because it is the first original thing I've written in who-knows-how-long. Outside of my writers group prompts, of course.
So I have to say thanks to Rick Daly for hosting this creative contest because he inspired me to actually create something new. It was a good feeling. I'm up against some pretty stiff competition, as all the entrants are excellent writers.
Anyway, here's my submission. And don't hesitate to go on over and make your own entry. It'll be there 'til Tuesday.
If you’ve ever painted a wall, you know the end result is not always what you saw in the samples at the store. Lighting, both sun and that from an ordinary bulb, and the causal placement of furniture of varying colors affects the specific outcome of the color applied to a room.
The color I chose was a pale, sky blue. A cloudless blue after a rain storm. Looking at the play of light on the sample, sometimes it was a glossy metallic-hued blue, sometimes the color of the sky after a nice wind and rain storm, and sometimes, it almost looked an antique white.
Now, I’m no great shakes as a decorator, but I’ve discovered that every time I return home I need to change something to soothe my restlessness. I absolutely have to do something to make it MINE, at least for the moment. This time, I chose to paint the dining room.
Like, I ever eat there. I don’t cook, and don’t bring home take out, so I haven’t even bothered to buy a table and chairs for the room. But still, it needed painting. After days of looking at every shade of blue imaginable pasted to various sections of the wall and ceiling, I settled on this cloudless blue color. Not the official nomen, but, its what I could remember.
Because, though I was enjoying a break, my next job was in a balmy, cloudless climate for the time of year, and I needed that pseudo location to put me in the proper frame of reference for the upcoming job. So, I picked the color - the exact same as the room I expected to complete my assignment in - and spent a soothing several hours painting the walls of my refuge. And as I sat and stared at the shifting shades as it dried, I worked through the subtle issues of the next job. Or the last job, as the two were connected.
As I watched my chosen paint dry, I pictured a room, and furniture, and the mark standing just here, or there, amidst his family, his friends. His cohorts. Yes, the drying paint told me a story, set up the scenario perfectly.
And after much contemplation, I decided the metallic, sky blue wouldn’t work in my dining room. It was too soothing, too complacent. I could grow lax and comfortable in such a room.
And so could my mark.
I found this cool and obsessively insightful tool for creating character profiles on Reesha's blog. I don't think I suffer from World Builder's Syndrome. In fact, after reading the article, and moving on to the questionairre itself, I'm sure I don't. Not that I don't pay close attention to my characters' traits, quirks and syndromes, but I can't imagine spending THAT amount of time on my characters. Even just one.
But hey, I've been writing about the same characters in a trilogy from day one, and they're kinda like the family I wish I didn't have to visit so often. If only they'd just get published!!! Then, who knows . .
I do believe, however, this dossier, once completed, could assist the novice writer (or the blocked writer) in plotting out the novel, based on the character profiles. Because really, just reading through the fact sheet, I can see where the act of analyzing, and then writing out the character study will take a LOT of creative thinking. Sometimes, maybe TMI isn't a bad thing.
I've had my share of moments when I introduce a new character (lets call him/her Jo, for convenience), and find myself really getting into the character. So there I am, in a unique situation with Jo, and next thing I know Jo has one set of characteristics in this scene, while in another Jo's almost totally different. All because I find myself liking (or disliking) Jo so much I have lots of ways to use Jo, but have no idea who Jo is or how Jo fits into the story. At this point, Jo is just new, exciting; a total unknown.
The character profile might be a good way of writing about Jo, getting to know the character and how Jo fits into my world, without having to revise (let alone find) all the scenes I obsessively put Jo into in a marathon writing session.
On the surface, this World Building Syndrome may seem like TMI, but in the proper creative forum, it may be just what the author needs to procrastinate doing any actual writing while feeling productive at the same time. A win/win situation if ever there was one.
Thanks Reesha for the awesome links! That caffeinated moment was very helpful.
I'm one of those who weigh in on the conservative side of technology. I'm not always sure the next new thing is the best thing. But hey, after a week without access to my favorites, my skin is scratched up with withdrawal.
I'm so far behind on EVERYTHING, I'm overwhelmed with where to start. Browsing around my usual sites is making me feel all the more disconnected, so I decided maybe a little wasted energy is in order. First on the list is a 10 minute break with Pink Floyd while I enjoy that Comfortably Numb feeling. It's a good show. And after that, if you're really in the mood for a good show, you won't want to miss Shannon Larkin and Sully Erna's Drum Battle (which has a 20 second lag before the start, so wait for it). Wish I could have been at that concert.
Yeah, now I'm feeling more connected.
Alright, so now its time for some news from Author House Magazine about the dreaded query letter and synopsis, and on to some pure entertainment at Bewildering Stories. Feel free to browse around the site, and if you really like it, subscribe. It's free.
And to those who visited me while I was away: sorry I missed you. Thanks for stopping by and leaving such positive remarks.