Wednesday, April 22, 2009

final draft = (first draft) - (your life)

Now and then, THE INTERN stumbles across a book proposal that makes THE INTERN think to herself, "Wow, this sounds like it would make a dandy book! This writer has a great idea!" Rapt with anticipation, THE INTERN tears into the sample chapters, only to discover that instead of writing about her great idea, the writer has spent three chapters WRITING ABOUT HERSELF.


Why do people have great ideas, and then write about themselves instead of the idea? What makes people think that they are more interesting than their idea? Unless you're some kind of god, I can think of about a million things I'd find more interesting to read about than your life. And I hope to God you feel the same way about me.

An example:

This guy, let's call him "Joe Catchmitt," has an idea for a book about unexplained phenomena among zoo animals. His proposal has it all: style, flair, convincing-ness. The proposal is all about his idea: supernatural zoo animals. THE INTERN gets excited. But then instead of fucking writing about supernatural zoo animals, which THE INTERN is now squirming to read about, Joe spends 100 pages telling THE INTERN the story of his life: his boring, lame childhood, his pat spiritual awakenings as a 20-year old, the details of his first and second divorces. And THE INTERN is reading this, and she's like, "What the fuck? I don't give a rats ass about your neuroses, hit me with the zombie rhinos already!" Joe's proposal, which was so intriguing and would have stood a chance of publication, is now VIOLENTLY thrown into the recycle.


In a non-fiction trade book, the IDEA:LIFE STORY ratio should be maximum 95:5. 99:1 is even better (and the 1 goes on the "about the author" page).

If you're famous, a ratio of 90:10 is acceptable.

Unless you're either famous or incredibly skillful and light-handed, the story of your life does not belong in a non-fiction book about supernatural zoo animals, or any other book for that matter.

THE INTERN tells you this not because she hates your life, but because it makes her sad when you have a great idea, then sabotage it with endless life-storying. She wants you to succeed (maybe). Please do yourself a favour, and focus on your idea, not on the life-changing moment at your mother-in-law's house when you realized The Secret DVD held the key to the universe.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

acquisitions, schmacquisitions

Hot tip: The "acquisitions editor" whose name you found in Writer's Market doesn't exist. She ain't real. Think you're coming off professional by addressing your submission to the proper editor—the editor you've never corresponded with, spoken to, or even found mention of on google? Put down your crack pipe: there's no such donkey as "Ethel Largetits, Acquisitions Editor" (or "Barry Bigschlong" or "Annette Sexton"). Publishers frequently make up a fake "acquisitions editor" so they can tell which submissions are solicited or come from informed sources and which are coming from people who've found them in Writer's Market. When a manuscript comes in addressed to Ms. Largetits, it's an instant tip-off that whoever sent it is not in the know. Bing! Into the slush pile, where your intrepid unpaid intern (aka "Ethel Largetits") will skim it, send you a signed rejection letter ("sincerely, Ethel Largetits"), and forget you exist.

If you really want to come across professional (and not as a first-class SUCKAH), do your homework—put down Writer's Market, hit the internet/phone/book fair/real world, and make sure you send your manuscript to a real person. If you have an agent, she should know the real names and contact information of the people you want to see your manuscript. Sometimes we get submissions from so-called "literary agencies" addressed to Ethel Largetits and I just have to cry for the poor sap trusting these jackasses to represent their work.

Disclaimer: Sometimes, the acquisitions editor listed in WM is real. But not always! So watch your fucking back!

Summary: Get wise! Figure it out! And don't trust nobody...except THE INTERN.