May 9, 2008

The To Didn’t List (part whatever part we are on, and also the end)

Remember the To Didn’t list? It got interrupted by little deers and spiritual cleansing, but it was basically a massive effort to clean up my EMAIL FILES, including all the self mailed ones that said ZOMGAH! BLOG ABOUT THIS!!!

And now? I need that TEENY little lady from Poltergeist to come in here…remember her?

Except instead of HOUSE, she would say IN-BOX.

SO here is the last of it, including others that came in while I was shoveling through:

1) Iron Man is supersonic popcorn fun, Robert Downey Jr. is AWESOME, and there is something to be said for casting actors who are capable of Shakespeare in Love and Chaplan in a big boom-filled summer flick, and the something that can be said is this: It makes the movies that are OBLIGATORY VIEWING for the parents of 11 year old boys a pleasure instead of a duty.

(Do you HEAR me POKEMON franchise, you damp floppy animated MISERY? Get ROBERT DOWNEY JUNIOR TO PLAY PIKACHU and MAYBE I will forgive you the 90 minutes of my life I WILL NEVER GET BACK after I sit through you. PS. If you DO snag RD Jr, I think Pikachu should be shirtless. A lot.)

2) SHOULD I HAVE AN FAQ PAGE? Does anyone ever READ FAQ pages? As it stands, I have slowly built up a sizeable file called “ANSWERS TO FAQS.” But put them on a page? Yes? No? FAQ pages always feel distancing and impersonal to me, but are they actually LESS impersonal than having a file with the answers in my MS word and cutting and pasting answers via email? I feel WEIRD and rude doing that, but at the same time, I can’t type out the same answer anew each time someone asks a question I am often asked…

PRO: If I did have an FAQ page, we could do a contest where you send in SUGGESTIONS for questions that should be ON the FAQ, and sending one would put your name in a drawing or something? What do you think?

3) Huzzah! It is more blathering and COMPLETELY unsolicited advice for writers! YOU’RE WELCOME!

On one of my favorite lists, a writer was trying to market her book to small Christian publishers and having little success because of the material---a little dark. At the same time, she has gotten rejections from agents and editors that say things like, “"Though your piece is certainly compelling and worthy of good home, I do not have a place for it at this time...I hope I rue the day I didn't offer you a contract"

I don’t think she realizes how ENCOURAGING that is! I think part of the problem is that she is deciding ahead of time where her book would fit in the industry, but she doesn’t know the industry. Neither do I, quite frankly, and you probably do not either, Oh Faceless Writer Reading This On The Internets, which is why The Lord in his infinite wisdom made agents.

I thought gods in Alabama was Christian fiction. Hee. Yes. Really. That is where I saw myself selling it…Oops, except it also had graphic sex, graphic violence, and a narrator who used the F word in it about umpty hundred times. SO. No Christian press would touch it. With a 20 foot pole. Not even if the pole had a dead possum on the end of it.

They MIGHT have been willing to touch it with a FIFTY foot pole, provided if the pole had had a stick of Zest Soap on the end, and assuming they could use the pole to stuff the WHOLE bar right into my protagonist's POTTILICIOUS MOUTH. I felt then -- I still feel -- that while the F words were plentiful, not a single one was gratuitous. (DIGRESSION BACK TO THING 2 ---A question that would absolutely have to be on the FAQ would be “Did you HAVE to use the F word so bountifully in gods in Alabama? My EYES are Bleeding! Was it REALLY necessary?” Answer: Yes.) I wasn't willing to let Arlene eat the soap and say things NICERLY.

SO--- YOU may think your book is a romance, but actually it s a thriller. Or vice versa. We are not the most objective viewers of our own work. A good agent knows what presses are looking for which sorts of objects, and as writers, we shouldn't have to worry our pretty head about such things. LA LA LA! That's not our job. I wish our job was "eating petit fours and shopping for VERY expensive shoes, " but alas, that ain't it either. If we move to New York and start networking and meeting every editor in town and researching pub lists for five years, who is going to write the next book? That's what we do. We write the next book.

If you are getting the sorts of rejections from agents that say the writing is good, that means you are getting PAST the query stage and having your MS or a partial of your MS read, and then getting GOOD PERSONAL rejections on top of that. That is a message from above! And the message is, "QUERY MORE AGENTS."

Here endeth the in-box To Didn’ts, and they are all TO ALREADY HAVE BEEN DIDS now. I feel we deserve a cookie.

Posted by joshilyn at May 9, 2008 10:44 AM

Thank you for the suggestion - I will have a cookie as soon as I get to my Mother's house (she ALWAYS has cookies). I may even have more than one.

As for the FAQs, I vote a loud and resounding YES!!! because there may be things that I've been too lazy/shy/whatever to ask, but that would be very very interesting to know. Having a FAQs page won't mean, of course, that people still won't ask questions that are on there, but at least they can be directed there (probably by a commenter) and save you the trouble.

And a contest? That's always a good thing.

Posted by: Deborah P at May 9, 2008 11:18 AM

Amen, sister. Congrats to you for the To-Dids. I'll have an entire BOX of cookies for us all. And as for the FAQ page? Yes, do it. Definitely. I love reading those pages on websites and with your fab way of writing and answering it would be a boon for visitors to experience more of your "take on life." It would be hilarious, to be sure...

Posted by: Elise at May 9, 2008 11:19 AM

1. Ironman WAS very good (did you stay for the sneak peek at the next movie that happened after the credits rolled?). Let's see - rich, bratty and alcoholic guy...RD Jr. is a natural! I took my 11 yr old boy and it was a blast. THREE BIG HUZZAH'S for the Pokemon travesty, as well.
2. FAQ's - Ummm...if you DO get Frequently Asked Questions....welllll, seems like the proverbial no-brainer to me. As far as suggestions for FAQ's - For any yankee who may ask, "Are Quick Grits the same thing as real grits?" Answer: "Awww, hell no!"

Posted by: Gary at May 9, 2008 12:13 PM

Another yes vote for the FAQ's. I always read those pages especially if the person writing them is clever. For example Neil Gaiman's FAQs are very well organized and provide lots of interesting or helpful information with nice little asides or phrases throughout that are siganture Gaiman. That makes it feel more personal, somehow. So I think if your answers are written in the coversational and quintessentially JJ way that you write this blog, then we and future visitors to your website would quite enjoy them.

Posted by: Jill at May 9, 2008 12:13 PM

I'm all for Joss' FAQ page, because no one can do FAQ like Joss can do FAQ and keep me in stitches and joyous all the day long. BTW I need to copy and past the FAQ for Arlene's pottimous mouth. Thank you very much. Some people just shouldn't breathe.

Posted by: Cele at May 9, 2008 12:13 PM

FAQ us please. I read them. Happy cookies to you. :)

Posted by: JulieB at May 9, 2008 1:01 PM

I like cookies. All for the FAQs, too. Can you tell me WHICH job involves eating petit fours and shopping for VERY expensive shoes? Except I would like to exchange yarn for shoes, if I may, because I'm like that. In any case. What job is that again?

Posted by: amy at May 9, 2008 2:48 PM

Yes for FAQ's.

Yes for Cookies.

Posted by: Roxanne at May 9, 2008 3:01 PM

Yes, FAQs are a good idea, especially if they save you some time to write the next book.

I think that is some excellent advice for writers. Miss Snark used to say that--I miss her.

Posted by: Alison at May 9, 2008 3:12 PM

Yes for cookies. Yes for FAQs (I like them).

Posted by: Melinda at May 9, 2008 3:32 PM

YES to the FAQ's. Had to work hard to keep myself from pee'ing right in my chair when you wrote your comments about gods in Alabama and the "F" word. We had that book as one of our "reads" for our neighborhood book group. AND...I must tell you the book caused quite a hullaballoo...and some of it was due to just that very issue. We surely found out in short order who the fuddy-duddy members of the group are!!! What a hoot THAT meeting was!!!!!

Posted by: Pat at May 9, 2008 5:46 PM

FAQ's are good. And for the record (I think I may have told you this before), by my standards, gods in Alabama IS Christian fiction. But that's because I'm a reader, not a Christian publisher. (One of my favourite hilarious experiences involved reading writers' guidelines for a certain publisher regarding books that could be sold in Christian bookstores. One guideline included a list of words that should not be used, which in addition to swear words, also included words related to sex, including -- get this -- "desire." Can't imply that people might actually DESIRE each other, can we???)

But your point about agents knowing better than you what's the best market for your writing is good. As someone who is currently undergoing an Agent Crisis (that would be a good name..."Agent Crisis to the Rescue!") I have taken it to heart.

Posted by: TrudyJ at May 9, 2008 6:13 PM

1) I want to see Iron Man and I believe it is showing in our closest-to-local cinema, so I may have to taketh myself to a movie this weekend!

2) Yes to FAQs. Although I had trouble reading "an FAQ" to myself because when I see "FAQ" I don't say "Eff Ay Queueueue" I say "Fack" so to me it's "a FAQ" not "an FAQ." :-) But whatever, YES, I like FAQ pages. And I like the idea of a contest related to creating an/a FAQ page.

3) I prefer not to delve into this too closely because sometimes self-awareness is overrated, but whenever the topic of giA comes up and someone mentions the sex, violence, or cussing, I always have the thought skitter through my head that I wonder if I should be worried that I didn't find the sex particularly graphic and I hardly noticed the F-words. I found the dog thing quite disturbing though.

Posted by: DebR at May 9, 2008 6:13 PM

Oh, and I feel better about my husband wanting me to go see IronMan now.

Posted by: TrudyJ at May 9, 2008 6:13 PM

How did you KNOW I was eating cookies for breakfast?!?

Takes too #$%^ long to make hashbrowns from scratch...have had potatoes sizzling in the skillet of saved bacon fat for hooooours now...(faints from hunger but is SAVED BY COOKIE!!!)

Posted by: Elena at May 10, 2008 11:29 AM

I read FAQ, too. Useful info there.

Posted by: aka nik at May 10, 2008 4:35 PM

Love me some FAQ's, love me some cookies. I love FAQ's about cookies. I even admire the ability to use, in non-gratuitous fashion, the f-word. And I'd love FAQ's about you, because you are cooler and way more better than juicy FAQ's, silly f-words and buttery cookies combined.

Posted by: Jill at May 11, 2008 3:41 PM

Yes, Yes and Yes! (FAQ page, cookies and shoe shopping, of course!)

And I agree, RDJr killed in Iron Man. Next up Speed Racer (I plan on taking my migraine meds BEFORE the show).

Posted by: Patti at May 11, 2008 10:00 PM

If you make an FAQ, and you have a contest, the contest could be about something else -- not about what Qs to put in -- because of the FA part.

It is a peeve, that when I go to an FAQ to see what on earth kinds of questions this person or that one gets asked over and over and over to the point where the questioned party has had to do something about it, sometimes the questions there are clearly not ones that anyone ever HAS asked.
It is much less interesting that way.

Posted by: Nevicata at May 11, 2008 10:59 PM

Thank you for sharing your Iron Man experience. I was really doubting RDJr's ability to come across as BIG ACTION HERO. My children thank you in advance for removing my last excuse for not taking them to see it. ;)

I also agree heartily on the FAQ question. What would be more fun than to read Miz Jackson's FAQ? Nothing, I tell you!

Posted by: Tammy at May 12, 2008 10:30 AM

Hey, yes to FAQs, yes to a FAQ contest, and yes to cookies!

That was easy.

Posted by: Aimee at May 12, 2008 11:01 AM