One of the easiest and fastest ways to tell whether or not I’m interested in reading an author’s manuscript is to simply look at the first paragraph and see whether I’ve been insulted.
Now, I do get my share of intentionally insulting e-mails, which is fine and goes with the territory. But that’s not what this post is about.
I receive a surprisingly diverse array of backhanded compliments, unintended insults, and unintentionally aggressive “praise” from authors who stuck their thumb in the Thesaurus and pulled out a recrimination.
If you’re going to be a writer it’s imperative you know what words mean. And not just what they mean, but what they connote.
This is one reason why queries are such a window into the soul of a book. An author who calls me “savage” or who praises my “abrupt” blogs (those are made up, btw, but very close to real life examples) probably doesn’t make the best word choices in their novel. It’s a serious stretch to think that they can mess up a word choice in the first paragraph of a query and still have the ability to write a publishable novel.
And let’s start with what you’re reading. It’s a blog, or, if you want to get fancy, a weblog. It’s not a Blogger or a bloglines or a bloge or a blogjournal, all of which I see on a regular basis. You gotta know this stuff. You’re supposed to be a word person! You have to know what jargon the kids are using!
Now, I’m not saying that someone who struggles with grammar or word choice or who struggles with a learning disability can’t write a good book. Storytelling is storytelling, and it’s a gift possessed by many different types of people.
But if you are someone who struggles with word choice and grammar you must must must 1) know who you are and 2) have someone check and double check your query and manuscript for word choice issuances.
yikes! nathan, will you please share some examples? i’ve queried you before, and i vaguely remember saying i loved your blog, and that’s about it…I hope!
Emily Cross says
Ego: aw its not just a limerick thing! Think its nationwide now (apart from from dublin, surprise, surprise)
best be watching me slang so!
*cue david attenbourgh voice*
aw what a wonderful place to live, where an insult could be a compliment
Do any of you know what Stephen King’s first query letter was like?
I think mine must be effing bad. Or at least the 5 pages I sent. It seems they are never quite what the agent is looking for. So what the blazes is he looking for?
How in the world did I miss this post?
Dang! Now I have to run through the query I just sent this morning to be sure I didn’t unintentionally insult the agent!
Actually, it’s MERRIAM-Webster…not Miriam Webster. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.
OTOH, Miriam Webster’s gotta be a girl with a great vocabulary!
Nathan Bransford says
Ha. Good catch.