Aggravating my blanket-diving urges is the fact that two of them have been hanging around for a while. I need a chunk of time to do them justice, and every time I block out a couple of hours for one or the other, something catches on fire. And whoa, damn, do I look good in a big ol' fire hat. Apparently.
I did read through a few dozen or so over the weekend. Most of those were partials, and most were rejected. A few things did jump out at me while I was reading, and we haven't done a slush list in a while, so here we go.
1. Why is everyone in Romancelandia suddenly naming their heroines Tory? I sure hope this doesn't lead to heroes named Whig.
2. Here's a plot that's been done to death: Female friends go to a house party famous for its decadence and orgies. Costumes and masks are required. Heroine, still smarting over a failed relationship, is determined to have revenge sex/a pointless fling, and jumps on the first guy who presents an erection. Hijinks ensue. Take off the masks and -- gasp! -- it's her ex. (Just once I'd like the heroine to recognize the guy by his penis, and play some prank on him.) (Because, really, they don't all look alike.) (Not that I would know from experience, cuz I'm so pure and all. Hi, mom!)
3. The overall quality of our submissions are on the rise. We're rejecting fewer and fewer manuscripts at the initial query stage. This is good because it gives us more good material to choose from, but it also creates more reading for the acquisitions staff.
4. Narrative summary is not the writer's friend, especially not in the first ten pages. Start with a scene, please. (How many times have I said that?)
5. If you put the url for your website on your query, and it's not an auto-reject, I will probably take a look at your website. Maybe that's not a smart move for someone who has to bang out a lot of work in a short period of time, but I'm terminally curious. I like to see how you brand yourself and how up-to-date the site is. And, yes, I also check to see who else has published you. This is a mostly self-indulgent exercise because I've never yet rejected someone because of something on their websites. But there have been a couple of times that a really sharp website has tipped me from a maybe to a please send more. And yes, that did happen this weekend.
6. Please buy Alicia's book and learn everything you can about point of view. Even experienced authors are making routine mistakes that dilute their narratives. Example:
He watched the coffee slosh to the rim of his mug.
The coffee sloshed to the rim of his mug.
In the first example, we're observing the character as he observes the coffee. In the second, we're observing the coffee from within the character's point of view. Little things can mean a lot.
7. We need more good historicals. But especially, we need historicals with freshness and energy. Feel free to spread the word and flood my inbox.
8. Do we think werewolves are over yet? Every time I think some sub-sub-niche in paranormals are about to slack off, along comes a manuscript that is so inventive and fun that I know it will reinvigorate this audience. Vampires feel a bit tapped out, but even there, it's not over yet. I'm starting to think that paranormals might be the new historicals -- they may wax and wane, but they'll probably never die out. Even so, I rejected an awful lot of werewolf stories this weekend because they were a bit too familiar. (Woman is targeted by bad pack leader because of her soopa-doopa secret werewolf pheremones. Shock! Werewolves are really, really real! Hero fights bad pack leader and wins alpha status and the girl. The End.) But seriously, these stories are still pretty hot, even if they're starting to develop their own set of cliches.
9. If you're going to give them paranormal powers, how about using those powers in ways that are more than merely incidental? I mean, if they can fly for pete's sake, can it be something more than just another method of transportation? Can it be, you know, important somehow? To the plot? I don't know, like maybe they can't escape the bad guy because he pours salt on their wings. Or maybe they have sex in mid-air and nearly plummet to their deaths at a crucial moment. Or something. Magic powers are cool and fun, and they're generally under-leveraged.