Doing it by the Book

I’m a nice girl, me. Good as gold. I do my submitting by the book.

What book, I hear you asking?

A clue: The Great Agent In The Sky begat it.
And Lo! It was carried down from On High in tablets (Prozac, probably) by His disciples and delivered unto us aspirant writers.

The title? The Ten Commandments of Submitting.

And here they are:

1. Thou shalt Finish thy novel before thou Cast thy Read upon the ether or into the realms of the Holy Post.

2. Thou shalt use No Other Font but Times New Roman, nor any space but Double.

3. Honour thy Margins, that the agent may Set His Mark upon them.

4. Every Page Shall Be Numbered and Every Synopsis Shall Be Exalted.

5. Covet not thine adjectives and adverbs, for they make agents Sore Afraid.

6. Thou shalt abjure all prologues and present tense narratives, for they will be Ignored.

7. And thou shouldst never Tell, but Show.

8. Never shalt thou call an agent by the name of Christian, or sign with a loving Kiss.

9. Thou shalt send no Chocolates, Ribbons or Knickers with thy submission.

10. And never shalt thou Pester, Push or Rush an agent, on pain of Rejection. For Ever and Ever.


As far as the Tenth Commandment is concerned, I just had a very interesting e-conversation with a Real, Live Agent who advised me to contact the agent who has my full manuscript and chase him up. After just three weeks.

I was astonished. The Tenth Commandment had always been set in stone, seemingly. You never, EVER push an agent, at least for the first three months. That’s scary, I said. Chase him up, he repeated. It’s a much more go-getting environment, these days. And (ref. First Commandment) he’s used to people hustling him with novels they haven’t yet written.

Which leads me to wonder how many of those Commandments (and all the others that float around in the writerly ether) actually hold true? Of course there are sensible guidelines which would probably best be followed if we want our work to be looked at and seriously considered. Of course we should make our work as accessible and easy-to-read as we can.

Perhaps I’m just railing against the feeling that I’m being preached at sometimes, and that the Rules are set in stone. Which goes against the natural fluidity of the writer’s craft. What do you think?

Oh, and should I send pink or black knickers?


Unknown said...

I say go for black every time ;) I'm still stuck on the first commandement (having gone back through my first draft to make it conform with the sixth commandement). Look forward to hearing how you get on, whether you pester or not. Maybe then you can whittle the ten down to nine.

Scars Beneath The Skin said...

Shock horror - I used Courrier (or was it Courrier New) font and I managed to get a novel published. Does that make me, or my publisher, some kind of heretic? Will a chanting, heckling mob armed with blazing torches be after me?

Times New Roman is much easier on my eyes, so I must have had good reason to use Courrier New. Mind you, I did get rejected by 50+ agents, eventually getting a deal with a small indy publisher directly.

Next time I'm sending to agents I shall abide by the commandments, and lo, the glory of the Great Agent's beneficence shall be my reward. Maybe.

PS Confession - I had to check how to spell beneficence.

Caroline Green said...

Genius. Number 5 made me guffaw....

Yes, I think black too but not nasty, cheap scratchy ones, OK?

Scars, I can't even say 'benifi...' oh forget it

Scars Beneath The Skin said...

@Caroline - I can't say the 'benif..' word either, you are not alone.

Think I'll have to print these Commandments out and pin them up in my writing den.

As for the cunning knickers strategy, that would come a cropper if the agent was a straight female or gay man wouldn't it?

Thanks for brightening up an overcast Friday!



Susie Nott-Bower said...

Thanks, all, for your comments, and for the consensus on black knickers! (And fair point, Andy, about sending them. T'would be OK for the straight female agent, as I would tell her they were a gift for her. The gay male - erm, will rethink.) Well done on your deal - shows Commandment No: 2 stands for nothing!

Paul said...

I have to say that I see a lot of prologues in the novels I read, and I see a lot of adjectives and adverbs. I think those two rules are relics anymore.

As for the typeface, I agree that Times New Roman is easier on the eyes, and I use it.

But as you note, many of the so-called "rules" are in flux anymore.

DT said...

This is timely for me, Susie. I've been catching up on submissions still Missing In Action. I tend to chase agents and publishers politely at the 12 week stage, but my experience sis that many haven't even started reading it by then. So perhaps it pays to make a dynamic impression, although I'm of the no-knickers brigade. Maybe that's what I'm doing wrong...