Fear of revision, by guest blogger Julie Wu — and a contest!

After spending so many weeks talking about the ins and outs of book pitching, as wells as devoting a significant portion of yesterday’s post on the soul-satisfying and practical virtues of making friends with other writers, I’ve decided to put my proverbial money where my metaphorical mouth is. The world needs more good examples of conference pitches, and let’s face it, what aspiring writer could not use more Eye-Catching Query Letter Candy (or ECQLC, as we like to call it around here)?

For the first time ever, Author! Author! will be holding a pitching contest. The rules follow below.

As if that weren’t sufficient reason for the masses to rejoice — heck, take a long weekend out of petty cash — I have treat for us all, as a reward for having had the moxie and perseverance to work so diligently through the Pitchingpalooza series. Today, I have the great pleasure of bringing you the kind of guest post I love to share, one that I think will be a true inspiration to writers everywhere.

I am delighted to introduce Author! Author! to Julie Wu, a literary fiction author whose lyrical first book, THE THIRD SON, will be coming out from Algonquin Books in the autumn of 2012, a triumph she talks about in this interesting interview on Book Architecture. If her name sounds familiar to those of you who have been hanging around here at Author! Author! for a while, there’s a good reason: back in April, I rhapsodized about a wonderful essay on rejection and literary success that she had just published. It’s rare that published authors are as forthcoming — or as honest — about the difficulties of getting into print. I highly recommend its perusal.

She’s also, in the interests of full disclosure, the college roommate I mentioned yesterday, the one whose initial book sale made my month. I’ve known Julie since I was 17, when this California girl dragged a 60-pound suitcase up three flights of stairs in Harvard Yard to meet the three East Coasters to whom I had (I assumed) been randomly assigned as a roommate. I had never been to New England before; she was kind enough to fill me in on Massachusetts ways. (The leaves change? Really? Why?) She introduced me to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, a phenomenon my upbringing had previously neglected to reveal to me; we used to make it in the dead of night before midterms in the electric wok my mother had for some reason decided was absolutely indispensible to dorm life. She also probably saved my life by instructing me on the delicate art of crossing Massachusetts Avenue on foot without being flattened like a pancake.

The local joke at the time was that Cambridge traffic tended to separate Harvard students into two categories: the quick and the dead.

In fact, she was the person who calmed me down when it first occurred to me that brick buildings covered in ivy would not be a particularly safe place to be if the region were hit by the earthquakes my West Coast-trained body had come to expect. (That line was funnier a month ago, when I originally wrote it, by the way. It just goes to show you: a writer can never predict what’s going to seem dated by the time it hits print.)

It became apparent pretty quickly, in short, that it hadn’t been a random assignment; it couldn’t have been. Otherwise, what would be the chances that two of the four residents of Wigglesworth B-32 would both grow up to be authors? Or that a third roommate would have spent the summer before college working as a Millicent at a publishing house then, as now, renowned for literary fiction?

Perhaps I should not have been surprised. At the time, Harvard’s freshman housing questionnaire was significantly longer than the application to get in, and certainly more detailed.

So I had plenty of reasons to rejoice when I learned that Julie had sold her first novel — and frankly, I think readers of interesting literary fiction will be pretty pleased next fall, too. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

The Third Son, set in the oppressive political and social climate of World War II Taiwan, is about a Taiwanese boy whose only happy childhood memory is of meeting and saving a kind girl in an air raid. When he finds this girl, grown up and at his oldest brother’s side, he fights to claim her, and to prove that he is worthy of her. His journey takes him to 1950′s America and the Space Race, but even across the world he struggles against the bonds of oppression that have followed him.

Sounds fascinating, eh? Sounds, in fact, like precisely the kind of substantive, serious novel aspiring writers are constantly being told at conferences has gone the way of the dodo. I’m really looking forward to Julie’s proving that never-particularly-true truism wrong.

She also, like me, is a great believer in writers helping one another down the long and curvy path to publication. So psst, Boston-area novelists: Julie will be teaching a class on scene structure and revision at Grub Street on September 14. It looks really yummy:

Raising the Titanic: Giving Power to Weak Novel Scenes

Wednesday, September 14th, 6:30-9:30pm, at Grub Street headquarters.

Drafts of many novels contain scenes that sink the book. They are flat, meandering, tangential, or just plain boring. Attempts to spruce up the prose or dialogue may not fix such scenes because they lack crucial structural elements. Don’t waste time rearranging deck chairs! In this seminar you will bring a troublesome scene from your novel and we will discuss not only how to give your scene internal propulsion, but also how to nail your scene to the novel’s central story arc and drive it forward. Land, ho!

I’m a huge fan of seminars where writer work on their own early drafts, rather than composing fresh material in class. Oh, the latter can be very useful, especially when a writer is first starting out, but few of us were actually born knowing the internal mechanics of a scene, anymore than we toddled into kindergarten already familiar with the strictures of standard format.

Okay, so I did,. Perhaps that’s why the Harvard Housing Office saw fit to make me Julie’s freshman roommate.

My point, should you care to know it, is that out of the literally thousands of classes out there aimed at aspiring writers, relatively few seem to be focused upon the all-important art of revision. I find that strange, not only as an editor, but as a writer: no one’s first drafts are perfect. There’s a monumental difference between writing that matches the image in the writer’s head and writing that successfully transmits that image to the reader.

Wow, that would be a fabulous segue into Julie’s guest blog; I should have planned it that way. (See what I mean about how first drafts are not necessarily perfect the moment they fall off one’s fingertips?) But I promised you a contest, and a contest you shall have.

In the fine tradition of the Author! Author! Awards for Expressive Excellence (and as part of my ongoing quest to provide good writers with much-needed ECQLC), I am proud to announce:

Author! Author! Perfect Pitch Competition of 2011

In order to celebrate the end of Pitchingpalooza and encourage the practical application of the skills learned and polished there, Author! Author! is calling upon its talented readers to enter pitches for their books into healthy competition. Winners will not only receive fabulous prizes (see below), but will have their pitches, the first page of their manuscripts, and an author photo featured in a post here at Author! Author! for all the world to see and admire.

Sound good? Wait, it gets better. To make the experience more interesting for onlookers, pitchers may present their fabulous premises in three distinct categories:

Category I: The keynote or Hollywood hook, a one-sentence teaser for your book

Category II: The elevator speech, a 100-word or less presentation of your book’s premise and central conflict

Category III: The formal 2-minute pitch, a 250-word introduction of your protagonist, the central conflict, and what’s at stake in your story OR the problem that your nonfiction book addresses

All entries must be submitted via e-mail to contest@annemini(dot)com by Friday, September 30, at midnight in your time zone. Late entries will not be considered.

Entrants may enter more than one category. Please submit each entry in a separate e-mail, in accordance with the rules below.

The grand prize winner in each category will receive a half-hour Mini Consult on his or her query, synopsis, and first 10 pages, as well as having the winning entry, the first page, and an author photo posted on Author! Author! Runners-up will see their entries, first pages, and photos posted and critiqued as well, as vivid examples of how good a pitch can be when it is done right.

Because winners will also be awarded life-long bragging rights and coveted ECQLC , the judges reserve the right to award as many (or as few) prizes as the quality of the entry pool warrants. Awards are purely up to the discretion of the judging panel.

Those are the general rules. Here are the specific steps required to win. Do read them all carefully, as I am anticipating vigorous competition.

1. Polish your pitch to a high gloss and save it as a Word document.
Only .doc entries in Word will be accepted — not TextEdit, PDF, or any other formats, please. Please title the Word file with either your name or the title of your book, not just as contest entry. (The last time I ran a contest like this, I received 37 with that file name.)

2. Make sure that the entry is properly formatted.
All entries must be in standard format for book manuscripts. No exceptions, I’m afraid. If it is not double-spaced, in 12-point type, and featuring a slug line with your name and the book’s title at the top of the page, the judges will not consider it.

3. On a separate page of the same Word document, write the book’s title, the book category, and a BRIEF (
In other words, what is fresh about your book? (Hint: this question will be significantly easier to answer if you mention what your book category of choice is.) Please be as specific as you can about what is new and different about your book. Vague claims of being the best novel since WAR AND PEACE probably won’t impress the judges.

4. On the same page, include your contact information.
Name, address, and e-mail address will suffice. You want us to be able to let you know if you have won, don’t you?

5. Make sure to mention which category you are entering.
Again, the three possibilities are: the keynote or Hollywood hook, the elevator speech, and the formal 2-minute pitch.

6. Attach the Word document you’ve created to an e-mail.
Please include PERFECT PITCH ENTRY in the subject line, and mention the category you’re entering in the body of the e-mail. (It makes it easier to process the entries.) Make sure to say who you are, too, so we don’t get entries mixed up.

It’s also a nice touch to say something pleasant (like “Happy Labor Day, Anne!”) in the e-mail itself. I just mention.

7. E-mail the whole shebang to anneminicontest@gmail(dot)com by Friday, September 30, at midnight in your time zone.
Do I need to explain that the (dot) should be rendered as a period when you are typing the address? Nah, probably not.

Those are the rules! I am hoping to see a broad array of wonderful stories — and some great examples from which those brand-new to pitching can learn.

Of course, to benefit fully from winning this contest — or from giving a good pitch at a conference, for that matter — you will need to whip your manuscript into fabulous shape. Many a great premise has been lost to posterity for lack of necessary revision.

It’s easy to lose faith in mid-revision, though — and even easier to reject the notion of revision at all. Because we’ve all felt the insidious pull of both, I am delighted to present Julie Wu’s words of inspiration to revisers everywhere.

You might want to bookmark this post, for re-reading when your revision energies start to ebb. Just so you know, though, I’m not the roommate mentioned in the piece; I couldn’t throw a pot to save my life. Which, too, probably came up on the housing application.

Take it away, Julie!

My roommate once made a clay pot in art school. Threw it on the wheel, drew up its walls between the tips of her fingers, fired it, glazed it. When she and her classmates held up their finished pots, gleaming and beautiful, the instructor led the students to a pit and ordered them to throw down their pots. The point was, he said, not to become attached to a particular piece of work. You can always make more.

Some students cried. My roommate was traumatized, still bitter about the experience years later when she told me about it.

Hearing her story made my stomach twist. I had written a few short stories, and they were my precious babies, conjured up as I sat cross-legged in the dark in an apartment overlooking the Hudson River. My stories were praised in student workshops, but their strengths were no more robust or reproducible than the street lights’ glinting on the water’s surface. Even after the literary magazine rejections came in, I revised only a sentence here or there, hoping that would be enough.

Because I was afraid that if I revised more, I would ruin what was good and never get it back again. I was one of those art students, crying and clutching my pot at the edge of the pit.

Here’s the thing: that instructor was right. It has taken me ten years to understand that. Make one beautiful pot–maybe you were lucky. Make another from the ground up, and another, still more beautiful, and you are an artist. It takes practice, study, the making and smashing of many pots beautiful, average, and ugly, to really know that clay, to know exactly how to push your hands into it to get what you want.

It took me ten years to understand, because it took me ten years to write my first novel. I revised it countless times—a little when it first didn’t sell, then more and more. Eventually, I changed its structure, its point of view, its tone, its style. With each revision I received comments and started over, page one. Each time, I learned more, until I could revise without fear. And it was then that I sold the book.

In writing we have a safety net: the computer. Open a new file and you have smashed your pot and kept a picture of it at the same time. How to proceed at that point is a study in humility, in open-mindedness, in self examination. It’s remembering all the advice you read about in the craft books—that you must have an interesting protagonist, a need, lots of conflict—and admitting you need to take that advice yourself. It’s hearing all the feedback from your readers—that the protagonist is unsympathetic, that nothing happens, that what happens is implausible—and admitting that they are true. It’s realizing that there’s power in depth, and that depth is a function of your narrative arc. It’s an equation of equal parts emotion and mechanics, and it’s fueled by that elusive beast, imagination.

After so many years, book one is done. I’m thinking about book two. I’ve got clay in my hands again, but I feel different now. Because I’m not afraid. Because I know now I can make a pretty good pot. And because if it doesn’t turn out well, I don’t have to cry. I can throw it into the pit, and make something better.

Julie Wu‘s novel, The Third Son, won a short-listing in the 2009 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Novel-in-Progress Competition and will be published by Algonquin Books in Fall, 2012. Her short fiction has won honorable mention in the 2010 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Contest and has been published in Columbia Magazine. Also a physician, she has published a personal essay in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). She earned a B.A. in Literature from Harvard and spent a year studying opera performance at Indiana University in Bloomington, many lifetimes ago.

6 Replies to “Fear of revision, by guest blogger Julie Wu — and a contest!”

  1. Julie, as a fellow Algonquin Books author, I feel your pain. But it isn’t so much my own incessant revisions that put knots in my stomach (or should I say, bubbles in my earthenware clay). It’s the changes from my editor. But I have to admit that much more often than not, when I take a breath and allow the dizziness to pass, I decide that my editor was pretty darned smart about the revisions after all.

    Nice essay, and congratulations on the novel.

  2. Anne, I love your work. I do, however, have some questions and one comment on the PERFECT PITCH CONTEST.

    Comment: I wish you’d dedicated a post to the contest, rather than sharing it with the guest blog. It would have made specific comments more possible, and better targeted.

    1. You require that your previously published ‘standard format for book manuscripts’ be followed. However, that format specifies NO ‘slug line’ on the title page (first page) of any manuscript, of any length, whereas your contest specifies “…featuring a slug line with your name and the book’s title at the top of the page, the judges will not consider it.”
    Please clarify, which of those conflicting standards should the contest entries follow? I would not want to be disqualified. I do not know if the page with the pitch should or should not have a slug line with my name and title.

    2. Your Rule #3. “On a separate page of the same Word document, write the book’s title…” Then your rule #5 says ” 5. On the same page, include your contact information.”
    Vague. Which SAME PAGE, please? The original page mentioned in rule 1, or the ‘seperate’ page mentioned in rule 3?
    Perhaps re-phrase as ‘Page 1′ and ‘on Page 2′

    3. The term ‘slug line.’ I could find not one mention of the term ‘slug line’ on Google other than as related to high-speed commuter trains or descriptive lines in scripts such as stage-plays. Am I correct in assuming ‘slug line’ is a term indicating a header?

    4. What happened to rule #4? Is this a Secret Rule?


    1. I’m sorry if you found it disconcerting to leave a comment on a post that included a guest blog, Max, but I’m quite sure that the guest blogger won’t mind your having posted a question about the contest on the logical post for it. Nor do I. (If you prefer single-author posts on general principle, you might want to check out my second posting of the contest rules.) Since you’re actually the only reader who has ever voiced this particular objection, though, I’m quite curious to hear why you feel that either comments could not be specific or would not be targeted correctly (does this mean you think people will have trouble finding them?) by presenting a post with either multiple authors or multiple topics.

      To set your mind at ease, it’s never been problematic in the past — I habitually write extensive introductions for guest bloggers, sometimes including contest announcements, and no one has ever reported (at least until now) feeling that the presence of one part precluded commenting freely on the other. Indeed, many’s the time that the comments on a single post contained several different threads of conversation, with commenters bouncing back and forth between them, without anyone’s seeming perplexed by it. Nor have I heard of its causing anyone inconvenience in finding answers to specific questions: since the comments are not searchable via my site’s search engine (unfortunately), readers typically track down specific information either by using the aforementioned engine to search post content for specific topics (a process entirely unaffected by having more than one topic or author per post) or by scrolling through the very detailed list of categories on the archive list conveniently located at right-hand side of this page (ditto).

      Which is to say: this post is probably where most potential contest entrants will look for subsequent discussion. So it was, I think, the proper place for you to post your questions, and an equally fine place for me to post the answers. Here goes.

      (1) It sounds as though you might be conflating a title page (which means something very specific in publishing circles; you’ll find a definition and examples under the HOW TO FORMAT A TITLE PAGE category on the archive list) and a page that just happens to list the title of the book on it, such as any page of a manuscript other than the title page (the slug line contains the title), a synopsis, or any other marketing material associated with the manuscript. As the contest rules refer to — and according to the strictures of standard format, could only refer to — the latter, the rules are not contradictory..

      How so? As I state very specifically (and multiple times) in HOW TO FORMAT A BOOK MANUSCRIPT series, professionally-formatted book manuscripts always contain a title page. Thus, any serious discussion of standard format, slug lines, or page numbering must include the rule to which you refer; it would be confusing to anyone looking to learn how to format a manuscript to omit it. (Should you be interested, there are several posts in that series that show what a title page should and should not look like, as well as where a slug line is and is not appropriate.)

      That does not mean, however, that every piece of non-manuscript writing should include a title page — which seems to be the underlying logic here. This contest is not asking for any manuscript pages, and thus does not either request or imply an expectation that you would include a title page. Therefore, any rule of standard formatting that applies to the title page of a manuscript would not logically be relevant to this particular contest.

      Instead, the rules ask for two things: a pitch, formatted as if it were manuscript (and thus governed by the rules of standard format for pages within a manuscript) and an information sheet. The rules are quite specific about what should be in each part of the entry. They’re also explicit about formatting requirements — and you cite this part yourself: If it {the pitch page} is not double-spaced, in 12-point type, and featuring a slug line with your name and the book’s title at the top of the page, the judges will not consider it.

      You may safely assume, then, that the judges will be expecting you to place a slug line on the page(s) containing your pitch . Honest.

      That’s a good rule of thumb to apply to any contest’s rules, by the way: when in doubt about what they are asking you to do, your best bet is always to follow them to the letter. That way, if there is a legitimate problem in the rules, you cannot be blamed for it; the contest’s organizers will discover it because the same phenomenon will turn up in all of the best-prepared entries.

      (2) Both of these refer to the same page — i.e., the separate page with your contact information. (Thus the phrase on the same page in Rule #5.) On lists, it’s generally assumed that logic is consecutive, isn’t it? I’m afraid I don’t see the need to alter the wording here: there’s nothing in either #3 or #5 that indicates that the rules have abruptly switched back to talking about the pitch page(s).

      (3) A slug line, as the term is used in publishing and as defined by the relevant posts on standard format, is not a euphemism for a header; the header is the 1-inch top margin. The slug line goes in the header: it’s the part that lists the author’s last name, the book’s title, and the page number.

      In the relevant posts on standard format, you will find an extensive explanation of what slug lines are and how to use them correctly. You could also look under the SLUG LINE or SLUG LINES ILLUSTRATED category under the MANUSCRIPTS AND HOW TO FORMAT THEM section of the blog archives. Another option: plugging the term into the search engine located at the upper right-hand corner of my blog.

      As to the complaint that a Google search did not turn up the definition used here, it’s not at all uncommon for a phrases to have multiple meanings, or for a term to have one definition in publishing and another in another kind of business. I’m aware of at least 6 meanings for slug line, depending upon the context in which it is used; there probably are more.

      I can’t explain, then, why a search would have turned up only two definitions, neither of which was applicable to book manuscripts. Does your search engine limit the total number of results you see? I just did a Google search on the term, and a manuscript-related definition of slug line had appeared near the top of the second page of results, and a link to my blog’s definition of it appeared on page 4. When I entered slug line + manuscript, a definition on my blog was the second result.

      (4) Oops, I misnumbered. I generally blog at the end of a very long day. I’ve changed it on this post and the other.

      I’m glad that you asked for clarification here, but just to set your mind at rest, literary contest rules are seldom set up in order to trick entrants into disqualifying themselves, nor do submission guidelines typically omit relevant formatting information. It’s rare, however, that a reputable literary contest in the U.S. these days will not set up its rules on the assumption that any entrant will already be familiar with the rules of standard format. So do virtually all agency submission guidelines; agents and editors just presume that writers serious about getting published will have taken the time to learn how the publishing industry expects to see writing presented. Because of this almost universal assumption, contest entrants unfamiliar with the strictures of standard format often find themselves at a serious competitive disadvantage. So do submitters.

      That’s why I always make adherence to standard format one of the rules of all of my contests. Honestly, I’m not doing it just to make contest entrants jump through some additional hoops. Because the overwhelming majority of aspiring writers submit improperly-formatted manuscripts to both agencies and contests — that is, contests that are actually asking for manuscripts — I like to see what kinds of mistakes my readers are making, so I can talk about them on the blog.

      1. Words in my query: 280
        Words in your reply to my query: 1408.
        Wow. 7 TIMES the length of the request, when all one needed to do was clarify some numbers. Which -in 1408 words- you did not even DO.
        I suppose I should have known, based upon the rest of your blog =) (see smiley face this time)
        And I was actually teasing you about the skipped no. 4… I thought perhaps there was a hidden reference to a Monty Python joke, ala: “Rule No.4) There IS no Rule No. 4!”
        I suppose that’s on me for not using a smiley-face after that question.

        Now on to content. Let’s assume your writing this blog expressly FOR people who are NEW to the industry, or have never done any/much research into things such as “standard contest formats.” I believe I would not be going out on a limb assuming this. After all, that’s why I came here.
        I have no prior knowledge on the topic of HOW to format a contest entry.
        I have never entered a writing contest in my life…nor ANY contest since the “balloon-blowing contest” in the Boy Scouts. I am 43 now, BTW.
        Due to the apparent need for you to use words to justify your original post, and possibly relieve some stored angst, and after reading your reply, I STILL have no knowledge as to how to format a writing contest entry!
        I believe I will simply remain a non-entrant.

        “It sounds as though you might be conflating a title page (which means something very specific in publishing circles; you’ll find a definition and examples under the HOW TO FORMAT A TITLE PAGE category on the archive list) and a page that just happens to list the title of the book on it,”

        “conflating”? Really? Even IF it’s a real word, do you really need to go to Harvard to read a post written specifically for n00bs?

        YES, Indeed, that’s exactly what I did…silly me.
        How could someone who’s reading advice blogs BECAUSE he’s entirely new to a topic or subject make such a silly mistake?
        Perhaps it’s related with how I could possibly expect to clarify my confusion by typing into Google the term SLUGLINE, and not finding a relevant definition on the first page of results (the + I added, BTW, was “+novel”, after most of the results referred to screenplays).

        Guess I’m just dumb that way.

        1. Oh, I see, Max — you typed in slug line as one word. That might well explain your results, but as it is not how you used the term in your comment, I would have had to guess that in order to suggest it. I also gather that what you expected in response to your original questions about several specific contest rules was a general list of rules about how to format a contest entry. Again, that was not how you phrased it in your questions, so there was no way that I could guess that was what you were seeking.

          I’m sorry if you found that frustrating, or if you found the links I included to specific sets of directions hard to follow. Had I known that what you actually wanted was something different, I would have naturally given a completely different response: while it is common online to expect to be able to find single-page (or even single-sentence) answers to questions, publishing is a complex business. Very little about it can be explained adequately in 500 words or less (as, indeed, I explained at length in a post a couple of weeks ago). Nor is that considered a bad thing in publishing circles: the Twitter-age notion that brevity and clarity are inherently compatible in every instance is not, I’m afraid, widely accepted amongst book people, for obvious reasons.

          That’s why I explain matters at length here, especially those matters with which any agent, editor, or contest judge would expect a serious aspiring writer to be familiar. Because neophytes do come here to get their questions answered, I load my practical posts with basic explanations and visual examples — had you explored the HOW TO FORMAT A BOOK MANUSCRIPT posts or any of the posts under SLUG LINES ILLUSTRATED, you would have found both extensive, thoughtful how-tos and concrete examples of what a manuscript page should look like.

          As I tried to explain my reply to your original questions, I have deliberately set up my website to answer specific questions that neophytes might have, such as how to format a slug line, what manuscripts should look like on the page, how to put together a contest entry, etc. — you’ll find them on the archive list. However, because this is a site dedicated to helping aspiring writers, both those new to the game and ones who have been at it a while, I don’t write only for those coming to a writing blog for the first time. I write posts aimed at a wide variety of readers.

          While I understand that might render any particular post a trifle confusing to someone coming with no prior experience to this blog, it renders an online community possible. To ease the transition for those new to the game, I have established categories that lead the reader directly to the answers to common questions. And in cases where readers don’t have the time or inclination to spend a few minutes searching the archives, I cheerfully take the time to answer questions at length in the comments.

          So let’s recap: you found the rules confusing because they asked entrants to format a single page (or at most 2-3), even after following the link that summed up the rules of standard format in list form. That post was clearly part of a series that explained those rules; the very next post both addressed your first question and provided visual examples. Not everyone has the time to look through a 26-part series of explanations for people new to publishing, so on the right-hand side of the page, there is a list of easily-accessible posts that define these things in very direct terms; some of them are even phrased as questions, and one whole set of categories is called CONTEST ENTRIES. I directed you to them; since every contest has different rules, it wasn’t as though I could simply give you a link to a single post that would have told you what to do in every instance, even if I had known that was what you wanted to know.

          Because I am aware that many of my readers are new to writing, querying, and submission, in the contest rules, I set up a link to a page that listed all of the rules for formatting manuscripts. You evidently followed that link, but still had questions. Fine: I encourage readers to ask many questions; you asked many questions, and although I could have simply directed you to posts on the matter, I took the time to answer those questions in detail.

          And then you criticize me for having taken quite a bit of time out of my very busy day to have answered the questions you actually asked. Instead of seeing my thoughtful response as my trying to be helpful (and for free, too) , you apparently chose to regard my having been nice enough to provide extensive answers to your questions as a negative reflection on my original post. You also, interestingly, chose to assume that my being kind enough to tell you, in indirect terms, that if you would like to get your writing published, it would be in your best interest to become familiar with a set of rules that you’re probably not going to find adequately summed up in 500 words, was venting angst.

          I am genuinely sorry that you’ve found all of this so upsetting, but by no stretch of the imagination was I making fun of you; I was, again, simply trying to respond to the questions you actually asked. Clearly, I insulted you by doing so.

          Again, there was no way I could have anticipated that; the overwhelming majority of my readers are grateful that I take their questions seriously enough to respond as though they were questions worth answering. Since so many readers have found that appealing for so many years now, I’m not going to change my practices — or my faith in the willingness of good-but-undiscovered writers to learn how the publishing industry works — because of this single and I must say singular action.

          Thank you for the insight into how some small fraction of new writers might respond to this blog’s thoroughness, however; my style isn’t for everybody. As I assume this means that you won’t be joining us here at Author! Author! again, allow me to wish you the best of luck with your writing career, as well as good luck finding information online that speaks more directly to your expectations.

          P.S.: Conflating is a standard social science word, one that would be familiar to most newspaper readers. And just so you know, using someone’s educational credentials as an insult doesn’t work very well in literary circles, where education is considered a positive thing. I’m astonished, though, that a reader disinclined to search for information in my archives took the time to find out that I graduated from Harvard.

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