Showing posts from April, 2011

"it's not you, it's me": INTERN's guide to breaking up

breaking up is never easy…

About eight months ago, INTERN went through her first big breakup. It was horrific—there were tears, accusations of infidelity, tender afternoons where it seemed like everything was going to be OK followed by screaming sessions on the front lawn. INTERN has been too emotional to talk about it until now.

The breakup wasn’t with Techie Boyfriend, if that’s what you’re worried about. It was with the godawful novel she’d been working on for over a year. In many respects, INTERN’s relationship with this novel was more tumultuous than any of her other relationships have been, and the parting of ways was definitely messier. INTERN just didn’t know how to leave.

Lucky for you, INTERN has had eight months to mull things over. Here, with 20-20 hindsight, are six ways to know it’s time to break up with your novel.

You’ve been cheating.

There’s no use trying to deny it any longer—you’ve been sneaking around with another novel. You know, the one your mind drifts to whe…

in which Bob Dylan tells us all the chill the #^$% out

As writing conference season approaches, INTERN has noticed a corresponding rise in anxiety among her editing clients and writer-friends who are hoping to woo an agent at one of those horrifying events called speed-pitching or agent-bombing or Freeze Tag: Agent Edition.

They remind INTERN of newly-minted diplomats being sent to have dinner with an inscrutable and vaguely sinister foreign dignitary, obsessing over the information they read in their briefing:

"The King of Zanzibar will be ENRAGED if you use the little spoon to put sugar in your tea."

"The King of Zanzibar will consider it a MORTAL INSULT if you look at him with your left eye."

"The King of Zanzibar will think you are a BLITHERING IDIOT if you wear any clothing that has a zipper."

When the time comes to meet the King of Zanzibar, our diplomats stumble in twitchy, one-eyed, and fumbling with buttons.

"'Sup," says the King of Zanzibar, who is sitting on the couch in a tracksuit drinki…

Guest Post: The Tricky Territory of Publishing Blogs

Today's guest post is by Intern Liv of the League of Illustrious Interns. Liv works for a literary agency of some repute and has been sworn to bloggerly silence as a condition of her internment. Today, Liv explores the reasons behind anti-blogging policies in the publishing industry—and the benefits of keeping a low profile on the web.

On my first day as an intern for a lit agency, all of us were told that while it would be hard to be fired from an unpaid internship, it was still possible. Aside from general unprofessional behavior that could get a person fired anywhere, blogging about the agency or the internship was definitely one way to get the boot. With so much information already out there (and with many agents blogging about the industry themselves), it’s hard to imagine why blogging, especially from an intern, can be damaging for a literary agency. But here’s why:

1. Projects are kept off the web for a reason. Lots can change between the time a project is submitted to t…

a frightful confession

INTERN has a frightful confession to make, and here it is:

When one of INTERN’s writer-friends publishes a beautifully-crafted short story, INTERN berates herself for not being more literary.

When one of her writer-friends gets a big deal for a paranormal romance, she harangues herself for not being more commercial.

When one of her writer-friends writes a novel in a weekend, she scolds herself for writing so slow.

When one of her writer-friends toils away at his masterpiece for six years, she rebukes herself for writing too fast.

When a sixteen-year old writer-friend lands a three-book deal, she disparages herself for not being young enough.

When a sixty-year old writer-friend publishes her first book, she harasses herself for not being patient enough.

When a writer-friend publishes a book of poems through a small press, she chastises herself for not being obscure enough.

When a writer-friend sells a million copies of a sci-fi monkey thriller, she reproaches herself for not being famous enoug…

Top Ten Reasons You Should Rewrite That Scene

When you're revising a novel, it's easy to lose objectivity become so delusional you can't tell if you've just created a stinking mountain of goat poop or written the next Grapes of Wrath. Each scene starts to read like a passage in a holy text—or does it just feel that way because you've read it so many times the words are looping through your brain like a mantra?

Fear not! INTERN is here to help. Here's INTERN's handy guide to figuring out when it's time to hit the delete key and write that scene again.

10. The scene is not really a scene.

Your scene is not a scene if nothing has changed by the end of it.
Your scene is not a scene if there was no internal or external conflict, no matter how subtle.
Your scene is not a scene if you were too timid to let anything dangerous happen.
Your scene is not a scene if you were too cautious to let anything unexpected happen.
Your scene is not a scene if the reader is banging her head against the wall saying “What wa…

SCANDAL: Techie Boyfriend picks up chicks!

INTERN has been all kinds of sleep-deprived and over-fretful lately, and when Techie Boyfriend and the Ranch Hands made a town run yesterday she elected to stay at home with a blanket over her head.

When they came home, Techie Boyfriend showed INTERN all the lovely produce and spices he'd bought at the market, then handed her a big bag of "vegan snacks" from the bulk bin.

"What is this stuff?" said INTERN, sniffing the paper bag. "It smells like chicken food."

At which point Techie Boyfriend gleefully unveiled the other box of groceries, which was actually A BOX OF CHICKS.

INTERN: *cries* *hugs Techie Boyfriend* *instantly falls in love with chicks*
Techie Boyfriend: *dances around the cabin getting a food bowl and a lamp*

Not to be outdone, one of the Ranch Hands proceeded to catch a baby mouse by the tail:

Surrounded by such wonderful friends and a menagerie of cute baby animals, INTERN forgot all about her silly worries and lived happily ever after.

an interview with the interns

There's an abundance of websites out there dedicated to the study of literary agents—AgentQuery, QueryTracker, Literary Rambles, etc. etc. etc. But what about the interns who act as their front lines of defense? Where's InternQuery where you need it? Who are these unpaid underfed street urchins who field your queries today and might be editing or agenting themselves tomorrow?

INTERN is pleased to announce that select members of the League of Illustrious Interns have kindly agreed to share their loves, hates, deepest desires, and nefarious plans for the publishing industry. Meet the interns—'cause if you're trying to get published, they'll almost certainly be meeting you.


Naughty Intern: Various literary agencies

[note from INTERN: yes, you read that right—some Illustrious Interns work at more than one place. Which means that, technically, the same intern might be reading your query at six different agencies. Come to …

theories of literary greatness that enrage and perplex

INTERN will never forget the time she went to hear Margaret Atwood speak at her university. The auditorium was packed with adoring Canadians. There was a mood of feverish excitement. Even the ushers (who would normally be stoned to the point of psychomotor retardation) moved about briskly, their maroon vests flapping about them like wings.

Margaret Atwood spoke for something like an hour and a half. She must have said many interesting things. But the only thing INTERN remembers Margaret Atwood saying came during the question period.

A small girl, all earnestness and pigtails, had approached the mic to ask Ms. Atwood what she should do if she wanted to be a writer. It was supposed to be some cute and fuzzy moment. Margaret Atwood was supposed to give the girl a kindly grin and coo something about reading lots of books and writing every single day.

Instead, she said something that had the whole audience muttering to one another as they filed out of the auditorium a few minutes l…

chain of (publishing) fools

As writers, we sometimes act like we have an exclusive claim on the misery of rejection. After all, you don't hear stories of agents who wallpaper their livingrooms with rejection letters or editors who lie awake at night wondering why nobody else can see the potential in their ideas.

"Of course they don't!" INTERN can hear you protesting, "They're the gatekeepers! All they have to do is sit around on comfy velvet armchairs rejecting everybody else!"

In fact, quite the opposite is true, as this post by agent Rachelle Gardner reminded INTERN last night. The publishing industry involves rejection at every level, like some sort of Russian nesting doll. Observe:

First, the writer is Rejected by several agents.

Once the writer acquires an agent, that agent is then Rejected by several editors.

Once the agent gets an editor interested, that editor can still be Rejected by the pub board.

Once the pub board has agreed to publish a book, that book can still be Reject…

introducing the League of Illustrious Interns

There is a rumor going around the publishing world. Whispers have been whispered behind the photocopying machine. Knowing glances have been exchanged on the subway. Coded messages have been slipped in between the pages of ARCs.

Everybody's asking "Is it true? Could it be? Is there really a SECRET SOCIETY OF INTERNS being formed at this very moment?"

The answer is yes. But before INTERN says anything more, a brief Historical Note.

In 1876, appalled by the working conditions of the unpaid interns at her husband’s publishing house, Mrs. Augusta Schuster formed the Society for the Advancement of Intern Welfare (SAIF).

Fig. 1: Publishing interns in 1876 suffered from malnutrition, melancholy, and mange.

With the help of several other distinguished ladies in her social circle, Mrs. Schuster championed for the rights up unpaid interns. Thanks to their efforts, publishing interns in New York and London enjoyed a Golden Age that lasted from 1878 until 1929. During this Golden…

announcing the Best Contest Ever

As some of you know, INTERN joined Twitter a couple weeks ago and has been merrily catching up on such marvels as hashtags and YALitChat. One thing that continues to perplex INTERN, however, is the notorious Twitter Contest. Several times in the past week, INTERN has seen a tweet announcing a neat-sounding contest and clicked on the link only to discover something like this:

Enter my awesome amazing contest to win an ARC/first-chapter critique/my agent’s secret e-mail address/this weird pair of underwear I found at the laundromat.

Awesome, right? Enter right now! But first make sure you read the rules (see below).


1. Before you enter, you must first tweet about this contest a minimum of ten times.

2. Also, your tweets need to be in ALL CAPS.

3. Also, you need to follow my blog, and my agent’s blog, and my mom’s blog, and this blog. No fair unfollowing after the contest is over!

4. Also, you need to display this extremely large and poorly-designed button on your blog for the…

7 mindblowing Microsoft Word tricks every writer should know

The other day, INTERN was flabbergasted to discover the existence of page breaks in Microsoft Word, thanks to this handy article about how to format a manuscript. This led INTERN to ponder the fact that, as writers, we spend so many hours—nay, years—of our lives using a computer program of whose many tricks and features we often remain woefully ignorant.

In order to remedy this sad state of affairs, INTERN spent the past few days unearthing some of the very best Microsoft Word tricks for writers. Here they are!

1. Custom AutoCcorrect

Everybody knows that you can set Microsoft Word to autocorrect typos like “teh” for “the”. But did you know that if you’re willing to invest a little bit of time upfront, you can teach Microsoft Word to automatically fill in all the annoying character names, words, and even entire phrases you’re too lazy to write yourself?

Say you're writing a novel about a spunky chap named Petronius Hermonculus Junior who has a habit of exclaiming "I say, I say,…