Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hopeful Writer & the Unsolicited Manuscript (Part 3)

It's a trilogy! (So read Parts 1 & 2 or you'll be even more muddled than everyone else.)

Our story so far: 955 A.D. It is a time when men were knights, days were dark, and everybody was therefore thoroughly confused. Hopeful Writer and the Knights of the Library Study Table have embarked on a grand quest to find a publishing house. Following the SCBWI-Mercia Regional Conference (and a confusing encounter with the terrifying Agent), they have decided to brave all and seek the publisher themselves.

Cue dramatic music.

Hopeful Writer & the Unsolicited Manuscript
Part 3
by Howard Shirley

Exterior, wide shot. Low hill in foreground. A tall, imposing castle rises from a high ridge in the background, silhouetted dramatically against the sky. HOPEFUL WRITER, EAGER ILLUSTRATOR, NUMBED FINGERS, SINCERELY the SUBMITTED and REPETE the REJECTED, enter the scene from the foot of the low hill, backs to the camera. They struggle to the top of the hill and stop.

Cut to close-up of HW, EI, NF, SS, RR staring into the distance.

HW (pointing): At last— the Publisher!

EI.: The Publisher!

NF: The Publisher!

SS: The Publisher!

RR: It’s only an imprint.


Cut away to exterior, below the walls of the castle. The Knights of the Library Study Table approach.

EI (looking around): There doesn’t seem to be a door. Not even a drawbridge.

RR: Of course not. It’s a closed house.

HW: I always wondered what that meant.

SS: Maybe they’ll take a query?

NF: We can try.

HW: I’ll do it. (Looks up at castle, calls out) Excuse me! Hello?

Cut to shot looking up at battlements. The ASSISTANT ASSOCIATE EDITORIAL ASSISTANT (AAEA) appears.

AAEA: What do you want?

HW: Greetings! Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?

AAEA: I’m the Assistant Associate Editorial Assistant.

The KNIGHTS look at each other, trying to puzzle this out.

HW: Greetings, most noble “Assoc...” no, “Edit...” no, that’s not it either... Greetings most noble sir... (NF kicks him)... Madam! I mean, Greetings most noble madam! We are four...

SS: Five!

HW: Five! Uh, humble writers on a quest to find a home for our manuscripts, a quest bestowed upon us by The Agent Him (NF kicks him again)... uh, HERself.

EI: You know, I’m not a writer yet. I do illustrations, so maybe it is four.

HW: So we four writers...

EI: And an illustrator!

HW: Right. And an illustrator would like to respectfully submit our manuscripts to your house.

SS: Oh, well put!

AAEA: No thank you. We’ve already got one.

HW: She says they’ve already got one.

Cut to AAEA inside battlements. The ASSOCIATE ASSISTANT EDITORIAL ASSOCIATE (AAEA 2) is sitting out of sight of the KNIGHTS.

AAEA: I told them we’ve already got one.

AAEA 2 (snickers)


NF: They’ve already got one? What’s that supposed to mean?

EI: One what?

HW: A manuscript, I guess.

RR: But they don’t have any of ours. I think it’s just a stalling tactic.

SS: A stalling tactic?

RR: To see if we’re persistent. A weeding technique.

NF: Maybe if we try a different editor?

HW (to castle): Is there anyone else we can talk to?

AAEA 2 is now standing on the battlements, and AAEA is out of sight.

AAEA 2: No. Now go away, or I shall reject you a second time.

EI: Is that the same person?

NF: It doesn’t look like the same person.

SS: I know the turnover rate in publishing is really bad, but this is ridiculous.

HW: Did anybody pick up the latest edition of Writer’s Market at the conference?

RR (holds up book): Door prize!

NF: Well, look her up.

HW (takes book, thumbs through it.): It says here she’s the “Associate Assistant Editorial Associate.”

EI: So, she is who we queried the first time.

NF: No, that was the Assistant Associate Editorial Assistant.

RR: What’s the difference?

AAEA 2 (from battlement): Wash room privileges!

HW: So, what do we do?

EI: Send chocolate?

SS: Wrap it in gold ribbon; catch her eye.

RR: Just tell her we saw her at a conference.

NF: Did we see her at a conference?

RR: Could have. They all blur together after awhile.

NF: The editors, or the conferences?

RR: Both.

HW (to AAEA 2): We, uhm, heard you at a conference. Will you at least take a sample?

AAEA 2: Oh, all right. Lob one over the transom.

NF: Over the what?

RR: She means to send her something without an agent.

SS: I thought we just did that.

EI: No, that was the query. This will be a sample.

SS: Oh.

(Suddenly something strikes RR on the head. RR falls over.)

HW: Repete! Are you okay? What hit you?

RR (lying on ground, holds up a piece of paper tied to a rock; weakly): Submission guidelines.

SS: Way to take one for the team, Repete!

NF: We’d better follow these exactly.

EI (opens paper): These are very odd.

HW: Where are we going to find that much chocolate?

RR (from ground, weakly): Little help, please?

Cut to full shot of AAEA 2 looking over the battlements. AAEA peeks above the edge.

Cut to shot of woods; no one can be seen. Sounds of typing, cries of “More paper!” “Paper jam!”“We’re out of toner!” “HOW much is this costing us in ink?!?”

Cut to extreme close-up of a wrapped package tied up in gold ribbon. The package is labeled: “Requested at Conference You Were At This Year. Really.”

Cut to shot of KNIGHTS, all helping to carry the package.

NF: Do we have enough postage on this thing?

RR: Postage? We’re not using postage.

NF: Then how are we going to send it?

HW: Just like she said. We’re lobbing it over.  All right everybody, on the count of four!

SS: But there are five of us.

EI: But I’m the illustrator. That makes four.

RR: Will you guys quit yammering and help toss the package?

(They begin swinging the package back and forth to the count.)

HW: One! Two! Three! Five!


HW: Right! Four!

They toss.

Cut to wide shot of package sailing through the air and over the wall.

Cut to shot of AAEA and AAEA 2 watching the package.

AAEA 2: Nice lob. I didn’t think they’d have enough postage.

AAEA: Fetchez le voche!

AAEA 2: What?

AAEA: Sorry, wrong idiom. Get the you-know-what.

AAEA 2 (thumbing through French-English dictionary.): You want a cow?

AAEA: No! Look, I already apologized about the idiom. Get the you-know-what!

AAEA 2: Oh! The you-know-what. Gotcha!

Cut to KNIGHTS. They’re sitting on the ground, looking bored.

NF: So, what’s the response time on this publisher?

SS: Did anybody check Verla Kay?

SFX: Loud “twang.” Whooshing sound.

EI: Wait. I think I hear something!

Knights look up.

Cut to extreme close-up of falling package.

Cut to Knights, looking in fear.

KNIGHTS: Ah! Flee! Run away!

Knights run.

Package hits RR on the head.

RR: Like I didn’t see that one coming. (Falls over.)

SS: Neat! Who included the return postage?

NF: Seemed like a good idea.

RR (from ground, weakly): Oh yeah. Terrific.

EI: What’s in it? Revision notes? They want the manuscript?

HW: I’ll open it. (Takes package.)

RR (from ground): Don’t mind me. I’m all right. Really.

HW (opens package): It’s a rock.

SS: That’s what I’d call a solid rejection.

EI: But there’s a note.

NF (reading): “Thanks for the manuscript. We needed the fire starter. P.S. The chocolate was delicious.”

SS: Well, it’s very personable. Maybe they’d like to see something else?

RR (from ground): Mind if I move first? Like, to a bunker?

HW: We’ve got to get it past the associate assistants. Make the editor-in-chief want the book.

SS: I’ve got it! Listen up, here’s what we do...

Cut to battlements. AAEA and AAEA 2 look over in curiosity again.

Cut to forest. More cries: “Dang! The printer needs a new drum!”  “Geez, might as well buy a new printer!” “This is all tax deductible, right?”

Cut to close-up of new package. The knights carry it up near the castle, then place a big sign on it.

Cut to sign: New Original Manuscript By J.K. Rowling. Seriously.

The knights sneak off.

Cut to knights watching from bushes.

Cut to castle. A portion of the wall opens, and AAEA sneaks out, looking around for watchers. Seeing none, she picks up package and sign and sneaks back through opening. It closes.

SS: A secret passage! I knew it!

NF: Okay, now what?

SS: Oh, it’s simple. The big editor will want that one. He’ll read the letter, where we apologize for the Rowling bit, and he’ll be so impressed by our cleverness that he’ll read the manuscript, and...

HW: Wait. What letter was that?

SS: The cover letter.

HW: I didn’t write a cover letter. (to NF) Did you write a cover letter?

NF: Not me. (to EI) Did you?

EI: I’m an illustrator, remember? Art speaks for itself.

RR: Oh crap.

SFX: Loud “twang.” Falling noise.

KNIGHTS: Flee! Run away!

The knights run.

A package hits RR on the head.

RR: Why did I bother to get up? (Falls over.)

NF: My, that was fast.

SS: Ya know, I don’t think this is the right publisher for us.

RR (weakly, from the ground): What was your first clue?

HW: Well, we’ve been thoroughly rejected. What do we do now?

NF: Same thing we do after every rejection.

EI: Try to take over the world?

RR (from ground): Python, not Pinky!

NF: Attend another conference.

ALL: Right!

SS: Hey, there’s still some chocolate in this package. Anybody want a coconut creme?



A Knights of the Library Study Table Production.

This is a work of fiction. All characters in this production are entirely made up. Really. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

No actual writers were harmed in the making of this film.

RR (voice over): Speak for yourself. Those packages hurt.

Fade to black.


SUBTITLE: What? Don’t start this again!


The tale is done, but the quest never ends.

--- Howard Shirley


Anonymous said...

Dear HW,
I know your quest seems arduous, but do persevere. I, Lowly Intern, have recently read your manuscript, and in my humble opinion, it is TOTALLY AWESOME. I hope you're targeting the right houses which specialize in this genre. And despite your 'scary encounter', you should seriously reconsider getting an agent - from what I'm learning at publishing school, the golden era of over-the-transom submissions is as dead and gone as the basket of fish that Devon threw at the count.
From inside the castle walls,
Yours encouragingly,

Howard Shirley said...

Thanks, for the kind words and the encouragement, LI!

I haven't actually met an agent quite like The Agent, but the confusion as to what agents want (and the Catch 22 regarding agents and publishers) is definitely part of a writer's lot.

I'm glad you enjoyed the manuscript. It's always a pleasure to hear when someone has read and enjoyed it. I've had a fun morning guessing as to which castle you're in, and what that may portend. (We writers play that sort of guessing game a lot. You'd be amazed at how many different ways there are of parsing the phrase, "not right for our list at this time.")

For other readers curious about the reference to Devon and the fish, go here. It won't tell you about the fish; for that you'll have to request the manuscript. (Editors and agents: Yes, that's an invitation.) :-)

--- Howard