Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Quest for Quirk

I got just a tiny taste of what it must be like to be an agent looking at dozens of submissions every day.

I participated in my first blogfest last week, hosted by FictionGroupie, where we all shared and commented on each other's dialogue. When I first signed up, there were forty-some writers; by the date of the blogfest, it had expanded to over 100. While there were a few dedicated souls that read all 100+ dialogue samples, I knew I would only have time to look about about twenty or so. So how did I go about choosing which blogs to look at?

Out of the list of over 100, I recognized about five names, other blogs I'd visited several time before, and those where my first reads. But after that, I was looking at a list of names that meant nothing to me. So I started picking out the more interesting names. The quirky names.

Here's a sample: Drama Queen, Laurel’s Leaves, Book Dreaming, Prophetic Pictures, Southern Princess, Genie of the Shell, At the Bijou, the Writings of Doobla (but my name is Dominique), Shelley Sly (that may be her real name, but what a great name!), Georgia Gypsy Rae, Writer Unleashed, and Write-Brained.

Aren't we more intrigued by the quirky name? I know I sure was. Now to be fair, I did pick a few plain names and found some excellent dialogue. But just like an agent with a limited amount of time, something had to grab my attention right away for me to keep reading.

A powerful lesson, my webends. Me thinks I will not be entering anymore blogfests or contests as merely Margo Berendsen anymore. "Writing at High Altitude" is somewhat better on the quirk-scale, but I still think it reflects my scientific/technical background more than it reflects my middle-grade/YA quirky voice that I know I need to have to grab an agent's attention.

Just curious how many of y'all agree (look! an attempt at voice! so disgusted with my bland technical writing voice that I have to use at work, I just reverted to my Southern roots) with my hypothesis (darn it, there I go again) shot in the dark?

If you had to pick a dozen excerpts to read out of a hundred, would you be tempted to pick the quirkier samples over the plain janes?


  1. Don't really know.

    Given my usual scan the beginning, I think I'd go with something that hooked my interest ... until I ran out of time.

    Yes, I time myself when I go online.

  2. Im more likely to read a blog that has a catchy title - like yours. I like the title to tell me something. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I currently under construction. Have a great week!

  3. Are you a technical writer too, Margo?? I just got back into it (and training) after a stint in human resources!

    But - back to your question - I'm not really sure. I suppose it's natural inclination to glance and the things that catch your attention, and witty/creative names and titles tend to catch mine. I'm always jealous of people who can come up with clever titles (like yours!). So, round about, yes, I'd probably be more likely to look at something catchy...

  4. Very interesting post! I tend to skim if there's too much to read like big chunks of paragraphs, so I always make sure my first page is easy and in small chunks. Names do catch my attention, and that's why my character names are always unique!

  5. You make a very fine point about the attraction of the unusual, the thing that jumps out at us and demands our attention (I think I read somewhere that it's our reptilian brain that is fascinated with shiny new things; then again, maybe it's the monkey in us!).

    However, I would stick with your name (at least as far as your blogger identity) - Writing at High Altitude is an *awesome* name for the blog, but when you're roaming the blogosphere, you want people to remember you, which is Margo. Because someday your name is going to be on a book "Fabulous Debut Novel by Margo Berendsen" and you want to carry your brand identity over to that book.

    Just my 2 cents. (also: I've noticed more writer bloggers coming out from behind their fascinating pennames to build author brand with their real names)

  6. Kay - right on!

    Jan - glad you thought my title was catchy, thanks for stopping by

    Jamie - yes I write research papers. Awfully dry stuff. I still enjoy it though, just wish it didn't wear me out so much for more creative writing!

    Aubrie - I'm learning to pick my first couple sentences really carefully, even in my blog posts, because it's only the title and first sentence or two you see on your blogger dashboard, to entice you to read more. And I agree absolutely, characters with unique names are more likely to attract me.

    Susan - good point. Definitely plan to keep my real name as my blogger name so it shows up with my comments. But if I ever do a blogfest again, I might try to entrap people with "BlackWidowWriter" or something (grin)

  7. you are invited to follow my blog

  8. Absolutely I am drawn to a name. Like a title of book giving you an idea of the story, a blog can also draw me in with a name description giving me an idea of its content.

  9. Gah! Yeah, I'm drawn to a name, too... Darn it! *sigh* What to do. I think deep down, I'm really just boring.

  10. I definitely lean more toward the quirky--I'm a total sucker for voice!

  11. Interesting idea! I'll have to think about it more...

    in the meantime, I'll guess that title and first sentence quirkiness grab me. I love the unique and the outlandish. And most especially the genuine.

    :o) Great thoughts!

  12. More comments! Goody!

    Lynn - yes, that's exactly it. Like a title of book giving you an idea of the story, the blog name should give a hint of the content, or at least the character, of the blog's contents

    Bethanne - I struggle with feeling like I'm the most boring or unoriginal person on earth too. But I believe each of us is gifted with a unique voice, and unique ideas - but we all have to go through Wizard of Oz-like troubles (and hopefully adventures, too) before we can truly bring our voice/ideas out. Just hoping I can be spared the tornado and wicked witch part of it though :)

    Lisa & Laura - in a competitive market with lots of GOOD writers, voice is one thing that can make you stand out & get noticed, isn't it?

    Jackee - ah yes, GENUINE is so important. If you just try to imitate someone else's voice, it's not genuine. Still, imitation can be a good place to start. You just can't let yourself stop there.



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