I’d like to introduce you to the judge of today’s Caption Contest, Dan Krokos.
Dan shot to urban legend status when his query letter won over on Query Shark.
On the first try.
Then the Query Shark, literary agent Janet Reid, did an interview with BBC Radio about query letters. After the host read Dan’s letter on the air she gave the following response:
“That’s essentially a perfect query letter. And in fact…Dan Krokos wrote that and I signed him as a client about twenty-five seconds after I read the novel.”
Yeah, that made us writers still licking the condensation from the outside of the writing pool just to keep our parched dreams alive sit up and take notice.
So, without further ado, here’s Dan…
Tell us about Dan Krokos
I’m 25, living in a suburb of Cleveland(for now), and writing full time. Before that, I worked at a gas station for NINE YEARS. I went to school part time, toying with Law Enforcement, then English. During that time, I plowed through many manuscripts and read agent blogs feverishly and ruined several relationships. Once my book sold, I quit the gas station, and decided school was for losers. I’m hoping that decision doesn’t bite me in the ass one day, but chasing my dream isn’t a bad way to live.
What is one piece of advice you have for writers trying to break into the business?
Put writing first.
I wrote casually for six months, then went for a two week stretch where I didn’t write anything. It was scary. I asked myself if this was what I really wanted to do, all the way, no looking back. It was. So I put writing first. I worked 54 hours a week and went to school part time, but I put myself on the pace to write three manuscripts a year. I was getting better with each one—I could see it—so I thought eventually I HAD to become publishable.
I skipped many social engagements in my early twenties. I skipped seeing my family. I alienated people. Because I had to succeed. Having a terrible job helped. But really, swallow all that self-doubt and just sit down and write something. It’s going to suck. Put it in a drawer. Don’t become attached to stuff. Keep moving forward. If your momentum is high you can outrun that doubt.
Wow, this is turning into like seventeen pieces of advice.
But I guess the main idea is, Put writing first.
Twitter—a valuable networking tool or an unbelievable time suck?
Time suck. Here’s another piece of advice. Shut your mouth. Stop talking about writing and write. You don’t need to network. If you get an agent and maybe want to make some author friends on twitter, fine. Otherwise shut up about writing and write. Read agent blogs, not authors’ shitty, self-absorbed timelines. Unless you don’t have a job, time management is key, and every free moment should be spent learning your craft. I sometimes wish I never got on twitter, even though I’ve met some great real life friends there.
What are your thoughts on the recent rise in authors, both established and new, going the self-publishing route?
I don’t like it. We need gatekeepers. We need agents and editors to make us shine. Here’s a cool thing: without my agent and editor, I would not be publishable. Unless someone reads my stuff and gives me notes, it’s just a first draft, or a second draft, or a third. It’s not final. There will always be problems I can’t see on my own, especially the closer I am to the manuscript. And I’m not the only one. Some writers turn in real train wrecks and expect everyone to make it better.
The point is, unless these self-published works are going through the same hurdles as published works, I don’t want to have anything to do with them. I like knowing that when I pick up a book, the author didn’t just have their mom proofread it before slapping it up on Amazon. If your book doesn’t snag an agent, write another one. It’ll be better, anyway.
What was your absolute last thought before you pushed “send” on your query letter for Query Shark?
Probably a combination of “I got this” and “Oh, shit.” I knew it would be okay because I spent months on it, while writing the first draft. I spent time reading agent blogs and knew what to do, and what not to do. And I tweaked each sentence and reordered things until I didn’t even want to look at it anymore. If you aren’t reading about queries when you’re not writing, you’re hamstringing yourself. Study it. It’s just a few paragraphs.
What was your absolute first thought when you heard you’d “won” over at Query Shark?
Maybe I’m good enough to do this after all. And at the very least, a professional in the industry has given me a nod of approval.
What do you visualize yourself doing one second after you hold your ARC for the first time?
Maybe rubbing it all over my face. Probably taking it around town to show my friends and family that, yes, this is really happening.
Who gets the first copy of your debut novel?
Is your agent, Janet Reid, every bit as amazing as she comes across on her blog?
And more. Some writers need their agent to hold their hand, to tell them everything will be okay. To sugarcoat things. Janet doesn’t feed me BS, and she doesn’t take any from me. But she also knows when to give a confidence boost.
Not to mention her line edits make my sentences sing. She cut two thousand superfluous words from my latest novel without batting an eye or spilling her scotch.
Tell us more about your upcoming novel* so we’ll know what we’re buying when we all converge on Amazon the day pre-orders become available.
(*False Memory, the first in a trilogy, coming from Disney•Hyperion in 2012.)
It’s about a girl who loses all her memories, and has to rediscover her old life and the people in it. Turns out she’s a weapon of mass destruction, along with her friends, intended to be sold as ready-made super soldiers to foreign nations. The more she discovers about herself, the better armed she is to fight back against the people who created her. It is safe to say there will be some false memories.
Think of Jason Bourne, with teens, and a few heavy splashes of futurism. Most of all, it’s a thriller.
Writers Everywhere Want to Know…
If you could occupy the world described in a novel, which would you choose?
This is insanely difficult and hinges on too many conditions. If I was just going to be ME, I’d say (and this counts, because there are a ton of novels in this universe) Buffy. I’d want to fight evil with the gang. But instead of being a dumbass like Xander, I’d actually train so I wasn’t getting beat down all the time.
Now if I could be like the characters in a world, that changes things. Being a wizard in Harry Potter sounds fun.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Flight. I think it’s best to fight crime with. Super strength and invincibility could still lead to my containment. Super speed would be good, but who doesn’t want to fly?
If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do?
Something with tigers. I love tigers. Real hard.
If you could have one current writer write your biography, who would you pick?
Josh Bazell, just because he’s my favorite, and maybe he’d interview me and we could hang out and be best buds. Or Charlie Huston for all the same reasons.
And now, to the eternal question. The one everyone wants to know…
Plotter or Pantster?
Both. I don’t sit down with NO IDEA of what happens next. I outline maybe 10-30, sometimes 50 pages in advance. It’s really just basic stuff like “Miranda goes here, does this.” Maybe a snippet of dialogue. Writing that down gives me a few days to work out any kinks, and it allows me to sit down and be productive. I think that’s called the headlight method. It works. Try it.
There’s nothing worse (besides rabies, maybe) than sitting down and not knowing where to go. Because when that happens, I check twitter. Or io9.com, or funny cat pictures. Or do anything but write.
Keeping the outline sparse means I can still experience that wonderful discovery only writers can have. When you’re in the middle of a scene and genius strikes. And I don’t even always follow the outline. I’ve found the more I write, the easier it is to let go. The outline is a safety net. If I remind myself to stay loose, I have a lot more fun.
It also helps to have a vague idea of the ending, just so you know what you’re building towards. Right now I’m “plotting” the third False Memory book. I know how it ends, and how it begins, and once I have a few more ideas on the middle, I’ll sit down and start drafting.
Thanks to Dan for an informative, fun interview!
Now, on to the Caption Contest!
Entrants shall write a caption for the following picture…
(Yes, this is a pig. Yes, it’s in my yard. A story for another day :D)
Enter your caption in the comments section of this post.
Humor is appreciated, but not required.
Entry deadline is Saturday, July 2nd at 11:59pm (Pacific Standard Time)
Winner and runner-up will be announced when Dan completes judging.
Winner receives the book, The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. (Thanks to Dan for offering up such a great prize!)
Runner-up receives a prize pack of writing goodies from me.