New York City Blogging – General Notes

  • fckn HUMID! Why, NYC, why?!? 😭
  • abgeranzt but alive
  • defying the German urge to obey the Ampelmännchen
  • the hotel is also abgeranzt but expensive
  • paying, like, 120 bucks for vibes and the rest for the room
  • not me freezing my ass of in the subway after simmering in the humidity outside
  • the face of a person starting to sweat at 18° C without humidity
  • I don’t understand English anymore suddenly, I don’t know
image of Maria Carey putting on sunglasses. The caption that usually reads "I can't read suddenly, I don't know" is changed to "I can't understand English suddenly, I don't know".
  • Chinatown being 95% masked people 😍
  • no way to open the window but a/c?
    • I’ll die from nosebleeds, is2g
  • the metro system being much easier than anticipated
  • the people are very – people-y, everybody is fashion
  • all sockets actually D:
  • 50/50 chance of getting the directions right
  • accidentally buying fizzy cocktail-y drinks instead of iced tea (thank you Chinatown?)
  • why is soda/water so fckn expensive here?
  • NYC being humid only for me? 🤨
  • NYC putting up no helpful signs pointing at the correct exits for sights, like do I look as if I know which exit to take for the Empire State Building? Not to mention which direction to go above ground
  • Now? NOW? I get my period after 3 months off??? Fckn fck that 🤬
  • oh, so the window opens after all, too late though because it is fckn humid AGAIN
  • thought I’d be more impressed with NYC overall 🤷‍
  • auch auf Deutsch ist nur “wältigt” kein Wort
  • water tanks on roofs? Quaint
  • fooking humidity again from Friday on
  • still generally underwhelmed
  • LOVE the subway system, tho. Get me to a station and I am safe
  • why does 78% here smell either of weed or half-brewed beer? BOTH MEME
  • Hating the taste of chlorine and having fine taste buds for it won’t make you happy here
  • wtf did I think post boxes are red?!?
  • a big city I don’t wanna live in 🤷‍
  • not getting the free rides I was promised after the first 12 or even the first 14 *le sigh*
  • will never be over the tax thing, like, come on, it’s not that hard to price with tax included
  • all streets named the same everywhere
  • “Do Not Hold Hands Door” signs on subway

Lies on the Phone

And so we lie to ourselves on the phone
let’s make it better than it is
it appears you’re fine
(I’m fine)
and if you are
so am I.

Let’s play pretend.

And so we lie to each other on the phone.
I’m fine
I’m fine
yeah, fine.
But the lies we spread
over the bloody mess of ourselves
doesn’t help a bit
too gauze thin
holding nothing
hiding nothing.

We know each other to well.
We know it’s just pretend.

In the end
we both bleed lonely
and knowing

Did You Say “Free Floating Dialogue”?!? 👀

I think we have all come across it. I think we have all written it. There’s exercises in writing only dialogue to make it stronger. There’s also plays but those are a different bunny entirely. I am not talking about plays here.

I must admit that I didn’t always notice free floating dialogue (FFD). My background is in fanfic where you can write as you please and it pleases a surprising (?) number of people to have FFD. I never thought to take note because as long as I am not losing sight of who says what, I’m good.

In a recent workshop, I commented on the phenomenon.


Because I have now been trained to notice and avoid it. (It doesn’t always work, ok?) And while I typed out my comment that the dialogue was rather free floating I started wondering why commented on that? Why did I take the time to comment? Because I don’t care. I only noticed because I trained to notice.

In the workshop the subject came up with my dialogue as well. (What did I say above? 😭?) The explanation was also a good one. It is like a camera in a stationary close up. Nothing moves, nothing happens! Just talking faces!!!

Have you seen the music video for Proof by I am Kloot? Because it is just that (with the extremely ogleable face of Christopher Eccleston, too!). You get to see his face for three minutes straight. Nothing happens. Well, almost. In the end, he smiles. And boy, does that have an impact.

FFD is similar for me. The scope is a little bigger – face and shoulders (for the Shrugging™). And that is all I need really. People have expressions. And there is nothing to distract from this intense and intimate observation of two (or more) people lost in conversation. The smallest gestures carry weight and meaning. (Think of the hand-brushing in period dramas).

To you this may be heads floating in space. To me this is the experience of pure conversation, undistracted and served on the silver platter of (hyper)focus.

I don’t want to be grounded in the bloody world. I want to be grounded in the dialogue!

I do not want to hear about sunshine reflecting somewhere or the sound of feet going by or the scent of lost love wafting on a gentle breeze. Those are all intruders on a perfect conversation. Take those distractions away and let me focus on what is important here.

But Mel, what if I need the surrounds for the dialogue to work for me? That, my friend, sounds like a you-problem. And one you don’t have to worry about because we’re currently all being trained to write like that.

PS. The note I took during workshop.

a white paper on which is written with blue biro in a bad hand-writing: If so many people write "free-floating" dialogue on instinct and reading it is just fine - Who do we have to Stop? The question is written bigger and underlined three times.

I want to cast great words like landscapes
rolling ‘r’s like hills and grass in the wind
sweeping hosts of mountains
high glaciers of clear expression and snow
tumbling off the tongue in avalanches of meaning
Tiny figures on the outskirts of the grand scenery
and the sky, the sky like endless blue
punctuated by wisps of white cloud
spread above in sheets
white on blue like black on white
mingling, intertwining in my head
in one huge knot, unresolvable
set free with one cutting word
with feelings too great to hold in any plain
language or covered with grass

Mel’s Big Querying Adventure

When I wrote about dealing with the trenches, I realised I have a thing to say (or even two thing) about actually querying.

Piglet from Winnie the Poo running in a circle erratically with their arms over their head, screaming.
live footage of me entering the querying trenches

I was excited and dreaded it at the same time. Friends were already in the trenches, and some had been for a while with AMAZING books, like, how did tradpub not fall over itself to acquire those? (Now I know why, but I do not see it or I will cry. 😭)

The first thing you notice when you enter the trenches is that there is no industry standard. There are a lot of people (agents) claiming to tell you the industry standard, but that is just their preferences. There is GUIDELINES which you have learnt by the time you finish. I guess.

I immediately got confused because I am a structured mind that way and wanted to write The Perfect™ query and that is impossible.

A Roborovski dwarf hamster is running in a red running wheel. Suddenly it is caught by the wheel and spins around in, flipping over and over.
live footage of me trying to write the perfect query

I decided to put housekeeping first, agonised of the comp I felt nobody knew (over which I’d agonise again later again because it won a Hugo…) and the comp I felt was way too big. I curated a list of agents and made sure I did not put anybody on there who is on the tea list.

Then the fun began. Because some agents use query manager and some use e-mail and some even have but a general contact form on the agency website for you to paste vaguely specified things into. (I wish I was kidding. 😔)


I tried, I really did. But the line between personal and creepy is difficult to discern for me (nd mess, remember). I quickly settled on the “Dear Firstname Lastname” greeting because pronouns are a thing and not everybody puts them where you can find them.

Then I despaired, because how to personalise with something they don’t know (its on your MSWL!) and not be stalkery (you posted a pic of this on 06.11.1987)?

David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor in pyjamas and a dressing gown. He speaks exaggerating his expression and gestures. The caption reads "I don't know."

What I do now is use my template and change it a little. Is it a bad template? Probably. But you get ME within the very first line and if you can’t with that, I think we’re both better off if we don’t. I am also looking for a second comp yet again because nothing is a best second fit. I will go down comping FINNA by Nino Cipri, though. If you not read that yet, read it now.


I started with housekeeping at the top because that’s where it belongs, right? To give the agent the facts and they know what they’re about to get into. Then I went to put housekeeping at the bottom because I am in love with my log line and it makes a great opening. (If you like getting the central internal conflict of the protag shoved into your face with a horrible pun.)

I am now back at housekeeping at the top because I use the log line to log off (so to speak).

So which is the right way?

Hell, if I know. 🤷‍♀️ Hell, if agents know. 🤷‍♂️ As a guide I really like this: if the beginning of your blurb is so strong it punches an agent out of their socks, housekeeping at the bottom. If your housekeeping holds something especially catchy for the agent (comp their dream comp or something like that), housekeeping at the top.

Does it help? Hell, if anybody knows.


How to write a blurb? I have no idea.

I have written a felt gazillion of blurbs for Sava. They were all inaccurate. The punchier they got, the less truthful they felt. Though the blurb may not be the right place for nuance, considering the number of words you’re allowed.

Still I feel the blurb should be truthful enough that an agent doesn’t go all frowny-faced when they read the pages and recognise nothing from the blurb that excited them.

There are formulas to help you distil the blurb. I hope they help you better than me.


I agonised over this, too. I am not a very interesting person. I am an enby nd mess. I like bad puns. I have no writing credits. (But Mel, what about this blog? Listen, if an agent finds it on their own, that’s on them.) I am not marketable. 📉

I solved this by being snarky about myself and mentioning the 1.5 mil words I have on AO3. (If an agent finds my stories there, congrats, you found some fucking good fanfic. Enjoy!)

Finally, I had a complete query that followed enough of the rules in a way that made it look query-shaped. I felt ready. (A lie, but you gotta do what you gotta do.) I set out to query the first agent and – synopsis.

Nobody likes writing a synopsis. I was happy when it was over, and all the important events were strung together in a causative way.

Squidward from Spongebob sitting curled up in a small cardboard box with its lid on his head. He is flying into a grey time-tunnel with lighting  shooting across it.
live footage of me entering the querying trenches

The last step was exporting the requested lengths of my manuscript. Which, again no standard, ranged between 5 pages and 50 pages and three chapters and an excerpt. At least that was easy to create.

Querying At Last

I started sending out my e-mail queries. That went okay. I am still unhappy with personalisation. But it gets easier with practice.

But Mel, the personal touch!

Listen, agents get as much of a personal touch as I expect in return.

*cries in form rejection*

I started querying with Query Manager. It is a great idea in theory and often in reality as well. On the other hand, still no industry standard. You may encounter some strange things in QM. The basics are easy and nice. It remembers what you typed in, so I only have to type the first letter and can autofill. That is nice. Keep forgetting my name. (Joking, I’m just lazy.)

Then it gets fun again. Usually there is a field to paste your query. And one for a specified amount of manuscript. The amount may once again vary between one page and everything. BUT now you don’t have the page!pages any longer. Had I known! I could have kept the last two sentences of my chapter after all…

Cartoon showing the close-up of a keyboard. One key is bigger and red, it has the word 'cheat' on it. A green finger is pressing it.

The real fun begins with the extras. You may or may not need a synopsis, or a bio, a pitch, more books like your ms, perfect audience. There may be questions about superheroes, your favourite whatevers.

Overall, I agree that the form is very helpful if you are an nd mess like me.

On the other hand, you can easily turn it into a fresh new hell should you be so inclined. I was asked why I think we’d be a good match, like, bro. How do I know? Starting point is we both love my ms. Then we chat and see if we get along. Is there another way to know?

Half body shot of David Tennant as Benedic from Much Ado About nothing. He is wearing a superman tee and holds a can of soda with a curly straw while he says: I think not.

I mean, I do believe we’re both adults and able to enter a professional relationship with clear communication, mutual respect, and, hopefully, horrible puns. Or at least memes. GIFs? 🥺

I don’t think agents are trying to be mean or something. Sometimes I get the feeling they are not aware of the power imbalance and how questions look from down here.

To most questions I will find a quip or pun or actual answer. Maybe a complete rant if you ask about the Arishok in Dragon Age 2. But the above or similar questions will make me spiral and get all the anxiety.

Simple and seemingly innocent things like: something fun about yourself (Sir, I am a bore!), fave TV show (OFMD, nobody else likes Project Runway, gotta lie!), fave food (do you know how many online Disk Horses end with blood spill about food? 😭).

I know others for who questions my head considers easy are more difficult. Also, do I want an agent who may diss me because I think Marvel and DC are the same company and probably owned by Disney anyway?

Last but not least. I keep seeing agents talking about how they do like their queries. The one time I back-checked with the queries of books the agent then represented – let’s say there was a certain disconnect between the Want and what got accepted.

So, whatever the advice is, take it with a grain of salt. There are only two rules in querying you can trust:

  1. You can do anything, if you do it well.*
  2. Agents know what they want when they see it

* “Well” being subject to whatever the individual agent considers to be well.


Querying is a squishy gloop of non-standard piled on top of a skeleton of personal agent preferences. You cannot win. There is no good time to query. All times to query are bad times. You learn as you stumble along, and you won’t get anywhere without an army of shoulders to cry on.

So – if you see me in the trenches, say hi and let’s share a cry.

Half shot of a young Asian man sitting behind his laptop. He starts crying and buries his face hin his hands.


Soft and silly, broken hearted
I made myself a tower
strong and tall
it’s only a heart, I can mend it
shattered pieces on night skies sparkling
never fails, that one
dedicated stabbing, running soft things through
constellations to lead you
invincible, unbreachable, untouchable, unreachable
deep and dark and deadly
what’s the difference?
I’m still here
cold and hard and true
there’s hope in the pain
piecing together
who I was and lost and where
and your words fall on stones
I know, I know, I know
your words are water, salty as you leave
and still I yearn
holding on and letting go
what else is life
I know how that feels
and one day, one day, maybe
with what never was
stitching up the pieces that once were you
picking stars from the sky
From the very top
those eyes are mine and deep and dark and drunken
little presents loaded high
I can see the sea
on the sight of you

Crafting Emotional Sense

I have said it for some time now, and I’ll say it again: I do not care if stories make logical sense. I want them to make emotional sense. Reading Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses makes want to write so many essays that I might as well start here. (His words make a lot of things click into place and make sense after simmering in a soup of useless craft advice for decades. Meta-language and recognition are important.)

The assumption is that stories make sense. The assumption is that this sense is logical (aka adheres to the laws to logic, time, and space) and develops inevitably from the actions and events in the story. The assumption is that I care about a logically infallible structure.

I do not.

I care about characters and their emotional journeys. I want to see them develop and grow into being more themself. I want to see their connections with other characters and how that moves them and , by proxy, the world.

Logic has little to do with that. (Like with wisdom, logic is the beginning of storytelling, not the end…)

Old Spock in black robes holding a blue cup in both hands. The caption reads: Logic is the beginning of wisdom, Valeris, not the end.

Now I have to understand that an emotionally satisfying arc is many different things to many different people. And most of those people are not like me and want something else than I do. Valid.

On the other hand I have always known there is also people like me. Who want the same arc as me, who will bloody well write it if needs be. (Yes, yes I am talking fanfic here, the one place I got what I wanted for the longest time.)

So, if it existed, and people wanted it – why was it not in publishing?

I think there are many answers and most tie back in to what is considered Good Craft and how it perpetuates itself with little regard of anything outside it’s narrow cone. We learn how to correctly read a story early on and are taught by reverse conclusion, the right way to tell a story. If it doesn’t resonate with me, that has to be an me-problem, yes?

It is not.

The wrong preconception is that to be good, a story must mirror the world and it’s laws as we know them. The idea that only thorough research and a carefully and completely logically knit net of world-building will make a story palatable. We talk about stories making sense in-universe.

We keep forgetting that sometimes it does make sense in-universe that the laws of physics bend to the needs of the emotional character arcs.

Think of the dance scene in the first episode of The Umbrella Academy where they all dance on their own in this big empty house. Does it make logical sense? No. Is it likely? Also no.

But is makes emotional sense and tells a story on a level I crave. Characters. Who they are and how they relate. And how, by wanting to act on and change those relationships, they change the world.

Another great example is Our Flag Means Death which follows this doctrine to the T.

Everything, and that includes absolutely everything, is secondary to the emotional character arcs. Time and space may exist, but in case of doubt, they have no power. The ocean can be navigated in a rowboat with nothing but the clothes on your back and a gaydar to find your destination.

What I really love about it is how nobody even questions it. Take a rowboat to the Republic of Pirates? No biggie. Invitation to a party on a boat? In the middle of the ocean? So what? We will find it no problem.

This holds true until the very end where Stede just boards his own rowboat and finds his crew stranded on a tiny island which could be anywhere. Is it likely? No. Is it possible? Also no.

But once again, it makes sense emotionally. The story is making very different promises to its audience and we understand them. (And in this case, trust them. It’s the reason nobody actually believes Lucius is dead. Why we a certain that little piece of red silk will find its way back to Ed.)

Stede Bonnet from Our Flag Means Death in a white pirate shirt and black trousers stands up in a rowboat and extends his right to the sky, emulating a lighthouse.

For once I look at a piece of media and see my own ideas of story logic mirrored there.

I understand that this method is more hit-and-miss finding its readers than copying the laws of logic. IMO, it is also a lot more rewarding when it hits home.