Talking Plot Points, and Considering Submissions

Voila: The Essentials of Plot, the talk I delivered in Kansas City last week.

As I say in the introduction, this is a stripped-down version of "Aristotle, Austen, Plot, and Pleasure" -- the plot talk I gave at Asilomar -- where I basically cut out all the personal stuff (a long introduction on how I fell in love with Jane Austen) and replaced all the Pride and Prejudice examples with examples from contemporary children's literature. I think I will still post "Aristotle, Austen," at some point as a tribute to Owen Jenkins (who indirectly taught me pretty much everything in the talk) and for the pleasure of my fellow P&P fans, but this version is much tighter and easier to follow altogether, I do believe.

I also created an Aristotelian Plot Checklist to show how all the theoretical stuff in the talk can be applied to your WIP. Again as I say in the introduction, this checklist is very much my own editorial WIP, so if you use it to check over your novel, I'd love to hear what you find useful and not. The same for the talk: Feedback is enormously welcome! My e-mail address is on the talk page, or of course you can comment below.

On a completely different subject, I'm putting together new submissions guidelines to try to make my process faster and more efficient for everyone involved (especially, yes, me). The current guidelines are query letters only, for everything, but I find I really prefer to see samples of the writing itself, which usually saves me from requesting things I don't like. So this is what I'm considering going to:

Picture books: Query letter + full text
Novels: Query letter + two chapters + synopsis (in that order)
Other: Query letter + five-page sample of writing (five poems, five pages of nonfiction, etc.)

(Writers still have to send query letters because (a) query-writing is a good exercise and (b) it hopefully keeps me from being mail-bombed with picture-book texts and sample chapters from people too lazy to write query letters.) I will respond with a form letter to any query not appropriate for me; and if I ask to see the full text of something and it doesn't work for me, I will respond with a form letter unless I want a revision.

Does this sound fair? Comparable to what other houses are doing? I've always tried to send a thoughtful this-is-good/this-didn't-work letter to anything I requested and then decided to reject (and truly there is no better editorial training than writing personalized rejection letters); but this conscientiousness has resulted in a backlog that makes me feel guilty and the poor writers anxious, so I hope this new response policy will speed things up. Writers: What do you think?