Thursday, April 30, 2009
QueryTracker has an excellent post about pitch lines this morning. In addition, an older post on Lady Glamis' blog about layers led me to this site which gave one of the best pieces of advice ever about the pitch sentence: read the one-line blurgs on the New York Times Bestseller list to learn how to do this. Now, if the link doesn't work, just Google "New York Times Bestseller List". Then, click on the book showing and it will take you to the one line blurbs for the current bestsellers. Woo-hoo!
. . . because no one else understands what we (writers) go through. Who else can understand . . .
- The excitement and obsession of the creative process
- The joy of fingers flying across the keyboard when the words are really flowing or the scritch-scritch-scratch of pen to paper
- The frustration when the words suddenly stop
- The revisions/editing
- The angst of knowing when a project is done enough to begin the query process
- The angst of the query process
- The angst of trying to figure out which genre (commercial, literary, chick lit, fantasy, sci-fi, urban fantasy, paranormal, romance, gay lit, or whatever) defines our book.
- The struggle between what is or isn’t literary fiction
- The . . . well, the list could go on endlessly
We need our gazillion blogs by our fellow writers. We need the knowledge of each writer so we can become better writers. We need the comments – pats on the back, honesty, brutality, the highs and lows. We need the thoughts of our peers to help balance our lives and let us know that this – often – frustrating dream is really worthwhile in the end.
Ultimately, we need the knowledge that we are not alone.
I know, by both my followers and the comments I receive, that I am not alone in this. There are others our there! We will persevere, we will survive, and we will succeed. Such is life.
p.s. there really was only supposed to be one post, then I saw the news about the new agent, and just had to share. : )
Donna Bagdasarian established Priot Entertainment Group after 11 years working in the publishing industry as a literary agent.
The company is a literary management company, representing their authors in all processes of the entertainment trajectory: from book development, to book sales, to subsidiary sales in the foreign market, television and film. Priot Group represents both fiction and nonfiction with special interest in general fiction/mainstream, literary fiction, mystery and suspense, thrillers, historicals, contemporary women’s fiction, biography and memoir, history, business, finance, psychology, and popular science.
The submission guidelines are here: http://www.priotgroup.com/submissions.htm
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
According to the post, Literary fiction tends to be more geared to the characters, the inner workings of their minds and hearts. The article goes on to state that literary fiction does need to have a plot, but as Nathan states, the plot is often beneath the surface, whereas in commercial fiction, the plot is on the surface.
My current out-to-query project is, in my opinion, literary fiction. The characters are all pretty much at cross roads in their lives. There aren't any easy solutions to their problems. They all pretty much, through the advice of friends and a few pitchers of margaritas, need to figure out what they really want from life, which is easier said than done in most cases. Basically, they need to rely on the inner workings of their minds and hearts to figure out whether even the most meaningless of relationships, ironically, have meaning after all.
There is a plot to the project, but, as the definition states, the plot is beneath the surface rather than on the surface. The story is not about the everyday events (the story takes place over the course of a year), but rather about the inner musings that lead to the major, sometimes heartbreaking, decisions in the characters lives.
As the characters, and the author during the writing process, discovered, sometimes happiness isn't enough. Sometimes, love isn't enough either. Sometimes, a person must walk away from what they think is their happily ever after to truly discover happiness.
So, what must the characters discover?
Jared ~ he must decide if his happily ever after exists with his partner of five years, or if there isn't something else out there. Is the grass truly greener on the other side of the fence.
Wes ~ he's content in the misery of his current failing relationship. He doesn't believe in happily ever after. He's afraid to journey past what he knows, to a life where misery is not his constant companion.
Nick ~ never one for commitment, always loving the single life. He begins to ponder the beige, not white, picket fence ideal.
Marik ~ suddenly single after his partner of eight years decides their relationship is not working. He must confront single life as a man nearing fifty, and also confront how a seemingly perfect relationship suddenly dissolved into reentry into singlehood.
Jeff ~ newly divorced and no longer in denial about his life. He must somehow overcome a brutal attack and discover (find the courage) whether he can ever trust again.
There are no gun battles, no moments of terror as a car goes careening off the highway, no fear of the thin ice breaking beneath the weight of too many bodies on a frozen pond in early spring. There is only the friendship of the boyz (well, grown men desperately trying to hang onto their youth with an endearing term), snarky comments, and margarita nights to help the boyz deal with the current uncertainty of their life.
The story takes place beneath the surface as each character (though not that many perspectives) struggle with their inner demons in their search for happiness.
Now, in my current query, I list the book as commercial fiction. This is the second genre change. I initially listed the book as gay fiction because the characters were gay. The book (at least according to my beta readers) appeals to a broader audience, thus the change in genre. In fact, my very hetero friend Susie, when asked whether the book would appeal to heterosexual women was like "hell yes, unless all they're into is self-help books". Susie is quite blunt at times, which is one of the things I love about her the most. So, based on her input, and that of others, I changed the genre. Then, I entered the secret agent contest at Miss Snark's First Victim, and the Secret Agent made the following comment chick lit with a gay narrator. Great, so now I need to market the book as chick lit. Just frakkin' wonderful.
The more I thought about my genre (forget about the where would it fit in a bookstore - don't even get me started on that subject), the more I realized that what I wrote, what I currently write, is not commercial, gay lit, chick lit, fantasy, or whatnot, but literary fiction. My story takes place beneath the surface, in the minds and hearts of the characters.
With this lengthy post (I'm on a roll lately, in case, dear readers, you hadn't noticed), I acknowledge my desire for literary fiction. I read all types of fiction. Fantasy is always my genre of choice, though I have expanded my genre horizons in recent years. My questions, dear readers . . .
What do you consider literary fiction? Is it a dying genre? Are more authors writing commercial (i.e., mainstream) to get published? Does literary fiction have a stodgy reputation? Are authors afraid to genre-lize their work as literary fiction because of that reputation?
So, in the vein of WIP . . . I'm through Chapter Twenty-three of editing the next project I want to query sometime before time stands still and the Elves return to Middle Earth. Yes, I have one project currently out to query. In the meantime, I've completed three other rough drafts and have begun the editing process of the one I want to query next. Woo-hoo.
My editing process goes in phases: edit, set aside, read again, edit, set aside, read again, edit . . . and so on, and so on, and so on until I finally decide I'm ready to start the query process. FYI - this can take quite a few years, because my muses (that dreaded Inspiration) likes to strike when I least expect. When that happens, I stop editing, follow the creativity to wherever it might lead me, and know that some sort of editing is always waiting for me. It's kind of a nice feeling.
Oh, did I mention that in my current edit mode I discovered I had two Chapter Twenty-twos?? Oh, yes I did. Now the answer is fairly simple: when I was almost through with the first draft, I decided to switch things up a bit, went back, added a chapter here and there, and then slowly went through (so I mistakenly thought) and updated all the chapter numbers. Well, I was so very wrong on that count. Now, as I continue the edit process, I will update my chapter numbers once again. Sigh.
I try to edit at least one chapter per night, and multiple chapters each weekend day. Some nights I do more than one chapter. I do have a life (well, I call it a life, but some might beg to differ) after all, I need a break from my writing every now and then. Also, the boyz are quite insistent on their bonding time lately. I've finally gotten Jesse to master 'shake' . . . well, on his terms, not mine. James, on the other paw, is great at 'shake' and is learning 'high-five'. The next trick is wave 'bye-bye'. I think I'm stopping at 'shake' with Jesse. He's too darn cute for his own good, and he's also too darn stubborn. : ) So, I write, I edit, I bond with the cats and the dogs, I spend time with my partner, and I try to read every now and then. I try for balance, and just hope for the best.
Here's the blurb from the site:
After over twenty years of writing fiction, I decided to create this website for aspiring novelists, screenwriters and short story writers to help you take your craft to the next level.
Within these walls you’ll find how-tos on characterization, plotting, scene and story structure, dialog, narrative and everything in between, all written from the no b.s. point of view of a working professional.
There are articles on how to find an agent, getting producers or publishers interested in your work, writing outstanding query letters and finding the right publishing house or production company for your style and genre of writing.
There’s also a Downloads page where you have access to free software and ebooks, like How to Format Your Screenplay Like a Pro, and a community forum (coming soon!) where you can ask questions and discuss your work.
Much of what you’ll find here is based on my many years of studying –- and most importantly -- practicing the craft of fiction. And I’ll be contributing new articles on a regular basis.
The site is filled with tons (okay, not that many, but a lot) of articles to help us hone our craft and - most importantly of all - get an agent. I figure if Janet Reid recommends the site, I'd better check it out. Knowledge is power, after all.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
For me, editing is about refining my writing, catching mistakes I made (and missed through multiple edits – hey, it happens) and taking out excess words.
I guess in the initial writing process, all filters are off. I just type, the words flowing, my fingers zapping across the keyboard. I type there instead of their or may instead of man and I've even been known to type the wrong character's name a dozen times or more throughout the rough draft process. I'm supposed to put the filters on during the editing process and catch all my mistakes. There's definitely a reason I do multiple edits – draft after draft after draft after draft ad nauseum – before I even consider the manuscript COMPLETE.
Tonight during the edit process, lo and behold, I found excess words at the end of some sentences. How in the heck did that happen? Okay, so this is only the edit of the first draft, but still . . .
Example: He flexed his fingers slightly before he settled them just above the pristine keys (of the piano) – deleted of the piano. So, you're thinking, well if he takes out of the piano how in the heck am I going to know the what of the pristine keys? Well, dear readers, it's quite simple, since the prior sentence mentions that the character is sitting at the piano; therefore, of the piano becomes redundant, useless, and not worth the time it took me to type them in the first place. Gone, are those three simple words.
Example: He finished the (one) song and effortlessly began the next without a pause, so that only he – at first – knew he was now playing a different song – deleted the word one. Why? Unnecessary word. If the word does not fit, you must omit. Oops, sorry about that! If the sentence can survive without the word, omit the word.
How many excess words are in your completed manuscripts? How many over-explanations exist?
For whatever reason, I excel (at least in my own mind) at writing dialogue. I'm absolutely fascinated by dialogue and just love a good conversation. I want my characters to have good - surprisingly real - conversations. I want the dialogue as natural and real as possible. I don't want to think hey, people don't talk like this when I'm reading a book. I also don't, just because my books take place in the South, want to fill my dialogue with y'all, yonder, you'uns and so much other stereotypical language that really doesn't happen on a daily basis. I live in the South (middle TN to be exact), and I can tell you that I rarely hear any of the aforementioned words. Yes, people do use those words in the South, just not as often as television shows would have you believe. If it's not so in real life, don't make it so in your book.
My point (yes, I do have one) is that dialogue should seem natural and real. Not every character should talk in exactly the same manner. Give your characters quirks. For example, my 8th grade teacher used the word okay all the time. I mean ALL the time. I picked it up and started using it ALL the time. My father constantly corrected me until I slowly stopped using the word. Well, today, okay, at school, okay, we learned, okay, about the, okay, Illinois constitution, okay, and then . . . My parents had no clue why I was suddenly using that word, until the parent teacher conference. Lightbulb! My mother came home and told me she now knew why I was using the word so much, but to stop it anyway! Yes, Mom can be blunt at times. She's even worse now that she's in her 80s. Geesh!
So (yes, I know, I use that word a lot to - get over it), I try and have the different characters use particular words (like, okay, uh) or phrases (ya know what I mean, I'm just saying, can you believe) to characterize their individuality. At some point, all the characters might use a particular phrase, because the phrase just happens to be catchy, and people sometimes tune into things (okay, are you, okay, like, getting, okay, my point) without even realizing they are doing it. Thankfully, my parents broke me of the okay habit.
Okay . . . kidding, people, kidding . . .
Sometimes, dialogue can feel stilted or just there for the sake of propelling a story. Don't do it! Step away from the keyboard. Rethink your decision to have Dick, Jane, Sally, and Spot (yes, I know, most people reading this blog have no clue who those characters are - I do, and that's all that matters) have a convenient conversation to propel the story forward. Every conversation, every word of dialogue, should make sense and have a natural feel - at least in my opinion. Others might disagree. That's the joy of the blogsphere: dissenting opinions exist, and all the writers in the world can view these opinions, learn from them, and make their own mark on the blogsphere and, hopefully, the literary world one day as well. I'm just saying . . .
Now, how do you use dialogue? Do you use regional dialects? Do you research the region to make sure people actually say you'uns or y'all in everyday conversation? Do you base your dialogue on those you know? Do you use key words your friends/family/coworkers use? Do you have a character that is like using the word like so often it's like the sound of nails on a blackboard? Do you enjoy writing dialogue? Is it your strength or weakness?
My weakness right now is that I hear Ben & Jerry's calling my name. Death by Chocolate to be precise. It's a sad fact of life that there is a Ben & Jerry's within walking distance of my office, oh, and a Starbucks too. I'm doomed, I tell you, doomed.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Personally, I love it when author's insert pets (dogs, cats, parakeets, hamsters, whatever) into their writing. Pets, for me at least, make people more real.
The best example (current example) is Rex the hamster in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, oh, and Bob the Dog. The pets, without being major characters, are integral to the story. What's a good Stephanie Plum novel without her hauling Rex to . . . Ranger's apartment, Morelli's house, or her parents' house, not to mention all the different foods (pizza, cake, etc.) she gives Rex.
For me, pets provide more depth to the main characters.
In most of my mainstream (commercial/literary fiction), at least one or more of the characters have either a dog, a cat, or multiple dogs/cats. I guess it's fiction mirroring real life since my partner and I currently have two dogs (Jesse & James - Cocker Spaniels) and two cats (Tasmyn & Squeaky - both black, with Tasmyn having one gold eye and one green eye - seriously). So, as I write, somehow, someway, a dog or cat (multiples sometimes) pop up in my writing. The insertion of pets is never intentional on my part, it is just part of the writing process.
Lady Glamis' post made me wonder why more writers don't insert pets into their stories. I mean, almost every one I know has either a dog or a cat, or multiple dogs/cats. In fact, I have one friend who has eight (yes, eight) dogs. At one point, my partner and I had three cats and two dogs. : ) Life is never dull around our house. So, why don't more writers give their characters pets? Is it too hard? Do the writers not have pets themselves? Do they not know the joy of coming home at the end of the day and having the cat curl up in their laps? Do they not know the joy of having a crappy day, coming home, and there are the boyz (Jesse and James in my case) furiously wagging their tales in greeting? No matter how bad a day, they always make me smile. Do they (those authors who do not include pets in their writing) not know the joys (sarcasm here) of getting up at 3 AM to let the boyz out? Do they not know the joys (double dose of sarcasm here) of cleaning up the ginormous hairball that the cat just hacked up at 2 AM? Why, oh, why, can't they hack up hairballs when I'm not in bed? Why?
Speaking of hairballs, I've never made one of the fictional cats hack up a hairball at 2 AM to disturb a character's much deserved rest. Hmmmmm . . . (note to self: in editing process, include a ginormous hairball incident!!). Talk about inspiration . . . and not necessarily a good visual.
So (yes, I use that word way too often, get over it), go on over and read Lady Glamis' post, then pop back over here and tell me why you do or don't put animals in your writing.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
This morning, 3AM, my ear has been bitten, I've hauled myself out of bed to feed and let the boyz (Jesse & James) out, and then I'm back in bed snuggled beneath the covers and - BAM, Emeril size - I get the inspiration for this post. I start thinking about how inspiration normally arrives (at least for me) in the most inconvenient of moments - driving down the road, while I'm comfy in bed, in the shower, and in so many other places where a pen and paper just aren't the most handiest of items to have. Yes, I keep a notebook by the bed, but that's only one location of many where inspiration strikes.
Why, does it (inspiration, just in case you're lost and confused) strike when it's not convenient? Why can't it strike when I'm sitting in front of the laptop with my fingers poised expectantly over the keys? Why can't it strike when I'm not driving down the road or in a restaurant full of people (eating dinner, not because I was so discombobulated by the inspiration that I drove through the plate glass window of the restaurant)? Is inspiration actually some pesky entity that waits expectantly for an inconvenient moment and then - BAM, Emeril style - there it is, laughing hysterically as the objects of its intent curse in drama queen fashion???
Yes, I truly think inspiration has a wicked cruel mind of its own. If not, then I'm at a loss for why inspiration (consistently, I might add) strikes when there is no pen or paper close at hand. My mind is not what it once was. I sometimes forget why I stood up from my desk. Heck, if I didn't wear a name tag, I probably wouldn't know my name most days. Kidding, we don't wear name tags at work. I answer to just about anything, just to be on the safe side. Kidding again.
So, where does inspiration strike you? Do you find it annoying? Do you always remember the inspired moments? You see, that is my problem. I get these great bursts of inspiration, no pen or paper at hand, no talking on the cell while driving (personal safety rule, not law in TN, at least not yet), and I can't remember the full burst of inspiration by the time I get to where I'm going. You just can't imagine the great passages I've written in my mind that never make it to paper. SIGH!
And that, dear people, is my early post for the day. I swear hear the snickers of Inspiration (yes, I capitalized, and I have a sneaky suspicion that Inspiration might be female - I could be wrong on that one) drifting across the cool morning air. She's a capricious entity, with a wicked sense of humor.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I'm just amazed at the amount of writing information available in the blogsphere. Who knew? Whatever a writer is searching for info on - querying, synopsis, pitfalls, contests, etc. - they can find it somewhere in the blogsphere. Woo-hoo! I seriously don't know how people survived before the blogs. Oh, that's right, that bought countless books about writing and filled their bookshelves to overflowing. They also had to snail mail everything. Woo-hoo for technology! Email rules . . . as do the blogs that provide all the useful information I need to craft the most brilliant query letter ever and get representation on the first try. Okay, so that's not gonna happen. I sometimes live in my own deluded little world. : )
Life is good in the blogsphere, though I am realizing that reading through all the blogs, especially the recent ones I'm following is very time consuming. Shouldn't I be writing the next most brilliant novel ever discovered by an agent? Shouldn't I be polishing up my query letter so that no agent, no matter how jaded and desensitized, cannot help but request the full manuscript, and a list of all other works of mine currently in progress? Shouldn't I be . . . Well, hell yes, to all those questions, and any more you can think of at the moment!!!!
Still, the blogsphere is a source of information and every (yes, EVERY) writer needs this information to succeed. There is no golden parachute, no magic wand to wave, and no fairy godmother (don't get me started on fairy godmothers - they somehow became a part of my current project out to query) to magically appear and solve all our problems. There is only perseverance, determination, and the dogged belief in our own writing to carry us forward day by day as we scan the gazillion blogs providing us with every bit of information we could possible need. Whew. I'm exhausted now.
So, dear readers (10 in all, though I'm sure there are a few trillion lurking in the shadows not yet comfortable to publicly follow me), fret not when you discover you spent 23 hours of the day scrolling through all the writing blogs. It is, in my opinion, time well spent. Yes, you could have written the next bestseller in that time, but at least you - hopefully - learned something while lost in the blogsphere. I know I have!
p.s. make that 23 blogs!!!!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I hate it, I absolutely hate it! I love the feel of paper in hand, the pen poised over the page, and the notes and scratches and scritches as I read through the words that are my brilliance transformed into sentences and paragraphs. SIGH. Double SIGH!
Alas my love . . . for the pen and paper in hand, is not good for the environment. Trees are being felled on a daily basis to feed my addiction to the feel of paper beneath my fingertips. I must resist the urge to deforest the Earth. I must resist all temptation to print out a gazillion pages, toss them into the air, and let them float down to the ground around me while I reach out greedily for each page.
Okay, so I'm really not that obsessive, but I was on a roll and couldn't seem to stop myself.
Basically, I am trying to curb my desire to print and edit. Now, I scroll and scroll and scroll some more, make the changes, make a few notations in BOLD and go on my merry way in the editing process. It's just not the same. There's something missing.
Why am I doing this again? Oh, yeah, that's right, global warming. Dratted hole in the ozone, greenhouse gasses, and melting icecaps. If not for you, I could revel in the feel of paper beneath my fingertips and listen to the scritch-scritch-scritching of the pen on paper as I make notes. Now, I just hear the clackity-clackity-click of the keys on the computer as I edit in a green world.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for saving the environment and doing what I can to reduce my carbon footprint. I just didn't realize how much I would miss the simple process of editing the old fashioned way: pen in one hand and paper resting on my lap or on the desk before me.
In my opinion - hell, no! Venting is a part of life. It is the release of frustration, the ability to shout, stomp your feet, and then, in a major drama queen moment, fall back onto the couch and cuddle up with the cats, dogs, or whatever! If we cannot vent, then sooner or later, we will explode. It's a fact of life. Okay, maybe not a real fact of life, but holding everything in is not a good thing, not at all.
So, my 8 followers are wondering has he been paying homage to the Three Sisters this early in the morning? No. I've just been reading my way through the blogsphere and came across another post in defense of the query process and how people who are whining about it obviously don't love their job (i.e., writing). Okay, maybe the post didn't actually put it out there so boldly, but the underlying implication was easily seen.
I love to write. I hate the query process. I still query. I still agonize over every word in my query letter. I still love to write. I'm allowed to vent (i.e., bitch) when I get frustrated. Agents are allowed to vent when they get frustrated (i.e., writers bitching about the allegedly broken query system). It's all a part of life. Being frustrated does not equate (at least in my opinion) to not loving what you do. It equates (again in my opinion) to loving what you do so much that learning that a) some agents skip totally over the query letter and go straight to the submitted pages or b) if the query letter doesn't grab their attention they don't read the submitted pages or c) well, there's not another thing at the moment, amounts to a drama queen moment of whining about the unfairness of the cruel world of publishing.
In the end, the passion put into the whining is a de-stresser. I've posted about my frustrations with the query process. I haven't stopped querying. I haven't stopped writing. I follow blog after blog after blog, gleaning what bits of useful information I can glean so that, one day soon, my love of writing will be seen by the world at large.
So, excuse me if I bitch every now and then. Excuse me if I toss my tiara to the ground and kick it across the room. Excuse me if my frustration, every now and then, gets the better of me. I'm an artist after all. I happen to like my ears, so I'm not going to cut one of them off (Van Gogh, any one??) in a drama queen moment. In this Age of Technology, I'm going to blog about my frustration and hope that it doesn't bite me in the proverbial ass one day.
I suddenly feel so much better. I must get more coffee. The day is barely begun and I, suddenly, feel energized. I think it's the writing. Sometimes, the writing is better than . . .
Monday, April 20, 2009
The above link was first accessed through Janet Reid's blog. If you're not following Janet's blog, well . . . start following. It is a source of great information. The web is full of sources of great information. Yeah, sometimes you have to slog through a ton of crap to find the diamonds, but it's definitely worthwhile.
The above link is a must read. It's an eye-opening experience kinda read that has just started my day off right. Okay, Starbucks actually started my day off write, but the above blog link is coming in at a close second. The post is all about when to quit following your dream. There is, of course, a Susan Boyle mention (quite a few paragraphs in fact), because what are dreams without the mention of Susan Boyle? She seems to personify the tenacity and spirit of dreamers everywhere. I'll leave the rest of the explanation to the above link. Read, enjoy, and learn.
Friday, April 17, 2009
I've only been checking sporadically throughout the morning, but I have learned a lot. The most important (and contradictory, I might add) things are:
- Some author's don't write killer query letters, but they write killer books - this agent reads the submit 5 - 10 pages.
- If the letter doesn't grab my attention I don't read the submit 5- 10 pages - this agent obviously doesn't read the pages.
My thoughts: my fears have been confirmed. If my query letter doesn't knock the agent's socks off, then they aren't reading my 5 - 10 pages. SIGH!
Yes, I know the school of thought about anybody who can write a novel can write an excellent query letter. I'm just not sure I believe that school of thought. Sometimes, the written novel is excellent, and the query letter is just okay. Should an author be penalized by an agent for an okay query letter? Possibly, but what's the harm at glancing through the first few submitted pages? Yes, time constraints and all that jazz. Still, if an author took the time to follow the submission guidelines and craft the best (maybe not as great as the novel) query letter they could craft, then shouldn't they be given the consideration of the agent at least reading the submitted pages?? Why ask for submitted pages if you're not going to read them??
Yes, I'm whining . . . somewhat. I know agents are deluged with queries and time is of the essence for them. I know they are looking for the best of the best and have devised the best system to find the best of the best. I just think that if guidelines are outlined on an agent's site, and part of the guidelines are to submit 5 - 10 pages, then the pages should not be dismissed because the query letter isn't a shining star of brilliance.
And, yes, this was only one agent's response (personally, I follow the agent's blog, love the agent's sense of humor, and would submit to said agent if she repped my genre). I think querying is hard enough in this day and age without the realization that the submitted pages are not being read. I'm just saying . . .
Now, back to #queryday. I must see what other interesting tidbits (and there have been many) I can glean before the day is done and the time for margaritas arrives.
The above are some helpful query sites out there - the first two are all about writing the query letter, and the last one is regarding query letters that worked. Enjoy and Learn!
UPDATE: One space after a period is the new thang! OMG, how in the frak am I supposed to change a lifetime habit?? Oh, wait, I hear Sister Margarita calling my name. She always makes things better. Okay, it's really not that bad. It's very easy to 'replace' in Word. I did an experiment and, contrary to something on #queryday, two spaces after a period does not change the word count. I'm just saying . . .
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
How many people truly follow their dreams? How many people have the courage to say this is what I want to do, and this is what I'm gonna do? Not many, not many at all. Susan Boyle showed amazing courage. I hope she soars to the greatest possible heights with her dreams and holds on to who she is - spunky, cheeky, vibrant - at the same time. I hope the same thing for everybody with a dream.
I never dreamed I would be a writer. It just happened one day. Perhaps it was always happening, but I was just too oblivious to recognize the happening. I wandered through childhood - in a time before 300 channels, video games, etc. - with my imagination close to me. My friends and I played outdoors all day long enacting our own imaginary games based on Batman (the reruns people, not the original episodes . . . but close), Emergency, SWAT, Star Trek (again, reruns people, reruns), and so many other television shows. We spent hours by the creek bank making roads, digging tunnels in the dirt, and playing with our Matchbox cars creating all sorts of scenarios. We used our imaginations. As I grew older, I immersed myself in book after book, going on adventure after adventure. All the while, my imagination soared to greater and greater heights. All the while, my mind moved slowly toward a dream I didn't know I had: writer.
Childhood into teens into adulthood. One day - new city, no friends as of yet - and I finish reading a book. I think, gee, I want to know what happens to the characters. So, I decide to continue the story. Yes, I did. I wrote a gazillion pages following the characters I loved in that book and creating some of my own. Then, I went on to something else and something else and something else. I wrote like a fiend.
Now, many years later, I call myself a writer. I follow the dream to wherever it might take me. I'm not 47 and unemployed, but I still have a dream.
So, it's never too late to follow that dream, that idle thought in your mind about what you really want to do in life. Sometimes, Susan Boyle for example, all it takes is the courage to take that first step.
I took that first step many years ago and haven't stopped since, not even with the this just isn't right for me response from agents. My writing is right for somebody. I just have to keep searching.
p.s. watch the video, multiple times!!!
Monday, April 13, 2009
One of those events was a random act of kindness that occurred around Christmastime when the person in front of me in the drive-thru at Starbucks bought my coffee.
On Good Friday (not so good for a lot of people) severe storms moved through Tennessee (and other parts of the country as well). Tornadoes ripped through Murfreesboro (about 30 minutes from Nashville) and caused mass devastation. Two of my co-workers live in Murfreesboro and were thankfully spared the wide-spread damage caused by the tornadoes. Not everybody was so lucky. Still, in the face of chaos, the human race again surprised me. See below email:
I am sending this to you all to be more efficient. I appreciate all the calls and e-mails asking how we are.
The tornadoes spared my house and Horse Science, and the university as a whole. It is a miracle that more people didn’t die. The devastation is terrible and very widespread in our town.
I did have one of my girls from my team lose her house. I am attaching pictures of her house so you can get an idea of what this storm did. We spent most of today helping her scavenge through the rubble to find any belongings that she could. Everything the family owns is now in our two-horse trailer. Tomorrow we will sort through it all and split up all the clothes which are soaking wet and were scattered all over the place. We will get them washed and cleaned for them.
Her house was wiped off its foundation, as you will see in the first picture, and exploded in the front yard of the house across the street, which you will see in the second picture. Her sister’s bedroom was on the roof of the house across the street. Her dog and cat, who were in the house at the time, were missing. Today about 4:30, on a trip back from the horse trailer with the wheelbarrow, our barn manager Jess Schultz saw a little boy with a dog on a rope. She asked him if that was his dog and he said “No, do you know whose it is?” and it was Elaine’s dog! We were all doing all right till then, but we all cried at that point. And then, thirty minutes later, the neighbors found her 17 year old cat in the rafters of the house across the street, where Elaine’s house had landed! He must have got deposited in there by the tornado, and was hiding till then. So we cried again.
I have to tell you some other things. I am very proud to live in Murfreesboro, TN. People came out to help everyone, walking by and leaving cases of water, bags of sandwiches, pizzas, snacks, boxes. Some people set up grills on the corners and cooked hot dogs and hamburgers and held up signs “free food.” People who didn’t know the victims came out to carry boxes and help sort through the rubble. Churches dropped off big plastic totes, trash bags, toilet paper, cups, cleaning supplies, and people came out with their chain saws and bobcats and tractors to move the trees out of the way, and help pile things up out of the streets. Tree services are out chipping limbs, and guys were on roofs of houses that might be salvaged nailing up tarps and nobody is charging anything today. The streets were lined with cars of people who walked into the blocked neighborhoods to help. Storage places are giving a free storage unit for a month to everyone who needs it.
So, little young me (okay, not that young) gets all teary-eyed reading this. What can I say, I can't make it through an episode of Little House on the Prairie, or the Waltons for that matter, without crying. Anne of Green Gables - well, just have the Kleenex box handy, because I'm gonna need a slew of them. The tornadoes brought out the best in people in the worst of situations. Humanity might be on a steady decline to chaos, but there is still hope. People do still care. It's just often hard to find those caring people in this crazy world we live in. I just wanted to take this time, this post, to show that people do still care.
p.s. Sorry, I didn't include the photos that go along with the above email. You can click here to hopefully get a slide show or go to www.wkrn.com. I'm not sure how long the slide show will be up, so if the link doesn't work . . .
The point is: I found time this weekend. I discovered two contests and entered them both. Woo-hoo!
Will I win? Will everlasting glory finally find me? Will I be raising a toast with Sister Cabernet in the near future to my new found success? Will I be raising a toast anyhow? Uh, that would be a YEAH to the last question. Sister Cabernet (for the most part, except for Friday nights, is my friend - Sister Margarita is my friend on Friday nights). She's always there waiting for me at the end of the day. I pour my glass and then, over the course of the next few hours, slowly imbibe. Yes, hours, people, it takes me hours to drink a glass of wine. I'm easily sidetracked. I get immersed in a book or my writing and forget about Sister Cabernet. I go and bond with the boyz (Jesse and James) and no drinks of any type are allowed because they are rambunctious rascals and I have, unfortunately, born the stains of their frolicking. It took a few stains for me to learn my lesson. So, it takes me a while to finish a glass of wine.
As to the other questions, I hope the answer is YES to all the questions.
The main point (yes, there is one, it's still early and the caffeine has not kicked in yet) of this post is: find time for contests. Use the blogsphere and hunt and hunt and hunt, and then hunt so more. Make the time - 15 minutes, maybe some more, maybe some less. I just happened to luck onto both of the contests. It happens. Sometimes, luck is noticeable. This was one of those times.
BTW - I'm on Book 12 of the Stephanie Plum series. Janet makes me laugh. Heck, sometimes she makes me laugh so hard I cry. I wish I had just a smidge of her talent with humor. The woman should be a stand up comic. Now, if I was reading her books on my Kindle, I could do the whole highlight thing and have a whole file of JE Funnies. Since I'm not reading them on my Kindle (sorry, a friend has loaned me the entire series), I just have to write them down as I come across them. Sigh! Still, humor in any shape or form is a good thang!
"Holy Mary Mother of God, you were being chased by Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and a rabbit". That line still makes me laugh out loud.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Yesterday I edited Chapter One of the very, very, very rough draft of a project I wrote a few months ago. For a change, I didn't write so many words per day, I didn't set daily/weekly goals, I just wrote. I think I pounded out the rough draft in a little over 30 days. Now, technically, the pounding out was a somewhat edit where I took an old draft and revitalized it with some ingenious new ideas. Yes, ingenious, get over it! There was some cutting and pasting from one draft to the new rough draft, but not as much as you might think. In the end, this story that I once thought so brilliant took on a new and vibrant (nope, no Bailey's in my coffee this morning) life that amazed even me. That happens a lot when I write. I'm always amazed at the depths of depravity I find in my imagination. Ooops, did I actually write that sentence. Inner voice, inner voice, fingers stop typing. Seriously, though, I am often amazed at what pops into my mind and flows down to my fingers to get typed across the laptop screen. Who knew what a childhood spent reading could do for the imagination?
The new story (at least in my sometimes, not often, humble opinion) flows so much better and makes so much more sense. I sometimes think that rough drafts should be set aside for years. When I initially came up with the original concept for this project (years and years and years ago), I was a different writer. My writing has evolved over the years. I think some of my best writing - EVER - has occurred in the last few years. I know I'm damned proud of the project I currently have out for query. I really do think that that project is some of the best writing I ever did. I took that brilliance (my blog, I can say what I want about my writing) and infused it into the project I am currently editing. That melding of two styles of writing, two different projects, became something so different from my original intent. I am content with that difference and with (at least at this moment in time) the end result.
My plans are to edit a chapter a day, maybe more on the weekends, as I somehow attempt to recreate the balance I strive for in this life - work, partner, animals, life itself, writing, margaritas with the boyz, and all that jazz. Balance is essential. Somewhere along the way, I lost my balance. I did not make a big SPLAT as I fell, just tumbled a little from the balance I vowed to maintain in this crazy life. I took time away from writing to immerse myself in reading - something I haven't done in a long while. It felt good to lose myself in the words of other authors. I'm on Book 9 of the Stephanie Plum series. I'm not totally immersing myself in the reading any longer. I'm stepping away and finding time to let my imagination delve into my own words/worlds. I'm feeling the energy, the feeling of satisfaction, as my eyes read my words and as my fingers make the necessary adjustments that will hone the rough draft into a more perfect brilliance that will stun agents and leave them speechless (in a good way).
So, with that thought, I bid you adieu for the moment. It's 10 AM and I haven't had breakfast yet. Soon, the sound of bacon sizzling in the frying pan will be heard in the kitchen. YUM!
Thursday, April 9, 2009
No, I'm not a prude. I'm just more the type that likes to leave things up to my readers' imaginations, rather than spell everything out for them. Sometimes, the imagination is better than reality. Trust me on that one! : )
More often than not in my writing, I allude to the sex, but don't actually give detailed descriptions. It's just what works for me. Now, could I give a detailed description if needed? Hell, yeah. I just haven't come across the need to show the erotic exploits of my characters. For me, it's more fun to just let my readers figure out what Jack and Jill did when they went up the hill for the pail of water.
A perfect example of this can be found in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. She never goes into full detail when Stephanie and Morelli have sex, or when Stephanie had sex with Ranger. I'm only through Book 8, so I'm not sure if she has sex with anybody else or not. Janet always provides the barest minimum of details with out going into extended descriptive passages. Sometimes, it's the reactions of the other characters - OMG, you had sex last night - that are more telling, rather than the actual event itself.
I know other writers/authors do things differently, because that is what works for them. Now, if I was writing some erotic story, yeah, I'd go into detail. The extensive details just don't need to be there in my current projects, even though quite a few of my characters do the big nasty.
p.s. Speaking of Janet Evanovich . . . one of the best lines ever: Holy Mary Mother of God, you were being chased by Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and a rabbit. I laughed for at least five minutes, and was crying by the time I was finished. Janet Evanovich is a Humor Master. It's never an entire passage, an entire book, just a sentence here or there that absolutely cracks me up.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
So, today, I finally did what I have been procrastinating about for weeks on end - fixed the minor things that needed fixing. Whew! I feel much better now.
In the end, it all boils down to perspective. Were my first 250 words horrendous? No, sorry, I just don't do horrendous. I've done crap a time or two (okay, maybe multiple times), but horrendous doesn't fit in there . . . that's my story, and I'm sticking to it, people!! The perspective gained from MSFV secret agent contest gave my novel the jolt it needed. Well, it gave me the jolt I needed. I leaped the hurdle today, dove through the slight breach in the wall of frustration that has surrounded me for weeks, and . . . voila!!!!
There's a definite sense of relief. I have no clue why I delayed so long. The fix wasn't that difficult. It was kind of like the time my mother butterflied the gaping wound in my head when I was little. I still have the scar, btw. I was prone to cracking my head open as a child. Well, the first two times were Mom's fault (not that she beat me or anything, we just didn't have car seats back then, and she had to swerve to miss the Fuller Brush Man, and my forehead hit the dash, it did the same thing one other time, and the third time I stumbled and hit the fireplace - ah, the joys of being a boy; girls just don't have those problems). So, I did the butterfly thing with my opening and I'm back on to the frustrating query process. Woo-hoo. Boy, Sister Cabernet is beckoning my name. Is it 5 yet?
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Now, do I actually need a genre to query? No. A lot of the advice on the agent blogs say if you do not have a clue to the genre of your novel, just don't mention a genre. Then again, there are blogs that say you must, must, must, must . . . must indicate a genre. Geesh, people, as if my stress level isn't high enough with my declining 401K and receding hairline. Now I have to - somehow - limit my brilliance into a specific genre!!!
I mean, an agent referred to this project as chick lit with a gay narrator. Well, does that make it chick lit (definitely not my intent, though I did intend to have a broader audience than just the GLBT community)? Does it make it gay lit? Does it make it commercial? Since it is character driven, does it make it literary fiction?
I have no friggin' clue. Initially, since the characters were gay (sorry, it's not erotic or filled with lusty sex scenes) I searched for agents that handled gay/lesbian fiction. Now, I'm beginning to think maybe I should expand my search and look for agents who handle commercial and/or literary fiction.
So, in the meantime as I wallow in frustration, I have backed away from writing and searching (only a momentary pause in my life) and immersed myself in the exploits of Stephanie Plum because I need a good laugh right about now. I know I need to expand my potential agent horizons, and have that on the agenda for this weekend. I just need to flip a coin and hope for the best, because nothing else seems to be working. I know, I'll write each potential genre on small pieces of paper, fold them up, and then draw them from a hat. Where's the sorting hat from Harry Potter when you need it?
I just need a simple answer . . . along with a more brilliant than I've obviously written query letter . . . and all will be right in my little Universe. I've stocked up on Sister Cabernet, Friday is Margarita Night, and it's a long weekend because of Easter. Life is good (well, if I don't count my frustration, lack of a concrete genre, and the fact that after being 78 degrees on Sunday, it dropped into the 40s and almost to the point of freezing yesterday).
Any thoughts on narrowing down a genre from the followers of this blog would be great.
Today's smile (and perhaps a happy tear or two) is . . . this. Enjoy!
I'm not sure what tomorrow's smile will be, but I'll try to post it here. My main goal is to email out these little smiles as I find them, because the world is filled with too much horror and sorrow. For every piece of bad news, there should be five pieces of good news. A psychologist friend once told me that. When she suggested such a thing to the local news networks, they told her that good news didn't sell. Go figure!
Thursday, April 2, 2009
In the beginning, the Order of Maintaining Sanity was comprised of Sister Merlot, Sister Cabernet, and Sister Chardonnay. Life was good for the Three Sisters as they attended their respective vineyards and maintained the sanity of people worldwide. Life never remains good forever. Soon, rumors began to spread that Sister Chardonnay was not as pure as she implied. Sister Margarita - a visiting Sister from Tequilaville - soon announced that she caught Sister Chardonnay and Father Zinfandel doing more than stomping grapes in the vineyard. It soon came to light that Sister Chardonnay gave birth to . . . White Zinfandel. Oh, the scandal, the scandal. Both Zinfandel and Chardonnay were booted out and Sister Margarita became a permanent member of the Order of Maintaining Sanity.
Enter the young novitiate Sambuca who is under close scrutiny by the Three Sisters, Margarita especially. Sister Margarita (not actually a product of the vineyard) is worried about her position in the Sisterhood. There have been claims by exiled Chardonnay that she was set up in the nasty struggle for power that left Margarita in charge of the Sisterhood.
Sister Margarita is maintaining her innocence hoping that the worm does not turn against her.
Only time will tell who remains in charge of the Three Sisters of the Order of Maintaining Sanity.