Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Hook, The Book, and the Cook.

Janet Reid might just hunt me down for taking advice from her nemesis the slithery Barbara Poelle, but . . .

I receive email updates from Writer's Digest. There is always good information in these emails. I store them in a little folder in Outlook. I rarely look back at them. Hey, I have VCR tapes I recorded 10 years ago and still haven't watched. I'll get to it . . . one day. Anyhow, the email today had a link to this article from the blog Guide to Literary Agents.

Now, I'm not going to bore you with all the details - you can read them for yourself - but, Barbara (sorry, Janet) had some great advice called: The Hook, The Book, and The Cook.

The advice is . . .

Barbara Poelle used this catchy line to describe the three ingredients of your query letter. The hook is a one sentence description of what your book is about. Yes, one sentence. Check Publishers Lunch for examples of great loglines. The book: four or five sentences that give more detail about the story. The cook: brief information about you, the writer.

First - this is just what Barbara Poelle wants, not every agent. Every agent is different. That is the important thing to remember. What one agent loves another might hate, and vice versa! Keep. That. In. Mind!!!!

Second - I love this advice. This advice breaks the query into a very finite form. Yes, others have done the same, but I like the phrasing, so I'm repeating it here . . . but not attempting to take anything away from somebody else.

Third - need I say more? Barbara Poelle said it all in a very concise manner. Read it. Learn it. Use it!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Crazy Week

This has been a crazy week so far . . . and it's only Tuesday. Geesh!

Writing - been doing that . . . and then some. I'm in the process of eliminating an entire perspective from a manuscript. This accomplishes two things: tightens up the manuscript and eliminates the necessary words since there are such things as acceptable word counts. Great. Fine. Dandy. I've also been working on the urban fantasy at the same time. Basically, I work on one chapter per night in the eliminate the perspective thingy, and then I work a bit on the urban fantasy project.

Now, eliminating a perspective isn't as easy as it sounds. I have to figure out what I need to incorporate from the eliminated perspective into the remaining perspectives. Now, this is easier said then done, because there are three perspectives as follows: Character A, B, and C. But . . . yes, that nifty little word that sometimes carries the sound of doom, doom, doom! But . . . being the clever, and sometimes snarky, person that I am, I thought why not alternate the perspectives as follows:

Chapter 1 - Character A, B, and C
Chapter 2 - Character C, A, and B
Chapter 3 - Character B, C, and A
Chapter 4 - Character A, B, and C

Do you see my dilemma? I'm eliminating the perspective of Character B which means that sometimes his perspective (i.e. section) is the 2nd one in the chapter, sometimes the 3rd, and sometimes the 1st . . . which can really make eliminating/incorporating a, well, nasty little proposition! So far - knock on wood - it hasn't been too difficult. Yes, I know, I just cursed myself. Such is life. So (btw, I'm reading a book right now that is excessively using that word, so I'm not the only one), right now the process is fairly easy, but there will come a time when the process becomes quite difficult. Then again, aren't the difficult tasks the ones that make us stronger? I sure as heck hope so!

Other than that, I do have plans to get back to posting some enlightening (well, at least in my mind) stuff on this blog. I know I've short-changed everyone a bit lately with my crazy posting schedule, but, never fear Sweet Polly Purebred . . . Underdog is here. Okay, not seriously, but, bear with me and I'll get back on track, but probably not until next week.


Friday, May 21, 2010


We interrupt the regularly scheduled post . . . okay, I didn't have a regularly scheduled post, but the whole interrupt thing sounded good. I meant to have a scheduled post. Truly I did. It just didn't happen.

So, what to do, what to do?? I have no clue. Oh no, I made a rhyme, and it took no time. Ooops, I did it again . . .

Yes, dear readers, it looks like it's going to be one of those days. Luckily, I'm the only one in my department at work today. My co-workers just don't know how lucky they are not to be here with me in an ultra-snarky mood! Ha!

So, I was watching Grey's Anatomy last night. Lots of violence. Lots of bloodshed. Lots of tears. But, in the midst of all the violence and bloodshed, there was one of those glaring moments that pulled me out of the story and made me go WTH!!!!! Yes, WTH!!!

Here I was, all involved in the story and - BAM (no, not another gunshot, but there were plenty of those - the first was the worst) - I'm totally pulled out of the story by the dreaded monster known as: Inconsistency.

As writers, we need to have a consistency with our characters: who they are, what they do, and how they react. If are characters suddenly go off-kilter, do something totally off the wall, something that makes no sense at all, then more likely than not, we are going to pull the readers out of our stories of brilliance and make them go: WTH!!! This is what happened in the last 15 minutes of the first hour of Grey's Anatomy.

A few episodes ago, I don't know how many, the entire episode centered around a man suing the hospital for his wife's death. Derek Shepherd (McDreamy for those in the know) spent the majority of the episode in a conference room with this man and a team of lawyers defending what he did (pulling the plug on the man's wife). An entire episode. A conference room. Sitting across the table from this man.

Now, for me, I would remember this moment. I would remember defending my actions. I would remember staring across the table at this broken man. I would remember the look of hatred in the man's eyes.

Apparently, McDreamy did not! WTH! Yes, he totally forgot this man. Did I mention that Lexi Grey - the lucky resident who actually disconnected the machines - remembered this man when she saw him? And Dr. Weber, the former Head of Surgery, when told the man's name remembered him? And yet, dear McDreamy had no clue who the man was when he was standing three feet from him. Okay, the man was pointing a gun at him. BUT . . . he'd spent most of a day in a conference room sitting across from the man a few weeks, maybe a month, earlier! He should have remembered.


Why was McDreamy the only one not to recognize this man?

To me, this just didn't make sense. He should have recognized the man. There should have been some glimmer, some something, no matter the stress he was under knowing there was a shooter in the hospital and that people were dying.

I shouldn't have been ripped out of the story to go WTH and then try to immerse myself back in the story.

So, in tying all of this into writing: make sure your character's don't make your readers go WTH!

It's not a good thing when that happens, trust me on that!

I have a character who has retribution sex after finding out his wife has been cheating on him . . . for years. Now, before he learned all of this, he was faithful, he was stable, and . . . then his world began to crumble. He was hurt, he was angry, and he acted out in a way that . . . made sense. His reaction to the situation, based on all that had been written about him before . . . made sense. McDreamy's amnesia did not make sense. There was a consistency with my character (not that I'm in any way saying I'm a better writer than those on Grey's Anatomy) that wasn't present with McDreamy in that one scene.

A reader/viewer shouldn't ever have to go WTH! Consistency with our characters needs to remain, well, consistent!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Something Wasn't Working

So (yes, I use that word a lot! I know I do! I know!), I've been struggling lately with a project. I knew it needed work. I knew there were words to eliminate, things to tighten, weight to lose. Oh, wait, that was me personally. The jeans just aren't as loose as they should be. But I digress . . .

Something wasn't working with the project in question. The big question was: what?

It took me quite a while - I'm a bit slow at times (ha!) - to figure out the answer to that question.

Today, I figured out the answer. It wasn't an epiphanous (nope, not a word, but I'm using it) moment, lightning striking, bright light bulb going off in the shadows of my mind, a hand slap to the back of the head, or anything jazzy. There was just a sense of AH-HA, but more like ah-ha.

A whisper and not a shout.

I guess I was trying too hard to figure out the problem, so, had it been a snake, it would've bit me in the . . . nether regions. I couldn't see the problem.

I do now.

What does all this mean? Well, a rewrite of sorts, but not a total revamp. There's this character - well, two characters that are almost identical in nature, and what's the point of two of the same characters when just one will do? Now, say all that really, really fast, and you'll understand my thought process as I came to the conclusion that a character's perspective, but not the character, must go. So, as the Queen of Hearts once said in Alice in Wonderland "Off with her (well, his in this case) head"! Okay, not literally, the character is still important and serves a purpose. But . . . the character's perspective isn't necessary. The elimination of, and/or reworking of certain parts of, this perspective will eliminate words (aka lose some weight - ha!) and tighten the narrative.


So (yes, again) have you ever come to this same conclusion in your pieces of brilliance? Have you realized you have two characters that are pretty much the same? Have you (will you) eliminated said character or (as in my case) only the perspective of said character? Did you regret the moment of elimination - character and/or perspective?

You see, there's a sense of regret that the brilliance (at least in my little world) of this character's perspective, the blood, sweat, and tears, the loss of hair I can't afford to lose, the weight (hey, now, I did lose weight while writing the initial draft), will no longer be a part of the story. And yet . . .

. . . the brilliance will still remain a part of the story as I incorporate pieces of each eliminated section into the other sections of each chapter. Geesh, try saying that three times fast.

So, off into revision mode I delve as I eliminate and tighten and (hopefully) lose some weight in the process!


Monday, May 17, 2010

A Query That Works

No, not mine! Geesh! But, hop over to Janet Reid's Query Shark site and check this out as well as Janet's comments.

My thoughts: if I were an agent I would have passed on the book. Then again, I'm not an agent and have enough trouble with my own query, so how in the heck would I recognize one that would make Janet (or any other agent) get so excited. SIGH!

I'll be back posting on a regular basis a bit later this week, possibly tomorrow. I'm still trying to dig out at work from being gone last week. Never fun. Trust me on that!

This weekend I finished two books . . .

Nick Nolan's Strings Attached and Mary Higgins Clark's The Shadow of Your Smile. I also started reading Kira Henehan's Orion You Came and Took All My Marbles. It's a very odd book, with a distinctive voice, and . . . that's about it right now. I'm not that far into the book.

I did some research on agents and a bit of note taking on two different projects. I hope to dive back into the writing pool tonight and get back to the things that need doing. Of course, Franklin is on vacation this week, so my nightly ritual will get all screwed up. Ha! I'll just send him upstairs to watch a movie while I work. As long as he's well fed he pretty much leaves me alone. Now, the boyz (Jesse and James - the dogs) and Squeaky (the cat) aren't so easily taken care of, but I'm sure I'll figure something out.


Monday, May 10, 2010

This Week

I'm gone most of this week for work and will not (trust me on that one) have time to blog. I'll barely have time to think. I'll be back next week with the normal schedule of three posts (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and maybe an additional post or two.

I just read Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford - teen category - very good, very insightful, great voice. If you get a chance, check it out.

I spent Saturday doing research on potential publishers and agents. You see, my writing is probably what is called niche writing (i.e., not mainstream). Personally, it shouldn't be niche, but society, for the most part, isn't enlightened enough to recognize that fact. Sooooooo, I may have to adjust my publication ideals just a bit to get out the stories that need to be told. Maybe one day the word niche as it applies to my writing, will no longer apply.

Last, but surely not least, especially for me and so many others. Check out Do The Write Thing a fabulous trio of writers - Victoria Schwab, Myra McEntrie, and Amanda Morgan - have created this blog to raise money for the Nashville flood victims. They've raised a good deal of money so far, and there's still many days of bidding to go. In fact, Janet Reid has an item out there as well. Yes, Janet Reid. So, go check it out, bid if you can, and spread the word as well. Every $1 helps.

Have a great week.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nashville Flood


As any writer, aspiring or otherwise, should know, there are many writerly blunders out there, lurking in dark places, just waiting to trip us up. Trust me on that one.

Yes, we know there are a ton of rules and that, if we prefer (I do, btw) we can break them willy-nilly! Yeah, I'm a rebel like that sometimes. The blunders, however, are a bit different then rules.

Writer's Digest had an article out about the most common writing blunders and I hope to finish reading it this weekend and do a post for early next week. In the meantime . . .

Let me talk about my own writing blunder. Yes, horror of horrors, I committed a writing blunder. I have no clue how it happened. Okay, I do, but having no clue sounds a wee bit better than having a clue.

My writing blunder - too time specific. Yes, too time specific. I believe if you say those words out loud they'll echo around you in a deep booming voice that will slowly fade off into the distance.

Anyhow, unless your piece of brilliance takes place in a specific year . . . DO NOT get too time specific. DO NOT have your characters discuss certain events that are, well, too time specific.

I did all of this. I blame it solely on the margaritas. Ha! Okay, it wasn't the margaritas but I was writing Margarita Nights at the time, and that's the piece of brilliance where my blunders are so evident.

I was too time specific.

Now, I have to go and undo my time specificocity (yeah, not a word, but I like how it flows). I have to pull out some really good sections and rework those sections with less time specific info. Oh, I can still include the basic concept behind those scenes, the gist of the conversation, but the point is . . . I was too time specific and that's not a good thing unless I'm set on my novel taking place in the year 2005 . . . which I'm not.

Have you done this before? Have you been too time specific? Do you care that you're too time specific? Do you just figure that an agent/editor will tell you to correct it at a later date and just not care? Do you worry that the time specificocity might cause an agent to go REJECT?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Success . . .

. . . is joy.

. . . is can't wait to get up in the morning so you can . . .

I don't have the exact quotes for above, their from the 2009 remake of Fame. Toward the end of the movie, one character does a monologue about success. The main point: success isn't about accolades, but about joy/love of what you are doing.

I love writing.

Yeah, I want the whole publication thing.

I love writing.

I get stressed out thinking about querying, finding an agent, blah, blah, blah.

Success is about joy. It doesn't matter whether I'm published or not if . . . I don't have joy in what I do.

How about you? Do you have joy in what you do? Do you love what you do? Are you writing what you love or what you feel you need to write?


On a side note - I'll be in and out of the blogsphere a bit more sporadically over the course of the next few weeks, probably non-existent next week due to being out of town for a work conference. This past weekend I was glued to the television - no writing, no reading, only watching - as Mother Nature whomped the heck out of Middle and Western TN. The onslaught of heavy rain, unending, over and over and over again, was unreal. The aftermath - flooding beyond my comprehension - is unreal. We were lucky - no flooding or damage at our house. Some friends of ours had flooding and minor damage. Again, we were lucky, they were lucky, but others in TN not so much. Opryland Hotel - huge, huge, major hotel - was flooded and will be shut down for months. This is a major source of revenue for Nashville, TN. The football stadium, hockey arena, symphony hall, and many more businesses in downtown Nashville and outlying areas have been flooded. The economic devastation, not to mention the property loss, is unimaginable right now. We're on mandatory water conservation due to one treatment plant being flooded. So, my mind has obviously not been on blogging or writing. I can't begin to express how unreal this all still seems, especially as the aerial shots of the flooding are shown.

So, if you don't see me commenting as much, or posting as much, it's just because I haven't had the energy to devote to those things right now. I will be back, probably a bit later this week with something more in depth. Take care.