Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What if . . .

One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever read was from Mary Higgins Clark - if you don't know her you've got to have been living under a rock - when she was asked about where her ideas came from. Her response - what if! Okay, her response was longer than that, but the main idea was to look at a news story and go what if . . .

So, this is what I've done with my current project, which is Book II in my mystery series. I took a situation that occurred in the town I live in a few years ago and went, what if . . .


I must say, this whole what if thing is kind of fun. I have a real life event that I'm putting my own spin on using just the basics of the actual event to provide motive for the murder that takes place on the first page of the manuscript.

Will I always use this technique? Probably not. The idea for Book III (which, once upon a time was Book II, but is now Book III - long story) came from a rumor of something that has been going on for a while and, well, provided the motive for murder. I just love it when that happens.

The fact is, life is full of situations that, for a writer, can provide the motive for murder . . .

. . . an argument witnessed on a street corner.

. . . an argument between co-workers.

. . . the sighting of a former, hateful, boss at a movie.

. . . the arrest of a public official.

. . . the . . .

Well, you should get the picture. Life is full of so many events that, with a bit of a warped imagination (mine's a bit more warped than most peoples) . . . anything can happen.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Why . . .

. . . did you choose the agents you chose to query?

As every reader knows by know, I'm about to query. I've gotten the Query Ninja's (Elana) stamp of approval on my query and I've picked out three agents to query.

Yep, only three at this point.

The question I asked myself last night is why those three agents.

The second question I asked my self - Self, should you put 'why' you're querying said agents in your query letter? Okay, I didn't really ask myself that question. Okay, maybe I did.

I could just see this line in my query: I've admired you from afar (well, from the blogsphere). Then, I could see a restraining order in my immediate future. Scratch that line. Ha!

Then, how do I put what made me choose that agent - the why - in my query without, well, seeming to, well, suck up, kiss butt, whatever to said agent?

Yeah, that's a tricky one, isn't it?

So, one of the agents I'm planning on querying mentions on their site that they're looking for projects with a unique voice or look and something important to say. Woo-hoo! They just described my project. So, my line in the intro is going to be: I feel that TITLE OF BOOK is perfect for your agency because it has a unique voice (then again, doesn't every author think their project has a unique voice?) and something important to say. Yeah, I don't think that line's going to be added to my query any time in the near future either. Can you say AUTO-REJECT! Well, maybe not, but still . . . the line might be a bit too flip, a tad snarky . . . but so am I.

That little dilemma brought up the question: do I sterilize my query so much, that who I am as an individual - a bit flip at times, more than a tad snarky - doesn't show through?

I hate writing essays - formal, dull, boring. So, in college, I began to take chances with my essays - less formal, a bit snarky, and . . . I got great grades on the papers. I had one professor come up to me in the hallway and tell me she absolutely LOVED what I did with the essay, and that she howled with laughter (in a good way) when reading my paper. To me, that was the ultimate praise, because I put me in my essay.

I want to put me in my query.

Anyhow, I'm digressing more than Sophia Petrillo did in seven seasons of The Golden Girls.

I chose the first agent because of the concepts listed on their website, and because of the posts on the blog that, at least in my opinion, carried the same outrage, irreverence, and passion that I put into my posts when I'm, well, outraged. After reading those posts - I followed the blog first - I investigated the agency a bit more and realized I wanted to query said agent.

The second and third agents I found through blogs I follow. There was something about each agent that, well, spoke to me. There was something they said on their sites, in the interviews, that clicked with me. Yeah, they also represent my genre, but . . . that wasn't the primary reason I chose any of those agents.

So, with all this rambling on a Friday morning, my question to those who have agents, and those looking for agents: Why do you choose who you choose? Solely because they represent your genre? Or, is there some deeper reason? Please comment away.

Have a great Friday.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WiP Wednesday - February 16, 2011

And the progress continues, slowly but surely. Ha!

Query Letter - done and done. Why done and done? Well, I had to write two letters. The one agent I plan on querying has very specific instructions on what he wants. So, first letter is more narrow, more defined. The second letter is a bit broader. Then again, I might not need the second letter. One just never knows. Ha!

I'm almost finished with the read through. I should finish up tomorrow. Other than the one chapter mentioned in Monday's post, the changes really have been minimal. I'll probably go through doing a word search - that, very, just, and a few other words - over the course of the weekend. For the most part, I'm not worried about the word very because I purposely used it in some instances. In other instances, as I've done the read through, I've eliminated the word.

The tone of this project is a bit irreverent. It's not some formal piece of work that will bore my readers. At least I hope it's not a formal piece of work that will bore my readers. Okay, I know it's not a formal piece of work that will bore my readers. My betas loved the manuscript. Okay, they loved the main character, and the manuscript.

Still, I think part of the charm - yeah, narrow perspective here - of the manuscript is the irreverence of the writing. Hopefully, said irreverence will charm agents everywhere. One can hope.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Discovery of Witches

I just finished reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. LOVED! IT!!

This was a great book. I think it falls into the paranormal romance genre, but . . . it's just a great book. Yeah, there's some romance, but that's not the main premise of the book.

Here's what I loved . . .
  • Bridget Bishop - first witch killed during the Salem Witch Trials, who also happens to be an ancestor of a good friend of mine - is mentioned in the book. In fact, the main character is a direct descendent of Bridget Bishop. So, first and foremost, I'm intrigued because I actually know someone descended from Bridget Bishop. That qualifies as a neat-o factor.
  • Vampires - the author (Deborah Harkness) takes the been there, done that vampire and . . . puts her own unique spin on them that is incredibly believable and realistic. I love her spin on the vampires.
  • Complexity - this story is complex and intriguing and . . . so many other things.
  • Slow Read - no, this isn't a bad thing. I kept thinking the book was a slow read until I realized the reason why: I was absorbing everything, immersing myself in the present day world she created. I was lingering over the words. That is why it was taken me so long to read the book, and not because it was uninteresting.
  • Page Turner - even though I was lingering, absorbing, immersing, I also couldn't wait to turn the page to find out what would happen next.

Okay, those are only some of the things I loved about this book. It is rare for me to find I book I can't put down, that I want to read and read and read and read and . . . This was one of those books. I was sad to reach the end. I wanted more.

Did I mention the main character is a historian? Did you know Isaac Newton was a . . . well, I'm not going to give that little tidbit away, but . . . the author cleverly plays with historical facts. Absolutely fantastic.

So, if you want a good book to read, go and get this one (which is also available for Kindle, and probably other e-formats as well).

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Slow Progression to the Finish Line

I'm about done with my read through. Yes, it's taking me forever. Patience is a virtue . . . or so I've been told. I'll get back to you on that one.

In doing my read through, as any reader of this blog already knows, I've been correcting minor things here, there, and everywhere throughout the manuscript.

Yesterday, a bit more than minor tweaking occurred in one particular chapter. You see, in writing this mystery, I had to make sure the clues pieced together to form a precise picture. This isn't always easy. Trust me on that one. In this one chapter, the specific connections I created between the suspects, and the detective, and another character didn't exist like they should have. Eeek!

You see, what happened during the rough draft process was . . . I created the connections toward the end of the rough draft writing process and not the beginning. That's how my mind works. So, in this read through, I get to this chapter and realize a lot of the chapter doesn't make sense because I'm not paying attention to all those connections.

Delete. Delete. Delete.

Revamp. Revamp. Revamp.


Now, all the connections are neatly tied together, past relationships and all that jazz, so that the comment of one character makes sense. Woo-hoo!

This, dear readers, is why we, as writers, aspiring or otherwise, do not query the rough draft.

This, dear readers, is why we, as writers, aspiring or otherwise, do multiple read throughs of our manuscripts before we even give serious thought to querying.

Writing, as I've said over and over again, well, written over and over again, is a process. It is not a race to the finish line, but rather a slow progression to the finish line.

Patience - allegedly - is a virtue, and patience in the writing process should, hopefully, mean that by the time I query, I have the most polished manuscript I'm capable of, well, polishing.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Clarity . . .

. . . comes at the oddest of moments. No direct thought, no pondering the problem, just - BAM - and the moment of clarity is upon me.

Yesterday, reading a book, my mind partway in the book and, obviously, somewhere else as well, a sentence formed.

Okay, it started a bit earlier than that. I was reading the book, a descriptive passage about the interior of a room, and my mind started to wander a bit - here, there, and everywhere. Suddenly, I'm opening up a Word document and typing a brief description of a room and, well, a scene that seemed to form at the same time.


Then, later in the day, immersed back in the book, a sentence formed in my mind. The sentence - at least as it stands here/now - is the opening sentence to a project I began working on a few months ago.


I've already written quite a few chapters on the project, but I set it aside as life intervened and my mystery project once again demanded all my attention. Still, the project rested in the nether reaches of my mind . . . waiting, waiting, waiting . . . until it could wait no more and leaped to the forefront.


The sentence leaped out, did a little dance, and away my fingers went, flying across the keyboard and typing out the new opening sentence.


Oh, this isn't just any opening sentence. This is THE sentence. THE ONE! Okay, maybe not . . . but, this sentence is twofold: it's the current opening sentence and it's the hook for the book. Woo-hoo, two birds with one stone.


And that, dear readers, is my post for today. Have a great day and weekend!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Finding Time

Sometimes, in this writer's life, combined with, well, life, time to write is hard to find. Take last night - got home, started fixing dinner. Put casserole in oven. Set timer for 45 minutes.

45 minutes. That's all I had. So . . . fine tuned my query, sent it back off to the Query Ninja for review and . . . started this blog post.

It's all about finding the time, even if it's only 30 minutes here or there between doing other things.

Did I mention that I really didn't have 45 minutes? No, I didn't. Why? Well, casserole was in the oven, but there were other things to do before dinner was really ready. So, knock off about 10 minutes. Oh, did I mention a phone call while I was working on the query? Yes, a phone call. Yes, I had to answer it. Subtract some more time.

Okay, so time is of the essence and it's disappearing faster than the hair on my head. Dang genetics.

How do you do it? How do you fit time for writing in your hectic schedule? Comment away.


BTW - my query is done. I have about 100 pages left to read through. Soon I'll be standing on the precipice of the great Query Chasm.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Social Media

Go here for a great blog about Social Media. The blog title: You don't Have to Blog, Tweet, or Be on Facebook. Go on, check it out!

The end sentence of the post: See social media as a way to connect with people who matter to you.

I don't Tweet. Okay, I do, but my tweets are few and far between. To me, Twitter is what my old boss called a time thief. Okay, he wasn't referring to Twitter because, well, it didn't exist back then. Time Thiefs to him, were the marketing reps who came into the office and wanted to sell us their products. Personally, I liked the time thiefs because they normally took me to lunch. I'm all about free lunch. Just saying . . . Ha!!

The main premise of the above blog is When you do interesting stuff—when you have something to say, a message to spread, or a story to tell—then social media makes more sense.

Exactly! Blogging, tweeting, Facebook shouldn't be something I feel I have to do, but something I want to do.

I think one of the reasons I pulled back from blogging for a while was because it became something I had to do, not something I wanted to do.

I have to work to pay my bills. I have to watch what I eat because otherwise I'll weigh 300 pounds . . . or more. I have to . . . well, you get the picture. I don't have to blog. I started to blog originally, my other blog not this one, because I had something to say. I started this blog, well, because I had something to say as well. In time, this blog become a duty, a requirement, something that lacked fun and excitement.

Twitter - oh, Twitter, you steal my time from me. I feel that I have to be on Twitter 24/7 or I'll miss something. So, I take the other extreme . . . I rarely get on Twitter. Yes, I know, I can interact with people in the literary field - agents, editors, writers (published and aspiring). Yes, I should be more Twitterfied. I'm not. Maybe one today.

Facebook - I love me some Facebook. I love connecting with friends, old and new. I find Facebook easy to manage.

So, in the end, I'm going to do what's best for me: some blogging, more Facebook, and an occasional jaunt into Twitterville every now and then.

How about you? Do you do all three social medias? If not, which ones do you do and . . . why?


Friday, February 4, 2011

The Synopsis - Arrrghhh

Okay, synopsis time. Where's the wine? Where are the margaritas? Ha! Kidding, it's not that bad.

Okay, it's not that great either, but it's part of the writing process and . . . this too shall pass.

I look at the query and the synopsis like I did algebra in high school: it's not something I love doing, but it's necessary . . . and I'm not going to graduate without it. Basically: I have no choice, so buck up.

I'm currently at work on the one page synopsis, then I'll move on to the more detailed synopsis, and then . . . well, hopefully, my synopsizing will be done.

So, one page synopsis - list the major events. This is easy because I have a Table of Contents with clever (at least in my warped mind) titles that mark out the major events in the title. Woo-hoo!

So, what I did last night was list all the major events (i.e. chapter titles containing major events) on a piece of paper which I'll flesh out into proper sentences later on because . . . I can't very well submit a bullet point synopsis with chapter titles. Yes, I'd love to do this, but . . . such an action could well get me black-listed from agentdom and I don't want that to happen. Still, these titles do make my job a bit easier . . . kind of like the cute tutor helping me out with my algebra back in high school.

What I also did yesterday, bullet point style, was list out both the major and minor events to help me with the longer synopsis.


* Major Event 1
* Minor Event
* Major Event 2
* Minor Event
* Minor Event
* Major Event 3

Well, you get the point . . .

So, that's where I am right here and now with my current project.

Other updates: query letter (faux and real) sent off to the Awesome Elana for review. She rocks, by the way!!!). The faux query is, well, the query I'd like to send, but also the one that would get me blacklisted in agentdom. Sigh!!

Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

WiP Wednesday - February 2, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day!

My wish for the groundhog: may he not see his shadow. Enough with winter already.

Here's my progress - 1/2 way through second read through.

That's it . . . have a nice day. Kidding.

I am about 1/2 way through the first read through. I haven't found any major things to change - just some wrong words (as mentioned in my previous post) and a lack of a word within a sentence . . . or five, well, maybe seven . . . but who the heck's counting? Okay, me, but that's beside the point.

I have one agent - so far - picked out to query. Yeah, only one, but there are a host (well, not really a host so to speak, but a few, well, maybe many) of others that I need to double check information on and see if they have any special requests regarding queries.

Why special requests? Well, because first agent I plan to query wants the following: intro, pitch (one paragraph is fine), and bio. This is not your standard query letter, dear readers. To me, this is a dream. I have the pitch down pat. Well, I hope I have the pitch down pat. You just never know. Still, this query is a bit easier than others where I have to provide a bit more information. So . . . I'm in a quasi-happy place.

Yeah, that happiness will dissipate when - maybe if, one just never knows - I have to send out more queries. Still, for now, I'm enjoying the brief respite from a more lengthy query letter.

Now, my question: does intro mean title, genre, and word count or does it mean something else entirely? Thoughts? Opinions? Words of wisdom?

On that note, dear readers, . . .