I know I'm not alone on this one, but out of curiosity, how many of you are currently querying?
I love the rush when I send out a query. Each letter holds so much promise. And of course, being a writer, I let each scenario play out in my mind, dreaming up "How I Landed My Agent" and "Eek! The Contract's in the Mail!" posts. It'll be so exciting once I'm to the next stage. I'll have so much to share with you all!
If Karma was as good as a guarantee, I should be a rich princess soon, or at the very least, a published author.
"There's a word for a writer who never gives up... published." -- J.A. Konrath
I don't know what's cooler about this quote, the fact that it's true, or that a mystery writer said it. (Thanks for sending it to me Sheri!)
Where the rubber meets the road. I was thinking about this on my way to work this morning--perseverance.
Definition: 1. determined continuation with something: steady and continued action or belief, usually over a long period and especially despite difficulties or setbacks.
I'm a believer that anything worth having is worth working for. I don't mind putting the work in. I never have. I'm past the stage of worrying about my pride. Right now, I just want my novel to be the best it can be. Send it off to boot camp and kick its tail!
There's never a better time than springtime to clean up your manuscript. Here's a couple of tips to help you do that:
1. Delete useless words. For me, this includes: so, just, almost and that. It's terrible, but I use "just" a lot, which is why I search for the word within my MS and delete it all the time.
The other group of useless words have to do with character emotions. Try to delete words like: felt, heard and knew. It goes back to the whole "show don't tell" mantra writers try to live by. Instead of saying "I felt sick," say, "my stomach rolled and nausea came up with it." See, much more visual.
2. Speaking of visuals, look at your use of adjectives and of course adverbs. Adverbs are seen as a no-no. Why? Adverbs are lazy and you can write better than that. As for adjectives, try to make them appeal to the senses--all five of them: sight, taste, sound, smell, touch. The last two especially are very powerful, but rarely used in writing. Try to add a couple to your MS and see what you get.
3. Dialogue. I love writing dialogue. It's the one time when your characters' voices really get to shine. That doesn't mean it's always easy to write. Remember who's talking. I create a cheat sheet that lists character's favorite words. Basically, it's their vocabulary. For example: Keira says "awesome," "notta" and "helluva" throughout BEAUTY SECRETS. Whereas Mrs. Johnnie says "Sug'," "Honey girl," and "hot mess" more than once. Vocabulary ties in with characterization, and you can never have your characters seem too real.
I hope these spring cleaning tips help you polish your MS as much as they've helped me. Of course, if you've got some additional tips, I'd love to hear about them.
My Internet quit working again, this time on Thursday night. Having the whole high-speed-radio-antenna-thing, it happens. Only this time it didn't come back on the next day, or the next.
So, I finally got a hold of tech support today (of course they never called me back from Saturday) only to find out my account was turned off for overusing bandwidth. Yes, Speednet thinks I'm downloading massive amounts of porn, illegal music files and/or movies.
What was I actually doing? Obsessing over a major rewrite for BEAUTY SECRETS and researching agents into the wee-hours of the morning. Last week I clocked over 56 hours of writing in 4 days (that's an average of 14 hours a day). Not to mention the extra 22 hours I spent researching agents. I think I went a little mad, or to quote Alice in Wonderland:
Me: "Have I gone mad?"
Alice: "I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are."
The rewrite was totally worth it, albeit scary at times, but worth it. I surprised myself with the ease at which I slashed words and poured forth new ones--changing plot points, characterization and clues. Wow, what a ride.
Then of course the conundrum I found myself in was, "Do I resend my partials to agents who already are reviewing them? Or do I wait to see what they say on the original partial I sent?"
Well, I went ahead and resubmitted a revised partial. Why? Well, here's what I was thinking: I don't want to be an imprudence, but I thought if the agent hasn't started reading my partial yet, it shouldn't be too much trouble to replace my revised partial with the original one. However, if the agent is too annoyed or busy to honor my request, then phooey on them. I'd rather have an agent pass on me because they're annoyed, then pass on the work itself.
What's the difference you ask?
In one case, you're passing on me because of my character. On the other, because of the writing. If you're going to pass on my writing, I'd rather have it be the most recent version. That way, when I see your rejection, I know it was the best I could do, and I won't always be wondering "what if?"
So, that's what I was doing the last week. Hopefully I'll have time this week to catch up with all of your blogs and jump back on to Twitterville. "See" you all soon!
Some publishing and agent sites recommend querying widely--to anyone and everyone in the business. But I don't agree with this. Why? Well, for starters, it's unprofessional and embarrassing.
"Dear agent, I'm querying you, well, because you're an agent. Isn't that enough?"
Um, no. The fact that you're an agent, even an awesome one, doesn't necessarily mean I want you to rep my book. Let's face it, the whole author-agent relationship is a big deal. This is the person who will represent you and that novel you've been obsessively writing.
Is it wrong to want a rock star agent? No, I don't think so. Writing is a labor or love and after spending months and countless hours on a novel, I'm not about to hand it off to just anyone.
Oh don't worry, I'm not that naive. I know my approach isn't the most practical, but it's the way I'm wired. I also know that signing with a rock star agent doesn't guarantee me more than a sense of accomplishment. I'm not shying away from hard work either. I expect a rock star agent to demand more from my writing, and I know my work will be better for it. Publishing isn't my end goal, but really the beginning.
There's a saying that attitude determines aptitude. If that's the case, you better look out because my confidence is soaring.
Just wanted to let you all know that I'm still having a blast (read: dreading) querying. While no offers for representation yet, I still have a couple of partials and fulls out, and I've had some excellent agent advice (read: they passed, but said nice things).
With all of that, I've spent the last week diving into BEAUTY SECRETS changing the plot, characterization, and even writing style. But get this, it's better than before! (Duh, of course it is. Why would I spend 50 hours rewriting crap?)
I set a personal goal to obtain an agent (yes, obtain. Preferably through normal, respectful means. Read: harassment is optional) by my birthday, which BTW is April 27th. Now, I made that goal in December when fresh with optimism (read: denial) I felt it was totally realistic. Now? Well, it might not be realistic, but I don't care. It's still my goal. (I won't even tell you about my world peace one.)
So that's what I'm up to. Lala Land has never been more inviting. Stop on by if you get a chance. The positivity has never been more appealing.
Does anyone else do this? I should really call it dream writing. I will dream about writing an entire chapter or two, know every single detail, and then wake up and Poof! it disappears.
Talk about disappointing.
I used to do this when I was little, too. I'd dream that I finished an assignment, or took a test, only to wake up and find out I still had to do it. Rats!
And then other times I'm not writing, but rather I'm reading. I have a tendency to read before going to bed and when a story's on my mind, it doesn't let go. I'll spend an entire night dreaming about reading the book. Boy, does my mind have some crazy plot twists! That's actually what happened last night. I've been reading Norah Roberts' Sign of Seven trilogy (I won't get into my lit review here :), so of course I dreamed of demons, guardians and Coca-Cola in the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. What a night.
Has this ever happened to you? I kinda think it's fun--not the most restful sleep, but it sure is entertaining.
Whether you do it at the beginning or throughout, you can't write a novel without completing some research. I'll admit, sometimes the mere thought of researching a topic turns me off from writing the story. Like most writers, story ideas hit me all the time, but very few of them stick after an initial mental outline. Do I really want to research 16th century pirates? Chinese politics of the 1800s? Studying abroad in South Korea? No, not really.
But sometimes the answer to my question is yes, which is why I currently have two novels outlined, and why I spent last Saturday shooting at the gun range. In my opinion, there's nothing better than first-hand experience when it comes to research. (Side note: I tried to have the same mindset yesterday while changing out a toilet, but no dice. Toilets are dirty, and I'm not planning on writing about one anytime soon.)
As for researching my novels, I'm not about to sit in on an autopsy or anything like that, but I have talked to a detective or two, and one of my husband's friends has a degree in mortuary science and is always willing to answer my morbid questions. I couldn't write murder mysteries (even if they are cozies) without these folks. And thank goodness for the Internet! I use it for so much research. Just yesterday I researched the specs of a Bell 427 helicopter, the distance from Savannah, GA to Meadowbrook, AL, and the recipe for a moisturizing mud mask (did I mention they were beauty cozies?). In the future I hope to take part in conference or two to learn even more. Moving to PA and being closer to the east coast should help, geographically at least.
Okay, back to research for me. Can any of you tell I'm excited to be writing again?
Okay, I know that today's blog post is generally reserved for my recap of the best publishing blog posts of the week, but before we get there I just wanted to drop a little note about first drafts, and that is, don't be haters people. Love your first drafts. Sure they're unruly, but that's nothing that a good edit can't solve. Remember, first drafts are the bones of your story. The soul in born out of the revision process. So edit, edit, edit, grow, grow, grow and voilà! your story will be beautiful.
Okay, and now for the fabulous Friday posts... um, actually there's only one this week and it is Eric's post "Having What it Takes" from his blog Pimp My Novel. According to Eric, he believes that all writers must have discipline, a desire to learn and improve, skill and luck in order to succeed (or at the very least, to set oneself up for success) in this industry. What do you think? Is Eric right? Or is there something else writers need in order to succeed?
For me, I'd add support. I need the support of my husband, friends and family in order to keep writing. At times when the negativity mounts too high, it's nice to have someone rooting for me in my corner. A little bit of positivity from the right person goes a long way.
Who doesn't have more than one story idea bouncing around in their head? Heck, we wouldn't have to worry about Sexy New Ideas (SNIs) lurking around the corner if we didn't. But what do we do with these luring ideas? Surely you don't want to forget such a tempting new prospect. You could be like me and break up with your current WIP, but trust me, another SNI will be waiting for you and no one wants to be an idea whore.
So what do you do? Here's what I do. I write down every single idea, character and scene the SNI reveals to me and store it on a folder on my laptop. Sure, it'll keep flirting with me from time to time, but as long as I get it's number and take it out on a date every now and then, it'll stick around.
As for your current WIP, you need to stay focused in order to stay committed. Luckily for us, Writer's Digest wrote a recent article on this very topic, "How to Organize Your Story Ideas." Here's a roundup of the article:
1. Establish a Calm Centered Mind: "Make your workspace your sanctuary. Keep office hours. Close the door if you can. If you can’t, put on earphones and listen to music. Writing is a meditation on life. You need to feel alone in the world so that you can be objective about it."
2. Study Your Breed: "Every book, just like every breed, brings with it a certain set of natural expectations. Historical romance must address history. Mysteries must have some level of, well, mystery. Literary books are usually not plot-focused.
Understanding the “breed” of your book is the first step in bringing your novel to the page. Once you create a clearly defined set of expectations, you can train yourself to stay within them—and soon you’ll be able to sit, roll over and fetch with the best of them."
3. Train Your Focus: "Once you have your framework in place, you’ll need to be ruthless. Everything in a story must work to tell the tale... You’ll probably start out pursuing more ideas than you have room for in your story, but when it comes time to write, it’s important to remember that you can’t try to stuff things in just because you like them."
4. Walk Your Inner Dog: "Don’t worry about failing. Be fearless about taming your best ideas, and about tossing out those that don’t fit your model. Choose paths that illuminate your own unique take on the world. Once you’re in the habit of walking your inner dog, you never know where it might lead you."
I'm giving these ideas a go for my current WIP to see how they play out. Like Mr. Miyagi said, "Focus Daniel son." I'll take the master's advice, and see how far it gets me. Don't worry WIP, I won't leave you!
And no, it wasn't that my Internet finally came back on (that happened this morning--grumble, grumble, grumble). This Eureka! Moment happened at Barnes & Noble. I was chit chatting with my gal pal, Sheri, when suddenly the books on the shelves started talking to me (metaphorically of course. I haven't gone that cuckoo yet.). I knew them personally--the authors who wrote them and their publishing journeys. It was all Grease Lightning and I felt like a total insider.
First I saw Jennifer Stanley's new release Stirring Up Strife and I immediately thought about her guest blog post at BookEnds. Her post, Take a Risk--Stay True to Your Voice, reminded us to "Forget what you think people are looking for and write your story." It's totally easy to get caught up in publishing trends, but in the end "you don’t want to ride a trend; you want to start one."Amen girlie.
Then I spotted Jennifer Hubbard'sThe Secret Year and was all excited to check out the author's debut. After following Jennifer's tweets and Nathan Bransford's blog posts on the subject, I already knew so much about the novel and its history, which made seeing it sitting on the bookshelf even more special. It's awesome to follow an author throughout the publication process. Congrats Jennifer!
And what book was next to Jennifer's? Liar written by Justine Larbalestier. For those who don't know, there was a little controversy last July regarding the book's US cover. The protagonist, Micah, is described as "black with nappy hair which she wears natural and short." So what did the US cover look like? Of course it featured a white girl with long brown hair. Yeah, not sure what the publisher was thinking exactly, but after an uproar, the cover was eventually remedied (that's the revised cover to the left). You can check out Justine's post on the subject here if you want.
The coolest part about all of this, is now more than ever I feel like I'm a part of this industry, or at least I know a thing or two about it. And I really have all of you, my fellow Bloggers, to thank for this. I've learned so much in the past year and it keeps getting better. So THANK YOU. I can't wait to continue to share my journey with you.