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Friday, July 30, 2010

And Yet Another Version of the Query Letter. . .

A few posts ago I mentioned a website called Query Shark.  I've been reading it pretty carefully, which is required before I can submit one of my query letters for the Shark's brutal tearing apart.  There are over 160 entries, and very few of them are 'wins'.

And because querying is a highly subjective business, some of the letters that were hits struck me as not all that different from the ones that were misses.  It's hard to internalize the rules when they don't seem to apply all the time.

Still, the Shark is pretty open about this.  She admits that even if a letter isn't perfect, if it has voice, she likes it.  She wants us to lead with the hook of the story.  Keep it brief, keep the sentences concise, leave lots of white space.  Include the word count, but put it and other book info at the bottom of the letter.  Don't forget to include your contact info.

So I've spent a lot of time soaking up those rules, and I retooled my query letter for the umpteenth time (actually, I rewrote it two more times:  I like them both, but one is shorter and leads with the action of the story, while the other is a little longer).

I'm letting it sit and marinate for a bit, and then take a deep breath and submit it to the Shark.  I might even send it out to some agents, too, as the wait for the Shark can be pretty long, and there's no guarantee she'll actually print it on the blog.

So. . what do you think?


Tasmyn Vaughn just heard her classmate planning a murder.  The problem is that Nell Massler didn’t tell anyone that she intends to perform a blood ritual; she only thought about it.  It was Nell’s misfortune that Tasmyn can hear the minds around her.

Now Tasmyn has to figure out how to stop Nell without revealing her own secret.  Acting on what she hears in someone’s head is foreign to Tas.  Her parents have built their lives around guarding their daughter’s ability, to protect her from possible exploitation.  They’ve established very specific rules about not listening to anyone’s mind.  But Tasmyn is fairly certain that preventing murder should trump all those limits.

What she doesn’t know is that Nell has been messing with witchcraft under the tutelage of their chemistry teacher. When that teacher begins to show interest in the powers she suspects Tas possesses, Nell’s jealousy leads her to choose Tasmyn as her next victim.

While Fearless, complete at 114,000 words, can stand alone as a young adult urban fantasy, it is part of a planned quartet.  The first and second sequels are also complete.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Writer Worry

Why am I up at 2:08 AM working on my blog? 

Because I am a victim of writer worry.

Once upon a time, I didn't have this.  Oh, sure, I lay awake at night worrying. . .about my children's health, about whether or not homeschooling was working for us, about paying bills, all those regular, mundane sort of worries. 

But now I lie awake thinking about my characters.  What Tasmyn did in the last chapter--was that in keeping with who she is?  What would Michael do if this happened?  Should I flesh out Amber a little more?  Is this all a tremendous waste of time?  Will I ever see these books in print, outside of doing it myself? 

And why don't I blog more regularly?  What can I do to promote my writing?  From all sides, tweets, blogs and books, I'm reminded that plugging my own writing is essential.  What am I missing?

Should I go to a writers' conference?  Which one?  What will I do if I submit my work for review and they trash it?  Do I trust their opinions, or do I keep at it?  How long is too long to keep the faith in this work?

How can I make my query letter better, more effective?  Why didn't someone tell me before now that you never submit a prologue with sample pages?  Is my book doomed to failure because it doesn't start with a bang?  Aren't there other books out there whose story develops smoothly and slowly (I am thinking of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series--I've never read books that developed at such a snail's pace as those). 

That's just a small sampling of what runs around my brain at midnight, after I turn off the lights. 

So the bigger question is this:  why do I bother?  Why not just forget this if it causes me so much angst?  Let it go!

Ask a mom why she continues to care about her child after he has broken her heart.  Ask any new parent why he gets up five times a night to feed the baby.  It's the same answer.  No matter how troubling, no matter how sleep disrupting or anxiety-provoking, I love it.  I couldn't abandon this now.

So I'm heading back to bed to catch a few hours of sleep and hope that my head will quiet down.  If it doesn't, I'll be playing my favorite going-to-sleep game:  re-write the query letter in my head.

'Night, all.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Week of Words

I am safely back home after my six days of writing.

I wrote over 33,000 words.  I finished the third book--well, at least I wrote the end of it.  I'm still working on a few bridge chapters to link the main part to the end.

For three days, I literally did not have face to face human interaction!  I wrote as long as I wanted, without having to stop to make a meal.  I slept when I was tired, ate when I was hungry.  It was amazingly freeing.

I know that I'll go back and edit those chapters, but the fact is that they exist now.  Editing is easy enough once the words are written.  I'm happy with the outcome, and I'm excited already about what book 4 is going to bring.

I have to admit that in the midst of this total immersion, I began to have quite a few doubts and insecurities. I was alternating writing with some query and agent research, and that can be extremely depressing.  For every fairy tale writer story (think JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer), there are hundreds of writers who have worked for years without even a glimpse of publication possibilities.

I love to write.  This week, I'd sit down at the computer in front of my story and look up to find that four hours had passed without my knowing it.  Someone asked me recently if I would keep writing even if I knew that my work would never be published.  The answer is yes, because I love it and I believe passionately in my characters and their story.

But just as parents know that their children have to venture into the world at some point, I have a dream for my stories.  I want others to read them and share this world with me.  That means publication has to be my goal.

So I'm back to the dreaded query task.  I've found some interesting sites (Query Shark, anyone??).  I'm trying to learn, even while I am careful to remember that no one has the perfect answer to the query quandary.

I'm still working toward a strong yes, fingers crossed and feet firmly on the ground.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Party Time!

I'm at the end of my first full day of 'just keep writing, just keep writing. . ." and it's been an incredible day.  I spent it totally within my characters' world, and truthfully, each time I came up for air, I was surprised to see that I wasn't at King High or Lake Rosu or at Marica's house.

Yes, this is a luxury.  Yes, I am truly blessed to be able to take this week.  Don't think I'm not really, truly grateful.

So what does a writing day look like?  I got up this morning, grabbed the computer and pulled up my current book.  I did some back reading, refreshing in my mind what I'd written in dribs and drabs over the last few weeks.  And then I switched on the tunes (God bless Pandora!) and started writing.

I got up and moved around every couple of hours.  Grabbed some water, a handful of M & M's (the pretzel kind--YUM!). . .took 1/2 hour to do some yoga, just to keep the oxygen pumping to my brain. . .I wasn't the least bit tempted to go outside to the pool, since every time I looked out, it was raining!

Right now, I'm on dinner break, eating some warmed over potato skins and fresh cherries.  And what do I do on my dinner break from writing?  Well. . .I write my blogs.

Good thing I love what I do!

I came to a really awesome conclusion today:  I actually do love what I do, and guess what?  My books really truly are good.  Women are sometimes conditioned to denigrate their own work. You know, someone compliments us and we reply, "Oh, it's nothing.  Just a seven course dinner.  Just an exquisite prom gown.  Just a great homeschool curriculum.  Just a three hundred page book. . ."  But if we don't stand up for the merits of what we do, who will?

So. . it was a productive day.  And now all that's left of the cherries are the pits, so it's time to get back to work.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Impatience. . .

Impatience has been a pretty constant state of mind for me lately, at least when it comes to my writing.  I haven't heard from any agents I've queried for a few weeks (although I did receive a sweetly personal rejection from one agent recently).  I have some exciting ideas for my characters, and I'm anxious to get them down on paper, but I haven't had more than a few minutes at a time to do it. 

And so. . .impatience!

I don't think I'm alone in this.  Don't call the men in white coats yet, but my characters get really antsy when I don't have time to move them forward on a regular basis.  I think they got spoiled when I was able to devote pretty much all of my waking time to them.  Now I'm trying to fit them in between my kids, my husband and myself, and they're a little sulky. 

Sigh.  Get in line, folks.

But there's light at the end of the tunnel.  I'm taking radical action. 

Next week I am going away.  By myself.  I'm taking writing vacation, going about 30 minutes from home, staying in a resort where no one knows me.  I'm not taking a car, so I have to stay put.  It will be me, my laptop and my music.  (Oh, and maybe some pretzel M & M's  and a bottle of wine.)

I have a really big goal, and that's to finish the third book in my series.  After that, I'm hoping my characters will simmer down long enough for me to really put my attention toward more regular queries.

I'll keep you all posted on how the writing goes, as long as the characters let me work on anything other than their story.