Friday, May 31, 2013

Adventures in Query Land, Part II

Adventures in Query Land:

Top Ten Ways to Annoy an Editor or Agent

1.  Do not check your letter for spelling errors.  In fact, make several typos in the first sentence.  That'll reel 'em in!

2.  Start your letter with a really corny little snippet of wisdom.  You know, some kind of quote like, "Every step we take in life moves us in some direction."

3.  Use incredibly tiny font; so small that they have to strain their eyes even more than usual to read it.  Also, use some crazy font that will give your letter some pizzazz! 

4.  Make sure your letter is longer than one page.  Agents and editors have loads of free time and would like nothing better than to spend oodles of it on your query alone.

5.  Be sure to include contact info that is really complicated.  For example, "You can reach me at this address, but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  The rest of the week I can be reached at this number, but don't call it before ten in the morning because my roommate likes to sleep in.  Also, I'm moving in a week, so after that my new address will be..."  

6.  Go ahead and use the same generalized query for anything and everything you submit.  Don't bother with any kind of specific salutation. 

7.  Use an entire paragraph to explain that you understand how busy they are and how valuable their time is.  That's not wasting more of their time at all...

8.  Make really grand claims like, "My novel appeals to everyone and I guarantee it will sell millions of copies!"

9.  Tell them about how painstaking the writing process was and how hard you've worked on your novel.  That fact alone makes it good.

10.  Be incredibly vague when describing your book and use cliches like, "It's a coming of age novel about a woman who is looking for love."  What a hook!

(P.S. These are NO-NO's.  Please don't do them.  Research query writing before you submit.  It will be worth the effort!)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

RTW: In Your Dreams

This week's Road Trip Wednesday question over at the YA Highway asks:

Conference season is here! We are getting all excited for BEA and ALA (check out the get-together we have planned with Stacked for ALA!), and we want to know: What authors would be on your dream author panel?

 I must admit I have never been to a Writers' Conference before.  I have always wanted to go to one, but have yet to muster enough courage to market myself in person.  (Yes, I know I'll have to get over it at some point if I want my book published, but for now I'm content to oblige the writer-hermit in me and remain holed up in the basement working on my manuscript.)

But if I were to go to a conference in my dreams and see an entire panel of authors of my choosing, not only would it be amazing, but it would be extremely beneficial.  I would probably choose authors that have boggled my mind at one point or another with their amazing story-telling talents. 

For their astounding world-building skills, I would choose Lois Lowry and Aldous Huxley.  For the beautifully simplistic way in which they compose a sentence, I would choose William Kennedy and Edgar Allen Poe.  For simply writing a story that broke the boundaries of the YA genre, I would choose J.K. Rowling.  And finally, for showing us newbie writers how your wildest dreams of being published can come true and being a real honest human being about it, I would choose Veronica Roth.  (She also wrote an amazing series and should be recognized for that as well!)

These are all authors that, in some way or another, have made me love the written word and the craft of writing it.  If I had a chance to pick their brains at a Writers' Conference, I would be one happy gal.

What would your dream panel be and why?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Adventures in Query Land

Even though my book is nowhere near finished, sometimes I can't help it when my mind wanders into unknown territories like Query Land.  During the final stages of draft one, I have also been trying to build a measly platform by securing some freelance work.  And you know what freelancing means: a trip to Query Land!  Without a clear understanding of solid query-writing, the chances of being published for any freelance gig are about as good as winning the Powerball.  The odds don't seem to deter anyone from buying into the madness, though, do they?  So how do we make our queries stand out among the many un-researched, unedited, and otherwise unworthy ones out there?

We do it right!

Keep in mind, I am no expert.  I have yet to make my impression on the literary world.  But I am learning as I go and have picked up a few tips along the way.  I'm going to start a series this week about my "Adventures in Query Land," where I will share tips on query-writing that I have learned and/or employed on my own journey. 

Another thing to keep in mind: all agents, editors, and publishers are looking for different things.  They all have different preferences on what they want to see and how they want to see it presented.  If you are querying someone that has specific guidelines on what they are looking for, then for goodness sake, follow those guidelines.  I've heard quite a few times about editors and agents being flat out annoyed by the fact that they take the time to help writers out by posting specific guidelines, only to have them completely ignored when a writer feels their query/manuscript is simply above all that.  They don't need to follow those guidelines because they are such an exemplary writer that they will just blow that editor's or agent's mind.

If you are in this frame of mind right now as you write your stellar query that does not abide by certain guidelines, please stop.  You are making the rest of us look bad.  You're like the grown man that cuts in line when highway 5 is under construction and down to one lane because you think you're just better than everyone else and your business is far more important than ours.  We're all trying to navigate through the heinous path to getting that publishing deal.  But those orange signs that tell you how to go about it are there for a reason.  So no cutsies, jerkface.  Just get in line with the rest of us.

Ok, rant over.  The whole point of examining what makes a query good or interesting is to sort of step into the shoes of the agent or editor you are sending it to.  They probably read twenty other queries before they got to yours, and they probably have thirty more to get through by the end of the day.  If you don't take the time to be professional, but also make yours grab their interest and keep it until the end, you will disappear into the pile with the rest.

So stay tuned this week for more Adventures in Query Land.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

RTW: The One That Got Away

Hello YA Highway.  How I've missed the time we share together on Road Trip Wednesdays.  It's good to feel the wind in my hair again.

Although they haven't actually made this week's question live yet, I am taking liberties and running with it anyway.  A busy mom only has so many windows in which to blog, you know.  Besides, it was posted on last week's question as a teaser for this week.  (Yep, I'm a gun jumper.)  This week's question over at the YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday asks:

What book is your 'one that got away?' (What book have you always been dying to read but still haven't yet?)

Let's begin with a little disclaimer, shall we?  I am a horribly awful procrastinator.  I am also a notorious "starter" of things and have difficulty following through.  (See my About Me page)  Series are particularly hard for me, unless they are riveting and capture my attention the entire way through.  I can think of only a handful of series that had me carting kids to the bookstore at odd hours of the day to pick up the next installment because I simply couldn't wait any longer.  (Hello Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent, and  Robert Langdon series)  And yes, I am that weird lady with whiny children perusing the YA section of the bookstore.  I can't be the only one...

So it should come as no surprise that the "one that got away" for me is a series I never got around to finishing.  I idolize Stephen King for his unique writing style and "what you see is what you get" attitude.  I have read many of his books and enjoyed them all.  The series I have been meaning to finish for quite some time now is his foray into the fantasy genre, "The Dark Tower" Series.  I read the first book, "The Gunslinger" at a time in my life when I was distracted by other things, so I didn't retain a lot of the events and key points in the book.  I think this had something to do with my lack of excitement to move on to the next book in the series.  I have been intending to revisit Roland and his multiverse and just haven't gotten around to it yet.  Maybe this was the kick in the butt I needed to pick it up again!

Does anyone else have a book or series that got away?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

5 Signs You May Be a Writer Mama

1.  Your "desk" consists of one third of the dining room table and is cluttered with stacks of mail and school newsletters that you had every intention of reading but life stood in the way, as it always does, and so you find yourself running through the aisles of the grocery store at seven a.m., frantically looking for some kind of purple flower because you didn't realize it was "Give Your Teacher a Purple Flower Day" at school.

2.  As you page through your stack of queries to send out, you notice drawings that resemble Rorschach tests artfully done by your five year-old intermixed within the pile.  Although some publications do note in their guidelines that accompanying images are appreciated, you're not sure that's really what they had in mind.

3.  You sit down to write a serious article about world news, politics, or other serious topic because you dream of being a serious writer and pitching to The New York Times, but all that comes out is page after page of hilarious anecdotes about parenting. 

4.  You have trained your writing brain to turn itself on and off at the drop of a hat.  Your creative ideas come to you during swimming lessons, hockey practice, and when your child unexpectedly takes a super long nap. (This is rare and must be utilized to its full potential!)

5.  Although sometimes you feel like crying when you are on the brink of a really great piece of writing and your sleeping babe starts wailing like she's being tortured, you know in your heart that you wouldn't trade being a mom for any amount of recognition as an author.  (The NYT bestseller list excluded, of course.)

Happy Mothers' Day to all my fellow Writer Mamas and to mothers everywhere!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Story Time: The Writer-Hermit in Me

It had been a long and tedious day of packing boxes, moving boxes, moving them again when no one saw the GIANT letters K-I-T-C-H-E-N and placed them, instead, in the bathroom, and unpacking boxes.  The very last thing my brain wanted to do was attempt a little creativity but being the diligent writer that I am, I felt compelled to do it anyway.  I dug out my laptop and power cord, poured a generous glass of wine and found a spot on the couch that wasn't too covered in that wonderful dust that accumulates in no time at all during a move. 

As I waited for the computer to start up, I looked around and felt the hermit that dwells within my head begin to stomp around in agitation and grumble.  The lighting was  all wrong; the old house had great light in the living room.  I couldn't even get around the stack of boxes to set up the lamp, let alone find a suitable outlet to plug it in.  Oh well, dim lighting would just have to do for the night. 

Grumble grumble...

I clicked on the internet icon on my computer instinctively to turn on Pandora radio.  I have to have music to write to, you see.  Well, silly me, I forgot that our internet wasn't hooked up yet.  No music for me.

Stomp, grumble, stomp...

I sat and stared at the blank Word document for an hour, sipping my wine and listening to the hermit upstairs gripe about the unfamiliarity of the new place.  I gave up and went to bed, feeling dejected and thinking I'd never be able to write again in this strange and unwelcoming place.  (I have a tiny flair for the dramatic, eh?)

I am a total creature of habit, in case you hadn't noticed.  The stubborn hermit in my brain prevented me from getting any writing done for the first week in our new house.  I am finally getting into my routine again, but it made me think about how comfortable we writers get in our writing routines.  I realize not all writers out there are as stubborn about change as I am, but it seems to me that we all have found methods that work for us and get slightly cranky when they are disrupted.  It's a bit like sports players and their superstitious pre-game rituals, isn't it?  If I don't have the right light, the right music, and NO ONE sitting close enough to read my computer screen, (Yes, I am that uptight about people being able to read what I'm typing.  My own husband can attest to it.) then I can't seem to spit anything out.

I am also finding out that my routine is changing in the new place, because certain aspects of the old routine don't feel right anymore.  I used to write in the kitchen all the time at our old house.  The kitchen here holds no interest for my writer-hermit brain.  But now, for some reason, I feel the urge to write in the bedroom all the time.  I never wrote in the bedroom at our old house.  Just silly little things that make me ponder the writing process...

Where/when/how do you like to write?

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Importance of Not Writing and Literary Fitness

In my time away from the blog, I have had something of an epiphany.  It has been quite a long time since I last posted, and I apologize for that fact.  The Perfect Storm came together and wreaked havoc over my life for a couple weeks, but it has since dissipated and the sun shines once again.  A move, a health emergency, and technical difficulties all contributed to my absence.  I hadn't really realized how dependent I was on the internet until I was without it for ten days.  I hardly knew what to do with myself during the times I would normally be blogging or contributing to weekly writing prompts.  I actually reverted back to a notebook and pen for a week.  It was excruciating.

But enough excuses.  Onto the epiphany.  When the green light finally blinked at me on my modem, signaling I was once again connected digitally to that giant world wide web out there, I sat down and cranked out three thousand words-worth of stories, comments, and other public posts in about two hours.  It's such a wonderful feeling when the words just spill out of you, isn't it?  In all my excitement, I realized that taking some time away from the usual writing exercises had helped those creative juices to build up inside me until they poured out onto the page like literary kool-aid.

I have always believed that the writing mind is a muscle that needs to be exercised and toned just like any other muscle.  The same old boring workout, day after day, will keep it in shape.  I will always be able to write something, just as our muscles will always be able to perform average tasks like walking.  But the lesson I'm learning is that walking every single day for the rest of my life is boring.  Unless I take time out to absorb the world around me and let that creative kool-aid build up again, my writing muscles won't be able to do amazing things like yoga, kettle ball, or even that zumba thing I'm always hearing about.  (By the way, what the heck is zumba, anyway?)

Taking time away from the norm and letting current events sink in and marinate for a while is a good thing.  It helps us elevate our writing from the doldrums of "fine" and "nice".  I don't ever want my writing to be described as fine or nice.  That is boring, plain old vanilla, and vanilla is not what gets published.  I want to at least rise to Moose Tracks status.  (I apologize to all the vanilla lovers out there.  It's just not for me.)