Monday, October 31, 2011

Young Adult Fiction?

I've been giving this subject a lot of thought lately.

As I go through the "wish lists" of agents, where they state in their profiles what exactly they are looking for, the amount of agents looking for YA fiction is pretty overwhelming. I suppose this could probably be attributed to the Harry Potter and Twilight crazes, but if that's what they're looking for, I'd guess that is what is selling. I'm sure the agents have their finger on the pulse of the market. So, I'm leaning toward marketing the current book I'm writing as YA fiction.

While I'm writing it, there have been things I've had to do to not cross over into commercial fiction, but as a larger concept, I think there is a pretty fine line between YA and "adult" fiction anymore. Perhaps the vocabulary is a bit understated in YA fiction, and maybe there are A FEW subjects that aren't broached...but even in those categories, I think the current generation of YA readers needs to be given more credit.

It's not that vampires and wizards aren't entertaining, but what is to say that a book can't be YA fiction if it covers pregnancy, marriage, sex, drugs, alcohol or anything of the sort? I know a lot has changed since I was a teenager, but it seems that these days, people in that age group probably know more about those things than even their parents do. Albeit, we all thought we did at that point in our lives, but for the first time ever, it might actually be true.

I've been shocked lately as I've watched episodes of True Life and Teen Mom on MTV as I watch what these "teenagers" have to endure before they are even old enough to take a sip of alcohol. Many of them have children, have been in rehab and have endured things some people in their 50's and 60's know nothing about. So, perhaps, they COULD relate to more mature subjects and we just aren't feeding them what they need. I don't see many YA books that address those issues, even on a fictional level.

Perhaps at this point, the only subjects that would be "off limits" in YA books are those which they might not find interesting, such as college being as they haven't reached that point in their lives, or politics since it's unusual to be into politics before one can actually vote, but as for the rest, I think they should have the option to read stories about the things that are affecting their lives the same way that adults do.

I think that genre is undergoing an evolution...or at least its readers are, which makes it an exciting time to be a writer, especially one who is looking to enter that particular arena.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween and My First "Book"

With Halloween approaching quickly (it was just summer--how did that happen?), I was thinking about the first "book" I ever wrote :)

I always had a passion for writing...I used to write poetry even as a very young child...in fact, I wrote some poems that were so intense, I think my parents might have wondered what the heck was going on in that little head of mine. Often, I would watch Jerry Springer and being so young that I actually believed the storylines, and so sensitive that I felt bad for the people, I would often write poems about the pain I thought they were feeling... had the scenarios been real...and I was like seven :)

So anyway, my first book was around that same time. Technically, I guess I could say that means I've been a novel writer for over twenty years...nevermind, that makes me feel old! I'll go with when I wrote my first REAL novel, which was two years ago...there, that feels much better.

I was SO proud of my little book, though. I actually illustrated it, too, which I'm happy to highlight...even if prospective agents or publishers are reading this is NOT my strong point. I drew a little witch and I think there was a dog/dinosaur looking thing that popped up on every few pages, but the story was mainly about the witch, so by about the fifteenth page, I had that drawing nailed. I actually remember most of the story, but....and I'm sorry if the suspense becomes too much...I'm going to try to dig it up because my Mother is Italian, so something tells me it's still in a drawer somewhere :)

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that I've always known what I wanted to do...it just took me awhile to get the courage to finally commit to going down that path and not looking back. If I do find this story and post it, you will also see that I had passion at a young age, but I wasn't necessarily a prodigy...let's just say if I post this story, it will be for the same reason I posted that disaster of a rejection letter...to make you smile and for no other reason :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Special Surprise...Preview of a New Book

So, I've been working on another book and I thought I'd share part of it on here. I'm really excited about it and the plot has some very exciting twists and turns. I haven't done any editing yet, so bear with me :) But here is a sneak peak...


                As the final preparations were being made, the executioner became increasingly nervous.  He felt as if he were the one awaiting his own death rather than that of Prisoner #6602.  Although hidden behind a black cloak, he felt naked in front of the crowd of witnesses.  The cloak was something they always wore so that neither the chosen witnesses, the prisoner, nor any media reporters could identify the executioner.  Only he, the warden and his accomplices knew his identity. 
None of the others had the luxury of anonymity.  A four by eight foot window framed their faces and entire bodies for the viewing crowd.  In addition, their credentials were worn in a plastic pouch on their sleeves and their full names were embroidered above their breast pocket.  It didn’t matter, though.  They had nothing to hide.  Nobody cared who buckled the final straps or who checked the pulse, or lack thereof, after the fact.  It was the one who pushed the button who needed to be concealed.  Hence, the executioner’s cloak.
 They were accompanied by other prison officials who were not part of the plan, which was going to make things much more difficult, but not impossible.  The first time they had tried this, it failed.  There were too many variables and they hadn’t planned carefully enough.  Fortunately, only they knew that they had failed.  To everyone else, including the warden and viewing group, everything went according to plan.  This time, though, they were ready.
                Only the executioner and his accomplices were aware of the plan. They were paid off well enough so the executioner knew they would all keep their mouths shut.  Prisoner #6602 himself didn’t even know about the plan, and they wanted it that way.  While it might seem safe to confide in an inmate on death row who is mere minutes away from being executed, the executioner and his accomplices knew otherwise.  They couldn’t take a chance of having this plot be exposed.  They had worked too hard, for too long, on perfecting the procedure and the plan.  They simply couldn’t risk it.  Not even for the person they were risking it all because of.
                The clock was ticking loudly, painfully loud, as it drew closer to midnight.  They always carried out the sentences at midnight.  The executioner knew he couldn’t linger in the chamber.  He did one last quick check to make sure his accomplices had done as they were supposed to do.  He looked over at the EKG machine.  He discreetly checked for the white dot on the back to ensure it was the right machine. 
                It was.   
He made his way to the anteroom, the room behind the chamber where the lethal cocktails were stored and administered from.  He checked for the white dot on the bottom of the IV solutions.  He pretended to merely be examining each bag for holes or other impurities so those around him wouldn’t know what he was doing.  They seemed to be oblivious to his actions anyway. 
                During executions, everyone was always in sort of a zombie-like state.  The prison staff, the witnesses, the execution team, even the condemned was generally quiet and reflective during the preparations.  Nobody was particularly thrilled about the fact that a life was about to be ended or that they were about to participate in a murder of sorts.  After all, the death certificate did state murder as the cause of death. 
Some members of the team had religious or moral objections to the procedure, yet they carried them out as mandated in the capacity of their job function.  They presumably made peace with it privately.  The handful of those who were happy to be carrying out the execution didn’t show it.  They couldn’t.  The mood in the room was solemn, the witnesses were silent by order and the air was made thick by the impending death.  Showing exuberance during a time like that would have likely resulted in some sort of repercussions either by the other witnesses or prison officials. 
Surprisingly, even the family members of the victims were almost always quiet and buttoned up during the procedure.  The executioner presumed this was more because of the reason they were there than the fact that they were actually mournful over the death of the convicted.  After all, this whole event was taking place because they themselves had lost someone they loved.  They had been profoundly hurt in a life-altering way by the events leading up to this.  There was certainly no joy in that.         Closure, perhaps, but joy? Doubtful.
The time was drawing closer.  The warden assembled the team and quickly briefed them.
“Gentlemen,” he said.  “I presume all final preparations have commenced.”
He looked to the prison officials responsible for handling those tasks, the executioner’s accomplices, and they nodded.  The executioner worried that they nodded a little too emphatically, which worried him.  Fortunately, the warden didn’t take notice of it.  He wondered if his mind was playing tricks on him.  He was all too aware of the phenomenon that occurred when someone was doing something wrong, and that feeling they got where it seemed as if their every movement was being displayed on a giant theater screen with their secrets in big red letters on a marquee below for all to see.  He had to trust that nobody who wasn’t supposed to be was privy to his plan.  He had to maintain the calm, collected fa├žade that he was crumbling to pieces behind.
“The condemned refused his last meal and is being escorted to us as we speak,” the warden continued, completely devoid of emotion. 
The executioner presumed that the warden was one of those who enjoyed putting prisoners to death, yet tried to hide this fact from the rest of the staff.  He envisioned him toasting every execution with a flute of champagne when he was in the privacy of his own home.  Tonight, he would likely do the same.
“Wilson, will you please make the final call to ensure that a stay has not been granted?” the warden demanded.
“Yes, sir,” Officer Wilson responded as he picked up the phone.
He spoke quietly into the receiver, reading the prisoner’s information from an index card that he held in his hand.  He hung up the phone seconds later.
“No stay, sir,” he said to the warden.
“Very well then, does anybody have any questions before we proceed?” the warden asked.
It was a rhetorical question.  They had all done this many times, it was just standard procedure to ask if anybody had questions.  Not once in the executioner’s career had he ever seen any of the prison officials ask anything during that time.
“All right, then, let’s move. We’ve got a job to do.” The warden said.
Everyone scrambled to their respective positions as he gave the last order.  The executioner had his eye on the staff members who went out the side door to meet the escorts and strap Prisoner #6602 to the gurney. 
They were not in on the plan.  They didn’t need to be. 
Before he took his place in the anteroom, the executioner purposely brushed shoulders with one of his accomplices.
                “Everything’s set, right?” the executioner asked.
“I think so,” the accomplice replied.
“You think?” the executioner whispered from under the cloak.
“As much as it can be, we didn’t have much time and there were eyes all over us,” the accomplice responded.
“What about the coroner, and the morgue?” the executioner asked.
“All set,” the accomplice replied.
“If he dies, you die, got it?” the executioner demanded.
“Got it,” the accomplice gulped as he forced the words out of a tightening throat.
The executioner took his place in the anteroom and waited for the condemned to be brought in.  A few seconds later, the gurney was wheeled in.  The wheels squealed loudly and the executioner damned the sound.  If they were wheeling someone to their death, couldn’t they at least do so on a gurney that didn’t scream across every single inch of the floor as it crossed? 
The executioner could not see Prisoner #6602’s face.  He had seen it many times before, though.  Without seeing him today, the executioner could sense his fear.  That was good, he had not been tipped off about the plan. 
When the gurney squealed into its place in the center of the room, IVs were inserted into the man’s arm, one into each.  After they were securely fastened in place, the viewing curtains which had been closed while he was wheeled in were now re-opened.
“Any last words, statements, or testimony?” the warden asked the prisoner.
They didn’t waste any time.  Once the gurney was brought in, the process was started immediately.  In fact, the IV lines were already flowing with saline when the question was asked.  Prisoner #6602 likely didn’t even know how much time he had to spit out his last words. 
“Radcliffe. Darren Radcliffe,” the prisoner simply said.
That was not Prisoner #6602’s name.  Nobody knew who ‘Darren Radcliffe’ was or what the he meant when he muttered the name. 
“Darren Radcliffe?” the warden asked.
“Yes,” the prisoner muttered.
“Care to elaborate?” the warden asked coldly.
“No, sir,” Prisoner #6602 said confidently.
“All right, then.  If you have no further words, the intercom to the viewing audience will be disabled and the process will begin.”
The prisoner acknowledged with a slight head nod.  He seemed to be at peace with what was about to take place. 
The warden exited the chamber and appeared in the anteroom.  He tapped the executioner on the shoulder and said, “It’s time, start the sequence.” 
He was referring to the sequence of IVs that would deliver the ‘lethal’ part of the lethal injection.  The executioner pushed the buttons that corresponded to each of the IV solutions.  One by one, he pressed a stiff, shaking finger down on the buttons, praying that the plan would work.
The process was relatively uneventful.  Prisoner #6602 kept his eyes closed the whole time and there wasn’t any spectacle of sorts to be seen.  After about fifteen minutes, the accomplice went over to the heart rate monitor and checked it.  He gestured for the physician to come over and declare a time of death.  The physician nodded at the other accomplice as he did this.  He put his hand on the wrist of Prisoner #6602 and gestured for the intercom to be turned back on.
“Time of death, 12:17 a.m.,” he said with his hand still on the wrist of the condemned.
The executioner put his hand to his own pocket.  His fingers cupped the small device and wanted desperately to pull it out and look at it.  When he was sure he wasn’t being watched, he removed it from his pocket and kept it tucked in the palm of his hand as he glanced at it.  His stomach almost leapt through his throat as he read the tiny display.
Heart rate, sixty-two beats per minute. 
The plan had worked.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Good News!

Well, I guess this is why you select the agents you're going to query very carefully!

As I mentioned, I was extremely picky about who I queried this time. My "more is better" approach that I took when I queried in the past just led to more rejection letters from agents who didn't handle the type of book I wrote, which just wasted my time and theirs. So this time around, I really devoted a LOT of time to playing cupid with my book. I did exhaustive research on agents, I made a preliminary list of those that MIGHT be a good fit, which was about 50 agents and then I did more research still on those 50 agents and ended up cutting that number in half. This was a significant departure from the over 200 I sent out last time, but from a tactical standpoint, I think it was more effective.

How do I know? Because one of the agents that I REALLY had my hopes set on just got back to me. When I say I was eyeing this agent, I mean, I got butterflies when I saw her reply in my inbox. When I talked in an earlier blog about their being a "perfect fit" in terms of an agent for my manuscript, this is what I meant. Anyway, I'll cut to the chase...she expressed an interest and wanted to see more. She also requested an exclusive, which means that now any agents that come back to me and ask me for sample chapters, etc. I will have to be the one saying no to them because my manuscript is in exactly the hands I want it to be in right now :)

Strange, yet amazing turn of events! I will keep you posted!

Happy Friday!!!

Reading Two Books

Since I posted that blog about having trouble reading, I tried forcing myself to read again and I FINALLY found a book that I'm enjoying! In fact, I'm reading two books! Maybe just getting that off my chest actually helped me clear the path in my mind and I'm able to enjoy reading again. Whatever it is, I'm really happy because I missed reading SO much.

The first book I'm reading is an older book by Jodi Picoult called The Pact. What a brilliant writer she is! This book was my breakthrough book. I probably went through three dozen books before I was able to read this book. I read a chapter of one book, a chapter of another and couldn't sink my teeth into anything. I tried different authors, every different genre I could find and nothing struck me. I actually picked this book because I had heard of Jodi Picoult and I thought the spine was eye-catching (yes, my literary friends, this is often my criteria for selecting reading material when I'm in a pinch).

Well, next thing I knew, I was 100 pages into the book and it is now 24 hours later and I think I will be finishing it today. In fact, that is part of the reason why I didn't blog yesterday...I had my head buried in this book! For anybody who is looking for absolutely amazing writing, pick up one of Jodi's books (Sing You Home, House Rules, My Sister's Keeper, Nineteen Minutes--the list goes on!)

The other book I'm reading is a non-fiction book called Zero Limits by Joe Vitale and Ihaleakala Hew Len, PhD. That one was recommended to me and I'm SO glad it was because it's truly enlightening. I had never heard of Dr. Hew Len or Ho'oponopono before this week, but all I have to say is wow :)

So, that's all I have for today. I've actually been doing more reading than I have been writing, but reading has always helped me become a better writer and both of these books are definitely helping me grow as a writer in their own respective ways.

Have a great day everyone!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Perspective...The Agent's Point of View

I'll admit it, I've been kind of bummed these past few days because I've been working so hard sending out queries and so far, I've only received rejection letters. So, I was complaining a little bit (ok, a lot) yesterday. It's really incredible, though, how when your mind is open to it, something someone says can take everything you're thinking and turn it on its head.

I was saying how frustrating it is when these agents read my query letter or even my sample chapters and write back with a rejection letter basically telling me my work is not good enough because I feel like they're not giving me a fair chance. I've even blogged about this same concept. Maybe that is what they're saying...but guess what, not a SINGLE rejection letter has said that--not in so many words, not in so few words, not in any kind of cryptic innuendo... nothing of the sort. It was a conclusion I jumped to in this "me vs. them" mindset I was in.

In fact, they might think my work is really great...they might have just been rushing out of the office...they might just be only looking for "Twilight-like" books right now, they might have an assistant reading their stuff and have told them to ONLY bring them stuff that is vampire-esque, which my book is not. Looking at it from that perspective, a rejection letter does not say anything about the quality of my writing. Timing= yes; subject matter= perhaps; market= possibly; quality= no!

It might not even be any of those things. They might just not feel like it's THE BOOK for them and this point in their lives (the subject matter is a bit heavy and controversial)...and that's ok, too. In fact, my favorite author is Sophie Kinsella. I have read every single one of her books, except for one. I don't know why, but the one book of hers, I have picked up and tried to read three times and I am just not identifying with it. Is she a bad writer? Far from it. Do I love her work? Already said I do. But if I was an agent and had received a query letter or sample chapters from that particular book, I might have passed as well...and I might have missed out on something amazing.

The fact of the matter, though, is that a lot of people probably did pass on Sophie Kinsella (Madeleine Wickham as people know her in England), but someone didn't and now hundreds of thousands of people get to read her work. So, I'm hoping that my work will resonate with that one special agent at the right time and my stuff, too, will get out there when it is meant to.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reading and Writing

It is a very weird phenomenon, but ever since I started writing my own books, I am having trouble really enjoying reading. I have always been a writer and this never happened to me when I wrote 100-page research papers, magazine articles or poetry, but for some reason writing books makes reading them a very strange experience....well, for me, anyway.

The odd thing is that part of what makes me a writer is my love for reading, so it kind of took away something in that respect, because I truly can't enjoy it right now, but I trust that somewhere down the road I'll be able to.

Maybe it's a subconscious thing where I'm wondering what these people did that made agents see their work as worthy of being published and not mine. I won't lie...I've read a lot of books by a lot of great writers...writers that I could never dream to match in talent or creativity...but you know what? I've also read a lot of books by a lot of authors who aren't as talented as I am, either. So, I think part of me is trying to figure that out as I read instead of just escaping into the stories like I used to.

I guess it's like anything else...people say that once they start working in an industry they love, it kind of takes the enjoyment out of it because what they used to view as entertainment becomes something that is viewed in terms of logistics and moving parts. The brain sees it differently...almost overnight.

The good thing is that I still love the act of writing just as much as I always did, so if I have to sacrifice the joy I got from reading a little bit, well, I'm ok with that :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

One Book, Two Book, Thre..Ebook....

I had an idea yesterday. I'm thinking that with this next novel I'm working on, I might just release it as an ebook and skip all of this querying business. I keep hearing that the industry is headed in the digital direction anyway and people seem to be doing really well with ebooks, so I think it's worth a shot. I might even do it with the book I'm shopping right now, but since I have all of the letters written and out to agents and publishers, I'm going to wait on it. I'm not completely used to the whole idea yet and I have so much of my heart and soul into that book, I really dreamed of seeing it in print. So for that particular project, I need to give it a little more time to marinate (I figure after the writer's conference, I'll make a final decision for that manuscript).

As far as the current manuscript, though, I am less emotionally attached to it because I'm still in the process of writing it, so I don't have a "vision" for the one yet. If I decide now that I want it to be an ebook and that it will never be in a bookstore, I think I could reconcile that idea emotionally. Besides, if people are receptive to this one, maybe I will feel even better about putting my first project out there, but it's just my baby...for that matter, it's my first born and I'm being super protective of it, so yes, I'm coddling it a bit. I want it in black and white, protected by a spine, binding and a hardback cover...but I guess this could be a good learning experience for me.

Wow, that makes me feel old...am I really the person who isn't ready to move into the digital age?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stephen King Got Rejected, Too...

I have to admit, I'm getting kind of tired of hearing that. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me "Stephen King got rejected dozens of times..." or "Look at all of the people who rejected the Harry Potter lady (J.K. Rowling)," I'd be living in my dream mansion on Maui already.

It's not that those things aren't true. Stephen King did get rejected a lot (Carrie supposedly got 30 rejections)...and yes, J.K. Rowling did get turned down initially, too. Even Lady Gaga got dropped by her first record label. But for every one of them, there are hundreds of people like me who are still in that period of getting rejected wondering if we'll ever come out on the other side. Wondering if we, too, will be able to tell people to hang in there because it's all worth it in the end.

I'll be honest, this period can't go by fast enough...and it's dragging on for what seems like forever. Stephen King and Lady Gaga (by their own admission) did a lot of drugs while they were working their way up...now I know why...this period of people telling you you're not good enough, when you know that you are, is REALLY frustrating!

Part of me thinks that for every Stephen King and Lady Gaga, there are thousands of others who just kept getting rejected. In fact, I've met a few of them. They are the 45 year old waitress at the diner who is STILL trying to break into the (fill in the blank) industry, the homeless guy who sits on the pier in Santa Monica who believes that his big break is just around the corner. The question is...how long do you let yourself keep getting rejected before you become this guy?



Don't get me wrong, I love "General Larry Platt" and every rejection letter adds fuel to my fire...in fact, for every rejection letter I get, I send out TWO new queries, but it's just annoying that one agent won't really take the time to read my stuff unless it comes with a referral. It basically seems like unless you have an "in" in the publishing industry, nobody really cares how good your writing is...and if you DO have an "in" the same is true, your stuff gets read and published regardless.

For example, I never hear stories about how many times Snooki or the Kardashian sisters got rejected when they woke up one morning and decided they felt like writing a book...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Starting a Book...

Someone actually asked me today how you actually START writing a book. They wanted to know if it's just a spontaneous thing that you just decide to sit down and do or if it's something that you plan a time for and execute at that precise moment.

I guess the process is different for anyone, but for my first book, I had a few false starts. The first one, though, was the funniest.

I had just left a corporate job (I have a thing for timing, the economy basically bit the dust the day I gave my 2 weeks' notice), but I had decided I was going to pursue this writing thing anyway because this what I had always wanted to do. So, there I was...alone in my apartment on a weeknight with nowhere to be the next morning and I was sitting on Facebook (of all the wild ways to celebrate my first night of freedom). I hadn't actually ever used Facebook...it wasn't new, I just hadn't used it yet, so I was tinkering around on there trying to see what it was all about. Now, mind you, I had just recently watched the movie The Secret about putting positive things out there and that supposedly making them come back to you and blah blah blah. So this whole constellation of things is going on and I see the feature where I can post a "status update." I had seen people do this, but I hadn't done one. I figured I might as well, so I pound at the keys and I have my first status update. "Jeanette is.....writing a novel." Click. Post.

Ok, so then I'm sitting there thinking. "Shoot, now I really have to start writing something." I hadn't been on Facebook long, but I wasn't stupid...I knew that posting something on your status update that you weren't actually doing was committing a social felony, so I got to it. I lit a bunch of candles, I turned out the lights, I turned on some soft music, I curled up on the sofa with a blank notebook and my favorite pen in my lap and I sat there. For two hours straight, I just sat there.

Finally, I forced myself to write something...anything...because the million man march begins with the first step, or whatever, right? So, I literally started writing "My name is...my children are x, y and z. My husband is..." and this is how I was "introducing" my main character. It was pitiful. I knew it was pitiful, but I didn't know how to write a book and I wasn't going to let that stop me. So I wrote this ridiculous half-outline, half-story thing that I slapped "Chapter 1" at the top of and went to sleep (I blew out the candles, don't worry).

I was furious. How was I going to be a writer when THAT was my best attempt at writing?

There were a few other false starts after that and I hate to say that some of them weren't much better. In fact, I saved them and have looked back at them...not a single word of those pages would make my roughest rough draft at this point, but that is how I learned. If I would have just forced a Chapter 2 to follow that Chapter 1 on the Facebook night, who knows what kind of horrible book I would have ended up writing? Or if I would have ended up writing one at all? Something tells me I would have abandoned ship on that project relatively quickly. Instead, though, I knew when to be that person you see in cartoons and on the movies and have the crumpled wastebasket overflowing with crumpled papers and you still pull out another one and start over again. Except that the modern day version looks a little bit more like this...


The point is that we don't always nail it the first time, but we learn something from every single effort.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Finally Posted a Youtube Video

I promise the others will be more exciting and informative, this was just an introduction :)
ANovelWriter on YouTube

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's That Time Again...

With new query letters, of course, come new rejection letters.

Now, in all fairness, most agents have a pretty decent form letter (see my previous blog about those if you're wondering what they are). There are also the select few agents (or their assistants) who actually take the time to write nice, personalized letters and believe it or not, there is something gratifying about receiving those letters. I got two today...and yes, I know...they are still rejections, but at least I know the agent actually took the time to read my letter and really felt my book wasn't a fit for them instead of...well, the one I'm posting today.

First of all, some of these (fiction-so we're talking finished novels here) agents write back and say they receive hundreds of query letters a day. The irony of the one I posted below is that this particular agent wrote back in thirteen minutes and said the very same thing--so maybe she didn't get quite so many on that day :) Really, though? I mean, how many people have written complete novels and are querying these agents? Sometimes in the same letter, they will say that the industry is in the worst state its ever been (great thing to tell an aspiring author) and things are extremely slow, yet they're absolutely incapacitated because of the amount of query letters they are receiving. Which is it? Are you riding the 2005/2006 housing bubble where everyone wants a piece of the action or did it already burst and you can't give away your foreclosure? It can't be both ways...

The other thing is that aside from the people who I've been introduced to BECAUSE I'm a writer, I've only organically met one other writer (who happens to be my friend's son and I hope the agents pay attention when they get his letter because his book is the needle in their supposed haystack). So if all of these hundreds of thousands of writers with finished novels are out there and they're writing query letters and bombarding the agents with them every day, who are these people and more importantly, where are they? I want to meet them.

In fact, I might have just single-handedly solved this whole debacle! The finished books are out there, the agents are just so overwhelmed by query letters, they don't have time to actually read any of them--ergo everyone gets a form rejection and the publishing industry is tanking. Hmm...maybe I should be a literary agent instead...just kidding!

Anyway, that basically covers the form rejection letters, but this one is a special "gem" and I felt the need to share it. It is probably the best I've received so far.

So, without further adieu, here it is...My comments are in red. Enjoy!

Note: While I do have a sense of humor, I'm not a mean person, so I did block out their name and email address (and mine, too, while I was at it) for the sake of privacy. I apologize for the small writing, that was as big as I could make it since I just did a screenshot with my comments on it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Writing Conference

Since I'm literally trying everything this time around, I signed up for a writer's conference. I'm not sure what to think of it being as I've never been to one, but I've heard good things...especially about this particular conference.

I'm going to go all out at this thing. I'm buying all of the extra one-on-one time with the agents that I can get my hands on, I'm going to network like crazy and I'm going to tell anyone who will listen about my blog and more importantly, my book.

As the conference gets closer, I will post more about it and I will definitely post during and after it, but as of right now, I just signed up and I'm still not sure whether I made a wise investment or not (because it was definitely an investment--those things aren't cheap!)

I was going to go to one last year and that is actually one of the main reasons that I didn't...I didn't see the need to spend the money, so maybe I was a penny wise and a pound foolish, who knows? Maybe I would have been a famous author by now if I would have just spent the money at this time last year. Just kidding :)

But NOT going certainly didn't do anything to launch my writing career into the stratosphere, so this year is a new opportunity.

I'm actually glad that I didn't go last year, though (closet optimist strikes again). I am much more confident this year. A lot has happened between then and now. First things first, I edited the HELL out of my book. Five major edits/rewrites that included over 15,000 changes (I didn't count, but Microsoft word kept track and since I'm a computer nerd, I thought it was fun to constantly compare the documents), I added chapters, I took chapters out, I even changed the title. So at this point, I am very comfortable handing it to an agent, editor, publisher, whoever and walking away knowing I gave them my absolute best work. I have also grown a lot as an individual and as a writer and I actually feel READY for this one. So...whatever... I'm going and hopefully I'll get something out of it.

Ironically, one writer I talked to landed his agent in the airport shuttle on the way home from his conference--and he's doing very well now...so that still counts as a conference success story....kind of :)

If nothing else, I just bought the most expensive "Hi! My name is..." badge that I'll ever purchase...

Another Quick Thing

While I have time...I'm going to be introducing her on my YouTube as well, but as much as I love writing...the one thing I love even more is my co-writer, my muse...Bella :)

This is how we wrote our first book...

One Good Thing....

The one good thing about query letters (who knew there was something?) is that I procrastinate so much when I'm doing them and my mind wanders to such an extent that I'm exponentially more creative during that time. My brain feels so stifled during the whole process that I create pretty amazing things as little sidebars when I step away from the letter writing process.

So...the good news is that late last night, when I finally stepped away from writing and sending out letters, I had a chance to clear my head. And when I did, the first and last chapters for my next book as well as the plot arc and main character's internal struggle just materialized in my head. It literally happened in a matter of minutes, but I know this is what it's going to be...in fact, I have 2/3 of another book written, but I feel so strongly about this one that I'm going go shelf that one for the time being (I might even post the first chapter of that one on here because it's kind of a cool short story in and of itself). I just need to write this story.

This one came to me like my first book came to me. I was sitting at lunch with a friend and it just popped into my head the same way and I went home and wrote and wrote the entire thing straight through in a matter of a few months. I'm ready to write this one the same way.

In that respect, I guess that was one redeeming quality about this whole query process...a very peripheral one, but I'm still happy :)

Busy Sending Queries

So...the last few days have been filled with sending out query letters (which, as I've mentioned, I absolutely LOVE...or....not so much). 

I definitely realized that sending out a blast to every agent I could find the first time around was probably a mistake. This time, I'm really researching the agents I want to send to and making sure they seem like a good fit for my book. Whether they agree or not is a different story, but at least I know I'm targeting a more specific audience this time around. I think the first time, I just thought the more people who see it, the better chances I have...and what I realized is that this isn't American Idol where someone is just going to fall in love with what you're doing and say that you're not exactly what they're looking for, but they'll give you a chance anyway because they like you. If they say they're looking for young adult fiction and you send them commercial fiction, you can pretty much expect the Simon Cowell response.

Oh well, I tried. You live and you learn.

So, this time, if I get any Simon Cowells, maybe they're just having a bad day because I sent them what they said they were looking for :)







Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Love/Hate Relationship

I absolutely love writing...and I absolutely HATE everything about the query process.

I hate writing the letters, I hate sending them out, I hate the waiting game, I even hate that the name in itself (query) sounds like some kind of anti-gay slur.

I mean, I get it. How else are agents, publishers, etc. going to know what your book is about? But there has to be a better way. That's what I'm going to try to do with my YouTube channel (which I've set up, but haven't posted any videos on yet--I will get to that, I promise). Although since I'm still querying, I guess it doesn't circumvent the whole process, it just gives me a more creative outlet to hopefully achieve the same goal.

Really, though, I'm a creative writer, not an advertising agency or some kind of marketing expert. I feel like  I'm a used car salesman writing what will appear on a window sticker....except that I'm trying to sell a word document. It feels wrong in some way, but it's a necessary evil. 

I know a lot of writers that struggle with this. We aren't salespeople--in fact, most of us are pretty introverted when it comes to putting ourselves out there in this manner, although I guess in the end, we all figure out a way.

So, here is to a weekend...and probably the rest of the week...full of sucking it up and being the used car salesman because I believe in my book that much :)


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sending out New Query Letters Today

So, today is the big day-- I'm launching my assault :) Query letters, round two!

This one is going to be a much smaller, more targeted group of agents and I'm going to use both email and snail mail. Last time I just used email, which I'll discuss in another post. I had a whole "theory" about that...let me save you the time if you're thinking along the same lines I was, not the most effective tactic!

If there is one thing that I did learn from my first round of querying, that was VERY useful, it was to keep track of who I queried, when, their response, etc. I am putting up a screenshot of how I kept track (I'm a bit of a computer nerd who spent too much time as an analyst, so I did mine in an excel spreadsheet, but however you want to do yours is great). I had a column header for Agent, Agency (both of which I set up ahead of time), then whether or not I had queried them yet (marked with just an "x" but then there is a little red flag in the corner, which indicates there is a comment and I have one of the comments expanded so you can see what I noted in there--for each agent, I tracked when I sent to them and exactly what I sent them on each date I corresponded with them), then the next column is their response (with another section for comments) and the final column is their website.



The whole process was a little tedious, but it came in very handy to refer back to, and helped me make sure I didn't contact the same person twice. Also, it helped me see how long, on average, it took most agents to respond and I personally liked knowing who had which pieces of my material at any given time.

If anyone wants to use this, just let me know and I'll email you the template I set up so you don't have to make it yourself, which will hopefully save you a lot of time!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Everyone's a Critic...

Knowing that I always wanted to be a writer, I took many different writing courses. A few in high school, a few at the local junior college, one at my university and others through local community programs. Some were obviously much better than others (probably not rated in the natural order one would assume, ironically), but there was one thing that wasn't brought up until the very last course I took, which ended up being the most useful nugget of information I received.

Don't let everyone read your writing!

This isn't for the sake of being top secret or because we're afraid our cousin Vern is going to plagiarize our work and go make millions off of it...it's simply because everyone has an opinion and they have trouble keeping it to themselves. 

Unless your cousin Vern happens to be an esteemed literary critic, an agent, editor or publisher, you don't need his input. I know it's really hard to resist when you write something that you're really proud of and you want your friends and loved ones to see it, but believe me they will try to put their two cents in there. I confess, I broke that golden rule with my first few chapters and I learned my lesson. I finally thought to myself "if everyone has such great ideas, they should really go write their own book--if I take everyone's suggestions, this book won't be mine anymore. I'm going to lose my voice."

I still let family and a handful of very close people read it, but I told them absolutely NO creative or content input whatsoever and they were extremely good about that.

I'm not saying that we have absolutely the best ideas...or that I did, not by any stretch of the imagination, all I'm saying is that as writers, we have our own unique voice and if we start letting other people in on our creative process, it dilutes the purity of that voice.

Say I would have let my Mom read it and she wanted something more heartwarming, so I made those changes. Then my sister read it and she wanted something funnier, so I changed it again. Then my Dad read it and he wanted something with more action and adventure, so alas, it changed again. The process can be never-ending depending on who is reading it. I'll reiterate, if anyone is that passionate about how a story should be written, by all means, they should write their own.

We write the kind of books that we WRITE, not the kind of books that they write. Honor your voice...after all, when you think about it, isn't that unique voice what makes you love some of your favorite authors?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Write it Down!

I just did this again tonight, so I thought I would share something that has come in really handy for me.

Whenever people hear that I've written a book, they seem amazed because they think it's hard to come up with enough words to fill a whole book. Naturally, the next question they ask is how to do that. The first thing that tells me is that this particular person doesn't know me very well because...how can I be polite about this? I don't have to, I'm talking about myself...I talk a lot...I mean a lot, A LOT. So when I read that most books were 90,000-120,000 words, it didn't really bother me all that much. 400-500 pages? No problem...I just figured that when people got tired of listening to me, I would go write, which is pretty much what I did (the secret to how I wrote my book at an alarmingly fast rate--editing was another story, but getting the words on the page happened quickly for exactly that reason).

I do understand, though, that not everyone's nickname was "Chatterbox" when they were a kid, so maybe 400 pages won't just fly off of their fingers very easily and that is why I'm posting this.

The process of writing a book begins long before you sit down to write the first page and it doesn't end when you put down the pen for the day or shut down your computer for the night. Not at all. Before I ever put pen to page for my book, I had written down ideas that would happen in the 15th or 20th chapter not even knowing who the characters would be or what the plot was even going to look like. Sometimes I would even just think of a great line that I thought was so cool, I simply had to include it in my book. I didn't know where, but I was going to stick it in there somewhere.

The one thing I can't stress enough is not to dismiss things like that. I wrote down EVERY thought I had like that. Sometimes you end up with things on napkins, the back of receipts, emails sent to yourself from the phone (that you've pulled over to the side of the road to write if you were driving, of course), words scribbled in lip liner on your bathroom counter (sorry Mom and Dad if you're reading this)--really, things end up everywhere and it's a pain in the neck to do it right when the moment strikes you, but it's really worth it. Do it in that exact moment because the thought and exact verbiage will be fleeting. Compile all of those odds and ends and even if you don't know what to do with them now, trust that you will eventually. I used every last word from every single one of my makeshift notepads. I didn't know it when I made them, but all of those little notes ended up becoming mile markers along my journey that I had laid out for myself long before I ever took the first step.

As for filling the rest of the book, I will address that in another post because I ran into the dreaded writer's blocks, too...though I felt like "block" is a bit of an understatement.  The Great Wall of China would be a more accurate metaphorical comparison. Either way, it wasn't amazing. So maybe someone will be at the point I was where they are ready to throw their computer out the window and they can read that post for a little stress relief and maybe get some helpful tips :)


The random scribbling that inspired this blog post...that lip liner wasn't my color anyway :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rejection

As I am getting ready to start my second attack on the query process, I was thinking about things I wish I would have known when I started "Operation Query, Phase 1." I'll be honest, I basically went into the whole process blind as a bat. As I read through blogs and message boards, though, what scared me the most was the dreaded rejection letter.  I was absolutely terrified about getting my first one. In the back of my mind, I thought "maybe I won't actually get one..." Wishful thinking, I know, but I'm a cleverly disguised optimist.

We all know where this is going, don't we? Yep, I got one. In fact, I got plenty of them. And guess what? It isn't the worst thing in the world. In fact, depending on how you look at them, the process is mildly amusing. Some of the agents were very nice and complimentary of my work, many even took the time to note favorite character attributes or parts in chapters, but just stated that their plates were too full or that the market was too saturated for them to risk taking on new authors right now. Ironically, those made me feel kind of good...not that getting rejected feels good, but having some of the most esteemed NY Times Best Selling Author's agents critiquing your work and saying they actually think your writing has merit and that there is a market for your stuff really takes the sting out of the whole rejection thing.

Other letters were actually written by the agent's assistants, which actually seemed like a fairly common practice as I received quite a few of those (so don't feel bad if you do, too).

Then there was the dreaded form rejection letter. If you're not familiar with that concept, let me explain and give you an example. The agents have a generic letter that says (not in so many words) "thanks, but no thanks" and they add your name in, sometimes just "Dear Author," MAYBE your book title if they're feeling ambitious, and that, my friends, is what you get for all those sleepless nights you spent writing that book! Hopefully, that's not how it really ends...that's when, as writers, we have to say this isn't how my story ends...and just write another chapter in our journey after that....which is what I'm doing now.

I'll end this post with probably the most amusing form rejection letter I received. Now, the ONLY part I removed is the name at the bottom, everything else is exactly as I received it. Enjoy :)



Dear ________: <-- Yep, that's exactly how I got it! Dear BLANK!!!!!!! I was absolutely touched that after I went through the painstaking process of writing every agent a very personal letter, they took the time to garnish their response to me with such a heartfelt gesture.

Thanks for your query.

As to your material I'm afraid I will be passing -- I'm just not
enthusiastic enough about the concept of your story to feel that I'd
be the right agent for the project. I realize it is difficult to judge
your potential from a query; nevertheless I will be passing.

Regards,
<<Name Removed>>

Query Letters!

So I'm finished with query letter round two and I'm going to be sending it out next week. I'm in the process of hand picking those agents right now. I'll be sharing that entire process on this blog. I'm also going to go through what I went through in the first round of query letters because I think that will be very helpful for other writers who are in that phase. I will specify which is which so everyone knows. Hopefully people can learn from my mistakes and ideally, triumph from my triumphs in the end :)

I'm also setting up my Youtube account and I'll be posting that info as soon as I get everything in place. I'm going to be putting up a short video to say hi, introduce myself (in video form because although I'm a writer, I think a face-to well, computer, introduction is more personal than just text) and I'll be sharing some more of my writing.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Why a Blog?

Fair enough question, right? I mean, it seems everyone these days has a blog. I often put this off because I didn't necessarily have the answer to that question. I wasn't into photography, I hadn't hiked Mt. Everest, I wasn't saving the world so I didn't see the need. Well now, I do.

I wrote a book and I'm trying to get it published and I've run into a lot of people who have experienced the same frustration that I have. You spend months, maybe even years of your life pouring your heart and soul into this piece that you're so incredibly proud of. You can't wait to send it to agents because you're sure each one is going to send you a first class ticket to meet them at their office in NYC immediately upon receiving it. You carefully select the ones you're going to submit to and you painstakingly write a personalized query letter to each one. Then you send and you wait...and you wait and you wait and you wait. Surely, they are just making the travel arrangements for you or telling the publishing houses to get ready because they have something great in the pipeline--and perhaps they do, but it isn't your book. All they have for you is a generic "Dear Author" rejection letter, which basically tells you that they didn't even read your query letter or that one of their assistants might have skimmed it over and that with one fell swoop, they "deeply regret to inform you" that they are stomping your hopes, dreams and all of your hard work.

So that is the point in my journey that you are joining me on. I am now beginning the "creative marketing" phase of trying to land an agent or publisher as well as launching a more aggressive query campaign. I will keep this blog updated and will also be posting Youtube videos of my trials and tribulations and would love to hear some of your stories. This is a place where fellow writers can vent, agents can give their two cents and anyone else can contribute whatever they would like as well!