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Archive for the ‘The Collections’ Category

This is the week a blogger is opening her site to 13 agents to bid on manuscripts.  The only info they will have for judging is a log line (which we discussed previously) and the first 250 words of the book.  So what do you think we will be talking about today?

The chances of getting through the first round is slim.  Not because of the competition (although it will be stiff) but because of logistics.  She is accepting 50 submissions during two separate times.  Once when I will be in my car driving to work and the other at a time I will surely be distracted by one my co-workers.  If you make it down to the final 25, then you are put on the block to be auctioned.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I need you!  I need you to read the first 250 words and tell me if you would read on?  If not, why?  Most of the starts are intense drama like “There was a breeze blowing the hanging body in the wind.”  Well, of course you want to know who it is, how the body got up there, and why did someone do it.  This is what I will be up against.  Can this 250 words hold up next to that? 

You’ve read the log line, now here is the beginning of “Spite.”  Please, please, please tell me your opinion.

            Five years is a long time to wait for revenge.  People say it’s a dish best served cold, like it’s a choice or something.  If I reacted in the moment, it could’ve been dismissed with other high school memories.  Instead, with my hate chilled to the bone, tonight’s going to leave a mark.  

            A production assistant with a combed hairdo reminiscent of a fifth grader’s class picture pokes his head behind the white wood door of my dressing room.

            “You’re on in ten, Ms. Stryker,” he says. 

            My hand waves above my head in a non-verbal commitment while I watch the assistant’s head bounce up and down in my mirror’s reflection.  The appearance of a nonchalant rock star keeps blood thirsty media sharks ravenous for anything they can get.  Any sign of weakness is like a bucketful of chum thrown into the waters. 

            Trish, my make-up artist, brushes a puff of bronze over my forehead to keep down the shine.  A mirror enveloped in bright lights reflects a flawlessly painted face punctuated by classic cat eyes drawn in black liner.  My hair flows down my back like a rich chocolate river with shimmering waves from the lights above.  It’s all too perfect, like a dream you aren’t sure is real.

            “Can you believe you are going to be on the Kurt Davis show?  This is the biggest thing in late night,” says Trish.  The bristles of the brush poke lightly against the tip of my nose in her downward swipe.

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Driving home I saw the most beautiful sky.  I love it when the gray and white clouds are scattered in stark contrast to the baby blue background.  It’s a sight I can get lost in (if it weren’t for my screaming children in the backseat.)  It makes me consider how important that sky is to my day to day life.  As the calm washes over me with the serenity of the visual, I appreciate where I live with the understanding the sky has a profound impact on me as a person.

This is where the setting is more than only background to a character.  I read in Donald Maass’ book “Writing the Break Through Novel” the setting should be considered a character.  It shouldn’t be a backdrop that is lifeless and has no point.  Instead it should breath, give life to those around it, and make a difference in how everyone sees their situation.  I wish it was that easy to implement the theory. 

There are times in books I feel the author is so worried about the world building, they lose the importance of explaining their characters.  (Not that I have perfected any of these skills because I’m still struggling.)  But when I see that sky and remember how it makes me feel, I respect the author may be telling me more about their characters than I was giving credit.

What is the scenery that makes up the character of you?  How would you describe your setting?  It is an interesting question to ponder and may tell us all even more about the inner workings of your characteristic make up.

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When I was around five and my dear little cousin Katherine was three, I took a pair of scissors and cut her bangs.  Of course they were crooked, so I cut them again.  Oops, still uneven.  Another swipe at it.  Hmmm…Should they be up to the hair-line?  I didn’t know how bad it was until my Aunt Jane screamed and my mom ripped the scissors out of my hands vowing I would never see  them again.

Luckily, I have not attempted this with my hair.  Unfortunately, I have with my manuscript.  After tons of feedback and many revisions, I think I have cut too much.  I am currently in a “Secret Agent” contest where I had to post the first 250 words.  (I know…only 250?!?  What can be done in that?)  What has happened is other bloggers have given their two cents.  Some say not enough setting, others scream “get to the action,” and more others say it’s too jumpy.  (THUMP!)  That is my head hitting the table in defeat.

My husband, the one who endears all my craziness, gave me yet another pep talk to finish the project.  Complete the revisions and let it stand.  It’s so hard when all you want to do it get it right.  The problem…what is right?  I have no idea.  I do think it’s improved and I’m happy with some of the revisions I have made.  I’m going to power through it and let it stand for a while.  Get a little perspective.  I’m even thinking of a different YA novel to start. 

I am putting the scissors down on chapter one.  That sucker was hacked to the hair-line long ago.  I’m going stand back and let it grow out a bit before I even think about working it again.  Let’s hope when I decide to revisit, crooked bangs are all the rage!

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The query letter is a dreaded topic for any writer wanting to get an agent and then published.  I have read blogs where seasoned authors dreaded condenscing their gut wrenching novel into two paragraphs on a one page letter.  This being the letter that makes or breaks if you get an agent. 

I worked my letter for the original push of Crescendo.  I read the how-to’s and what should and shouldn’t be in it.  I studied the craft and wrote my first query letter.  Out of about 14 sent, I had one partial request, one full request, and mostly rejections.  I took a couple months off of querying and went back to studying.  I signed up for a blog site that has a category of “Query Letter Hell.”  I posted, got shredded by others, and went back to the drawing board.  Alas, I had another (and improved in my mind) version.  And so it was mailed out…

Here were are after about 10 more queries have been sent.  To date, I have about 6 rejections (which feel like 100) and one partial.  I’m back to the insecure, baffled stage of is it the query or the story?  Is it because I don’t have any vampires, fairies, or werewolves?  Is it because the letter falls flat and doesn’t sound like someone would want to invest a couple of days to read?  Or is it the reason I can not even discuss yet?

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The Agony of Rejection

A recent blog talked about how this writing a book thing is very similar to a meaningful relationship. Unfortunately, it’s the same way when it comes to the rejection. It’s painful, humiliating, and feels like a never-ending process.

I sent out several queries and still no agent. I have self assessed several times, changed the letter to dress it up, edited the copy to make it more polished, but still no takers. It’s taking a toll on the old psyche that’s for sure. My friend, Carrie, commiserated with me over beers last night dispensing the advice that I need to get a tougher skin. I had one request to read the full manuscript seven months ago and have heard nothing since. It’s like finally getting someone to ask for your number after a painful night in a meat-market dance club, but then never calling. Then there are the daily reminders that you are single with comments from your family about things that could improve the piece to make it more attractive or friends asking when you are going to find someone. (All you single ladies and gentlemen out there know what I am going through.)

It’s small punches to the gut when another rejection letter comes back about how it wouldn’t work out because the agent “just isn’t a good fit.” How can you not take it personally when there is only one constant in the situations? Obviously the problem is on my side and not theirs, right? But I hear the optimists out there telling me it only takes one person to find “the one;” the one who will appreciate all that you are and all that you have to give. I need to be patient and believe in myself to know that one day it will happen. One day, I will find my Prince Charming of Agents and we will ride off in to the sunset. I will become princess of the kingdom with a published novel.

Thank God I’m happily married.

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Editing is the devil!

I hate editing as much as I hate math.  And like math, I know it’s a necessary evil.  Civilizations would crumble without math and editing, but it doesn’t make me like it any more.  It’s painful and tedious.  (When I have more energy, I will write about what I have gained in the world of editing, but tonight the focus is on hate.)

To edit is to cleanse yourself of the crap you spewed when you thought you were a creative genius.  Each section that gets deleted is a little piece of life that you wasted creating it.  It makes the edit even more painful.  Then there is the time it takes…infinity.  It’s equal to the math equation of pi.  You can edit forever.  Each time you reach the end, you could start again and find more to cut and add.  I’m on the 4th edit for my first book.  This one has lost the most flesh and I pray it’s the last.  I would love to have a completed work sometime soon. 

So I will press on and continue with the edit tomorrow night and probably the night after that.  Because it is necessary, just like learning that 2 + 2 = 5.  Edit that.  I hate math.

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