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Archive for the ‘The Shark’ Category

Today I had a great phone call with an agent’s assistant.  You woulda thought it was “the call” the way I danced around the room and gushed to everyone in my phone book.  (“The call” is a famous saying for when an agent calls to offer representation.) Although, it wasn’t “the call,” it was pretty damn cool having thirty-five minutes face-to-face over the computer with Meredith Barnes.

Meredith is an assistant to the “Query Shark” at FinePrint Literary Management, another famous known thing about the writing world.  Go ahead, Google it and be in awe.  I was lucky enough to enter a funny enough line in one of her contests to win a fifteen minute Skype chat about social media.  I’ve been anxiously waiting for this day for two weeks trying to figure out different ways to win Meredith over as my new BFF. 

As requested, I sent five questions a few days ago about social media.  I agonized to make sure they were light, but professional and serious, but funny.  I wanted to make sure I represented the real me to my new potential BFF, so of course one of the questions involved profanity.  (Okay Mom, roll your eyes.) 

After some technical issues in the beginning, and my full-fledged panic attack because of it, we were finally able to see each other.  Immediately she stole my heart by complimenting the red wall in my kitchen.  <swoon>  When the next sentence she said was we could talk about anything to start; like queries, agents, the publishing world, I fell deeply and madly in love.  After stuttering an unintelligible sentence, I asked her “Who do I believe?”  I’ve visited the writing boards and read all the blogs, but find I’m more lost than ever on query letters.  So what does Meredith do?  She asks me to read what I have.  It was full cardiac arrest.  My mind rushed through all the excuses such as I’m still working on it, it’s not ready for other eyes yet, I want to put my best foot forward…but one second later, I pull it up and read the words.

It was fabulous; a dream come true.  Meredith gave me some great tips and new wind in my sails.  Self-doubt plaguing my mind the last weeks was replaced by rejuvenated excitement to get back on the project. 

We did talk about social media and I’m in the process of getting on Twitter.  Boy, do I feel like a jackass stumbling through it.  But I’m sure soon I will be just as addicted to it as I am Facebook.  Meredith graciously extended the fifteen minutes to a total of forty (including our technical difficulties.)  She was funny, friendly, and super nice.  I could only think if she is this nice to some chick who won her contest, could you imagine how she treats her clients?  I only hope one day I can find out.

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The Answer…

I did have some smart people who guessed.  I also had others to whom I suggested I could add a couple donut holes and take it to a whole new level of pervy.  Ewwwww….

 

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Every artist knows that there will be a critique.  If you want to be a successful artist, you must listen to it and try to learn something from it.  When I finished my first book, I printed it off and distributed to everyone who would take a copy.  “Let me know what you think” and “What can make it better?” were common questions I asked the readers.  They were very polite in their assessment and the compliment I most relished was “it sounds like a real book.”  So I did an edit, cleaned it up, and called it good.

Flash forward six months.  Some people outside my comfort circle ask to read it.  With confidence from my first readings, I passed it out ready for whatever they had to say.  Then it happened.  Someone returned it a few days later and told me it “it was unreadable.”  What?!?  How was that possible?  She elaborated with how hard she tried to get through it, but it was impossible.  It took a few pushes, but she managed to get the blade deep in the gut.  I plastered a smile on my face, told her that it wasn’t a style for everyone and I appreciated her time.

I took that feedback and rationalized that she was out to get me.  (That still could be true.)   But then I repeated it to some others who made it through the book.  Slowly, they admitted that the beginning was a little slow, but quickly followed it up with a spoonful of sugar that they still liked the book.  One reader reminded that might have been the cause for my best friend not being able to get through it either. 

The “a-ha” moment finally came when I read through a QueryShark critique.  She wrote the author took too long to get to the point in the query letter.  She gave too much back story and not enough meat.  QueryShark went on to say that the author’s novel probably read the same.  She could probably cut the first forty pages and no one would notice.

With all the feedback, from all the sources, bouncing around in my head I re-read the beginning of the book.  With a heavy heart I hit the delete button.  It was awful.  A month’s worth of work gone and several thousand words out of the novel.  I worried they would be missed.  Characters wouldn’t be as deep as I wanted.  What if this wasn’t the right decision?  Wasn’t that part of the story important too?  All good questions and all good excuses to negate all the feedback I was given.

It may have taken several months to come to this place, but I took the feedback (good and bad) to heart.  The sad part was I realized if it was the right choice, and I added back the important stuff well, no one would ever notice the pain I suffered to get there.

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