Celebrating Moments of Mediocrity

April 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Agents have something called the slush pile.  It’s where manuscripts go to die.

Okay, not really.  It’s just where the queries and manuscripts end up before they’re skimmed over and then rejected or praised for their magnificence.

I’m in more than one slush pile and this is the thing.  I’m okay with it.  Certainly it means the agent see’s something in my writing that is calling out for them to take a closer look.  Maybe my concept is riveting, or my writing clever, or my characters gripping.  Maybe all three!  (Let a girl dream)

Whatever it is, I celebrate the slush.

It’s a definite step up from sludge.

-Laura

Going to Hell in a UPS truck.

April 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

My mailman hates me.

I am not a lazy person, but the post office with three kids is hell on earth.  Try going at lunch and/or nap time, and you’ve just entered Dantes Inferno type Hell.  So guess who was thrilled when USPS started allowing you to print your own postage at home and hand the box over to your mailman.

Two thumbs point at this girl.

I have everything delivered.  EVERYTHING.  I do not like bringing my children into situations that don’t involve ice cream, books, or a swing.  When they can all enter a public restroom by themselves, I’ll reevaluate my position, but for right now, I’m good.

I have half a dozen siblings spread far and wide.  I like sending them things.  They like receiving things.  Someday (I hope) I’ll be sending manuscripts out to publishing houses.  These things are heavy, and I have a man that comes to my door every day around 930am who takes those things away from me for a very reasonable price.

Why would I not take advantage of that?

Sorry Eduardo.

-Laura

Marketing Schemes of the Literary Variety

April 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

I was doing what I normally do in the spare five minutes I have, and perusing agent web sites.  It’s an incredible amount of work to try and find an agent you think will gel with you.  One that fits all of your necessary criteria.  Worse than getting married in my opinion.

So there I was, skipping through the query tracker, when I came across this little ditty.

“Before querying our agency please have a full marketing plan available for submission, along with your completed manuscript, synopsis, and author bio.”

Ummm. . .What?!?  You’re kidding right?  When did I become a product for barter?  When did I become an ad exec.?

As if producing a book wasn’t hard enough, now I’m looking into marketing strategies?  and I’m doing it, because Mr. Agent said I needed too.  What has my life become?

Not to mention, I’m on the hundredth draft of my query letter.  Yes, I said one-hundred.  Maybe I should add an exclamation point.  It certainly feels like it’s in need of one.

Some of you are scratching your head.  Book ideas that are still in your brain, or scribblings on the computer and in a journal.  A query is the letter you send to prospective agents telling them why they can’t live without publishing your masterpiece.  It’s the hook.  It’s the marketing ploy you see on the back cover and inside flap of every book out there.

It’s a big pain in the butt to write.

I’ve written my letter from probably half a dozen different angles.  I tried the synopsis and the one liner.  The character driven, plot driven, leave ’em hanging driven.  I tried personalizing each letter to each particular agent.  I had my beta readers (a post for another day) comment on each one, and none of them were perfect.  I’ve sent very few out.  The idea is to try and be as selective about your agent as they are about you.  Unfortunately, that makes rejection that much harder, since you’ve spent the last few weeks blog stalking their agency websites, literary blogs, and interviews.

I’ve come to the realization that the five small paragraphs of the query were harder to write then all 82,00 words of my novel.  I love to edit.  I love revisions, harsh critiques, making my manuscript what I dream it to be.  The negativity fuels me to work harder, write better.  Every blunt comment, helps polish a scene.   Every honest review, tightens the script.  The query is another thing altogether.  It’s certainly not my cup of tea.  Today I decided honesty might be the best way to go, and I retyped it again.

Here’s hoping.

-Laura

Here’s my heart, it’s not like I really need it

March 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have a pretty thick skin.  Being sensitively challenged, I often don’t understand the nature of offending someone.  I really think you have to go out of your way to purposefully hurt someone, and I don’t think most of us are walking around trying to cause offense.  Then there is the unintentional hurt.  Which I think most people should be more understanding of.  Especially in the case of friendships.

So how is it that I came to write a book that could so easily offend a huge population of people?

The short answer is, I don’t know.

I have to hope that agents, and editors, and friends, and everyone else reading it, will understand my intent.  It’s not to offend, but to tell a story.  A story that could very well be a true one.  Researching the Identity Movement, and the Aryan Nation, wasn’t what I call a good time on a Friday night.  It was informative, and shocking.  There are still people in the world today that believe in this nonsense.  There are whole groups fighting for a cause that is so ridiculous, it’s literally unbelievable.

Yet, it’s true.

My book it ultimately about choices.  Choices we make based on fear, and the fear of choices that seem impossible.

It’s hard to make that shine in a simple query letter, with a premise that is so controversial, it’s almost unmarketable.

-Laura

Desperately Seeking Susan, or Diana, or Jodi

March 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

I compare finding an agent to being the ugly girl that no one wants to date.  You do everything within your power to shine yourself up.  You’re going to the gym, spending obscene amounts of time on skin care, makeup, nice clothes.  You want your personality to shine through, and so you have your lines ready.   You stand in front of the mirror and practice facial expressions, funny quips that you’ll share.  All you need is a hook, and he’ll be yours.  Then you’re pumping yourself up before the date, thinking “this is the one, we’re perfect for each other.”  Maybe you’ve trolled all the dating web sites, done all the research.  Maybe it’s just a blind date, a shot in the dark.  Regardless, you’ve done everything you can to make yourself look great, and then BAM!

Rejection.

He doesn’t call, he doesn’t write.  Your date was great, you thought you were really meant to be together.  So you wallow for a minute, and then you think, “Ok that one hurt a little, but there’s other fish in the sea.”  So you try again, and again, and again.  Until you become numb to the pain, and you want to give up.  He’s not out there, nobody loves me.  The Ben and Jerry’s come later, the self doubt creeping in.  Your girlfriends step up to the plate, they offer reassurance.  “You’ll find him, I promise, he’s out there, you just have to keep looking.”  So you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and take another good look in the mirror.  Maybe you do something dramatic like plastic surgery, or botox (shiver).  The point is you keep trying, you keep putting yourself out there, because someday, someone will love you.

-Laura

“I loved your book, until I really had to think about it.”

March 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Beta Readers.

I have friends that read a lot.  A LOT, a lot.  More than the average person I would say.  I love people that read.  I don’t even care what you read, it’s more about the understanding that exists between us.  The complete submersion into another world, where books are like good friends.  How it feels to stay up until 330 in the morning because you simply couldn’t put the book down.  Those that would sacrifice food, sleep, and other bodily functions to finish one more chapter.  Those are the people I find a kinship with.

So when I was looking for Beta Readers I didn’t have to go far.  My friends were honest, my family critical, and my book club supportive.  All great things to be, and most helpful to me.  But they’re still the ones that love me.  I need to expand my horizons a bit.  Find strangers that are willing to really get into the nitty gritty of my book.

So I joined a writers forum for Young Adults.

Oh golly let me tell you.  I realized going in that I would have to read the work of others.  That I would have to make suggestions to them, if I were to expect the same courtesy.  I guess what I didn’t account for, was the lack of originality.

I’m not saying that my writing, or book, is better than anyone elses.  I’m saying that I would never be able to do the job of an agent or editor.  NEVER.

You think I’m exaggerating don’t you?

It quickly became apparent in the forum I joined, that most of the writers were teenagers, or much older adults, trying to write for teenagers.  I wish I could copy and paste here, but the forum doesn’t allow that, and I would never want to “plagiarize” (not the true definition of the word, but in spirit) anyone elses work.  So instead, here are the conceptual ideas of the works I was given, before I yanked my own work off the site.

“Boy meets girl, she’s exceptionally beautiful and popular.  He’s unworthy.  Turns out she’s a mermaid.”

“Country catches a deadly virus and only a few people survive.  There’s a safe haven if they can find it.  They’re all teenagers of course.”

“Girl has special abilities that are rapidly becoming apparent on her sixteenth birthday.  It’s a novel of self discovery!”

and my favorite of all. . . .

“It’s a fairy world and we’re just living in it.”

Isn’t that last one catchy?  I made it up myself.  She would have been better served using my one liner I think, then her own two page synopsis.

So there it is.  I had one critique roll in before I pulled the plug on it.  It was in text speak, which gives me a head ache to read (is it really harder to type in “you” as opposed to “u”? Really?).  They wanted more romance angle.  I don’t write romance angles well.  I like gritty.  I like heartache.  I don’t like romance angles.  (There is a romance angle in my book, just not of the burning bosom variety)

The moral of the story is, I’m sticking with my friends, until I can find an agent that will give me more valuable feedback.

-Laura

Grammar, grammar everywhere, and not a verb to spare

March 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Somewhere in my brain I know to use than rather than then.

So when I’m rereading my ms (manuscript in writers speak, I’ve been spending too much time in the chat threads) it is incredibly annoying to happen upon these little mistakes.  Then I reread again and see something else.  It’s a never ending cycle of tiny embarrassments.  Not to mention it distracts me from my story.

Imagine my horror when I sent out my very first query today without emailing it to myself first.

Big Mistake.

For some reason I thought I could cut and paste the document I worked so hard on directly into the body of my email, and then send it out into the web universe.  After all I type in NewTimes Roman.  It should be no big deal right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I copied myself into the email, and feeling excited at the prospect of maybe finding representation, I decided to open up the copy to gloat a little at my own self.

Horror of horrors.

The entire email was sent out in 8 point font.  EIGHT. POINT. FONT.

I don’t have the best eyesight to begin with, but this was microscopic.  I opened it on my phone and it was unreadable.

What have I done!?!  and you can’t exactly resubmit to the same agent, with a “whoops, I’m so unprofessional that I sent you this unreadable query letter because I didn’t bother to proof it first by sending it to myself before emailing you!?!?!”  No!  You can’t do that!!!

Oh, my OCD is kicking in again.  Now I know to forward the email after I’ve sent it to myself, and then deleted all forwarding information.

Ack.

-Laura