Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You might be a writer if:

1) You harbor a love of caffeine that you've assured your family you can quit any time.
2) You list "blank pages" and "no autosave" as your mortal enemies.
3) You know seventeen different ways to say "He walked."
4) While other little boys and girls imagine their Oscar acceptance speeches, you formulate your blog post response to being named the Pulitzer Prize winner ("It was an honor just to be nominated.")
5) You can list taking a walk, hogging the shower for two hours, and reading as "work activities."
6) Your email account warns you that you've used your maximum number of page refreshes for the day.
7) Time is but a convention to defy.
8) You spend more time with imaginary people than you do with real people.
9) You measure days in word count.
10) You've been caught having imaginary conversations in your car, public bathrooms, the shower, and once in the break room at work when you didn't realize the next office over could hear you.

Share your "you might be a writer if" truth today!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Writing a query letter makes me cry blood

Okay, fine, it's not that bad. But it's surprisingly hard. Different agents have different standards and preferences, and the purpose of the query is completely different from the manuscript itself. When you're writing a manuscript, you're telling the story. But when you're writing a query letter, you're selling the story. And yes, I do find myself quite clever.

So what are the differences?

I'm no query expert, but I think the biggest difference between the query letter and the actual manuscript is what trips up most writers. The query letter is a marketing piece for your book - it's like the back cover copy. It's meant to boil the plot down to the most essential and exciting elements, and leave just enough of a hook that the agent wants to know more. I think it's hard sometimes for us to separate ourselves from the story enough to step back and look at it in a business context, but if you're querying that's exactly what you have to do. It's not pleasure anymore, it's not personal fun, it's a business proposition. Your book will help people pay their mortgages, and not just your own, so you've got to learn how to sell the experience.

I've perused the archives of Query Shark, read sample queries of authors who have landed agents, read  sample structured query letters, and I see the same things over and over. Writers giving too much backstory, writers trying to include too many storylines, writers not recognizing the hook in their own story. The query is not just about "here's the plot of my book." It's "here's enough interesting stuff about my book with good voice that you want to request more."

Think of it like a date - do you tell someone on a first date where you went to middle school and high school and how you have an uncle with diabetes and you once had an addiction to caffeine pills and here's every favorite album you've ever had? (Please say no) No, you tell them the interesting bits, just enough of the story to get to date number two. Once you're on date number two they're bought in and you can roll out the caffeine addiction.

What about you? Have you written a query letter? Did you also feel like you needed a cookie after the first (second, third, nine-hundredth) draft? Do you have a different take on queries?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My thought for the day

The bottom of a Starbucks coffee cup is the saddest place in the world.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In the meantime, the in-between time

So...I'm feeling a bit restless. I finished my current WIP and am currently putting it through its paces with the critique group, and while I have ideas swirling about my head none of them are strong enough to warrant spending the next six months and countless hours molding them into a passable shape. I've written a query letter, done some editing on it, identified some revisions I'll make when I do my next major revision, and dabbled around with the various story ideas.

Over the holiday weekend I made the mistake of picking up City of Bones, which had been on my bookshelf for a couple of months while I was deep in the throes of writing, and lost the rest of the weekend to City of Ashes and City of Glass. Clare is an incredible world-builder, and I was just another helpless victim who fell for Jace's charms. I know better than to pick up City of Fallen Angels right now (but don't think I won't soon, I can't resist such a pretty face for too long).

I'm so used to driving forward that I feel a little lost without any specific forward momentum. So I'd like to know: what do you do between major writings and revisions?