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Tuesday, January 26, 2010


This is from my finished MSS MIRROR IMAGE. 
Blurb:  You'd think imagining a handsome stranger in your rear-view mirror, crashing through a guardrail, and careening into murky water would be bad enough. But when the imaginary boy--who gives his name as Jackson--rescues seventeen-year-old Lily Baker, that's just the start of her problems.

After coming home from the hospital, Jackson starts showing up in any and all reflective surfaces — mirrors, puddles, windows, you name it. Lily, fearing others will think she’s crazy, keeps the visions to herself. After all, they’ll just go away if she ignores them, right? Not if Jackson has anything to say about it. And it isn’t long before he convinces her he’s real. Even when Jackson starts talking about strange cults and parallel dimensions, she can’t deny his powerful pull. The more time she spends staring into her mirror, the more she realizes she’s falling in love with a boy her family and friends insist is nothing more than shadows in her mirror and the hallucinations of her healing head injury.

 This is the scene after her parents start realizing something isn't right about Lilly's new boyfriend and wonder why if she likes him so much, why she's constantly locking herself in her room.  In the previous scene she reassures them everything is okay, but they don't believe her.  She doesn't realize that though and so we from there.

Hours later, happy and exhausted I padded into my room a smile on my face.  The whole evening had been a blast and made me realize what a wonderful family I really had.  I never really fought with my parents or my siblings.  We had the occasional row, but nothing serious.  The best part was that they always stood behind me.  No matter what stupid thing I’d done.
            I glanced at the mirror, but it only showed my room, not his.  Damn it.  Where is he?  I really missed him.  As much fun as I had with my family, seeing my parents together had only made me miss Jackson more.
            My radio was still playing and another slow song came on as I pulled out a silk nightie from my drawer.  I hummed along and moved my hips slowly as I removed my shirt and imagined my hands were his. I trailed them along my skin, tracing lightly over my stomach, up my sides and along the curve of my breast, before sighing and pulling the top over my head. 
            “Stop daydreaming, Lily.  It’ll never happen,” I said to myself.
            “What’ll never happen?” Jackson asked, startling me.
            I spun around, and ran to the mirror, too happy to care he had scared me.  “Hi!”
            “Hey, Gorgeous.  Miss me?”
            I gave him a sly smile.  “Nope.”
            His lips curved.  “No? Well, then I guess I didn’t miss you all that much either.”
            “Good, then we can go on not missing each other.”
            He laughed and his eyes made a slow pass down my body and then up again.  His eyes darkened to almost black along the journey and goose bumps rose along my skin when his eyes met mine.  “That was some show you just put on.”
            My face warmed from the heat of my blush.  “You saw that?”
            “Well, not all of it.  Your back was to the mirror.”
            “Oh,” I said, oddly disappointed.  I should be glad he hadn’t seen anything.  Shouldn’t I?
            “But I liked what I did see.” His fingers caressed down the mirror and sketched down it, in almost the same pattern I had used with my own.  My skin tingled as if he were touching me instead of the glass.
            For the first time since we’d started talking, I noticed his shirt was off and he was only in pajama bottoms.  I gave him a saucy grin.  “I like what I see, too.”
            He grinned back and placed his palm on the glass in front of me and waited until I did the same. As one, keeping our palms together we slid down, until we were sitting on the floor in front of each other.
            His eyes roamed over my body again, sending more tingles over my already supercharged body.  My heartbeat accelerated and, from what I could see from the pulse in his neck, matched his.  My breath clogged in my throat when he said, “You are so beautiful, Lily.”
            “Thank you,” I managed after a minute.
He moved so only his fingertips touched the glass, sliding along the area my palm covered.  The surface was so warm already, I couldn't be sure, but I would have sworn I felt a change in the temperature. A slight one, but enough to cause a shiver to run down my arm.
 "Are you cold?" he whispered, his eyes moving from my palm to my face.
 "No."  I raised my other palm to the glass and he copied me, trailing his fingertips down the image of my hand.
 My heart skipped a beat and I had to look down for a moment, to stop the spinning in my head.   When I looked up again, he was watching me.
 "The moonlight is different over there," he said.  "Softer, somehow."  He moved his fingertips to the center of the mirror, brushing the surface in a curve.  "It just barely touches your cheek."
 I covered my cheek with one hand, certain I would find some trace of him on my skin. As it was, I could just barely feel that cheek was warmer than the other. My heartbeat filled my ears in the quiet of my room.  It surprised me he couldn’t hear it.
            “It’s not fair that it gets to touch you, but I can’t.” His voice was husky, making me tremble even more. “Is it strange to be jealous of it?”
Jackson pressed his right hand to the center of the mirror, and I brought mine to meet it.  Palm to palm, we stared at each other.  Without a shirt on, I could see that he was breathing shallowly.  If I tilted my head, I could make it look like my hand covered his heart.
 "It’s the glass that makes it unfair," I whispered.  "How did you get through to save me, and now we're both trapped?"
 "Maybe if we concentrate..." he murmured.
 We matched up our hands once more and stared into each other's eyes.
 "Concentrate," he whispered.
 I nodded, afraid to even blink.  I imagined my hands sinking into the warm surface and finding the heat of his palms on the other side.  I could almost feel it thinning.
 "Close your eyes."  Jackson's voice was just a breath, but I did what he said. How could I not? "Concentrate."
 No more glass, no more glass, I chanted in my head like a prayer.
 The heat under my hands grew--it was hot, almost to the point of pain, but it didn't burn me.  "Do you feel something?" I whispered.
 "Yes."  His voice was tight.  "You feel closer."
 I heard a rustle and opened my eyes to find Jackson up on his knees.  His fingers were still splayed on the glass, fitted to mine, but now his chest was just inches behind them and his mouth was close enough to steam the glass.  I swallowed, hard.  He was so close, but just out of reach.  I mimicked his position, raised up on my knees.  My breath steamed the mirror a few inches below his, and I tilted my face up to close the gap.
He opened his eyes and found me gazing at him.  With a slight tilt of his head, our breath made a perfect match.
My body tingled and strained toward the glass.  "Please," I whispered.
"Please," he echoed, his eyes slipping shut again.
I closed my own and pressed hard into the glass, willing it away.  The heat between our hands crested and for a moment, I could have sworn I felt the touch of flesh, but then as quickly as it came, it was gone.  I gasped and looked into Jackson's eyes.
"Did you feel that?"
"I'm not sure.  I felt...something," he sighed.
I rested my forehead on the glass, while disappointment made me aware of the floor biting into my knees and the chill of the room.  He touched his forehead to mine, mere millimeters of glass keeping us apart.  I leaned back and used one fingertip to scrub away a bit of the condensation from my breath.
            He leaned back as well, but his eyes were still dark, his breaths still uneven.  He straightened his shoulders.  "Does this mean the same thing in your world?" he asked, and drew an X and an O in the steam on his side.
I nodded as an overwhelming sense of relief poured through me.  "Yes."  I huffed a new patch of steam near his markings and drew a heart.
He smiled, and touched his fingertip to mine at the base of the heart.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Caution! Novel Under Construction: Grab your hard hats and Jack Hammers

Today, as promised, a few ways to make your manuscript stronger and stand out from the others.  Granted this won’t be everything you need, but it’ll help. 

My first bit of advice is to write.  Don’t stop to edit.  That’s what first drafts are for.  That way you know where the story is going and you can add in or delete all the little details you need to make it shine while your editing.

So, now you’ve written your story and you’re happy with it.  The best thing to do is let it sit for a while.  A week at least.  Yes, I know you’re thinking I’m crazy, but really the best thing to do is let it sit.  You’ll catch more things if it’s not so fresh in your mind.  I learned this one the hard way.

My first run-through I don’t do any editing.  I make no changes to the actual structure.  I’m only looking for inconsistencies or things that need more (better) or less descriptions.  Also, I make sure each character is completely well rounded.  I play a little scenario in my head and see if I can take each character and make a little story for him/her.  Almost as if I’m doing a spin off.  That way I know they aren’t flat.  There are some excellent worksheets on this that you can find on the web or contact me and I’ll be happy to send it to you.

Then I go through it a second time, this time looking for structural changes. 

I do a “Find” for the words: just, that, all words that end in ly, was, and “I heard,” “I felt,” and “I saw,” highlighting each one a different color so it catches my eyes when I go through the MS.   

Also, as I’m going through it, I look for words that aren’t necessary.  And try to see if I can rearrange a sentence to mean the same thing, but make it more concise.  The rule of thumb is “less is always more.”  If you can say something in 2 words, why say it in 10?  Unless you weaken your writing by doing so.

Here’s a great list by Kat O’Shea of ways to make your writing stronger.  It was written for romance books, but it works well for all types of books.

1) Cut unnecessary words. Eliminate adjectives and adverbs (just, very, really, and other words ending in ly). Use strong verbs and nouns instead. Also, verbs do not need to be propped up with start to, tried to, began to, seemed to, continued to, needed to, decided to, could, would, etc. Run a search and delete as many as possible.

2) Weed out intruders. When you use phrases such as she saw, he watched, she remembered, he felt, or she touched, you are putting a filter between your character and the reader. Readers are not experiencing the hero’s actions themselves; the author is telling/describing what’s happening. Any time you’re tempted to write a sense word, drop yourself into the middle of the scene and see the scene through your character’s eyes, touch it with her hands. It’s the difference between:

She touched the mat of curls on his chest.
Her fingers tangled in the mat of curls on his chest.

She felt his muscled chest press against her back as he leaned over.
His muscled chest pressed against her back as he leaned over.

The second ones are much more sensual and immediate. They drop us into the action. Which ones make your pulse race faster? Which ones make you feel like you’re part of the action? Can you see the difference eliminating filters/intruders makes?

3) Look for passive voice—was and were are good indicators. Replace these with active verbs to make your writing sparkle. Also look at each sentence to see who is doing the acting. Is the subject taking charge or is he/she being acted upon?

PASSIVE: The book was read by Moira.
ACTIVE: Moira read the book.

PASSIVE: Alisha was served dinner by John.
ACTIVE: John served Alisha dinner.

4) Show rather than tell. Telling is describing, whereas showing is action that demonstrates what is going on in the character’s life. If you’re not sure what this means, here’s one example:

Telling: Sally was angry with Brad.
Showing: Sally glared at Brad, then turned and stomped off.

The second sentence not only lets us know that she’s angry, it shows how she expressed her anger. It’s much stronger and more interesting. Change any places where you describe a character’s thoughts or deeds instead of showing him or her in action. See the following websites for more info:  (Mostly about openings, but check out her two examples of openings to see the difference between showing and telling)

6) Dialogue needs to be crisp and to the point. It must also move the story along and/or develop your characters. Eliminate the usual conversational pleasantries (hello, how are you, good-bye), filler (you know, um, you see, I guess, well), and repetitions. Concentrate on the essential information you need to convey, and make your dialogue sound better than real life. Never use dialogue to tell readers things the characters already know nor use it as an information dump (to let readers know all the interesting facts you learned while researching).

7) The main reason people read romance is to be transported to another time, place, situation. Imagining themselves in the heroine’s place, they live the story through her. In order to create that illusion, details can be extremely important. Sensory details flesh out a fully realized world. What is she smelling? hearing? feeling? tasting? You don’t want to bog the story down with description, but a few well chosen details add spice and make the setting feel real. (But do it without adding “intruders.” See # 2.)

8) Avoid using It was or There were to begin sentences; those are weak constructions. Often just cutting them takes care of the problem. Usually the rest of the sentence can stand on its own. If not, reword it. 

9) NNTT (No Need to Tell)—Many writers use body language, dialogue, or an action that shows how a character is feeling or reacting, then they follow it up with an explanation. Stick with the action, and let readers figure out how a character is feeling. If you’ve portrayed the emotion through action or dialogue, trust that your readers will understand.

When Lynn turned the key, the ignition clicked a few times, but the engine refused to turn over. She pounded on the steering wheel and swore
, furious that her car wouldn’t start

As readers, we realize she’s furious—we see her temper fit. We also know her car didn’t start, so telling us that is unnecessary.

10) Watch for ing verbs. They’re usually weaker than verbs that end in ed. And because ing indicates the action is ongoing, they often make for impossible actions.

Racing up the stairs, she grabbed his shoulder and glared into his eyes.

Wow, she can hang onto his shoulders and maintain eye contact as she’s racing up the stairs? Pretty impressive. If that’s not what you meant, then change the sentence to She raced up the stairs, grabbed his shoulder, and glared into his eyes.

11) Avoid backstory in your first three chapters. Use those chapters to introduce your heroine, your hero, and the main story conflict. Show them interacting, acting & reacting to each other. Backstory, imagination, and being in a character’s thoughts slow the story down too much. Actions that happen in the past also put too much distance between the character and the event and lower the tension. (One clue to backstory is had in front of your verbs. One or two may be necessary to order events, but avoid had for whole passages.) Begin with the inciting incident—an event that sets off sparks between your hero & heroine (or between your character and an antagonist). Weave a tiny bit of backstory into later chapters, but only if absolutely necessary. Keep the story in past (or present) tense to give it a sense of immediacy. Using only past or present tense keeps the reader guessing about what’s about to happen.

12) End each chapter with a cliffhanger. If tension drops off at the end of the chapter or a problem is resolved and all is well for your character, readers have no reason to continue reading. They can easily close the book at that point and have no incentive to finish the story. To keep readers involved, end chapters during the high point of the action, right before the resolution. Then readers have to read on to see how the scene ends. Or if you resolve a problem before the end of the chapter, make sure the resolution results in a new problem and hints at it or introduces it at the close of the chapter. This is a key to writing a page turner that your readers won’t be able to put down.

Some must have books are Struck and White’s Elements of Style and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.  Strunk and White’s Elements should be used a reference, while Self-Editing should be read through from cover to cover and then used as a reference.  It does, essentially repeat the 12 steps above, but it goes much more in-depth and uses real life examples. 

I hope this has been somewhat helpful. 

Tomorrow I’m taking a page from a friend’s book and making it “TEASER TUESDAY.” Where I’ll post an excerpt from one of my stories.   

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Writers’ Hate On For Agents

Lately, I’ve been reading on agent’s blogs and Twitter about a new trending topic that, well, surprised me.  More and more writers are developing a “hate on” for agents and I’m not sure where this is coming from. 

It doesn’t make sense.  Sure it’s frustrating to get rejection after rejection after rejection, but it’s the name of the game.  It’s just the same with publishers, but people aren’t taking their frustrations out on publishers.  Nope, just the agents who get caught in the middle. 

An agents job is to find manuscripts that the publishers are looking for and passing it along, amongst countless other things that blow my mind.  I actually kept my Tweetdeck open last week for “agents day,” which was where all the agents on Twitter tweeted about what they did during the day.

 It was ridiculous.  Most of them were reading queries before work, on their way to work, after work (notice the trend?  It’s all on their personal time.)  The same goes with non-client mss (those coveted partials and fulls), all done on their personal time.

Then they spend their actual work day doing client stuff, negotiating contracts, editing manuscripts, submitting, talking with editors, the list goes on and on.  Most stayed well past what corporate America would consider closing, just to go home and read more MSS and queries.

Now, the “haters” are popping out of the woodwork and, what seems to me, attacking these people because of their job.  Most of it I think is the rejections they are getting.  Instead of taking a look at their own work to try and see if they can improve it, they’re venting their frustrations on the people they see as the reason they’re not getting published.

They complain when an agent responds too quickly or not quickly enough.  They complain when the get feedback or just a form response. 

It seems that there is no pleasing these people. 

Some make some good points that I’ll admit have crossed my mind a few times, but you know what, writing hateful things on your blog, or worse, emailing or phoning the agent in question to “chew them out” is not the way to handle it.  Please refer to my blog posts of the previous two days to help you with what you can do.

Yes, agents are picky, but they have to be.  If they pick up something that doesn’t sell, they don’t get paid.  Nobody wants to work for free.  And yes, some are jerks, but again, if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.  There are tons of agents out there and most are awesome.

Most spend countless hours helping ‘newbies.’ They post blogs about writing, how to submit, what they’re looking for, what they aren’t looking for.  They offer mss or query letter critiques, they post on Twitter the things NOT to do.  The list goes on and on, my friends.

Is publishing flawed?  Probably.  Are good people getting missed because of those flaws?  More than likely, but this is the system we have to work with, so you need to learn to “work it, baby.”  (If anyone knows what this is from, please comment I’m interested in finding others who loved this and I may just give something away to the person who answers correctly HINT:  If you read my story Maid Of Honor, you know the answer.)

Now, enough of my rants.  Next week, I’ll go back to writing tips.

Monday’s Post will be on hints for a successful self-edit of your MSS.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Truth about Feedback

Today’s topic is feedback and how to deal with it.  We all have to do it at some point.  Whether it’s from a critique partner, beta and gamma readers, agents, editors, or fans.  And as my husband so crassly put it: “Opinions are like butt holes.  Everybody has one.”

While it may be crass, it is most certainly true.  You take thirty people on the street and ask them their opinion on something you’ll get thirty different answers.  Unless, of course you ask a group of people, then some will agree with each other, just to fit in with the crowd.  But, for the most part, everyone has different tastes. 

So onto the topic.  You’ve finished your novel and you know how important it is to get other people to read it, so you’ve sent it off to friends and family, a few beta readers, and your critique group who’ve you been with since the first word of the first draft and you’re waiting for those five star reviews to roll in.  You’re super excited about it and you know it’s the greatest, and then the first one from you’re family comes in at agrees with you.

Then another, and another, and you’re on top of the world.  Then the report from a beta reader and she loves it, but there’s a lot of things she didn’t like or didn’t agree with.  Then another comes in saying she hated the first chapter and didn’t read past it.  And now your critique partner’s come in and says it’s great, but this, this, and this need to change and don’t worry, it’s not that big of a change she’d like to see.

So, what’s your response?  Do you a) yell at the ones who don’t think it’s great for their obvious stupidity for not seeing what a genius you are.  After all, your mom likes it, why don’t they?  b) You go run and hide in the corner to cry your eyes out and then give up.  Or c) you pick and choose at the advice and use it to make a better version and submit yourself to another round of heart wrenching criticism.

Well, if you chose C then you win the chocolate cookie.  Go on, you know you want it.  I’ll wait here until you get it….Done?  Great. 

Yes, in an ideal world C would be the correct choice, but is it the one we do?  Nope.  Not even close.  Most of the time it’s a combination of a and b and then, if we’re smart, we’ll move onto c pretty quickly. 

So, why did the critiques vary so much?  Well, the obvious choice is opinion.  It all boils down to someone’s opinion.  What they want to see.  But it’s more complicated than that. 

Take, for example, your friends and family’s critique.  How much of what they told you was tainted by the fact that they knew you?  That they were thinking the whole time they were reading it, that they’d have to live, or work with you after they told you what they thought?  Probably a lot, right?  You betcha.  So, you know automatically that anything they’re going to say is going to be tinged on the side of they-don’t-want-to-hurt-your-feelings. So, anytime you read their reviews, remember to take it with a shaker full of salt.
So, why did one Beta totally love it and the other hate it.  That’s probably personal opinion.  Did you get beta readers that read in your genre?  Or did you choose people at random?  It’s usually better to get someone who reads in your genre, who knows all it’s intricacies and quirks.  And who’s familiar with its voice.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with a person who doesn’t like what you write and will stop reading after the first paragraph.
            Now onto your critique partner, more than likely they’ve know you for a while and they know the story, at least in passing.  So, they’ll be similar to your friends and family, but they also want to help you. In this case, it’s best to look at the criticism with an eye toward the truth.  Did they really like your voice?  Or were they just being friendly?  Did they think you’re characters had depth?  Or again, were they just being nice?  Sometimes, even though you like your critique partner if you think they are becoming biased, it’s time to move on.  You want someone who’s going to be honest with you, even if it hurts your feelings.

            Even when you get lucky enough to get feedback from agents, you’ll see how much they’re opinions differ.  Because, for the most part, it is there opinion.  A lot of their job relies on their gut instinct.  So, again, everyone’s feedback will differ. Take for instance me.  The very first rejection I got, told me they really liked my story and I did a good job with isolating my MC from the rest of the world, but there wasn’t enough external conflict for him.  Another told me I did a great job with characterization and it was well written, did a good job with conflict, but they just didn’t fall in love with it, and the latest one told me my characters were flat.

            See how different they all are?  And how they all contradict each other.  Are any of them right?  Or wrong?  No. And Yes.  It just depends on what you take from it and where they are coming from.  The first agent doesn’t rep a lot of romance, so maybe the conflict wasn’t enough for him because of what he does rep.  The second just didn’t feel it.  It’s hard to qualify that, but would she have taken the time to tell me specific things about my manuscript, read the whole thing, and then lie about it?  Doubtful.  And the last, I’m not sure what this one was about.  Since I’ve never had that particular feedback before from anyone.  So, I’ve decided to go ahead and curb that critique until I hear something similar from other people.  If/when I do, then I’ll have to go back and flesh them out.  But until then, I’ll just pull out my ole salt shaker.

            But did I get angry about them?  One I did.  Did I cry and want to quit?  Sure, but I didn’t (well I did cry with one of those rejections, but I didn’t quit).  Am I remembering the critiques to use if I revise the MSS?  Darn tootin’.  How else am I supposed to get better?

            Now is any of these responses wrong?  No, not really; unless you go and take it too far and for instance, start arguing with the person.  Say I’d done that with the critique from agent three that I hadn’t agreed with.  What do you think he’s going to do?  Say, well I guess if other people didn’t feel that way, I won’t too.  Why don’t you send it again so I can have another go?  No, of course not.  He’s going to delete the email, block my IP address and tell everyone in the industry what an idiot I was.  Not something you want to happen if you want to be published. 

You have to remember they’re entitled to their opinion.  You may not like it and you don’t have to take it, but you can’t force them to change their mind.  The best thing to do, if you really feel like they were wrong, is not ask them to critique it again, or not submit to them again.  But, don’t take it out on them.  It’s not cool and it isn’t going to help you. 

If you feel like you absolutely need to vent, go talk with another writer friend who understands what you’re going through.  If you’re of legal drinking age, go get a beer with friends, but please before you hit the send button on that nasty email, think how you’d feel if you’d taken the time to offer advice and someone told you, you were an idiot for not seeing it’s genius.  You wouldn’t like it, and neither would they.  Take a few deep breaths and then hit the button.  The DELETE button. 

            Until next time, keep on truckin’ and go and buy yourself a giant salt shaker to douse those critiques with.  You’ll need it. 

            Tomorrow’s post:  The Writers’ Hate On For Agents and why we shouldn't

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Way or the Highway

As most of you know, I’m on Twitter, and lately I have found it to be an invaluable resource.  Not just for getting my name out there, but also for learning things I never knew.  

Yes, you heard me right.  I actually learned something from Twitter.  It isn’t just me wasting time as I hit writer’s block.  You see, I follow several agents and not just because they’re considering my work or I want them to.  Some of them don’t even rep. the type of work I write, or they have already rejected me. But I follow them because they give me an insider view of what’s going on in the world of agenting and publishing. 

Which leads me to my posting today.  A lot of them have been complaining lately of the queries they’ve been receiving, and it seemed so silly that they would be.  I mean most people research the agents they’re querying, right?  Most read the submission directions and only query one agent per query letter, right? They don’t get angry for responding too quickly or with a rejection, right?

Uh, no.  No, they actually don’t.

And my question is why.  Why would someone query twenty agents at once on the same letter?  Why would someone submit an adult manuscript to an agent that states they only take children’s literature?  Or send screenplays to an agent that only takes manuscripts?

Now I know none of you do this, so I’m probably preaching to the choir, but I thought I’d take time today to go over the importance of following the rules. 

First and foremost, research the agents you want to query.  Make sure they rep the genre that you write.  And then follow their guidelines.  Most agents’ websites clearly state what each particular agent is looking for and how they want you to submit.  Some want just a query.   Some want the query and the first five pages, or the query, a synopsis, and the first chapter, or some combination of the above.  That’s why it’s important to follow their rules and not what you think they want. 

If you can’t find their guidelines, and you’ve checked agent query, query tracker, and Publisher’s Marketplace and you still can’t find anything.  Send a query and maybe the first five pages. 

On that note, let's move onto attachments.  Most agents don’t want them, so if they want the synopsis and the first 5 pages, copy and paste them into the letter.  When in doubt, copy and paste.  Don’t send an attachment.  There’s no quicker way to an autoreject than submitting an attachment when they don’t want them.

The same goes for when they ask for a partial or full. Follow their guidelines.  Make sure you know how they want it.  If they want it electronic, make sure to check what format. After you do your snoopy dance, please, please, please give your manuscript one more glance.  This is especially true if they want it snail mail.  Sometimes your printer can screw up and you’d never know.  So, make sure it’s perfect before you send it.  And follow their guidelines. I can’t say this enough. When in doubt, ask. 

Now onto the hard part: rejection.  It’s going to happen.  Even if you’ve done the research and think that the agent is a perfect match for your work, they may feel differently.  The biggest thing is don’t email back to argue.  Even if you’re MSS is perfectly written, and is the next Twilight and you’re sure of it, and you think they’re idiots for rejecting you, that’s their prerogative.  Their choice. 

They may not have connected with the mss like they wanted, or they already have a client that is writing something similar or—well there’s a million different reasons you might get the big R.  Just take whatever information they give you and move on.  Use it if you agree or other’s have said the same thing, or disregard it for later.

Please don’t be like the guy who bashes agents in his blog for reasons that escape me.  Or the guy everyone refers to as “The query stalker” who sends the same query over and over to the same agents several times a week.  This isn’t getting them anywhere and is in fact, making it harder 1) for the agents to their jobs and 2) for the rest of us that want to make it in this biz to get there. 

On a closing note, if by any chance you are one of these people, please, please, please stop.  You aren’t getting anywhere.  You’ve become a joke.  They don’t care.  Yes, they talk about you, yes you’re getting people to your blog, but if I can be so blunt, you’re morons.  Spend the time you’re taking pissing these people off and improve your writing.  Take classes, send your mss to critiquing sites(see my Links page for some excellent sites), do something other than what you’re doing.  It isn’t working.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Inspiration and the road to publication

I’m thrilled and excited to have the opportunity to guest blog for J.A. Souders this month and truly hope she’ll honor me when it comes time!

I’d like to take the chance to answer some of the questions I’ve gotten in the past few weeks leading up to the release of my debut novel, ‘The Crescent’.

First, let me start with publishing a novel is not for the weak of heart. 

That being said here is how I came to pen ‘The Crescent,’ and some of my experiences with publishing.

The idea for my debut novel came late one chilly July evening.  I had gone into my large back yard to feed my German Shepherd (Biscuit), when an unsettling feeling rushed over me.  The fact is, it was one of those nights that you just expect something horrible is going to happen.  Biscuit, feeling quite frisky, decided to stop me from going back into the house.  He blocked the doorway with his massive body--now, this dog outweighed me by at least fifteen pounds and even on all fours, and he was more than half my height.  Biscuit easily kept me out of the house. 

Considering I already had a sinking feeling that was nagging at the fringes of my mind, it started to occur to me the dog insisted on not letting me get any closer to, let alone through the door.  And being the imaginative, hyper-paranoid type that I am, my mind started to wander over why the dog could possibly be acting this way.  The thoughts that ensued included a storm coming, an earthquake or worse… someone’s inside my house.  Since I was alone at home that night, and I live in the middle of nowhere, it obviously was the last on the list.  Someone, probably a serial killer, was probably in my home waiting to kill and dismember me.  I did say I have an overactive imagination, right?

I hastily tried to figure out how to get to the phone, dialing 9-1-1 and get to my bedroom to get a gun from my safe (yes, I know, all over a dog insisting on being petted).  After a few moments, the dog finally allowed me into the home, at which time I felt prudent to let him and Coco, my Queensland Healer, into the house for a full inspection. 

After a hearty laugh at myself, and a thorough search of every inch of my house, I let the pups back outside.  And I slumped onto the couch to begin working on ‘Benches’, my first fully completed novel that I was in the process of re-writing for submission.  That night as I slept, my Biscuit morphed into Grant, and the full story of ‘The Crescent’ lay out before me.  The next morning, I awoke and started working on this novel and the words flowed easily.  However, the editing was much more difficult. 

By the end of August, it was ready for submission and in the third week of September, I was offered my contract with Black Rose Writing. After contract negotiations and much discussion with my family, I signed my agreement and the rest, as they say, is history.

That brings me to the next section I’d like to cover- publishing.  At the beginning, I said publishing isn’t for the faint of heart.  Most beginning authors have this idea that the hard work stops once they write a novel… at least, I did.  I thought the writing was the hard part.  The fact is--that is the furthest thing from the truth.  The real work comes when you finish the novel. 

First of all, you’ve loved your characters and your story for months, possibly longer.  Then you put it out there to be judged by agent after agent, only to be rejected.  That starts another roller coaster ride, because the emotional ups and downs during this period can drive you insane, not to mention give you motion sickness.  Then, you get someone that bites and wants a “full” or a “partial”!  (This MUST be it- right?  Uh- No…)  Then you get a rejection off of that and you start to wonder if you are doing the right thing or if you are wasting your time.  But you trek on, and before you know it someone is interested and makes an offer to either represent or publish (this part could take months).  And you have an OMG! moment, and then you finally stop hyperventilating. 

Obviously- this has to be it- right?  Not quite. Now you have to negotiate the contract to acceptable terms, start the first of possibly many revisions, come up with jacket ideas, cover designs, possible promotion ideas (if you didn’t go with a large house), and the list goes on and on. 

The process is quite harrowing, but exciting none the less.  Even though there have been many ups and downs during my road to publishing, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I truly feel you can learn from every experience you have in life and every person you come in contact with.

Life is about the journey…

Much love-