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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I follow several Literary Agents' blogs because they're full of advice as to what not to do or how to tighten your writing. I came across one recently that said, "Examine your work for 'begin to,' and 'decide to,' and 'seem' because these verbs weaken your work." So I used the "Find" tool and searched for each of these words. When I forced myself to eliminate them, it made the prose stronger. For example, instead of "she began to think about..." becomes "she thought about." And "he decided to kiss her" becomes "he kissed her." I learned there's no need to use these "deliberating" verbs. Just make it happen!
I've realized that the more I learn about the craft, the less I know.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The finish line has moved...

After 25 rejections, I decided to have a professional editor critique my query letter. There were a few minor changes, but the most glaring thing (which I'd suspected) was the word count. At just under 53,000 words, my novel simply isn't long enough. This equates to around 215 pages, but in the publishing world it isn't large enough. When books are printed, there's an acceptable range for word count that is in direct relation to the cost of printing. For novels, the minimum word count (I've learned) is around 75,000. The quality of the work aside, it isn't good business to print shorter novels. So, I'm plowing through the manuscript again in an attempt to add another 25,000 words (100 pages). Surprisingly, this task isn't as daunting as I'd expected. In just 2 1/2 pages, I've added 76 words. Amazing how being away from your manuscript for several months gives you an entirely new set of eyes. After just these few pages of revision, I've asked myself, "I sent this to agents?" However, I realize that no matter how long I work on it, it will never be good enough...for me.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Twelve more...

I spent the last five hours sending out 12 more queries. This business part of the whole thing is tough. When I wrote my first book, I wrote simply because I had to write. Then I wrote my second book because I had something else to say. I looked at the two books (which I'd written in a year) and thought, "I should just get them in print so I can have a written record in case my computer dies"--which it did.) And now I've written book number three. Again, it was written because I had to write it. The ideas buzzed around inside of me. But this time, I'm determined to have someone who isn't related to me or my friend find some value to what I've written. I've put too much of myself into it to keep putting it aside and moving on. And I have moved on. I've started my fourth book with a good friend of mine. A non-fiction story about her incredible son and family.
The point is, if I'm going to continue to pour my soul onto my keyboard and spend my precious and few spare hours to this solitary and relentless gnaw, then I at least want to know if it's worthy of reading. Hopefully one of the dozens of agents I've queried will at least send more than the cursory, form email.
Pity party over. Back to the (other) love of my life--words.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The business of trying to get your writing published is so different from writing itself. The writing part is natural, like an extension of myself or an appendage. It's a necessary thing--like breathing. To have an idea bubbling inside of me and not write it down is like trying to hold your breath too long. It's impossible and painful. The business of trying to get published is anything but natural. It requires writing query letters to literary agents, putting your work out there for perfect strangers to judge, and receiving impersonal, form rejections while hoping for a simple "can we see more?" The art that you've poured your heart and soul into for months, and sometimes years, can be tersely dismissed. No one chooses to be a writer. You either are or you aren't. I'm not implying that all writers are good writers. What I mean is that it is an involuntary thing. A way you see the world. Much like photographers and painters and sculptors. You see details and analyze and find beauty in the tiniest and often most mundane things (often that no one else cares about). I'm not implying this is a good thing, necessarily. I often find myself bogged down or overwhelmed with all that is around me. The point is simply that capturing that in words is a release. A relief. Breathing out.
Trying to get published is like giving birth. Long, arduous, and painful. But you know the end product is worth it. The problem is that there is no epidural for dealing with the agent/publisher submission process. But without it, your words simply sit in your computer where no one ever sees them. So today I sent out 17 queries in the hopes that someone thinks my novel is worth a second chance. Seventeen is my favorite number, so.... But I know that it'll be 17 x 20 before a nibble. If only I could hold my breath forever.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Break is Over

I went to Alabama to visit my Mom and Dad over Christmas week. The solitude of the plane ride allowed me to dive into my manuscript a bit. After having some distance from it for a couple of months, I saw so many things to improve. Sam's comments were, as always, incredibly helpful. I also started hearing "the voices" again. Not ones of schizophrenia or psychosis, but the characters' voices. It's amazing how they become so real. Two of my characters, Jed and Lilah, screamed for more depth. I also opened the door a little to the soul of Grace (the title character) and ended up jotting down an interior dialogue prologue while finishing up packing my suitcase to come back to PA. I'm almost half-way into the revisions now and the thought of completing them is so exciting. But then there's the synopsis to write, the short synopsis, the author bio, the query letters...the publishing process is daunting. Time to get down to business in 2010 and get this thing out there.