Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm starting to read like an agent!

Those of you who know me at all know that I am a compulsive researcher. If I have to do anything more serious than go to the dentist, I will spend hours, if not days, researching my task (OK, I'd do that for finding a dentist as well). So now that I am preparing to query agents with my first novel, I have spent months researching agents, reading their blogs, googling what makes a perfect query, ideal synopsis, and compelling first five pages. (For those of you not familiar with publishing, that's all you get to hook an agent and a publisher).

I recently started reading a currently 'hot' book. I was looking forward to reading it, not only because the title was intriguing and it features heavily in the bookstores these days, but because it falls under the same genre as my little work in progress. And do you know what happened? I started to read like an agent.

I wasn't five pages into it when I started grumbling. And my grumbling went something like this: "How did this author ever get an agent? Look how wordy it is. No conflict in the prologue, nothing that makes me want to read beyond these first six pages." So then I moved on to Chapter 1. And I started channelling an agent again. I was looking for something compelling and didn't find it. Here we have the protagonist. On the first page of Chapter 1, she is standing in a high pressure situation. So what does the author do? She doesn't build on the tension, she doesn't let us feel her agony. She spends the next TWO PAGES giving us backstory. Then, we finally get into the situation, she gives us dry academic stuff, full of 'see how smart I am' information. By page 4, I was done.

Form rejection.

Now, I know it is highly unlikely that any of the agents that I am following (Janet, Rachel, Nathan, Jennifer, Jenny, Kristin, and many others...) are going to be reading my humble little blog but I just want them to know I'm listening and I'm learning. And I am OH SO GRATEFUL. It is because of their knowledge, their generosity with their time, that I have learned how important it is to get those first five pages right, not just for the agent but for the reader as well.

I might go back and try to finish up 'that book', but then again, I might not. So many books, so little time.

Hee hee hee...I love this job

My eyes are crossed, my ears are ringing and my shoulders are stiff. I've been revising for about four hours now and I think it is time to get up and stretch. But I can't, because I can't make myself stop. I've finished revising (third draft, but not for good because I don't know if I'll ever really finish revising until the darn thing is printed *touching wood*) through chapter 9 and I want to keep going!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And the horses are in the starting gate...

Have you been to a horse race before? There is a moment when the horses are led to the starting gate. Some walk in placidly, some jump in, some seem to refuse point blank and have to be forced in. Once they are in, they skitter about and the tension is palpable. I feel like one of those horses.

Tomorrow, I will start my concerted effort on Draft 3. I have been dying to get at it for weeks but having the kids at home, visitors, and other things have stopped me from doing any more than little edits here and there.

I am jumpy. I am nervous. I am excited. I am scared.

Let me at it.

I may not win the race. But I am certainly going to finish.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Giving in to the inevitable...

It was going to happen. We all knew it; some knew it before others. It was only a matter of time before I started to blog. Like I really need something else to distract me from what I should really be doing, which is writing. A book. Not a blog. But I'll chalk it up as the first step to building 'my platform'. For those of you who don't know the oh-so-complicated world of publishing a novel, your platform is your presence out in the book-buying world. Ideally, you'll have a flashy website that thousands visit every week, thereby giving you your potential buyers of your novel. At the barest minimum, you have a blog. So here we go.

Today has been a day of a little high and a little low. I sold 'Spa Break' to Woman's Weekly, a woman's mag in the UK, the same one that published my other short story 'The Way to a Man's Heart' back in 2006 (not exactly prolific am I?). The money is minimal (but I'm not in it for the big bucks anyway) and it is hardly a prestigious literary publication. But it is read by 350,000 people each week and it is rather competitive from a writer's perspective. So I'm not complaining. Actually, I'm pretty chuffed! One more thing to put on my writer's resume.

As for the little low, I found out today that neither of my novels-in-progress were shortlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize. Well, shoot.

WOMAN OVERBOARD was a long shot, I know that. It is far from polished (and VERY far from finished) and I really shouldn't have wasted the entry fee submitting it. But I figured I'd put it out there as it was chick lit and the contest was judged by Katie Fforde who writes great chick lit. After all, what if something in it just resonated for her? Sometimes that is all it takes. Clearly not the case here though. S'okay. I'll get over it.

But I am a bit disappointed that NIGHT WORDS (or HERALDSGREEN HOUSE or UPON THE SHADOWED PAGE or whatever it is I'm calling my WIP this week -- another post on that very soon) didn't even make it to the short list. However, after discussing the second draft with four of my readers over the past weeks, I know that the first six chapters are not the strongest of the book. And I also think that my synopsis is not as good as I can make it. And that is what this contest was judging (I sent the first 15,000 words). So if I wasn't motivated to fix the first quarter of the book before this news, I certainly am now. Truly, I am STOKED for fixing the book. I can't wait to get stuck in to the third draft because I know that I can make it better, thanks to the great advice of my fantabulous readers.

Highs and lows. I think this blog will be mostly about the highs and lows of this process. The writing, the feedback, the editing, the submitting, the rejections, the rejections, the rejections, and with any luck, the ultimate high of getting this silly little novel of mine published.

Thanks for joining me on the journey.