So, this is a personal, non-craft/industry related post. I’m having a less than happy face moment in my writer-life. For me, writing’s like that. Ups and downs, sometimes maniacal highs and lows. Coming off the completion of a manuscript is like having the wind knocked out of me. Knowing the heavy lifting is done, now the redecorating begins. Lots of clean up to go on soon. For today I have my, “I might as well quit trying because I suck eggs” attitude on. What separates my mood from my truth is that I know this will pass. I’ve been here enough to recognize it. Determination will rear it’s head soon and I’ll be all over that draft like…well me on coffee or chocolate or fresh watermelon…you get the picture.
Meanwhile, I thought I’d talk about my new office. It’s *almost* finished. There’s carpet now and pretty teal-ish paint and an awesome Hunter light/fan combo. My new desk, file cabinet and return were delivered this weekend. My super-comfy roller chair is in place. I’ve matted and framed the cover arts I’ve accumulated so far with my name on them. I can’t wait to decorate. It’s mine. mine. mine. mine. mine. This is extra exciting because originally Hubsy and I had a throw down, wherein he told me the office we were building was HIS and I could use it while he was at work. Guffaw. Yeah. WTH?
But, alas, he is lovely and while installing my new office door, he said something terribly sweet about my new office. MINE. like Julie’s, not his. Wait. That got all confusing for a second.
I can’t wait to post some pictures. I hope to get it all pretty in the next week or two, assuming I can put a book down long enough to do anything at all. I’m on a YA binge lately. So, that’s all. That’s my story. After spending my entire I-wanna-be-a-writer life sitting criss-cross-applesauce on my family room couch with laptop on legs, I now have a real desk and rolly chair and door. A door! This is wondrous and I think faeries and unicorns will inhabit my new space with me from sheer joy.
Pics to come!
So, writers: Where do YOU write?
Hosted by I’m a reader Not a Writer
Up for grabs today: Death by Chocolate in reader’s choice of PDF digital *OR*print
Death by Chocolate
Ruby Russell has reached her limit. When she discovers her hipster husband has a dirty little secret, she whips him up a Viagra-infused-chocolate mousse punishment, but in the morning, her husband’s a stiff. Armed with a lifetime of crime show reruns and Arsenic and Old Lace on DVD, Ruby and her best friend Charlotte try to lay low until after Ruby’s son’s wedding, but a nosy therapist, meddling minister and local news reporter are making it very difficult to get away with murder.
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I started blogging to share and record the journey to publication. This is part of the journey and it is *VITAL* See me leaning into the screen begggging writers to get this. In the past 3 years or so, I’ve spent countless hours researching agents and editors, stalking authors and everyone in the business, devouring every portion of information I can glean. I’ve attended six writers conferences and belong to the local guild. I listen and take notes. The following information comes from them. The experts and authorities in the business. They need repeated. Those are the grounds by which I bring you this information. The catalyst to writing this post is my dear friend who is also a book review blogger. She sends me the most horrible-awful-very bad “press releases”. Authors send these atrocities to her in hopes she will review their book on her site. *hangs head* They’re BAD. I read the entire thing and have no clue what they’re book is about. What I do *think* they’re saying it *might* be about sounds odd and unappealing. They have typos and bunny trails and extraneous information no one cares about. I’m normally left say WTH? And those get the trash can. You get one chance to make a first impression. It doesn’t matter how cliche. It’s plain old true. People will remember and avoid asking you about your writing in the future if you make them want to start day drinking when they ask you. This situation is so bad, I’m tossing the idea around of giving an online course in pitch writing. I like pitching. I think it’s fun, like a puzzle or a game. Some writers must not know, so I want to help. Here’s how it starts:
You MUST know what your book is about. You HAVE to. Must. Must. Must. If you don’t know what it’s about when an agent, editor, or potential reader asks you, then they aren’t going to read it. If you dribble on about the deep meaning behind your text, pontificate your mad skills, or bumble over the idea completely….you lost them. Period. Turned off. No thanks. Buh-bye.
1. Know your genre. And while it is en vogue to combine genres in interesting new ways, make it concise. Limit your genre to two main ones when you are telling someone about it. Throw in too many and you sound like you don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. And cut the “with undertones of blah blah blah or ties to..” Just get to the point. The asking party doesn’t want a dissertation on genre definitions. It’s a YA – paranormal romance. A romantic suspense. An urban fantasy-thriller. Be as simple as possible when asked to explain yourself. Hook em, don’t barf on them.
2. Encapsulate your entire story in 30 words. Try it. After you get back up off the floor, give it a whirl. In 2 or 3 sentences, what is your book about? Find the vein, the pulse, the meat. WHAT is it about? Think of those voice overs on movie trailers. They sum it up and lure you in. Boom! Be succinct. You are a writer. You can do this.
3. After you can sum it up in 30 words, write a query style pitch. Get your head around a small paragraph of information. A teaser, like your query. Tell them enough to garner interest and leave it there. If they want to know more, they’ll ask. Continue to ONLY ANSWER the question THEY ASK. Keep them asking. Coy is your friend. Memorize and practice this so you aren’t tempted to spew random and unnecessary minutiae the next time you’re asked about your book.
Now, I’m going to make Stephenie Meyer die a little. I hope she never reads this post. (as if). But I know everyone knows her story Twilight.
What do you write Steph? She should say (in reference to Twilight) something short and sweet like, My book is Twilight. It’s a paranormal romance for teens.
She should not say: It’s a YA paranormal romance with suspense elements and ties to mythology including Indian legends and local folklore *deep breath in* PLUS there’s humor and action…history too…blah blah blah blah -The asking party’s eyes just glazed over and they’re running through their shopping list now.
After she gave the short answer and is asked, what’s it about? A good option might be: It’s about a young girl falls in love with a vampire. He loves her too, but he also wants to kill her.
WHAT? Tell me more! You see how this goes?
Don’t info dump. Be succinct. Write your pitch like a back cover blurb. Read some of your favorite blurbs and consider what they tell and what they keep for the reader to discover on their own. Never give away how your story ends. Cut every single word that doesn’t help you in this conquest of hooking them in / capturing their attention.
And on behalf of every book reviewer on this planet, don’t send them your review request until you KNOW they read your genre. Of course, this comes with KNOWING your genre. So, get started!
Writers: No one likes a back-story dump. No one. As a reader, I detest them. As an author, I fear them. If you open your work with a back story dump, you sink your manuscript. Period. Splash. Sunk. I’ve tried to articulate the problem to writers who do-the-dump and have struggled getting my point across. The number one argument I get to justify the dump? They *want* the reader to know everything they know. “It helps to set up the story.”
Beep. Beep. Beep. Did you hear that? It was a big back-story dump truck backing up.
Okay, so then I got a great idea for an analogy.
Dating. Everyone knows the dating game scenario. We all get this. Let me know what you think!
You (your manuscript) just got picked up by an super-hawt-sexy-beast (agent, editor, reader). You *want* them to learn all about you (your manuscript/characters) but you don’t tell them everything that happened to you after they slide up and buy you one drink (open the document). Right? Am I right? Can you imagine?? You just can NOT do that. And they don’t want you to.
Watch how this turns out:
Pretend I’m having a drink with my girlfriends. A sexy beast saunters up and says “How YOU doin?” (Yeah, I haven’t dated since Friends was on Thursday nights at 8pm. So-not-the-point.)
Anyway the sexy beast asks how I am and instead of giving him a once over, coy smile and tip of the head (<– breathes on knuckles…I’ve still got the moves baby.) Instead of hooking him and reeling him in over the course of our courtship, (the way writers need to do to readers) I say:
“Well, ya know, I’m not super- great. I ate a crapton of watermelon at a picnic today, and to be honest, I’m feeling pretty bloated. In fact, I had planned to wear a super-sexy island blue mini-dress, but it was so tight across my belly. Can you imagine? No way, so I’m wearing this. It’s cute, but I bought it last year and never wore it because it was too big back then. I was total vegan last summer and never had to worry about the bloat….well…no…that’s not the whole truth. There were still a few days each month when….wait….where are you going?”
Yeah. If I were that chic, I’d get very few *readers* winky-wink, if you know what I mean.
Final words: Trust me, stick with the coy smile, head tilt, smile combination. Invite the reader to get to know you. Give them a chance to want to for heaven’s sakes! And for the love of all that is holy, don’t EVER tell a sexy beast you’re in your fat dress because you’re bloated!
Writing lessons by Julie. ROFL. How did I do?
I write a great number of posts about writing. I have a handy Dripping Ink tab with several pages about query writing. What I’ve never written about are agents themselves. For those of you looking for an agent, how do you know who to target? Beyond submitting to those accepting manuscripts in your genre…what should you look for in an agent?
One day, you will get “the call.” Stop shaking your head. You will. It will happen. If you haven’t gotten it yet, then this is that Darwinian portion of your career where “survival of the fittest” applies. Weaker writers will give out, toss in the towel, walk away. Stronger, more tenacious writers will persevere. You are one of those. So, when you get “the call,” here are a few things you should listen for and weigh out.
- The agent should know the industry. Really understand the business too. Sometimes these are slightly different. Be sure the agent you choose has a handle on both. They will become your biggest ally.
- Find out if the agent will be involved in any editing of the manuscript before submission. This is important. Most of our manuscripts, regardless of awesome critique groups and partners, can use a professional once over. Consider this. You may not want it. They may not offer it. But, know many agents do this to varied extents. Some WANT to help with this. If it matters to you, don’t be afraid to ask about it.
- Same thing for marketing. No, it’s not even close to the agent’s job to market you, but some will help you by sharing what they know. Many have packets prepared for new clients. Like social media one-oh-one. Agents with a strong web presence are a great resource to guide you in building yours. If marketing is an area you struggle with, an agent who works with their clients to build their brand/web presence/knowledge of the topic might be important to you. Consider this.
- Will they keep you in the loop? How often will you hear form them? After every submission or rejection? Monthly? Quarterly? What? And can you contact them with concerns?
- Which brings me to: Make sure your personalities mesh. You’re both going to be on your best behavior in that initial phone call, but keep your feelers out for red flags. Your agent will become your friend – hopefully. You don’t want to feel intimidated by him/her. Be sure you have the same goals and expectations. Make sure you feel comfortable enough to ask the questions you have. Only your agent can answer them. It doesn’t matter what Absolute Write says about them at the Water Cooler, or even what another author with them advises. The agent is a person who makes individualized decisions. If you can’t talk to them, they can’t do their job.
- You want an agent who’s in it to build your career. Talk about this. Be open about where you want to be in five years or ten. Can they help make that possible?
Bottom line: Believe in yourself and find an agent who believes in you too. Ideally, you’re both in it for the long haul.
***As a side note, for those of you choosing not to work with an agent, but are perhaps shopping your work to publishers on your own. These are some important things to discuss with a possible publisher as well. Whoever you put your hard work in the hands of, should be your advocate, spokesperson and cheerleader. If they aren’t doing high kicks for you, find someone who will. I’ve been blessed with both. I know the value of people who believe in you. Every writer need this.