Journey of 1000 Miles

Quadriplegic Tour Guide

And over there you will notice… no over there… that way. This is how I feel describing some things in my blog. I really don’t know if this is coming across beneficially or not, but hey, I’m trying. Like today’s topic: Query Letter.

Ok, I am not comfortably close to submitting a query letter yet, but I figure  now is the time to at least start drafting one. As I have researched, it’s basically taking all of your elaborate efforts over the past months (years) and condensing them into one flavorful bite. Should be monumentally easy… And if you agree to that, I sincerely hate you right now.

Query letters are the wide-spread hope that your bite-sized, taste test of literary genius is worthy of a full meal. Myself, I thought more words were better, turns out that was mistake 1. I wanted a hefty novel that captured interest while getting my thoughts out, even paraphrasing the imaginarium on my topic, I was (and still am) resting above 137K words. Turns out most literary agents will not be thrilled to wade through hundreds of pages if your query letter is as bland as tofu. So, as I have come across, I will sum up what I’ve found out.

  1. Submit query letters to agents one at a time. Don’t send a copy to every literary agent within one agency. They will not appreciate it.
  2. Choose a literary agent in your genre. If you’re writing horror, don’t bother the children’s literature agent. Research what they do.
  3. Personalize a tad. Within your letter, briefly (key word briefly) mention a book that they may be the agent for that you associate work alongside. It will catch their eye more.
  4. Submit to more than one literary agency. There are over a 1,000 different agencies out there. Don’t just try 3. Pretend you are writing for acceptance into college. You want options to choose from, not settle for.
  5. The Letter… well, let’s save that for last… skip to rejection. Rejection letters or notifications will start piling up to epic proportions. Or at least be prepared for them to. Not everything you do is everyone’s taste or the direction they’re wanting to go (it’s not that you write crap). Pretend you are one of them. You get hundreds of query letters per week. Out of them, you get through 60% and your assistant handles the rest. Of those you see, you have to be in the right mood that day to accept what is in front of you. At the end of the week, your ‘yes’ pile and ‘no’ pile are equal. You can only take on 2-3 new authors in the next month, so you will have to weed the yes pile into ‘definite’ and ‘some other time’. After the query pile, you want more than a taste test, you want a couple of bites so you ask for the first chapter. You see where this is going? Because there is a next week…
  6. The LETTER:
    • First section – make it a once sentence line that sums up the intention of your entire story (pretend this is on the back cover of your book’s jacket)
    • Second section – elaborate that into a couple of short paragraphs including briefly what to expect when reading it (pretend this to be the synopsis inside of the jacket to your book)
    • Third section – Brief autobiography. Let them know a little about you.

Now, query letters are mainly submitted electronically through emails for the agency. However, if you are mailing them in and expect anything mailed back to you, include the self-addressed stamped envelope. Make their job easier, it’ll pay off.

If you do submit, make 100% positive that you are done. If they want to read the whole book, you don’t want an incomplete manuscript to be your answer. You will get tossed to the back of the line indefinitely.

And, for the love of God, make sure you spell check and grammar check your letter. This is your 15 seconds of attention, don’t make them dismiss you after 5 because you used the wrong form of ‘there’.

Keep in mind that I am just paraphrasing. I learn most of my accomplishments through painful idiocy. And since I haven’t tried yet, these are my guesstimates thus far. I am like a quadriplegic tour guide minus the wheelchair. So flop along with me and let’s see what rolls up next. As soon as I get my own template together, I’ll share a copy.

Journey of 1000 Miles

Please, Don’t Open the Suitcase of Bees

“What does it take to get through to you?!?!”

This may be the question that you ask yourself if you are a stat-addict like myself. I have looked at stats from sites wondering why people looked at one thing and not another, why some received a “Like” while others sat blank. Well, my advice: drop that nonsense like a suitcase full of bees. You don’t need to carry it around and you don’t want to open it up. No-no, never open the suitcase full of bees.

Ever wonder, as an author and self-promoter, what your substantial yet quaint audience following is doing. If it’s constantly, you will only have the tailor measuring you for a straightjacket. Relax… this is not a sprint, this is a marathon. You can’t expect to race full speed down the track ahead of everyone only to have them all pass you by in the next five laps because you’ve exhausted yourself.

It’s a pleasure-me-quick type of world out there and as frequently as we’ll have to crank out new material, don’t expect the same in returning fashion for your needs, at least not yet. Realize that people have their own schedule and interactions. They will mention your work to others when the conversation suit it, which is not always going to be immediately. Not everyone is looking at you just because you’re waiting for them.

If you have time to sit and watch the screen as views and likes and whatnots accumulate then guess what? You should be writing. You should be dreaming. You should be planning.

Think to yourself, what do I do if my query letter is never accepted? Do I self-publish? Do I re-vamp? Do I hire an editor? Keep trying? Never stop submitting query letters, first of all. Someone will inevitably like your work, it just depends on how long. I mean, not to appear mean, but there is some true horseshit novels out there that I wonder what a publishing house was thinking about when signing. So, I am pretty certain that there is a genre for every and all stories.

However, if patience is a virtue that you traded in for creativity. Self-publishing is another avenue that we will have to discuss tomorrow. For now, keep the suitcase closed. Bees are evil. Honey or not, they want to destroy you.

Journey of 1000 Miles

I Talk to Inanimate Objects

“I’m finished,” I murmured to my keyboard as I concluded my long-awaited ending.

“Now what?” my keyboard blankly suggested back.

“Shit, keyboard, quit pressuring me…”

Okay, so my laptop is a pushy little bastard, but that question certainly ran through my mind. I had been working in little stints for years up to that point and after setting a deadline, I came to the end of the trail. Once I was there, I expected something, but there was no direction and no more worn paths to follow. I was stranded.

Like most early writers, I assume, we all have an itch that needs scratched in terms of writing. We satisfy our cravings by getting our thoughts out onto paper and when our story is complete story, well, who takes it from there? Well, at this stage, we still do. No one is looking for our work; no one cares if we’ve created something completely by the efforts of concentration and imagination; and no one knows our names. (This is aside from you, mom and dad, love you guys)

We are waiting in the dark and preparing to emerge. For some of us, it will be a persistent movement from crawling to walking into the spotlight. For others, the trail will be muddy and uphill and if we want to make, we’ll have to claw and believe in ourselves like never before.

I am currently learning that editing is the world’s largest chore. The demons on the page are corrupting the literary soul of my work and I am needing to play exorcist to cast them out (“I cast you out!” – Max von Sydow, The Exorcist). Funky placed prepositions or an over-abundance of the same word again and again and again has me questioning if I ever passed an English class throughout grade school. Luckily I have a small team of holy divers that are diligently plunging there way through my work in order to show me what exists beyond my blinders.

Family is the #1 resource to any new writer, followed closely by any long-standing friends. Now, my mother and father will love anything I create. My father will tell me what’s wrong and where my strengths are shown. My wife will be my best critic because she has no need to pull punches or sugarcoat the obvious in her mind. She lovingly points out all of the faults that I have painstakingly transcribed over months of work. My best suggestion to anyone seeking this free editing help is to listen.

As writers and authors, we know what our story is in our minds; but it will take many sets of eyes to show you how other people will see it. I have read my first story so many times that I am like a child on the third round of leftovers for the week, I crave something/anything different.

After I get through my initial edit of catching grammatical mistakes, the second edit that helps me with structure, the third edit that restructures it to make sense, and the fourth edit that polishes and ties one chapter to another; I am finally working towards the fifth (hopefully last) edit where I make sure that I am completely happy from where it starts to where it ends. My best way of editing this portion is to read it aloud. If it sounds good in my ears as well as my head, I think I’m doing the right thing. It tells me how hokey some scenes might be, how overused some words are, and some areas that might get extra jolts of life that have been laying dormant in my imaginarium.

So, I talk out loud. I talk thru dialog to make it run together naturally. I talk to my computer screen, to the radio in my car, to the walls in my house. I look like I’m guano crazy. But I make it work. Each lunatic step helps me edge further.

As I see it, I have climbed the ladder of a literary high dive (and that was the easy part). Now, I am exposed. I’m becoming visible to a small crowd below, getting ready to plunge into the water that will be publishing. Each step of progress I complete gets me one step closer to looking over the edge, toes curled around the lip and holding my breath until I decide to leap. I will get to the pool below where book-lovers, critics and fans will all judge my performance. I hope that when that time comes, I have made it entertaining enough to watch me dive again, faster and with better poise.

For now, I have made it a few timid steps as I work up the confidence to get to the diving point. One thing I will not do is stop moving; I will dive. If I belly flop, cannonball or make it through like a spear, you will see me go up again. I have too many dives in me not to.