2014 Goals: September Status Report

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1) Pitch The Muse.

I’ve heard it said that editing is never done and I’m truly starting to believe it! My editor did an amazing job of cleaning up my manuscript, but there are still a few more changes to make. As September came to a close, I started working through my “to-do” list of things to fix in The Muse. My list includes everything from a single word change to continuity issues.

I’m attacking my list like a test – complete the easy stuff first (single word changes) and then tackle to tough stuff (continuity issues). So far, the system seems to be working as I only have around ten more items left to do!

In addition to editing, I’ve been hard at work researching agents. I added seven agents to my spreadsheet tracker and I’m hoping to send them a query package as soon as I complete my final edits.

2) Outline and start writing The Muse: Lineage

While plot planning, I realized I needed to do a little research. I’m in the process of deciding what element of mythology I want to play with, while also considering how I want to re-imagine it. Recently, my muse has been a bit fascinated with the concept of an oracle. It’ll be fun to see where that path leads!

3) Submit writing.

Tunnel vision regarding The Muse keeps this goal on the shelf.

4) Continue to build author platform.

Traffic on Facebook has been phenomenal. Even though my page Likes shrunk a little, my posts are reaching an audience in the triple digit range. I’m starting to get more creative with what I’m posting and what I write on my page. It’s clearly paying off as traffic continues to grow.

As for Twitter, I haven’t logged in since August, which makes it all the more baffling that my followers have grown. It must be my blog post links! ;-)

Facebook likes went from 375 to 374

Twitter followers grew from 544 to 549

Thanks so much to everyone for clicking those follow and like buttons! Your support is greatly appreciated.

5) Inspire others.

As always, I hope I am a positive presence.

The invisible goal:

6) Be flexible.

My recent obsession with Haikubes (and Love Haikubes) has been a surprising and incredibly inspiring addition to my writing process.

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c.b.w. 2014

Thesaurus Rex

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The revision process continues as I return to the notes I took while reading through the edited version of my manuscript. Though my editor made changes throughout the manuscript, there were some sections where she posed questions and possible fixes without making a change.

In most cases, these “unfixed” sections had issues with continuity or the necessity of a paragraph. In many ways, I love how my editor highlighted these areas and posed questions, rather than blatantly telling me what to do. She is essentially asking me to make sure my vision is rock solid by questioning what I’ve written or suggesting clarification. There are four sections where I’m still thinking and making decisions.  She was right to put the spotlight on these areas and I love how I’m being forced to scrutinize them.

However, other comments focused on word usage. There are several places where my editor knew a word that I’d chosen was wrong, but she didn’t want to replace it and lose the essence of what I was trying to say. She highlighted them and provided a list of replacement words or simply told me the word I’d used was incorrectly applied. For some of these issues, I chose a word from her list, but for others I’ve had to dig a little.

Hence, the Thesaurus Rex.

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Grrrrrrrr! Let me find the right word with my teeny tiny arms!

Over the last week I’ve been hunting through my thesaurus collection (I have several varieties of thesauri sitting on my bookshelf) and on thesaurus.com to find the perfect word for each “hiccup” listed in my notes. So, when I saw the above Thesaurus Rex on Facebook, I just about died laughing. Not just because he’s cute, but because a friend and I have a ridiculous obsession with T-Rex memes.

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Hee hee!

Anyway, the Thesaurus Rex has come in handy to change words like slur, demand, strange, inspire, shines, mistake, and precedence. I’m still working on a few of them, but I should have replacements pegged in no time. This process is all the more proof to me than one word really can make a difference!

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p.s. You can get the Thesaurus Rex on a t-shirt! Click on the image!

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Haikubes

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While poking around the sale tables at Barnes & Noble, I found what is easily my favorite thing this week. Hiding under a stuffed animal with freakishly large eyes, I found a box of Haikubes for the bargain price of $12.

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What are Haikubes? They are a set of 63 word cubes meant to inspire the writing of haikus (or any form of poetry). The words include most parts of speech and cover a wide range of language. Some words are what would be considered traditional haiku fare, like peace, whisper, and pebble, while others can only be classified as modern, like hmmmm, etc., and science. 

The interesting mix of words is part of what makes this an ultimate source of inspiration. Instead of being locked into one mode of thinking for haiku, Haikubes encourage a fresh take on an old tradition. Although, I do wonder what the syllable count would be for hmmmm!

The set even includes two “theme” cubes to further guide the writing process. As if the words aren’t enough, phrases like “A dream about,” “A vision for,” and “A regret about” are sure to trigger some creative word crafting.

All I have to do is roll the dice and get writing. Seeing all those words splayed across my table is like looking at a giant puzzle. As I search through the words, it’s like I’m solving a giant riddle. The words are just waiting for me to arrange them into something that makes sense.

If there’s any question about whether Haikubes actually work, see my post from Wednesday, Thunder.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

The Genre Game

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It turns out the hardest part of writing a query isn’t trying to fashion a snapshot synopsis, (although that is definitely not an easy task). The hard part comes in the “logistical” paragraph. Right after the title and word count, agents want to know what genre fits your novel. That’s a toughie for those of us who write something that doesn’t exactly fit into a precise pigeonhole.

The genre section of my query letter is a sentence with a blank space until I figure out what genre best describes my novel. I have a few choices that include sub-genres of YA: fantasy, paranormal, romance, urban fantasy, magical realism or a combination of two or more.

I decided the best place to start my research was at my neighborhood bookstores. The Young Adult section is divided into Fiction, Fantasy, Fantasy & Adventure, Romance, and Paranormal. I looked at various books on each shelf to find anything that had any sort of reference to Greek mythology or re-imagined myth. One bookstore had those books shelved under Fantasy, but another had them shelved under Paranormal. Yet another, had them shelved under Romance. Clearly, there is dissension among the ranks.

Now even more confused than I was at the start, I went online and researched general definitions for fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal and magical realism. These are the four genres I feel have the strongest relationship to my work, but after researching them I’ve discovered the line dividing them is much thinner than I previously thought.

Fantasy: commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as primary plot element, theme or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures are common.

Urban Fantasy: sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.

Paranormal: encompasses elements of the paranormal, such as ghosts, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and any sort of magical or otherworldly creatures. This type of fiction often goes beyond fact and logical explanations to speculate about the things that cannot be seen or proven.

Magical Realism: magic elements are a natural part in an otherwise mundane, realistic environment. Magical realism portrays fantastical events in an otherwise realistic tone. It brings fables, folk tales, and myths into contemporary social relevance.

Hmmmmmm. A story about a girl who falls in love with a male muse could easily fit into both fantasy and magical realism. Plus, the fact that the bulk of the story takes place in a modern city gives urban fantasy a point as well. Heck, we can even give YA Romance a point! The only one I think I can safely eliminate is paranormal because it seems a little darker in subject matter. Muses aren’t remotely scary like a vampire or werewolf.

The Muse takes place in the real world for the most part, but also in a fantastical world towards the end. It includes human characters and magical beings. And mythology is re-imagined and ushered into the modern era. I’ve got fantasy on one hand and magical realism in the other. Can it be both??

Why all the fuss about genre? Agents are pretty picky about they want to see in their inbox. If I don’t label my novel correctly, it could end up in the slush pile without a single look.

What’s a writer to do?

I have no idea.

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c.b.w. 2014

Genre Information courtesy of Wikipedia and http://www.wisegeek.com

Query Letter Madness

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While I’m in the midst of reading the commented version of my edited manuscript (more on that later – what an eye opener!), I’m busy putting the finishing touches on my new and improved query letter.

The inspiration to write a new query letter was the result of going through the process of hiring an editor. I figured my manuscript was getting a make-over, so it made sense for my query letter to go through a similar transformation. After all, my previous manuscript and query letter were rejected six times. I know that is a very small number of rejections, but deep down I knew I could do better on both fronts.

At the same time, the fact that I got any sort of response from six agents told me I had something worth pursuing. Even though they rejected my work, they took the time to give me a written response (most agents don’t bother with queries they aren’t interested in representing). One agent even went as far as to encourage me to keep searching for the right agent for my work. It was that response that made me realize I am not chasing a lost cause.

Despite getting those responses, I understood I had to take things a step further. That’s when it dawned on me: If I could get multiple responses with a fourth draft manuscript that was never touched by an editor, imagine what could happen with an edited manuscript and a better query letter.

After reading so much about query letter formats, do’s and don’t’s, and countless articles on the subject, my head was stuffed with information. Too much information. Every time I sat down to write a new query draft, I went into panic mode from worrying too much about writing the so-called perfect query letter. The result was a stiff, hesitant query letter. Who wants to read that??

I decided the best way to escape the panic was to sit down with the same ease I had when writing my novel. I didn’t care about whether I was doing it right or if everything fit into some prescribed format. The story mattered to me and nothing else. So, that’s the attitude I decided to take on when writing my query letter. I let go of all that stuff that was making me nervous and just started writing.

The letter I now have is decidedly different from any other draft. The stiffness is gone and the personality my writing style is much more vivid.  A strong voice is key in selling any novel, so it makes sense for my query letter to match my novel on that level. In addition, I think I’ve laid the story out with more clarity. In the past, beta readers have told me the summary didn’t tell the complete story. Now that I’ve identified the holes, I think I’ve got the leaks plugged!

The only problem I’m struggling with is length. A standard query letter is usually around 250 words, but my current query is 325, (and will potentially go up to 340 when I add personalized details for each prospective agent). I’m tempted to go in and start slashing words, but I’m also trying to remember that I purposely let go of the rules. Perhaps, its time to go with my gut and see what happens.

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c.b.w. 2014