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

2014 Goals: August Status Report

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I’m a little late with this update, because I was way too excited about finishing the read-through of my edited manuscript. Priorities mandated writing about that accomplishment first!

1) Pitch The Muse.

August was all about finishing up the monumental task of reading through the edited manuscript of The Muse, (see The Last Line). Thanks to work and a nasty cold that task took a little longer than I would have liked, but ultimately the goal was achieved.

As I wrote last week, I am immensely happy with the work my editor has done. I have a small list of changes (about 30) to make and I’ll be working my way through that list during September.

In addition, I’m close to finalizing my query letter. Once changes are made in the manuscript, I plan on starting the pitching process once again. The most recent issue of Writer’s Digest has a list of agents looking for writers and a few of them might be a good fit for my novel. Here I come!

2) Outline and start writing The Muse: Lineage

As I wrote last week, the epilogue for The Muse is causing a few problems.  Therefore, most of my focus for the sequel has been on figuring out how to get out of the corner I’ve created. The good news is I’m starting to make some headway.

3) Submit writing.

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

4) Continue to build author platform.

Facebook continues to be my favorite hangout. This month saw more growth in traffic and Likes. Hope you’re all enjoying the quotes, images, and random quips!

Twitter, however, continues to be my weak spot. Once again, my total followers dropped despite acquiring several new followers. One of these days I’ll figure out why Twitter is fun.

Facebook likes grew from 373 to 375

Twitter followers dropped from 551 to 544

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 eyes are open and so is my mind. As I start to see out agents, I’m also seeking out other modes of publication. One way or another The Muse will be in print.

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c.b.w. 2014

The Last Line

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As I finished reading the last page of my edited manuscript, I was ecstatic to find my story was completely intact, (including my beloved last line). With this being my first foray into YA Fantasy, I’m taking this as a huge victory. This was not an easy story to devise or lay out given the large amount of detail in shaping an elaborate lie.

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished. This novel started out as a fun little project and turned into something I can only describe as an outright passion. Everything about the story and characters reached deep inside of me and challenged my imagination to ask “what if?” From start to finish, this novel always felt like magic to me.

Thankfully, my editor saw the magic as well! Every scene I was willing to fight for remained in place with little or no adjustment. This was particularly true in the last two chapters, where I had the most fear of a major chop job. Like I’ve said before, this is the part of the novel where I told the biggest and most complicated lies. One major hole or misplaced scene could’ve ruined the whole story!

However, that’s not to say everything remained exactly the same word for word. After all, editors are supposed to go in there and fix the problems. My editor did some artful clean up on the text and eliminated unnecessary descriptions. I fully admit that I have a penance for adjectives and sometimes overly descriptive sections. My sentimentality for adjectives definitely needed to be tempered with my editor’s red pen!

Aside from deletion, she sometimes moved a sentence or a paragraph to a different location. The shift was usually subtle, but I was amazed at how much it changed the flow of a section. It just goes to show how important placement can be, even if just for a sentence. It’s something I couldn’t see for myself and has made me further appreciate the sharp eye of an editor.

Throughout this entire process, I had two key questions floating around in my mind:

1) Where are those 7,000 words I noticed were missing from my word count?

2) What is the fate of the epilogue?

The answer to the first question was very clear when I finished with the last page. No major scenes or sections were cut, which means this is a cumulative total of little deletions from the entire manuscript. After reviewing the first five chapters of the fully commented version of the manuscript, this conclusion is even more clear to me. A deleted word or phrase here and there adds up really fast! While 7,000 is a huge number, I find myself more than willing to let all those words go as my editor has left me with a clean and simplified manuscript that retains all the elements of my writing style.

As for the epilogue, it remains in place. Yet, I find myself in a fierce debate on whether it should exist at all. I love how it creates a cliff hanger that leads to the sequel, but there are a few holes in it (which my editor did point out). While those holes are easily fixable, I remain firmly entrenched in the Epilogue Dilemma: To epilogue or not to epilogue?

As I continue working on notes for the sequel, I’m realizing the current epilogue has cornered me in terms of plot development. There are elements in the epilogue that restrict where I can go with the continuing story and I’m not sure I like the direction it’s taking. My muse needs to start talking and I need to start mapping out some possible solutions.

All in all, I’m thrilled with the edited draft of my manuscript. While I admire writers that can self-edit, I’ve learned I am not one of those writers. I need that fresh set of eyes and the scalpel of a red pen to make my work the best it can be.

In the coming weeks, I hope to post an interview with my editor, Kristen Fairgrieve of Got My Red Pen Out. If you’re in the market for a freelance editor, I highly recommend her services! Stay tuned for insights on her process and editing style.

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c.b.w. 2014

Almost At The End

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It’s funny how the end can be just as nerve wracking as the beginning. I’m down to the last 35 pages of my edited manuscript and I’m starting to feel those knots in my stomach, again. I can’t believe I’m actually nervous about reading the end.

All I can think of is the three months it took me to write those last chapters. I’m talking hair-ripping out, gut wrenching, way too much coffee drinking evenings of trying to construct the perfect ending to my novel. This is the part of the story where I told the biggest “lies.” Already rewritten mythology delves even deeper into new canon and two major plot twists are supposed smack the reader right between the eyes. So many moving parts had to come together to make it all work. All I can wonder is whether I actually pulled it off with any sort of finesse.

Then, there’s the inevitable self-doubt questions. What if it isn’t good enough? What if there are too many holes in the story? What if it’s unfixable? Writers seemingly torture themselves with these questions endlessly, no matter how much they’ve accomplished!

Aside from typical writer neuroses, being this close to the end has me returning to the biggest question of all – Where are those missing 7,000 words and 23 pages? As I get so close to the end, I’m starting wonder if that’s where some major edits took place.  Those 7,000 words are either the result of a cumulative total of small changes throughout the story or they have disappeared because the ending got a major overhaul.

I keep hoping for the cumulative total option, but I’m also highly aware that the ending might have had a particularly bloody meeting with a red pen. Either way, procrastination and bowing down to nerves won’t bring me any closer to finding out the answer to my burning question.

Even though the knots are yanking at my stomach, my brain is busy reminding me that change has done my novel a world of good. If there are missing scenes at the end or a major chop job, I have to stay open to the idea that it might all be for the best.

As I gear up to read those last few chapters, the nervousness is balanced out quite nicely by excitement. Finishing this phase of the process brings me one step closer to my dream of seeing this story in print.

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p.s. Those of you who follow me on Facebook know I cheated and skipped ahead to the last page (before the epilogue) to see if my last line was still there. I figured I better own it here as well! And for the record, I’m beyond giddy that my last line remains in place. :-)

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c.b.w. 2014

Finding The Balance

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Every writer I know has one. That thing that gets in the way and sucks up a huge portion of the day – a day job. Very few writers make enough money to survive solely from writing, so finding the balance between following the muse and paying the bills is a real challenge.

As much as I love what I do for a living, it does dig into my writing time. This is especially true after a long summer of being able to write all day long at a leisurely pace. If I wanted to spend five hours working on one poem or reading through one chapter of my edited manuscript, I could and I did.

The first week back to work is always a huge reality check in that my time becomes much more restricted and my attention span much more exhausted. I don’t have five hours to write, nor do I have the energy to head to my favorite coffee shop every evening. There is only so much time in a day and along with working I have to fit in everything from husband time to eating and sleeping. That doesn’t leave a lot time for writing, so I have to make the most of any moment that isn’t being sucked up by something else!

At the beginning of every school year, I have to sit down and create a new writing schedule to help me find the balance between the real world and my fantasy world of words. Otherwise, my stories and poems start collecting dust as my free time evaporates.

So, this the writing schedule I’ve come up with so far …

Monday:
– Write blog post for Wednesday
– Read

Tuesday:
– Attend writer’s group
– Write blog post for Sunday
– Read

Wednesday:
– Write blog post for Friday
– Write poem for Poetic Asides Wednesday Poetry Prompt
– Read

Thursday:
– Edit Sunday and Friday blog posts
– Read

Friday:
– Break from writing (unless the muse is chatty)
– Read

Saturday:
– Write Monday’s blog post
– Work on The Muse, (i.e. read through edited manuscript, make changes, work   on query package)
– Read

Sunday:
– Edit Monday’s blog post
– Work on The Muse, (i.e. read through edited manuscript, make changes, work on query package)
– Read

It may seem odd that I’ve included reading in a writing schedule, but I’m a firm believer that reading is an integral part of the writing process. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I consider the work of others as a crucial part of learning how to craft a novel. Plus, I pledged to read 30 books in 2014 on goodreads. I really want to achieve that goal, so I have to keep turning those pages. Good thing I love to read!

Hopefully, with this schedule in place I’ll stay on top of my writing goals. The Muse is a huge priority and the last thing I want is for it to sit on the shelf. Staying connected with my readers is immensely important as well, which means I can’t slack off on blog posts, either. While it’s all a lot to handle, I relish the challenge.

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c.b.w. 2014