Most writers will admit to reading being an addiction, and I'm no exception to that. I was spending way too much money on books as a teenager, and to help my parents, I thought I'd start writing. I'd write snippets of anything. Finally I wanted to commit to a character and her story. It was a whimsical romance of a princess finding her prince. (If you knew me in person, you'd be shocked, but secretly, I could sit down and watch Disney movies for hours.)
After finishing the book, I wanted to write something else! Entirely different! Being sixteen, I was young and entirely too enthusiastic. I wanted a male protag this time. And a blonde bombshell antag. I wanted a dragon, and a unicorn. I wanted magic. I wanted religion incorporated. I wanted five best friends that would stick together, no matter what. I wanted a story about unconditional love. I wanted a story where good triumphed evil. Basically, I wanted the things I had never had in my life.
Sure I have a dog, but not a dragon. Or unicorn. I never had the close knit friends that would stick by each other no matter what (give me a break, it was high school). I never had magic, or a studly superman. Or a woman that was strong and independent.
As time went on, it wasn't just about what I wanted anymore. It was about what my characters wanted. It was what Bryce wanted. But most importantly, and if you read this damned blog -- learn from my mistake, what I wrote was more influenced by what the reading community wanted.
If you look at anything, you can find a list of don't do this. Don't do that. I'm so tired of seeing this. If you look at so-n-so agent's blog, you'll see they're entirely tired of seeing x, y, and z.
And next thing you know, you alter your story. So one thing I'm going to do before I start my re-write is get back to being selfish.
I'm currently going to school, and no, not for writing. In fact, English isn't even a required course for what I'm doing. My teacher, however, is the epitome of a mentor. He's encouraging, and shares everything with us. He teaches much more than what's just required by the state, and one thing he does that I envy more than anything, is confront his weaknesses.
He jokes about them, but he's able to. Why? Because he's going to work on them until they're no longer a weakness. Out of all my time living, I've never seen anything like it. Instead, I've always up-played my strengths. But I'm going to work on the weaknesses. Not just work on them, conquer them.
I've come to a road block. I see what I need to do, and I plan on conquering it.
So what are my weaknesses?
*Sentence Structure (I am the WORST EVER about: Bryce grabbed the axe as the bullet flew by. Bryce did this as x happened.)
*Self-confidence in my writing
*Slowing down the pace to describe a scene perfectly (I've worked on my novel so much that I forget people don't know what the walls of the Abyss look like. Or where it's located. Or shit, even the way a character acts.)
So I'm going to work on all four at once. Sounds like a tall order, but hey, it's me. I don't know how to do it any other way.
Here's the plan: I'm going to start reading and working on my technical writing skills while describing my characters and certain scenes. I think I'll even post some of the work on my blog. Working on all of this, should effect my confidence in my writing.
So, there it is. I'm staring my weaknesses in the face, and I'm going to conquer them before I start again.
If anyone has blog posts, books -- anything to help someone that needs to work on technical writing, feel free to post and help me out! Thank you!
That's how I feel about writing. It's a painful art. It's something I have no doubt that I love, but in the same ways, it's a degrading love. Why do I even love it? Back in September, I decided to take a break from writing. Nothing out of the usual. I obsess over writing until it becomes nothing but my life. Eventually, I'll burn out and give myself a break. Last September, it was more than a break. I decided to give it up for good. The query process always does it to me. It makes me question my own ability. It makes me question my story. It makes me question why I did it this way instead of that way. Why wouldn't I do it this way? Is this too boring? Is this too intense? I'm sure if you've ever been nailed to the query cross, you understand my pain.
And so I do what anyone insecure in their writing does. Start over. Give it another go.
How many times do you start over until you realize it's not happening? Well, my number was six. I've re-written my world and my story at least six complete times. And after the last time, I gave up. I wanted to quit for good.
Yet -- here I am. Wanting to give it another shot, again. Will it be perfect? No. Will there be changes? Absolutely. How many changes? A ton.
It's no longer YA. It's no longer told from one point of view. I'm still working on the outline, so I'm not sure what all it will be, but I know I'm going to have a hard time giving the characters the justice and depth they deserve. Something won't let me let go of the story, though, and that alone means I'm going to do just fine.
I don't even care if I get published anymore. I don't care about the query process. All I care about is telling the story I want to tell and how I want to tell it. I can't tell you how amazing it is to say that -- and actually mean it.
It's no doubt that your character grows. It should be natural for it to happen. You should put your character in so many different situations, that they naturally just grow. Of course, it's the publishing biz, and nothing, absolutely nothing, is as easy as "natural."
So, first you have to define your character. Let's take my MC, Bryce, as an example.
The first chapter opens up, and you're introduced to this...
womanizing, arrogant prick.
Before you can hate the boy too much, I put him through a pretty brutal situation. His mother is sprawled across the kitchen floor -- lifeless in her own pool of blood. His father had just been shot, but wasn't dead. Instead, his father sat on his knees suffering from the pain of the wound. He can't speak, and the only sounds made are the gargle of his own blood.
It's tragic. It's something meant to be so terrible, it'd stick with him for the rest of his life, but of course, I wanted to paint out his character.
The demon who held the gun that put the bullets through his parents puts the cold metal into his palm.
"Humans, interesting to say the least. Will you use the last bullet to put your father out of his own misery? Or, will you turn the gun on me?"
So there's the decision. Shows two completely different personalities. Compassionate, caring, considerate versus resentful, vengeful, and violent.
Bryce chooses to turn the gun on the demon, and that decision, forever shaped him. Without family, without a real committed relationship, and without any dreams -- he sacrifices his life to gain the power to kill this demon to extract revenge for his parents' death (of course, when he turned the gun to the demon, he didn't kill her).
Throughout the book, he'll have a couple more situations where he could help someone or get revenge, and each time he chooses the route of revenge.
It isn't until many bad decisions later, that he realizes revenge isn't everything to life. That killing the demon won't bring his parents back, and a saved life is more important than anything else in the world.
The growth is important, not only because it makes the character more likable. The entire book Bryce is struggling with his past, not his parents death, but the fact that he is the devil. As the story builds, he lives his life just like the Devil once had. Hatred and revenge fueled his every move, which eventually caused the fallen angel to turn into the devil. Once Bryce learns the value of a life, and that it is more important than getting revenge, it's his first shining hope that he won't become the one thing he's been fighting against: evil.
Now, there are a few things about a character's growth that you should take into account.
Let's put the book into four quarters. If your character acts one way 25% of the book, then goes through dramatic changes after the first quarter, and acts "changed and enlightened" the other 75%, it's not going to be obvious growth.
If your character acts one way half way through the book, and the enlightened way the other half, it means you resolved your plot way too early, honestly.
Personally, I think your character should change 75% through the book, while his change is the reason whatever major plot point was resolved.
Anyone that knows me knows I'm a passionate person. And I like drama (at least.. in books). I think a character's growth should be BIG. Personally, I mapped mine out like this:
- Define the character.
- What must change in order for the character to achieve his final goal?
- Name three HARD decisions the character must go through before his growth happens. What all does he lose before he realizes he must change?
- How is he ultimately rewarded when he does change?
I ended up getting incredibly sick for almost three weeks. After a couple doctor visits, and lord knows how much medicine, I'm all better. =)
Then, I had to spend way too much time doing make-up-work at work. I'm all caught up, finally! So, I'll be able to give writing a closer eye.
I left off in the middle of my query. When I was sick, I couldn't do much writing (I dosed in and out of sleep every hour... was terrible). So I spent my time reading.
Normally, I enjoy books. Not as much as I used to since I have a critical eye, but I do. I rarely ever enjoy someone's novels so much that I want to write about them, though. And ladies and gents, I have to tell you, if you enjoy romance in the least bit, give Monica McCarty a try.
She's got three trilogies going (not what I'd call your traditional "trilogy," but three books with the same characters, just different stories and MCs.) I'd suggest Highland Scoundrel for the first of her books. It's phenomenal, especially for a romance.
I believe anyone writing from any genre could appreciate Highland Scoundrel. Monica has some of the best tension I've ever seen, and her plot/set-backs are perfect. As I said, I very rarely promote a book, but for educational purposes, I think everyone should give this a read. Phenomenal author, and the golden story to represent her.
After working hours to do my query, there were tons of elementary mistakes. My query just got rocked, hah. Although it's embarrassing that I put such trash under my name, I'm going to try and make it a positive.
But on a random side note, it seems like when there are elementary mistakes, more people give you feedback. When my second version of the query was up there, I had one comment in 4 days. This was up for about 12 hours and already has 5. The more feedback the better.
So far, this is what the feedback looks like after I corrected the grammatical mess I started with.
Their thoughts are in red, mine are in blue.
Blood. The sprays of red liquid across his kitchen floor haunt the helpless seventeen-year-old, Bryce Bourbon. With his parents dead, Bryce attempts to kill Becca, the sadistic demon who murders his family, but fails. He knows her name? Perhaps I'm wrong, but a query should be told from the stance of the author, not the character. I'll have to look into it.
Desperate for enough strength to knock the mocking grin off Becca's face, he abandons the comforts of New York to go to a hidden city in the Philippines, the Abyss. You introduce three different locations in one sentence. If he never goes back to NYC, it *really* doesn't need to be mentioned. You also need to carefully consider whether it matters that the hidden city is in the Philippines, too [See, and I was told to be specific where the Abyss was in previous feedback. It could be in the garage or alleyway somewhere..? Not sure what to do here.] Despite Bryce's accident-prone nature, the war academy What war academy? You only mentioned a hidden city [And that's why I'm giving you more information about the hidden city =( Guess I should make it omega infodump?] successfully trains him as an elemental-wielding assassin. With avid experimentation he learns he can conduct Aether, a power much like an atomic bomb so it blows things up using fission? Really? [Actually, yes, yes it does. That's my worlds form of magic.]that only one person was known to manipulate: the Devil. I think this should be capitalised, if we're talking about the ultimate devil. Agreed, so I did.
After utilizing Aether, hallucinations overcome Bryce. Mass genocide. Rape. Torture. The more he uses the wicked magic, the more these nightmares come. When he sees the devil's reflection, Bryce realizes the scenes weren't simple illusions -- they are memories. His memories.
Becca knew who the young boy was the second her eyes fell on him. Killing his parents should have been enough to suppress him, but when she realizes her old home, the Abyss, has enrolled the devil, Becca blackmails his friends to turn on him – hoping one will get lucky enough to kill Bryce before he realizes who he is or the power he contains. Screw Becca. She's the antagonist. Stick to Bryce. // Why are we suddenly thrown into her POV? [Once again, conflicting feedback. Someone tells me that my query is bad because it doesn't mention enough about the antag, and this one is telling me to fuck her. *cry*]
With his friends' betrayals and the constant threat behind his explosive power, Bryce must eliminate the treacherous imp before her plans to massacre humanity are carried out. There's one problem: he's becoming the very evil he's fighting against. I'm sorry, I don't get this at all. If Becca's intent is anti-humanity, why wouldn't she be trying to *enlist* Bryce to her cause? [Because she's Queen Bee now. If the devil shows back up she loses that spot. I'm going to need to figure a short snappy way to get that across so it doesn't confuse the reader.]
Ah. That stung. I'm late for work. I'll ask a couple questions about the conflicting feedback, and see what people have to say.
Don't give up, don't give up.
One of the critters gave me a bit of amazing advice (well, her entire crit did, but she added to it!)
Question: The POV switch - While I wasn't told to do a POV switch, I was told that I needed to show the antag and the personal threats between her and the protag. I figured it would best be done from her point of view.
Answer: Yes, we need to see the antagonist and the personal threats - but we need to see the impact it has upon the protagonist.
Hopefully, your villain is the hero to her own story. It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is the filter through which the protagonist sees all this. Is he rocking in a corner and hiding coz he's terrified of what she's doing to his friends? Is he so bent on revenge that even though she's *actually* as cute as a kitten he's gonna rip her to shreds anyway? Does every move she make only piss him off more? That kind of stuff is what we need to know.
One step closer. Now, I need to get my mind screwed on straight and apply the advice. Woot.
Okay, after getting some lunch in, I decided I was going to apply the advice. Attached is the revisions I need to make, and I'll probably give it a day before I try to tackle it.
Desperate for enough strength to knock the mocking grin off Becca's face, he abandons the comforts of New York to go to a hidden
After utilizing Aether, hallucinations overcome Bryce. Mass genocide. Rape. Torture. The more he
Becca knew who the young boy was the second her eyes fell on him. Killing his parents should have been enough to suppress him, but when she realizes her old home, the Abyss, has enrolled the devil, Becca blackmails his friends to turn on him – hoping one will get lucky enough to kill Bryce before he realizes who he is or the power he contains.
With his friends' betrayals and the constant threat behind his explosive power, Bryce must eliminate the treacherous imp
Welcome to my personal space of hell. Usually I write about things I'm comfortable with. Things I'm good at. Tricks that help me. I rarely expose myself in this manner, but for the sake of your journey, I'm offering you a special insight to mine.
Here's the query I've been working with:
Blood. The sprays of red liquid across his kitchen floor is only there to haunt him. The seventeen year old arrogant womanizer, Bryce Bourbon, is forever changed after his parents were shot and killed before his helpless hands. Finding out their murderer was no human, instead a demon, Bryce becomes desperate for power.First off, just looking at it, I can tell it's way too long. Here's my first edit with personal thoughts and feedback from others.
He accepts his one-way ticket to the Abyss. Far from being home sweet home, the war academy for elemental-wielding assassins teaches him the one thing he continues to live his life for: Revenge. Obsessing over the new found powers, Bryce masters every element and chemical equation given. In the process, he learns he can conduct Aether, a power much like an atomic bomb, only one person has been fabled to manipulate: the devil.
After accidentally utilizing Aether, visions of murders, rape, child molestation, and religious manipulation overcome Bryce. Insanity corrupts him once he realizes these aren't just glimpses into the past, they are memories from his previous life as Lucifer. Plagued by the horrid sins he once committed, Bryce is determined to obliterate more than the imp that killed his parents; he yearns to slaughter every demon.
What he doesn't calculate is the web of fiends stretches beyond his imagination. They are political leaders and religious figures planted across the Earth, plotting World War III. Stopping the vile beings from painting the world with blood isn't his only worry. Bryce must balance the destructive, unstable power of Aether. Using this magic brings him closer to who he was. He must resist the seduction of sin Aether forces him to crave before he becomes the evil he's fighting against.
Blood. The sprays of red liquid across his kitchen floor is only there to haunt him. [Feedback told me this was too much cheesy imagery. Very rarely do I go against feedback, but this is how I write. This is a slight insight to how I write. After much thought, I decided to keep it.]
Theseventeen year old arrogant womanizer, Bryce Bourbon, is forever changed [Weak verb. He needs to be doing action, not having action done to him.] after his parents were shot andkilled before his helpless hands. [Feedback said drop "before his helpless hands." I'm on the fence about it. I'll make a decision next edit.] Finding out their murderer was no human, instead a demon, Bryce becomes desperate for power. [Add: power strong enough to...]
He accepts [weak verb] his one-way ticket [cliche phrase] to the Abyss. Far from being home sweet home, [cliche phrase] the war academy for elemental-wielding assassins teaches him the one thing he continues to live his life for: Revenge. Obsessing over the new found powers, Bryce masters every element and chemical equation given. [Given is confusing. Change.] In the process, he learns he can conduct Aether, a power much like an atomic bomb, only one person has
been fabled tomanipulated: the devil.
After accidentally utilizing Aether, visions of
murders, rape, child molestation, and religious manipulation[Feedback showed people didn't like this too much. Think of something better.] overcome Bryce. Insanity corrupts him once he realizes these aren't just glimpses into the past, [Feedback suggests Bryce would assume they are hallucinations, which he does. I need to re-word.] they are memories from his previous life as Lucifer. Plagued by the horrid sins he once committed, Bryce is determined to obliterate more than the imp that killed his parents; he yearns to slaughter every demon. [Feedback suggests I stick to the two plots I have: revenge for parents and controlling aether. I also need to introduce the antag. After taking some time to think, I agree.]Bryce must balance the destructive, unstable power of Aether.
What he doesn't calculate is the web of fiends stretches beyond his imagination. They are political leaders and religious figures planted across the Earth, plotting World War III. Stopping the vile beings from painting the world with blood isn't his only worry.
Using this magic brings him closer to who he was.[You can tighten this up.] He must resist the seduction of sin Aether forces him to crave before he becomes the evil he's fighting against.
After doing that to myself, I'm suddenly overcome by the horrid memories of my English teacher's obsession. MUST MARK EVERYTHING IN RED. WITH UNDERLINES. AND CAPS. BECAUSE I'M YOUR TEACHER AND MY WORD IS LAW. (But I'm still going to give you an A!)
Remember. Breath. One sentence at a time. I've been edited and reworked about 5 of these, roughly four hours. My eyes are goosh (yes, I just made up a word). I'm not sure if I could spot good writing from bad at this particular moment, so I'm going to call it a night with this thing. Here's where I ended up. I'm debating if I should put it up for criticism or give it a day or two to see what I think later on. Hmmmm. Decisions.
I just re-read it for the billionth time, and I have to say, I'm pretty damn happy with it. I was able to work a bit more voice into it than the info-dump-from-hell I had, while keeping the imagery. I think I like having Becca's view too. I'm a bit concerned about the vagueness in the beginning, but I clarify it in the next paragraph. Going to throw it up in Query Letter Hell and see what kind of response I get. Cross your fingers for me. I hope this damn thing works out.
Blood. The sprays of red liquid across his kitchen floor haunts the helpless seventeen year old, Bryce Bourbon. With his parents' dead, Bryce attempts to kill Becca, the sadistic demon who murdered his family, but fails.
Desperate for enough strength to knock the mocking grin off Becca's face, he abandons the comforts of New York to go to a hidden city in the Philippines, the Abyss. Despite Bryce's accident-prone nature, the war academy successfully trains him as an elemental-wielding assassin. With avid experimentation he learns he can conduct Aether, a power much like an atomic bomb, only one person has manipulated before: the devil.
After accidentally utilizing Aether, hallucinations overcome Bryce's mind. Mass genocide. Rape. Torture. The more he uses the wicked magic, the more these nightmares come. When he sees the devil's reflection, Bryce realizes the scenes weren't simple illusions -- they are memories. His memories.
Becca knew who the young boy was the second her eyes fell on him. Killing his parents should have been enough to suppress him, but when she realizes her old home, the Abyss, has enrolled the devil, Becca black mails his friends to turn on him – hoping one will get lucky enough to kill Bryce before he realizes who he is or the power he contains.
With his friends' betrayals and the constant threat behind his explosive power, Bryce must eliminate the treacherous imp before her plans to massacre humanity are carried out. There's one problem: he's becoming the very evil he's fighting against.
Good God, I'm not even sure where to start. I guess I'll start with a bit of inspiration:
This shit sucks. It does. But you've gotta keep working on it. You've done all of the hard stuff. You've written your baby, and you want to get published. If you're anything like me, you want an agent, which means you'll have to focus on a damn good query. Guess what? You can do it.
The most helpful piece of advice is to leave your pride somewhere far, far away from your computer. It's easy to get defensive about your work, which leads to you dismissing some really, really stellar advice.
Why? Because your pride took a shot.
Don't be that person. Be thankful. Take all the advice you can. Depict and understand the advice given.
- A polished, completed manuscript.
- A list of agent(s) you wish to contact for representation, and their specific submission procedure. Every agent is different.
- Make sure you have your word count (if it's 72,101 words -- just say 72,000) and genre (don't do that confusing shit: High Fantasy Paranormal Romance...)
- If you have a previously published book, you need to include the title/publisher/year.
As per Agent Nathan Bransford (if you have any questions about queries that I failed to answer, this is the #1 place you want to look.)
Dear Blog Readers,
This is how you format an e-mailed query letter. Note that I did not begin with the recipient's address or my address or the date, as that is not customary for an e-mail. I also am not indenting because indenting and e-mails do not mix.
I am using block formatting. I double space between paragraphs but otherwise the query is single-spaced. It is written in a default font, it is left-justified, and the font is a normal size. If I have copied from a word processing program or past e-mail I am careful to make sure the fonts and sizes match. I haven't added pictures or tried to get fancy with anything because I want the agent to see that I'm confident in my words and don't need any gimmicks to make my query stand out.
Believe it or not, less than 25% of the e-queries I receive are properly formatted. While you won't get rejected if your query is incorrectly formatted, if you accomplish this simple task correctly you will convey an indispensable aura of professionalism. And remember: the amount of time you spend formatting, coloring, bolding, italicizing, and adding pictures to your query is inversely proportional to how professional it looks when you're finished.
Nathan Bransford (note that I didn't leave space for a signature since it's an e-mail)
My phone number
My e-mail address
(optional: my website/blog)
Here's where shit gets sticky. Please note, queries are much like the English language: exceptions are everywhere.
If you're starting at step one, here's where I suggest you start.
- Protagonist - name/short description.
- What does your Protag want?
- What must your Protag do in order to accomplish this goal?
- What happens if your MC fails?
**Realize these are mere skeletons. You'll have to add some meat to those bones.
[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal]
Now you add to it. You want to be aware of a couple things while doing this:
- Add voice.
- Get rid of anythinggg vague. If it's slightly confusing, the agent will assume one thing and form their opinion on that one wrong assumption. Why? Because you were vague. It's just not worth the risk.
- Try not to write flowery descriptions. I'm a sucker for imagery; so I have to remember to keep it short and to the point.
- Write as well as you can.
- Let's face it, when we hack our lovely piece of art into a couple short paragraphs, it's going to sound a bit cliche. "Oh, sounds like your average revenge plot." "Oh, sounds like the typical end-of-the-world plot." "Okay.. so boy-meets-girl... and how is this different from anything I've read?" Make sure you add the elements that make your story unique.
At this point, I'd go have a margarita. Extra shot of tequila. Or if you don't like margaritas, get a good night's rest. You'll probably ignore that bit of advice and go straight back to work. I did. And I'll tell you, obsessing over this... isn't the smartest thing. I wish I would've had that drink.
Anyway, the next step.
Remember, you're wanting to keep your query around 200-350 words. So you've done one of two things:
- Over written
- Under written
So, scratch out the crap you don't need. (I suddenly wish I didn't save over my original start with my query..) Here's a quick example:
Every Pirate agent has supernatural powers.[I'd delete this sentence. 1.) I would assume there is something "special" about these agents if you're writing about them. 2.) It isn't about the plot/setting/character.] Some agents stop time, some exercise mind control, others manipulate objects with their thoughts. [Once again delete. I'd rather hear about the main character than a vague group of agents.] So, when the agency [I've seen agent/agency 3 times in 3 sentences. Start finding new words.] receives intel on a mystical ancient document rumored to contain the means for identifying, tracking, and [there have been a bit too much description in the paragraph, especially description in 3s. All the literary agent needs to know is that it enslaves.] enslaving people with these powers, Joe is tasked to retrieve it. [Yay! I see the main character finally!] He knows it’s a big deal. [Delete. It's obviously a big deal.] Terrorists could use the manuscript to brainwash an army of paranormal assassins into killing foreign dignitaries, or to identify and imprison innocents [Once again, description in 3s. You've got to mix up your writing.] with supernatural abilities – people like Joe’s mom. [Oh Oh! That's exciting. Plot twisttt.]As you can see, it's a well written paragraph. BUT, it still needs to be edited through. Add what needs to be added. Cut what needs to be cut.
While in this editing stage, start making adjustments to your query.
- Keep it between 200-350 words.
- Write in 3rd person present tense.
- Make sure you try to avoid using the same word as much as possible. For example, I talk about killing a lot. So, instead of using kill 200 times. I could say slaughter, murder, obliterate, erase, execute, annihilate, liquidate, massacre, slay. You get the point. The dictionary is big! Use it.
Pat yourself on the back. You're working your way there. For this part, I want you to set your query aside. Focus on this. One sentence to tell your entire story.
I wish I knew the secret to an amazing pitch. In fact, I wish someone was there to tell me exactly what angle would make the best pitch.
Since I am really, really weak in this field, I'll give you links to absolutely wonderful sources that can help you much better than I can.
Nathan's third (this guy is a saint, isn't he?)
Agent Kristin's first.
Kristin's third. (If you go to these links, scroll down towards the bottom of the blog, you'll see Pub Rants: Blog Pitch Workshop. There she has many, many examples that might help you.)
If the answer is no, it means you're not ready to take it to the next step. I'd suggest to set your query aside for 2-3 days. Come back to it later with fresh eyes. If you don't feel better about it then, work from a different angle. Try writing it in first person instead of third. Try writing it with a brand new opening paragraph. Something. Mess around until you see what works for you. Don't. Give. Up.
If your answer is yes, good for you! You think that you have the next best thing. You've worked your ass off, and now you're ready to send it to your dream agents, who will all contact you the next day begging to represent you.
I suggest going to a website to get some feedback from experienced writers.
Absolute Write Water Cooler's Query Hell (you must have an account to enter.)
Please remember the first piece of advice when entering. Leave your pride at the door. Accept and analyze all pieces of advice. This is going to sting a bit after all your hard work. Unless you're brilliant. If that's the case, you should be writing this! >:[
After you've gotten that damn thing all shiny, you're finally ready to send it out. I really wish you the best of luck. =)
QUESTION: Are other questions which describe things such as your setting and your character's motivation completely irreverent? (In other words, leave most of the meat off the bone in order to keep the query as short as possible?)ANSWER 1: A query should tell a story. Your setting and motivation should reflect the needs of the story you're trying to sell. For example, the fact that my protagonist is left-handed isn't normally a big deal. But if I mention that my protagonist is the first southpaw to go squirrel hunting, then being a lefty is a big deal. So setting and motivation matter only for the needs of the story. Another way of looking at this would be what does the setting or motivation matter to your character. If it matters to your character that the story is set in Maine, you mention it. If the same thing would have happened to your character regardless of whether they were in Maine or Mexico, then you probably shouldn't mention it.
ANSWER 2: It depends. If you are telling an agent something they could reasonably be expected to know, or work out, you don't need it in there. If you are telling the agent something which doesn't show them anything about the characters or which isn't mentioned again in the query, you probably don't need it in there either.
ANSWER 3: Not at all. But you have to decide what aspects of that to share that will give the query the best punch. It's all about making the reader/agent want to read the story. Queries read a lot like cover copy, but instead of glossing over the details (so you don't give them away) you give the details to show your story specifics. If your setting is important, use it.
QUESTION: When cutting your story into 300ish words, it's hard, and there are certainly elements you'll have to skip over. I've skipped over a ton of stuff which I would think of as a huge selling point. Is that normal?ANSWER 1: Yes. You'll see the forest. You need to bring this down to a little twig. And you should be aiming at 200 words for the story, not 300. But if something is actually a selling point, then it should go in the query. The question is what makes you think it really is a selling point? So often what the writer thinks is important isn't. Writing a query needs to be done from a long distance view.
ANSWER 2: Yup. This is why we begin with the three questions. It's a simple way of working out what the storyline is at its most basic.
What I'm trying to do with mine (which is a LitFic character study whose MC doesn't want anything), is focus on a particular event which happens about a third into the novel. It's not the most important thing in the novel, it's not an original selling point, but it is a good moment to show the shift in relationship between the main chars. It sets up the MCs problem, again, at its most basic. My pedantic soul cries at the marginal innacuracies suggested by my Q, but...this is how Q's are written.
Work out a progression through your story and try writing the Q around it. What happens which you can use to explain things?
ANSWER 3: Totally. You're not trying to sell the whole book in the query. All you want is for the agent to get intrigued enough to ask to see more. If there's something in there that would really hook them, mention it, but don't feel you need everything. Usually, it's the set up of the book and why it's important. Your inciting event.
QUESTION: My character's personality feels completely left out of my query. Instead, it feels like I'm going to bitch smack someone with the info-dump stick, but if I don't, it'll just be way too confusing. Any suggestions?ANSWER 1: Yeah. You figure out the one or two words that will nail your character as he or she matters to the query. You learn how to get to the point, instead of slowly meandering your way there. You'll discover that a picture isn't worth a thousand words, when you can show it in ten.
ANSWER 2: Show, don't tell, even in a Q. Try and get as much voice as you can into it. Have hankies ready to mop up the blood, sweat, tears and beverages you hurl at your screen.
ANSWER 3: Edit. Yeah, I know, great advice. But seriously, you can get your voice in there if you work at it. That was critical for my query, and I used phrases she used and pretending she was the one telling the query if that makes sense.
Attached are a couple links to queries that worked for published authors.
Her agent's take on her query.
A big thread on it.
Nathan's good examples.
And for every great example, Query Shark can give you thousands of bad. Learn from their mistakes. Learn how agents think. And begin thinking like they do.
Urgh.. back... to work on mine. I'll give you examples of my journey on here. Best of luck with yours!
Remember. You can do it.
Here's more about the contest if you're interested. For the contest, you'll have to write the WORST QUERY IN THE WORLD.
Be warned, I'm a natural. >:D
Back to the reason I'm posting. Every now and then I come across a tid bit of inspiration. A couple posts down, Natalie shared this. Hope it makes you smile like it did me. =)
I’m going to tell you a little story about a boy named Theodore Geisel (shh, now don’t interrupt if you’ve heard this one). Theodore had written a picture book manuscript called THE HOUSE ON MULBURRY STREET. He shopped it around. He sent it to twenty-two editors and, after that twenty-second rejection, Theodore decided he would go home, shred his manuscript, and give up his dream.
On the way home, he ran into an old friend of his, who had become an editor. His editor friend convinced him to let him see his manuscript. The editor changed the name of the book to THE CAT IN THE HAT, and Dr. Seuss was born.
My mom gave me a print out of this story when I was twelve years old. I tacked it to my wall, next to my computer, and whenever I was in the midst of any sort of “Why do I suck at life, my writing sucks, I should just give up” breakdown, I would look at that printout – and try again.
There used to be a motto of, “you never know – you may be only 35 cents away from that acceptance.” Now, it’s more like, “you never know – you may be just one email away from ‘the call’” – which is totally even more worth it than 35 cents, by the way.
At the end of my senior year of college, I was convinced I wanted to go to grad school to get my PH.D. in English Literature. I spent months preparing, taking tests – and at the end of it all, I was rejected from every school. I was mortified, disheartened, an absolute wreck. I decided I would just “be lost for the rest of my life.” Being lost was ok, right? Lots of people are lost.
In the meantime, the more practical side of my brain tossed out an email to my old internship, asking them to keep me in mind for any openings. No matter what, I’d spent so many years with rejection (in my querying days, I got over 100 rejections, and still kept going) that I’d built up enough of a spine to not give up, no matter what I was mumbling over shots of tequila.
I could have painfully been making my way through THE CANTERBURY TALES – in old English – and writing papers to the light of the midnight oil at this exact same time this year. Instead, I’m rambling on online conferences, building careers, and reading client work to the soft glow of my Mac computer. I couldn’t be happier. I finally realized that the only reason I’d applied to grad school in the first place was because I was terrified of what to do next.
The universe works in mysterious ways. But it always turns out in the best way for YOU. It may not be what you want, or expect, but if you allow it to throw curveballs at you and don’t stomp off the field and demand them to be thrown straight (maybe a sports analogy wasn’t the best way for this princess unicorn to go…), trust me – you’ll be rewarded in the end.
Don’t believe me?
My client, Roseanne Thong, had her manuscript with her editor for six months. Not a peep. A letter arrived from a very lovely librarian, complimenting her last book with Chronicle. Two weeks later we had an offer.
Agent and writer Mandy Hubbard recently tweeted about how she sent out PRADA AND PREJUDICE to twenty publishers, before she completely re-wrote the book from scratch – and got two offers.
These amazing stories are out there because of perseverance. It takes guts to stick it out – but that’s exactly what you have to do if you want to succeed in this business. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to rant and moan and bitch and scream "Why do I SUCK at LIFE?!"
Just don’t. Give. Up.
Who knows – you may be an email click away from the next story on my blog. ;)
We've all got that one character (or two... or three) who have somehow found a way into our story!
People think it's wrong. Or we're not imaginative enough. Well, here's something for those people: you're wrong.
I always tried to avoid having a character represent somebody because, well, everyone told me you just don't do it. I'm a glutton for following terrible advice.
I saw this little bit of advice given to someone today, and it bothered me. First off, there's no wrong or right way to write a novel. It either works or it doesn't. And if it doesn't, there's bound to be more than one fuck up in it.
So, back to the topic.
As a human being, you're naturally attached to people or things. There are moments and qualities that are irreplaceable in your heart, and that passion comes out in your work. That is nothing to be ashamed of.
One of my favorite characters, Tony Martini, started off exactly how I planned, but as time went on and situations not in the outline occurred, I found out that Tony Martini is a shiny replica of my daddy.
Not everything about him is the same, but the way he cares for people. The way he gives advice. The way he never gives up. The way places all the stress he can on his shoulders so others don't have to worry. He's my father, and I didn't plan it that way!
If you've come across something similar to mine, you'll realize you can't change it. You'll try, but it'll feel like a void. Something will forever be missing with that character.
Now, after having a character evolve into someone I know, if someone asked me if I'd write a character based on someone/something I knew, heck yes I would. And I have!
The dragon in my story has changed dramatically. Let's face it. I love my dragon, and he's not going anywhere. BUT he has to grow with the story, and the way he was, cannot be the way he has to be.
When I first started (his name was Twilly, short for Twilight... but after the book Twilight, I decided I'd have to rename him), Twilly was more of a mentor. Bryce was a young, scared kid at the time, and he needed someone who was confident. Someone to guide him. Twilly was that person.
When I decided to change who Bryce was from top to bottom, well, that meant I had to change Twilly. Twilly could no longer be what I had originally intended him to be.
It was heartbreaking. Really. I sat around for hours thinking of how I was going to make this work. I wasn't getting rid of my dragon dammit!
Then, he came in. The he that I would base my dragon around. Tall, dark, handsome.... what the hell am I saying. He wasn't any of those.
Standing a whole 12 inches tall with nothing but black fluff -- a tail wagging, mouth breather intruded my story.
For those of you who do not know, Pookie is my baby. My little pomeranian.
The only dog in the world I loveeee to hate. He pisses on everything. Bites too much. Wakes me up at 2 am wanting to play. 3 am wanting to play. 4 am wanting to play. 5 am wanting to go outside... to play. He drools. His bark is like a girlish squeal.
That's Pookie. The only bad dog I've ever owned. And the only dog I've ever considered my precious wittle baby.
So, my mentoring, wise dragon suddenly became a fourteen foot Pookie.
I have never, ever had so much fun in my life. So, to answer your question: is it okay to write create a character based around a person?Yes, and you'll be surprised how much fun you'll have with it!
Yes, that's my Pookie-nator. He could only stay still for one photo -.-
Hi, my name is Alli. I'm apart of the Harry Potter generation. When I first started writing, I wanted to do what KA Applegate and JK Rowling did for me: give me the love to read. I think between video games and TV, we need to give the younger generations a reason to love reading.
Anyway, back to the topic. My story evolved from my original intent. But, I've still got a reason to write for the YA crowd. I love quick paced books. I'm not saying I'm a sucker for a 1,000 page novel, but YA books tend to have excitement on every single page. I love feeling like a pinball in a pinball machine.
The endings in YA seem a bit more fairy-taleish. Out of the last fourteen adult novels I've read, none of the endings were satisfying. I'm not sure what it is anymore, but it's like so many writers try and add a shock value at the very end. MC just died. The world exploded. The lovers separated and saw each other walking down the side walk, the end. I really don't get it. You write this entire story, just to say GOTCHA! at the end?
I'll be honest, it's stupid to see a great novel ruined because you thought you'd fish out a tear from my eye. One of my biggest pet peeves is a writer trying to force emotion, when it just isn't there. Write better. Don't use cheap tricks.
As for why I decided to write Urban Fantasy... that one is easier to answer.
I read to escape from my everyday life. Don't get me wrong, I've got a wonderful life, but let's face it, I don't fight dragons. I don't ride off into the sunset with a knight in shining armor. I can't blow my alarm clock up with a fireball in the morning.
When I read, I want to connect to the character. The further the timezone is, the less I can relate. So having a character from this day in age that is able to escape their everyday mundane life to find adventure and story-book love -- that holds a wonderful magic to it. At least it does to me.
There are many styles out there to write. I didn't know mine when I first started, but I'll tell you one thing: when you give it a go, you'll know. Don't get discouraged!