Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Evil Editing

The Art of the Query Letter

street art
Searching the Creative Commons for "Art," this is my fav.

As I've mentioned a few times, I'm not so great at writing query letters. Now, I would like to say that I've tried. I read through much of the advice from Nathan Bransford, Ms. Reid a.k.a. The Query Shark herself, Writer's Digest articles and their Successful Queries series, and Jane Friedman's advice. Not to mention quite a few articles from other agents and various internet resources.

There's a lot of rules about what to do and what not to do, but in the end it really seems like it's all about what makes your book sounds interesting to the agent in question. In other words: purely subjective.

The Failure of My Query Letter: A Two Part Harmony, er, well, Cacophony

frustration, art, TaniART
Image by TaniART

One of the places where I think I'm failing is in making my book stand out from your generic Middle Grade Fantasy. I think my book is different, but within the space of 250-300 words, it's hard to use Voice to get across the plot, personalize the letter, and include all the essential information.

And so I submitted my failing query letter to the Evil Editor. And then I submitted my revision. And then I wrote another letter that I'm sitting on for a little while to look at again later.

Evil Advice: Actually Quite Helpful

Nate Merrill, bored reading boy, art
Image by Nate Merrill

The Evil Editor is not for those with a thin skin. He (or she, I suppose, although the elderly cartoon man with evil glowing eyes at the top of the blog leads me to believe the anonymous editor is a he) gives very constructive criticism, but his criticism comes in the form of mocking my letter. When I submitted to the Evil Editor, I signed up for his particularly form of humor, so I was a little sad that he didn't love my letter, but I was prepared.

And I think he helped. Actually, the advice that I found to be the most helpful, I will share with you:
I suggest telling us the plot in three paragraphs. First the three-sentence setup: Who's the main character, what's his situation, what's his goal? Then three sentences about how he plans to achieve his goal and what goes wrong when he puts his plan in motion. Then a three-sentence wrap-up: How does he handle the chief obstacle. What's plan B? What will happen if he fails?
That gave me the basis of my latest query letter, and I do think it is my best letter of all. However, as I mentioned, I am taking a bit of a break from sending out query letters until I've had time to come back to my letter with fresh eyes and give it one last going over before sending it out into the cold, cruel world.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Some Appalachian Trail Views

My husband and I did a little hiking on a piece of the Appalachian Trail this weekend, and I wanted to share a few of the views.

Appalachian Trail, river

It was a bit chilly, but the bare winter trees gave my photo a nice, gnarled frame.

Susquehanna River

There's my river view, un-tree-obstructed.

winter forest, Appalachian Trail

Somewhere around this point on the trek, I decided it might be a good idea to jog a little for warmth (and to chase after my husband). The trail was pretty flat and even, but, being the spectacularly uncoordinated person that I sometimes am, my foot was kind enough to find a lovely rock in the middle of the path. I went sprawling, so until the next rain storm, there's a Sarah's Knee-sized indent in the Appalachian Trail.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Blogs: Slightly More Relevant Than Soda Fountains

soda fountain, 50s
Photo by Stanley Sagov

Blogging into the Great Wide Open

The internet is a fickle friend. You think you know it, but then it goes and changes on you. It reminds me of that funny yet accurate quote from Grampa Simpson:
I used to be with it, but then they changed what "it" was. Now what I'm with isn't "it," and what's "it" seems weird and scary to me! ... It'll happen to you!
-From Season 7, Episode 24 "Homerpalooza"
Fortunately, I'm not terribly concerned about being with "it," but, as this article from literary agent Jessica Faust points out, if I ever actually publish a book, not only will I have to do research on current and effective means of publicizing that book, I'd have to keep an eye out for changes, and every few years I have to stop and think about whether the stuff that used to work still works.

All that's a bit far fetched for me right now, but I still enjoyed her short walk through the transition to blogging as the be-all, end-all for internet connection to Facebook and Twitter being the best way to reach a captive audience. And I'm sure that'll change again in a few years.

old Wang computer
I enjoy the fact that this computer says "Wang."
Photo by Taryn Domingos

In the Beginning

I'm pretty sure I got into blogging once it was already past its prime. I just kind of prefer the format. For some reason I go through phases where I just can't stand to look at Twitter (perhaps because I never feel like I'm capable of being clever in 140 characters or less).

And I got out of the FB habit because I already talk to the few high school friends I want to keep in touch with, and I have no desire to see the political and social views of people I barely know. It just didn't seem like a recipe for fun.

I do browse Reddit, but I rarely post comments, let alone actual new content. Again, I'm not sure I can contribute much cleverness to that world.
I tried out Tumblr and did enjoy the pretty pictures, but I got pretty bored with that after a while, and posting photos from the Creative Commons didn't feel like it was actually much of a contribution to that online world.

But blogging . . . that I can handle.

typewriter graveyard
Photo by Filipe Miguel

Why I Blog

Here on my own blog, I can say whatever I want (although I try to keep it within reason) and I get enough space that I can be as clever as I'm capable of (not that I manage to be clever all that often).

And if nobody reads it, well, at least nobody can down vote me here either. It's my own space, and I like it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Soul-crushing-ness of Rejection

gray day
Photo by Raffaele Sergi

Perhaps you've noticed my blog posts haven't been very writing-oriented lately. That's in large part because I've been focusing on querying. Querying (aka, selling your book in 250 words or less) is an essential part of getting published the traditional way, but it's not particularly fun, it barely feels like writing, and, if you do your research, it's pretty time intensive.

And then there's the rejections.

Now, I understand it is not agents' fault that they have to sift through hundreds of email query letters a day and send out rejections (or a no response means no). That's how this whole process works.

But it does hurt.

query storm
Photo by mrpbps

I've worked on my book for at least a year, probably more. I've been working on my query letter for a few months, on and off. And yet, no matter how long and hard I work, all I get is rejections.

Like I said, I'm not blaming the agents. Maybe my book isn't to their taste. Maybe (despite all the time I spent on it) my query letter just doesn't do my book justice. Maybe they were having a bad day and so sick of demons in MG books, they just pressed delete.

Whatever happened, it wasn't personal. On some level, I know that.

But it feels personal. It feels like I'm being told that I'm not good enough. That no matter how hard I try I can't do anything right. That I suck as a writer.

So I've been a bit down and trying not to let it bog down my blog. But, for one week only, I'm going to  straight up admit it: rejections suck and they make me want to cry.

Alright, now it's time to go re-revise my query letter and try to believe that this time it'll work.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

New Life

Spring appears to be on its way! Yeaeeaaaaa!

I forgot to take pictures, but I did see a few crocuses, so of course, you get:

crocus coming through
A crocus creeping through the fall leftovers.

I have a new nephew! He is very tiny and adorable, and the only reason I'm not showing off a picture of him is that I do not believe proud aunties ought to splash baby photos around the internet without the parents' permission. (And I have no need to start an internet presence for the little guy.)

So this is a drawing of him and Mom instead:

Mom and baby

See? So cute.

And that's all for this week, folks.