Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Process

Since this is going to be a long trek into the wilderness, I might as well discuss what it is exactly that we are looking for. And since you have taken the time to come with me, you need to be aware of what the future holds. The process of seeking representation is a long, tedious one. One that will require thick skin, patience, hope and a series of distractions as to not physically assault the post man when he isn’t particularly kind to me in his daily deliveries. They say don’t shoot the messenger, but he’s just standing there, letter in hand, delivering me the news. I’m kidding, of course.

The first step is to create a query letter. If you are not familiar with this term, let me enlighten you. For someone who has spent the time, effort, and research into writing a 300 page novel, it is the scariest thing imaginable. It is your pitch. Your one shot. It is one page that describes why an agent should waste their time on you and your manuscript. It consists of an introduction paragraph, the pitch (something similar to what would appear on the jacket cover of the book when published), a little bit about you (particular daunting if you have no previous writing to mention, contests you’ve won, or a degree that has remote chance of sparking their interest), a thanks for reading, and the end. You must “wow” them in order to reach step two. From my research, this is where a large percentage of your letters will stop. Pollyanna attitude says, “If they weren’t impressed, they are not the agent for me. I will continue to search for the one that believes in my idea and will join me on the path to deliver the book to the world.”

Step two is a request for a partial. The agent read the query letter and either was really impressed, having a slow day (unlikely, I’ve heard of agents going through over 100 query letters in a week), or a momentary lack of judgment; and then requested that you send her more pages. Some want the first 30 or 50 pages, others first three chapters and a synopsis, or any combination of things depending on their personal style. You’re foot is in the door, but you haven’t been asked to sit down; you are just kind of gawking at them awkwardly waiting, waiting on the nod or the shaking of the head. And you may be waiting a while.

Step three is a request for a full. The agent read the partial pages submitted, and asked that you send her the whole thing. This was that nod you were waiting on. This is big. She has asked that you sit down, but don’t get too comfortable. She may need that chair in case something better walks in. She is not committed to you, and you can very easily get a “no’ at this stage as quickly as you could at any other. And from what I hear and can only imagine, this is the most painful no. They read it; can’t just blame it on a poorly written query letter – it was the book that turned them off.

Step four; yea, let’s give it a shot. She liked it! She wants to sell it, and she sees potential. Doesn’t mean a publisher will, but now someone else believes in you. Exhale for a brief moment; this is a proud moment. Book is not on the shelves, but you now actually have a real shot of seeing it happen. She will walk you through the steps from here, not me. I have no idea… I’m still on step one.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Put the Muse in Music

Music has always been important to me. It has the ability to transport you to a place you may have not been able to get to on your own. My life has a soundtrack, and I plan on keeping the music going until the DVD commentary. A beautiful thing.

I didn’t realize how much influence it has on me until I went back to create a playlist for Iron Obsession. I found it very interesting the songs that stood out for the book. One CD in particular could almost serve as a soundtrack on its own. Each song had a strong presence for part of the book. I found this odd until I realized when I got the CD. When I was writing a bulk of the book, I listened to it incessantly during the process. It called to me, and I was like an addict, hitting play one more time. Just one more time. The music inspired me and helped shape a large part of the book, the emotion, the mood, and even some details.

Other songs and artists served their part as well. Sometimes I needed a little help getting in the mood for a scene that I just wasn’t feeling; it would transform me to the place that I needed to be. Then I could open the door, walk inside, and be the scene.

I also placed music in the first book, along with the second; characters actually listening or playing music. It helped show the mood, move plot points along, and give the novel more personality. I love it so much, why wouldn’t my characters? Characters each have their own favorite kind of music, which only helped define who they are.

Pearl Jam, Blind Melon, NIN, Stone Temple Pilots – there in there. And somewhere along the way, someone “butchers a Journey song” during karaoke. (Have you ever been to a single karaoke bar and someone not sing a freaking Journey song?!)

It’s a beautiful thing when art leads to art.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Let's start with a question. Are you who you are all the time, no matter what, no matter who you’re with, or do you shift your personality a little when around different groups? Personality types are such an interesting concept to me. They exist from one side of a slider scale to another, and some slide around all over the place.

I think I’m one of those weird ones. I am more of a chameleon, blending into my surroundings and molding to the people I am with. It’s not being phony; I just tend to mesh well with different groups. I work at a brokerage firm filled with high net-worth individuals. They expect a certain level of service and a certain personality type. I fit in just fine while I am there, but as soon as I clock out, that woman doesn’t exist any longer. My hair comes down and my silliness comes out. Then there is the mom in me. Not exactly the same woman you will see at the rock concert. And the author doesn’t show up at the office either. I have a strong side of my personality, but I really limit who gets to see it.

I can’t help but wonder if this is what makes it so easy to slip on someone else’s skin when creating a character, being able to mold, adapt, and change. To ask those questions, what would John Doe say or feel; how would he react? I am curious if all writers have a similar personality type. Just an interesting concept. I have noticed of the writers and authors I hang out with that there are many character traits that are common among them: the loner, the verbal rambling, easily distracted, people watching. Is shifter one of them?