Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Watcha Say Wednesdays: Query Letter Rituals

Sending out query letters is a very stressful part of writing. If I am emailing the letter, I stare at the page for a while - rereading and rereading - and then after taking a deep breath, I hit send. If I mail the letter, I stand, hovering the envelope over the drop box and try to channel positive energy into the envelope. Silly, I know, but, hey. But as I am walking away, I tell myself - I did all that I could and now it is up to someone else. But, it got me thinking-- Am I doing enough? Should I have a special chant? A special pair of magic query shoes?

When I receive a letter back, I prepare myself for the no. So if it is a no, I'm not surprised but if I get a beautiful partial request - I am ecstatic. But with each closed door, I open a new one by mailing out a new letter. I once met a published author, who said she would pour a glass of wine and curl up in her favorite chair to read her letters. I don't have that much patience. I rip them open, close my eyes for a brief second, and read it right away. 

So, for this week's Watcha Say Wednesday, I ask you - What are your query letter rituals? Do you have a certain day that you send out query letters? Do you get a "no" and then send out a new letter? Do you say a serenity prayer or burn incense? How 'bout them magic query shoes, or shirt, or under britches?

What about when you receive a response from an agent? Do you read it right away, or let them accumulate? Do you only open them in a certain chair, at a specific time? Do you lie down on the floor so that you don't hurt yourself if you faint?

Answer what speaks to you, and ignore the rest. But do tell, I'm quite curious.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Only You Can Prevent Word Abuse

I hit my 100th follower, which is AWESOME! Thanks to all of you for helping me reach this milestone.

Awesome is one of my favorite words. Although I do believe it applies here, awesome is one of those words that is overused. It reminds me of a story. My husband and I were talking one day, and he said (very loosely quoted), “One day, we will be riding up the escalator to Heaven. The angels will be singing, the sky will be illuminated, and at that moment – I will frog you in the arm and say ‘that is awesome’.”

Writers often have “go-to” words, peppered throughout their writing. I’ve noticed it during critiques, my own writing, and even published books. A light dusting is not a major offense, but when these words appear on nearly every page or every paragraph—revisions must be done. However, it’s an easy fix.

There are several ways this is done in writing. Sometimes it’s the character that is the offender. In my novel, Iron Thirst, one of Felicity’s favorite words is complete, such as complete disaster. It is a useless adjective, but it is a part of her speech. But like the use of cuss words—it needed to be reduced to one written word for every seven times she would say it in real life.

Another example is the overuse of rarely used words. The first time I noticed this in published work was in Twilight. Did anyone else notice the overuse of the word chagrin? It stood out, because it’s not a word heard too often. When teenagers were saying it, it came across as even more odd. Now, Stephanie Meyer has obviously done well for herself, but we are not all going to be as lucky.

Sometimes it is our own addictive nature that goes to these words, and many times they are useless words. Very, really, and just are examples that I have plucked out of my own writing. Slight rewording will fix it. If something is “very tall” (telling), maybe it hurts your neck to look up at it or maybe clouds hide the top (showing).

The first step is admitting you have an issue. Run your manuscript through Wordle. It’s a visual tool that will show you the most used words in your book. Use your judgment, but if like, just, really, or very is larger than the name of the love interest—Houston, we have a problem.

Step Two – Fix it. Using find (Control+F) within your manuscript to locate all the uses of the overused word, and then either omit, replace or reword. Some people will tell you to stay far away from a thesaurus, but I disagree. I find it to be a great tool, but use it sparingly. I don’t grab the nearest three syllable word, but I use it to trigger my memory of a word that I might be forgetting. But make sure it fits your text, mood, and voice.

Learning your “go-to” words is part of revising, and with a little research—you will find the best way to correct this within your writing. Only you can prevent word abuse.

What are some of your “go-to” words? What other tools do you use to find or fix the problem?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kindle for the Masses

I’m currently reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on my HTC Droid phone. Why? Well, A) Because I can, and B) Because it’s free. Kindle has now released software for the PC, MAC, iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, Blackberry, and Android. The beauty of these applications is that once you own the book, you can view it on any of these devices via your account.
I stumbled onto this wonderful discovery yesterday while I was checking my Amazon wish list. I saw the words “Kindle”, “Android”, and “Free”, and I was on the site and downloading the app within minutes. It was simple and convenient.
I have always been one of those that refused to switch over to an eReader, planning to hold onto my paper books until the day I was hit by that infamous bus that has been threatening to run me over since I started working in corporate America. Side note—Are there really that many people that are massacred by runaway buses? Seriously, every company or manager that I’ve worked for has a plan in action to be prepared in case I am hit by a bus tomorrow. I am more likely to be ran over by a Prius—you can’t hear them things coming and that is just dangerous. I should know. I drive a Prius and practice sneaking up on people regularly. I digress.
eReader… Right… I started eyeing the Kindle about a year ago, thinking of all the space that I would be saving in my house by storing a big ‘ol chunk of my books on an itty bitty device. Then the iPad fell from heaven, and I began plotting my purchase. iPad—the writers dream tool. Research, writing, and reading all in one. Keep up with blogs, update my own, all on the go. Sign me up! But the question has always been—will I enjoy reading books on a piece of technology? Will I cry if I am not able to smell the words on the page?
Kindle came along and gave me my answer. I downloaded the app for FREE, searched their library of FREE books, and started reading in an instant. And I love it! I can read with one hand and drive with the other. That was a joke. Do not read and drive. Unless you are from the future and have a self-driving car, and then by all means – read away!
First off, pipe down all you Kindle owners that have been reading this way since Amazon created all the gosh darn controversy. I had to get there in my own time, and my own way. (Insert Frank Sinatra song here). Second, all you nay-sayers, I was there, I was griping my books like a Republican grips his guns (Too soon?). But, I think I may be converted. Oh, I will still be scouting my local indie bookstore for any antique finds. They are, by far, the coolest places to kill hours looking for nothing and finding everything.
If you have been on the fence, like me, this is a great way to try it out and see if you love it or not. Many of the classics are available for free, so you can experiment without dropping a dime.
So, where are you on the spectrum of digital books and e-readers? Are you a fan? Or a skeptic?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Watcha Say Wednesday: Self-Publishing

I’ve met some pretty opinionated authors in my time, and one subject that I see argued from both sides, and quite often, is whether or not to self-publish. Some say they want to publish the book that they wrote, and not the byproduct of a NY publishing house. Others say they want the validation of having an agent, publisher, and editor comb through their words to make them stronger. Some have so many books in their noggin that they don’t want to waste time querying, and are ready to move forward. Some don’t have enough money to self-publish and fund a marketing campaign. Some have tried to go the traditional route, and found that they were ready to see their book in print, broke down and did it themselves.

Of those that I’ve met that have self-published their book, some are pleased with the experience and have done well for themselves. While others have boxes of books in their basement that they can’t move. Some have no regrets, and others wished they would have waited.

So, for Watcha Say Wednesday – I ask you. What do you think about self-publishing? Is that the route you plan to go? Or do you refuse to ever do it? Or is it something that you keep in your back pocket as a last resort?

Have you self-published? Are you glad you did?

Have you read many self-published books? Or do all of the ones on your shelf have little penguins on the back?
If you're more comfortable going anon on this one, please help yourself - but try to be respectful. I understand this can get some people all riled up.

Answer what speaks to you, and ignore the rest. But do tell, I’m quite curious.

Friday, July 2, 2010

No Thanks, but I'll Tell Ya Why

I set off on the mission of querying a couple of months ago. I felt great about the condition of my manuscript, I had two versions of query letters, and was off to find agents that represent my genre. I sent off one or two at a time, spacing them out. I decided to query slowly.
I received a few no’s, but also received a few requests for partials. Let me tell you—that is an exciting yet terrifying experience. Sometimes I don’t know which I was more concerned with – the yes or the no. Am I ready for this?
But one of the most spectacular things happened. I received the mystical helpful rejection. The agent said he would pass, but he was very honest about exactly why. He offered advice to improve the manuscript. In the writing world, this is the next best thing to a yes. Wow!
Now, I will be honest. I read it just like I’ve read all of my initial critiques. The first time with my heart broken, the second time in denial, and then when I was ready – with my mind open.
I began planning the new direction for the book, taking his advice to heart. In my particular case, it involved trimming down the beginning and streamlining the initial plot. I chopped nearly seventeen pages out of the first fifty, adding more strategically placed cliffhangers to help pull the reader forward.
There were some really fun scenes that had to be pulled. It hurt to do so, but I believe it truly helped the story. And with this new beginning, the book reads more like a supernatural romance than the original urban fantasy that I had been trying to sell it as. A slight switch, but the reader can get a feel for what they are getting themselves into much quicker.
So, my fine penned friends, it pays to query slowly. Had I sent out a large chunk of letters, I would have burnt bridges with a version of a book that wasn’t where it needed to be. And like I said – I needed the advice of a professional to get it closer to perfection. Not to mention, I took it as a huge compliment that the agent took his time to give me advice.
If you are querying – query slowly. Give agents the time to review your work. Make changes, keep growing, and above all – don’t give up!
How’s your writing or querying going?