Sunday, May 27, 2012

Word Watchers (My MS's Diet Plan)

I know, I know, I promised to post the second part of my querying rant last week...but I got caught on other (less fun) stuff. Exams are coming up, tennis preseason is grueling, clubs need to be wrapped up, newspaper articles need to be planned for next year and new staff must be chosen, church functions have to be taken care of for the summer, piano competitions need to be prepared for, and then there's jazz band concerts and AP homework and summer job forms...gah. I'm tired.

So. I know I promised more about the querying process--and it'll come, hopefully sometime soon. But recently, my agent informed me that I need to cut about 20-25K from my MS...which wasn't a surprise, but it still left me feeling somewhat helpless as I stared at my overweight novel. So today I'd like to talk about the surgery table--the terrifying process of cutting words from the manuscript.

Yes, it's hard. Yes, it makes you want to cry (not that I do, of course. *sniffle*) to slice away words you had invested so much time in. But I've known from the beginning that my novel needed to go on a Word Watchers diet and lose some of that padding...I've just been putting it off, telling myself that, you know, I'd do it later. Eventually.

My agent's exact words to me: "Well, now it's later!"

Me: "Aw, boo." marks the beginning of a long, painful, unavoidable process of revising once again, only this time, I'm strictly NOT ALLOWED to add words. Seriously. I wrote it in all caps on my whiteboard and everything. This is happenin', guys. (I'm hoping that if I keep telling myself that, it actually will happen. Positive reinforcement. Though, I got up yesterday morning at five to cut, and ended up adding a thousand words instead. But. Thinkpositivethinkpositivethinkpositive).

My posts might be a bit sporadic from now on, though. I was kind of hoping I'd have more time this summer, but after drawing up a Master Calendar (Summer Edition), it looks like between guiding my MS through a Word Watchers diet, working, summer gym, tennis practice, AP Chem/History/Lit homework, SAT/ACT studying...OH, COME ON. I JUST WANT ENOUGH TIME TO SLEEP IN FOR ONE DAY. ONE. IS THAT REALLY TOO MUCH TO ASK?!

Oh! And I almost forgot: I've recently started a new blog with the fabulous Mark O'Brien. Go check it out!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Querying! (Part I)

It's almost the one-year anniversary of the day I started querying! And since summer is a popular time to query agents (and to mark the occasion), I thought I'd put my meager opinions out there for all of you who will be sending out your queries soon.

When I started out, I had literally no idea of what I was doing. I wasn't clear on what an agent did, or why I needed one besides the fact most publishing houses don't accept unsolicited manuscripts anymore. I didn't know what websites to use or how to connect with people who were on the same step of the process as I was (or that I needed to connect with other people). I didn't know what a query letter was, much less how to write one. (If this describes you, go peruse around or Or even if it doesn't describe you. Those two websites are freaking amazing).

So. I kind of just...did it. Trial and error. Which was very, very stupid. Because my query letter sucked. And I queried all of my top agents first. And I got rejected, again and again and again...

So how do you write a query letter? Well, they usually consist of a hook, a paragraph with the premise and conflict of your manuscript, and a bio of yourself. The one that follows got me four full requests and an offer in two weeks, after querying nine agencies.

Dear <agent>, 

Faye defines her life in numbers.

Nine hundred children who are trapped together in a circle of mountains every year to fight a War that keeps the rest of the land at peace. Eight years since she watched a man with golden eyes murder her parents and swore to avenge them. Three faces she sees in her nightmares every night. Two ways she can die: by the betrayal of the Fate which should gift her with powers beyond all reckoning, or by being drained of every drop of the peculiarly colored blood that marks her as one of the Fated.

One boy that appears in her life without warning and undermines everything she believed in.

Arrogant and unreachable, Aro is one of the enemy king’s most prized soldiers. A cynic who knows the price of trust, he keeps a long list of things he doesn’t believe in: second chances, because people never change, regret, because it only comes when it’s too late to do anything but wallow, innocence, goodness, sanity…

And since he doesn’t believe that opinions are worth anything, he ignores his own when his king orders him to capture Faye during a War. He never expected to save Faye’s life. Faye, for her part, never expected to give him the chance to do so. And neither of them ever expected feel anything more than animosity for each other. But when a number of looming threats force them on an unprecedented attempt to cross the mountains, battling avalanches and seemingly insurmountable odds, neither can continue to ignore the similarities that are binding them together.

Wildflower (100,000) is the story of a girl who has learned to keep her heart locked away, a boy who knows that love is a weakness, and emotions that can be defined by neither numbers nor lists. Also, I thought you might like to know that the Lowenstein Agency and the L. Perkins Agency currently have the full manuscript, the Kristin Nelson Agency has a partial. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

I pasted this here mostly for those of you who'd like to see an example query. Keep in mind, though, that I chose to break a number of rules with this. It's rather lengthy for a query , and it's written from two different POVs, and looking back, there are a lot of things I could have done better. This week's post was supposed to be something of an intro to this blog series, and next week I plan to dissect the above query a bit more and list a few things I wish I'd known before I started querying.

Um. So it's probably pretty obvious that I've never done a blog series, either. Or really given querying advice. So...maybe you guys could put questions in the comments or something? Suggestions?

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Sometimes, I love my manuscript. I love my characters. I overlook all of my typos and spelling and grammatical errors. I love every single line.

Today is not one of those days.

Today is just...blech. I'm not letting  myself touch my manuscript , because I'll probably end up deleting the majority of it. In fact, right now, I'm tempted to email my agent and ask her if she'd be willing to wait for another revision. The problem is, right now I feel like my project is such crap that no amount of revising would make it worthy of publication. That maybe, I should just ditch it and start on something new because this is never, ever going to be good.

And on these days, I'm good for absolutely nothing. I mope around the house and stalk people on Twitter and glare at my computer screen and talk to myself until my mother asks if I have a boy hidden in my closet and mope some more. Usually, in my darker moods, I retreat to my room and lose myself inside that hopelessly mangled place I call my head, and I'm all sunshiney again when I come back. But. I can't do that right now. Which sucks.

So. Now I'm here. Moping on my blog, waiting for inspiration. And maybe it's coming. Maybe it isn't, and I'll wake up tomorrow newly in love with my setting and characters and plot. But what I've realized through the many ups and downs of the writing process is that I can't give up. I've promised my characters that I'd tell their story. And so I will.

I just don't feel good enough to do that right now. So I'm going to go take a nap instead.

This past week, I was told that most authors don't like what they write. But I don't believe that. True, I don't know a lot of authors. But I do know that no one would have the perseverance to see their novels through publication if they didn't love them. A lot.

How about you guys? How do you deal with these days? Or do you curl up and have conversations with yourself in the mirror? Not that I do that, of course. Um.

On a different note, I'd considered titling this post "Mopey Dick." I didn't end up going through with it, because it seemed too perverted, but I did succeed in amusing myself.