I read this excellent blog post about sending out queries and how your email can go all crazy with formatting issues without you even knowing it. This post discusses options to minimize those wonky problems.
First lines are right up there with query letters. There is so much pressure on them to deliver the tone of your book, the voice of your character, and the overall feeling of your story. And because of those expectations, I hate them and dread them, just like I do query letters. For whatever reason, I just can’t seem to nail my first sentences and I’ve rewritten my current one so many times I’ve lost count.
Whenever I struggle with some aspect of writing, I search to find the answers either in books, blogs, or articles. This time I struck gold with one of my favorite new blogs. Last week, The Debutante Ball spent a whole week discussing first sentences and my favorite advice came from a guest post by author Kathryn Craft. Kathryn was quoting developmental editor Lisa Rector-Maass, who said, “A great first line does at least three things: shows movement, evokes emotion, and raises a question.” She quite succinctly showed the answer to the problem. Now all I have to do is revise again. Hopefully, this time I’ll get it right.
I spent a ton of time revising my query letter. I so struggle with shrinking 80,000 plus words into a couple of paragraphs and it didn’t help that my three-year old has been on a bender today. This morning (6 am) she fell flat on her mouth–a busted lip and cut up gums. Poor thing has been whiny and clingy all day…until now, an hour before bedtime.
If you’re a writer, you understand how hard it is to condense you entire manuscript into one paragraph and still be able to “hook” the agent without rambling on or providing too little detail. (I’m the latter. I never seem to get enough in there.) My good friend explained to me that every query letter should contain GMC. I know it sounds like some sort of explosive, but it’s not. If your letter contains the Goal, Motivation, and Conflict of your main character you will have a great beginning. What else should be included? Well there’s a great article by an associate literary agent, Maria Vicente, that explains what else should be included. I encourage you to check it out.
There’s this great article on Writer’s Digest about new authors and what they’ve learned. Some of them are stay-at-home parents and others still work, but they have great advice for aspiring writers like me…and you. One of the author’s had this advice:
Leigh: The one thing I can say is, don’t be daunted by rejections. Use them. I had no experience in writing whatsoever. I had no idea what I was doing, other than, Hey, I’m gonna write a book! Learning to write a really good book is not easy. It’s hard to get the right feedback. Some people are gonna give you good feedback, some people are gonna give you bad feedback. But generally you can look at your rejection letters and use those to then rewrite the book. I rewrote She Can Run five times from beginning to end. And I kind of used that one book as my work-in-process—this is how I was going to learn how to structure a novel, how to pace a novel, how to do characterization. (I bolded my favorite sentence.) If you want other tasty tidbits, check out the rest of the article.
I’m prepping for the querying process and found this great article with a compilation of agent’s pet peeves while reading the slush pile.
Here’s a Tumbler link for a manuscript wish list for agents and editors. I love to read it as it gives me a huge dose of hope, not to mention additional agent names to add to my query list.
Here’s the good news, I finished my WIP on August 23rd with a word count of 88,000 words. I’m thrilled, but nervous about the editing portion. My last manuscript, I really struggled with how to edit, but this time around I think I have a better understanding of how to do it. I know some of my writer friends hire an editor, but that’s not an option for me, at least for now. Thankfully, I have a wonderful critique partner, willing beta readers, and my mother in law is a technical writer, so she’ll be able to catch the grammar/punctuation errors that I’ll miss. I’ll keep y’all updated about the process and if I learn any new tips.
Moving on to another subject….
Recently, I spoke with a writer friend who dropped $900 on an editor . (This is the second paid editor for this manuscript.) He told me he isn’t going to take her advice to cut 25,000 to 35,000 words from his 135k word manuscript or her advice to change it from new adult to young adult. This isn’t the first time he’s heard this advice, several other agents and editors have said the same thing. This is his 37th time editing the novel, either with a professional or on his own. He’s going to make one more round of queries and then is going to publish it himself.
Here’s what I’m wondering…
Why bother with spending the money when you aren’t willing to take the advice from INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS?
The ironic thing is that he doesn’t understand why he’s being rejected. I asked him if it could possibly be his word count and he said, “Nope.” I kid you not. Then I asked him if he thought it was because it should be YA instead and he repeated his answer. Seriously, I about fainted. I mean he’s lucky enough to receive feedback and I feel he doesn’t put any value in it.
However, I’m not sure he’s alone. In some ways, I wonder if I’m a little like him, blind to the important critiques and only willing to focus on the small things. It’s easier to solve small problems, like adding a coma, instead of large ones, like cutting 25,000 words. After a few days of reflecting on this experience, I’ve decided to pay more attention to my critiques and make sure I’m not trying to dodge the big things. I’m hoping it will make me a better writer and after all isn’t that what we all want.
What about you, do you think you focus only on the small issues and ignore the larger ones?
The fine folks over at SavvyAuthors.com has signed up a bunch of editors and agents willing to take pitches, today, tomorrow, and over the next few months. If your manuscript is not in the best possible shape, I still recommend stopping over there to take a peek at their resources. Although, they’re mainly geared towards romance, they offer great workshops and resources for a wide variety of genres.