Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Querying and interesting findings

Hi all,

I haven't really given many query updates. My journey is so similar to other writers that I assume details are just redundant. But before I began querying I loved reading query-type info, so here you go.

The most interesting thing I have found is that the agents I felt were PERFECT for my story in every way gave me a form rejection. The agents I decided to test out just-t0-see requested the full. Isn't that crazy. Two agents that have my full rarely request YA (even though they both have sold YA). I am a premium member over at QueryTracker. I think anyone querying should pay that $25 bucks because it is soooo worth it. I am able to see the raw data of all queriers to any agent. The actual querier's name is hidden, but the stats are there. This has been the absolute best info I have found.

So my advice:
  1. Query very, very, very widely. I no longer believe in the "super/dream agent" thing. My "super agent" will be the one that loves my work enough to take me on.
  2. Query agents that represent your subject matter, not only your genre. This landed me a full request.
  3. Use QT religously. I'm serious, I am on that site so often that Patrick probably thinks I'm obsessed. (Secretly, I am.) :)
  4. Rejections sting. Two in a row will make you feel like giving up. Make sure you have queries out at all times so the rejections become "oh well" instead of "I suck."

Now my stats so far:

  • Requests: 5
  • Rejections: 23 (of those 5 were semi-personal)
  • Request rate: 21.7%

I must say that my subject matter is difficult. You may have MUCH higher results. I hope you do!

M.B.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Anniversary Day!

Hello fellow bloggers! Today is my 7 year wedding anniversary, and so I thought I would offer a list of what I have learned about marriage over the last 7 years.

  1. The first year is the hardest, hang in there.
  2. Regardless of how right you are, fight the urge to say it.
  3. 99% of all arguments are a waste of energy.
  4. Relating to the above, TRY to bite your tongue. When someone screws up, they know it.
    You really don't have to reiterate.
  5. Finances can complicate things. Discuss how to handle them PRIOR to marrying. It will
    save you loads of grief.
  6. Decide how many children you want and when PRIOR to marrying.
  7. Decide if both spouses will work during child rearing years PRIOR to marrying.
  8. Know now that you will love your children more than you ever thought of loving anyone
    else, but please do not let your spouse know that fact. :)
  9. Children can CAUSE and FIX arguments. You will argue about things you never
    considered once kids are into the equation, but one smile from your child(ren) will make
    you forget how angry you are at your spouse. (See #4)
  10. You will experience more with this person than you have ever experienced with any other
    person -- including your parents/siblings. Respect him or her. Love him or her. Be patient
    with him or her. And when all else fails, laugh at each other. Laughter makes everything
    better.

    After 10 total years with my husband, I am still deeply in love with him. I wish the same for all of you. :)

    M.B.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What do you want for Christmas?

Me? Well, besides an agent, I want this:






The problem is that I've been feeling like a bit of traitor wanting a Kindle. What's your take on the Kindle? Am I shooting my future writing dreams in the foot or is it fine? For me, I will still buy traditional books. I work in printing, and therefore, I feel that traditional printing will never die. I enjoy holding a traditional book, the satifaction of closing it after a fantastic read, and then picking it up months later. As a graphics person, I adore cover art. These are things that will not go away if I purchase a Kindle.

So, free my worrisome soul, it's fine, right? :)

Now onto you, what would you like for Christmas? What would make that day super special for you and remind you of childhood days? I believe we all have those childhood memories of the one toy you ALWAYS wanted and the thrill (or disappointment) on Christmas morning. So, share. I'd love to know and then follow-up to tell me if you got it. I'll be hoping for you. Now can someone email my husband and tell him I want a Kindle? ;)

M.B.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Outlining -- a.k.a pulling your hair out


Outlining...yes, that organizational craziness that forces you to look like the poor cat above. Yep, that's what I'm talking about today. After reading a fellow blogger’s post regarding plotters vs. pansters, I began to research various outlining methods. The snowflake method is a very common approach that involves starting with a summary sentence (a.k.a pitch) then expanding out.

Some claim this hinders creativity, while supporters feel it keeps them on track. I've decided to use elements of the approach (click here). I like the pitch sentence to begin with. This took me quite awhile, but in developing my pitch sentence for Twisted Root I found that it helps to think in broad terms. A+B=C But the more interesting element of this model is the disaster moments in the story. You know, those moments where you become the evilest writer on the planet and your characters are tortured.

The Snowflake method suggests that you have 3 disasters (more with sub-plots) and an ending, each occupying 1/4 of your MS. Well what I found interesting is that this method suggests that the best disasters are those caused by the protagonist attempting to "fix" things and instead makes things worse.

I have never considered the protag causing the disasters. In my first book most of the disasters were external elements thrown at my protag. In developing Twisted Root I've decided to give this approach a shot and interestingly enough I feel it makes the reader even more sympathetic to the protag.

So this is what I'm looking at:
Beginning of book: Inciting Incident (Ch. 1 in TR)
By chapter 10: 1st major disaster
By chapter 20: 2nd major disaster (Climax of the story, things are boiling up)
By chapter 30: 3rd major disaster (Absolute hopelessness)
Ending of book

I've written out each disaster, and so far I am really loving this method. I am not using it to its fullest—I'm still a pantster at heart. But I do feel that my story arc is already set, each character arc is already set, and I'm guaranteed to have a solid plot by following this method, albeit loosely.

I'll let you know how things go! Now, how about you? Do you outline? Do you use the Snowflake method or another method? And by all means, if you've got a genius method spill it! I can use all the help I can get. :)
M.B.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Do you use photos to assist with setting?

I've been attempting to find a photo that conveyed the beauty of the underworld in TWISTE ROOT (my WIP). With SECOND SOUL, I used various Thomas Kinkade paintings to create Heaven. It's tricky when you have absolutely nothing in mind, and I am a very visual person. I need the other worlds in my book to be described to the point that the reader feels he/she is walking through the story. Well I found the photo--finally! What do you think? Nice, huh?





Do you use photos, visuals, etc. to help you write? If not, what helps you visualize? TWISTED ROOT is so deeply imaginative that I've had to pool lots of photos (and create some of my own) in order to correctly set the book. It is a journey for sure. So share, what helps you create setting?

M.B.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Recipes for sweetness

It dawned on me yesterday that I have a "recipe" for writing success. And by success I'm referring to the ability to write more than one line without my mind going totally blank. First, I am a night owl so I do my best writing at night. Last night I was up until around 2 am working on Twisted Root--my current WIP, a YA dystopian. In addition to the night thing, I've found that I need a few theme songs for my WIP. The music must jive with the mood of the relationship between my central characters--in this case, Ari and Jackson. When my brain shuts down and coffee doesn't help, I turn to my theme song, and suddenly the words flow out of me again.

My theme song for Twisted Root is Secrets by OneRepublic. Listen/watch here.

This song conveys the tension between my two main characters, but also the name is perfect. See, Jackson is the most popular boy in school and Ari (not so popular at all) finds out he is secretly a spy for the Republic (an alien group that lives below the Earth's surface). She should report him, should hate him for being one of the others, but as she dives deeper into his world she finds herself drawn to him in ways she never imagined.

Here is a little taste (please note it is still in the rough/drafting stage):
_________________________________________

A single drop of liquid hits my lip, and reflexively I lick it away. My taste buds explode with flavor. A perfect mixture of sweet and sour, warm and cold. I want more, need more. Where had it come from? Him? Another drop and another.

My eyes fly open.


He hovers above me as light as air. A bright glow encircles him. His eyes are closed. A sweet smile rests on his perfect face. Another drop hits my cheek, and I glance up to see his hair shiny—wet—with beads of water gliding down his blond strands as though they are leaves after an April rain.

I can't look away. My heart beats, beats, beats inside my chest. I want to reach out to him. Touch his face. Because I have only seen him from a distance—on the field or passing me in the hall. We never speak. I’m not sure he even knows my name. But I know his.

Jackson Locke.

_________________________________________
And for fun here's my favorite pumpkin pie recipe for your holiday fun!

1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 c. plus 1 tsp. half & half milk
1 1/2 c. thawed Cool Whip topping
6 oz. Graham cracker crust
1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin
2 (4 serving) pkg. Jello vanilla instant pudding and pie filling
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Mix cream cheese, 1 tablespoons half & half at slow speed. Stir in whipped topping. Spread over crust. Pour 1 cup half & half into mixing bowl. Add pudding mix. Beat until well blended. Let stand 3 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and spices; mix well. Spread over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Makes 8 servings.

M.B..

Monday, December 6, 2010

New pet, new MS, and querying fun

I have been sooooo slammed that my blog has taken a very backseat, but I've decided to dive back into it on a regular M,W,F basis. So here goes.

Some of you may remember that my Cocker Spaniel, Bella, passed away in October. See picture below:




We were very sad, but my 2 year old just couldn't process that she was no longer with us. She would stand at my deck door and call for her or ask when she would return from the doctor. It was heart-breaking to say the least. My DH and I knew that we needed another pet to offset the loss and so this weekend we adopted a precious 4.5 month old kitten. Rylie, my daughter, has always called all cats "Kiki" so that is what we named our new baby.

She is absolutely adorable, but what I never anticipated was her immediate attachment to my daughter. Typically kittens and toddlers can be an issue (we were very leery to bring home a kitten on the younger side). My daughter is a VERY mellow toddler so we opted to adopt an equally mellow kitten. Kiki follows Rylie around everywhere and cries if she cannot find her. It is so adorable! We do not allow Rylie to pick her up on her own, but Kiki will often climb into Rylie's lap and fall fast asleep. And b/c it is the Christmas season, we brought her home and placed her in a box with a bow on the outside, saying that Santa had brought Rylie an early present. :) See her reaction below:



(Excuse crazy-just-woke-up-from-nap hair!)
Okay, I promise not to dedicate blog time to the life of our cat! On to writing news, I am pushing through my draft of TWISTED ROOT and will leave a little taste of it on Wednesday. For SECOND SOUL, I am batting about a 25% request rate to see material (if I include the no responses. My oldest query is just over a month old.), but so far no offer of rep. Honestly, I love SECOND SOUL, it is my first complete novel, but I feel that TWISTED ROOT has a stronger high-concept premise. I plan to query 100 agents for SS and if I receive no offers then I will shelf it and go on to TR. Right now I am no where near 100 agents. I've tried to take the process slowly, but I think it's time I try querying in larger waves. I'll let you know how that goes. Wish me luck!
And just for your reading pleasure, here is the query for SS:
____________________________________
Every human has a soul deep within them, directing their inner most thoughts. Sixteen-year-old John Fallon has two.

John isn’t the kind of guy to seek out danger, unless you consider fastballs or his sassy ex-girlfriend, Ann, dangerous. But that is before his father dies, revealing John as the new Gatekeeper to Heaven. Now three Trainers infiltrate his life, a power stirs within him that causes violent seizures, dark spirits rampage his small town, an evil family has a mark on his head—and none of his family or friends can know about any of it.

But that’s the least of his troubles.

Because just as he and Ann become close again, the Trainers reveal his mission: destroy the leader of the dark spirits. Easy, right? There is just one problem—the only way to destroy a dark spirit is to kill the person it possesses. Now John must make the impossible choice: loyalty to Heaven or the life of someone he loves.
____________________________________
M.B.