This Week: Query-Writing Bootcamp

I wonder how much money I’ve spent on this noveling endeavor.  I’ve taken classes, hired a developmental editor, gone on retreats, entered contests, purchased Snowflake Pro. .. I do believe all of these things have made me and my manuscript better, but shite.  It’s adding up.  Maybe that’s why so many professionals have managed to write novels on the side.  They’re the only ones who can afford it!

Anyway, I bring this up because I have spent money again.

This time on an agent one-on-one Bootcamp through Writer’s Digest.  This is how it works:  you gain access to an online tutorial on query letters and other submission materials taught by two literary agents (Tuesday).  Then, over the next two days you revise accordingly.  You also gain access to a 3-hour discussion board on each day where the agents are required to answer everyone’s questions (Wednesday and Thursday).  On the final day, you submit your query letter and the first 10 pages of your manuscript (or the first 9 pages and a 1-page synopsis) for real-life agents to review (today).  They have two weeks to provide comments.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week.  Learning, chatting, revising.  I bought the course because I’m at the submission stage and I knew my query needed work.  I wrote it 6 months ago and the experience was so tedious, it actually reminded me of the Law Review competition in law school! ::shudder::

For those of you who don’t know, after a year of enduring the most difficult year of law school and finishing all your finals and submitting all your papers- boom!  You’re asked to write another paper  for a chance to participate in a prestigious extracurricular activity- Law Review.  The competition was, literally, my worst experience in law school.  That’s what writing my query letter was like last summer.  I spent a year and a half writing and editing an entire novel, and when I was done, I had to write a letter that pitched and summarized both my story and myself in 3 paragraphs.  It was ridic.  It sucked.

I did the best I could at the time, but that’s not saying much.  So I figured the Bootcamp would provide me with useful feedback and, more importantly, motivate me to take another stab at the letter with fresh eyes.

I know for a fact my query is a lot better now.  For one thing, it’s more accurate.  Originally, I had been pitching this thing as a love story, now I describe it as a coming-of-age novel.  I also learned from the discussion board that first-time novelists should note if they have used a developmental editor in the query- who knew?  I asked the agents if they found it more difficult to pitch diverse characters/writers to editors.  They more or less said no.

Overall, I would say that the tutorial was fine, but I never would have paid for just that.  The value in this Bootcamp is the interactions with the agents and the feedback I will receive from them, as they read and judge these things literally every day. It also doesn’t hurt that my submission essentially doubles as a pitch.  The agents reserved the right to ask for more pages if they like you and it just so happens that the agency, Kimberley Cameron & Associates, was on my list.

So it’s been a productive week.  I should receive comments by Feb. 7th, and after incorporating the feedback, I will be back to pitching!  In case you’re wondering, yes, I do still have some minor revisions, but nothing crazy.  I’ll be done (again) soon!!

I’ll keep you posted!!



What It’s Like to Write for One of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers (Not this One)

Did you know I write for another blog?

Yup.  It all started a year or so ago.  I was following a bunch of writing blogs, and one day The Write Practice put out a call for regular contributors. I applied and got it! This week I learned that it was named one of Write to Done’s 2015 top 10 blogs for writers! Woohoo!

I would like to say this accomplishment is because of me (heh, heh), buuut I actually first discovered The Write Practice because it won the same honor in 2012 (or 2013?). Still, it feels pretty good to know that I at the very least have not brought it down.

Anyway, the experience has been cool. It’s made me a part of a solid virtual writing community. Joe Bunting (the founder and manager of the blog and basically my boss) gives me blogging tips, writing encouragement and Starbucks cards! And because each post includes a writing prompt, our readers are actually really involved. They take 15 minutes to write a scene or two and post them right in the comments.  It’s awesome to see!

One of my favorite posts is when I asked readers to write a scene from the point of view of an animal. The attempts were so funny!! I even took a stab at it myself.

Generally, however, I try to write posts that coincide with what I dealing with a writer.  So, for example, if I’m struggling with my POV, I’ll write a post about POVs.

I also try to reference writers of color and female authors as much as possible. It’s like Chris Rock said (more or less)-  sure, minority/female writers aren’t the only ones who need attention, but the chances are much less likely that they are getting it already. It’s just harder out here when you’re not a white dude (just click around my blog to learn why).  To the extent I can help, I’m like—why not?

The post (written by me) that got the most comments was when I asked readers to describe this Italian painting and then compare it to Zadie Smith’s description. Zadie Smith isn’t my favorite author, but my goodness that woman knows how to draw an image with her words. I felt really inspired by her skills, and it was cool to see others were as well. I’ve also written posts inspired by everyone from Walter Mosley to Uzo Iweala to a Washington Post Press Pass mentee.

Anyway, The Write Practice has more than 200,000 subscribers and accepts posts from guest bloggers all the time. If you’re interested, I encourage you to submit one for consideration!!


What I Learned from the Sony Hack

I’ve been meaning to talk about the Sony hack.

I think it’s fascinating. As an attorney, I’m confident their lawyers will have a steady workflow for the next year or two. As a person attempting to enter a creative field that is frequently tainted by structural biases and business priorities, I couldn’t help but eagerly grab the popcorn and watch as secrets were spilled.

Before I continue, let me say that I understand that this post, like many of my posts, concerns the movie/television industry and not publishing. That said, I think many of the issues affecting one are relevant to the other (e.g., the overexposure of certain plots/stories/tricks, the lack of diversity at every level, the assumption that consumers are generally stupid and bland, the high risk/high reward of pursuing a career in these fields, etc.).

Ok.  Here’s what I learned from the Sony hack:

1. Everyone is frustrated by the dumb shit that is actually made into movies. I came to this conclusion based on the Adam Sandler comments. Neither employees nor executives seem to like him or his movies. Yet…they still make them.

Do they not realize that they are the ones who actually have power to do something about it? I’m allowed to complain- not them! If they want to make better movies then…make better movies!

2. People are still comfortable being sexist. The gender pay gap that the hack revealed was really messed up. All of the male stars in American Hustle get a higher percentage of profits than Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence? How does that make sense? But what really bothered me was Aaron Sorkin’s comments that it’s easier for a woman to win an Oscar than a man because male performances are just harder to pull off.


First, again- if you’re mad that women aren’t performing the way you would like, then maybe you should help create better roles (you know since you are a famous screenwriter with lots of power).

Second, I’m not convinced that just because Aaron Sorkin can’t appreciate the performances of women (the way he can those of men) that means they are actually worse. I’ve posted here before that one of the reasons it’s important to have diverse publishers, agents, etc. is that an old white man, for example, may not be able to appreciate all the nuances displayed in a young, black woman. I think something along those lines is happening with Sorkin.

3. People know better than to be blatantly racist, but there is probably still a race problem. Frankly, I thought the Obama comments were like whatever. They were joking, I get it. Buuut, I find it hard to believe that if these blatantly messed up gender issues exist at Sony that there also aren’t some questionable racial disparities and views floating around as well.

My only hope is that as the Sony execs embark on their apology tour (meeting with Al Sharpton, Judy Smith (the real Olivia Pope), etc.) they actually use the opportunity to try to internalize some of the issues and make some changes.

That’s all for now.

Happy new year!