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!!



1,000 Words Written! And…Some Talk on Showing (Not Telling)

Success! I finished designing my novel using my nifty Snowflake Pro.  Now all I have to do is write it!  Believe it or not, I started yesterday with about 1,000 words.  Before I started throwing words on the page, however, I needed a shot of inspiration.  So I read the first couple of pages of a few novels on my shelf.  Then, I pulled out the nifty book I bought back in 2007 or so (the first time I tried to write a novel) called “This Year You Write Your Novel” by Walter Mosley.  The book is pretty is awesome because it’s so short and to the point.  I re-read the part on how to “show” rather than “tell” and these are the tools Walter says I need:

1. Sensations.  “If you can include the physical reactions to the emotional situations that your characters find themselves in, you will be bringing your readers closer to the experience of the novel.”

2. Emotions. “To say ‘I love you’ rather than using a more vivid expression is not strong enough for fiction.  You have to get down to the place where the character (and therefore the reader) feels the emotions that drive your novel.”

3. The Pedestrian in Fiction. “Pedestrian details tells and also shows us something about our protagonist and/or her world…Everyday experiences help the reader relate to the character, which sets up the reader’s acceptance of more extraordinary events that may unfold.”

4. Methaphor and similie.  “The methaphor shows us something—something we both see and imagine. And it’s not only human beings that are transformed by methaphor [e.g., “the man was a lion among sheep”]; anything in the writer’s realm can also be something else [e.g., “the sun is a grueling taskmaster with a solar whip in hand”].”  (His examples).  When the methaphor is too strong, turn to the simile.


5. Final note.  “A novel is more experiential than it is informational. Most of what your reader learns is gain through what they are shown about the lives and circumstances of the characters therein.”

It worked! After I read those pages, I felt inspired! Pumped!  I was ready to sit down and write something sensational and emotional, but also pedestrian and employing literary techniques.  And, I did…sort of.  But I found that trying to be so creative at this point slows both me and my story down.  As I’ve occasionally discussed in the context of blogging, I like to just freestyle write and worry about editing later.  So now my plan is to do what I do (snowflake designed outline and stuff) and then worry about Walter’s “showing” tools later.

Have a great weekend!!

Dependent Woman

Me and Snowflake Pro are in a fight.  On the one hand, the software has been awesome in the sense that it enabled me to develop a foundation for my story.  I have a plot, a good sense of my characters (one of my friends is already judging my protagonist!) and I’m excited to work on developing my novel everyday.  Great!

The problem is that Snowflake Pro has made me RELY on it.  I’m an independent woman—I don’t need that drama!  Buuut, I got it today when my beautiful pink computer fell violently off my coffee table.  I’d like to blame Psycho Jack (aka my cat when he is experiencing  “periods of hyperactivity”), but it wasn’t.  I tripped over my power cord when I was half asleep and my computer came crashing down.

Innocent Jack

(Innocent Jack)

The result (as far as I can tell) was that my power cord no longer fit in the socket and my computer died.  The computer with my plot, characters all beautifully organized in Snowflake Pro!  My reaction was like “no, no, NO, NO! NOOOO!” especially since I needed to get the F out my house to catch a bus to New York (where I hoped to work on the thing).  I calmed down and thought “I’ll simply e-mail the document to myself.” And I did.  I got my work out of my broken computer by directing all my frustration into forcing the power cord into the comp.  The thing kept dying on me but whatever except that I CAN’T OPEN THE ANYWHERE ELSE (because a comp needs to have the software for me to open it).  So I thought “I’ll just download Snowflake to my little $300 Notebook that I used to take law school notes on.”  The thing is crazy slow now but whatever.  The point’s is,  I really didn’t like feeling so dependent.  But, unfortunately I am dependent. The good news is, I made the bus and I’m going to work on some more character development after I post this baby.  Have a great weekend!!

1st world problems