Thursday, October 27, 2011

And a synopsis is born...

What I'm Reading: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

It's been a productive week for me thus far. I've decided to enter a writing contest in the Springs, so I've been working hard on polishing the first 4000 words of the manuscript (even added a new chapter) and on a new piece of torment called a synopsis. This little devil is a 2-3 page summary of the entire novel, ending included, that has to accompany each entry. It's not as horrible as the dreaded 2-3 paragraph query letter, but it's still agony to write. You have to strip your story down to bare bones plot points, focus on just 3-4 characters, convey a sense of who your protagonist/antagonist/most important secondary characters are and what motivates them, introduce, expand on, and resolve the main problem, all while explaining the world of the book and not losing your "voice"--or your sanity--in the process. Voice being, of course, your style of writing. Then again, I've read it out loud so many times, I'll probably lose my real voice soon enough.

One of the most important things I've done in preparing my entry is to have someone else read my work. I've had a couple beta readers go over the first 4000 words and over the synopsis, too. Their feedback is gold. I'm waaay too close to the details to know what holes I've left behind. Even my reluctant husband, who'd sooner browse for Coach purses at the mall than read anything longer than a paragraph, read through my synopsis and asked all sorts of questions I hadn't considered before. He's not afraid to tell me "this makes no sense" or "this sentence is stupid" either. Honest beta readers are a must.

Query letter update! I got feedback from the teacher of my online publishing course, an actual NY agent, and her first three words: "This is great!" Gosh, it's so good to hear that. I've poured hours into that darn thing and after you make so many changes and have it memorized, it's hard to know if anyone besides you will actually understand it. There are other things that need fixin', of course, but I'm thrilled at her initial reaction. Now to apply that same level of toil to the rest of the ms...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Steady as she goes

What I'm Reading Now: Green by Ted Dekker

Not much to report this week. I'm down to the last nine pages of the rewrite and just realized I have a couple more scenes to add. Hopefully I'll still be able to finish "draft two" by the end of the month. Haha optimism is funny, isn't it?

I'm wondering how long I should let it sit after that. Stephen King says six weeks, but I attended a writing seminar this past weekend and the instructor there said you don't want to leave it sitting too long, or you'll have trouble getting back into the style you wrote it in. So you should give it, you know, at least 24 hours. ... Um, could the difference be any more night and day? How am I supposed to work with that, people?! I'll flip a coin I guess.

This afternoon I can turn in a copy of my query letter to the agent in my 'How To Get Published' class. Very excited to get her feedback. I bet I've spent at least a month writing the query letter alone, which is only 368 words including a short bio. Wish me luck!

Last but not least--I've added some publishing links to the blog (see right-hand column) in case you're curious about what a query letter is or how I stalk literary agents. I've also added my editor's blog and a link to a blog for a local Denver agent. They both have great advice when it comes to writing and seeing the book world from the business side of things. I don't know what I'd do without the internet!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Slam it into Overdrive

What I'm Reading Now: Thr3e, by Ted Dekker

On page 200 of the 245 page rewrite/second draft of the novel. Sometimes it's like walking over coals and standing in one place too long. Sometimes it's like flying.

I'm learning a lot from Mr. Dekker (Jamie, thank you for the recommendation!). If you haven't read his books, and especially if you haven't read Thr3e, go out and get yourself a copy. I'm at chapter 9 and haven't been this invested in a story since I finished the Harry Potter series. His character work is phenomenal. The story is gripping, fast, and tight. I keep the book in my purse so I can read at any five minute opportunity. Hopefully some of that will leak into my writing, too.

In addition to the rewrite, today I start a four-week online course entitled 'How to Get Published.' An actual literary agent is the instructor, and we get to submit a query letter to her, twice, for critique. Invaluable. I can't wait to get her feedback and to see the publishing world from the inside out. For those of you who don't know what a query letter is, it's a one-page torture session in which you have to scrunch a 75,000-word novel into 150 or less words. It should ultimately read like the back of a book, highlighting the main character, the problem, and the stakes.

I'd tell you I'm looking forward to revising it yet again, but that would be a lie. That's like saying you're excited about going to the dentist.

At any rate, I hope to gather some interesting tidbits to pass on. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What are you reading?

What I'm reading now: Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins


Stephen King says a good writer reads as much as s/he writes. You'd think that'd be obvious, but I'm ashamed to admit I haven't picked up a book in at least a year.

I've been doing lots of other things wrong, too. Apparently once the first draft is done, Mr. King sets his manuscript aside for at least 6 weeks and writes about something else entirely during that time. Only after that, he says, (and I agree) can you see the old manuscript with fresh eyes and spot important things like plot holes, theme, character inconsistencies, etc. He also says, don't let anyone read it until you've revised the second draft.

Oops. I had people reading chapters 1-5 while I wrote chapter 6.

Time to fix things. I have some huge errors in the current draft to address (point of view issues, for example), but after that, I'm taking Mr. King's advice and setting the thing aside to "simmer."

In the meantime, I'm going to need some fantastic reading material. Any suggestions?



 

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