Monday, May 17, 2010

Query Letters: It's like beating your head against the wall, only more painful

I finished the first draft of Jacky's first book (which still doesn't have a title I'm happy with). Next week I'm going to be attending the Backspace Writer's Conference, and I need to have a query letter that I won't be ashamed to show off to other writers and--gasp!--agents.

There are lots of blogs out there about how to write query letters. Agents are so helpful, and they really want us writers to succeeded, despite the massive amount of rejection letters that speak to the contrary. Most of them have written up something or other about how to write a good query letter. Some of the ones I've found the most helpful are Janet Reid's Query Letter Checklist, and her list of things that will make her Instant Reject a query.

Well, those two aren't really on how to write a query, so much as good reminders for things to do (or not do) in a query.

The very most helpful blog I've ever read is Nathan Bransford's The One Sentence, One Paragraph, and Two Paragraph Pitch. Of course, all of Mr. Bransford's blogs are extremely helpful, but that's the one that's helped me through the last week of working on my pitches and getting my query ready for Backspace.

If you're like me, even with help writing a query is a long painful process. Did you know I gave up music because I absolutely loathed practicing scales and arpeggios, and couldn't practice the same line of music over and over and over again. Forget practicing those scales, arpeggios, and troublesome lines for hours on end. I got bored. Repeating stuff is mind numbing in the extreme.

Ready for the irony?

Writing a query letter is a lot of writing the same sentence over and over again, tweaking this, changing that, trying a word on for size, then discarding it because it fit wrong. I wrote ten--read it, ten--one sentence pitches. Most of them are variations of a theme, with lists of words and phrases to switch out. I wrote six one paragraph pitches before I got one I wasn't afraid to share with other people. That's no counting the dozen failed query letters I have stashed away on my external hard drive, never to see the light of day again.

I still haven't gotten my two paragraph pitch. The most important one, because that's the one I'll be using in my query. Beating my head against this hasn't really been fun, but I've learned a lot from it. I've learned just how stubborn I can be once I set my mind to a task, I've learned not to quit just because writing a pitch is hard, and I've learned that practice makes things better.

Yeah. The hated practice. Who would have thought I'd be applying it to writing?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ideas for Future Projects

I hit over 70k today. The end of this book is in sight. I'm so giddy I could dance all night (not really, I'm actually pretty tired), and even filled up with epic final battle plans, my brain has a tiny corner turning over different ideas for what our next big project should be. Everyone--my brain, me, Jacky et al.--has decided that a break from Jacky will be in order. I mean. I'm going to revise Book 1 until my eyes bleed. I'm going polish it until it's thin in the center and nearly see-through. Then I'm going to query it.

Revising is not writing, however. So, the big question is: Which should my next big project be?

I've got several ideas floating around in there somewhere. One I've already written a bit of, done a bit of plotting for. FAERIE BAD LUCK will probably be my next brain child, while Jacky takes a much needed vacation. The other idea... well, it wouldn't be very profitable.

When I was a teenager, I was in love with the chose your own adventure style novels. You know, you read a couple pages, then there are a couple choices at the bottom of the page, and you get to decide what the character does. Kind of.

I've been toying around with the idea of an online choose your own adventure, thing. It'd be short and simple, probably. The only problem I can see with this is that I have no website of my own, and I don't know of any free hosting sites that would do what I want it to do. I'll look around me. Maybe I'll find something good. Maybe I'll write up a choose your own adventure thing anyway, and keep it all to myself to amuse myself when the power goes out.

Another possibility is to hop on the YA bandwagon. Problem is I don't really have any good ideas for a YA. Nothing that wouldn't be stupid and cheesy, and I'd be ashamed for it to ever see the light of day. Maybe.

Maybe there's a good YA idea floating around there somewhere, and I just can see it 'cause Jacky's being such an attention hog. Which is well within her right, considering how close we are to finishing this book.

If none of those pan out real well, I have a fantasy trilogy that's been stewing on the back burner since 2004. That's right, 2004. I started it round about the same time I started Jacky. I have exactly a book and a half written. The writing sucks, of course. The main plot line isn't too horrible though. I even have colored index cards stuck up on one wall to start a massive plot web. It'd take a lot of work (which after all the work I've been into Jacky isn't a horribly appealing idea) but I might rewrite the first book and a half, and maybe even write another half to get the second book done.

Right now, I'm leaning heavily toward FAERIE BAD LUCK. Cause it has a title and a main character, and some pseudo world building. It even has--gasp--a protagonist and possible plot.

Ah well. Nothing I have to worry about quite yet, right? I'll figure it out after the Backspace Writers' Conference.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

To-Read List 2010 May Update

Amazing, how much time I have to spend writing and reading now that school's out. For example, I may very well have the first draft of Book 1 finished before next week. That'll be awesome, considering I'm flying to New York in 24 days.

Excuse me while I go freak out.


Whew! Now that that's out of the way, I feel much better.

The List (in no particular order)

Mistborn - Brandon Sanderson
The Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson
Hero of Ages - Brandon Sanderson
Well of Eternity - Richard A. Knaak
Shakespeare's Landlord - Charlaine Harris
Shakespeare's Champion - Charlaine Harris
Shakespeare's Trollop - Charlaine Harris
From Dead to Worse - Charlaine Harris
Dead and Gone - Charlaine Harris
Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon
Magic Blood - Devon Monk
Dragon Bones - Patricia Briggs
Dragon Blood - Patricia Briggs
Small Gods - Terry Pratchett
Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead
City of Bones - Cassandra Clare
City of Ashses - Cassandra Clare (borrowed)
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
Enders Game - Orson Scott Card (borrowed from brother, don't actually own)
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Feast of Souls - C.S. Friedman
Kushiel's Scion - Jacqueline Carey
Kushiel's Justice - Jacqueline Carey (Don't actually own this one. Don't know how that happened.)
Kushiel's Mercy - Jacqueline Carey
Gardens of the Moon - Steven Erikson
Glass Houses - Rachel Caine
The Dead Girls' Dance - Rachel Caine
Midnight Alley - Rachel Caine
Feast of Fools - Rachel Caine
Lord of Misrule - Rachel Caine
Carpe Corpus - Rachel Caine
A Game of Thrones - George R. R. Martin
Firestorm - Rachel Caine
Thin Air - Rachel Caine
The Gunslinger - Stephen King
Prince of Dogs - Kate Elliott
The Burning Stone - Kate Elliott
Banewrecker - Jacqueline Carey
The Last Wish - Andrzej Sapkowski
Genesis of Shannara - Terry Brooks
Children of Chaos - Dave Duncan
In the Realm of the Wolf - David Gemmell
Hero in the Shadows - David Gemmel
The Becoming - Jeanne C. Stein
The Scent of Shadows - Vicki Pettersson
Dragonfly - Frederic S. Durbin
Love Bites - Lynsay Sands
Personal Demon - Kelley Armstrong
No Humans Involved - Kelley Armstrong
Broken - Kelley Armstrong
Inda - Sherwood Smith
His Majesty's Dragon - Naomi Novik
Night World Vol. 3 - L.J. Smith
The Secret Circle - L.J. Smith
The Hunter - L.J. Smith
The Chase - L.J. Smith
The Kill - L.J. Smith
Bone Crossed - Patricia Briggs
Changes - Jim Butcher
Beauty - Robin McKinley
Spindle's End - Robin McKinley
Tithe - Holly Black
Valiant - Holly Black
Ironside - Holly Black
Vamped - Lucienne Diver