Tuesday, January 27, 2015

If only writing a novel were this easy...

It's monday right? I don't know. I've been thinking its been Friday for like a week. Good thing my resolution was to blog once a week and not on a specific day huh? haha.

Just so you know this is NOT a "oops, I messed up my resolution to blog" post.

As some of you know (and some may not) I've been homeschooling my daughter since the end of November. Last week my daughter's Language Art class had her watch a short movie on writing a story. As each line was spoken, I found myself giggling.

"What's so funny mom?" Brylie asked. I only shook my head. If only it were that easy. Since I got a chuckle out of it, I thought I'd share it with you, and give insight into how simply it really speaks about the process of writing a novel.

"Think about your favorite story. What did you like about it? Have you ever written a story? Did you enjoy writing?

Today you will learn to be a better writer. You will learn how to write a story someone will want to read. I'm not sure anyone will want to read it, but....

First thing a writer does is think of things or topics to write about. Do this before actually writing a story. No, really?

Writing is like playing with building blocks. With each block you add, the tower gets taller and taller. Each step is like adding another block. What a metaphor!

First make a list of all the things you would like to write about, then chose one to write about. You mean I can't write about all of them?

Once you chose one to write about try one of these ideas to start writing.

  1. Draw a picture of what will happen.
  2. Make a web of what will happen in the story.
  3. List events in order.
  4. Make list of characters or places in your story.
  5. Decide what kind of problem your characters will have and decide how they will solve it.

An adult might be able to help you write down your thoughts. Because, you know, writers are just kids, or something.

If you don’t have a title for your story right away, it’s okay to wait.

Take ideas and put them into a story. Don’t worry about spelling or sentences. Just get your story down. Not sure I could write this rough the first draft? Do any of you?

After you write your story for the first time, it’s a good idea to take a small break from your writing. boy, is that the truth! Get more ideas or ways to change the story. When you are ready, ask family friends, other students, and teachers to read it and give you suggestions to make it better. Or just amazeballs CPs and beta readers!

Change story or add details. Is that what rewriting is?

Nobody’s story is perfect the first time it is written. Getting ideas from others will make you a better writer. Um, no. That's plagerism. Or, you know, super stupendous CPs!

Look at spelling and sentences. Make sure your story makes sense.yeah, that's pretty vital.

Read it aloud, your ear might hear what your eyes can’t see. I'm glad they are teaching her this. I read outloud to myself all the time.

Publish and share your story. If only it were so easy!

It’s important to finish it so you can share it with others. You may not always share your story but its important to finish it like you will. That way its ready if someone asks. Like an agent or editor?!?!?!"

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

And the winners are.....

Thanks again to all eleven people that answered the riddle and, followed my blog, and to all the awesome people that retweeted about the giveaway and my interview post with Luan Pitsch. (Seriously, if you didn't read the interview, go do it right now!!!)

To those of you that didn't win, make sure you follow me on twitter and/or subscribe to my blog. I will be giving away critiques each month and you don't want to miss the reminder!

I could draw this out for a couple hundred words if I wanted to, but nobody has time for that! The #sunvsnow contest entry date is in a week and I've got to get cracking on three soon-to-be awesome query letters.

So the winners chosen by random.org are....

#5 Saratu Buhari

#7 Kristen Terrette

#9 Nicole Payne

I'll be getting in contact with you three shortly. I'm looking forward to helping you prime up those query letters for your publishing ventures!

Monday, January 19, 2015

January Query Helper Giveaway.... Just in time for Sun Vs. Snow Contest!

It's almost battle time in 2015! You do know what I'm talking about right? The Sun versus Snow Writing Contest starts in a week! (If you don't know, go check out this awesome contest here.)

Since Michelle Hauck loves my only ready novel ROWDY DAYS OF DOM SANDERS too much to enter it fairly, I've decided to help out instead by offering three (3) query helper giveaways in time to help any Sun versus Snow Contestant hopefuls hone those query letters!

To enter, subscribe to my blog via email, and then leave your twitter handle or email and the answer to my riddle in the comments below. I will use random.org to chose the winners and announce them tomorrow. Then we'll whip those queries into shape just in time for the contest.

"When is a boat like a pile of snow?"


Check out my Query Helper Triumphant Tale interview with Luan Pitsch here!

A Query Helper Triumphant Tale with Luan Hall Pitsch

Today is a big day! Not only do I get to announce the first ever triumphant tale for the Query Helper, but the totally deserving Ms. Luan Hall Pitsch also agreed to be the first ever interviewee on my blog! And she's agreed to let us take a before-and-after peek of her query letter. What an absolutely fabulous way to kick off 2015! Thank you so much Luan for joining me on here.
It's absolutely awesome that you've just landed an agent! I'm so excited for you and so glad I was able to help you in a small way to achieve that goal. I promise we'll get more into that later in the interview. But to start off can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey up until now? When and what did you start writing?

Your generosity was a huge help. I’d just come off not getting picked on #PitchWars and I knew something had to be wrong with my query, initial pages, or both. When you offered to critique queries of the first five who contacted you, I was like white on rice, like pen on paper, like….yikes, I am the Master of Cliché. On it!

To answer your question about writing, I think the desire came from reading books that got me feeling and laughing and thinking. I came away with a different, ever-widening understanding of the world, and I wanted to be part of that written conversation. I wrote angst-ridden poetry in high school that will never see the light of day. Then, when I was in college I had professors encourage me to go on to the Masters program in English, but I was a single parent and it just wasn’t an option. Instead, I ended up working as a Juvenile Court Intake/Probation Officer in SLC, Utah. Down the road, when I remarried, I went back to school and got a Master’s in Creative Writing. 

When you sent me your query back in September, I remember your novel Nothing's Fair in Love and War had an awesome, unique feel. Plus, I'm a huge Jane Austen fan. Can you tell us a little bit more about Shae and your inspiration for writing it?

When you love Jane Austen’s books the leap to using one for inspiration is enticing. The social politics of high school today mirror the societal politics of Austen’s era. Popularity and the persuasion of friends leading to horrible decisions.

As in Austen’s Persuasion, my character, Shae is persuaded to treat her first love dismissively. He moves, and over the next three years she realizes popularity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Our story begins when Hawke returns. Shae realizes he was what she wanted all along and she is determined to win him back. Of course, Shea, as a character, demanded her own quirky love of war wisdom and somehow a stalker showed up too.

What was the hardest part about writing your query letter? What advice or questions that I posed during your Query Helper critique helped shaped the final query that landed you your agent?

The damn, awful, no good query letter.  While you’ll only see two of my query letters, there are at least a dozen others that exist in all their horribleness. In fact, when I sent the query letter to you, it had already changed from PitchWars and it was still bad.

For me, the hardest part about writing a query letter was picking those elements of a novel that will resonant and capture the interest of an agent. Something that says this could be a fun, exciting, provoking read.

Your critique pointed me in the right direction to rewrite my query.  One of the important elements you pointed out was that my sentences were too long, that they lost punch because of it. You said to keep my focus sharply on the mc, and make sure the stakes were high. 

I'm so glad my advice helped you. You've offered to let me compare before and after query letters for my readers, and I really appreciate it!

Query Luan Sent the Query Helper (with notes):

The Query that Landed Luan an Agent:

Shae loved the scrawny, General-quoting, wanna-be Olympic swimmer that was Austen Hawke. And Hawke loved the super-smart, covertly defiant, cigar-box saving Shae. That is, until the night of Freshman Homecoming when Shae stood him up and never spoke another word to him before he left for England.

Three years later Hawke returns. One look and Shae realizes winning him back will stop the nightmares that have plagued her since choosing family secrets over love. There’s only one small problem: Hawke isn’t interested in her slightly shabby, war-obsessed self.

Shae’s not about to give up. Battle plan 1: a complete makeover. Results: an emerald-eyed, football captain hottie (who isn’t Hawke), and a creepy, anonymous, love-note writer (who hopefully isn’t Hawke). Battle plan 2: tell Hawke the truth of that horrific Homecoming night. Only that requires truth, and Shae’s not sure it’s hers to give. Or if Hawke is still her war-wisdom guy.

Is she the champion of loved ones or the take-no-prisoners lover? None of that may matter when the note-writing stalker attacks her once, and then again, leading to a life and death battle for both her and Hawke.

My short stories have appeared in print and on-line journals—Southern Indiana Review, Red Rock Review, www.mendacity.review, and www.adirondackreview.homestead.com to name a few. I have an MFA from the University of Nebraska and I'm a member of SCBWI. 

How many query letters did you send out in total? Did any other agents request or offer representation? How did you decide to accept Laura Biagi of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency?

Query Letters: Over 50 – this includes all the ones I sent before I got a query that finally, finally started to work.

I had other agents request chapters and the whole manuscript, and once Laura offered representation, there was a flurry of activity and it all made me feel very loved.

I decided on Laura because her vision and feedback for the novel were so stellar. She is invested in making this a novel that won’t only just make it to a bookstore bookshelf, but one that will have some legs and heart to it. When I talked to her on the phone, there was just a connection and her strengths in editing and balancing being both warm and professional are what I need.

What advice would you give to authors who haven't yet found representation but really, really want it?

If you really, really want it, then be willing to work for it, and by that I mean put in the time necessary to master your craft, whether that be in your own study of writing books, in going to workshops and conferences, or in taking classes. I asked one of my first creative writing professors, “How long? How long will it take?” (I always want to pin down answers even when none exist). He said, “when you begin to play the piano or any other instrument, how long does it take to become a master? No one is just born with the gift of writing. If you want it, you’ll have to work for it, years of work to master the craft.” Writing the Query Letter is part of that craft. And the hardest damn work you’ll ever do.

I always think of that poem by Langston Hughes. Mother to Son.  Here’s the last of it:

“…So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now --
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.”

Just keep going, just keep climbing. 

Wonderful, and sometimes hard to swallow, advice. Thank you so much for being here with me Luan, and allowing us inside your query letter changes! Everyone, be sure to connect with Luan on Twitter and Facebook.

Want your own Query Helper Critique? I'm giving three away today! Subscribe to my blog and check out this post.