glitter_n_gore: (romy)
Greetings! I have many updates in my adventures in querying, and writing in general because I just don't seem to be satisfied unless I'm working on about three or four things at once. (I don't understand it either. I just can't stop myself.)

In Query Letter Hell: I have a response from the agent who read my full. It's "no." A very polite form rejection, they have too many clients to take on anyone else right now, thanks for sending it to them and being so patient, etc.--the usual deal. I knew what it was and what it would say the second I saw the letter. This one stung a little. I imagine this is how it works in the querying process, though. The further you get along the path of "maybe," the more disappointing it is when you eventually get the "no." Also, because this one actually took the time to read the manuscript, that says to me that my query letter is good, but the story itself might be lacking. Which means I might have more revising to do.

And here is where that little voice in my head pops up and chirps, "Does that mean we can put off the synopsis some more?" and I sternly tell it, "Dammit, NO!" I will figure this mess out if it's the last thing I do. (Which it might well be.)

So, speaking of the synopsis: I put a better one together, more lean, that makes a little more sense, and got some excellent feedback on it. So now I have a clearer idea of what I need to do with it, and how to make that happen. Still don't want to though. I think most writers hating doing these things.

As far as my other works-in-progress go, here's the word count tally:

LUCID, my YA urban fantasy/horror story: 28,000.

DEMIGEISTS, an older idea that's been knocking around my head for a while, a ghost story set in a school: 3,000.

THE TIME GHOST, my NaNo from last year, going in a decidedly different direction: 600.

Now, let me talk about THE TIME GHOST for a moment here, because it's my most substantial WIP right now apart from LUCID: I wound up with a grand total of 75,000 words once I finished my rough draft, making it the longest story I've ever written, ever. However, since I have a tendency to write short, I was struggling to make that word count and wound up with a LOT of padding to fill it out. I haven't yet mastered the art of writing economically and still making the story last long enough to fill a book.

However, here's what I discovered after looking at the manuscript again: the plot is wretched. It's messy, incohesive, hard to follow, and doesn't make sense. It's only towards the very end that it starts to get interesting, but after that it quickly falls apart again. What I did well with the manuscript was world-building, getting a handle on the government and species of my futurist, interplanetary peoples, and creating a top-notch monster. The characterizations are....not my best. I have one that I like enough to keep. So he's staying. Everything else, I'm rewriting from the top. Hence the low word count.

Also, this newer approach is veering into romance territory. I don't read much romance--meaning, I can count the romance novels I've read on one hand, and can only think of one that I actually enjoyed. It's just not my genre. With that in mind, if I'm going to write a story that blends sci-fi and romance, I need to do some research.

So I asked for advice from the good folks at AW, got some reading recommendations, and a brilliant suggestion: read a couple of the shorter, category romances and study them, not for style or wordplay, but for plot structure and pacing. The goal is to see how the romance/courtship plot fits in with the other half of the plot, how they mesh together, the amount of time spent on each, etc.

I don't see myself becoming a romance writer on the whole. But this is fun--I haven't had homework in a long time, and I've bought myself some black and white composition books to take notes in, because I love those things.

The first book on my required reading list is Ann Aguirre's Grimspace, a futuristic romance that I found shelved in science fiction. I actually bought Grimspace last week, because Aguirre is one of the authors who publically supported Jessica Verday in that YA anthology fiasco I blogged about last time, and in turn I wanted to support her. The fact that she's on my list of recommendations is just lucky. It's a space opera type novel, which spaceships and distant planets and government-issue androids. So far, it reminds me a little of Star Wars and a little of FarScape--both of which equal WIN.

Ending with Jessica Verday's The Hollow, which I finished just this week, I have now read 16 books total this year.
glitter_n_gore: (underworld)
Happy almost-weekend, folks!

I have one more rejection under my belt, and now all but two of the queries I sent out have responses of some kind. Them's pretty good odds, and a very quick turnaround, which makes me happy, even though all I have to show for it is a "maybe." (So far.)

More doors will open once I get this synopsis hammered out. I've pared it down to four pages. It needs to be shorter. It needs more voice. I haven't gone overboard with character-naming, and I've trimmed out a lot of scenes. It's almost down to the bare essentials, and once it's as good as I can make it, it'll go into the ringer for polishing, and then hit the submission process.

My new goal, because I seem to respond well to goals with dates on them: Have 6 submission packages, synopsis included, in the mail by March 31st. It's coming right up, but the plan is to have this polished by the end of next week. After that, it's just a matter of double-checking individual guidelines and putting stuff in the mail. No problem, right? (Deep breaths.)

So, that's what's going on with "The Carrion Girl."

In order to keep myself sane, and to keep the Work to Fun ratio nice and even, I've decided to feed one of the plot bunnies. This is the story based on Sleeping Beauty that I was playing around with a while ago. It took quite a different turn than I originally envisioned, but I like it. I'm calling it "Lucid" for now, as in lucid dreaming, and it's a young adult horror/urban fantasy. I'm still fuzzy on the difference between those two sub-genres, but it's dark and weird and all my characters are teenagers. I have 7,000 words so far. (Fifteen pages.) And I'm attempting to format it correctly from the get-go this time, so I don't have to waste all that time reformatting before I submit it anywhere.

Wish me luck!
glitter_n_gore: (Default)
Did you know that February is National Women in Horror Recognition Month? Because it is. I am watching the Oscars right now, and couldn't be more tickled to see so many genre films in major categories this year. That's just awesome. I haven't seen Black Swan yet, but I sure hope Natalie Portman gets to take home that Best Actress award.

As for me, I officially achieved my resolution this week! I have exactly six queries out to literary agents, which is what I said I'd do by March 1st, so I'm technically early. (Yay!) I still have more to send, but not until I get that synopsis hammered into perfection. I have a draft, so to speak, of said synopsis, but it's just brain vomit at this point and needs serious polishing before I can show it to a professional and be able to look myself in the face.

I have heard back from exactly three of the agencies I sent stuff out to. Two of them said "No," which of course is fine because it's expected at this point in the process. One of them, however, one of the BIG ones, and a super-top-top choice for me personally, asked to see my full manuscript. I flipped the hell out when I saw that request--I'd prepared myself for a sea of "No's," and maybe a request for a partial, but not this, at least not so early. I went spazzing around the office, telling everyone, "GUYS, THEY WANT TO READ MY BOOK!!" at the same time trying to remind myself that I haven't actually gotten an agent yet, they just want to look at the work and see what they think of it. There is still nothing set in stone at this point, and anything could happen.

But, guys, they wanna read my book!!

That's the big news right now, so there's not a whole lot else to say. I did start working on another one of my WIPs. It's going in a totally different direction than I thought it would, but the good news is I have an end in sight. That doesn't always happen to me, but having a conclusion to write towards sometimes helps. Fingers crossed, folks.

My goals for this week are to wrap up that synopsis and get more queries out. Wish me luck!
glitter_n_gore: (stargate snark)
Happy Humpday!

Here is my progress thus far on the submission package for The Carrion Girl: I have the first fifty pages printed, as per the guidelines for one of my snail mail agencies; the query is now entering its third draft, and getting juicier by the minute (I hope); the manuscript itself is almost fully reformatted to the standard specifications (double-spaced, courier new 12 point font, my name and the title at the header and page numbers at the footer, etc.); and I'm just a handful of chapters away from being finished with the synopsis.

What I seem to be struggling with the most query-wise is wanting to hook whoever reads it, but also not wanting to spoil anything. In other words, I'm thinking of it like a book-blurb , which you're supposed to hold back for. One of the pieces of (sometimes conflicting) advice I've gotten concerning queries is that you should do that--write them as if they're book blurbs, like the thing you see on the back flap, to get people to read it. However, with a query, it's a little different. You're trying to get someone interested in buying the book who will then either shop it around to publishers (agencies) or publish it for you (publishers). Depending on who you're querying. Anyways, the query is really not where you want to hold back--whatever's unique and exciting about the book, you have it put it out there. What's screwing me up is that the unique, exciting thing about The Carrion Girl is a very big plot twist. It's revealed gradually, so this isn't something that I'd put on the back cover (which I will eventually have to write as well, assuming it sells).

It's a dilemma.

So instead of using the Book Blurb model of query-writing, I'm going instead with the Three Questions:

1) What does your MC (main character) want?

2) What does s/he have to do to get it?

3) What happens if s/he fails?

These are the things I'm trying to touch on, and the answers span the entire book--not just the first few chapters, which is what they'll be reading in the submission package once I send it out.

Bottom line, the goal with the query is to entice whoever's reading it to want more. A few chapters, for example. Then the full manuscript. Then, if they like the manuscript, the offer of their services to get it out to the general public and get it on a shelf.

So, I'm still hammering it out. I'm getting closer to my deadline, so this is worrying me slightly, however I also feel like I'm closer to having it right than I was before, and it's becoming more fun than work again. So this is a good thing.

Onwards!
glitter_n_gore: (underworld)
I have finished my latest round of edits for "The Carrion Girl"--I'm not saying "final edits" because I know that I'll have to edit it more if/when someone decides to pick it up for publication, but this is the last I'm doing before sending it out into the world. Which now means that I am at the furthest stage I've ever gotten in this writing game: the query letter.

I've successfully written one of these before, for another project that I've since put on the backburner for reasons I don't want to get into right now, but never sent it anywhere. So, once this one is ready, and I start sending it out, THAT will be the furthest I've gotten towards publishing. I guess we'll just see how much closer I can get from there.

(Yipe!)

The other part of this is I haven't written a synopsis before. Not every agency/publisher asks for one, but enough of them do that I'm going to have to figure that out as well before this adventure is over. Them things terrify me. Not sure why. I guess just because it's still new territory. A synopsis is basically a 1-3 page summary of absolutely everything that happens in the book, spoilers and all. Like an outline, but more nicely worded, so whoever's reading it can get a feel for the author's voice.

I think I find it daunting because I have issues with word count. I'm worried about making it run too long, or not long enough, even though I know I can always fix stuff like that later. (Again, yipe!)

I'll keep y'all posted. The query itself is now on Draft Two. Let's see how it goes...
glitter_n_gore: (chiaki)
Hey, look at that--we're halfway through January already!

I am here to inform those of you whom I didn't tell personally already that my New Year's Resolution is to submit something. (The full resolution is actually, Submit Something, Goddammit, but I foresee it being a pain to type that every single time I bring it up.)

The manuscript under the gun right now is The Carrion Girl--yes, again, because it's the furthest along and closest to query-ready of the projects I have going. (There are three.) This time, at the nudging of one of my fellow members of AW (not directed at me, specifically, but I think it's a good idea), I made a date at which to get things done: March 1st. By March 1st, which is now a month and a half away, I will have at least half a dozen queries out to my top-choice literary agents and/or publishers.

The steps that preceed the query-writing are getting all the edits done, perfecting the query letter itself, and checking my top-choice list for various guidelines and addresses. I have a box of 100 9x11 manila envelopes for mailing the first however-many pages, I'm dreading but researching the synopsis-writing process, I have a fresh book of Forever stamps to put on SASEs for their replies--some of which may not be necessary, because most queries are submitted electronically these days. (Speaking of which, my next task should probably be to clean out my email inbox.)

Bottom line: I'm ready. Let's do this. You can write for years if you want to, but until you actually put something out there, the whole publication thing won't happen.

There's a weekly check-in thread at the Horror section of AW, which helps keep me on my toes--project weekly goals for all your projects, then follow up the next week to see how you did. It doesn't do your work for you, but it holds you accountable. And for someone like me, it helps.

On a different note, I've decided to participate in the 100 Books Challenge this year. The challenge, if you can't tell from the title alone, is to read 100 books in a year. I mentioned this to Mom, and she went, "Pfft--you can knock that out without even trying." But honestly, I have no idea how many books I do read in a year, and this'll be a fun way to keep track.

As of today, I have read Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars, Jodi Piccoult's My Sister's Keeper, Thomas More's Utopia, and with any luck I'll finish K.A. Stewart's A Devil in the Details tonight. So that's 4 so far. And as I said, we're midway through January.

Wish me luck!
glitter_n_gore: (mikey)
That's "National Novel Writing Month," which for reasons I'm not entirely sure of, always happens in November. The idea is to write 50,000 words worth of material--doesn't even matter if it's any good, just something--in the space of thirty days. I did it last year and wound up with my first draft of The Carrion Girl, which turned out much better than I anticipated. It's the only thing that seems to shut down my inner psycho-editor, that part of my writer's brain that screams, "Must fix! Must fix!" at every poorly chosen word, extended metaphor, and purple passage I happen to get down until all I have left is a half-finished trunk novel that's been run so far into the ground that the kind thing would be to put it out of its misery. When you're trying to get published, the first thing you need is a full-length manuscript, even if it's not perfect, because otherwise you have nothing to work with. That's why I do this--to get myself from a mess of half-formed ideas to a full-length manuscript, which I then allow myself to edit to perfection.

My goal for this week was 10,000 words. I made it, but it wasn't easy. I have a story I really like (which I'll synopsize for you shortly), but whereas last year I was knocking out close to three thousand words a day, this year I'm barely scraping one thousand. In my defense, it's been a rough week. Between the house getting ransacked (they took some random things, like my high school ring and some silver dollars, but nothing outstandingly valuable), starting my new job as a legal assistant, trying to deal with various messes caused by the dermatologist's office and my pending switch in health insurance, AND MyChemicalRomance.com releasing a steady stream of epic, cheesy, awesome, ridiculous pre-album-release goodies that I WANT RIGHT NOW but can't have because I never buy anything for myself between Halloween and Christmas, I've been a bit preoccupied. (To be fair, some of the MCR stuff is free downloads, which rules, but still--distractions. Takes away from the writing bit, you understand.)

ANYWAY.

My NaNo story, at least what I've done with it so far, is shaping up thusly: Roughly five hundred years (give or take) into the future, Earth has been abandoned, and the human population has spread out across the galaxy, making friends with some of the alien species on other worlds. My protagonist, Paul Reid, is a "Pan Dimensional Anomaly Neutralizer," the best in the galaxy, and his team gets called everywhere to take care of pan dimensional anomalies wherever they occur. A "pan dimensional anomaly," by the way, is a ghost. The popular theory is that ghosts are not, as was previously thought, the spirits of the dead come back to torment the living, but small pieces of time folding in on itself which appear as people who have lived in the same place previously, and Paul's job is to mend the rip in the time-space continuum that causes these loops. However, when Paul investigates this phenomenon further he discovers the real reason for the time ghosts, and this knowledge might cost him his life--along with the life of his wife and child.

Inevitably some things change in the transition from idea to manuscript, but that's the basic gist of it. I'm working on making it make more sense. (Another job for the editing process.) My tentative title is "The Time Ghost." We'll see if it sticks.
glitter_n_gore: (sleepy hollow)
This is just an observation on my part of the way my brain works. I'm at, not so much a standstill right now, but I'm stuck nonetheless. "Writer's block" operates differently depending on the writer. Since my main project currently has been editing The Carrion Girl, there's not a lot I need to do with the story itself--the plot, characters and major events are there already. I'm just cleaning it up and trying to make it sellable. That's not the problem.

The problem is the five thousand other ideas bopping around in my head begging to be written at the same time. I've seen those things they call 'writing prompts,' designed to get those creative juices flowing, or to just plant an idea that will grow into a larger work. Ideas are never a problem for me. So far, there has never been a moment when there aren't at least three different ideas vying for my attention at any given time.

Right now, I've got about seven. There's The Carrion Girl, of course. Then there's my other WIPs--Dusty, Doppelganger, and Hoppers. So that's four already. Now I have another one about a witch coven living in a suburban neighborhood bordering the coastal wetlands; another that's a modernized re-imagining of my favorite fairy tale, "Sleeping Beauty;" and another that'll probably turn into a series pieced together from the salvageable bits of my trunk novel, Dragon House.

You can't scatter your focus and have the resulting work turn out well. You just can't. You have to give a WIP your energy and attention if you want to make it shine. Which is what I've been trying to do with The Carrion Girl lately--make it shine. If I could only shut off that jabbering muse, this'd be so much easier. A few fellow writers have told they'd love to have this "problem" of mine instead of not being able to think up ideas. Believe me, I don't think this way is easier.

By the way, I'm not trying to complain here. I do like that as soon as I'm done with a given project, I have several more that I can pick up immediately and get right to work on. It's important to have backup projects to focus on once you start sending out submissions or finishing up drafts. This is just an observation.
glitter_n_gore: (sleepy hollow)
I have a decidedly love/hate relationship with the editing process. I imagine most writers are like this. For me, it's because it's more in the realm of Work than Fun. I love writing--I really, really do--but certain things about it do make one want to shove one's head through nearest wall and be done with it.

For example: I mentioned last time that there's a purple prose prologue that I'm trying to get rid of for "The Carrion Girl." (If you're not familiar, this is purple prose.) The problem is I dropped some essential scene work and information into that prologue, so what I've been trying to do is figure out how to work that information into someplace else in the novel, so as not to lose it entirely. I know where to put it now. This is a good thing, and decent progress. HOWEVER. What it means is I'm now faced with the task of rewriting an ENTIRE chapter, and just thinking about it makes me tired. This particular chapter took ages to crank out the first time I did it, and still needs some work on its own, but just....blah! It's gonna take some time.

In better news: "Doppelganger" is flowing along quite nicely. I'm 2000 words in now (which translates to about four pages, single-spaced, in 12 pt. Times New Roman font) and my first plot point has been flung. I'm aiming for short story/novella with this one, so 2000 is farther along in the plot than it would be if this were a novel. I have to do some research for this scene though--I know song lyrics are heavily copyrighted and a HUGE pain to use if you go that route, but I'm not sure what the rules are for song titles--but that's something to deal with after Draft 1 is finished.

Back to work!
glitter_n_gore: (Default)
Hello there!

Most of the folks reading this already know me (I think), but as this is an introductory post, I'll introduce myself: My name is Laurel, alias "Rhoda Nightingale" in most internet places, and I am a writer. I started this blog for the very simple reason that most published authors--and many amateurs, like myself--have them, and since I blog a lot about writing anyhow, I might as well make it official. I also wanted to create a space where my friends and family can keep track of what I'm up to, since I can't make myself do the FaceBook thing no matter how much they nag me. (No offense, I just can't stand the format.) Apparently there's a widget that cross-posts everything here to my Wall, so I'll see if I can figure that out at some point.

So, what am I up to right now, writing wise? I have two prominent WIP's cooking simultaneously--that's "Work In Progress" if you don't know the vernacular--one further along than the other. "The Carrion Girl" began life as a NaNoWriMo experiment, and I liked the result so much I decided to keep it and flesh it out properly. It's still only 50k at the moment, which is on the slim side for a real live novel, so that's why I'm putting it through a second draft. I'm three chapters into that process, and I think I've worked out a way to get rid of the godawful purple prose introduction/prologue thing I opened it with. (You have to start somewhere, right?) The premise is a twenty-something young man is driving his girlfriend home when they get stuck in a traffic jam, then quickly waylaid by zombies. It's not what you think. It takes a sharp left midway through.

Then there's "Doppelganger," which is significantly darker, but just as much fun. This is one is about a young college student who joins a rock band that turns out to be fronted by someone who's not quite human. I wrote an outline for it first, which I almost never do, so it has a very different shape in my mind than most of my projects. I already know exactly where it's going and how it's going to end. That's....unusual for me. It's an odd feeling. But good, I think. My biggest concern with this one is not rushing it, because there's a horror anthology taking submissions until October 31st and I really really really want to send it in, but I don't want to sell it short by trying to churn out something too quickly.

Lastly, I'm on acne medication that's drying me out like whoa--my arms from elbows to wrists are all dry and scaly, an account of getting sunburned in my car of all places. I mention this because it's giving me mad plot bunnies for a novel that I trunked a year or so ago. I showed an early draft of it to a cousin, and she mentioned something that I realized only several months later was absolutely right: I had too many creatures, too many storylines, and too many characters for one book. However, one of those characters is a young girl who's part dragon, and I imagined her with scales on her arms, from elbows to fingertips. She has to wear opera-length gloves to cover them, lest anyone find out her secret. I think I might have a way to write a story just about her. Or maybe do a series. We'll see how that goes.

That'll do for an introductory post, won't it? I'll be back to report my progress later!


--L

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