Monday, June 25, 2012

Do You Have What It Takes?

Writing is fun, but it's not easy. It takes long hours, dedication, and the willingness to revise something for the umpteenth time until you (or your agent/editor) are happy with it. 

"I'd like to write a book someday too, when I have the time to fritter away." I got that comment from a well-meaning friend of mine who knows I'm a writer: I think it was the "fritter away" part that actually made my teeth grind together. Writers know that there is no magic time fairy who waves her wand over us and gives us blocks of time that other mere mortals don't have (that would be SO cool though). The difference between people who write books and the people who just talk about writing books is simple. People who write books commit to the writing. 

We write when other people are watching reality shows. We write until the wee hours of the night when everyone else is asleep (long after the caffeine has worn off). We rise at ungodly hours to squeeze in several pages before work or before the kids wake up (long before the caffeine has kicked in.) Even when not writing, we are thinking about writing. Plot issues and characterization get worked out in the shower or while folding laundry. Whether we eek out a paragraph at a time, or multiple pages in a sitting, we keep writing...and writing...until we have a finished book.

We have families, jobs, volunteer commitments, and chores (did I mention laundry?), just like everyone else. Unlike everyone else, we commit to telling stories, one sentence at a time. I'm a writer. What about you?

Do you have what it takes? 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Everybody's Got One

A secret that is. Everyone’s got a secret. What were you thinking?

One of my favorite filmmaking tips is as the director, to give each actor a secret about their character. One they can’t share with anyone, but will inform everything they do in every scene.

Secrets can add depth and subtext to a scene that might otherwise be merely functional, or ordinary. For (a poor) example: A character who is hiding a fear of heights, might try to convince his crush not to hike up to a popular make out spot on a cliff despite wanting desperately to make out with her.

While it works really well in film where we can both see an actor’s face, and hear their change in tone when responding to an innocuous request, I think it can also work well in a novel.

You probably already know your main characters darkest secrets, and maybe even some of their love interest’s or antagonist’s, but what about everyone else? This ties in with my previous post “Why Are You Here?” about every character having a reason to be where they are in every scene.

In this case, having a secret can help give conversations between characters more depth and realism. If you know a character’s secret, it will color everything they do and say. It will make the world feel more real, because the people in it are real. It might even change your main character’s or the reader’s opinion of the character, and that can be used to your advantage when working on stories with mysteries. (And I believe every story should have a mystery, even if it’s not a mystery story, but that’s a whole ‘nother post!)

I would bet that if you’ve gotten pretty far into writing the book, that most of your characters already have a secret, you just haven’t picked up on it because you’ve been too busy forwarding the story. If you’re just starting your book, or you haven’t seen your characters dropping any hints, try giving them one and see if it perks up one of your lackluster scenes, or changes the way your characters view each other. You might just make a discovery or two!

What about you, do you give your characters secrets? What are some of the ways you add subtext and depth?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Guest Post over at Rainy of the Dark

If you haven't checked out my guest post over at Rainy of the Dark, head on over: When the Writing Gets Tough, The Tough Get Writing...eventually. Thanks to Rainy for having me! :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Query Strategies--The Batch Method

For those who wish to pursue the traditional path to publication, it often involves finding an agent who will, in turn, submit your work to editors at publishing houses. In order to find an agent, one must send out query letters. The purpose of my Wednesday Query Critique Giveaway (which I swear I'm getting back to next week) is to help people polish their queries before they send them out into the world. If you're at the stage where you're ready to query, and have carefully researched agents using sites such as Querytracker and AgentQuery, here's why I'm a proponent of sending queries out in batches of 3-5 (aka The Batch Method):

1) If you don't get any responses other than form rejections or the sound of chirping crickets, your query likely needs work. The good news is that since you only sent out a few queries, you haven't used up all your top picks at once.

2) If you get partial requests off the bat, then you know your query doesn't suck, BUT that's all it means (sorry, harsh but true). Wait and see what happens. If the partial requests are all rejected, then it means the book didn't live up to the query. Take any personalized feedback to heart and work on the book again before sending out more queries. Again, because you're using the batch method, you still have a ton more agents to query.

3) If the partial requests turn into full requests, then you should do a little happy dance because it's definitely a step in the right direction. I'd also recommend sending queries to any remaining top choices if you haven't already because things can move pretty quickly at this point. Some people recommend waiting until you actually have an offer of representation and then dashing off queries to any remaining top picks, but that feels icky to me. If you've done your research, you should only be querying agents that you feel confident about in the first place.

Has anyone used this method? Any other tips people would like to share about querying? 

Happy Querying! And I'll be back with Query Critique Wednesday next week.
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