I Confess . . .

That there are many classic must-read books that I just have never read:
Emma,
Catcher in the Rye,
Don Quixote,
and so on.

Old book open, laying flat on a wooden table.(Image courtesy of koratmember FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)
(Image courtesy of koratmember FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

To become a better writer one must always read. And I’m an avid reader, so why haven’t I read this classics that people always talk about? For one, everyone always talks about them so it’s not like I don’t know what’s going to happen in it and two, some of the truly older classics are so long-winded and boring that it’s hard to get through the book to harvest the great story. I really don’t want to have a whole chapter were all the author is don’t is explaining the setting. If the characters aren’t around to help break up the expository, why read it?

Yet I have read/scene most of Shakespeare’s work, loved some of the ancient philosophical texts, and an always interested in great pieces of writing no matter when it was written. Someone recently recommended a book by Georgette Heyer Frederica. The style was definitely different and the pace slower but it was a delight to read something that wasn’t the same old books that seem to follow out into the market today. Georgette Heyer though new to me started writing in 1921 and ended up writing over 50 novels and her first one has yet to go out of print.

So it’s not as though I’m against older books but the modern audience don’t want huge over loaded passages without paragraphs and over the top length descriptions of places (well, I don’t know about you but I don’t).

Is there any “classic” books that you absolutely loved but no one else has read?

To hunt of a new author (well new to me at least),
Melissa

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On Safari

Our ammunition is the query, synopsis (of various lengths), and  first pages or chapters of our book. Our bullets are stuffed into either an envelope or email and our hopes ride on them finding the target and bagging an agent.

Picture of unseen person wearing a safari hat and binoculars peeking through grass

Yet how does one make their bullets powerfully enough to hook that agent’s overwhelmed eye? Well, isn’t that the book-contract-question? If I knew the magic recipe I’d have done it already. So it’s back to the basics.

The two most important things to snag an agent:

  • R.I.F
  • content.

R.I.F. (Reading Is Fundamental): Search for agents and only submit to the ones who want your type work. Did you write a killer spy novel but blindly submitted it to a romance agent? Boo on you. Be respectful of the agent’s time and yours. Read what they want, how they want to be submitted to and then follow their wishes.

Simple, yes but don’t get your material thrown off the to-do list because you didn’t feel like cutting your synopsis down from the ten-page monster you are in love with down to the requested two-page one.

Content: Again a no-brainer yet you can’t over state the obvious. Clean up your work. Get feedback from people who are actually submitting and doing the work. Befriend someone who is a grammar stickler. Ask for help. Always look for ways to be a better writer.

So while it’s tough being on safari and polishing your guns for that big hunt over and over again (and you feel like everything you write is rubbish), have faith. And if you don’t have faith in your work, keep writing, learn how do better, and find support around you to keep going when the brushes seems to snare you.

Remember one of the best author out on an agent hunt story I’d hear was Kathryn Stockett. You know her little book called The Help. She had over 60 rejections letters from agents and it took her over 5 years to finally down a live one. But she decided that her book and her work were worth it. So don’t get too discouraged just keep reloading and putting yourself out there, in the hunt.

Shh, did you hear that twig snap? They must be close; look alive and release the hounds.

Tallyho,

Melissa

To Selfie Or Not To Selfie

No, not take a picture of myself every other day and post it on social media but should I self-publish? When I first finished my manuscript, I contacted a PR person and I made a list of all the things I would need to do to make my book a professional looking product. In the end, I reasoned that it would be “easier” to get an agent and learn the ropes through their professionals. With that mindset, I decided self=publishing for my first book at least. I wasn’t delusional about the process, I knew that to get an agent would be a challenge and that it would test my patience.

So here I am one year after I sent out my first round of agent submissions and still no agent. I know it’s only been a year and I’ve only submitted to under twenty agents but I tired of waiting for someone else to approve of my work. Plus once I got them, they would work with me on manuscript and then shop it around to publishing houses. So it could easily take years to see this book in print. The question becomes should I do a few more rounds to agents but prepare to self-publish at the same time?

The Show Must Go On by Nesh - The famous quote.

If yes, what would I need to do to self-publish?

  • Find a stellar editor, which I am lucky that I know one.
  • Find a good artist to do the cover art work, which I think I can get that one nailed down by pestering a few people.
  • Then there’s the book layout. I can do my own layout through In Design, which would be great since I’d have ultimate creative design control over it.

The only thing I don’t know I want to deal with is the marketing. Just thinking about doing all of the marketing makes my head hurt. I don’t mind blogging, tweeting, and facebooking my info. Well, I guess I could also go to local book stores and talk with the people there if they would carry my book but I don’t want to do much more than that. Call me lazy but I know that isn’t where my strengths are.

It seems to me that I should prep for both because I want to share this work with the world. And if I keep looking at the manuscript over and over again, I think I may start to hate the work. It’s been over two years since I started writing the manuscript, I’ve lost a good friend in the process and almost lost my mother to illness so it’s time I put a little joy an cheer back into my world and get this out there.

To sharing my work with the world,

The Writer says print.

Adrenaline Shot to the Heart

Since September I’ve been sending out my manuscript, query, and synopsis to literary agents. It’s been a bit disheartening and hard to keep my own personal moral up. I don’t mind the thank-you-no-thank-you letters/emails, it’s the no word ones that kind of tie me up.

By them not even sending a note, I have to wait the entire 2-8 weeks before I feel comfortable sending my paperwork out to the next set of agents. I know I don’t need to but it feels unprofessional to do otherwise. So I send out to agents in batches and then wait and wait to hear nothing except my calendar inform me that I can begin the process again.

Yet this time, I got a little tug on my line. An agent actually requested to see the first five pages of my manuscript. I know it’s not much, it’s not even 2% of my book, but it makes me feel great. Which is exactly what I needed to keep my edits and writing humming back on track. Even if this isn’t the agent for me, I appreciate that her asking for more, it lifts my spirits and juices my drive to hit the pages harder.

To the work!

Please let me channel the Energizer bunny behind the keyboard,

~The Writer

Tiny Pushes

It’s funny when your tank and creativity is dry and you feel like the most unoriginal writer in the world, when you receive a kind word from a random person. That one drop is like water to parched land; I feel better and it gives me the fortitude to continue the work.

Without these tiny nudges to remind me that I doing what I’m meant to do, I doubt I could go on. So I thank all of those who read my early work, read by blog, or just random people who I meet and when I tell them, “I’m a writer,” they aren’t dismissive but instead are genuinely excited that they know someone who is blazing a path to capture their dreams. I don’t know where I’d be without all of your love and support; I’m more grateful than mere words could express, which is a great concession to someone who adores words, but my hope is that I am able to support you to in return.

All My Love & Gratitude,

~The Blessed Writer

Reading to Write

As a writer, I am developing a deeper love of reading; I know, I didn’t know that was possible either but I’m so glad to be proven wrong. So now when I read things I am struck by various writers in different ways.

Here’s but a short (and not the all) list of writers who I want to emulate as I work on my own stories:

Laurie R. King, in her Mary Russell series, has blown my mind in how she unabashedly wields her large vocabulary and complex sentence structure to reinvent and flesh out an older Sherlock Holmes in a new century.

Jill Shalvis and Richard Paul Evans in their ability to build flawed characters and build conflict between two people. (Though I’m not the biggest fan of romance, I’ll read Jill Shalvis material because she nails it.)

Jennifer Cruisie, Katie MacAlister, Jim Butcher, and Kevin Hearne because they are in rare form every time I read what they write. They are amazing story tellers but most of all they make me laugh. Almost any book I pick up from them is a treat and I trust their name on the cover will be a safe bet.

If I want to grow as I writer, I must keep filling my tank up with inventive, creative, and better writers than me. It’s also a great excuse to continually read more. I’m always on the lookout for other great writers and when I find them, I’m not shy about extolling their wonderfulness to others. There’s nothing better than recommending a book to someone and when they come back they have the same glint in their eyes that I have about reading another great story.

Do you have trusted authors that you reach for time and time again? Why? I’m always got an open ear for “undiscovered” authors, well ones that I’ve never read before.

To relishing in a great story,

~ the writer

Mood Shifter

I love coming up with new ways to describe things. It may be odd to make something what is black and white like a typed story into imaging what it would be like if we could describe it with other senses. So here’s my question: is your story like a cozy hot tottie by the fire or maybe so cute that a gaggle of kittens would fart fairy dust? And if it’s not what you want, how can you change it?

A few elements that can change the readers images/sense of the story are sentence structure, word choice, and mood.

Sentence Structure – short simple sentences are like crack for most readers, they move the story along at a fast clip. Dense sentences are great for reflective times where the author is slowing down the pace.

  • My feet slapped the pavement. I gave in. I stopped and leaned against a wall. My breath was ragged and raspy to my ears. There’s no way out, my brain protested.
  • With my breath raspy and ragged in my ears, my feet slapped the pavement. I gave in, leaned against a wall, and thought, there’s no way out.

Word Choice – is paramount because this can change the feel of everything in a story so once you know what mood you’re going for it’s easy to see if a word doesn’t work to create a mood.

  • The fire shot up, pushing the night’s darkness to the edge of the campsite.
  • The fire snaked up into the sky, gobbling up the black sky, and shadows danced around the campsite.

Mood – is the feeling the reader gets from the writing. It’s created by using a combination of sentence structure and word choice.

  • birthday decorations before the party:
  1. Cries of not it float through the window, my lips can’t help but smile. Cake with grass green frosting with five red candles are center stage waiting for the singing masses of his friends to bounce off the walls. It’s perfect.
  2. Cries of not it burst through my roiling emotions. The sounds are everyday but they are hollow. Cake with grass green frosting with five red candles are center stage waiting for the singing masses of his friends to bounce off the walls. It seems so perfect but how long can it last?

The first is light and carefree but in the second there is a sense of foreboding and unease. So using these very basic but powerful elements one change the world or at least shake up your character’s world.

So go reek some havoc and have fun playing with these elements to your hearts desire.

Nothing like messing with your character’s minds. We meddle because we care!