When you can’t wait any longer to query. . .

Have you ever looked back on a decision and thought, ‘Geez, I should have waited before doing that,’ but at the same time thought, ‘If I don’t do this now, I’m going to make everyone regret it?’ You heard me, everyone…Family, critique partners. They know when you’re getting that itch because you become so darn demanding. And the justifications? I love the justifications. They just keep coming until you wear everyone down and they too agree. Because then you become less annoying . . . All jokes aside, I love my family and my critique partners, and without my own ‘raid’ team, I don’t think I’d be able to even write this blog, let alone rewrite my MS…

I’m going to introduce you to Leeroy. If you have a minute, please watch this video and you may draw comparisons to your querying journey. While this raid team is planning, crunching numbers and eliminating risks, Leeroy says, ‘I am done with the planning and the calculations and the predictions, and I just want to get amongst this and get something done!’ And yeah, Leeroy kills the whole team and is, to quote one gamer, ‘as stupid as hell,’ but he makes me laugh and reminds me of myself.

So have you ever ‘Leeroyed’ throughout your publishing journey?  And is flailing, and dying horribly, against a horde of somethings better than feeling nothing?

 

 

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I’m taking off my pants because I’ve lost the plot

After almost a year of resistance, and a number of years pantsing, I decided to look into this plotting business. Why have I resisted for so long? You’ve probably heard the word organic when it comes to pantsing. I like to let the ideas flow naturally from page one and see where my characters take me, rather than suffer a structure. And hand on my heart, I was worried anything to the contrary would come across as contrived. It’s a harsh word and one that has plagued me. I’m a fairly stubborn person, and I guess I’ve stuck to these thoughts as a way of protecting myself from the truth: my MS needs a revamp, and it’s going to take some plotting research to do this.

I think if I were more experienced, I’d know how to wear my pants well and keep them on. If I’d read plotting books, looked into character development, or  had already written a book or two, I’d be well armed starting page one. All the critical elements would be top of mind as I forge on.

But I’m a green writer, whose pants need some readjusting. Starting from page one is not hard, but knowing where to take that plot is another story altogether – a story that may be a much harder sell.

So my green-writer status became obvious while thinking about how to change the start of my MS. If my MS is not being requested based on my query and  first few pages, then I assume both are letting me down. But to know where to start, I need to think about the plot. After reading some plotting material online and also Save the Cat by Blake Snyder ( and now First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke), I found that that my MS lacks depth. And to fix or analyse my plot, I need to know where my character begins on their journey, where they end up on their journey and how the plot will take them there.

For me, it’s helped to look at my story like this. MC is at point A and wants X. To get X, they must move to point B and the inciting incident helps them get there.

From here, I can write a query blurb and this should (hopefully) show that my book has conflict and growth. And I’m not going to write my new beginning until I can do just that!

Even armed with just those elements, I could have saved myself years. I was so scared of plot outlines because I thought I would have to write down every scene. But I haven’t beaten myself up too badly about this late revelation. After all, all of this makes sense because I have written my book and spent months and months researching querying. It would have been like picking up a book that helps you translate another language from English – when you don’t know English….

So this is where I am at: looking at my character and where they start their journey – what is the one thing they need to change to help them achieve their goals. It’s a tough one but a good question to ask, and a great place to start 🙂

First queries are out! And how I feel about that . . .

It’s never as simple as just being excited. I think Sue from this SNL skit sums up how I feel about my first round queries. So if you have two minutes, or even one, please watch this video. Sue has me in stitches. Why? She is one crazy woman. Excitement turns to panic attacks, overzealous joy and inappropriate reactions…And I think you may be able to relate to these emotions she suffers while excited.

So what am I most excited about? Is it the hope? Am I proud of myself for finding the courage? Am I seeking validation?

All of these. But I’m also excited about the prospect of finding someone who will appreciate my eccentric characters. And when a connection to my characters is a connection to me, finding someone who understands me is pretty exciting on its own 🙂

When nothing shocks us anymore

Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages, just Rock of Ages. . .  Is there anything that will shock us these days? And it’s not just the material available in books, it’s the reality we’re faced with as a world. Atrocities and destruction have always been present. But today, with media, we get a bird’s eye view. Are we becoming desensitised?

And, what does this mean to writers?

1) Your unique concept may be as unique as a teenager cuddling a One Direction pillow after a Facebook frenzy.

You’ve heard it all before: it’s been done before, and then again as a space opera where the MC is a 105 year old goat herder. And I know, your goat herder has been raised on the blood of sacrificial virgins, and their goat herder hasn’t. I’m not suggesting you change your concept or try to create a new one; I still believe in write what you want to write. But we need to accept that this ship has been sailing for a while. And the more writers there are, the more likely it is we are all going to drown in an abundance of overflowing ideas as we hug each other for safety and support rather than grab the damn life raft.

Which brings me to:

2) Selling yourself – with clothes on/off depending on whether you like to write in the nude.

The writing community is so supportive, but we have to accept the reality that we have to work hard to differentiate ourselves. Maybe it’s important to clarify that we can do this with each other rather than in spite of each other. Whether it’s a twitter contest, a standout query or a title that hits the spot. You might have to sell your book as ‘Honey I Blew Up The Kid’ meets ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer.’ And although you’ve almost run out of words for a tweet, you’re creating a unique idea that might have people thinking, “How much money would you have to pay Buffy to kiss Rick Moranis?”

3) Characters you love vs characters you could take or leave, or leave for dead.

I’ve heard that for a death to make impact, you have to invest in that character as a reader. But how about investing in the character that’s left standing? The MC’s mother dies after years of toiling and trouble. Make that double! And to feel empathy for that MC, you want to be thinking, “I want to be here to see how he/she get through this,” not, ” Why the hell wasn’t it them!”

4) Building up suspense: charge for the milk and they may want the whole cow, too.

This one has been the latest eye-opening addition to my revelations repertoire. Being a lover of urban fantasy, I’m always conscious of getting to the action. Get to those reveals, get people interested in your concept. But how about the get-people-hooked-by-suggesting-something-and-hinting-at-this-and-that-and-revealing-at-the-end strategy. It looks long and cumbersome, but trust me that counts as one word when you’re pitching, but it might be that we need to work harder on suspense and less on the action. Look at ‘Flowers in the Attic.’ How long did we get dragged through the mothers despicable behaviour, wondering whether she could possibly be that evil? We were all on that journey, knew there was something going on. But we all keep watching, waiting for the reveal.

So, we may have to work harder, but isn’t that generally what makes us more proud of what we do? And doesn’t that also translate in our work?

How do you take your protagonist? Grump, lump or shrew?

shrew

It’s been a couple of crazy weeks. I feel like I’m going crazy because, looking back, I don’t know what has taken up all my time. A voice whispers,” Or what you’ve achieved.” Maybe I am going crazy; I swear I’m hearing voices. Move along or I will start singing the first line of a song which my daughter will repeat over and over again, ten times louder than humanly possible. It’s your choice. I might even come with you.

I thought I’d take a break from the topic of book submissions. Now, you say it. Take a break from your book submissions. Thank you; I needed that push. If I had continued with book two and forged on – and not been discouraged by my fourth rejection – I would have written almost 3/4 of book two. That just goes to show how much time it takes to sell a book. That’s a fun fact that certainly helped me sleep last night. I’m really glad I did the math. Math is bad.

Crazy. Normally, it’s just the way I like it. I mean, of course all my characters are based on Disney characters…. You mean the secondary, insane ones, right? No? Oh, well not so much…

It surprises me when I read secondary characters who intrigue me more than the protagonist. Why is the primary character more neutral when you know the author has it in them to spice up the pages with more colourful characters? Is it intentional?

I can be reading a scene  with my favourite secondary character who is all wit and grit, and they leave. No!!! Wait! Come back! Don’t leave me with this person! We don’t have anything to talk about. It’s like me in a room full of…anybodies!

Why can’t our MC have the characteristics of those secondary? Is it because they have more impact, the less we see of them? Quality vs quantity.

I know that we make secondary colours by mixing primary colours. Is this why? We have a greater range of colours to play with, if we stick to drawing from primary colours?

In my personal experience, as a reader of first-person pov’s, if you don’t connect with the MC,  there is nowhere to hide. If you read a striking, over-bearing, sassy loud mouth, then there is a greater risk of the reader saying – Woah, that is way too much. Where’s the exit? There is none? No matter, I’ll just punch through this wall.

So, this is your shrew. You touch her politely on the arm to ask if she has the time,  and she smashes your face in for the audacity. And sometimes, if the author isn’t careful, it feels like you’re reading the book in CAPS LOCK. Writing in Caps is a sure-fire way of getting up people’s noses. I love a bit of fire, me, but I need a little grump, too: sarcastic, sardonic and dry.  A grew ( grump-shrew), if you will. I think there is a main cartoon character called Gru. Not Disney though, so I’m still on track with the comparisons.

Who is the lump? There is no lump; it just worked with my title  – rhyming with ‘one lump or two’. I have given many 5 star ratings for books headlining neutral characters who come across as quiet and submissive: a nice, unassuming character who goes with the flow. The only grievance I have is when they suddenly act of character and become all ‘chinny’ ( imagine Keira Knightley becoming indignant), and I wonder how they suddenly became so feisty.

For me, I like my protagonists feisty, dry and consistent. A grew. You?