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 🙂

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Personalising Queries

So I’ve been hounding my CP’s lately about personalising queries. I spend a fair amount of time researching agents to see if they are a good fit for my MS. Sometimes, I find agent interviews that help me understand what they are after and can mention these at the start of my query. But often, when I look at successful queries online, they get straight to the point.

And then when I do find a compelling reason, like they are after a strong female protagonist, I worry that I’m sounding too arrogant. Oh, really, Lorelle? Well we will be the judge of that…So should we be limiting our opening sentence to include books they currently represent? But even then, we have to be careful that we aren’t insinuating that ours will compare.

So there is a fine line between gaining the edge and falling over it, and I’d love to know what writers think about personalising a slush-pile query.

Do you have success without it? Do you find you have a template that is successful and adaptable to most agents for that first sentence?

I don’t have a problem diving straight in, but you do hear that agents are wary of a query that looks like it has been sent to 50 agents at once.

Of course, I use the agent’s name in the salutation, but is that, as well as meeting submission guidelines with sample pages etc, enough? Or in this day and age of quick and accessible communication, is brevity beauty rather than beast?

When writers edit – why we keep missing errors

I was pretty harsh on hindsight about 9 months ago in one of my posts. I might have mentioned the word hindsight alongside words like acid, fire and brimstone. I may have also likened it to a pointy-edged object. But I’ve grown lately, and I’ve come to understand that there are reasons I miss editing errors the 1st, 10th and even 40th time around.

I think it has something to do with my capacity to hold new information. Now writing veterans don’t have the same learning curve as I, but there are probably still moments where they fly over an error because they can write without having to be so conscious of mistakes. It’s the nervous performer who often succeeds.

But in my case, when my information funnel is full, I can only fit more in when the contents start filtering through the bottom. And the bottom of my funnel is pin sized and the information is like mud….

So I’m going to take it easy on myself this time around. I wanted to berate myself for sending off queries too early. But I had done my research, am continuing to research and am learning from research. So each round, I’m going to tweak – change the first paragraph of my MS, change my query blurb, take out unneccesary words and scrutinise further.

Why didn’t I do this first time? Well, I did – as far as I could tell. But with queries looming over my head and time dragging on from my final draft ( I needed that belly laugh) I had to send those queries out.

Have you even felt that?

And now that they are out, I feel like the bottom of my funnel is now marble sized, and with that extra room, I can see things I couldn’t before.

Surely, I’m not the only one…

 

 

 

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 🙂

Rebuilding myself as a writer: I’ve been thinking. And yes, it hurt a lot.

I’ve been quiet lately. Silence can be powerful, especially when you’re having a conversation and you want the other person to spill the beans. But with social media, silence will get you nowhere.

I’ve been rebuilding myself. And out of all the reconstructions, I would say this has been the most painful: I’ve never felt reverberations like this. The good news is that I’m back with a sturdier structure. So, next time there’s a tremor, it’s going to take more than people’s opinions to bring me down. I’ll also be able to take a lot more on without cracking.

I’ve been thinking. Looking at what’s hot and what’s on peoples wishlists makes me realise that no one will be hunting my MS. But do you write a book that everyone is after? Or can you transcend tropes and cliches and a glutted market if you write what you’ve always believed in?  You know what’s hot to me now? My book. Always will be, or I don’t think I’d bother selling it. Would an agent want a book that wouldn’t sell? No, and neither would I.

I’ve been going crazy. Wait a year? Write a new book? Start with a great hook and then write a book? By hook or freakin’ crook, just sell this book! You know I’m losing it when I go all Dr Seuss on you.. I’m going in circles, chasing a tail that will forever be out of reach. But crazy is what makes my book what it is. And there are other crazy people out there. And when I reach them with my writing, I hope they feel as though I’ve always been there. You don’t have to wear black, read books and loan friends to feel different. There’s a cliche right there that I want to break.

I’ve been learning. I’ve always stayed true to myself and haven’t felt the need to conform. But now I’m looking at this book and feeling like I shouldn’t stay away from new adult just because my book isn’t racy. I’m going to embrace what I was passionate about in the first place when I wasn’t trying to fit in a box, and I will make it work this way because I will have my passion behind it. And am I jumping on the new adult bandwagon? Nope. And if Mae isn’t jumping anyone, will that mean it won’t sell?

I don’t know, but I hear people wanting books that break through boundaries, not conform to them.

And I want to be that person.

 

 

 

Approaching agents online: is there a protocol?

If you have done your homework, you know that there is an accepted way of approaching an agent with your query. This process takes a long time ( in my opinion), and it is only once you have all the information in hand that you can look back and think, ‘Ah, I get it now. Why did this take me so long?’

Not only is there a structure for your query to follow, but there is an etiquette surrounding your approach, your response and your professionalism. No different than a resume for a job really. I mean, if you didn’t tick the right boxes and if you didn’t hold the experience the employee is after, they would pass you over for the job, right? And most times, they wouldn’t call you to tell you that, or to offer advice on where you went wrong. Submitting a query should be no different; it’s not as though we are approaching the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld…follow the rules, don’t be too chatty, get to the point, move to the side and wait.

With pitching competitions becoming so prevalent online, and writers following agents on twitter for information on the literary industry,  are we breaking down the barriers? Are literary agents more approachable? Do we have a more direct route to information?

I follow agents on twitter, and I believe I have only responded to one of their tweets. In my head, I changed my tweet a number of times, resulting in a much wittier response that would never be read. My clothing can’t withstand that sort of sweating pressure again. I could just tweet sans clothing, but I would prefer to withhold a response.

But could I approach them directly regarding query information? Regardless, this is what I would do after: Oh my God…Did I use the conjunction comma in the correct place? Do they prefer the oxford comma? DID I JUST SAY ‘SHOULD OF’ INSTEAD OF ‘SHOULD HAVE’??

In most cases, information on their querying process is available on websites, publishing sites, query sites. So should we feel comfortable in treating them as we would a fellow writer we follow, an author we follow?

 

How important are your writing credentials? When your bio is like b.o.

I like to think that I’m like dark chocolate.  A little bitter, but with too much cocoa, the bitterness is so overpowering you decide to stop eating it. So my bitterness level is like cocoa. Sometimes, I’m a 70% cocoa, sometimes I push the 90% boundary, and other times, I’m straight dark chocolate.

Today I’m straight dark chocolate. Maybe, 50% cocoa instead of your usual 45%; I do like to push the boundaries. But either way, in Lorelle terms, I’m standard dark chocolate.

I’ve been dissecting the query letter. After all my post-submission options, I’m hunting agents, which means I’m dissecting queries. Which takes months. So they deserve their own post. Not this one. Today I can say, and only today,  ‘Begone, Agents.’ – but don’t go too far. I will need you in about 345 days when I finish my blurb.

So I get to the Bio. And it hits me. What the fudge ( dark chocolate fudge of course) ! All this time, I’ve been glossing over the bio because it sits at the bottom and has none of me in it – no ‘ I ‘ in it – so my bio may as well be called a b.o. And yes, it stinks.

Credentials. How important are they? If I have none, should I pack up my little keyboard and let my cats use it as a bridge between two chairs? It becomes their new chair?

When you apply for a job, you take note of the work experience required and you only apply if you have the necessary credentials. Why would it be any different in the literary world?

In a job interview, when you are asked about your weaknesses, you know that you have to say something to the effect of: I’m too dedicated; I spend too much time perfecting my work; I have trouble delegating.  A weakness with that positive spin. You just know that you should answer in that way. There’s a technique, an understanding.

Publishers and agents can spot amateurs; there are red flags, apparently. If I’m entrenched in the industry, considered one of them, I would know not to apply without such credentials? And being entrenched as such, I would have been racking up such achievements without it being a box that needs to be ticked?

Should they say, you shouldn’t apply if you haven’t won or placed in a writing competition, or had some piece, however small, published? Or the fact that I need to ask, means that I shouldn’t apply?