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 🙂

Critiques: The truth hurts, but it will gain you entry into the Feedback Protection Program

I made the decision a month ago to enlist professional assistance with my query.  I felt I was gathering conflicting feedback on all aspects of selling my MS, where the only certainty was confusion.

Over the past six months, I’ve been building my own understanding of the submission process, querying and pitching. I’m not going to lie: it’s been a tough six months. But it’s six months that I will never have to endure again. Of course, I’ll always be learning. But that learning curve, like a child introduced to the complexities of the English Language and school bullies, will never be so steep again.

I needed a gauge. A reference by which I could work from. Rewriting and rewinding and spinning and freakin’ cartwheeling ideas in my query was only costing me time on whine and money on wine.

But here’s the thing. Unless you’ve been round the block a few times and caught up with the cool kids for a smoke, you might be surprised at how your work is viewed objectively. It’s daunting. And demoralising. And yeah, I’ve swallowed the subjective angle to make myself feel better. But I needed to accept that there are aspects of my MS, query or synopsis that are confusing and need work.

So, just as an alcoholic has to admit  that they have a problem in order to progress, I needed to accept how far along I was in the process. And just like those brave alcoholics, I have my own support network: The Feedback Protection Program.  And without my honest critique partners who support me when I’m down, I would need a drink also.

So  initially, it set me back days. And after those days of WTFing, I realised it’s going to set me back months.  But if I’m lucky enough to get a partial or a full request, I don’t want there to be any surprises that I didn’t plant throughout the plot.

And that could set me back years.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Query Lesson Part One: hook and voice breakdown

And I mean breakdown as in, ‘Let’s break this down for everyone,’ not ‘Breakdown? Excuse me, who are you and how did you get into my house? Oh, you’re my husband? YOU THINK THAT MAKES IT OKAY!??’

I’ll try and make this as brief as possible. I’ve been practicing hard for this post. 75K words became a 1-2 page synopsis, a 150-word blurb, a 35-line logline, then a 140-character twitch ( my name for a twitter pitch. Fitting, don’t you think?)

And I’m going to post on this again after I’ve been querying agents for a while – process what I’ve learned. I hear you, though. If you’ve done all your research, there should be little to learn. Well, we know there’s a difference between a hook and a hook, just like there’s a difference between a happy ending and a happy ending. You know what I’m sayin’….

So we all know the basics. I’m not going to just hand over the curriculum, the same as I wouldn’t let you into my house until you’ve offered me a drink. You heard me correctly.

I’m going to offer a piece of advice that will have you curling your lip at the screen, rushing from the house through closed windows, and hissing while covering your eyes as though I’ve cracked a blind open and it’s vampire week in the editing process.

To get your hook on the right track, it might help to keep track of twitter and blog pitching competitions – even if you don’t compete. Why? It can really help with your hook. Monitoring the competitions really highlighted what my hook was lacking, why my concept, as awesome as I thought it was, will be overlooked: voice. And it might just be my ability to focus on information that I’m interested in and forgetting things like, ‘it’s time to pay the mortgage,’ but I think agents seem to appreciate ‘voice’. If you look at the hooks that do well, the twitches that get traction, they have this way of pulling you in with their voice. I’m in awe; I am still unable to compete as I should.

How do you get voice into that hook? Great question! I guess like when you sleep in past 6am and realise your kids are at your mum’s, you know when it’s not there.

So I finally have my hook with voice. And where does it go? Thank you to some great critiques, I know to sit it proudly up top, before my blurb to give a little taste of what’s to come. Because if I say my book has light humour and darkness, but the hook doesn’t reflect this, won’t we have to go back to rehashing the whole ‘show vs tell’ debate? Although I believe this may be one of those arguments where we all get ready to sit on one side of the see-saw and look at the other side waiting for someone brave enough to sit on the other side…