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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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,ย  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 do you make the most of Twitter?

It’s 6 months on from when I started my blog (or it might be 6 months; I’m too scared to actually check), and I thought it about time that I tackled Twitter. Then apologise for my aggressive behaviour…

I don’t blog unless inspiration hits me to the point I can’t sleep.ย  It should be at least once a week, right? But I have a dog that’s like a cat, and cats that are like dogs, so as you can see, I like to do things differently. It might stem from the fact I was born on the cusp of Leo and Cancer. I’m the astrological bad girl, writing a book on the cusp of YA and NA,ย  uf and pnr,ย  humorous and dark. But I also have a habit of falling off track and losing people with my tangents.

I’m back on track. With any of my blog posts, I find a more collaborative approach works better than an informative one. I show you what I’ve learned and you show me yours, and inevitably, I find myself off on another tangent, down the wrong freakin’ road… So we could call it the flounder approach. But I prefer to believe it looks a little more like the worm dance. A little more structured, but certainly has its up and down moments. Although at the start of my process, it feels a little like this:

Back on track. This time for sure…

I started using Twitter at the same time as I set up my blog, and after a few months, I found I just couldn’t keep up. I’d be worried about missing the feed for ten minutes, where yesterday’s news was about 10000 tweets ago. And when you feel you can’t keep up, there are those that slog on and might check the feed twice a day instead of twice a minute, and those who check twice a minute and give up.

I’m going to be upfront. I have been lacking in the tweeting area. I am one of those that can’t keep up. But I am not going to lie down and give up. I’ve taken a snap, which is what my daughter calls a short nap. I argue it should be called a shnap, and a snap should be a super nap, but if start talking about super naps, I’d never get her to have one.

So how do you make the most of Twitter when there are so many tweets and so many retweets and repeated tweets and repeated retweets? Two words: coffee and eyeballs. Two words: lists and notifications. Technically three words, but I find ‘and’ does not help me with Twitter organisation.

I have lists for bloggers, publishers, agents, and authors. I can go in, check the feed for those groups, and jump out. Is that wrong? Am being unfaithful to the 1000 people I am following? Who on earth could check all those tweets and eat?

And just a quick sidetip. You can unfollow those who don’t follow you back, or those who follow you to get your follow only to unfollow you. Confused? The program I use is called justunfollow. I lot less confusing than my explanation.

But who makes those lists and what is twitter etiquette? I might be old fashioned, but if someone follows me, I follow them. If they aren’t tweeting about my hot spots, then I probably wouldn’t put them on a list I can check all the time. But if they are tweeting about my hot spots, firstly, that sounds disturbing, but secondly, I would retweet them, put them on a list and add notifications for them. Hopefully they retweet me now and again.

There are a number of ways people will use Twitter to promote themselves and increase their following, but today, I’m interested in how you keep on top of all those followers: How do you make the most of Twitter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My New Years Revelation: I’m all or nothing, and I’m okay with that.

I hope you had a wonderful break ๐Ÿ™‚ There will be those of you that let all your hairs hang out, responding with, ‘What book?’ when asked what there is to cook, and there will be those scoffing at my first sentence saying, ‘Pfft. What break?’ Either way, we are who we are, and if we aren’t happy with the decisions that we make, then self-punishment will manifest in an excruciatingly painful way. Bless it ๐Ÿ™‚ There is no escape. You know it; I know it.

Even if I do relax, my break is never lacking in the stress department. In that little shop of horrors, I’m buying up tension like it will cure other drivers of the disorder that causes them to lose sight of their indicator. You can stress and relax? Yes, it’s a gift.

But this was not, for a change, book related. For the past three weeks, I have only spent time with my family or invested time in ridding the world of demons. Hey, I did say that I was pretty stressed; that’s a pretty important job.

Other than playing Diablo 3, which can loosely be considered inspiration for my series,ย  available hours have been spent reconnecting with my daughter and disconnecting with my son. Don’t judge me just yet; he is also ridding the world of.. something. Creativity maybe?

But my son and I do have a special connection, and it takes few words to cement our relationship. Five in fact: What level is your hunter?

My daughter, in comparison, requires validation of a very particular, specific nature. Very particular. Very specific. Detailed even… So, we talk about monster high dolls and ever after high dolls, and then I turn to my daughter and ask her what she wants to talk about. ๐Ÿ˜› Disclaimer: I have nothing against boys playing with dolls, I just couldn’t help myself.ย 

So, instead of spreading myself over the course of the day, getting little bits of everything done and grumbling in the process, I’ve been ridding the world of demons while simultaneously wooing my own little devil. I’m a confused, multitasker with split loyalties. ๐Ÿ™‚

But if that means I get nothing done writing wise,ย  at least I’m ‘all’ to them.

And I’m okay with that.

 

 

My Christmas Message

Everything’s crazy around Christmas and New Year, so rather than suggesting ways of trying to fit in your writing through crazy times or crazy writing through normal times, I’m going to suggest an alternative.

I’m not going to get into whether I’m religious, spiritual or whatnot.

Regardless of your beliefs, the message of this ‘retreat’ angel card is clear. I’ll even take out the preachy parts in case you prefer to just hear the message.

Spend some time alone in quiet thought.ย  Clear your mind, and focus on your truth and priorities.
Think of the mighty oak tree that grows in spurts and then rests.ย  It draws its nourishment from deep within the Earth, and takes its time before growing upward again.

It’s a simple message, but one that we often ignore.
So take some time my fellow writers, to relax and shut down. And don’t beat yourself, my mighty oak trees. There will be plenty of time to grow again.
Merry Christmas and thank you for your support in 2014 ๐Ÿ™‚

Twitter pitches gave me the pitching twitches

Have you ever seen stage make-up in the full day of light? On stage, with all the stripping lights, it looks fabulous. But when you see that same make-up on someone just walking around during the day, it’s confronting – too much. This is kind of like my introduction to twitter pitching. Pitches I believed too fantastical, too in-your-face, ended up being the life of the twitter party. In other circumstances the pitch might look out of place – like the party animal whose outlandish behaviourย  at a frat party is encouraged, but that same behaviour would be frowned upon should they turn up to a job interview wearing a beer-chugging hat. But are twitter pitches as one-dimensional as this? Or like the beer-chugging frat boy who calls his mummy on Sundays and ruffles the hair of his youngest niece, is there a depth and intensity that you never saw until you gave them more than a passing glance? Yes, of course ๐Ÿ™‚ Twitter pitching might have given me the pitching twitches, but it was a great sensation: it made me feel something again.

I loved the way my friend Jean would get all *shifty eyed* when we spoke about involving other people into the world of my book. Well now, not only am I giving the milk away for free, I’m throwing in a milking station and jean-short wearing cowboy – who likes to massage . . . It was sobering to throw my story in people’s faces 24 times in 12 hours and have people scan past it. It made me realise that there are a lot of great stories out there and that they sound a hell of a lot more interesting than mine. And it made me realise my hook is more just ‘slightly-bent’ and that it’s going to need some serious shaping to latch anyone with its curvy goodness. That can never be a bad thing ๐Ÿ™‚

I don’t want to get into what makes a great twitter pitch; people do this so much better than I. (Check them out one day. The ones I tried are #pitchMAS and #SFFpit, but there was #pitmad a few days prior ) I do have two opportunities with agents wanting to see my query, so that was pretty awesome. And after spending two months building my query and then moaning because I couldn’t send it out to agents this close to Christmas, it was nice to finally send those first two queries and have that feeling of hope resurface. Because isn’t that what keeps us going? As corny as hope is as a concept, I would rather have the possibility of rejection, than no possibility at all. It’s exciting – like when you know you shouldn’t call the love interest who shows little interest in you, and you know they won’t return your call. But don’t you just love that feeling in the pit of your belly that makes you feel alive?

 

 

Unclogging the blog: when less is more.

This is my favourite quote at the moment. It resonates with me for two reasons. One, I’ve been having trouble writing my blog, and two, I have been working on my 140 character pitch.

Last week, I tried for two hours to write on two different topics and ended going on so many tangents, ‘writing young adult at thirty-nine’ almost became, ‘writing young adult at forty.’

When I started this blog, it took me a week to decide that I was going to stick to my conversational, article writing style. Give people a message, take them on a journey from the beginning and wrap it all in a neat bow at the end so people could say, “Ah, so that’s where she was going with that.” What I’ve found, though, is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep this up. And on top of that, was I making this too complicated for myself?

I was a lot more active in the beginning with regards to scoping blogs and seeing what works, how people get comments and followers.

And what I found is this: Sometimes, people just say,” Hey, do you like stuff?

And people will say, “Omg I love stuff. Did you see stuff last week?”

Another, “Without stuff, I couldn’t breathe.”

And I’m thinking, “I don’t love stuff………………..I freakin’ love stuff!”

And there’s a bunch of people where you comment on their blog and they comment on yours, and at the end of the day, isn’t it nice when someone just comments on your blog?

So, do you like stuff? ๐Ÿ˜›