Learning from Vacations and Evaluations

Thank you to everyone for hanging in there while I went off on my blogging vacation. I missed you all. I wish I could say I visited exotic lands, but in a way I did just because of the power of reading, writing, and imagination.

slow turtle crawl to publishing

Remember this guy? He’s my symbol for writing, revising, and publishing. But hey, at least he’s smiling?

Mostly, my blogging vacation gave me the chance to concentrate on my book. I’ve lost count of how many drafts it’s gone through but now it’s at least a few turtle steps closer. Three agents have evaluated the first few chapters. Their advice has been invaluable and I’ve kept their suggestions in mind while making revisions throughout the novel.

A few things I’ve learned along the way:

Everyone is going to have a different opinion. One agent loved certain paragraphs while another marked the same paragraphs up and changed them all around. This just shows there is no secret formula. There is no “best way” to write. There’s only writing and the love of writing.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. If someone suggests adding in a zombie, try throwing one in and see what happens. You can always change it back if it doesn’t work. (I haven’t gotten a zombie suggestion….yet. But some pretty crazy suggestions have come through and I’ve even used a few.)

Know the rules, but also know that if you follow all of the rules all of the time your writing just might end up sounding too stilted and devoid of life. It’s more important to develop your own writing style than to follow all the rules.

The more revisions a book goes through, the better it will be. At least that better be true. I thought my book was done years ago but that was only the beginning.

Even if your book never gets published, it’s still a success. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. It was a learning experience and I had a lot of fun along the way.

Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t go insane. I have a sneaking suspicion that one has to do with the other.

Have fun. If you’re not having fun while writing and revising and revising, try reading for a while. Reading can only help and it’s a chance to get away from it all while visiting that exotic land.

How was your summer (or winter)? Do you agree or disagree with any of this? Any advice to add?

So You Wrote a Novel? Now the Real Work Begins!

Writing fiction has never felt like work to me. It gives my mind the chance to wander and play. So if writing fiction is like a recess, then query submissions are the exams.

Anyone who can write a novel should be able to write an exciting query letter, right? I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s the pressure of exam time. Maybe it’s harder to find those perfect words when they’re limited to just a few. Still, it’s something we have to do if we want to traditionally publish our books and find the perfect agent.

Finding the right words for a query letter can be as difficult as capturing a butterfly. Yet, they are all around us.

Finding the right words for a query letter can be as difficult as capturing a butterfly. Yet, they are all around us.

There are a lot of websites out there filled with advice on querying. Nathan Bransford is one of the best for general advice. Query Shark is a fun way to learn how to catch an agent’s eye because Janet Reid, the agent behind the shark, publishes real, live query letters and rips them to shreds while showing what was done wrong (or sometimes, right).

One way to tackle the query letter is to come up with a few general sentences about the book before writing it. Then everything doesn’t have to be siphoned down afterwards and the resulting blurb can act as an outline.

When emailing query submissions, it’s best to email them to yourself first so that you’ll see if any formatting issues come up. Especially if you’re copying and pasting, some email programs may add double or triple lines or may not recognize paragraph breaks and of course these things only happen after the email is sent.

For anyone querying or researching agents, these publications by Agent Noah Lukeman are free on Kindle: How to Write a Great Query Letter: Insider Tips and Techniques for Success and How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent. After reading through those and other publications, stalking the above websites, and attending a query letter writing class during a recent writer’s conference, I just might be able to find those magic words. Maybe.

Traditionally publishing a novel is a slow process. Ask any turtle.

Traditionally publishing a novel is a slow process. Ask any turtle.

Have you found the magic words to describe your novel? What’s the best querying advice you’ve received? What has the querying stage been like for you?