Writing is Writing, Right?

That's me, banging my head against my desk.

That’s me, banging my head against my desk.

The great agent search of 2015 continues. This has me occupied by stupendously fascinating things like query letters, cover letters, editing, formatting and the most gloriously horrible, the synopsis. Necessary? Yes. A true joy and epic pleasure to craft? Not really.

In the midst of all this awesomeness, I also write for two newsletters. That gives me some nonfiction to work on, something that takes a different mindset to craft and edit, something short and with a much quicker payoff than the illustrious novel. I like writing them, even though sometimes it takes me a while to get started. Once I get in the zone, I enjoy it. I like the words, the tone, the relative speed with which these articles are written, edited and sent off into the world. I also get paid, always a happy circumstance. I should be pretty happy with all of this writing excitement going on in my life. It’s what I’ve been working toward for a very long time – the life of an actual writer and I’m pretty close to having that.

There’s a whiteboard on the wall in my office. I list the steps I’m currently taking to get my novel published and I adjust it as I move along, adding things, erasing them, modifying them, it helps keep me organized. One of the things on that list is ‘next writing project’. It’s the last thing, all tucked away on the bottom, but increasingly in my brain it’s the first thing. Next writing project isn’t all that specific, it could be a newsletter, an article, or one of the million short stories I have that I should really polish and send out. That’s not what it means though, it’s code for ‘start new novel’.

I worked on the last one for five years and it’s done and being submitted for the moment. You would think I would be happy, relieved, overjoyed to have that off of my plate for a while and for about five seconds I really, truly was. I made the decision to specifically not start another novel right away so that I could focus on getting the last one published. I promised myself I would wait until I had all the pieces of my proposal complete at least, the query, the cover letter, the synopsis, my first fifty pages, the manuscript and now I’m pretty much there, close, but not quite.

I’m getting twitchy. I miss my novel. My mind starts to wander and I think about it, the characters, the setting, the days, whole days, not eating, barely aware of the world around me when I was writing it, living it, breathing it, eating it, sleeping it, writing it, crafting it, loving it. It was terrible. For five years I accomplished absolutely nothing. I didn’t clean, was a terrible wife, friend, daughter, person, I was lost in the novel, lost to it and I loved every second of it.

My days are numbered. I don’t know how much longer I can hold out. I’m like a junky and I can’t wait to slip back into a reality of my own creation, a bubble around my desk, the zombie-like daily existence of the consumed writer working on a novel. There’s probably a name for this psychological condition, and that’s okay, I have it, I love it and I want it. Don’t cure me. Soon, I keep telling myself, looking at the whiteboard, my gaze always drawn to the last item on the list, soon.

The Depth of His Avarice was Spectacular

I heard two words recently that I haven’t heard in a long time. There’s nothing really extraordinary about that, but I heard both of them several times from different sources which struck me as a little odd. So I’m taking a hint from the universe and giving these overlooked words a moment in the sun.

Forgotten Word #1  Spectacular

adjective – unusual to a striking degree – noun – an elaborate show or display, also, spectacularly.*

Now I’m going to try to work this word into my regular vocabulary. How about something like, “Wow, the fact that the temperature is above zero is really great. I don’t know what that weird yellowy orange ball in the sky is because I haven’t seen it for so long, but the heat from it is spectacular.”

See how easy that is?

Forgotten Word #2 Avarice

greedy, too great a desire to have wealth; greed for riches.*

Okay this one is a little harder. “When I was young I was full of avarice, but now I know there are much more important things in life than money.” Bam! I love this game.

Everyone has a limited vocabulary, no matter how extensive and most people use the same few words over and over again (use the ‘find’ feature in Word if you don’t believe me, it’s really sad) so it’s hard to remember just how many words are out there for your free use and enjoyment. I don’t think you’re ever lost for words, but you might not have found the right one yet.

*Both definitions for these great words were taken from Webster’s New World Dictionary. The actual physical book one that weights twenty pounds. I got a little excited using it, truth be told. Screw you, internet!

Remember this bad boy?

Remember this bad boy?

Query Me Done

The great query letter saga of 2015 continues! Sick of reading about my query letter yet? Me too. Hopefully this will be the last I need to think about it for at least a little while.

Unlike last time, this draft did not spontaneously start to suck, so I went ahead and sent it to Writer’s Digest 2nd Draft service. I kept telling myself I spent about five years on the book, the very least I could do was spend $39.99 (US, damn you people) on the letter with which I would attempt to sell that book. Was it worth it? Why yes, yes it was.

I heard back from my critiquer within a few days, a fantasy author with a long list of publications, who said he would have it back to me in about a week. I think it ended up being about ten days, which I thought was a pretty quick turn around. I got a page of comments in return.

In spite of all my complaining about query letters these last few posts, I should say that I was pretty happy with the one that I finally sent in and guess what? So was my critiquer. Hard work actually paying off?  What the…

This critique for me didn’t so much critique as confirm what I hoped, that my letter didn’t suck. He said it was witty, well-written, confidently persuasive and made him think of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. This is frigging good news because the novel I wrote should make people think of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Phew!

One criticism he did make was that I don’t give any indication of the setting and that’s a true story, I don’t. So there I was, beaming, glowing from this hard-won query battle, only to be slammed by setting. That’s okay, I thought, I can work that in somewhere.

I revise things the only way I know how; by rereading them twenty thousand times until my eyes are dry and bleeding and I find the one word or sentence that bothers me in some fashion, a weak link that hints subtly at the need for a change. I set about this noble mission and failed. I read the query until it blurred on the page, then I read it some more, then I read it out loud. Where, WHERE? Where can I indicate setting, grahhhh!

My best answer after about a week of this was helpfully, nowhere. Fantastic. I called some of my writer friends to help me. No luck there either, they liked my letter the way it was. Thwarted again, I called my mom. We spent about two hours with the letter and ended up with the same conclusion – there was nowhere.

That of course, is not true. There are plenty of places, but to do so seems to mess with the flow of the letter, send a wallop to its mojo. Final solution? Ignore expert advice that I paid for. Precious, isn’t it?

So that’s exactly what I did. I left the letter the way it was and even sent it out to the first three agents on my list. Only time will tell whether that was a good idea or not. Even though I did not take the advice, the critique was still well worth it to me. He got everything out of the letter that I hoped he would, now I just hope that an agent does too.



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