Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Teen Speak

I've seen a few posts floating around the Internet about creating realistic teen dialogue. A teenager today (or ever except perhaps in the 19th century) would not say:

"Perhaps I shall accompany you to the shopping center."

She would say:

"Let's go the mall."

If you really want to know what teens are saying to each other, visit Texts from Last Night. The conversation is vile, rude, riddled with sex and binge drinking, but it is a true portrayal of the lives of young people. It certainly gives me some good ideas. What about you? Do you have other sources for realistic teen speak?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Power of a Period

I'm at work doing some data entry (not the most glorious aspect to marketing, but a necessity. You always have to prove that your hard work produces results.) and whoops - I missed a decimal point. Suddenly $10 turned into $1000. That's a big difference. Do you have 990 spare dollars lying around? I certainly don't.

It got me thinking of the importance of punctuation. Something seemingly so small and insignificant like a period, a comma or an exclamation point can give a sentence entirely new meaning, and turn the cost of a CD into a downpayment on a car.

As they say, the devil is in the details so slay the beast and pay attention to your punctuation, and feel free to point out my excessive use of commas in this post.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Things I have learned about queries

Below is a list of query tips I have gathered from agents. I am, of course, going to elaborate on each one, but I have bolded the list so you can skip past my comments if you would like to. I also apologize for not being able to give credit where it is due, but I have read so many query tips that I can't remember where I got each one.

1. Don't query too soon
Make sure your novel is in the best possible shape before sending out your queries. I know, it is exciting, you love your book and you want to get it out there so everyone can love it too, but there is a lot of competition out there, so you need to make yours stand above the rest by making it awesome.

2. Don't put "Imagine if..." in your query
Show don't tell. I don't have to give credit for this one because almost EVERY publishing professional has said it at one time or another. A good writer should be able to paint a picture so readers don't have to imagine.

3. Don't blast everyone at once
This is very important. I send mine in little groups at a time, testing alternate queries and making changes as I go. This is a process and the more you do it, the better you'll get. Besides if you send out one mass blast and everyone rejects you, than that novel is finished.

4. Keep your letter professional
There may be differing opinions on this one. I have seen succesful queries that are creative, witty, funny, etc., but I have received a better response from my letters that are straight up business letters, like a cover letter for a resume. Also, like a resume cover letter, I mention in the first line where I discovered said agent and why I am querying them.

5. Only query agents who represent your work
I have seen differing opinions on this one as well. I think Janet Reid said to query everyone - because you never know, but Nathan Bransford mentioned yesterday that he's experiencing a query deluge, and probably a good chunk of those are for titles he doesn't represent (although from his blog it appears he'll look at anything that tickles his fancy) But not all agents are the same. Best bet is to review their submission guidelines on their website and stick to them. I also wonder, as a querying author, if mine gets lost in the slush pile because agents are just so inundated with proposals. At my job, I have to filter through about 100+ emails of SPAM every day and I've often deleted a relevant email just because it is surrounded by junk. Do you want your email to be classified as junk?

6. Only query agents you want to work with
If you don't feel an agent will be a good match for you, don't query them. Enough said.

7. Don't respond to rejections with something nasty
I don't even know why I have to list this, but I see in a lot of Twitter feeds and blogs that agents still receive ridiculous things from authors: responses trying to change their minds, telling them how they're missing out on a best seller, etc., etc.. NO! The most important thing in business is networking and the first rule of networking is don't burn bridges. You don't want to say something in haste and get labelled as crazy writer, someone difficult to work with, someone unprofessional. Agents talk, and once something is in writing it can be sent from California to China with the click of a mouse. If you are really irked about something, go out with a friend (not associated with the publishing industry) and vent about it over a beer.

Okay, that's all for now, but if anyone has something to add or something to dispute, please feel free to post it in the comments.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Props to my Internet Allies

In my last post, I mentioned that I finished the book and now I'm in the hangover phase of editing (as Mary of kidlit.com calls it) I was starting to think that the book I once loved is total crap. I mean how many times can one use "scowl", "looked", and "smile" in one itsy bitsy novel? Apparently I can - a lot.

Last night I was almost to the point of throwing it in the trash and starting from scratch, but thank goodness hubby stopped me because it is good, it's just not great yet, and the painstaking editing will make it that much closer to excellent.

I don't think I would survive this part of the novel writing process if it weren't for you, my Internet allies. You may not represent me (yet) but you certainly help me in my trials.

So thank you to Mary of kidlit.com for your excellent tips on revising, editing, developing characters and creating plot structure. I may not comment that often, but I am reading. (Good tip I read today: Change the font of your novel to read it from a new perspective)

Thank you Rachelle Gardner, for your brutal honesty and for reminding me that the journey will be tough, but I should keep plugging along. (I don't write Christian fiction, so you won't get my submission, but you're helping me improve it for your fellow agents)

Thank you Rejectionist, for posting all of the crappy submissions you get, making me feel better about my own. I may not be there yet, but at least I know I'm one step ahead of the others because I am NOT insane.

Thank you Nathan Bransford for keeping me up to date on all of the latest publishing news.

Thank you Kristin Nelson for clearing up some of the confusion about the publishing process and for your Friday funnies. (I did send you my query, but you were one of the first agents I sent it to, so it was terrible. That was before I knew better and I apologize)

Thank you Janet Reid for showing me what makes a BAD query, and for your recent post on manuscript requests. It made me depressed to know that I have less than a 2% chance of publication with every manuscript request, but good to know that the odds of getting a manuscript request are even less than that.

And thank you Michelle Wolfson for your many tweets, especially your #queryquotes.

I did not mention everyone on my list, but these are just the people on my mind today. Every blog I have linked on my page is an excellent resource for aspiring and seasoned writers. So pat yourselves on the back Internet friends. You may think you're just posting nonsense out into cyberspace, but people like me are reading it and using your words to preserve our sanity.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Year

Over my holiday break, I took a vacation from the Internet as well so I apologize that I have not updated my blog in a while. I did, however, finish the first draft of my second novel during this online hiatus, so I think I am going to try and make social networking avoidance one of my New Year's resolutions. It amazed me how much writing I got done when I wasn't wasting words on Twitter and Facebook.

My second goal is to get an Agent.

And my third is to shed the holiday pounds I gained. Gone are the days of performing a series of squats to squeeze into a pair of freshly washed jeans. I want to be able to slip right into them and be able to bend my knees once my body is tucked inside.

I fell pretty positive about achieving all of them, and I want to know what everyone else's resolutions are. (If you have any)