Category Archives: Id

A Matter of Queries and Representation

What a week and a half it’s been!

I apologize in advance for any meandering, poor spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors you may find in this post. I don’t sleep well on a normal day (what is a normal day anyway?). The past 10 days my abilities to ward off restful sleep have been exceptional. This is a superpower you do NOT want.

Before I get into my big news (and it’s big, let me tell you, it’s BIG), let me give you a bit of background.

I don’t query randomly. Every single agent that I’ve ever queried is someone that I genuinely think would be a great fit for both my writing and, more importantly, me. That’s of course all based on the limited information I can gather by Googling, reading interviews, stalking on Twitter, and chatting them up.

There are a LOT of fantastic agents out there, of all stripes (and spots, and paisley, and I suppose houndstooth…).

That said, everything has to click in both directions. I have enough rejections from those same agents citing “wonderful writing/world building/characters/other words describing stories” but they just didn’t “make the connection” (or some variant thereof) to wallpaper my office and some surrounding surfaces.

They came fast and fairly consistently at first. I’d query, and then receive a rejection the next day or week.

I went back and rewrote my base query letter (I tweaked it a little for every agent). Responses went from generic forms to personalized responses (not all of them, but some). I even had a few requests for partial submissions.

Following that path I continue to tweak and tinker my query, all the while continuing to get further input on CROW’S BLOOD from my awesome Alpha/Beta Readers (including my wonderful wife, who put up with so MANY drafts) and Critique Partners (Colten,
Rachel, and Clare) and worked to make it better.

I entered CROW’S BLOOD in contests. You know the best part about contests? The community and support that comes out of them. They’re a fixed point. Everyone entering is (in theory) at the same point of their writing process and/or career as you are. They know what you’re going through, they’re doing it too.

Renee Ahdieh chose to mentor me in Brenda Drake‘s Pitch Wars. With her helpful pokes and prods I polished CROW’S BLOOD even further. Trimming out a few scenes that were so necessary in my head (I’d done so much world building to support them!) that weren’t actually needed in the book. She’s also a master at spotting my Shatner Commas and teaching me to identify them as well (I’ve removed 3 from this paragraph alone).

Last week I got wind of an agent I really liked reading my full… MY FULL!!! Excitement warred with dread. What if he didn’t like it? What if I didn’t stick the landing? I wanted to scream (politely) “If you find anything drastic, I’ll fix it!”. But I didn’t. Because I am a professional! (stop laughing!)

I waited, and slept poorly, and waited.

Thursday was a normal day (there’s that “normal” word again). Things teetered on the edge of going oh-so-perfectly and/or blowing up spectacularly at my day job. I was packing up to go home when my phone sounded the “email in the writing mailbox” notification (it doesn’t say that, but it is distinctive).

It was an Offer of Representation! He wanted to have “The Call”.

I hyperventilated for the first (and hopefully last) time in my life. I had an offer! From an agent!!! I remember thinking “Ok I need to get my head on straight before I reply so I don’t come off as a complete idiot…” I barely remember the drive home.

After dinner (I have no idea what, or if, I ate) I painstakingly crafted my reply. It took me 35 minutes to write and edit that email.

“I’d love to chat.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that was about the level of awesome I was functioning at). We scheduled for the next morning.

The call was awesome. I acted like a complete noob while trying to be all professional and cool. The agent in question handled the situation like I was a sane and perfectly functioning adult.

He answered all of my questions and asked a few of his own (which I think/hope I answered).  I let him know I had some other Fulls out and needed a week to get those settled before I signed (because it’s the right thing to do), which he was completely cool with. We ended the call, and I sat there, stunned, for a good 30 minutes before reaching out to the other agents with my full.

Here we are, a week after that call. I’ve badgered several agents with questions and clarifications, and I’ve communicated and settled everything with each and every agent that had my full, a partial, or even a query. I won’t go into details on all of that here, they’re not the point.

Today, I’m proud/pleased/excited to say:

I am now represented by Leon Husock of the L. Perkins Agency!

P.S. Leon said to save some of my celebratory antics for when we sell CROW’S BLOOD.
To which I say:
Leon, this is nothing. When that happens, the world won’t know what hit it!

I’m going to sleep now.

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Filed under Agent, Alpha Readers, BookB, Critique, Ego, family, Feedback, Grammar/Spelling, Id, Motivation, Query, Research, Revision, Validation

I Refuse to Aspire Any Longer

Time for an untimely blog post (because that’s what I do lately when I’m in the throes of writing). This will hopefully be a short one (or not, depends on whether or not I get wind-baggy. The fact that this is the second parentheses in as many sentences does not bode well for that).

I’ve unceremoniously obliterated the word “Aspiring” from this blog’s title. I’ve had enough. I refuse to “aspire” to be a writer any more. I’ve spent the better part of 4 years… that’s right…
FOUR… 
YEARS…
…”aspiring” to be a writer.

I’ve written a longer-than-novel length work. Re-written it from the ground up with a new main character and a tighter plot. Revised that 6 times and pared it down. Polished it. Had it Critiqued. Re-polished it. Queried it. Received a mountain of rejections. Received more than a few requests for more pages. I’ve even sent out a few full manuscripts when they were requested. I’ve received rejections on those.

More than that, I’ve written other stuff. I have outlines and “voice/character” vignettes written for four more books. I’ve written 45,000 words on one of them and 16,000 words on another. All while “aspiring” to be a writer.

Well, I quit. I’m done. No more. This “aspiring writer” thing is for chumps and I’m not going to play that game. I’m taking that ball and going home.

 I have better things to do with my time.

Like being an actual writer. Lets get down to the point of the matter. I haven’t been “aspiring” to be a writer since that first time I wrote “the end” (all in lower case, just like that) at the end of a ~140,000 word manuscript. It didn’t have to be that long (it’s now ~91,000 words), but it was. And I made it start to finish (not necessarily in that order).

So it’s time I got honest, not just with you, fair readers (few as you are, you’re important enough to be honest with), but also to myself. I’m not “aspiring” to be a writer any more. That’s not a label I can hide behind whenever someone doesn’t take my writing seriously. Playing off it as some sort of self-effacing joke.

It doesn’t matter that I’m not published (yet!). It doesn’t matter that I don’t have an agent (yet!).

I take my writing very seriously. This is not a hobby for me (and it’s fine if it is for other people). I will continue down this path, working to improve my craft.

I am a writer. I don’t have time to aspire.

– Alex

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Filed under Ego, Id, Motivation, Query

The Writer’s Voice 2014

The inimitable Brenda Drake is running another contest called The Writer’s VoiceI entered the Rafflecopter. I sang to it. And I got selected.

Without further ado, here’s my entry:

Query

Dear Writer’s Voice,
Ren is the best thief in the walled realm of Lenmar. Which is no small feat when everyone from the queen to the lowliest peasant has some level of magical ability—everyone except Ren, that is.
Instead, Ren has the rare ability to identify the kind of magic wielded by others. Given his chosen profession, this should be a boon . . . especially since everything worth stealing is protected by spells and bindings. 
Yet, he’d trade it in a heartbeat to be normal.
When one of the realm’s most powerful noblewomen is murdered in ritualistic fashion and no trace of the killer’s magic can be found, Ren becomes the prime suspect. Hunted by magic-eating Inquisitors and the Captain of the Royal Guard, Ren’s life becomes one of flight and fear in a battle to prove his innocence.
If Ren wants to clear his name and protect the people he cares about, he’ll have to catch the real killer. To do that, he needs to pull one more high-stakes heist—
And steal the proof he needs from the very people who want to catch him.
Complete at 90,000 words, CROW’S BLOOD is a Fantasy Thriller in the vein of Robin Hood. With dementors. It is a standalone with series potential.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely,

Alex Pierce
First 250 Words

A sharp crack echoed in the silence. Ren winced. Without special tools or a talent for Fire to heat the lead around the pane, breaking in this way couldn’t be done quietly. He had neither, and that much heat might set off the binding sigils and raise the alarm. Besides, it seemed louder than it actually was. He’d tested.
He lifted the segment of colored glass and settled it to one side, leaving a gap a scene depicting the Goddess and her four Scions holding the Adversary at bay. No hordes of guards or swarms of librarians boiled out of the hole. So far, so good.
A shaft of the Other’s pale moonlight lit a small circle on the intricate mosaic near the center of the floor far below. 
To Ren, it said something about the Praetorian Order. They lavishly decorated their inner sanctum—where select few ever went—while leaving their public libraries grim and barren. Stealing from them was less than they deserved.
He had a job to do. 
The silken black rope uncoiled into the opening with a whisper. Ren swept his satchel so it hung behind him and sprung into the gap, dropping along the rope’s length. 
He ignored the butterflies in his stomach and their vain attempt at flapping to slow his descent. Catching the rope at the last possible moment, Ren guided it with his hands and wrapped his legs around it, halting his free-fall.
Righting himself, Ren touched down into the silence with a flourish and a bow.

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Filed under Contest, Ego, Feedback, Id, Motivation

NaNoWriMo 2013 Kickoff

50,000 words in 30 days. Fifty-Thousand words!!!! In THIRTY days! That’s a hard thing to type without throwing in some expletives. It makes me want to go all Sam L. Jackson.

November is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo if you need a short form that makes people look at you funny). The deal is, you have to write 50,000 new words (minimum length for a work to be considered a “novel”) within the confines of the month of November. I’ve “won” 2 years in a row and I intend to win a 3rd, so I’m going to be sticking my little NaNo progress tracker over at the right and updating it as I go.

This year has some significance in that I’m starting a new project AFTER completing a full novel. So I’m writing something completely fresh that’s really only been bouncing around in my brain-pan for a few months. It’s going to suck! And that’s OK because first drafts always do for me.

You see… I’m somewhat terrified by the whole “starting from scratch” thing. Sure, I have an outline (a very light one) and characters (the core at least), but I both LOVE and HATE this part of writing. The blank page. The uncertain future of the story. It fills me with quickly alternating (almost to the point of oscillation) high levels of excitement and dread.

I can do ANYTHING with this story! What if I SCREW it up? This idea is so AWESOME! What is it DERIVATIVE of? Oh I’ve got this FANTASTIC twist. How the HELL am  I going to pull it off?

Truth be told, to begin to even quiet those feelings (they NEVER go away) I need something to work with. I’ve found my comfort zone, and it’s much closer to the revision end of the spectrum than the writing end.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE telling stories and making things up. Plotting, characters, worlds, I love all of it. I just like telling them well (and I do hope I do).

So today I embark on NaNoWriMo 2013, with a story in my head and a knot in my stomach. What are YOU doing for your November?

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Filed under deadlines, Ego, Id, Motivation, NaNoWriMo, Outline Writing, Revision, Word Count

Circling, Spinning, Twisting, Turning.

And that’s just my stomach!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks.

You see, I finished CROW’S BLOOD and started querying, which is no small task on it’s own.

Researching Agents:
There are plenty of websites (such as QueryTracker) to find out the basics about agents, what they represent, who they represent, what their query guidelines are, etc. But the best source is always going to be the agent’s website. It’s maintained by them (or someone on staff) and they direct what goes onto it. It also doesn’t hurt to dig through their trash (I’m kidding, don’t dig through their trash!).

It goes beyond just finding the agents that represent what you want to publish though. It’s important to find an agent that fits YOU. They don’t represent your book (ok, some do), the best agents (in my opinion) represent their authors and their authors’ careers.

On Querying:
It’s incredible how much time agonizing over and rewriting a single sentence in your query letter can be. I mean, it has to be perfect. Take that and multiply it by the number of personalized sentences, then the number of agents I queried and that’s a LOT of time!

Then there’s the matter of following submission guidelines. Beyond the query letter itself, and doing research on what the agents had for breakfast the last six days running (research is important) following the submission guidelines is key. If you don’t submit your query, pages, and/or synopsis to the agent you’ve carefully selected in the exact method (e-mail with or without attachments, font, spacing, size, content, specific data points, etc.) that they prefer you could have the next best-seller and they won’t even read it!

After you’ve queried you get rejections. They’re guaranteed. For the agents it’s a subjective thing, not every book is perfect for every agent. They have to be excited enough to invest in it and “sell” it to editors.

If you don’t get rejections (yay!) you might get requests. Requests can take a few different forms (usually in the following order):

  • Partial Requests: A request for a set number of pages or chapters
  • Full Requests: They want the whole thing
  • You might also get… nothing. The silence of no response is maddening!

Revise and Resubmit Requests:
If the agent likes your Full they might send an R&R. A Revise and Resubmit means they’re excited about it, but it has a few problems. It’s an opportunity for them to let the writer know that, while at the same time see how the writer takes criticism and direction as well as their work ethic.

Now, I’ve never made it so far as an R&R (yet), but it’s my opinion (and my understanding from talking to others who have been there) that you don’t have to just go along with it. If you have reasons for some things in your story, you can stick to your guns (or swords, or spells, or magical necromantic chipmunks, or whatever).

Could pushing back against changes hurt your chances with an agent? It could, but that doesn’t mean it will. One of the key points of the whole query process is to find an agent that you can work with. There’s going to be points of disagreement (unless you’re both robots trying to STEAL MY JOB!!!). It’s the points of disagreement and how you handle them that’s key.

What Else?
So, aside from going through the query grind and getting started on a Rejection Letter wallpaper, what have I been doing?

  • High-level outlining the sequel to CROW’S BLOOD
  • Brainstorming ideas and starting to outline them. 
    • I’m sitting on 6 full book ideas at the moment with 2 of them pushing to the forefront.
  • Writing vignettes on those ideas to get a feel for the characters.
  • Slowly working my way through 2 of my CPs latest drafts.
  • Reading (for fun)

So… What have YOU been doing?

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Filed under BookB, Ego, Feedback, Id, Learning, Outline Writing, Query

Doing My Homework

I have 3 full critiques back on CROW’S BLOOD, for which I must give heartfelt “Thank you!” to my Epic Critique Partners: Colton Hibbs, Clare Mitchell, and Rachel Russell.

Not only did each of you trudge your way through my last revision, you took the time and effort to provide me with detailed and insightful criticism. Some of it is so obvious now that you’ve pointed it out that I don’t know how I didn’t get it right the first time. Your notes will make my work better (if I’m up to the task), and that’s awesome!

All of them (and the partial Critique I received from the lovely and talented Kat Ellis) highlighted one pretty major problem: It takes far too long to connect with my main character Flynn (and even longer in some cases to like him at any level). As he’s the main POV, that’s… awful.

Here’s the thing: I know these characters, every one of them. You can ask me a question and I can quickly tell you how each one would answer it. What sort of things they would like and dislike. How they would react under certain circumstances. I can even describe the mannerisms, idioms, and rhythms of their speech. From my main character, down the the smallest side character, (yes, even to the one guard that sucker punches my POV character).

I can’t tell you what they had for breakfast (unless it’s relevant), but I can get inside their heads if the need arises.  I didn’t do this by building out detailed character sheets or writing throw-away scenes with them (though I did that for some more prominent characters).

It’s just something I do whenever a new character is created. I put myself in their shoes/boots/socks/sandals and work my way through them. What motivates them. What are their goals in life. It usually comes pretty quickly.

Problem is: It wasn’t coming across on the page. So what was wrong?

That’s where the homework came in. I’ve spent the better part of my evenings reading, and doing exercises from a workbook on Deep POV, while it’s not perfect, and I don’t necessarily agree with everything in there. It’s written by a professional who certainly seems to know what they’re doing (at least considerably better than I do).

The best part is the exercises. I’ve read plenty of websites describing and giving examples of how to give good character, and great POV, but none of them went so far as to give relevant exercises in a work-book format. Something about it all just “clicked” (I think).

So I went through that workbook (it’s only 60 or so pages), did all the exercises, and took a look at my own Work In Progress. What. A. Mess. I have “tells” everywhere (something I tried desperately to avoid and clean up last pass), narrative separation/distance, and my POV character does indeed seem flat and voiceless (he’s NOT like that in my head). I have my work cut out for me to reel this sucker in to a deep POV.

Needless to say, it’s going to take a while for me to hit my stride on this revision pass, and I may reach out to some of my CPs earlier on (if they’re amenable to looking over some small chunks) to see if I’m on the right track, or ruining what good I had. I’ve spent most of this evening (my first night back at revising my own work) and have only worked through the first 5 or 6 paragraphs.

Like I said, slow going. But I’m trying to be careful with my new powers, to ensure that I employ them for the forces of good.

As for copy edits, and Canadian (not “British”) spelling vs. American spelling, and my blatant and continued misuse of commas… I’ll get to them, once I’ve sorted out my critical character issues.

– Alex

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Filed under Alpha Readers, BookB, Character, Critique, Editor, Ego, Grammar/Spelling, Id, Learning, Revision, Viewpoint, Voice

Once more, with feeling!

Ahem. So, staying in character, I’ve been neglecting my blog. For a while there I was easily dropping 3 updates a week. It’s been nearly a month since my last update.

So a quick (hahaha, no, not really that quick) rundown of what’s been so damned important that I haven’t had time to even drop a few lines here.
I have a Critique Partner, the wonderful and insightful Colten Hibbs, who was kind and gracious enough to let me into his beautifully realized and deep faerie tale world. I made it my first priority, above even my own writing, to read through his draft, and provide him with meaningful feedback (which I hope I’ve done). He’s now hard at work on his next draft, and based on our discussions, I can’t wait to see this next one.
Colten was amazing enough to give me a marked up copy of CROW’S BLOOD with loads of goodies and notes that are improving my writing ten-fold  (I hope).
Going through those notes I cheered (at the parts that were important to me that he just GOT), grimaced (at my own failings and some of the gunk he had to sift through), and had some incredibly awesome revelations. 
I have to share the biggest of those revelations with you.
One of the points that’s been brought to me repeatedly was that it takes too long to get attached to the MC (Main Character). Colten highlighted that he didn’t begin to feel even remotely attached to (and at points wasn’t even sure he liked) the MC until around Chapter 6!
That’s a death sentence for a book folks. That’s it! It’s over! 99% of readers will drop a book considerably faster than a bad habit if they’re not engaged and buying in to the MC by the end of Chapter 1. Clever blocking and world building can only get you so far.
New light was shed on this problem (which I had absolutely no idea how to fix, and maybe still don’t) when Colten pointed out that I have several Spot POV Chapters, where it’s the only Chapter you ever engage with that character, where I manage to do it right. They’re engaging and connect you with the character, in that single chapter.
I’d like to say I had a Eureka moment and got to run down the street in little more than a towel, but alas, it’s not that simple. But I had somewhere to start! It had been sitting there, right in front of me, for months… Critique Partners bring fresh eyes indeed.
I studied those chapters, making notes and everything. Then I studied them again. Then I studied them again. Ok, so that’s how I do it. Fantastic. 
Now why couldn’t I do it with my MC?
I, uh, don’t know. Except perhaps that I maybe have too much time to spend with my MC?
I spent the first week wrestling with Chapter 1. I wanted to add more insight into the MC without killing the pace (I like the pace I’ve set). I think I’ve achieved that, and I’ve since moved on, all the way up to Chapter 11, making little touches here and there, and giving a little bit more of the MC (also, making him a little more consistent).
My word count is shifting a bit (getting a little longer), but I’ll be ruthless in keeping it under 100,000.
Depending on where my other Critique Partners are in their read-throughs, I may ask them to go with this latest draft, or I’ll just sit on it until their feedback comes in, and parse theirs too, making any changes I feel warranted.
So that’s what I’ve been up to, and now that I’m back in the swing of the writing side of things, I’ll get back to updating my blog a little more often.

– Alex

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Filed under BookB, Character, Critique, Editor, Ego, Id, Learning, Revision, Voice, Word Count