Category Archives: Motivation

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

Don’t Ever Stop!

So… This little thing called PitchWars happened. It’s what triggered this particular post, but it’s not what this post is about so I’ll cover it very briefly.

It’s a contest where writers submit their first ~250 words and a Query to the four mentors of their choice and hope to get selected. In short (because I’m rubbish at being brief) I was selected by the Awefantabulous Renee Ahdieh.

Renee is exactly what I want and more importantly need in a mentor. Her feedback has helped me add layers of depth to CROW’S BLOOD that I knew were missing, I just couldn’t see where. I’ve learned some of my pet phrases, identified some comma issues I have, and so much more, and I’ve exterminated them with prejudice.

Anyway!

Seven weeks later, our part in PitchWars wrapped on January 22nd as it went to the Agent Round. The first 250 words were posted with a 35 word pitch (here in case you’re interested), in hopes of Agents commenting and making requests.

It’s those requests that bring me to the point of this post. I had 0 requests. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Let me tell you a bit about how this little writer’s ego works: I’m a brash, cocky, confident bastard. Except when I’m not, which is often. The key is that I try not to let that side show to the world at large too much. The only person who sees that side of me most often (my wife) does a great job of propping me up so I can continue being the confident bastard that I am.

I’d be lying if I said getting zero requests didn’t sting. It cut pretty deep. Those are my words! Right there, with that zero looking me in the eye, I could have quit. Packed it all in and reclaimed my TV and video games. I could have given up the dream and driven my wonderful wife insane.

I could have listened to the mean voice in the back of my head that kept whispering “Zero, that’s how many people give a damn about your words. That’s what they’re worth. That’s what your worth. Give it up. Go home. Loser!

I’ve heard that voice before. That’s the voice that comes around any time I put myself out there, whether I’m public speaking, writing, tweeting, or posting on my blog. I don’t like that voice. I made the decision long ago not to listen to that voice. That voice is an asshole. The things it says aren’t true and are designed to cut us where it hurts the most. That voice is borne of fear.

We all have that voice. The difference between those who go on and those who fold isn’t a matter of skill, or worth, or ego. It’s a matter of will.

So here’s what I have to say, not only to those who didn’t get requests in PitchWars, but to those who have ever queried, or submitted, or done anything that brought around that voice:

Don’t. Ever. Stop.

Do what you love, whether it’s writing, drawing, dancing, singing, building life-size models of X-Wings out of Lego, whatever it is, as long as you love it (and it doesn’t hurt anything).

As for PitchWars… Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! I’ve learned so much, and met so many wonderful, dedicated, and helpful people.

Until next time, I’m going to go write and revise, because that’s what I do, and I love doing it.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.” – The Bene Gesserit

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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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Happy New Year 2013

For so many of us today is the first day of a new year, and a time for new beginnings and the putting away of old things. For some, it’s just Tuesday, and in some cases, it’s a Tuesday with a wicked headache and a desire to watch the world burn.

Every year many people make no resolution or plans for the coming year. I used to be one of those people, but I realized that there was no harm in making plans for the future and planning to have a future gives its own sort of hope and drive.

We do these things on January 1st, but it doesn’t have to be done on any particular day. You can make a resolution any hour of any day as long as you have the drive to stick to a commitment.

2 years ago at the end of February I resolved to get myself in better shape by going to the gym. I’d hit a plateau in getting healthier that changing my eating habits wouldn’t get past and I needed to kick things up a bit. 2 years into that resolution I’m still going to the gym at least 4 days a week and still improving (albeit slower than I would like). It wasn’t a New Years resolution, but it was a new ME resolution.

I started making resolutions after a long hiatus last January 1st. Succeeding in the gym and changing from the 104kg (230lb) blob that I was to the 69kg (152lb) man that I see in the mirror convinced me that I could do things when I set my mind to it.

January 1st 2012 I resolved to write a novel from start to finish. I’ve wanted to be a writer (or a master thief) since I was a child and it certainly seemed like an attainable goal. I did it. Crow’s Blood is currently in revision at 103,000 words and it’s been a blast.

This year I’m getting a little more detailed in my resolutions, but I will still strive to meet every one.

First and foremost, the writerly side of things.

I do not resolve to get an agent or get published in 2013. That will happen when it happens and I won’t let its lack stop me from writing and working my hardest to improve my craft.

I resolve to:

  • Write good stories. Be they short or long, I will write them to the best of my ability.
  • Work out how to get the humour and wit into my stories that I find so effortless in conversation. For some reason it disappears when I’m following a plot.
  • Get better at revision, because right now it’s kicking my ass and making me feel that my writing is all manner of suck.
  • Revise Crow’s Blood (BookB) enough to get it out to some Critique Partners, who’s advice I will use to better my craft.
  • Work better with my Alpha Readers. They’re doing this for me and getting little more than gratitude in return. Make it easier for them.
  • Refine my Pitch, Synopsis and Queries and the processes that generate them.
  • Submit Queries to Agents and learn from each rejection.
  • Write at least two more Zero-Draft books in 2013.
  • Read more. I’ve broadened the genres and catagories that I read in 2012, I’m going to do MORE of that in 2013.

Now on the personal side of things.
I resolve to:

  • Continue trying to be the best Husband and Father that I can be. I’m far from perfect and I’ll never be perfect, but I can always try to be better.
  • Continue to advance and put out the best work I can at my day job. Something has to pay the bills until I have a few best-sellers under my belt 😉
  • Be a good friend. I know this writing thing I’m doing has isolated me a bit from the people I used to hang out with and talk to every day. I want to keep those connections alive and some of them are in pretty bad shape.
  • Eat even better than I did in 2012. It helps that every time I’ve gotten into junk food over the holidays I’ve felt truly dreadful afterwards.
  • Push myself even further in the gym. Not only do I want to work harder, I want to make sure I’m doing everything I can and doing it right.
  • Face at least one fear and overcome it. I don’t know what this is yet, whether it will be writing related or otherwise, but I will overcome at least one fear I have in 2013.
  • Watch lots of movies!
  • Have fun!
That’s about it. It’s an extensive list in a public place. 2013? Bring it on.

P.S. I’ve updated the Movie List with last night’s movies.

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Surviving the Holidays

Well, I’m here. That means I survived. If you’re reading this, then you too are a survivor. Congratulations!

The holidays, regardless of which ones you celebrate or why you celebrate them, are about tradition and bringing families together. Anyone who survives that dangerous mix deserves their due credit.
I didn’t do it alone, my wife and children helped me through it all with a continuous flow of joy and rich foods. My wife is an artist with food and confection at a level that I strive for with words.
I’d have to say the hardest part of the whole holiday ordeal was not writing. It’s not that I didn’t write or revise at all, but it certainly wasn’t to the schedule I’ve grown used to. It kept leaving me with a nagging sense that I was being lazy and leaving things undone.
I’m revising now, which means I’m learning a LOT about my bad habits and just how horrible and clunky some of my prose can be. 
I’ve got this fantastic thing I do, which likely comes from my personal speech patterns, where I use more complicated words when simple will do. I don’t seem to let it creep into dialog, which is a good sign that I’m not overpowering my character voices.
I’m enjoying the experience so far. Granted, I’ve only revised 6 chapters in to a ~50 chapter manuscript,  but some of them needed serious surgery. I’m talking the “hit it repeatedly with an ax until it stops moving” kind of surgery. Messy, somewhat painful, but necessary. 
I’ve started to receive feedback from my Alpha Readers on some of what they have so far and it’s been invaluable. It’s really quite amazing how much some of them pick up on. I probably drive them batty with how I’m dropping, revising, and re-dropping the same chapters to them on Dropbox, and I’m trying to clean up that process so they’ll have a frame of reference when I give them updated revisions.
I still aim to push it out to some Critique Partners over at CPSeek.com and on Twitter by end of January. The timeline from that to Agent Query Submission will have to be more flexible depending on feedback at that level.
This writing thing is a lot of work. It’s a good thing I enjoy it.

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