Thank heavens for fresh eyes, because mine don't know what they're looking at. After a few attempts at a query I've been directed to answer three questions that ought to help anyone attempting to write one of these godawful things. As yet, I have only looked at them with the vaguest of answers in mind.
There's more here, but it boils down to this:
What does your protagonist want?
What does s/he have to do to get it?
What happens if s/he fails to get what she wants? (the stakes)
That's how long I spent revising my query today, after comments from Absolute Write. So, I've reposted the new version, if anyone cares to look at it. Thanks for everyone's help.
And why am I telling you how long I spent writing? Because there's a blogfest going on. It's not too late to join. Just visit Patti Nielson to sign up. It's pretty simple. All this week, keep track of how much time you spend writing. That's it.
Yesterday, I attended a class for children's and YA writers. A lot of it was introductory stuff I already knew, but a few of the tidbits I wrote down:
You have to write one million bad words before you can write one good one.
Writers come in one of two forms
Plotters - extensive outliners
Pantsers - make it up as they go
Three things every writer must have:
A thick skin
In order to get published:
Write something no one has ever written before. Or,
Write a familiar story better than everyone you're competing against.
81% of Americans say they have a book in them.
2% actually write one.
In an odd coincidence, 2% of Americans are also commercial pilots.
So how do you like that?
And, it turns out, the writer running the class is represented by an agent who rejected my full manuscript about a year ago, and who, after extensive re-writes, I've decided to query again. I posted it on Aboslute Write in Query Letter Hell. If you have a moment, let me know what you think, either there, or in the comments here.
I'm on a four day trip with long layovers. Perfect for writing. I spent the whole day in Atlantic City fixing some minor issues associated with my new first chapter. Pretty much everything fits and I have a good chunk of time tomorrow in Fort Myers before work to get the thing ship-shape.
Now, here are the problems.
1. It's been super nice all week. I hate looking outside at picture perfect days, especially when there are so few of them left before winter takes hold. And that really is a problem. I wish it was winter already. Then, I would have a perfect excuse to stay in and write. The real problem, however, is...
2. Sometimes I get on such a roll, I can't stop. I'm cranking along, typing furiously, making lots and lots of headway. And then, all of a sudden, some other committment comes on like a Mack Truck hitting me head on and I have to stop. It happened today. Work. Bummer.
I actually like my job, but it can be pretty boring. Thankfully, I've recently discovered a game for my iTouch called Hungry Shark. I'm discovering all kinds of nifty hidden things the more I play. And that two and a half hour flight really soars by.
I know, I know, your thinking, Matt, you shouldn't be playing games while you're flying the plane. And you're right. That's a great time for writing. But there are two of us up there, and I just can't write with someone watching me.
Now, back to Atlantic City for a moment. It's late September. Tuesday. The boardwalk was pretty crowded. Which means, either people are extending their vacations into fall, or unemployment drives people to the beach. And there were swimmers. That water's got to be cold. Whatever the reason, I noticed quite a bit of New Jersey shining through in passersby. It seems all those reality shows are giving people the courage to be themselves.
Being married to a graphic designer has its advantages. A simple request like creating a banner for my blog is a snap. But when she saw the new layout, well, let's just say, I'm glad I'm not a paying client. And so is she, so she could really tell me what she thinks. Anyway, with some prodding from my betrothed, we have agreed upon yet another, rather clean looking layout. I think the new banner rocks. Agree?
I tried this a while back and ended up with the sterile white blog you may be used to. I'm thinking branding. Something that you look at and say, "Hey! That's Matt!" So what do you think?
As far as writing goes, still no progress on the synopsis or query, but I have a plan. In the next several days, I expect to incorporate my new chapters, then write the synopsis, then query. I have no reason to expect any of it will be as easy as all that, but in order to move on I needed a plan. (I keep typing plan with an e. I do have a four day trip starting tomorrow, which is how I expect to get all this work done.)
Once the query is written, and submitted, I must focus on something new. I've lived with these pirates too long now, to the detriment of other things. I have several stories in various states of being. I will pick one, finish it, and do the above for said story. If I have to shelve Skully, so be it. Whether it is a good story, it has made me a better writer, so perhaps the next thing I write will get published.
I don't use foul language often, but you don't know how hard it was to not put the word 'fuck' in the title of this post. I had to count to ten first. A little trick I picked up a couple of months ago.
Fact: Howard and Moira take exactly 296 Disney vacations per year.
Fact: Their daughter, Sammy, misses approximately 1745 days of school per year for said vacations, because she still believes it's real.
Fact: They are currently on their way to Spain to hop a Disney Cruise ship for a two week sail across the Atlantic.
Fact: They left their dog, Alfalfa, with a friend, who also has a dog.
This morning I got a voice mail from Howard. The two dogs did not get along. Alfalfa is now home. By himself. For two weeks. So if I wouldn't mind, could I feed him and let him out and such? If not, it's no big deal.
Are you frakking kidding me?
If not, it's no big deal?
What kind of people treat their dog like this? And the sad part is, Alfalfa is the best part of the whole family.
So I go over immediately to see how he is. I'm not a dog person, but come on! The house, as you might expect, is filthy. A sheen of grease covers the floor. There are dirty clothes hanging out of the washing machine. Used dishes on the counter and in the sink. Dog food (at least there was some) scattered everywhere. And, to top it all off, all of their outdoor furniture is now inside and hurricane shutters cover the windows. Howard, in his paranoia, has taken these precautions in case a storm pops up while he's gone. But only for the back of the house. I, along with now caring for the dog, am expected to secure the rest of his house.
So I bring the dog over to my backyard for some R&R and, although practically blind, he immediately manages to find some raccoon poop, or some kind of poop. I'm no expert. Animals don't go in my yard. They know better. At least they did. Now they're conspiring against me because Alfalfa went straight for it and took a bath in it.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?@?#!
I would have sent him home like that, but, as the default caregiver, I don't want to deal with still more crap. So I hosed the dog off and washed his collar.
I sincerely hope no storm comes ashore while they are gone. First, because I don't want to deal with it. Second because Howard already has, and it would please me to think all his work was for nothing.
Now, I can't blame Howard for his friend being an arse, but the idea I should now be responsible for Alfalfa pisses me off. There is a storm out there. Hurricane Igor is so massive, I envision it encompassing the entire Atlantic Ocean just as the S.S. Mickey Mouse sets sail.
This is my dream. I know it is cruel, but that's what happens when I'm driven to swear.
Oh, and when they get back, Sammy gets held back a year in school.
So I sit down to write the damn thing. And it seems like a decent start, only what I'm writing is a bit different from my actual manuscript. So I fight the urge, but keeping typing the wrong stuff. Then I think to myself, I kinda like this better.
Is there a way to make it work?
No dumbass. Your story doesn't open like that. Why are you synopsizing what you didn't write?
Well, what if it did?
Then you'd have a better story to sell. But you don't. Because you didn't.
Well maybe I will?
But you're supposed to be synopsiszing. And querying. Because you found an agent you know is going to want a synopsis. Don't waste your time.
Isn't it a waste of time to submit a query when my beginning isn't as strong as it could be?
I suppose. I mean, you're only talking one chapter, right?
Probably. Maybe two.
And then you can hitch it up to the rest, so it seems all natural-like?
Yeeaahhh...unless...even now I'm changing it some more.
One year ago today this blog launched with as much fanfare as would greet a fry cook tossing out the grease from last night's fish sticks.
Stumbling block overcome, I think its been a pretty fun year along the evolutionary trail through blogtown. I suppose I expected to have a lot more writing-related posts, but the truth is, I don't have a clue what I'm doing. I'm sure not going to pretend to be an expert. But who knew my wacky neighbors would offer such fodder? Well, I did. And Mrs. Sarcasm did. And really, we haven't even scratched the surface on neighbors' past. (Should that be possessive? I'm thinking ghosts of Christmas past. Probably not.)
I hope I have enlightened you all a bit about who I am, without ever actually revealing who I am, what I do for a living, and what I do for fun. It's pretty much all here, restricted only by laze and lack of creativity.
So thanks to everyone who has stopped by, become a follower, commented, or just read anonymously.
This next year should be a big one. We are, after all, expecting from Korea, and Lord knows that will be ripe with the unexpected. Also, I plan to get an agent soon, and then get published. Now, if only I could get the agents and publishers to adhere to that plan.
Today was D-Day. No disrespect to 9/11, but as an airline pilot, I constantly live with its reminders. So forgive me for not partaking in the solemnity of remembrance. I'll be flying later today. Don't think it won't be on my mind.
But D-Day for me, is due day; as in, due back to the library day; as in, The Pillars of the Earth, the 973 page monstrosity by Ken Follett, foisted upon me as the greatest book ever written, was due back today after only two weeks to consume its enormity. I did not.
I tried. It's not that it is a bad book. It was a good enough story, and had I had more time, I would continue right through the end, and then read the sequel that spurred this burden in the first place. But, the greatest book ever written? Not so much. Of course, I'm just one reader. But one with buying power, which I obviously didn't wield at the library, which likely led to my substandard opinion.
Again, the story is good, but far from a page-turner. More like a when-is-this-chapter-going-to-end-so-I-can-put-down-this-frakking-book-er.
That makes it sound worse, I think, than it actually is. So be it. I don't like leaving a book unfinished. One I day I will come back to it. Perhaps when I'm a wealthy author with gobs of cash to fill floor to celing bookshelfs. Or, more likely, my iPad.
I wonder if I can get credit for the 283 pages I did read?
Natalie Murphy over at The Sound of Rain wrote a deservedly angry gripe on the evils of the query letter. Now, I've been putting off my own query writing for a while now, and by gum, it's time to man up. But then I started thinking about how a query is an entire book condensed to one page, which ought to be impossible, and compared it to a synopsis, which is an entire book condensed to several, or more, pages.
Well, that ought to be easier.
Except, having already attempted it a few times, I know it is not easier. However, I thought, if I can write a successful synopsis, I should, logically, then further be able to synopsize the synopsis and turn it into a query. And then, a friend asked me to look over his synopsis, which still needed some work, so I let the Google machine guide me to a few synopsis writing sites.
Of course, there is Absolute Write, which is invaluable, but I also came across a few others.
This first one is a bit bare bones and lists basically what goes into a synopsis and not much more.
This next one gets to the heart of the synopsis a bit more, describing not just what to write, but how.
At any rate, that's the first few results from the Google. I imagine there are better ones, but I'm not of a mind to research them for the sake of this post.
So, a-synopsizing I will go. If you have some advice, toss it my way. I've got a butterfly net handy.
Friday night I flew into Atlanta for a long layover, during which I had hoped to put a dent into the greatest book ever written, which I'm still waiting to become the greatest book ever written. I had no idea what I was in for.
Vampires, demons, superheroes, fairies, aliens, ghostbusters, video game characters, starfleet officers, stormtroopers, jedis and more, swarmed the city. Dragoncon had come to Atlanta and geeks took control of my hotel. Never in the history of my life have I seen such a spectacle. 70,000 sci-fi and fantasy fans partied like it was 2399.
Now, I've never had much interest in this type of thing, and since it was close to midnight, I was ready for bed. But when the van pulled into the city and we caught our first glimpse of freaks in costume, I was suddenly wide awake. I ended up staying out until 3 am. These geeks can party! And no matter what you might think of them, they, at least, were having a good time. And so was I.
There were rock concerts, movies, a 5 hour rythmic drumming session, a parade featuring all the crazy costumes, lots of drinking and the biggest surprise of all -- lots and lots of good-looking women. I'm talking hot girls in skimpy costumes. Who knew? No wonder Dragoncon is so popular. It seems, at least once a year, geeks can get laid.
They even had a couple of writing seminars, which I snuck into, and learned something. What I learned is that I knew everything they had to say from attending previous conferences and online research. Not to say I know everything, but they were talking about the process of getting published, none of which was new to me. It only confirmed it's time to get out there and do it.