Thursday, April 25, 2013

Seventeen Minutes

I bit the bullet and sent out four query letters last night to get a sense for this undertaking. I did some research on how to write one, discovered that I should open with a "hook", have a description of the book in the middle and end with a bio and keep it under one page. I did that. I read it twenty-nine times and am pretty happy with the way it looks, honestly.

So, I went into my bookmarks where a list of Publishers and Agents has been growing and I picked a few that ONLY want query letters. There were four of them. I addressed each to the particular agent I thought would be best and tweaked the query to personalize it to each one. Then, I hit send. I started at 11:59 p.m. last night(I checked my sent box, that's the EXACT time).

I received my first rejection at 12:16 A.M. Seventeen minutes. I've heard stories of agents and editors taking months to respond, if they respond at all. That may very well be my experience moving forward. At least in those cases, if they take a long time, you can comfort yourself with how long they must have slaved over your work and struggled to reject it because they love it but have an unsympathetic boss who wants the perpetual success of a Harry Potter or Twilight instead of something a little more original and much better written.

There's no comfort in seventeen minutes. None at all. Unless this person was checking her e-mail when I sent it, I suspect she spent maybe thirty seconds looking at my letter. It wasn't a form letter I received back either, which makes me suspect she was working from home, though I know I'm making a lot of assumptions here. She said that I had a good letter but that they have a limited number of agents who have openings and that none of the agents available are interested in urban fantasy. I can understand that. It's much better than them saying my writing sucks and I should give up. Still, seventeen minutes. I guess it's better to know than to never hear, but I would have almost rather they had taken six weeks.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Putting It All Out There

My first novel is nearly done. By done, I mean that every bit of it has now been through at least four rounds of edits, by both me and others, and that 24 chapters of it has been through six rounds of edits. By the time the last eight get there, every word will have been studied by four people.

Two weeks ago, I made the very hard decision to request test-readers. I belong to a couple writing groups on facebook, and made a request in one of them. I am blessed to have found five more people willing to read my book and tell me their thoughts on it. Not to edit anything, but just to give me an opinion on plot, character development, etc. I don't know if I'm hoping they all love it, or hoping they all hate it.

I mean, of course, I want people to like what I write. The scary thing is that if they like it, I have no more excuses. I can't put it through one more round of edits, because that would be overkill, and it's been edited pretty extensively. Here's how that has worked: I went through the entire novel twice, then Adrian went through each chapter. As she returned them, I went through and reviewed the comments she made, made changes and completed another run through. I then sent that chapter to either Amy or Di, who did the same thing, then sent it to the other, then sent it back to me. So, by the end of the process, I had corrected the piece 2-3 times and had three other people critique me. Di has also been amazingly willing to look at larger chunks for continuity and such, and once returned 13 chapters to me with nearly 500 comments. Talk about daunting! So, no more edits for this girl.

That means no more excuses. I have no reason not to start writing query letters and synopses. In fact, as I write this, I got an email from one of those wonderful people reading my book. Here's a brief blurb:

            I had planned to read fast and skim when it got slow. And it never got slow! You kept my         complete attention through the entire thing, and it never hit a spot where I wanted to jump ahead. I loved the story, and you did a great job of ending it well.

On one hand, I want to cry because I have poured my heart and soul into this, and to get responses where people liked what I read is almost overwhelming. Only, I'm not sure if the prospect of submitting to agents and publishers, who will MAYBE spend thirty seconds looking at my stuff, for an opinion on whether or not I have anything worth putting out there.

Any advice from you already published authors? How did you get through the submission part? Any advice for someone testing the waters?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Condoms in Literature

Here I go: condom use in books is WAY underdone. Confession: I have a not-so-secret love of trashy romances. I love them. They're easy to read, you imagine yourself as the heroine and all is good for an afternoon. Let me ask you this? How many of those broad-shouldered-narrow-hipped-cowboy-superhero-half-naked-firemen have wrapped it up before getting busy? Not many.

I wrote a scene where one of my characters was a sex worker.(Yeah, yeah, I know, BAD feminist). The john wore a condom. All three of the ladies editing that chapter commented on it. From then on out, if my characters didn't wear one, I got yelled at. It wasn't because I didn't want them to use protection, I just didn't think about it while writing. Taking time out of a very sexy scene to pull out the Trojan and saran wrap the penis is not so sexy.

Guess what?

I went back and added a condom to every single sex scene in the entire book.

I'm a bad feminist. I write characters who are hookers, I have strong strapping men who want to rescue the girl, and sometimes, the damn girl needs rescuing.

Let me say this again: I'm. A. Bad. Feminist. I should write empowering books about women pursuing men and choosing their own path and overcoming the pressures the world puts on us. When I'm writing, I'll sacrifice feminist ideals for story every single time. Go ahead, yell at me. It's my right as an author, and my story would suffer if I made different choices.

But, here's the point. My men wear condoms. Why? Because they should, because non-monogamous sex should be safe. I cringed for the first few times I had to write it in. Figuring out at what point it would happen, how to do it without ruining the tone, etc. I did it. I also managed to explicitly write in consent, which had Amy swooning, but that's a post for another day.

I may be a bad feminist in a lot of ways, but here is my contribution. I'm going to make condoms sexy. I may suck at everything else I should do, but I'm going to make condoms sexy.

Have I said condoms enough in this post yet?

Hats off to Amy and her post on the issue over at Check it out. I'm Author B, by the way!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

Today is the first time I have ever tried to write with someone else. Adrian and I have been toying with the idea of writing something completely outrageous and ridiculous for a few weeks. We started it today. Alien erotica. Yes, you read that right.

Full disclosure: This is not my preferred genre, and we both completely realize how insane it sounds. We're doing it anyway. Today we've written three chapters, which as any writer knows, is a LOT for one day of work. I've discovered that it moves much more quickly when there are two people trading off and that's it's honestly a lot of fun.

It's odd, too. Skipping most of the plot, going straight for the action and putting together the character development after the relationship is, at least somewhat, established. In an weird way, it's a challenge because it's not the typical way that I write. As much as I loathe to admit it, there is a certain formula to novel writing. In most genres, there is some sort of relationship. You introduce the characters, the plot, develop the characters, create conflict, add tension and move toward the climax, which is the wrapping up of the conflict. There's also likely a conclusion to the relationships you've created. For me, erotica is so far out of that comfort zone it isn't even in the same realm. Here's how it works: characters meet, get busy, you introduce some sort of present but not too important plot with a fairly easy to resolve in three chapters or less conflict. The relationship develops after they've fallen into bed and if you don't have some sexual contact in three out of every four chapters, you're going to lose readers. Oh, and nothing is off limits. As long as there is a lot of sex. As in, copious amounts of sex in multiple positions, places and with different people. And, the kinkier it is, the better.

Come to think of it, maybe erotica is closer to real life than other genres. Who woulda thunk it?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Letting it Flow

When I write, I typically have a handful of scenes I MUST write. I think about them while I write, I imagine them in my head when I'm trying to go to sleep, I live, eat and breathe these scenes the entire time I'm waiting to write them. A lot of times they end up being the only scenes I have any control over.

I've said before that my characters write their own story. Never has that been more clear to me than in the project I'm currently working on. Two of my characters, I'll call the G and A, have taken control of their story and are making it impossible for me to rein them in. I can either stop writing, or go with it. Every time I sit down to type, their story spills out in ways I never planned for it to. I had a plan for these characters. I had an ending decided for them. I still think the ending is what they deserve. But the path they're taking to get there is nothing like I imagined.

My project right now involves an ensemble cast, and these are two of seven or eight MAJOR characters, so logically, they aren't changing that much of the overall course of five novels. It's somewhat frustrating to find out my characters want to go somewhere I didn't intend, but overall, I think the novels will likely be stronger because I let them tell their own story.

Now that this course is set, I've had two people tell me they wanted it to go this way anyway, and there's only three people who have read the whole thing, so I think this is how it needed to go.

Does anyone else have characters hijack their books?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Faith and Fiction

I'm not entirely sure I should be sharing this struggle on the Internet, but it seems like an important topic to tackle.

I am a Christian. I believe in God. I believe in Heaven and Hell and being Saved. I grew up in church, I will raise my daughter in church.

However, I also write fantasy with religious overtones. Obvious religious overtones that are completely figments of my imagination, and that a lot of Evangelicals, and some more progressive, Christians would find completely offensive. I struggle with that because I feel that what I write and my relationship with God seem to be pretty mutually exclusive on the surface.

Then I consider that one of my editors is in Seminary and that she isn't damning me to Hell and I think I might be good. But I know that a lot of members of my family, and the church I grew up in, would never speak to me again if they read my book.

It's just fiction. I'm not trying to rewrite the Bible. I'm just telling a story with a familiar cast of characters. But still, when someone asks me what I'm working on, I debate how much to tell them.

What do you think? Does anyone else have trouble reconciling their personal faith with the type of fiction they write? 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The terrifying prospect that is really, truly FINISHING a novel.

There are only eight chapters left to be edited in my novel. That means twenty-four have been done. I am 75% of the way through, and with each chapter I've gotten back since around 18, I can feel myself getting more and more nervous about being done.

I don't know if I ever believed I would get here.

Now, my biggest concern isn't how many sentences I start with conjunctions -- answer: WAY too many -- or how to resolve those irksome comma splices. My biggest concern is compiling a list of agents and publishers that take on books in my genre(Supernatural/Urban Fantasy) and that I get a feeling, from a couple paragraphs on a website, would fit with my goals(world domination :-P ). I'm working on blurbs and a synopsis and a cover letter. Trying to sell myself and my book in two pages or less, and struggling with how someone thinks they can tell whether or not my book is worth being published based on 5 or 10 pages.

Seriously, why can I not send the BEST 5 or 10 pages? Or the most exciting 5 or 10 pages? Also, why in hell does not having a HEA ending preclude me from submitting to some publishers? Trust me, in this book, HEA would quite obviously be a copout and me refusing to end the story the way it deserves to end.

Then, there's the fear of rejection, which is inevitable. I think even Charles Dickens would get a few 'thanks, but no thanks' letters in today's publishing climate.

Any advice?