Sunday, January 31, 2010

Follow-ups and things to ponder

Today's Mood: Horny (my husband suggested this one--but then wanted me to take it off.) Today's Music: UB40. Today's Writing: Author Bio for PW Anthology. Today's Quote:
We had a discussion several posts ago about writing author bios. I was frustrated because I wasn't sure what to include. What the agent would want to know about me? My hobbies? My schooling? Whether or not I had pets? I mean really, I put the most pertinent points in the query letter.

Since then I have come across a great post on Anne R. Allen's Blog about exactly what should be included in an author bio. I did a few things wrong, so I wanted to share it with you so you won't be in the same regretful state as me. My biggest mistake was not writing the bio in third person. Now I know.

I also came across another helpful post (I'd link to it but I do not remember what blog it was on. I looked at all my regulars (note the blogs listed to the left), but couldn't find it. Nonetheless, I wanted to share what I had read. It was an agent talking about requested materials, and he/she said that they are not sitting there waiting for it to show up. Thus they do not go, "Gee, Sarah hasn't got that requested partial back to me and it's been a whole week!" They probably don't even notice if it has been a month, so there is no need to panic and throw the first thing you can in the mail. Take the time needed to make it right.

Now, having said that, I have to be honest and say it has really helped to have a query ready, a list of agents ready, and now an author bio. ready. When I get a response, I have the majority of what I need for the next step--whether that be submitting to another agent, or sending on more material to the same agent.

It's taken me a long time to learn this. Rachelle Gardner had a post about how long it took for a writer to become savvy about the writing business. I'd say I'm still learning. I knew quite a bit after about a year of submitting, but I still have things to learn. I would think one would have to keep learning in this business because it keeps changing. Look at the new ipad--how that has changed the way ebooks are sold. Agent Kristin Nelson has an interesting post on that subject. So I don't think I'll declare all knowledge just yet.

How about you? How long have you been learning about the business? Do you consider yourself an expert?

Well, I'd better head off to bed so I can get up early and write. After all, the most important thing of all is a good story.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Today's Mood: Neutral. Today's Music: Maroon 5. Today's Writing: Nada. Today's Quote:
"Get away from her, you bitch!" -Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Aliens

I'm sitting here watching the movie Aliens. I've seen it a half dozen times and it still pulls me tense as a bow string. How does one kill aliens? If a whole team of trained soldiers can't do it, how could one person do it? And yet, Ripley does--more than once.

So how do I kill my gremlins? How do trained writers kill off those voices that tell them their writing is awful, and what are they thinking trying to get stuff published?

I try to focus on the fact that I write because I love to write, because I need to write in order to feel okay with my world. And I try hard to trust my writing group when they tell me my stuff is good. The requests for partials and fulls, the glowing report from the writing contest--it all helps. But the doubts, those little gremlins, still manage to find their way inside my barricade. I need some heavy artillery.

What else can I use? Anyone got any tried and true ways to obliterate those hideous writing monsters? Right now Ripley is roasting aliens with a flame thrower. Maybe I should try that.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The personality of verbs

Today's Mood: Hmmm, sort of grumpy, I guess. Today's Music: None (maybe that's why I'm grumpy.) Today's Writing: Nothing yet (another reason to be grumpy.) Today's quote:
That's her [the writer's] skill--to be affected more than others by "absent things," and to express them in words as they arise. A writer draws her heart close to that of another--lets herself slip--into the "beat" of another. - from The Intuitive Writer: listening to your own voice by Gail Sher

I've been talking with my creative writing class about verbs--vivid verbs and action verbs. And I got thinking about how much you can develop character just by watching your verbs. Maybe you all already knew this, but for some reason, I never put the two together--at least, not consciously. Yup, I remember my teachers talking about using the active voice instead of the passive voice. it makes your writing more coherent and less wordy. But I don't remember my teachers ever talking about how much I could develop character by paying strict attention to the verbs I used. Sure, most characters walk, but does my character swagger, or meander, or rush? Says a lot about the personality right there. When that character (let's call her Saffy) talks, does she lisp? slur? whisper? shout? question? drawl? And how about when Saffy looks at something. Does she stare? glare? peek? gaze? glance?

Saffy swaggered down the hall glaring at everyone in sight.
Saffy meandered down the hall gazing at everyone in sight.
Saffy slunk down the hall peeking at everyone through the curtain of her hair. (okay, so I added some to this one.)

I can change the personality of the character just by changing the verbs I use.

Hopefully I've done this in my writing in the past. What I'd like to do now, is INTENTIONALLY use verbs to create character. Granted, I'll have to do most of this in the revision/edit stage. I don't want to spend too long hunting for the perfect verb while I'm rough drafting. Shoot, I overthink things as it is. I'm finding (in my own very slow and laborious way) that writing fast can be good for me. It can help get the initial flow of the story down on the paper. Often it helps preserve the raw emotion of the piece from wherever it came from inside me. Revision is where I can fine-tune it. Polish it. Finesse it into the beauty it is meant to be.

How deliberate are you with your verbs? Do you work at it in the rough stage, or look them over afterward in revision?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Angst of trying to get published

Today's Mood: Subdued. Today's Music: Shuffle. Today's Writing: IFFY. Today's Quote:
"You do not create a style. you work and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being." -Katherine Anne Porter
I spent my writing time--my two-page-a-day time--this Christmas break working on queries. I think I wrote 7 different versions of the same letter. Tweak a sentence in this paragraph, move a word in this sentence, and cut out a whole paragraph in this version. I've read books--Writer's Market, The How Sell Your Novel Tool Kit--and blogs--Nathan Blansford, Editorial Anonymous, Query Shark--so I know the basics of the query letter. But what I really want is someone--no some agent or publisher--to tell me exactly what I should write in order to get them to say yes.

And of course, this won't happen unless I write something and send it.

So, as a very wise person advised me (thanks, Tricia), I compiled a list of possible agents and then sent out query letters to 5 of them. That was Sunday.

On Monday afternoon, I got the first rejection. Email rejections come so much faster than snail mail. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I sighed and picked another agent on the list, and sent out another query.

Monday evening another agent response was in my inbox. I was pretty sure it was a rejection since it came so fast. But--lo and behold--it was a request for a partial! Happiness... and then more angst. The agent wants an author bio.

So what does an agent want to know about a writer? How determined she is? How prolific? What she looks like? Who she hangs with--or should I say, how many kids she has that pull time away from writing?

Anyone written an author biography for a publisher or agent? Have any ideas as to what I should include? I know it should show your personality to some degree, but face it, it rarely does any good to get too buddy-buddy too fast. I think it should be personable but professional. What do you think?