Sunday, May 24, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Spring is in full force here in Oregon. I worked the ground for weeks now, and as I pulled the first weeds around the peas, I realized writing is like gardening. Add your own stages to mine, but this is my comparison.
As a teen, two dreams of mine were to own a large vegetable garden and to write a novel. Now, I have land to work the garden. Fifteen years ago, I developed an idea for the story.
As I planned the garden, I read how to care for the ground, what will grow here, and what seeds I may wish to buy. Before I wrote a word of my middle grade novel, I read on craft, took writing classes, attended the Society of Book Writer’s & Illustrators workshops. Then, I decided on the main character, and who were the secondary characters.
I chose their names.
When the rains took a break, I tilled the land. I pulled weeds and lugged out rocks. For my story, I went back in my memories. I remembered the joys of being a child here in Oregon. I recalled the difficult changes as a pre-teen when the weeds and stones collected in my heart. An ongoing process, it’s a struggle to rid garbage from my soul and come to terms with the rest.
Fodder for writing.
I fertilized my garden, tossing about the dark compost. Smelly, but rich in nutrients for my plants. Bending over, I poked seeds into earth. Story-wise, I chose which joys and hardships I’d relate to from childhood to create a tale. I titled my story and sat down to write the first draft. I dove into that task with raw creative juices, using the craft rules.
I wrote thirty pages within two weeks.
Around my vegetables, the weeds came up. The rains came down. Weeds grew thick between the tender shoots. I pulled up the offenders, and I thinned out the crowded veggie plants. After I completed the first draft, I edited. I cut out this and added that. I changed my characters around. I deleted a character here and deleted one there. I wrote out wordy prose, and started all over again. All the while, I ponder on how to raise the stakes to make my readers cry.
How can I make my readers laugh?
Now, I water the plants and watch them grow. My novel is in the process of its umpteen millionth editing trim.
At harvest time, I will pick vegetables to sell, give away, and eat. My book’s harvest is yet to come. Busy writing queries to chosen agents, my story makes the rounds. When declines come in, I work to perfect my query. I fine tune the novel; taking suggestions the dear agents took time to give. One day, if do the best job possible, I’ll see this story in book bound and on shelves for young readers to enjoy.
Only then will I see my goal to entertain and encourage a child along her way.
Until next time, dear readers, plant thyself into thy chair and write . . .
Monday, May 4, 2009
Last week, I participated in two nights of live chat hosted by AgentQuery.com with guest speaker Literary Consultant Jeffrey Moores. To introduce Jeff, his consulting advice is more market specific than other freelance editors. Advises on editorial and agenting. Line and developmental editing is flavored by knowledge of the current market.
Jeff led lively and informative discussions, first on the business industry and then on craft. We threw out our questions and here's a few of his comments.
Jeff says to approach our query in a nonfiction way even for fiction; letter more about where we fit in the market, who our audience is. He suggests we personalize our approaches briefly. Personalize: Quick and simple explanation why approaching a specific agent. Example: “I’m contacting you because of your work with Alice Sebold’s THE LOVELY BONES, whose readers I feel would enjoy my novel.”
From here, be professional and convey a sense of confidence in our own writing. Doing our “homework” should include a broader explanation of our book within the market. More important to make wide comparisons to novel (thematically, etc.) rather than waste page on drawn-out plot synopsis.
Here’s another tip from Jeff. The best way to “establish” your voice is to first, foremost, FIND your voice. Exercise one’s skill until it’s easily controllable. To a certain extent, voice can be taught. It’s what makes the difference between published and unpublished writers.
Jeff also believes that in this economic climate, it is best to concentrate on our craft rather than an immediate goal for publication. Isn’t this what many of us are reading about and hearing these days?
Jeff recommends an exercise: Write a one-sentence description of book. Then do it again. Then, again. Write 5-10 different one-sentence descriptions of your book. Play with the syntax and don’t be afraid to dig.
One last tip: If you’ve received a slightly personalized decline, chances are it has at least been across an agent’s desk.
To learn more about Jeffrey Moores and his new literary consultant business, visit his site here.
Writerly friends; keep writing and keep reading. Until next time . . .