Monthly Archives: February 2012

So Much for The Easy Way

The 2012 Amazon’s Breakout Novel Award 1st Round is complete. Yours truly did not make the cut. Am I surprised? Not really. In fact, I knew going in I wouldn’t make it.  I simply figured I had nothing to lose by trying.

I believe there are several reasons for not making the cut (and I admit I’m wearing my cynical-colored glasses while I type).

  1. I suck at pitches. Boiling down a 75k novel down to 300 words is beyond difficult for me.  I need practice, and that’s putting it mildly.
  2. The judging. My book is Science Fiction geared specifically for a male audience. It’s a sad truth that most books are purchased by women. Publishers as a consequence must publish books catered to them otherwise they’d lose money (speaking in generalities, because there are always exceptions). Looking at previous winners, not one was science fiction, and all were more along the lines of chick-lit.
  3. Number of entries. Referring to Reason #1, the odds of standing out amongst 4999 other entries made the likelihood of making the second round steep indeed.

What happens now?

Query letter/synopsis/chapter outline time! Yippee (someone shoot me now).

There is one lesson learned here. Submitting to Agents/Editors is no different than the ABNA. I still have to rise above the rest, and this contest showed my pitch wasn’t good enough. I have to make it better. How do I do that? That’s the big question right now. Part of me (and a rather large part) wants to put it off and watch Netflix and Hulu all night.

Since Lent started yesterday, I decided to cut out all refined sugars. Perhaps I should add television to that as well. It may not encourage me to practice writing my pitch, however, because I’m trying to catch up on my reading as well.

Right now I’m reading “A Talent for War” by Jack McDevitt. It’s okay so far. While well-written, there’s a lot of history going on. Thankfully it’s not all narrative backstory, but the main character following his uncle’s historical research so as to figure out why his uncle disappeared. Nonetheless (being an impatient reader), I’m ready for some action!

Creating a (Positive) Online Presence

Along with researching agents and publishers, I’ve been thinking a lot about creating a better online presence.

The problem is, how without sounding like some annoying salesman?

From what I’ve read, the commonest advice is to offer something potential readers want and will make them keep coming back.

Okay. What do I have to offer?

It has to be free to start. It could be humor (that one’s easy. My son and husband are always coming up with something). Information and advice is another. There it gets wrinkly. Everything I know and learned has come from someone else. The trick will be to put my own unique spin on it and make it entertaining as well as informative. Otherwise all I’ll be doing is adding external links to every blog entry.

I should care about my readers, and respond in a timely manner to any comments or questions they might have. One way to do that is see myself not as a writer, but as a reader. What do I look for in writer websites/blogs? What encourages me to keep coming back? How can I emulate them, again without being repetitive or plagiaristic?

Yes, I want to sell my writing, but that should the end result of an online presence, not the foremost.

After all, if a reader enjoys my blog, my website, Facebook page and Twitter tweets, then they’ll naturally want to read my books.

The mindset has to be thus: It’s not about me or my books, per se, but about pleasing my readers.

One thing that sucks about writing and desiring to publish is that my writing succeeds or fails based solely on the opinion of others. That said it’s something I chose (sort of) and knew going in, so I really shouldn’t complain.

So far I have several ideas:

  1. Book reviews. I’ve wanted to do more of these, and I could certainly use the practice. That I read a lot makes this fairly easy. It’ll also help garner more readers, because if they’re well-written enough, the authors may link the review on their own websites.
  2. Humor pieces. There’s a blog I read (Literary Agent Steve Laube) and every Friday he writes an entry called “Fun Fridays”. He’ll either add a humorous Youtube video, or fun facts. For me, I’ll likely dedicate Mondays, because who couldn’t use a little laughter on Monday?
  3. Continuing my publication journey. I’ve written a few entries in an older blog dedicated to the pitfalls of pursuing publication, and received some very good responses to it (One even went so far as comparing me to Erma Bombeck. Yeah, I’m as shocked as you are). Apparently I’m fairly humorous when describing rejections. Good, because I have a feeling there will be a lot more of those.
  4. Faith. Seeking publication is a journey of faith. I’ve learned more about God and seen my faith grow ever since I decided to pursue it. There were a lot of bumps and bruises from falling on my face, but I learned more from those failures than I ever will from my successes. Perhaps others can learn from them as well – without the bruises. And laugh at my obvious ineptitude.
  5. Write more. One entry a month simply won’t cut it (my average of late). People’s time is short and precious, and if I’m not consistent – no matter how good the entries are – they will lose interest.

Now it’s your turn. What would you like to see me write or add to my website? As an incentive, I’ll send you some free stuff.  I’m thinking some pens and bookmarks, or a free critique of the first five pages of a novel, short story or article. Your choice.

I Have to Go Where He Sends Me

When my son doesn’t want to go to school or church, he’ll at first try to run away or cling to something. Then he’ll argue or cry. In the end when he realizes he won’t get his way, he’ll capitulate with his eyes big and teary, head hanging low and lower lip glued to his chest.

What I know and Tom doesn’t realize until later is that he ends up having a great time. One time I dropped him off at Sunday school, and I had to make the Sunday School teacher hold on to him so I could leave. When I came to pick him up about an hour later, I had to almost drag him away.

Much like my son, I, too, have a difficult time going where God wants me to; at least not without a fight, and teary-eyed moping at the end. Intellectually I know he knows best, and not once has he ever been wrong. Still I fight and argue. I wonder sometimes if he shakes his head and wonders why he even bothers.

This morning I read how another author is being published by Marcher Lord Press, and it finally hit me. My novel won’t be one of them. It’s taken too long to hear back. In the last week, I’ve received emails in some of my writing newsletters about how to write the perfect query. I even have an opportunity to get a free* professional critique from Writer’s Digest.

That was my second hint (or at least it finally got through my stubborn skull), that I have to seek out other avenues for publication. I’ve read through the latest “The Christian Writers Market Guide,” and found nearly a dozen prospective agents. I’m also reading “How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query Letters” by John Wood.

Now comes the hard part: Convincing myself I can write a good query letter. If I don’t, then I self-sabotage. By thinking I can’t write a good query letter, then I certainly won’t. I have to believe I can. John Wood’s book is very informative, and I’m learning a lot. Once the query is as good as I can get it (as picky as I am, that will take six months), I will send it off to Writers Digest for review. After that, it’s tweaking for each agent and sending it off with a fervent prayer.

I have to remember it’s all in God’s hands. If my novel is meant to be in print, he will lead me in the right direction. I just have to be willing to follow instead of being forced to. Ha! That’ll be the day.

*Free only in the sense I had to upgrade my current Writers Market subscription for $20 to get it along with a few other perks.

What? It’s Not Perfect?

I read a while back that to help gain interest of publishers and agents, a writer should have endorsements from other authors. Taking that advice, I asked Amy Deardon if she’d be willing to write me one for “Traitors,” but only if she felt it was good enough. I also asked if she found any boo-boos to let me know.

She kindly agreed.

A few days ago she mentioned there was a consistent mistake I’m making that’s reducing the tension in my story, and she would explain what it was if I wanted her to.

She emailed me back today and said that although she is enjoying the book, she’s found a consistent mistake that reduces the tension, but that it was a big enough problem it would take some work to fix it. My response was to email her back and nearly beg her to tell me. it’s not mere curiosity, but a fidget-in-my-chair eagerness to know what that is.

It’s funny how I no longer tense in horror at the possibility of criticism, or even take the blows with quiet grace. Instead I’m banging at the proverbial door for it.

Does that make me a glutton for punishment, a slight case of masochism?

Or perhaps I want to see my novel as perfect as can be before it’s released into the public.

Soon (I hope) I will have yet another editing project to add to my list.

In the meantime (so I’m not checking my email every three minutes for the author’s advice), I’m going to continue on with my Nanonovel.

From the Just ‘Cuz Files:

I’ve decided to reduce my inventory of “A Reason to Hope” by offering it at a 55% discount. See my Products page for more info.