Archive for June, 2010

It’s always interesting coming back to a story after you’ve left it simmering. You discover new twists¬† and things to cut because they no longer add to the overall story. Some might make for interesting visuals in a movie, but need to be left out of the book.

I’ve been working on trimming fat and it seems to be working. The book is getting tighter, and that’s always a good thing.

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Busy work

I hate busy work. I’m trying to work on my current manuscript as well as future manuscripts, plus scripts, plus all kinds of other stuff. I’ve now read so much about “how the publishing world works” that my eyes are bleeding, and I have no more confidence now than when I started. Why? Because all the experts say different things. Do this, one says. No, do that, says another. This is what’s most important, says the first. No, that’s what’s most important. It’s like they have no clue, and I find that disturbing, especially since they get 20%. A big old “What for?” would seem to apply. Of course I just read the article in this month’s Writer’s Digest, and it’s frustrating.

A big problem is that agents are one shots – you have one shot to hook them. Miss and you have to move on. While that makes common sense, it starts to make less sense when you’re supposed to tell the agent WHY you are contacting them specifically. “You were number 492 on my list of the 500 top agents?” Hmm, not a good idea.

But what to do? I’ve read the information, I know what I need to do, I know what to expect, and I’m willing to learn anything I don’t already know.

Maybe¬† I’m just getting a case of nerves prior to pulling the trigger. Hmm…could be.

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Trimming the fat

After adding about five hundred words to my Chapter 1, I’ve gone back and found some fat to trim, bringing the word count back down by three hundred. Tightening the prose is well worth the effort as I prepare for launch.

I’ve also done some editing in the second and third chapters, cutting some fat and adding some clarification. There’s a hole in my memory – the exact events that transpired between July 1976 and September 1976. Somehow I arrived in Shannon but Roger wasn’t there. My first recollection of him was when we arrived in Sligo and he was checking out the fishing around the Silver Swan Hotel. Weird.

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Last night I attended a book signing for Norman Ollestad, author of Crazy for the Storm. I was impressed. Mr. Ollestad is very much a gentleman who added depth to his story in the passages he read aloud. Though I’ve read the book, hearing him fill in the parts of both him and his father added something new for me, and I enjoyed it greatly.

When he was done with the reading, he opened a question and answer session that was both informative and entertaining. Though I was interested in his story, I was more interested in his career. With us being similar ages and he not quite a superstar in the publishing industry, and with a story that takes place roughly the same time and age as my own, I’ve been following his success with great interest. Norman did not disappoint, answering everything thrown him, with sincerity and style.

Afterward, Norman again showed tremendous class in posing for pictures, something not all celebrities do these days. I was very thankful for his encouragement and look forward to his next book.

Cheers Norman!

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It’s funny how things work out. I finished my manuscript back in April and then set it aside to “simmer” while I started thinking about getting an agent. Every now and then I’d pick up the manuscript, open it to a random location, and read. I did this to give me a bit of an objective eye to my work, and I liked what I read. There were a couple of nits but nothing major – my work was as good, and in some cases better, than anything I’d read commercially.

Of course my opinion is biased, I’m sure, and some of what I’m up against has been sitting on the NYT “Best Sellers” list, but I remain convinced my writing and my story have what it takes to knock a 450 foot homer.

After starting a query letter, though, I decided to have another “another set of eyes” look at it, the first chapter in particular. This is the chapter that agents are going to evaluate, so it had to be extra perfect.

The value of outside input cannot be overstated. There were two transitions that needed some work. As the manuscript developed I went at it with the editing knife and managed to nick a tendon. I had mentioned a character and it got circled as being confusing, as if I were trying to build a sequence of events where no sequence existed. The particular event is important to the story, but it did seem a bit out of place. The solution? Add detail.

I thought it would be a tough call since the manuscript was up at 91000+ words already, but I managed to keep it under control and bumped the word count only slightly. But boy what a result! Bam! I fleshed out the scene and, true to my style, the reader isn’t going to see it coming. I am charged.

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And I think I’ve done just that. Took a couple of days but I finally hit every target I intended. Very pleased with the result.

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I just heard from one of the main characters from Portora – Robert “Sammy” McElroy. That connection really came out of the blue and I’m very appreciative for it.

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Still working on the query letter. I was pretty happy with the one I finalized yesterday – I knew I was close because I started getting this “scared” feeling inside, like when I’m at the top of a roller coaster about to go over the edge. I decided against sending it out, though, since it was Friday and I figured that’s a bad day to send out query letters to the East coast. A good thing, too, because this morning I woke up and realized the letter was too negative – I need to pull back some and add balance, just as I have in the manuscript itself.

The only problem is figuring out what that balance is. LOL.

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Yesterday (or was it the day before), I thought I might have hammered out my query letter. Yeah, well, I was just a tad premature in that thinking. However, the good news is that I have had some help, and I’ve been busy rewriting the letter with the suggestions in mind. It might not be perfect, yet, but I think it really is getting close.

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Could it be?

Could I finally have a query letter an agent will like? I sure hope so.

Funny thing – I’ve now read hundreds of messages and letters and blogs all describing how to write a query letter, and no one agrees about a damned thing except “make it perfect!” Well, yeah, obviously one would want to send in a query as free of sloppiness as possible, but that’s only the tip of the ice berg.

But after this minor point, it seems advice varies. The big problem is that almost all the suggestions actually make a lot of sense. Some agents even specify the type of letter they are looking for, so no boiler plates.

Anyway, I’ll soon be getting some feedback on my query, and if it passes the sniff test then I’m ready to commit.


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