Thursday, November 18, 2010

Niche me!

I was having coffee with a very good friend of mine and the subject of blogging came up. Now, he is a fantastic blogger with a blog that is growing more successful by the day! So, I had to know, what was his secret. And he tells me, "You need to find a niche. You need to be the expert of...well, something."

So, I said to myself, "Self', we need a niche!" Unfortunately, my "self" yawned, rolled over and went back to sleep. My "self" has been completely unreliable since the whole foundation project thing, so I guess I'm on my own.

Luckily, my friend also had a suggestion, which I am presently googling, and so far, it's looking like a really good idea! I'm not going to say what it is, yet. And, I actually have few ideas of my own that need exploring.

I think I can really have some fun with this, so stay tuned!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Who let the blogs out...

Don’t you just love it when life gets in the way of important things…like blogging. I’m just saying. Anyway, I’ve been working on a do-it-yourself project on my house – foundation work. Ugh!!


Nothing says “crazy” like digging a moat around the entire perimeter of your house. What were we thinking?? I have been asking myself that very question for the last month – which is how long we’ve been working on our little pet project…so far...cuz it ain’t done yet. Double ugh!


I do have to admit, diggin’ a moat for hours and days on end does result in some pretty amazing muscles – which I do happen to love. But, I’d highly not recommend digging a moat as a way to get into shape. There are far easier ways – like going to the gym!


At any rate, I will continue to finish my handywoman project, learn from my mistakes and never attempt a project this large again. I will just pay the money. I don’t care how much. I’m not kidding.


Check out the following photos. They depict crazy people. I'm only calling it as I see it...and writely so...



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Synopsis to blow the synapses

It truly sucks when you are working on something and your computers dies, leaving you to scramble with “works in progress” cuz you can’t get to them. Ugh!


Well, be that as it may, I wanted to complete this blog, so rather than wait, I’m just gonna start again. It’s probably not a bad thing; some of my best work is done on the fly. :o)


Since writing the blogs on queries, I realized that another equally important element of the query letter is..... (drum-roll please)..…the synopsis!


Yup, that’s right, that thing we hate even more than the query letter itself. And, why do we dislike it so? Well, let’s be honest, trying to explain a 300 page (or more) novel in a few pages makes a root canal seem like fun. How do we just keep to the highlights and still do our work justice? There’s always so much more you want to tell. But let’s face it, it’s easy to get bogged down with details that confuse and make a person’s eyes roll back in their head.


Not good. I’m just saying…


So, what can we do?


First and foremost, get it into our heads that it’s a necessary evil.


There. No getting passed it.


Next.


Get the goods -- go to the agent’s/publisher’s website and follow their instructions. How many pages does it need to be? Formatting. They might even give you an example or two that show you how they like them to be written. That would be ideal! Since there are many ways to write a synopsis, if you are lucky and the agent/publisher grants you this insight -- you are aces!


If the agent/publisher doesn’t give you examples of what they like, then one handy trick is to check out their published authors’ websites. You might just strike it lucky and find that one of them blogged about synopses and used their own letter as an example.


Jackpot!


Otherwise, if all else fails, check out some “how-to” websites. My favourite is Writing-World.com. This website is great for so many writing elements. The most awesome thing about this particular blog is that the author demonstrates the different kinds of synopses:

  1. A single sentence.
  2. A single paragraph.
  3. A single page or shorter.
  4. The expanded version.

Love it!


In my writing career, I have utilized every one of these. But the one I use all the time is the single sentence synopsis. Think of how many times you are asked: “What’s your story about?”


Ding ding ding! We have a winner!


That little one-liner is gonna be your golden ticket! Okay, maybe not a true golden ticket, but when you have a great one-liner ready, eyes rolling back in the head will be a thing of the past. And that’s very good.


I like to have my one-liner ready even as I am working on a novel, cuz the moment you mention that you are working on something, people always ask what it’s about. If your story evolves in a different direction that changes your one-liner, so be it. I’ve always said that I am but a venue, my stories write themselves. They only need me to get them into the computer. :o)


I actually rather like figuring out the one-line synopsis. As to the others, I dread them like everyone else and leave them until the last minute....I know...my bad. But thankfully in this computer age, everything is at our fingertips, so finding a format that works for you is easy.


In the words of Dee-Ann in her blog on writing-world.com, “My recommendation would be to find as many different descriptions of synopsis writing as possible and experiment. Eventually you'll find a way that works really well for you.”


Great advice!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Query that

After my rather humbling experience recently, I realized I want more info on the elusive query letter.

Writing a query should be easy, right? You just scribble out a short cover letter introducing yourself and your work, cuz you know your work is marvellous and should sell itself.

Wrong.

Even if your work is bestseller material, a fumbling query letter is going to get you into the ‘rejection pile’ and no where near the bestseller list. This is your opportunity to sell yourself -- to make the agent sit up and take notice.

So, how do we write the most amazing query letter possible?

Let’s break it down.

First – research, research, research. Even though there’s a basic format to query letters, don’t write one generic query and send it to a bunch of different agents hoping to strike it lucky. That’s like playing Russian Roulette with your career. Read up on your choice of agents. Follow their guidelines to the letter. And don’t forget to browse their blogs – this is where the real nuggets of information are gleaned. Maybe they might even give you an example or two of what they consider a great query. (Yay!)

Next – write a query that’s tailored to the agent you are submitting to. What does that mean? Give ‘em exactly what they ask for; nothing more – nothing less. This can include attachments versus inserting manuscript material into the body of an email. Or, even a paragraph synopsis versus a full-page synopsis. Deviating from their provided instructions just tells them that you can’t follow directions. That’s fast-tracking yourself right out the door.

Another next – the query itself. I like the way writing-world.com sets it out. Though the author is referring to article pitching, I did find this site helpful. It talks about the five basic components of a query:

• The hook
• The pitch
• The body
• The credentials
• The close

Each component is crucial. The author at the above site breaks it down well and is a good read. She even includes links to related articles – check out the sample query letter.

Another site fictionwriters.com has some good do’s and don’ts.

This website charlottedillon.com has a bunch of examples that landed the authors agents. Note that they are all quite different.

What I find interesting is that the above samples prove that queries need to be agent-specific. Note that one letter may start out with a hook, while another starts with an introduction. It would seem that while there are rules, these rules can in some cases be bent a little.

This too can be said for the do’s and don’ts as well. During my research I came across an agent who actually liked a little butt-kissing. (Say what??) Yup, I kid you not. In this instance -- to submit or not to submit -- is the question. Remember, you need to comfortably work with this person. Do you wanna work with someone you have to brown-nose?

Nah. Gimme a professional any day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Query this

On the hunt for an agent, I had a rude awakening -- the importance of an amazing query letter.

I thought I'd done my homework -- ummm, no! Course, I realized after the fact -- like 15 seconds after I hit the 'send' button. Ugh!

Check list:
Checked the website submission guidelines -- check
Wrote my query -- check
Wrote my synopsis x2 -- check
Attached my required chapters -- check
Hit send -- check.

So, what went wrong?

I missed one link -- the most important link -- the one where the agent actually 'tells' you exactly what he wants to see in a query to him -- jackpot!!!! Or in this case – doh!

Okay, so what have I learned?

First of all, follow your gut! If you think you should take one more look at the guidelines and requirements for your submission -- do it! Don’t wait until after you send the email. It's like having lottery numbers that you religiously play every week and you forget to play them just this one time! And then, for some crazy, self torturing reason, you check to see if you'd won. Ohh, the horror...

Next, each agent has different expectations for submissions to them -- so read everything on the site, including if the agent has a blog -- especially if they have a blog. On the company site, the info is formal; whereas on an agent’s blog, they can be relaxed and you might find golden nuggets of information that could be the difference between an “aye” or “nay”.

Another next, there is no one-size-fits-all query letter. Yes, learn the basics about query letters, but researching each agent is a must. Each has different requirements; some may want a paragraph synopsis of your book, others may want a separate 2-page synopsis. Some may want a formal-styled query, while another may be happy with a casually approached submission.

And finally -- and this is a big one -- make your query the absolute best it can be. Don’t think for a second that you can write a sub-standard query, with the thought that if only the agent just read your amazing story (and it could be the best on the planet) that it would sell itself. From the way I understand it, if the query letter bites -- your book bites the dust.

All righty then -- that being said -- back to my 2-page synopsis…

Monday, May 24, 2010

Writing a story...one tweet at a time

I'm telling you - this is the best idea since the internet. And I'm not saying this because it's our idea -- okay, maybe I am. But this is exciting!

My writers' group and I are collaboratively writing a story together -- on Twitter. It's a fun story that utilizes no outline, no charachter sketch, no restrictions. It's seven creative minds doing what they do best -- write!

Check us out on Twitter. To follow us go to: http://twitter.com/tweetaddaline and add us.

The story begins with Kevin's great line: "Adeline died in my arms. I never should have lent them to her." And spins from there.

The entire story is located on our blog: http://tweetaddaline.blogspot.com

What I find so amazing is that we are seven very different writers, with unique writing styles, coming from various genres, and yet it's difficult to tell who has written what. Talk about cohesion!

Where will the story end up? Who knows! Cuz anything goes!

Well, back to tweeting...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Publishing -- Part 2 -- Small vs. Large Publishing Houses

This subject is near and dear to my heart. I hail from a small publishing house. Though I definitely can’t speak for all small houses, nor can I speak to all large publishing houses, I definitely can pull from my experience, research and the conversations I’ve had with other authors.

(Enter – the main character – the heroine)

My journey has taken me in the direction of the large publishing house. That is where I want to be. I have my reasons for wanting this avenue, but for the newbie, you can weigh the options for yourself.

From my last blog, I made reference to being a “real” published author. This is a bona fide kicker. So the burning question is: What makes a "real" published author? Does it all come down to size? How big is your publishing house? What size is your print-run?

Yes and no. I have a friend who is with a small company here in Winnipeg and she is thought of very highly as an author. Her books are readily found locally. She is definitely a “real” author. I too was with a small company, and I’m definitely a “real” author, though, at times I felt the sting of the “real” author doubts. But here is the difference -- the company I dealt with is American and not known in Canada. This created a dilemma for me. Though my publishing company was just as good as the one here in Winnipeg, the unknown seemed to be too much for some.

Okay, let’s look even deeper. Another quandary for the small house is the global market. Not many of the smaller houses have that far reach and tend to be more local. Course, I am talking physical paper back books here. Cuz, for instance, the books of my friend and I are available online and can be purchased anywhere. But, if no one is aware of you, how will they know to look for you?

(The plot thickens)

So let’s think about this. Big publishing houses can offer you:

1. a bigger global market;

2. book tours; and

3. farther reaching recognition.

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. There are a few strings.

1. more often than not, bigger publishing companies don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, so you’ll need an agent;

2. one author I spoke to was put on a book tour, but it was fairly limited. The economy affects us all, it would seem. On his own, he stopped off in cities that weren’t on the tour to expand on it – and it really paid off for him. So, even with the support of a larger publishing company, you must be prepared to go that extra mile for your own career. So, this tells me that if you have the misconception that once you’re picked up by a large publishing company that you can just sit back and enjoy the ride, you may be in for a rude awakening. You will have to work really hard to promote yourself and your book – of course, self promotion would be expected with a big or small publishing company; and

3. with the bigger companies comes bigger expectations of you. Go big, or go home, as they say.

(The climax)

So where does that leave you? With a huge decision. Even more so here than in the previous blog I posted, your career goals become the focal point. Where do you see yourself? Just on the local front, or something far grander? How much time you willing to invest? How hard do you want to work?

So we've come full circle. It's all up to you. Take your time. Weigh all the options. Do your own homework (I can’t stress this enough). Things are constantly changing out there. And, decide what is best for you.

Then take a deep breath and jump in with both feet, cuz once you sign on the dotted line – you’re in for a wild ride!

(The end)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Publishing -- Part 1 -- e-Publishing

Publishing is such an extensive subject -- with large publishing houses, smaller publishing houses, e-publishing, POD (print on demand) publishers, and self-publishing.

Since this subject is so generous, I'm going to break it down into separate blogs. Granted, I'm no expert on the subject, but I can draw from my experience -- starting with e-publishing.

I remember when books that were e-published were not considered to be 'real books'. Trust me, it's sad to hear that, because e-published authors aren't the only ones to contend with that stereo-type. I'm published through a smaller publisher with a small print-run, and even with an actual print-run, I had to really push that I was a 'real' author because my publisher wasn't well-known. I will elaborate more on that in an upcoming blog.

I have to admit that I do understand the hesitation of some to accept e-published books. In the earlier days of e-publishing; demand was very low, and it was thought that the only people who got e-published were those who couldn't get picked up by a 'real' publisher. That's a tough reputation to overcome. And, in all honesty, there were and still are some poorly edited stories popping up. But hey, that's happened with even the most reputable, larger publishing houses.

That being said, wanting to be e-published is a choice. It offers some pretty good incentives, yet some pretty big draw-backs too.

Some incentives are e-books are cheaper for the consumer, environmentally friendly, and have a low overhead so the author gets a bigger cut of the royalties. That's pretty sweet. And with all the new e-reader devices, the future looks bright!

On the other hand, you won't see your book in bookstores or libraries. The stereo-type of not being a 'real' author will be an issue. You will need to promote yourself online A LOT to get your name out there and sell e-books. And what if you want to do book signings? Of course, some e-publishers do offer a POD (print on demand) option. So, you could order books for a signing, but you would need to purchase the books first, and unfortunately, some bookstores can be unreceptive to POD authors.

Have I turned you off of e-publishing? I hope not, cuz like I said earlier, it really comes down to an author's choice. You need to ask yourself: What do I want out of my career as an author? How big do I want to go? How much time do I want to invest?

Once you know the answers to these questions -- your choice should be easy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Books to movies

If the planets align juuuuust right...everything will be perfect in the universe.

Ya, right.

In the movies, what ever isn't right can be made right with technology that's amazing. I'll admit, I'm a huge fan of blockbuster movies with mindboggling special effects.

But, as exciting as it would be to have a book chosen to be made into a movie, movies often don't do a book justice. They take liberties with the storyline - even as far as just basing the movie on the book. Meaning, only the basic idea of the book was kept - which perhaps, might actually be better than a 'book to movie' cuz at least expectations of the movie's trueness would be far less.

'Trueness' to a book is ideal. When I read a book and fall in love with the characters and the storyline - I want that feeling when I see the movie - I don't think that's too much to ask. :o)

Some authors, like J.K. Rowling, demanded that the movies made of her books be true to them. I think initially her intentions were good, but then her books grew in length and we started to see a decline in the "trueness". I imagine 700+ page novels are difficult to turn into a movie, and I imagine I'm being difficult to please, but so be it.

Now, if someone offered to turn my novel into a movie, I probably wouldn't turn my nose up at that opportunity, but I would demand 'trueness' to my book. And since my book is not 700+ pages, it would be so easy! I'm just putting that one out there...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Coming up with the next great trend

Trends, especially in writing for young adults, hit the market in waves and usually hit it hard, making a lot of really great stories fall to the wayside. The most recent trend, vampires and werewolves, took the market and readership by storm. A lot of really good series were born, but so did a lot of tailgaters. I find it difficult to conform and would rather wait out a trend than follow. Unless of course I create the trend! Then by all means peeps, jump on board! :o)

The Harry Potter series created a huge trend, but in that created something that hadn't been seen since The Lord of the Rings series, J.K. Rowlings created something fresh and new and I truly admire that.

I'm interested to see what will create the next buzz. My writers' group pondered this and came up with some interesting ideas -- though I have to admit I'm a little skeptical of Sasquatch sweet romance...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I'm back!!

New blogs to follow shortly.