December 7, 2017 Update: All Things Great and Droll

So, I’m querying. Mmm, the hallowed ground of writing business letters to literary agents, if by “business letter” one means a formulaic if strangely creative construct meant to display one’s utter lack of ability to pitch the glorious novel just completed.

“Dear Mr/Ms. Agent,

John Doe only wanted to find his birth mother that fateful day, the orphanage file clutched in his hand…..

….. But as fate would have it, the portal opened up to a strange, dangerous world instead. If John were to survive and save both worlds, he would have to tame the dangerous power within him before his mother’s killer found the Risen Stone again.

My novel, Upon the Rising Tide, a young adult epic fantasy, is complete at 350,00 words. It won the prestigious High Pitches, Young Pitchers 2017 contest.”

Ah, what sweet sorrow is the stream of rejections! “Thank you for interest in Pulliam, Derskstrom, and Fink Literary. However, we just didn’t  connect with your story the way we should. This is, however, a subjective industry.” We writers so know and love the form rejection letter. Likely as much as agents love the firehose of query letters they receive.

Of course, we writers know these agents have made a huge mistake! They were chowing on their Banh Mi far too fast and missed our wondrous pearl of a novel. Our query wasn’t one of those that showed an amateur writer, who hadn’t been working on his or her craft, who hadn’t formatted the query or manuscript the right way, or tried to squeeze in a joke, or wrote the query in the POV of a character, or had just gotten all folksy.  No, this was a masterpiece they had missed. Poor agent.

Such is life. So, we query and query again. The first dozen sent and then revised, and then the next dozen, and then the next two dozen, and then soon a hundred. Then, on to the next novel, better written, the craft even more perfected, the characters more robust and aching, the plot dripping with intrigue. On and on, our day jobs plodding with ever more delirium.

See you on the other side.

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PitchWars Update: November 2, 2017

I can’t believe I used to update my writing every day, for over six months even. Sheesh, that’s ridiculous.

Anyway, I busted my ass doing revisions on KINGDOM, now called IN THE SHADOW OF THE CAULDRON. You can see the agent showcase of it here. I think Hayley (@hayley_stone on Twitter) and I did great work on the pitch and the manuscript. Let me take a second to say how much Hayley did to help transform this novel.

She took what was, basically, a fucked up if nicely twisted story and slapped me around until I worked it into something that could be called “crafted”. Whether or not a reader enjoys it is, in the end, their preference. But, the damn thing has been revised with an eye toward craft, voice, and emotional resonance. I can’t say enough about her editor’s eye and her blunt directives. She was the perfect foil for my stubbornness and independent streak.

So now we see what comes next. Maybe some agents will take an interest in the showcase, maybe I will cold query.  Maybe I will get a publishing deal.  No matter, I will move on to the next phase and the next book.

I have ideas rambling in my head: the adult fairy tale about a man and his baby daughter at the end of the world; or, the fantasy thriller about the first female Navy SEAL now working for a tech company sent to an Arctic lab that’s gone silent; or a literary crime thriller retelling of the birth of the Minotaur set in the Philly underworld. I want to wait until early 2018 to get through this phase and start fresh.

Publishing a book would be nice. Or not. I’m just really excited to start writing again. Thanks to this process, and to Hayley, and to PitchWars, I’m a (much) better writer, and I can’t wait to dig into something new.

August 29, 2017

This has been a strange journey, and this new path almost wasn’t taken. But….

I got into Pitch Wars 2017!

The really fantastic Hayley Stone chose KINGDOM out of her many wonderful submissions. I had a pretty good idea I was in the running as Hayley had been emailing me with questions in the weeks leading up to the announcements.

For those who don’t know, Pitch Wars works by matching an agented and an often published author (and in my case with Hayley, an accomplished editor, as well) with an un-agented author (me).

Now that I’ve been chosen, Hayley has sent me a detailed edit letter which covers extensive developmental edits and content edits. Once we work through those, we’ll work on line edits. Then we’ll do some query and pitch work. Hayley has also suggested we change the name of the book, which I agree with. I haven’t come up with anything yet but am bouncing some ideas around.

At the end of this process, Pitch Wars has an agent round where I can pitch the book to agents.  This is an amazing opportunity and a continuation of a crazy journey for this book. I was ready to trunk the damn thing a little over a month ago, frustrated after I had boxed myself in with some plot and character choices I simply wouldn’t give up. Hayley read the book, saw through those hurdles, and loved it anyway.

Now I have to put in some hard work, in a little over two months, to meet Hayley’s vision for refinement. I am in complete agreement with her changes, it’s just a matter of doing the writing.

I am thankful to her for seeing the same vision for the book I do and for being able to see through the flaws.

To those who each year think about Pitch Wars, but talk themselves out of it or say, “My book isn’t ready or good enough or I’m not ready as a writer”–trust me, I was right there too. I had started writing a new book! But all it takes is one mentor to feel it in their gut for you and your book to get in. So, though I am one of the more cynical people around and don’t typically buy into the “You can’t win if you don’t just try to get in” shenanigans, it’s really true.

Buck up and try. I did some spruce up edits the days leading up to submissions, especially on my query and synopsis (which Hayley asked for). I researched the mentors I wanted (which in my case was somewhat easier than other mentees, because the Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy mentor list is much shorter than, say, the Young Adult lists). I set aside my doubts and told myself I had written a good book.

Will everyone who has written a good book get in? No. But, it only takes one mentor to find that spark, for whatever the reason, and kindle your hopes. It happened to me.

Day 186 – 203: July 5 – 22, 2017

I had almost given up on writing KINGDOM. If one single reason jumped out, I would give it. Why do writers have existential pangs of doubt and crises of effort? Because writing is shitty. Mostly, except for a very few, no reward awaits. Not even can we expect a genial, “Wow, that’s great,” from folks, at least any that would satisfy our morbid egos. Why? Because those platitudes would likely come from well-meaning friends or moms, who always say such things. 

We want either from the masses or our esteemed knowledgeable colleagues, or both. Or, someone other than our day-to-day circle of people to read our work.
So I fucking bailed. Then, I didn’t. I have rushed back in to get ready for Pitch Wars, which haa turned into an all consuming Twitter contest for writers. In it, a writer enters his/her first chapter and query letter, then can get have his entire manuscript selected to be mentored for revision. Later there is an agent round and all that. 

So I am rushing to do a major revision to KINGDOM. I decided to change tense from present to past and add a layer of narration to it, plus change the ending slightly. It’s made me crazy. Odds are crazy to get in. My favorite mentor, who I won’t name, last night came to the conclusion my manuscript was probably to high concept fantasy to submit to her. 

Aaaargh!
I will plod onward. 

Day 185: July 4, 2017

The 4th of July!

The actual day of the holiday we did nothing. Well, except rest. I grilled too, but I basically do almost every day. Tended the garden a bit too. Our squash plant is as big as a tree. There’s something unnatural about the damn thing. I’ll, take a picture one of these days.