The Starving Novelist
 
I'm going out on a limb by posting my new and improved (I hope) query.  I figured since I was going through the trouble of overhauling my ms, I should do the same with my query.  Please let me know what you think.  I'm REALLY struggling with the tag line, and I might just dump it all together and not use one (I didn't use one in my last batch queries).  Again, PLEASE let me know if you think it works or not (I'm leaning towards 'not').  Also, I know it looks long, but it does meet the "12 pt/1" margins/1 page" rule.  Thanks in advance for any feedback!!

 
Dear

When recently widowed Ellie Langston finds herself falling for her much younger and happily engaged coworker, she learns the hard way that timing truly is everything.     

Thirty-five-year-old Ellie has struggled with bouts of depression for years, but when her husband dies, she’s thrown into a darkness so deep, it almost takes her life.  Four months later, Ellie is on the mend, but now finds herself dealing with other obstacles, such as; going back to work after a ten-year hiatus, raising her pre-teen daughters alone, and dealing with an overprotective mother.  The one thing she doesn’t have to worry about is her growing friendship with her new coworker, Aiden.  Ellie can’t help but be wooed by the twenty-five-year-old’s good looks and English charm, but what appeals to the ever-anxious Ellie is his friendliness and carefree spirit. 

Aiden is happily engaged, and since Ellie is recently widowed, there’s a mutual unavailability that keeps the relationship from crossing any lines.  However, one slow-dance during the company Christmas party changes everything.  Ellie and Aiden both realize there is something more brewing under the guise of their easy-going friendship.  Aiden is ready to give up everything to pursue the unlikely romance.  Ellie, however, is unable to break free from the tangled weed of guilt, fear, and responsibility that controls her.  After the year she has been through, Ellie is determined to provide herself and her children with a sense of normalcy and stability- even if it means, once again, losing someone she loves. 
 
Complete at 82,000 words, The Fine Line is women’s fiction with a heavy romance element.  It has the internal character struggle of an Elizabeth Berg novel, but the love story is reminiscent of the works of Nicholas Sparks.  

I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Eastern Michigan University with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Psychology.  I believe my knowledge of the behavioral sciences comes across in my writing, and increases the believability of the main character’s emotional state, along with the character interactions throughout the story.  Like the main character, I too worked in the field of public relations; writing press releases, and in turn, polishing my writing skills.    

I have much respect for your agency, and I look forward to the possibility of working with you. Thank you for your time and consideration.  

Sincerely,

 
 
Off the emotional rollercoaster, that is.  Seriously, I feel more like Sybil these days- complete with multiple personalities- than a writer.  Matter of fact, since they've been spending so much time with me lately, I feel it only right that I should introduce them (my alter egos, of course).  Note: these are just some of my favorite personalities, they visit me the most often ;o)

Confident Connie- She can do anything.  She will keep on revising, editing, and querying; knowing she will eventually find the perfect agent.  If it doesn't happen, that's okay, because her next novel will be totally awesome and will definetly get someone's attention!

Anxious Annie- She questions and worries about everything.  Should she include a prologue?  Should she nudge that agent?  Is her synopsis long/short enough?   Should she dump that chapter?  Does that paragraph need to be clarified? 

Gloomy Glenda- She usually comes for extended stays after after a rejection, but will pop in for a visit while writing and revising.  She questions whether or not she's 'good enough' and if she should be 'wasting' her time. 

Determined Deanna- She is usually the one to kick Gloomy Glenda out.  She knows she has no other choice but to carry on.  Writing is her destiny, her calling, her dream.  For her, writing is living.  It's as vital to her as food and air.  She will reach her goal!

Determined Deanna is my favorite.  I just wish she'd visit more often.  ;o)


 
 
This is a continuation of last week's entry, regarding some of the important things I've learned since undertaking this journey a year ago.

The first chapter- The first chapter is almost just as important as the query in getting a request for a submission- especially since a lot of agents request sample pages along with the query.  When I originally wrote my opening chapter, I THOUGHT it was original, creative, and most of all, pulled the reader in.  However, as of lately, this first chapter of my ms has proven to be my nemesis.  How do I know this?  Well, for starters, ALL my submission requests came from queries with NO attached sample pages, and when I got feedback from agents regarding submissions, there was often a mentioning of my first chapter.  Back to the drawing board!  Lesson- don't put hours and hours into a query, and then neglect your first chapter.  Your first chapter needs to introduce the main characters, and at least HINT at the conflict.  Oh, and don't overload the first chapter with backstory (another one of my faults)!!  Spread it out throughout the ms . . . leave a little mystery ;o) 

Agents- One piece of advice I'd like everyone to take with them is: Don't lose your integrity!!  Remember who you are!!  Agents are not God's, and we are not their little minions.  They need us just as much as we need them.  Let's face it, most of us are . . . well . . . desperate.  We want to find an agent so bad, we sometimes put up with a lot of behavior we probably wouldn't put up with in any other sort of business relationship.  Don't get me wrong, I've had really good experiences with several agents (even though I received rejections from them), and will most likely query them again with future projects.  They were considerate and respectful, and I would highly recommend them.  On the other side of the spectrum, there are some who are . . . . less considerate and respectul (I'll avoid specific details- no need to start a debate).  We've all heard author/agent horror stories.  Don't become one of them!

Feedback- What is there to say?  This stuff is like gold- most of the time.  I say most of the time, because sometimes the feedback can be very vague, like "I don't get a sense of urgency" or "the writing doesn't sparkle".   Just like I did, you're probably racking your brain right about now, trying to 'break the code'.  My point is, sometimes you have to disregard some of the feedback, or else you'll drive yourself mad trying to figure out what the h*ll they're talking about.   However, if you're receiving similiar feedback time and time again- USE IT!!  Don't disregard it as 'coincidence' or some kind of 'conspiracy'.  Take it, and use it to make your manuscript "sparkle" *sarcasm*.

Moving on- Don't throw in the towel until you've done everything in your power to get represented.  I've heard of people sending out HUNDREADS of queries before getting an offer of representation.  The key is to always be open and willing to making changes to your query and ms.  Oh, and continue to write!!  Try to get a little bit of writing done while querying.  Also, in my own opinion, READ, READ, READ!!  Reading other books will give you ideas on how to word things, or how to set up your plot.  Personally, I know the more I read, the better I write (strange, but true).

Wow, if I've learned all this (and more!) in a year, I wonder what I have to look forward to this year?   Here's to wishing all my fellow writers a wonderful and successful New Year!

 
 
I wasn't planning on posting anything until next week, but I wanted to share a funny little story.  First off, I should mention that when it comes to following your dream/calling/destiny (whatever you want to call it), I don't believe there are any "accidents."  I'm not an overly religious person, but I do believe God gives me little signs that I'm on the right track, or to keep going (especially when I'm about ready to throw in the towel).  For instance, a couple of my requests for submissions came when I was at my lowest- and I mean LOWEST.  Also, I've had two requests that have come from unusual cirumstances (me screwing up). 

Happy accident #1-  I touched upon this in my previous post, but I'll say it again.  I once received a request for a full from a big time agent at one of the biggest agencies, AFTER sending the query addressed to the wrong agent!  Of course, I noticed right after the fact what I'd done, so I quickly re-sent the query, along with a little note apologizing.  Some people told me this probably made things worse (I kind of agreed with them, but oh well).  Anyways, you can imagine my surprise  when the request for the full was in my inbox.  I like to believe (my slip up) wasn't an accident.  Maybe it made my query stand out, or maybe she's just really understanding when it comes to things like that.  Either way, woo-hoo!

Happy accident #2 (my funny little story)-  So there's this agent.  I originally emailed my query to her in mid-September and got a rejection shortly thereafter (didn't put the date I got rejected on my spreadsheet, just marked it off as 'rejected'). On October 29th, I ACCIDENTLY queried her again! I somehow must've overlooked her on my spreadsheet (this has NEVER happened before). Anyways, guess what was in my inbox on Monday? A request for a partial! The funny part is, the two queries weren't all that different. Who knows, maybe she was in a bad mood the first time she read it, or maybe two different people read the queries (interns possibly?). Either way, I'm thankful for the second chance.

Like I said, there are no accidents when it comes to following your dream ;o)
 
 
I started writing The Fine Line in November of 2009.  A year has past, and with the new year just starting, I thought now would be a good time to "reflect" on everything I've learned.  Well, maybe I won't write everything I've learned (more than likely, you have a life, and have better things to do than listen to me ramble on, and on, and on).  Also, just to ensure I don't bore anyone to tears, I will do this in two parts (part two will be next weeks entry).

1) Writing- sometimes you LITERALLY have to force yourself to do it.  Come up with a schedule and stick to it- no matter what.  I HAD to write at least two pages every night, no matter how long it took.  To most of you, this might not seem like a lot, but I didn't want to set myself up for failure.  I wrote five nights a week (after putting the kids to bed).  I wrote on holidays, birthdays, nights I had to hold my eyelids up with toothpicks, and even when I was sick.  If by some chance I couldn't write, I had to make it up by writing on one of my "nights off."  I stuck to my schedule, and my first draft was finished in six months. 

2) Editing/Revising- I've mentioned this before, but I think it's worth mentioning again- after you finish your project, LET IT REST, and THEN start editing and revising.  I've heard the suggestion of six weeks, but some even recommend letting it sit longer.  This is probably the most valuable piece of advice I've acquired this past year.  It's so important to distance yourself from your project.  It's AMAZING what you find wrong after you've taken a break from it.  I didn't do this, and I could kick myself for not doing so.

3) Writing the query- There is no hard and fast rule for writing a query.  I used to be very anal about this, and therefore, drove myself crazy visiting every website under the sun, trying to figure out the "right" way.  Some say to put the genre and word count at the beginning, some say at the end.  Some say you should always include the first several pages of your ms with your query, some say don't include anything not requested.  I've learned that the MOST important thing about writing a query is the "hook" or "blurb" (another thing, can we require that everyone in the writing business use the same lingo? Thing of how much confusion would be laid to rest).  When it's all said and done, that's what agents REALLY care about- 'can this book make money?'  The second most important thing when writing a query is, common sense.  This means, keep in simple, formal, and respectful.  Mistakes can be overlooked (i.e. addressing the query to the wrong agent- yep guilty!  BUT ironically enough, I did get a request for a full from this agent!), but a lack of common sense can not. 

Next week- the first chapter, agents, feedback, and moving on
 
 
Happy New Year to all!  I hope everyone enjoyed the Holidays.  I did my best to relax, and succeeded somewhat (it's hard to relax when you have children home on winter break- especially chidren that spend 50% of the day fighting with one another).  I even took a week off of revising/editing my ms, and treated myself to some mindless entertainment.  Though I suppose that statement isn't exactly true- watching  "The Tudors" isn't exactly 'mindless'.  You REALLY have to pay attention to what's going on, or you'll get lost.  It also helps to know a little of the backstory.  Lucky for me, I'm a HUGE Philippa Gregory fan (The Other Boleyn Girl is probably her most well-known novel) , so I have a little bit of an advantage.  

Yes, it is safe to say that I'm momentarily OBSESSED with the Tudor Dynasty, especially Philippa Gregory's novels on the topic.  I love, love, love her writing.  I've always said there are two types of authors, (1) those who can tell a good story, and (2) those who can write a good story.  Regarding the latter, some people can write a book beautifully- the writing is, simply put, "pretty".  It flows like poetry, and reads with ease.  While reading one of these books, you can tell the author was confident with his/her writing, and did not struggle, or at least the author makes it seem that way.  On the other hand, there are some writers that are REALLY good at telling a story, but the writing itself is less than stellar.  There's a very well-known author, whose books were like an addiction to me when I first discovered them- I literally couldn't put them down, and when I wasn't reading them, I was thinking about them.  This author is an awesome story teller, but her writing isn't exactly . . . the greatest.     Anyways, my whole point in all of this, is that Philippa Gregory is both- a good story teller AND a beautiful writer. 

I am a very picky and critical reader, so when I find a book I love, I will usually read everything the author ever wrote (I've done this with Mya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Laura Ingalls-Wilder) .  I am on my fourth novel by Philippa Gregory, and she has yet to dissapoint.  I highly recommend checking her out- especially if you're a fan of historical ficiton (funny thing is, I never used to be!). 

As for "The Tudors." I finished season 4, and I am half way through with season 1 (I haven't seen 2 or 3 yet- I know, I got a late start).

Again, Happy New Years to all!!  It feels good to be back!