The Starving Novelist
Moving Day! 04/05/2011
 
I am in the process of moving over to blogger.  Weebly and I weren't getting along very well, so to avoid further stress (and sucking up of my time), I've decided to leave before things get ugly ;)  I am VERY thankful to my few followers, and hope you all will follow me over to my new digs at www.angelavcook.blogspot.com  Hope to see you there! 
 
 
I took the plunge.  Yessiree I am now on Twitter.  I'm still getting my sea legs, but so far, I kinda like it.  My main reasoning for signing up with Twitter was to connect with other writers.  It can be a very cold and lonely world for a "closet" writer like myself, so I'm looking forward to '"meeting" and getting to know some fellow writers.  If your interested in following me, my handle (is that the term they use for it??) is @AngelaVCook (so much for anonymity).   Anyways, if you follow me, I'll follow you back :o)  See you there! 
 
 
Ahh . . . it seems like it was only yesterday I was sending my very first query out into the cold, cold world; with nothing but a hope and a wish to keep it warm.  Oh, the memories . . . 

Seven months later, litters upon litters of queries have been thrown out into the world to fend for themselves, and just a couple of weeks ago, I entered the realm of triple digits.  Yes, I have sent out over 100 queries (I will not say how much over, because I do need to maintain some dignity).  Admission is the first step, right?  I actually felt embarrassed and ashamed at first, like I was some kind of loser who “couldn’t get the hint” (self-deprecation at it’s finest).  However, when a querytracker.net member (Raven1- maybe you know her?  If not, she’s QT’s own resident cheerleader) recently congratulated me on reaching this milestone, it caused me to re-evaluate the situation.  Hmm . . . maybe it wasn’t something to be ashamed of.  It’s not like I just randomly sent out 100 queries in one fell swoop.  Those queries are a representation of hours, upon hours, upon hours of hard work and determination.  Not to mention, I’ve read plenty of success stories from people who got offers of representation after hitting the 100 milestone.  So maybe this is something to be proud of after all.

How did the number get so high? 

First of all, can I just say this whole ‘send out about ten at a time to see if your query is working’ philosophy is a bunch of phooey?  Theoretically, it does make sense, but realistically?  Not so much.  More and more agents are switching to the “no response means no” rule, and those who do respond either (a) do so with a vague form letter and/or (b) take forever to respond.  I think twenty queries at a time seems more appropriate (especially if this is your first time querying a novel).  If after about three weeks you haven’t gotten a single request, then you know for a fact your query isn’t working. 

My query wasn’t the greatest at the beginning, but it was good enough for me to get a submission request here and there.  To make a long story short, it took me sending out seventy queries (and several sub rejections) before I’d gotten enough feedback to realize my ms needed revising. 

After three months of revising, I was ready to jump back into querying.  Needless to say, after about two months of being back, I’ve easily surpassed the 100 mark. 

Why keep going?

This is my first novel, and if I’d quit after 20 queries, I would’ve been doing myself a huge disservice.  It’s very likely this novel will end up getting trunked, but it’s been a HUGE learning experience, and I don’t regret one second of it.  I’ve learned so much by putting this project out there.  For example, if I had quit early on in the process, I would’ve never known that my dialog has a tendency to sound “choppy,” or that I really need to be careful not to bog down my beginning with back-story.  These have all been invaluable lessons that I would’ve never learned had I given up fifty queries ago.  My next project will surely benefit from the hard work I put into this first novel.  I hope.
 
 
I am.  No, I don’t write about closets, I mean I can literally count on one hand how many people know about my double life (hehehe- kind of makes me sound like a secret agent!).  Why do I keep this huge part of who I am hidden?  I think my main reason is because the only people who 'get' writers are other writers.  Thanks to the media, the gen-pop have an over-simplified view of the publishing industry.  They think, “Just print it out, wrap it up, and send it to the publisher.”  Or, “If Lauren Conrad and *insert any other celebrity name here* can get a book deal, why can’t you?” Heck, even I had delusions of grandeur before starting this journey.  I can remember thinking, “I’ll send out twenty queries.  Surely, that’ll be more than enough!” Umm . . .yeah . . . (says the girl who just sent out her 100th query a couple of weeks ago <shamefully hides face in hands>).                        

Another reason to keep my writing on the down-low:  You know how annoying it is when you’re driving somewhere and your kids (if you have kids, if not, just imagine) keep asking, “Are we there yet?”  Well, the last thing I want is a continuous stream of are-you-there-yets.  This process can be depressing enough without a barrage of people asking you if you’ve made it yet.   

My final reason: some people don’t consider writing a ‘serious’ career.  Writing tends to get lumped in with other 'silly' dreams like singing, acting, painting, etc.  Again, I am guilty of thinking the same thing.  I’ve always loved to write, but the idea of majoring in something like creative writing . . . Haha!  Yeah, right!  What kind of ‘real’ job could I get with that degree?  I had to pick something practical (yeah, because the job market is abuzz with opportunities for undergraduate sociology majors *sarcasm*).  So, yet another reason to keep my ‘silly’ dream to myself.

Will I ever come out of the closet?  I made a promise to myself that I would, IF I (a) get myself an agent, or (b) get published (not that it’s very likely the latter will happen without the other).  Until then, I will continue to whine, vent, and celebrate here on my blog and with my handful of family/friends that know.  Oh, and I can’t forget my querytracker.com peeps!  Seriously, they’re awesome ;o)
 
Wow, Wow, Wow!! 03/07/2011
 
Sometimes wishes do come true!  I was just saying how I wish I could find another book/book series to fall in love with.  I wanted to find a book that would pull me in and not let me go.  Well, I found it with Suzanne Collins's THE HUNGER GAMES.  

When the first TWILIGHT movie came out, I had to see what all the hype was about, so I rented the movie.  I thought it was okay, and then a friend told me I should read the books.  So, even though I hadn't read anything longer than an article in "Parents" magazine in years, I decided to check it out.  I was reluctant to read a book about teenage vampires (blech), but I thought 'what the heck?'  Well, the rest is history. 

A similair thing happened with THE HUNGER GAMES.  Being a writer, I'm always checking out blogs, websites, etc., and one book kept popping up (everywhere)- THE HUNGER GAMES.  I'm not a fan of science fiction (at all), but once again, I had to see what all the hype was.  Well, well, well . . . let me just say I was in for a treat.  I checked this book out last Tuesday (3/1), and had it finished by Friday (3/4). 

THE HUNGER GAMES is an amazing book.  The story is refreshing and beautifully told.  I love it because it's simple, clean, and straight to the point.  For example, there aren't pages and pages of landscape description (ugh, I HATE that).  Collins is able to put images into the reader's imagination without beating it into his/her head.   To say this book held my interest would be an understatement.  I kept waiting for some down time in the plot to take a break from reading, but there is none!   The story is action packed with smidges of romance and humor.  The main characters are likable and easy to get attached to (I found myself getting teary-eyed a few times).  I HIGHLY recommend this book.  Go. Get It. Now.  ;o)
 
 
Most of you probably haven't noticed, but for my one or two loyal followers (lol- "followers" - makes me sound like a cult leader), yes, I've been gone a bit longer than usual.  Last week was crazy, well, crazier than usual.  My kids were out of school because of 'winter break' Monday and Tuesday, and I also started getting sick on Tuesday.  I went to the Dr.'s on Wednesday, and yep, sure enough, I had Strep Throat.  Note: when I get Strep Throat, I GET Strep Throat, meaning, it's not just a little sore throat mixed with a slight fever; it's my tonsil(s) is as white and swollen as a ping-pong ball, and I feel like death.  Needless to say, I could barely write a text message, let alone a blog entry.

To make everything 10x worse . . . I've been committing a big writer's no-no.  I've been comparing myself to other writers (eek!).  The funny thing is, I'm not comparing my books to theirs, but my life to theirs.  I'm reading their 'how I got my agent' stories or their bios, and all I can think is; 'I've never taken those classes, I don't have that degree, I don't have that experiece, I've never read those books, I don't belong to that group, etc., etc.  Seriously, I'm embarrassed to say I actually went to the library and checked out a Jane Austen novel, JUST because it seemed like every "serious" women's fiction writer has read Jane Austen.  Of course, I was bored to tears and only made it through the first chapter (barely). 

I know, this is bad and SCREAMS insecurity.  I kind of feel like I'm back in high school, and I'm looking at all the popular girls and mentally listing all the ways I'm not like them. 

I have to keep reminding myself that there are different paths that lead to the same destination.  True, I was not one of the "popular" girls in high school, but somehow I still managed to have some awesome friends, succeed in college, get a good job, and meet an awesome guy (my husband).  So, even though I don't like Jane Austen, I can't write a novel in a month, and I don't an MFA in creative writing; I can still succeed as a writer, and come hell or high water, that's what I plan on doing.
 
 
* I REALLY wish I could write faster . . . I'm so envious of those people who can write an entire novel in the span of three months.  Even if I had unlimited time, I don't think I could do this. Writing does not come easy for me; the words do not 'flow' from me like they do for some writers.  I often struggle with every sentence.  On average, it takes me an hour to write just two pages.  On a bad night, it can stretch to about an hour and a half :o( 

* I wish I could write as vividly as I imagine.

* I wish some of my best ideas didn't come between the hours of 11:00 pm & 1:00 am (when I'm trying to go to sleep).

* I wish I liked to read women's fiction.  I've forced myself to read some while I was writing The Fine Line, but I didn't really enjoy the books.  Is that strange that I like to write it, but not read it??

* I wish I could find another book/book series like the Twilight Saga.  I almost needed an intervention while reading those books.  Seriously.  I was ADDICTED to them- as in 12 step program addicted.  I read them every chance I got, and when I wasn't reading them, I was thinking about them (and suffering from withdrawal symptoms).   I've yet to get that feeling from a book since then (though I'm always looking!).

* And finally, I wish I could be a fly on the wall of an agent's office.  Actually, a bee would be better- that way I could sting them after they reject my query/ms ;o) 
 
 
Phew!  Revisions ARE DONE!!  I like my novel, and I think it’s pretty good, but honestly, I really don’t want to read it again- ever.  Of course there’s always an exception, as in revision requests from an agent, but I will not be taking it upon myself to go through it- no way, Jose.  This puppy has sucked up enough of my time.  I am ready to move on.  I want to pour all my creative juices into something new.

No, I am not throwing in the towel; I will continue to query.  I plan on spending a couple of days each month sending out queries, until I (a) get an offer of rep, or (b) have queried every agent who accepts women’s fiction (well, every legitimate agent).  The rest of the time will be spent writing.  YES, WRITING!!  Can you imagine?  A writer wanting to write?   Now that’s a concept ;o)

I have come up something totally new and unexpected for my next project.  November’s Rain is on hold (I liked the idea behind it, but I just can’t get excited about it to continue it right now).  Instead, I am going to step into the world of young adult paranormal.  I know, I know- me and everyone else, right?  If you’ve been following my blog, you might even remember me making a comment about how I would never write young adult, because just the idea of writing about high school made me nauseous.  Well, it still does, which is why the setting is summertime :o)  I’ve already mapped out the plot for it, and I can’t wait to start writing!!  I just have to figure some things out first, and one of those things is a very BIG thing- first person vs. third person.  The Fine Line was written in first person, which is my comfort zone, so I’m debating whether to stick with first person . . . or not.  Decisions, decisions!!

 
 
There are A LOT of really good websites out there for people who need help writing a query.  With this being said, I'm always AMAZED by how many REALLY bad queries I read on websites where you can post your query for critiquing (is that a word?).  Now, I'm not trying to be mean or condenscending, but seriously . . . come on.   I'm not even talking about the actual writing/wording of the hook/blurb (which even the best query writer can struggle with), I'm talking about the big no-no's: i.e., word counts that are triple the size of the average first novel, too much personal information, praising one's own work, odd formating, etc., etc.  I think having your query looked over (critiqued) is an awesome idea, but AT LEAST do some research before posting it.  It should be your personal best, and comments should help make it shine.  The people who volunteer their time to read over your query are there to HELP you, not write your query for you.

The REALLY scary part is when people who have NO IDEA what they're talking about offer advice.  Don't get me wrong, there are some people out there who offer REALLY good advice, and they know EXACTLY what they're talking about (these people have the patience of a saint if you ask me ;o)   However, I CRINGE when I read some of the advice.  For example, one person advised this newbie to open her query with a QUOTE from her book.  What?!?!?  Ugh, yeah . . . I don't think so.  I could be totally wrong, but I've NEVER seen this done before in a query.  I'm not saying not to listen to advice, but if you have any doubts- double check!!  Google is an amazing tool ;o)  Don't take all advice as gospel. 

On a final note, format is often a subjective thing (I see a lot of critiques on this).  Everyone says DON'T put genre/word count at the beginning of the query, but some agents request it this way!!  Always check the agent's submissions guidelines to see if they have a preference. 

 
 
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,