Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's All Greek to Me

Man, what a confusing world I seem to have stepped into. Agents, loglines, genres, publishers, queries, shredded queries (cries :'( ), and the list goes on. Here's my current crisis. I can't figure out for certain what genre my book belongs in. That sounds so lame to me. I started out wanting to write a mystery. But it just didn't turn out that way. It's funny in lots of places, and is meant to be. But not frequently funny enough to called a comedy. Maybe a romantic comedy. Chick lit. Hate that term.
A tall klutzy girl who can't seem to stay out of trouble moves back to her small hometown, adopts a 200 pound dog, bags (with apparently little effort) the most gorgeous man in town, finds a dead body (faints and nearly falls in the Erie canal), and accidentally becomes embroiled with the town's little band of drug dealers who think she knows all about them (she's clueless). What do you call that? I wish I knew. When I submitted my query to Query Shark for, uh, critiquing (read "paper shredder, suitable for recycling), realized too late that I had claimed the genre "fiction novel". Ok, redundant. An unintelligent term, for which I have no excuse. Not even gonna try. Maybe I'll try a little. All I can say is I went over the thing so much the words were all running together. And there were a whole ot of other terrible things, too. The only comfort I have is that almost every query on that website were similarly shredded. In fact, the administrator tells you right out that you usually won't get posted unless you are really terrible. The more terrible your query, the quicker it's likely to be posted. I am pretty sure I set some kind of a new record. Less than two days. The administrator gives you strict instructions, not to work on that query again for a week. So I am trying to leave it alone. I did sheepishly correct the really stupid grammatical error I made right at the beginning, wherein I failed to state whether a really important character is a boy or a girl. Heh.
I do have a friend who is a best selling YA author, and she helped me, and she didn't notice those particular things. She said she thought it was ready to go. And so it went. Oh well. Live and learn! And above all, keep going!
I want to say that I admire the bloggers who blog so much, and so much of their efforts are aimed at helping other people find agents and get published. I need to find more of you! Cause, boy I sure do need help...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I Can Dream, Can't I?

I have always wanted to be an author, always always. I wrote my first book somewhere around the third grade. One of the things that got me through academically at school was that a few of the teachers realized I could write. Other stuff, eh. You know how it is. Some people are born multi-talented; you know, those people who were born beautiful, can sing, can play sports like a pro, were prodigies on the piano since the age of three, are out front and center during the entire dance recital, and of course are at the top of their class in every subject. Well, okay, so that isn't me. I can't carry a tune in a bucket, I trip over dust bunnies, never bothered about dance lessons (see previous dust bunnies comment), and most of my teachers probably thought I was a 25 watt bulb in a hundred watt box. Then I graduated from high school.
Graduating and pulling yourself out of the muck does something for you. A whole new beginning. You can go on to new things and leave everyone's preconceptions about you behind. When I entered college with a campus full of strangers, I realized, here was my chance to change. I was dumb at school because I was convinced I was dumb. But I'm not really dumb. I did okay in college in most subjects-but the ones I aced were English and the writing classes.
So fast forward about 20 years or so. I played around with writing but never did anything serious. I read the author bios on the back jackets of books and they all seem to say things like "was a newspaper columnist" or "a screenwriter" or "an advertising executive". I have only seen a few that said something like "is a housewife with three kids and a dog..." But the thing that amazes me about this is that the housewife with three kids and a dog writes just as good a book as the columnist or the ad exec. That stuff keeps me going.
And recently, in the the last two years, I really decided. I am going to do it. I just didn't know what to write about. Lots of people have told me that with my two very interesting autistic children, I definitely have the fuel. It's true. And probably someday I will write about that, when I'm ready. But this time, I wanted to write something that was light and funny. Something that would take me a year to write and you a day to read. I found out quick that there is no inspiration in staring at an empty screen. The inspiration is all out there, out of this seat, out of the house even, hard as it is to get out sometimes. And I know I'm right about that, because the idea for the whole book came to me suddenly when I was out walking my dog. The sight of one lawn ornament later and I was off and running. I went home and started.
And now it's written. And it took me about a year. Maybe a bit more, since I was not able to work on it continuously. If I got writer's block, I didn't let it bother me. I just lived life and waited. Sometimes I get the most fantastic ideas listening to a song, or by having some ordinary every day experience. Just a month or two ago I got the most fantastic incredible idea when I saw a transvestite in our public library.
Here's the thing that worries me. Writing the book was easy. Too easy. It almost wrote itself. Sometimes I sat and typed without conscious thought. Sometimes I would get to the end of a scene or a chapter and wonder how I got there. Yeah, that part was easy. Now, the publishing. I need help with this. There are an awful lot of yokels online who say they can help you. What they really want is your money. I'm not against self-publishing. I'm seriously looking into it. I think it can be a great thing. I also think it's dangerous in a way. What if you're honestly not any good? There should be some kind of filter to keep the rabble from getting through (and that includes me. If my book is no good, I want someone who can say, this really stinks, can you change it?). But with self publishing, they take your book and you pay them and they publish it for you. And if you want, you can pay more and they will help you with editing and marketing, etc. I just think you (I really mean me) can get taken in here if you really don't know what you're doing.
And then there are the agent queries. Gone are the days when you pulled your manuscriot out of your Royal typewriter, removed the carbon paper and stick the whole thing into some envelope to be mailed to some publisher in the hopes of getting someone interested. Now most publishers will not accept manuscripts submitted in this way. You have to have an agent to get you into that particular door. So now, instead of getting the attention of a publisher, you have to get the attention of an agent. There's a million-bajillion of 'em out there.
If you have the money and an unlimited amount of time off and someone to watch your kids, you can travel all over to writer's conferences where they teach you how to deal with this system and where you might even be lucky enough to get the attention of an agent. Weeeell, I don't meet any of those requirements. So I have to search online. Which I have been doing. I have fallen under the curse of the query letter. You have to pack a synopsis of your life's work into one paragraph or so, along with an extremely short bio of yourself, with maybe the first few chapters or a certain number of pages of your book stuck on the end of your email. If your margins are wrong, if your spacing is wrong, if you haven't typed the proper thing into the subject line, or any other of a large number of pit falls, you will probably be deleted with no consideration whatsoever. They don't waste their time on someone who can't properly write these query letters. Personally, I think they are probably missing out on a lot of great authors that way, but I can't change the world.
So that's the part of the process I have reached. Sifting through a million-bajillion agents and trying to find the ones who might be interested in me and my little book. And that is my dream. To get my book out there, the first of many-I have the whole series planned out for at least four more books. Number two is almost finished. If I ever get published, I hope you'll buy it!