Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hope is a Four Letter Word

I hear from a lot of unpublished writers--at least a dozen a week. I can break them down into two distinct groups.

Those that will get published, and those that won't get published.

The difference between the two doesn't come down to talent, or hard work, or luck.

The difference between the two is attitude.

The ones who will never get published, hope that they eventually will.

The ones who will get published, know that they eventually will.

If you want to be a member of any club, act like you already are a member. You can watch the party going on through the window and lament that you weren't invited, or you can figure out a way to get invited.

In short, to be a professional writer, you need to act like a professional writer, even though nobody is paying you yet.

Be confidant. Be bold. You aren't buying lottery tickets, you're choosing which people you'll allow to buy your product.

And here's the secret---no one is actually confidant. Everyone is faking it.

But if you fake it long enough, you begin to believe it. The more you act like a writer, the more you become a writer.

Once you take hope out of the equation, possibilities become eventualities.

71 comments:

Mark Terry said...

As they say in AA, "Fake it 'til you make it."

A while--long time--back, I sent a copy of a rejected query letter off to an columnist at Writers' Digest, asking him what I was doing wrong. What I got back was the letter with one of my lines circled. I had written something along...

I'm a cytogenetics technologist that...

He circled it and scrawled, Be a writer.

Simple as that, and he was right. If I was querying about cytogenetics or genetics, then fine, that's what I was. But for novels or anything else, hell, I was a writer. And pretty soon I was.

Best,
Mark Terry

Christa M. Miller said...

So what if you are a professional writer, but not a professional novelist?

I've been writing professionally for almost five years. I can dispense tons of information about how to get published in trade magazines. Novel-writing? OK, I've finished one and am getting ready to market it. But I have no clue about how the publishing industry works. It's a lot harder for me to "hang out" with professional novelists because I haven't walked their walk yet. Even though I am a professional writer.

Thoughts? Because I can think of at least one pro novelist I'd love to get to know better, in part because she's practically a neighbor...

Bethany said...

It's kinda like the old adage in the corporate world: "Dress for the job you want, not the one you have."

jamie ford said...

That's the magic of creative vocations.

Too bad it doesn't work in other fields, like oh say, cardiology.

JA Konrath said...

"But I have no clue about how the publishing industry works. It's a lot harder for me to "hang out" with professional novelists because I haven't walked their walk yet."

First, get a clue. Books and the Internet can get you up to speed ont he biz. So will conferences.

Novelists love talking about their craft, the business, and themselves. The hard part is getting them to shut up once they start. Fake the confidence, ask the needed questions, and don't worry about what the world thinks of you.

R.J. Baker said...

Confidence and persistence gets the ugly laid...and the unpublished writer...paid.

Christa M. Miller said...

"Get a clue"? That's pretty harsh. When conferences compete directly with my household budget, first of all, I'm not going. Books and the Internet are fine, but they have their limits. Sure, blogs make it easier for us to connect with you. Not all novelists have them, though. And no, not all will respond to email. Even when you are a professional writer trying to connect on a professional level.

Novelists talk so much about publishing's vagaries that it's hard to "know" you will be pubbed. Not to mention the number of times I have seen novelists talk about all the unpubbed writers who want something - a critique, or a referral to their agent. That hurts the credibility of those of us who don't "just want something," which is frustrating as hell.

That's my experience... it is not about not having a clue. Doesn't mean I won't keep trying. It just means it's not always as easy as we'd like it to be.

Julie Knudson said...

Awesome post, Joe.

I had a dream a year or so ago that gave me more hope and confidence than I might have mustered in a conscious state. In my dream I was taking a math final in school (and that, my friends, WAS a long time ago!) and I was worried I hadn't gotten enough information to solve the equation. I'm good at math, and I was freaking out because I was afraid I wouldn't get the answer right. Despair washed over me, and I thought, "I don't know how to do this." Then a voice that was somehow mine and not mine all at the same time said, "Yes, you do. You DO know how to do this." Then I woke up.

I know it probably sounds stupid and new age, but that same voice has given me confidence in my ability to write ever since. Whenever I start bemoaning the fact that I don't know what the hell I'm doing, that voice floats back to me... "Yes, you do." And then I take a deep breath and realize that voice has a nugget of truth behind it, and I dive back into writing. I've made some connections I never would have thought possible before, and not because I'm an insider or an expert, or even a published author. It's because that voice is right. I am a writer. I do know what I'm doing.

JulieK

Jude Hardin said...

Joe's right, Christa. You have to jump in and get your feet wet. I've taken what I consider to be a bold step this year: I've registered for Slethfest in March, one of the largest conferences in the country for writers of crime fiction. Do I have a published novel? Nope. Will I have a published novel? Yep. I hope to learn a lot at the conference, and make a lot of contacts. I'll be mingling with agents, editors and famous name authors. The first chapter of my novel in progress will be up for critique in th P.J. Parrish workshop on suspense. I'll have the opportunity to pitch my completed novel, face to face, with a major literary agent. Scary? Kind of. But I keep reminding myself that Robert Crais and Michael Connely were once unpublished too. I'm going mostly as a learning experience, but any contacts I make will help me once I nail a deal. Who knows? I might even meet my future agent there.

Since you write for magazines, I bet you could learn a lot by doing some interviews. I bet your neighbor would be happy to give you one. Writers love publicity.

JA Konrath said...

"Get a clue"? That's pretty harsh.

I didn't mean it to be harsh, or sarcastic.

If you don't know how something works, find out how it works.

Go to www.absolutewrite.com/forums and www.bksp.org and read the posts. Ask questions. Send emails to those who offer to help.

As a professional writer, you know rejection is part of the business, so don't allow rejection to keep you from the information you need to succeed.

As for conferences vs. household budget---how badly do you want to sell a book? Meeting authors and picking their brains can be invaluable. Clip coupons. Save your pocket change. Give up cable TV. Switch from steak to hamburger. Have a garage sale. Sell some extra articles.

If you want it to happen, you have to make it happen. Waiting around for it is like buying lottery tickets.

And if you have any specific questions, i'm always here to answer them.

Christa M. Miller said...

OK, Joe. Thank you for not being harsh.

How badly do I want to sell? Pretty badly. But not enough to go into debt over. (Car payment and mortgage are bad enough.) The truth is, as I told Mark, a friend almost had me talked into Backspace this year before we both realized the $1000 each we would have had to drop would be better spent on our oil bills. That's our reality. It's not about hamburger vs. steak, or cable, or those other things that we have been doing for years now. (I can't even afford childcare... which, BTW, selling "extra" articles would go toward, which to me defeats the purpose of working at home.) That's what I meant by how it's not as easy as we'd like it to be.

I just don't think it's fair to mistake those kinds of choices for sitting on our hands. I DO believe I will be published... it may just take a little longer, is all, and I'm willing to take that if it means my family is better off.

Jim Michael Hansen said...

Joe, attitude certainly helps, but in the end it comes down to talent and hard work. My 2 cents. Jim.

John Karr said...

Great insights, Joe.

Thanks for giving back ...

Jude Hardin said...

Christa,

I noticed on your profile that you live in Maine. Your neighbor isn't Tess Gerritsen, is it? Can I move in with you? I'll pay rent, top dollar.

Okay, I guess there's such a thing as being TOO bold...

M. G. Tarquini said...

Hey, Christa.

Budgeting problems understood. If conference going, etc. is unworkable, is there a group of writers locally with whom you can network? Some of them may have been to conferences, may be able to give you feedback on what goes on there. Either that, or do what you can online to find support and information. Put out the feelers, people will respond.

Anonymous said...

A little off topic, but does anyone here have a talent for judging whether or not a query letter sucks (and knows how to improve the thing)?

JA Konrath said...

Post it here. I'm sure you'll get feedback.

Jude Hardin said...

That's right, Christa. Were all here to help each other. Actually, for a writer, the publishing business is fairly simple:

1) Write a great book, one that can be easily slotted into a category at the bookstore.

2) Write a great query letter to an agent (the good ones can be found on AAR's website).

3) Repeat as necessary.

Until you get a contract in hand, that's all there is to it.

This from one of your fellow writers in Maine: Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy...you can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, YOU WILL. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.

Drink and be filled up.

--Stephen King, from ON WRITING

Anonymous said...

The following is a query letter i've written for my first novel. Help me out guys, what the hell is wrong with it?




Me
My addy, phone, email info

January 19, 2006

Agent
Agency

Attn: Agent

I am seeking your representation for my first commercial/suspense novel, Ripples of Fingale, complete at 69,000 words.

Nathan Fingale has vanished from East Carolina University and is now evading police with a misplaced price on his head for arson and murder as he broods within the prodigious forest bordering North Carolina’s Tar River. In his solitude, Nathan’s mind is polluting him, leading to a path of schizophrenia that begets a city in revolt, the testing of love and allies, and Nathan ultimately sacrificing his life for the friend he left behind.

I live and write in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with my wife and two daughters. I will be happy to provide any further information you may require. Thank you for your time and I look forward to your reply.


My Name

Jude Hardin said...

Oh, I forgot #4: Read Konrath's blog, all except the parts about art being a popularity contest and writing not involving magic.

Jude Hardin said...

Anon,

No need to say it's your first novel. Automatic turnoff.

To me, a protagonist brooding in solitude is at odds with "commercial." Are you sure this isn't a literary novel?

Anonymous said...

Jude,

Thanks for the comments. The protagonist basically runs into one pothole after another when he runs away from college. He's being hunted by police and his best friend. He developes a friend in his mind and hangs out with him and a cow in the woods until an alter ego takes over. This alter ego influences a social movement, and in the end the alter ego gets his ass kicked by the best friend and in turn has to give his life for her.

Sooooo, what genre am i looking at? There's police stuff, alter egos, and a guy chilling in the woods with an imaginary elderly guy and a cow.

Jude Hardin said...

Anon,

That's the thing. If you want to write commercial fiction, you need to be clear on the genre and its conventions before you start.

This sounds like literary fiction to me, so you should seek agents who represent that kind of work.

Your second paragraph needs lots of work. Suggestion for revision:

Schizophrenic Nathan Fingale vanishes from college. Evading an undeserved warrant for arson and murder, he finds recluse in a forest near North Carolina's Tar River. In solitude, his hallucinations overtake reality: He is hunted by police. His allies are an imaginary elderly man and a talking cow...

You take it from there. Post your revision when finished.

For a good example of a query letter that worked, see Nicholas Spark's website. I don't care much for his novels, but the letter is pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Jude,

Thanks for the suggestions. That was my original problem, i couldnt fit the story into a genre. I'll have a revision for you on Friday.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

JA..I didn't see you wade in on the query letter??

I would say that 69,000 words for commercial fiction seems kinda short.

I like the way Jude changed the wording. "misplaced price on his head" made me giggle thinking about a slopppy price tag dangling from his hair!

"Begets a city in revolt" I dunno, Jude's version is better!

Rob Gregory Browne said...

True words, Joe. Many years ago I entered a prestigious screenwriting competition put on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

When I got a letter telling me that my script was one of 200 hopefuls out of 3,000 to win the coveted prize, I didn't turn to my wife and say, "Gee, I hope I win." I said, "You know what? I'm gonna WIN this sucker."

And I did.

A year ago, when I was writing my first novel and only about 200 pages into the thing, I didn't say, "Gee, wouldn't it be nice if I sold this?" Instead, I turned to my wife and said, "You know what? I'm gonna SELL this thing."

And I did.

Having confidence in yourself and your work not only helps you keep going, it also makes you a better writer.

If you FEEL confident, that confidence shows in every word you put on paper.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Re: anonymous's letter. I'd start with the second paragraph first.

Open with a hook:

"Nathan Fingale has vanished."

But shorten the synopsis a bit, drop your last paragraph and end with your first (after a bit of tightening/rewording).

Noodler said...

Jude,

Well, now I am disappointed. I thought it was all about getting laid.

Nice editing job on anon's letter.

JA Konrath said...

Jude's advice is good. I'd add:

69k is short for literary. I wouldn't mention length at all.

The title sounds like fantasy, as in hobbits and dragons. Consider changing it to just "RIPPLES."

Compare the book to two other successful books and authors, i.e. "It's a cross between John Irving and Harper Lee."

Julia said...

Ok, I'm a single mom who works approx 50 hours a week and has to live on a budget. But I found a way to attend the local conferences and meetings without breaking the bank.

I joined the local writers group. They sponsor an annual conference and many different programs during the year.

Then, I volunteer to work the conference and programs. Sometimes they let me attend programs for free, other times for a nominal fee.

They always need volunteers, and once you have a reputation in the group as a hardworker, you'll get invited to work.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, haha, i've got a lot of work to do...but thanks, that's what i need! The story is just a pain to describe because the only thing that is in the protag's head is his a guy named "Allen". The rest of the story is going on around him...the police chasing him, his friend from school trying to find him, and other little plot twists. The story was originally 73K words but i did a major edit and 69K is what i'm left with. But yeah, any help is good.

roguetaino said...

I think J.A. is absolutely right. I'd been trying to get published for many years. My novel finally got me signed to William Morris about four years ago. They didn't manage to sell the book. I got dropped from my contract. But instead of rolling over and thinking it was over, I plowed ahead, because I believed I was professional fiction writer even if I'd never been paid for it. I just signed a contract for a three book deal with Kensington Books because of that same novel. So you have to do your homework, be relentless and believe wholeheartedly that you will get that deal because that's the only way it's ever going to happen.

Anonymous said...

Alright people...now what?


Me
My Info

January 20, 2006

Those guys
Those guys' info

Attn: That guy


Schizophrenic Nathan Fingale has vanished from college. Evading an undeserved warrant for arson and murder, he finds recluse in a forest near North Carolina’s Tar River. In solitude, his hallucinations give rise to Allen, a mentor, and three teenage boys bent on killing Allen and bringing Nathan to his alter ego, Herald. Across the Tar, the city falls into revolt when Nathan falls to Herald and begins his teachings. Detective Eric Larson and Nathan’s best friend, Kristinya, must now race to find him and discover the truth before their lives and the lives of thousands fall victim to Herald.

Ripples is complete work of literary fiction. Further material is ready upon request. Thank you for your time and I look forward to your reply.


Me

Linda said...

"...he finds recluse in a forest near North Carolina’s Tar River."

Uhh. How about "refuge" instead of "recluse"?

Jude Hardin said...

Anon,

Sounds to me like Eric Larson is your protagonist.

If not, he should be.

We need to know the central problem and why Eric Larson is the man to solve it.

Since thousands of lives are at stake, what you have now is a thriller. Nathan is the villain.

I wouldn't go into too much detail about his hallucinations (I get confused with all those character names clumped together), just that he's delusional and has become a major threat. Maybe write a sentence telling us HOW he has put all those lives in danger.

Jude Hardin said...

RECLUSION

My bad on that one.

JA Konrath said...

Compare it to other authors and books.

Anonymous said...

I have Nathan as the protag because most of the action surrounds him. Larson and Kristinya are simply caught in the middle. How about i simply tell you what happens:
-Nathan runs, discovers a farm and lives with farmer and wife for 3 months. Farmhouse catches fire, farmer and wife die, Nathan is suspected and runs into woods.
-Enter Larson.
-Nathan is now living of the woods. Soon Allen developes and all of their musings along with skirmishes with those boys. One of the boys spends a lot of time tempting Nathan to become his alter ego (Allen and boys are in Nathan's head)
-Kristinya gets involved in trying to find Nathan when he begins to write letters to a newpaper. These letters unintentionally start a group called the Modus Ligni lead by the farmer's adopted son (he burned the house for money, Larson is busy looking into him)...enter riots.
-Nathan is getting too much attention and wants to back out but cant. Girl from school paper (Melanie) cons him into material for paper. Nathan has the hots for her but doesnt know she's using him.
-Nathan breaks down after a fight with the boys that results in all their deaths (boys and Allen).
-Enter the rise of Herald.
-In the end, Larson (with cops in tow) and Kristinya go into the woods to bring out Nathan (Herald) when Melanie goes missing. The Modus Ligni go in to head off the police and a cool fight ensues.
-Confrontation between Herald and Kristinya. She rocks so she kicks his tail and gets him back to Nathan. Allen returns. Police Capt. shoots at Nathan, Kristinya takes the bullet, Larson and Nathan kill Capt.
-Nathan is arrested and him and Larson become buds. Kristinya needs a liver but cant find one. Nathan kills himself to give her the liver, Larson takes Nathan's advise and hooks back up with wife, Modus Ligni are destroyed (so we think) and thus are the Ripples of Fingale.

Now what?

Anonymous said...

Nathan Fingale is just a guy trying to get away and all this falls on him. Kinda like Darth Vader's (cheesy example) tragedy in that he's not such a bad guy but drawn into a bad situation.

Thanks all

Jude Hardin said...

Good idea, Joe. He might even want to compare with popular films.
DIEHARD meets A PERFECT MIND or something.

Jude Hardin said...

If Nathan is the protag, you're going to have a tough time selling this.

My advice would be a complete overhaul, a multiple point of view thriller with Larson as the hero.

Occasionally it works out for the villain to be the protag, but with a first novel it's probably wiser to stick with genre conventions.

Anonymous said...

The hard time i'm having with Larson being the protag is that Nathan doesnt begin doing anything "villainish" until maybe the last 30 or so pages. The villian is the circumstances. Bad stuff is happening to Nathan, not the other way around. He hasnt done anything wrong, Kristinya is simply trying to find a friend and Larson is only connected because Nathan is indirectly connected to his case.
I have no problem with overhaul, been there, done it. But the tragedy is happeing to Nathan, simpathy is intended for him. How am i suppose to acheive that when if i write this thing as a cop tail?

Rob Gregory Browne said...

With this kind of book, it's tough to boil it down to a simple spine, but that's something you might want to consider trying to do. The description you now have is confusing and lacks clarity.

I talk about this on my blog with the MAKE YOUR PITCH post, but to quickly summarize, you need to come up with a workable logline. I used the movie THE FUGITIVE as an example:

"The anatomy of a logline is this: The lead character has a problem and must achieve a certain goal in order to solve that problem. Who, What, How. Who is the lead character, what is his problem and how is going to solve it.

Let's take a look at The Fugitive again:

Who: A high-powered surgeon.

What: Wrongly convicted of murdering his wife.

How: He escapes custody to hunt down the real killer.

Chances are pretty good that you're scratching your head right now and saying, 'But my story is much too complex for that.'

This may be true, but when you're at a party trying to convince someone to read your book, you don't have time for much detail. At least not for that initial grab."

Anonymous said...

Hmm...lemme try

Who: kid who ran from school

What: trying to escape society but society wont leave him alone

How: society finds him, and he ends up teaching them a thing or two.

Just curious, how is the plot complicated? How could i uncomplicated it?

Meanwhile, i'll start my next book...

Jude Hardin said...

The best villains are richly drawn, multidimensional characters who DO garner a certain amount ot sympathy.

Read CUJO by Stephen King. It's not the dog's fault he becomes a monster, but he must nevertheless be destroyed.

Read SMALL TOWN by Lawrence Block. The killer in that story is losing his mind after the 9/11 tragedy.

After writing 69,000 word from his point of view, you know Nathan inside and out. You're way ahead of the game if you decide to make him your villain. It sounds to me like that's what you need to do, based on what you've posted here. But keep in mind that I'm a newbie too, trying to find my own way. Maybe Joe or some of the other published writers have other suggestions.

Any help?

JA Konrath said...

Great advice from Rob.

All good stories can be boiled down to one sentence:

FBI trainee questions one killer to catch another.

A little girl is possessed by satan.

A shark invades the waters off of New York.

A cop named after a whiskey chases a serial killer who is chasing her.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps thats where i've mislead everyone. the story is written 3rd person. a majority of the story is written looking in on Nathan and His struggles (hanging out with Allen, fights and temptations with the boys, ect.) Every once in a while we see Larson chasing one lead to the next that Eventually snaps into Nathan's involvement. Kristinya is involved only because she helps get Nathan back in the end.
The hero is Nathan because in the end he defeats his alter ego, gives his life for Kristinya, and his struggles influence everyone involved to re-evaluate themselves.

The dude just wanted to be left alone. This story is about the crap that hits the fan when trying to do that.

The advise on here has been excellent and i have no problem following it (duh, thats why i'm here). My only objection is that i dont want it to be a cop story. In this book, that would be usless because Conflict needs to happen to the protagonist...Nathan is the one all this bad stuff is happening to. Am i explaining that clearly? I hope so. Thanks again guys.

Anonymous said...

Hey Joe, lemme try the one-liner:

Runaway tries to escape society and hi latent madness.

Anonymous said...

*his

Jude Hardin said...

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, right?

Anonymous said...

The Catcher in the Rye is a good comparison. Only differences are that Nathan Has run away, and that very important characters are in his head (Allen and boys).

Eh, I could see it as a comparison between The Catcher in the Rye and Die Hard.

Anonymous said...

Here you go. If one of you could write a query based on what i've descibed, what would it be?

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I'd say it's Catcher in the Rye meets Rambo. That would at least get their attention...

Anonymous said...

Either way, we may be looking at an unwanted bastard child.

The Curmudgeon's Rant said...

I only found your blog today and already it is among my favorites.

Great stuff!

PJ Parrish said...

This is for Anonymous Author who needs help on his query letter. A couple things, just my two-cents:

1. You need a better title, for sure, as someone mentioned. A title is your HEADLINE, the first thing and agent (editor and reader) relates to. Ripples of Fingle conveys no mood, no mystery, no passion, no tone, nada. Zip. You can't get a clue from it what KIND of book it is.
Ripples is better but sounds chick lit or something. LINK YOUR TITLE TO YOUR TONE! If your book is serious and dark in tone, the title MUST convey that. If you're selling soap that is good for the skin, you don't call it LAVA. You call it Dove. That way you have made an instant conveyance of your product. Get the idea?

As Jude said, I am doing this SleuthFest workshop and almost every manuscript I saw had a crappy title. Either trite, boring or unrelated to the tone the writer was trying for.

And another word about titles: Don't get to happy with whatever you chose. Chances are good the editor (or increasingly, the marketing department) will want it changed and as a newbie you have no power to fight that.

Back to your book: How about "Recluse"? (if I am reading your synopsis right, this man is taking refuge in a place -- AND in his own mind.

Second point: Your story is tough sell because it is hard to grasp in a couple sentences. And you what the truth? That is all you have with a query. If you can't boil the essence of your story down to 3 sentences, you probably have a focus problem to begin with within your story.

It is so hard to get someone to look at your stuff today. Don't give them the SLIGHTEST reason to move to the next letter on their giant pile.

Oh, p.s.: You need to beef up your paragraph about yourself. All you say is you live in North Caroline (or wherever it was, sorry!) You have to sell yourself and your credibility as best you can. Even if you aren't published.

Can you say something like:

I am an assistant professor of psychology at a small college in the Shenandoah Valley, where my family has lived for three generations. I was inspired to writer INSERT TITLE based on the haunting isolation of the mountain milieu...blah blah blah...

Don't fake it; don't embellish. But try to make your real life relate to this story you are offering. It had to come from SOMEWHERE and that somewhere, that virismilitude is what can sometimes catch a agents eyes.

No offense, but the agent doesn't care about your family. Save it for the dedication!

PJ Parrish said...

Egad. Sorry for all the typos in my above post! I hit the send button when I meant to preview it. Talk about unprofessional.

And Anon: Sorry if I sound harsh. I don't mean to. But as Joe so often points out, cracking into the biz is so difficult. The best advice I can give you is to realize that no one person -- writer, agent, editor or expert -- holds the key to what is going to help you. It starts -- and ends -- with you. Filter through it all the advice and find out what works. For you.

There are many paths to the truth, grasshopper.

Jude Hardin said...

Great advice from PJ Parrish.

You're lucky, Anon, that Joe opened up his comment section for you. It makes me feel good to know that so many writers are willing to give back. I've learned a lot from this thread, and I hope you have too. Now, take your new tools and get to work!

Anonymous said...

Hey guys,

First off, PJ, i've been writing forever. If i didnt want critics, i wouldnt be on here or in this business. I didnt come on here looking for someone to pat my freaking back and tell me what a good sport i've been. That crap got old fast. I came on here because it would appear that someone knows what the heck is going on.

Lovely advice though. I believe the story itself is great, but perhaps i need more experience to give it justice. That is why i've moved to another project.

I have so many damn book ideas i get dizzy, so this is no low blow. You guys will see Nathan Fingale, dont worry, but in the mean time i think i'll blaze some other trails.

Been real, and thanks

Scott Bowen

Anonymous said...

P.S. for PJ

I actually had an agent on the phone ask me to mention my family in the query. Maybe one in a million, eh? Perhaps they arent all clones.

Anonymous said...

Scott,

Blaze a new trail to the nearest thorough-bred track and try shoveling horse shit for a while. Maybe that will teach you some humility.

When a best-selling author gives you advice for free, all you need to say is "thank you."

You don't need a query letter, you need an attitude adjustment.

JA Konrath said...

Play nice, kids. We're all in this together.

The PJs are wise, Scott, and I like their advice.

I don't think you need to abandon the Fingale pitch; just distill it into something stronger and sharper.

Whoever anonymously told Scott he needs an attitude adjustment, I don't agree with your opinion, but I respect your right to have an opinion.

I'd respect it more, however, if you signed your name to your post.

If you're going to preach about humility, have the stones to do so with the anonymity.

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jude Hardin said...

"If one of you could write a query based on what I've described, what would it be?"

Okay, I'll give it a shot. I need the practice.

In my literary suspense novel RECLUSE, Schizophrenic Nathan Fingale has vanished from college. Evading an undeserved warrant for arson and murder, he finds solitude in a forest near North Carolina's Tar River. His hallucinations give rise to several personalities, including an extremely dangerous one named Herald. Herald's teachings eventually incite civil unrest, and Detective Eric Larson must race to find him before thousands of lives are lost.

Complete at 69,000 words, RECLUSE is a cross between J.D. Salinger's THE CATCHER IN THE RYE and J.A. Konrath's WHISKEY SOUR.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your reply.



Hope that helps. Good luck Scott.

Jude Hardin said...

The one-sentence pitch:

The teachings of a delusional college student's malevolent alter ego causes civil unrest, and a detective must race to find him before thousands of lives are lost.

PJ Parrish said...

Scott,

If the agent asked you to put in something about your family in the query, do it, dude! Shoot, if the agent likes your stuff and tells you to include a picture of your dog in a Nixon mask, do it. j/k. The only thing I know for sure about this racket after having 14 books published, is what I already said: that no one writer or expert has the key to unlock your door into this business. Any advice I, or anyone, might give you is easily countered by someone else's experience.

But titles -- I feel really strongly about that one. You gotta have a good one that telegraphs your book's tone so it can find its audience. There were 10,000 novels published last year. And buyers increasingly have what MJ Rose calls "choice fatigue." You have to be smart about making it easier for them to pick yours.

By the way, did anyone see the cover of Stephen King's new one, "Cell"? Terrific....

Best of luck.
PJ

Anonymous said...

Hey,

Whoa, horses, didnt mean to cause a steamy situation here. The humility issue, wow okay, i've got some things working here:
A) I'm ASKING for advice and um, yeah, taking it.
B) The fact that i'm willing to egress to another project and set low on the current one takes a little humility.

The PJ advice along with Joe, Jude and the others have been great. And if i didnt act thankful, oops, thanks. I think an author should defend his/her work to a degree and that's what i did. However, i came on here for sound advice, got it, and took notes accordingly.

The story is complicated, that's clear from this blog and i think it deserves a more mature writer in me to really get it where it needs to be. That isnt humility? Anon, practice what you preach my friend.

Take it easy and thanks,

Scott

Anonymous said...

Jude,

Forgot to say. I like your version of the query and one liner. And one of my conciderations is to have the story reflect Kristinya and/or the detective as the hero/chasers. Thanks

Jude Hardin said...

No problem, Scott.

Email me sometime if you want to, and let me know how it's going.

Take care.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Joe said: "If you're going to preach about humility, have the stones to do so with the anonymity."

I recently read that there is a law passed by Congress and signed by Bush that says something to the effect that it's now illegal to annoy someone on the Internet anonymously. So those who want to attack might be wise to sign their names.

Jude Hardin said...

I think Joe meant WITHOUT the anonymity.

I've read a little about this law, Rob, and it seems it is intended to protect people from stalkers, preditors, ex-boyfriends/girlfriends or other psycho types who have invaded their personal cyber space. I don't think it was meant to include debates, even ones that become rather heated sometimes, on blogs.

The word "annoy" is the problem, because it's subject to a variety of interpretations. Who gets to decide the definition of "annoy?"

Say, when I get published, somebody sends me an anonymous email or posts an anonymous comment on my blog saying my writing is worthless doo doo. Will that annoy me? Probably. Should that person go to jail? Hmmmm.

I believe in freedom of speech. If someone wants to post a nasty remark, even under the veil of anonymity, I have no problem with that. If the remarks become threatening, then there's a problem.

Anyone who has a blog has the power to stop anonymous comments and the power to moderate comments.
To me, conflict makes everything more interesting, as long as it doesn't get out of hand.

Everyone has an opinion, and should be allowed to voice that opinion. Congress needs to rewrite that law, taking out the vague and potentially right-to-freedom-of-speech-squelching word "annoy."

Just my opinion.