I wonder. In my case here’s a conversation between Honey and I when he discovers me perusing possible candidates to use. And by peruse, I mean on the computer and not lined up in my living room.
Honey asks, “So, this is what you do all day? Stare at half-dressed men?”
My reply, “Yup.”
He shakes his head and leaves the room. I count to four and he’s back. “Really?”
I shrug. “Sure.”
His eyes narrow. “You know if I were a writer and looked at pictures of half-dressed women all day you’d divorce me.”
My eyes widen and I nod. “I know.”
He scowls. “You know?”
I nod again and you have to imagine him standing there absolutely stunned because I rarely ever agree with him.
“So you’ll stop looking at the “naked guys” when you write?
Now I’m stunned. Whatever made him think that? “No.”
“But you just said you’d divorce me if the shoe were on the other foot.”
“Yes, and I meant it, too.”
He crosses his arm over his chest. “How is that fair? What if I said that I’d divorce you for doing it?”
*Insert me frowning here* “Wait, are we talking about the same thing here? I don’t think so, because I wouldn’t divorce you for ogling naked women all day.” He blinks and I blandly smile. “I’d be divorcing your sorry butt for not getting anything done – I mean how many words could a writer actually get on the page using only one hand?”
Now he’s frowning.
“Only one—?” He blinks again and then gives me that dirty grin of his that I love. “Hm. I see. You do make a very good point. Carry on.”
Signed, Riley… who knows a clever woman can multitask even one handed. Heheheh
Here’s some query and submissions do’s and don’ts that any practical writer can understand.
DO: Address your query to the right person and spell everything that follows correctly.
Example: Dear Ms. Smith,
DON”T: Submet gleering problims or mispel names.
Example: Deer Ms. Sm8th. (They might presume the ‘8′ is silent but why take the chance?)
DO: Introduce yourself in a professional and normal manner
Example: I’m seeking representation for my erotic urban fantasy, A Time For Lust Stations.
DON’T: Be crazy or overly familiar with this unknown person.
Example: I just finished this sucker and it’s a real pisser! Check out page 43! That backdoor ain’t in a house! *wink* *wink*
DO: Detail a nice, clean and understandable synopsis.
Example: Drillwella is an eighteen year old nymphomaniac who gets lost on the way to The Lust Station.
DON’T: Be confusing with the details.
Example: Drillwella nervously sets out on the rapid car fleeter and watched the driver, the engine sweep, and The Wish-Making Dandelion Picker, while she thought about Willhedome, waiting at the distant lust station, with its white rooms and furry beds.
DO: Present some story question that hints at conflict.
Example: Drillwella abhorred Willhedome, so maybe being lost in the worst part of the galaxy in fear of her life had an upside after all.
DON’T: Be predictable.
Example: Drillwella eventually finds her way to The Lust Station and has hours of glorious sex with Willhedome. ACK!
Hm. When you look at it like this, it seems like it should be pretty easy to go from slush pile to editor’s laptop, doesn’t it? But keep in mind that every agent/editor is different. Each one has their own pet-peeves and you’ll never be able to pinpoint or remember them all. So my thought? Since there is no rhyme or reason – fall back on the basics. A neatly typed, correctly spelled and properly structured introduction with just a hint of writer voice applied will go a long way in impressing a bleary eyed agent/editor.
So, my last do and don’t?
DO: Submit clean and well organized pages with a great story that leaves the person you’re targeting with additional questions at the end of their read.
Example: Drillwella hurriedly turned the corner and sighed with relief when she spotted The Lust Station. She stepped off the curb and would have stumbled if The Wish Making Dandelion Picker hadn’t caught her.
“Careful,” he hissed close to her ear. “You’re smarter than I thought…”
DON”T: Be boring or too precise.
Example: Drillwella hurriedly turned the corner and with a sigh <- you ended here because your 50 page limit was up. Really? What a missed opportunity. No one said that you had to submit your work verbatim. Do you think an agent or editor will call you on this? I don’t.
**Disclaimer: If you listen to me you’re not a serial slush pile reject. Your nuts. Just sayin’
One way is to focus on gaining the reader’s emotional investment in your characters right from the start. I think in terms of taking the bling out of the story. As in remove the guns, murders, stalkers or mayhem and imagine your hero/heroine having a cup of coffee in a regular old kitchen three weeks after the carefully constructed jeopardy has been removed. Would your characters be interesting to listen to without the bling to shine them up? I’m inclined to think, if the answer is no – then there was no emotional connection between the reader and your characters to begin with because bling or no bling your reader should care about them.
To me external conflict and/or revelations do work to draw a reader into being invested in the story on some level. But not a deep level. I mean, if I’m only paying attention to what is happening to these people because there’s gunfire and a bad guy around every corner – the characters are replaceable and could be anybody. And as a reader that’s invested the time to get to know them? I want those characters to be better than just anyone. I want them to be people I care about and would listen to even if they’re only having a coffee together.
So remove the guns, the bad guy and the bling. Strip your characters down to being the people they are and make them interesting before you fancy them up.
It seemed the day my kids went off to college and I was organizing my desk to embark on a writing career that I’d been raring to start for years, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The writing plans were put on hold again while I became proactive about his illness. Honey and I bought a bigger house that we remodeled so it became two houses linked and Mom and dad moved in. The most important thing about an illness like this it that you have “to grow” with it “to go” with it. You have to pay attention and be prepared to change in a moment’s notice. Imagine something that’s been tried and true for you for your whole life and in a flash it’s no longer relevant. It’s a difficult thing to process.
That’s why I say, in an odd way I think the kind of care taking I had to do for my dad the last few years of his life prepared me for a writing career. As his world got smaller so did mine. The numerous friends I had slowly disappeared and I was forced to create a place and an environment that was conducive to his condition. Which meant not a lot of visitors and never any abrupt changes. My only outlet when I had time to myself was the internet. Writing was never far from my mind. I’d been making story notes, character ideas and plotting for years. That’s why I started reading blogs and when I found a favorite I eventually got up enough nerve to post a comment. And from there the writing community kind of grew around me.
And after dad passed I found myself in a vacuum. Going from 24/7 high alert housebound care taker to breathing…just breathing for the first time in years. Without the worry or stress of coming up with a way to deal with some new twist that his illness had taken. I think I was in shock for months. It was literally one day my whole schedule – every minute had to be accounted for and the next there was nothing I had to do. It was surreal. I took some time to evaluate my life and I realized that I’d put numerous things ahead of what I wanted to do most. Write. Let’s face it, it’s a long pull from start to earning a buck writing books, but the journey had to start somewhere so I made the decision. I was going to RWA 11 and I was pitching a story I hadn’t written yet.
Now, most of you are probably thinking that’s crazy or ballsy of her because it isn’t easy writing a book. It takes time and dedication. Well, these were two things, thanks to my dad I now had a good handle on. I virtually had no distractions and I certainly had the time. I came home and wrote my very first novella in thirty days and shipped it off to my soon-to-be editor. She read it and was very generous with her feedback when she made revision suggestions prior to rejecting the story. So I pushed up my sleeves, read every one of her concerns and sat back down and rewrote the entire story. Thirty days later I shipped it back and she accepted it.
All the passion and energy I have. The drive and the determination to get the job done and goals met without failing are all tools I learned through the course of caring for my dad. That’s not to say I wasn’t driven prior to taking care of him, but it is to say I had to fine tune these things daily and now they’re that much stronger. With him I had to learn to handle rejection too. There were days he didn’t know me. Days he didn’t want me around him. Those were the toughest, but I managed. I managed because I believed in myself. In what I was doing. I had to have complete faith while I controlled a different kind of world than what other people around us were living.
When I look at it like this I can’t help but think this was the journey I was meant to take to get here. It may not have been the easiest, but I’m sure it wasn’t the hardest either. I’m so glad I had a few detours along the road because even the toughest stumbling blocks have enriched the experience and made realizing this dream all the better.
My dad always said, “If you don’t have to work hard to get it you won’t appreciate it.” I think this is true. Only now I see that ‘the work hard’ part of that equation might have more to do with building the person you need to be to obtain the goal, than the goal itself.
Watching the series I reminisced about my own ‘dear-to-my-heart’ feud. I still swoon over The Boy when I think about it.
Here’s the situation. A new neighbor moved into the house that’s behind ours, but off on a diagonal (so not directly behind). Anyway, he moves in and the first weekend in his new home he sets out to cut down all the trees on his property. I thought it was a shame. I knew it was against city ordinance but hey, in the end it’s his place and if he wants to live in a desert-like environment who am I to judge?
Unfortunately something bad happened. Our new neighbor went to the corner of our property and took a chainsaw to one side of our trees (presumably because the branches were growing over his property line). At first I actually felt bad for the guy because I knew when The Boy got home and found out what had happened there would be hell to pay. I figured I could save some bloodshed if I went over and spoke to the guy first. By the time I got over there however, a County permits official had already visited, so when he answered his door he was spitting fire. He accused me of calling them. Two minutes into meeting the Jackass I wished had. Needless to say, things didn’t go well. I can, um, be worse than The Boy when provoked and he was provoking. Oh, yeah. And right there and then he was off the list. Dead to me.
When The Boy got home and I conveyed all that happened he was smart enough to know there was nothing he needed to do because when someone’s off my list they know it. Case closed and if the guy had any brains at all he would have steered clear of me and our property line until the end of days. *sigh* Just my luck. The guy not only prove to be an a-hole, but he was a stupid one at that.
Not two weeks after the tree incident he’s out cutting his grass and he comes across a fence board which had fallen off our JOINT fence and was now on his lawn. (I concluded that it had been knocked off when he was trimming those heavy branches off OUR tree) but that point’s immaterial. It’s what he did next that caused me to go ballistic. He picked the board up and tossed it over the fence yelling about how this was on his property. It hit my stag-horn fern (that some of Steven King’s harem live in) cutting it in two and knocking one of the napping squirrels to the ground. Not that this was enough to boil my blood (the plant would regrow and the squirrel was okay) but, it was the fact that Madge had just stepped back from trimming it and could have been hit. I was livid. So, when The Boy comes home and I tell him about this latest development he’s thoughtful for a few minutes.
After his lengthy pause he says in this quiet voice, “I spoke to that guy last week and he was complaining about the age of the fence.”
Me stunned. “Are you #!*&ing kidding me?”
The Boy patient. “No, but I think he’s right. It is time to change the fence.”
The Boy smiling, “Leave it with me.”
When I saw him smile and wink I knew he had a plan. So I left it with him. Less than a week later I waited and watched as the new fence was installed. When 90% of the fence was in place I worried that he was going to give Mr. Sh*t-for-brains what he wanted until I saw The Boy himself sweating over a piece of the old fence. Yep, it wasn’t until I saw the guys carry this ancient piece of haphazardly constructed fence panel to the corner of the property that it hit me.
The Boy’s an evil genius!
So here’s the deal. We have a gorgeous new shadow-box fence while Mr. S’s side (thanks to his over aggressive trimming of OUR trees) is left staring at what we’ve dubbed the hillbilly reckoning. His portion of fence looks like it’s missing a few teeth. Now to be fair, The Boy did shore it up though. Really, really good. Yes, there’s no way any of those Swiss cheese boards are going to fall off now. Nope, The Boy made sure to use a plethora of nails and staples so Mr. S will be able to enjoy his unobstructed view of said hillbilly fencing for many, many years to come.
I love The Boy!
Copyright 2013 by Riley Murphy. All rights reserved.