Woooo! Woooohoo!

BiaAtlas Update.

It’s been two years and tonnes of work. After toiling and revising for a final time with all the ‘trouble’ words highlighted in different colours, I’m done.

I Started the final revision 5000 words over the maximum allowable limit. I was able to get the final word count down to 118,876, which is 1125 words below the max of 120,000.  Over 1000 words below what I though I would be able to manage. I can’t believe I was able to trim over 6000 words without compromising the story.

I feel a sense of accomplishment and renewal as I start again with the querying portion of my journey. Now I can start querying Literary Agents again with gusto and start the countdown all over again. I revised my Synopsis, Updated my Query letter and first 50 pages and I’m ready to get to it.

As I query I keep a spreadsheet. For each query I track the Agency, the agent queried, the date queried, their website, their email and if they have an expected time for response on receiving the query and when the query expires. The reason for this is so I don’t accidentally query the same agency twice, they have strict rules about it.

Each agency has their own rules and requests, within the agencies each agent can have their own rules and requests on top of the agencies. Sounds like a lot, but hey they need to weed out the authors who are not serious and potentially wasting their time.

So here I go again. Patience and persistence will pay off I know it.

My advice about writing goals.
If you have a goal anything is possible. Even if you think you’ve hit the wall, look up and find a way over it. 

-Sheryl

Three fun posts I wrote:

What a view I have!

What do you see?

That’s what she saw

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Renewal

KISS your writing

Keep It Simple Stupid.

AKA don’t be pretentious, if I had to look up the meaning of the word Honorificabilitudinitatibus to put it in my story, chances are most everyone else will too. If I litter my story with words to sound super smart I’ll sound like a jackass.(That’s my opinion.)  I’ve set more than one book down for this reason, not because I didn’t know what the word meant, but because, seriously? Big fun words have their place, I use them wisely or the reader won’t think I’m so wise. That’s not to say they don’t belong, but if it’s overrun it can be frustrating to read and borderline insulting.

For example:

Sasha stood before the group holding up the two layouts. “This is deleterious to our reputation. Neither are erroneous however, neither are optimal either. Both are nugatory to the client. We must commence by consolidating these two non-ostentatious layouts into one agreeable layout. We will have to ameliorate everything expeditiously, leveraging our proficiencies to implement the client’s prescribed parameters.” (55)

 Uh… yeah, what she said… and… close book. 

Sometimes big words have their place, we’re not in kindergarten. I Write for the audience, the readers. A fourteen year old may know what Commensurate means but is the word necessary? Can’t I just say equal?

Sasha stood before the group holding up the two layouts. “This is the kind of work that will destroy our reputation. Neither are wrong however, neither are optimal either. Both are of no value to the client. We must start by consolidating these two unimpressive layouts. We will have to improve everything expeditiously, using our skills to carry out the client’s request.”  (62)

 Better, but she’s still sounding a wee bit pretentious. Now if word count is an issue (and it always is for me) and I wanted to simplify this further I would do this.

Sasha held up the two useless layouts to the group. “This level of work will destroy our reputation. Neither is optimal, so we need to consolidate them. We’ll need to work quickly and actually meet the client’s requests this time.” (40)

I would have never written it like the first attempt. I did that to illustrate that the insertion of overly pretentious words can alienate a reader.

My advice about keeping it simple.
The thesaurus is great and useful, but remember to write for your audience not to “impress” or make them feel stupid.

-Sheryl

Related posts

Hey! Its’ Interjection

Accommodate and contain perplexed

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Border
Simple

Taking the next step

BiaAtlas book update.

I have decided to start querying agents. I worked on my Synopsis and Query letter and got them to a decent quality. My manuscript is still too high on word count, however I decided to go ahead even though the revision is unfinished. I have indicated in the query that the word count will be brought down.

This is believe it or not, very nerve wracking. Once submitted it is a 2-8 week waiting period to either hear back that they are interested… nor not. And the not is usually nothing.

Here is what I’ve learned so far about Literary agents and the query process.

Types:

Independent or small firms (1-5 people)
Boutique (focus on small scale, lots of attention 1-5 people sometimes more)
Larger outfits (6-25 people I haven’t seen higher than 25 yet)

They all have their benefits and drawbacks. This is where research comes in.

Within these there are senior and junior agents. Seniors have published books under their belts, juniors may have one or two.  While the seniors have more experience they are targeted more frequently and therefore have more applications at one time. Juniors have less experience but are highly motivated to prove themselves and build client lists. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Each agent will have a bio and a list of books they are working on and or have published. Each agent has a list of what they are looking for in Genra and style. This is important. I wont query an agent if I don’t like or resonate with who they are and the work they do. It is silly to query an agent that doesn’t represent your Genre. That being said I look for agents that have a strong like for New Adult Science Fiction. That’s my primary Genre.

 

The process.

Choosing an agent is somewhat personal. They should all be AAR accredited. Association of Authors Representatives. This is important and excludes the ones that might not be legit.

Each agent has their own submission requirements and not all are open for queries. Every agency has their own rules. Sometimes they are the same and sometimes they are different. Read carefully.  If they ask for 10 pages double spaced and you give them 15 they will notice. If they ask for no attachments and you attach a pdf of your synopsis they will disregard it. If they ask you to cut and paste into the body of the email do that. So far the standard rule is only one query can be submitted to on agency at a time. So if you query Joe, you cant query Jane, Jill or Jack from the same company until your query expires. Each agency has different times on this too. If you break this rule they say right on their site in the submissions guidelines that your queries will be disregarded.

It is important to get a feel for the Agent/agency and personalize the opening paragraph of the query. NONE and I mean NONE of them like gimmicks or over familiarity. Keep it formal and professional. Treat it like a job application only more important. That being said dry and stuffy doesn’t work either. Find a fine balance of your personality and professionalism. They are after all interested in you AND your work.

I have made a spread sheet keeping track of the day I submit, name of agent if available, email, method, website and their specific timeline(this varies greatly) This is handy for those that say they will respond to verify receipt of query. Again read carefully.

It is quite the process, strict and linear. They receive hundreds of queries a day so they have to be.

The industry standard is 15% commission. That sounds like a lot. But when you look at all they do it is worth it. I have discussed this in the not so direct path to publishing.

My advice about Querying Literary Agents.
Do your research, read carefully and make sure they are the right agent.
I will probably talk more about the process in further detail as I query more this week. There is a lot to talk about.

-Sheryl

Related posts

The not-so-direct path to publishing.

Query letter “creativity drought”.

The first 50 pages.

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.

The “word count” down.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Unfinished

Getting a little touchy feely

Feel, feeling and felt. Three destructive little filter words. These words shift perspective from the story and into the character. It’s awkward to read and leaves a reader feeling disjointed even if they aren’t aware. I don’t write in first person perspective so these words in particular can cripple a sentence fast.

What to do about them. I use them a lot when I write, it’s how I get out what needs to be said, what I need to express. It’s lazy and I’m okay with that because it won’t stay that way. I searched my manuscript and found the following incidences:

Felt 67
Feel 112
Feeling/feelings 23

Not all of them are filter word incidences. Within conversation or dialogue, they are fine or as a verb unrelated to emotions. These three are often (At least in my case) plunked into wordy sentences or super lazy ones.

For example.

Joe put the Sandwich“>sandwich together hastily. He felt the hunger pangs in his stomach. It had been ten hours since he remembered to eat last. He left the house with the printout to meet Sasha. He was excited to show her the new proof and felt certain she would believe him now. (52)

There’s a whole lot of telling going on. Let me try that again.

Finally, Joe found some undeniable proof after searching eight hours straight without even a snack. His stomach growled as he picked up the printout, his hastily made ham sandwich and ran out the door to meet Sasha. (37)

 That was better, less wordy too. Here’s a mistake I make all the time.

Joe dragged his feet along the path, feeling the course gravel scuff the soles of his shoes. (17)

There is no reason to feel through his shoes and yet I am guilty of having characters ‘feeling’ unnecessary things.

Joe dragged his feet, scuffing his shoes along the coarse gravel path. (12)

Joe is an emotional person so writing his feelings can be tricky.

Joe looked at Sasha then back to the path. He felt frustrated with her constant lack of interest in him lately. She just wouldn’t listen to reason, he was right this time and he knew it. He even had the proof in his hand to show her. He felt angry when she sighed dismissively and now he was ready to snap. (61)

In that one, I made a few oopsies. Filter words, wrong perspective, and wordiness. Instead of showing, I told his emotions.

Joe glanced at Sasha as he clenched his jaw. She was ignoring the hard evidence that he worked hard to find. She rolled her eyes when he tried to show her again. When she sighed dismissively, he clenched his fists, crumpling the precious printout. (44)

Sometimes it’s not about word count and more about beefing up empty sentences.

Feeling tired, Sasha crawled into the bath. The hot water felt divine. (12)

It’s like whiplash. In her mind, out and then back in. To fix this I would add words, it’s not always about keeping word count down. That and it was a very boring sentence. The temptation to overdo it here is strong. Before I learned to make every word count, (Haha at least I try to) and to stop double describing things, it might have looked like this.

Stifling a yawn of exhaustion, Sasha eased herself into the hot jasmine scented bath. The heat from the hot water and scent of flowers soothing her tired body. (28)

Gee, do you think the water is hot? Baths usually are duh, I’m not sure, and it’s not super clear, but she might possibly be tired. *Rolling my own eyes.

Yawning, Sasha eased into the jasmine scented bath. The heat from the water soothing her tired muscles. (17)

There much better. Only five words added from the original and it’s not hurting my brain to read it.

My advice about feelings.
Everyone has them, good or bad just make sure to keep them outside the characters body or mind. Unless you are writing in first person, show the feeling don’t tell it. he clenched his jaw (instead of) he felt frustrated.

-Sheryl

Other fun posts

Splendidly Stupid

Details, details, details

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Sandwich
Final

Over used and oft abused.

Ah, the word shiver. Over used and oft abused. This is on my personal list of filter words. One that is injected into a sentence to replace showing an emotion. I find it in plethora among the words of a romance, horror or mystery. Or just dumped in to lazy writing, like I’m guilty of. 😉

At first I used this word freely, it’s a great way to express an obvious feeling right? Well yes and no. People shiver for different reasons, it’s those reasons that suggest this blanket word can be stretched out or removed altogether.

Example 1.

Billy’s fingers gently brushed the back of her arm sending pleasant shivers across her body. (15)

Not a bad sentence really. A few unnecessary words. If I’m also worried about (word count) I would remove gently and pleasant, they are implied anyway. Three words doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Her skin tingled as Billy’s fingers brushed the back of her arm. (12)

Example 2.

Elouise shivered suddenly for no reason whatsoever. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” She muttered to herself. (18)

Meh, it could use a little trimming and rewording.

Elouise frowned and rubbed her arms. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” (13)

Example 3. (I still write like this.)

Tod had never felt so bone achingly cold in his life. He was shivering so hard his teeth chattered loudly. (20)

Now I know enough to rewrite it to this. FYI the word felt is a super filter word.

Tod wrapped his arms around his aching body, unable to stop his chattering teeth. (14)

Do I never use the word shiver? No, it’s a fun word that evokes a personal response. I do use it sparingly or try to anyway. Sometimes a plain ole shiver is just what the story needs, especially if there is no established reason for it.

My advice about overuse.
Overuse can happen with any word, shiver is just an example. Make a list of ‘important’ words you see too often in your writing and then see how often you actually use them. Then see if you can switch it up or swap it out, but don’t jeopardize the story or the flow if you can’t think of a way to change it.

-Sheryl

 

Other related Posts.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Shiver

Obvious

Jeopardize

More is less, and vice versa.

Today’s prompt made me realize something was missing from my writing tools. My arsenal of tricks, techniques and knowledge. Something forgotten and lost. Something to relearn. Not an addiction, trendy magazines, or Florida based TV show references, but a method to convey the reverse.

Vice“>Vice Versa. Simply put, it means to state the opposite of what was said.

Easy to use and easy to use incorrectly.

For example.

“Can I come?”
He smiled. “Sure, but bring your own book, and vice versa.”
She raised her eyebrow, the temptation to let him know that a book cannot bring her to the book review club on the tip of her tongue.

“If he wants to win the cooking competition, he needs to spend more time prepping the meals, and vice versa.”

Meals cannot prep a person. I have heard this used incorrectly a few times, but in the right place, it can make the point shorter, cutting word count too.

“It cannot be. Birds do not breathe under water, just as a fish cannot breathe air.”
“It cannot be. Birds do not breathe like fish, and vice versa.”

How I might use visa versa.

Billy sauntered into the café, ordered his usual and found his back corner table. Sitting comfortably with a slouch he pulled his book out to read and wait.

He hid his malicious smile behind his book as she hesitated outside the door. “Glutton for punishment.” He chuckled as she ordered. She sat with her mug of coffee three tables away, casting icy glances his way.

Halfway through her cup, he stood with his and strolled by her table.

She glared up at him. “You owe me a cup of coffee you deplorable creature.” He looked down at her abnormally tidy hair and perfect makeup. This woman snubbed him because of his clothes, she treats the baristas as inferiors and steps on others to get where she is.

“You’re right.” He looked at his mug. “I can only afford half today.” He dumped the remains of his coffee into her mug. “I’ll get you the other half next time.” He set his mug down and once again left her stunned as she watched him leave.

There was no doubt, she despised him, and vice versa.

My advice today.
Things you knew well can be forgotten and rediscovered again by something as simple as a word prompt. Just don’t overdo it when you get it back. 😉 After all more is less, and vice versa.

-Sheryl

The story that occurs before this one: That is disgusting

And another post by me.
The “word count” down.

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Doubt

Query letter “creativity drought”.

What is a Query letter? To put it simply it’s the resume for your book, what you submit to a literary agent to get their attention. Single spaced and one page.

Everyone has a different opinion on this. There are bunches of websites dedicated to this and even one that maybe-might-possibly review it on their blog and tell you what works and what’s junk. Like the synopsis, there are even books written about how to write a query letter. It’s that important. I took my time and read samples, how to articles and found one format that I liked.

The basic gist is that a query letter is 4-5 paragraphs. You have 8 seconds worth of reading to catch the literary agent’s attention and have them read on. 8 seconds is not much.

The first is the introduction paragraph. The shortest of them. It has to be personal to the literary agent you are querying. Including their name and why they’re a fit for your work or why you like them or think you would work together. It varies as long as it’s personal.

The second is the quick catch paragraph. This part that must be interesting, well. This paragraph is where you set up the book to say “Hey read on, it’s awesome I promise.” It’s a mini-synopsis, but only the nitty gritty of the story without the spoiler. This paragraph can be two if need be as long as the whole thing is one page.

The third is to be about the author, me. My accomplishments in literature, prizes, awards, certificates and qualifications or relevant education. I don’t have any of those things per say. So I wrote about my experiences with writing.

The fourth is the how will I promote the book etc. etc. This one was tough too. The more exposure I have the more likely a literary agent will take me seriously. Thus I started this blog, registered domain names for an upcoming website and whatever else I could find that others have done to promote a book. I kept this short and sweet.

After my first few attempts at a query letter, my brain dried up. All my creative ideas evaporated under the hot pressure of the disapproving sun of self-criticism. I could not make it sound interesting. I realized I was being too hard on myself so I took a break, wrote and revised a few chapters. I waited for the rains on inspiration and tried again when they came.
I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m getting help for this just as I am for the Synopsis. For me it’s like writing my resume, it’s so hard to sell myself to others looking to hire me. The same goes for this. I know what to say, but I want to make sure it’s perfect. I have a Query that I think is decent ready to submit to the consultant. I wonder if he will agree or not? I’ll let you know.

My advice about Query letters.

Do research. Lots of it. Find the style that appeals to you and go with it. Don’t be afraid to get help or opinions on this, after all its part of what you will be using to sell you and your manuscript to a Literary agent or publisher if you are contacting them directly yourself.
If you find your query parched and dull, try a different approach or style. This is the face of your book. The first thing a potential literary agent will see. But hey, no pressure. 

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

Read revise and repeat

The many facets of writing a book from start to completion and submitting for publishing is a wild ride. This is just one of the itsy-bitsy shiny edges I experienced.

Editing and revising, it’s a dirty job but it needs to be done. The first draft of my manuscript was a mess and it needed to be cleaned up. Even so, I took a chance and let a couple people read it. It was strange how nerve-wracking it was to wait for opinions. They liked it except for the errors and sentence flow.

I can fix that.

The idea of paying a copy editor to revise for me was tempting except for the cost. I thought it would be frustrating and arduous to copy edit my own book. I was wrong, it turns out when it’s your story it’s exciting and rewarding.

As I read, I found errors galore. At first, I thought perhaps I’m not cut out for this after all. That self-doubt lasted only a minute when I reminded myself that regardless of the outcome, I did this, I wrote a book and I love it. Spelling was a revision on its own, as was grammar, repeat phrase check, flow and of course there were details to add and take away.

Around revision eight I was optimistic, removing and trimming the loose ends, setting up foreshadows and making sure all the characters have a voice. Word count became an issue that helped me find the way to polish the story. I washed away the crap words that made the story flow frizzy and tangled.

My advice regarding editing your own work.
It is a long and rewarding process. Nobody likes dirty greasy hair, and nobody likes dirty greasy sentence structure. Take the time to read, revise and repeat.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

The “word count” down.

The “word count” down.

When all was said and done, I had a minor panic attack. I discovered my book is 15,000 words over the maximum allowable for my genre.
Totally fine right? Not so much. Word count matters.

I began the long process of editing. Finding the repeat information or sentences. I Cut the rambling and cleaned up sentences. Like a maniac, I watched the word count with an obsession for weeks. I calculated every day how many words I’d eliminated and how many left to remove to break the magic number.

The last page was done. I made it, almost. Still at 101 words over. I sat and stared at the screen. I’ll be honest I stared at the word count number.

Now what?

A little research turned up a list of words. Ones that are useless and often change the voicing of the sentence. They are called Filter words and everyone uses them. I took them out, fixed the sentences and found myself below by 1850 with 200 pages to go. Yes, I did a little happy dance.

My advice on word count. The words tell the story so let them, but make them count. If you go over, start your own word count down.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

One letter, one word, and one sentence.

You have to start somewhere. I had no idea where that somewhere was. Who am I to write a book, can I do it? The answer was yes, of course I can and I did. The first sentence popped into my head and I just had to get it out. The moment I sat down to type, it just flowed. It was exciting and scary. I didn’t tell anyone not even my husband. How could I? I’m not an author. What if it was total crap? What if it isn’t? It took four chapters before I told him.

What I didn’t know is how much work it is and how much I would love every second of it. Revising, editing, spell checking, revising again, grammar check, filter word removal and revising yet again. It sounds boring but when it’s your story its part of you and as you make it better and closer to perfection it fills you with joy.

I had no idea what I was doing and now I’m going to share what I learned and what I learn. Yes I’m still learning. There is so much to figure out. Word count, how to edit, what to do when you think your done? What is publishing? How to publish or rather find a literary agent.  It’s complicated and scary. And what the heck is a Query letter? I’ll get to that too.

So here is my first piece of advice. If you want to write a story, any story, but uncertainty or fear trips you up. Tell it to go to hell and just do it anyway. Start with one letter make it a word, add a few more and voila you have a sentence. Before you know it you will have a paragraph then a chapter and a finally a book. Just have fun with it.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved