Advice for Young Writers

On the NaNoWriMo forums, a 15-year-old writer asked for a critique of his work. I went into specifics, then offered some advice, which I think is good for any new writer, but especially someone who is young and who is looking forward to a possible career as a writer.

I wrote my first “book” (okay, it was about 20 pages) when I was in 6th grade. Here I am now, 31 years old, and I have a book written and I’m trying to get it published. I actually wrote most of a book in college. And when I look at it now, ten years later, I see how badly it sucked, LOL. Looking back on my early writing, I see some broad truths:

Life experience helps you as a writer. I sometimes surprise myself by the things that show up in my writing; things you’ve studied, people you know… it all ends up in your writing, one way or another. The more things you’ve studied and the more people you’ve met, the better your writing gets. So know, as you get older, your writing will only get better!

Secondly, read, read, read. The more you read, the better your writing will get. One, you absorb vocabulary and sentence structure as you read, which will help you as a new writer. Secondly, you can see what does and doesn’t work. I think I learned how to kill off good, interesting characters by reading “Harry Potter.” Sometimes you have to build up a character just to kill him off.

Try reading a book critically. I did this recently with “Twilight.” Yeah, it’s easy for people to joke about the fact that it sucks, but most people can’t cite why. Make sure you can enumerate all the reasons why something sucks or doesn’t suck.

And not everything about “Twilight” sucks. I could have taken a black marker to the fourth book and edited huge chunks out of it, but I actually thought Stephanie Meyer did a really good job of building the tension at the end of the book. I liked the fact that Bella made arrangements to save her daughter in the even that she and Edward died. Picking up passports, getting together cash, planning clothing–all of these things built up tension and a sense of dread and inevitable doom.

I liked it so well, in fact, I did something very similar in the end of my third book–my people spend time preparing for their deaths. And that’s something that I like to emphasize in my writing: I want my readers to be emotionally-involved in the story. I want them biting their nails with worry that someone is going to die. You can only accomplish this by having really developed characters that readers love (even if they love to hate them). I want people begging to know if Anselm and Kalyn get together in the second book; you can only accomplish this by making them and their relationship realistic.

When you write, think about making your reader emotionally involved. I think books like that are not only good reads, but they’re books you keep coming back to.

I would also add a rule that one of my English professors taught us: in life, you only get three exclamation points. Use them wisely.

Anselm and Micah Meet

I have had this scene written for a while, and I open it occasionally and tweak on it. But I’m starting to notice that I’m really bad about tweaking something to death (I’m still tweaking on my first book, and I considered it finished a year ago!), so I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and publicly post it.

This is the story of how Anselm and Micah meet one another in 1512. This is also the first year that Joshua is the Erujtah, and you’ll see he clearly sets the tone for how he rules. I’ve tried to make all the information as historically-accurate as possible, but Jerusalem was a run-down, backwater little city in the 16th century, so it’s hard to find information on what people were wearing, how they lived, etc. It took a lot of digging just to find out what language people spoke (Arabic was the most common first langauge; Farsi (Persian) was the language of the government and courts), and even that’s a bit of a guess, because Jerusalem changed hands so frequently, what was common practice in one part of the controlling empire wasn’t necessarily the way things were done in Jerusalem. But, any historical inaccuracies aside, here it is:

            Micah woke up bored. He knew it wasn’t right, but sometimes he disliked peace. Fighting for or against whoever was trying to take Jerusalem in any particular year was all that really made him feel alive. Peaceful years passed without notice. But the Convening would open after the Rosh Hashanah service that evening, and while the meeting itself was often boring, it was a different kind of boring, which almost made it interesting. Besides, there would be people in town he hadn’t seen since the last Convening—and maybe even some new people; socializing after meeting was always the best part.
            He decided to go out to the market to kill some time.
            The sun was still shrouded in the early morning haze, but it promised to blaze fiercely when it rose fully. It was still hot during the days, as if summer didn’t want to let go.
            He meandered slowly through the narrow rows of vendors, while people bustled around him. That was one thing about living forever: you never needed to be in a hurry. Today, tomorrow, a hundred years from now—what did it matter?
            He stopped to admire a large stand of fruit. He had always liked fruit, especially melons; they were so colorful and juicy—the opposite of most of the surrounding land. Micah bent down to inhale the scent. It was strong; they were perfectly ripe. Even though he had no hunger for one, a ripe melon was still a pleasant scent.
            “You want to buy one?” the merchant asked.
            Micah smiled and stood up. “You don’t have anything I want to buy.”
            The man’s face instantly darkened. “What do you know, you Jew?”
            Micah waved at him dismissively. The man returned the gesture more insultingly. Micah wandered off, chuckling inwardly. Arguing with merchants was part of the enjoyment of the market, and if you couldn’t argue over the price, you had to find something else to argue about.
            Micah was surprised to find someone selling books, and he was instantly drawn to the stall.
            “Hey, Jew, I have lots of books. Lots of books for you.”
            “I see that,” Micah said absentmindedly, as he looked over the piles.
            “I have many languages. What do you read?”
            “Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic. My Persian is only so-so. And I can read a little Greek.”
            “You read Frankish? Look at this,” he said, shoving a red leather book under Micah’s nose. “New.”
            Micah took the book from him and opened it. He recognized the Latin characters, but he couldn’t tell if the book was written in Latin or French or something else. Everything that wasn’t a Hebrew- or Arabic-style script got lumped into the category of “Frankish,” regardless of what language it actually was. Micah spoke passable French, so he tried sounding out the letters to see if any of the words sounded familiar.
            “Excusez-moi,” someone said behind him, tapping him gently on the shoulder.
            Micah turned around and was instantly surprised; the man behind him was Canichmeh. He didn’t know why he hadn’t noticed his scent sooner, especially as it was no one he recognized.
            He quickly glanced the man over. He was tall, and dressed in a foreign style, not unlike the Frankish pilgrims that came to the city in a steady trickle. He wore his yellow leggings quite tight, and his blue woolen shirt was fairly fitted—especially at the waist—then flared into a skirt that barely reached his upper thighs. It all looked rather uncomfortable and hot to Micah. It was also rather dirty and travel-worn, as if the man had just arrived in the city.
            Micah looked up and was startled by the man’s eyes, instantly thinking he must be blind. The next moment he banished the thought; no Canichmeh was blind. The man’s eyes had to naturally be a very light gray. His hair was black—darker than even Micah’s—and his skin was quite pale, even for a Canichmeh. Compared to everyone else around him, he almost looked translucent. He also looked very tired. 
            “You are… Canichmeh?” the man asked hesitantly in French.
            “Yes,” Micah replied, thinking it ought to be obvious by his scent. But maybe the man was being polite.
            “Is… is today Rosh Hashanah?”
            “It is tonight.”
            The man looked immensely relieved and muttered something to himself that Micah didn’t understand. Then he smiled a little. “I was différé in Venezia because of bad weather, and I lost trace of my days. I was afraid I was too late. I’ve been riding hard to get here on time.”
            Micah didn’t understand everything he said, but he didn’t have to know much; traveling was always a risky, uncertain business, and sailing the Mediterranean was even worse. If the man was only delayed due to bad weather, that was something to be thankful for; it wasn’t uncommon for entire shiploads of people to go down en route.
            “You are here on time,” Micah reassured him. “Our meeting is tonight.”
            “Where’s a good place to stay? Something honest and clean.”
            “Oh, no, you will stay with us.” Micah pointed back the way he had come. “Go to the end of this street. There is… water there,” he said, trying to indicate a cistern with his hands. The man nodded his understanding. “Turn left and go… there is a second street; go to that. The building is on the right. That is where the meeting is. The door is red.”
            The man nodded, then smiled a little. “Thank you.”
            “You’re welcome.” The man started to leave, but Micah caught his sleeve. “Hey, can you read this?” he asked, holding up the book.
            The man didn’t even look at what was printed in the book; he just shook his head sadly. “No.”
            “Ah, well,” Micah said, turning back to the book stand. “What’s this supposed to be about, anyways?” he asked the merchant.
            “I think it’s about Christianity. Some new heresy. I got a good deal from my Venetian seller; they were trying to get rid of them before the Church burned them.”
            Micah shook his head. He couldn’t imagine anyone burning books; even though there were many more available now, thanks to the new printing press, they were still too precious to waste.
            He glanced at the book again. “Heresy is always interesting… but I don’t think I know enough about Christianity to know what is and isn’t a heresy.”
            The man shrugged. “What’s to know? It’s not the true faith.”
            Micah thought that rather applied to more than just Christianity, but he didn’t dare say so; he rather liked having his head attached to his body.
            He put the book down. “What else do you have?”
            “I have some books in Greek. This is a new printing of Homer,” he said, offering a book in brown leather. “Are you familiar with the story of Troy?”

            The meeting room was nearly full when Micah and Isaac walked in. The tables were arranged in a horseshoe-shape, with the Council members sitting along one side of the tables at the head of the room. Below the horseshoe arrangement were some additional tables where the Yaechahre sat.
            The local Yaechahre always came to the Convening, and many people from the surrounding areas also came, but not many Yaechahre from outside the Holy Land came. Depending on their starting point, it could take up to six months to reach the Holy Land, and even with a Canichmeh escort, travel was still dangerous. But, nonetheless, some Yaechahre braved the hazards—namely to arrange marriages.
            Yaechahre groups were usually small, and it was a delicate matter to get outsiders married in—and sometimes, depending on the political or religious climate, impossible. Due to a lack of new blood, it only took a couple of generations before everyone in any given group was too interrelated to marry. Groups in neighboring cities cross-married, but that typically only lasted a few generations, then both groups were too interrelated to marry. That’s when someone would end up going to the Convening to find mates for the young people in their group.
            Micah glanced around, and noticed his friend, Azir, sitting at the first table, next to the high table. Micah made a beeline towards him.
            “You’re late,” Azir said with a smile. He gestured for Micah and Isaac to sit on the bench next to him.
            “They haven’t started yet, have they?” Micah asked.
            “No.”
            “Then we’re not late.”
            Azir laughed. Isaac leaned around Micah to look at him. “That we’re here a moment early is thanks to me, of course.”
            “Of course,” Azir agreed with a knowing smile.
            Joshua rose and greeted everyone, welcoming them to the Convening. Joshua had been the local Eruj for several centuries, but this was his first year as Erujtah. The previous Erujtah had announced his resignation at the previous year’s Convening and Joshua had been elected shortly thereafter. Micah liked Joshua quite well, and thought he would be a good Erujtah, but everyone else seemed to be reserving judgment. How he handled the Convening would be very telling.
            Joshua asked anyone who had not been to a Convening before to come forward and introduce himself. Micah noticed the light-eyed man he had encountered earlier tentatively came forward. He looked rested, and he had cleaned up and changed clothes, but it was clear from the unpatterned fabric and lack of embellishment he was not a rich man.
            Micah and the others in Jerusalem tended to wear the best clothing they were allowed, by law, to buy and wear. In fact, the long tunic Micah was wearing was his very best. It was a very dark blue and heavily embroidered in geometric patterns of gold, silver and red. They had all been accused, at one point or another, of dressing above their station—Micah was especially bad about wearing white, which was usually forbidden to Jews—but they were generally only harassed by new rulers; the ones who had been in the city for a while heard rumors of the ones who never aged, and they generally left them alone.
Even though the stranger wasn’t human, Micah could tell he was nervous and a little unsure of himself. He suddenly felt a pang of guilt that he hadn’t been more hospitable before; he should have escorted the man there himself instead of just giving him directions. It wasn’t like he was busy with some pressing matter. 
            “What is your name?” Joshua asked politely in Cainite, when the stranger remained silent.
            “Anselm,” he replied. He didn’t offer anything else.
            “And where are you from?” Joshua pressed.
            Anselm looked confused. “I….” He hesitated.
            “Where are you from?” Joshua repeated a little more slowly, carefully enunciating his words.
            The man shook his head.
            Joshua looked a little taken aback by Anselm’s refusal to answer the question, but apparently decided to let it go. “Who is your sire?” he asked, changing questions.
            “John. Father, he was. Dead.”
            The entire room was silent, staring. “What?” Nasim—a member of the Low Council—asked, looking at Anselm in confusion.
            “John, my sire and father he was. He was dead. Is dead,” Anselm corrected himself.
            “How old are you?” Nasim pressed, looking shocked.
            “O-old?”
            “How many years have you been one of us?”
            “Oh….” He looked flustered. “I… not know. Deux cent soixante,” he said, giving up and speaking in French.
            “You’re two hundred and sixty years old, and can’t speak Cainite?” Nasim asked with shocked amazement. He glanced at the others on the Council. “Can we even recognize him as an adult if he can’t speak?”
            “I speak,” Anselm said, looking embarrassed.
            “Our Yaechahre speak better,” Nasim replied derisively.
            Tears of shame and anger welled up in Anselm’s eyes; his hands clenched in fists. “Where I learn?” he accused in Cainite. “I know no one but my father. He is dead many years. I have no one. Where I learn?”
            “Did you learn anything at all,” Nasim needled, “or do you drink animal blood like a savage? Êtes-vous un sauvage?” he asked contemptuously.
            “Nasim,” Joshua snapped, glaring at him.
            Anselm stood a little taller, gave Nasim a look of utmost loathing, then turned on his heel and strode towards the door.
            Micah extracted himself from his bench, hurrying to catch up with Anselm; he and Joshua converged on him at the same time, just before he went out the door.
            “Don’t leave,” Joshua pleaded in French.
            “My father always wanted to come here,” Anselm replied; Micah could see him trying to blink away tears, “but he died before we could raise the money. When I had the money, I came for him. But I’m glad he’s not here; I’m glad he died before he could come here and be insulted. I see now why we lived alone; our people are horrible.”
            He turned to leave, but Micah and Joshua both grabbed for him. “Wait,” Micah said. “Nasim is….” He glanced at Joshua. “What’s a good word for him in Frankish?” he asked.
            “I’d say Nasim’s the lame offspring of a diseased donkey,” Joshua replied in French.
            Anselm blinked, then a smile tried to creep on his face.
            “I’m sorry you’ve been insulted,” Joshua added. “Nasim’s behavior is disgraceful; we treat guests—and our people—better than this.”
            “We are not like him,” Micah interjected.   
            “Come,” Joshua said. “There’s much more to our meeting than this, and many people better than Nasim here. Don’t judge us all on his actions. Come,” he said, gently tugging on Anselm’s sleeve.
            Anselm hesitated, looking unsure. Micah knew if he walked out, he would never come back. Franks were easily insulted—or, rather, once insulted, their hearts were hardened and that was that. They didn’t engage in angry name-calling and back and forth arguments until a compromise was hammered out; they just washed their hands of the matter. Or attacked. Warfare always seemed an appropriate course of action to them.
            “Micah,” Joshua said in a low, pleading voice.
            Micah took Anselm by the arm. “Come, sit with me. I can tell you everything. But do not laugh at my French; I do not speak well.”
            “You speak very well,” Anselm said sincerely. It made Micah feel even more ashamed of Nasim’s words.
            Finally Anselm let Micah drag him to his table. Azir and Isaac scooted over to make room for him.
            Joshua returned to the head table and turned to address the assembly. “We will be conducting our business….”
            “We haven’t finished with him,” Nasim interrupted, pointing to Anselm.
            “Why, is there some insult you’ve failed to deliver, Nasim?” Joshua said, looking at him witheringly.
            “He needs to recite his ancestry.”
            “For the love of God, Nasim! We haven’t required anyone do that in centuries.”
            “But it’s still law that they do.”
            “Why are you so bent on insulting and embarrassing this man?”
            “I’m not embarrassing him; he’s an embarrassment in and of himself.”
            Joshua frowned severely. “There’s only one embarrassment here, and it’s not Anselm.”
            Nasim’s eyes narrowed. “What are you implying?”
            “I think you know exactly what I’m implying.”
            “I’ll have you know I’ve been on this Council two hundred and thirty-one years. You haven’t been here a year.”
            Joshua drew himself up to his full height. “And I’ll have you know that I’m the Erujtah. I don’t care how long you’ve been here; I am master of this Council. Me, not you.”
            Nasim stood up angrily, and started to walk away.
            “Where are you going?” Joshua demanded.
            Nasim wheeled around. “I will not be insulted by an upstart like you, Y’hoshua Cohen.”
            “I’m an upstart?” Joshua replied, clearly affronted. “Your ancestors were tending goats in the middle of nowhere while my family was here, tending the altar of God. I fought the Romans for this city before your great-great-grandparents were even born, and I have the scars to prove it. I’ve held the group here together through war and persecution and plague for four hundred years. I’ve killed for our people and our Yaechahre, and I’ve nearly died for them as well. But I’m beneath you? I’d like to hear your list of credentials, if they’re so much more impressive than mine.”
            Nasim turned and stomped towards the door. He jerked it open, but paused when Joshua’s words rang out through the silent room. “This Council is still in session. If you walk out, I will bring a vote of no confidence against you.”
            Nasim glanced over his shoulder, glaring hatefully at Joshua, then he walked out, slamming the door shut behind him.
            The room was utterly still; every breath was held for a long moment. “How juvenile,” Naomi said, finally breaking the silence.
            Joshua glanced at her. “Me or him, my dear?” he asked, a hint of a smile on his lips.
            She chuckled. “Him. And maybe you, just a little.”
            Joshua returned to his seat. “There will only be one master of this Council, and until a two-thirds’ majority votes to remove me, that master is me.” He glanced at the others around him. “Does anyone want to raise a vote of no confidence against me?”
            There was only silence. “Very well,” Joshua pressed on, “then I would like to take this opportunity to raise a vote of no-confidence in Nasim.”
            There was a moment of stunned silence. “Are… are you serious?” one of the members of the Low Council asked.
            “I am. I do not issue idle threats. Nasim has obligations to this Council, and one of those obligations is to be present when we are convened—especially at the yearly Convening.
            “Furthermore, his actions before this assembly have been unconscionable. He publically and purposefully belittled Anselm—which none of us should do to one another, but we of the Council must hold ourselves to an even higher standard. We are the governing body of our people, and we represent everyone. Anselm himself said we were horrible people—and why shouldn’t he think that? Nasim degraded us all in his eyes. If we don’t have the respect of our people, we have nothing.”
            He picked up a round stone—a little larger than his hand—and banged on the table with it. “There is a vote before this Council. Each may cast his or her vote, and the reason behind it, if desired.”
            Every member voted in accordance with his or her rank—beginning with the members of the Low Council. Although some people voted to keep Nasim, none of them offered any words in his defense. Joshua was the last to vote. “I vote ‘no-confidence.’ That brings the vote to eight in favor of removing Nasim, six for him remaining, and one abstention. The motion carries,” he said,  pounding the table with his stone again. “The clan of Accad will replace Nasim according to law. Are there any here, now, who are of that clan?”
            Two men stood up. Joshua looked at them. “One of you needs to take Nasim’s place until someone can be elected to replace him.”
            One man bowed politely. “I will defer to my father,” he said, gesturing to the other man.
            Joshua gestured to him. “Come up and join the Council.” The man looked thunderstruck by the request, but dutifully joined the others at the high table, taking Nasim’s place.
            “Now that unpleasantness is over,” Joshua said, “maybe I can continue where I left off.” He stood up once again, and addressed the crowd. “We will be conducting our business….”
            Micah could hardly explain everything to Anselm in a hushed whisper without being overcome by a fit of giggles. Joshua was going to make a very good Erujtah.

Rejections

A few rejections are still trickling in from queries I sent out over a month ago.

Here’s an inspiring story, though, of a hobby inventor who, at age 84, finally got a company to pick up his invention.

I hope I’m not going to be 84 before I get published, though.

I am doing one last read-through of my book, checking the proof copy for any remaining typos and grammatical errors. My husband also insisted that I redo the gun part, because it didn’t think it was accurate. After that, though, I’m going directly to publishers.

But a part of me is thinking one last-ditch attempt with agents. I still have some I haven’t tried yet. But looking at my list of 27 rejections (or no responses), I’m feeling like throwing all caution to the wind and doing stuff with my query letter that, technically, you’re not supposed to do (I don’t think). When people ask me what my book is about, I have trouble coming up with a short answer, and I usually just resort to saying “Jewish vampires.” And people get immediately interested. I’ve had a number of people say, “I don’t care for vampires, but I think I’d try that.” And I don’t think I disappoint; a friend who says she doesn’t like vampires either broke down and read it and is now begging me to send her chapters of the second book in installments.

But my query letter does not come right out and say “Jewish vampires,” although I label Micah as Jewish (and, if you’re paying attention, you’ll know that he’s a vampire, so, obviously, he’s a Jewish vampire). But maybe that’s too sutble for the 60 seconds an agent spends reading a query letter.

So how’s this for attention-grabbing?

Vampires. They’ve been done to death, right? (And more than once, obviously.) But what if they were gun-toting Jewish vampires living in Tennessee?

Why are they in Tennessee? Because, during the War, they worked on the atomic bomb at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Then they decided Tennessee was a rather pleasant place, and they chose to stay.

Why are some of them Jewish? Because they were born that way.

Why are they toting guns? Because there’s a new type of vampire on the loose, seemingly intent on killing all of them and their human servants.

“Accepted” follows the small group of vampires and humans in Tennessee. Kalyn is a star student in her junior class, a cheerleader, and just sixteen when she takes her place as an adult among the vampires’ human servants. She is placed in the care and tutelage of Anselm—a man she has been crazy about most of her life. He is an 800-year-old vampire who is introverted, perfectionist, and rather fond of Monty Python. Under normal circumstances, the only excitement in his life comes from his adopted brother, Micah, who is his Odd Couple opposite: lighthearted, disorganized, and irreverently Jewish.

But when Anselm rescues one of the strange new vampires from being murdered by his own kind, he, Micah and Kalyn lose their perfect, quiet lives, and become their peoples’ sole defenders on the front line of an emerging war.

“Accepted”  is an urban fantasy novel of approximately 110,000 words.

 

YA Writing Smackdown

I stumbled across this article today: Writing Young Adult Fiction, which details, briefly, some of the upsides and downsides to writing YA. I had no idea that the turnaround for a sequel was 6 months. That’s a crazy amount of time to write a book. It took me a year to write my first book, and that doesn’t include several of the more minor edits and letting people read it and give me feedback. It makes me have a bit more sympathy for Stephanie Meyer’s fourth book, Breaking Dawn, which needed some heavy editing. I always write more than I need, and I pare down unnecessary dialogue, scenes and chapters in editing. If she only had 6 months or so to write and edit it, I can see how she didn’t have time to go back through it and cut out all the boring, useless crap.

Speaking of books, I’ll be honest: I’m tired of querying agents. Last count was 26 or 27 queried. I’ve read books that are worse than mine and I think, “If someone will publish this, surely I can get published.” So my new tactic is to start querying publishers directly. It usually takes them 6-12 months to respond, which is a drag, but let’s face it: I’ve been querying agents almost that long. If I had started out with querying publishers, I might have heard something by now.

But first I have to do one last, last edit. I printed another proof copy a month or so ago, and my husband recently read it with editing pen in hand. He had a number of suggestions (nay, commands) to make my gun usage more accurate. (In fact, we spent an hour or so one day going over it; I drew him a picture of the terrain, and he showed me ammo and got out his sniper rifle for me to examine.) So I need to edit that part and I need to read through one more time and make my own corrections. Then, once I make the changes on the computer, I’ll be ready to print and mail.

While I’m waiting to hear back from someone, I can be working on my second book. I’m more than halfway through the first writing. I should be ready to make my first proof copy in 6 months or less. That way, if a publisher comes back and says, “We’ll take it, and we want to make it YA, so give us that sequel in 6 months,” I’ll be ahead of the game on sequels and maybe I won’t put out something crappy.

It’s Starting to Come Together

Hey, look, I do know where my blog is, and how to post.

I have had several other projects going on that have kept me busy the past week. First, I finally motivated to doing some serious house cleaning, which has turned into rearranging the living room and buying more bookcases. I still have a lot of work to do to get everything the way I want it, but I’m liking the changes.

Are you stuck with your writing? Is your general creativity at a low ebb? Rearrange the room where you do most of your creative work. Even if you don’t add or subtract anything, stirring up your things seems to stir up ideas.

I have to say it’s working for me. Just a day after moving the living room around (not where I do my writing, but it’s the first room you see when you come into the house, and you can’t go anywhere in the house without passing through it, so it’s logistically important), I have come tantalizingly close to writing the end of my third book. I’ve had the epilogue written, so I knew, more or less, who survives and who dies, but I had no idea how any of my characters get to that point.

But yesterday a plot started forming in my head, and I began writing some of the scenes which will lead to the grand finale. I was crying and shooting characters in the back of the head in a mass suicide. It was fabulous! I don’t think I’ve written anything good unless I’ve made myself cry or laugh.

Need help motivating to clean your house up or rearrange? I recommend Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. I read this book in college and it completely changed the way I look at stuff. When I need a kick in the pants, I re-read it, then go through my house, tossing stuff or giving it away.
The show Hoarders is also pretty motivating to cleaning up. I watched the first episode and immediately went out and swept off our front porch (something it’s needed since the fall!)

I am a good writer, I am a good writer, I am a good writer…

Getting Published Protip #57: Get some balls of steel, because rejection is a lot like a kick in the crotch,* and you’ll need the ability to take repeated assaults.

*Author is not a man, so she can only assume there is a comparison. She has suffered some shots across the boobs, but she never whined about it. The hockey stick across the shins in P.E. class, though, did lay her low.

What’s the carnage count so far? I have put in 24 query letters. I have received 9 rejection letters and 1 request for additional materials (I never heard back after submitting the additional materials). Only 41% of the people I’ve queried have responded. If you count all the non-responses as rejections (which they, in effect, are), I have a total of 24 rejections.

Is it any wonder I drag my feet when it comes to doing query letters at this point? Or why I do a batch and then spend several months recovering? Still, my book won’t get published sitting on my couch (in a lovely proof edition).

I just sent out #25. God help me.

Another Agent List

Fantasy Agents List (Even if you don’t write fantasy–or fiction–there is a drop-down box that allows you to choose a genre and find agents in your specialty.)

This site was recommended by some folks on Absolutewrite.com. I already see some agents I have applied to (using a paid listing service; this one is free!), but there are also some I’ve missed. (This is when my Excel spreadsheet comes in handy; since I kept track of everything I sent out previously, I don’t have to worry about duplicating.) I did four queries today!

This literary agent has an interesting list of novel prompts. You can sign up to their Twitter feed to get them regularly, or look through them on this page. These are great to use if you are stuck in your novel and you need inspiration.

I just ordered my third proof copy of my book. My husband and I are going to look through it one last time for grammatical errors and he’s going to double-check my gun usage for accuracy. Then I’m going to see if a friend will read it and help me with my synopsis before I start querying publishers. I’m still worried that my synopsis sounds much more boring than my book. I think, though, that my query (which is what most agents want instead) is good.

In a completely unrelated segment:

Breathtaking Photos of Spectacular Places on Earth – This website has some wonderful landscapes. I saved them to my work computer to use as desktop backgrounds.