Writing

1
The Submission Process, The End
2
The Submissions Process, Part Six
3
The Submissions Process, Part Five
4
The Submissions Process, Part Four
5
The Submissions Process, Part Three
6
The Submissions Process, Part Two
7
The Submissions Process, Part One
8
Twas The Night Before Christmas, Writer Style
9
Stretches for NaNoWriMo
10
Lee Child’s Secret Sauce to Cook Up Suspense

The Submission Process, The End

Day ??

Since I’m writing this final post like a year after I went into subs with my first book, I can’t remember at which point I had The Talk with my agents. Sorry guys! But it went like this:

1. My agents informed me that they were receiving the same sorts of rejections: YA Dystopia isn’t selling.

I think we’ve figured this one out ourselves.

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The Submissions Process, Part Six

Day 43:

I totally caved and sent an e-mail to Junior Agent. She replied and told me that the MS is still with 8 editors and there have been no updates from them so far, but that she will nudge them this week. Well! That’s sorta good news! At least there haven’t been any rejections, right? Wheee!

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The Submissions Process, Part Five

Day 15:

Mr. Cow wasn’t feeling well last week, so he spent the past six days at home, which was really nice. Now that he’s back at work, the house is all forlorn and empty. Which means extra time to worry about my writing. Gah! Weirdly enough, I’m mostly worried about my second book now, which has been in Junior Agent’s hands for about a week. Aaaaaaahhh! I so hope she loves it as much as my betas and I do.

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The Submissions Process, Part Four

Day 54:

I e-mailed Junior Agent, and she replied and told me she has received several rejections. Some were “almost frustratingly positive” because they said they loved the story but they had something similar on their lists.

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The Submissions Process, Part Three

Day 18:

Interestingly, knowing that I won’t be hearing from editors for the rest of the month brings me a teensy bit of peace. At the very least, I know I won’t be receiving any updates about getting rejected until after the new year . . . right? Read More

The Submissions Process, Part Two

Day 11:

Surprisingly, Days 10 and 11 go by like normal days. As in, time passed. It might be because it’s the weekend and Mr. Cow and I spent our time running errands and stuff.

Day 12:

Finish editing second book. Feel entirely badass. Read More

The Submissions Process, Part One

*Note: All this happened over a year ago. The novel being subbed was a YA Fantasy.

Day 1:

Senior Agent calls me to talk me through the subbing process. She has sent out the pitch to a few editors. She tells me the best thing to do now is to forget about being on sub and keep myself busy. “Okay,” I say with confidence. I know submissions usually take at least two to three months. I’m totes chill. Read More

Twas The Night Before Christmas, Writer Style

(With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, whom I have shamelessly ripped off).

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the land,
Writers were all cursing, “I do not understand!”
How am I supposed to know when to hit go?

 

All year I have edited, polished each word,
December is awful for queries I’ve heard.
With so much NaNo nonsense hitting agents desks,
Each new one is looking more and more Kafkaesque.

 

Then comes Christmas time, and so many will say,
Now’s no time for queries, agents are all away.
Out at bookish parties, full of festive cheer,
They won’t open their inbox, until the New Year.

 

But writers are eager to show off their book,
They must get an agent by hook or by crook.
So they work themselves up into a frenzied state,
They think tiny errors might be make or break.

 

Their betas will tell them, now start on something new,
Instead they surf the net, they must know what to do!
Should they submit now, or will it kill all chance?
These agents they lead us on a merry dance!

 

Everyone tells them now is not the right time,
To query agents, they’ll get lost in the line.
But what if this book is their Jack Reacher version?
That will cause the agent to have a conversion?

 

The book that will make her dance, and shout out with glee,
This is just perfect as a new novel for me.
It needs no more edits, it’s done and complete,
The deal it will do me will taste so darn sweet.

 

The writer checks forums, please say what is best,
Until she has queried she will get no rest.
Chill out and relax, there’s no right answer they say,
Still she keeps worrying through the whole of the day.

 

If I don’t query now, then when shall it be done?
I’ve heard in the summer they’re all out in the sun.
No agent’s at work, work’s no fun, it’s too hot,
The writer’s is really a confusing lot.

 

So many rules set out to trip them all up,
All they want is to drink from the publishing cup.
Can it really be true that just one errant word,
Is enough to get their agent dreams all deferred?

 

Desperately trying to tick all the boxes,
Will this be the manuscript that just outfoxes,
The vigilant intern who knows it’s their job,
To protect their boss from the writer’s lynch mob.

 

So now the writer, festively optimistic,
Redrafts the query showing their feats linguistic
It seems so stupid, idiotic, absurd,
To listen to all the strange stories you’ve heard.

 

About when to query and when you should not,
It matters little if your writing’s red hot,
If the prose is all tight, and the grammar is clean,
If you’ve checked every word, polished it to a sheen.

 

However there’s just one final thing to beware,
Even if your book fits their wish list and has flair,
Agents who say they are closed to all queries,
Should not be contacted and you should be leery!

Stretches for NaNoWriMo

This month is NaNoWriMo and I have been killing it! I’ve been pounding out an average of 5,000 words a day. I am on a roll! I am on fiyah! I am . . . paying the price with my back. And neck, and shoulders, and wrists. Apparently, sitting at the same exact position for hours on end isn’t that great for my body. I was chatting with a fellow Nano-er, who mentioned her shoulders have been killing her, and it hit me that many Nano-ers are probably going through the same thing. So, without further ado, I present to yew:

Post9a Read More

Lee Child’s Secret Sauce to Cook Up Suspense

 

How do you create suspense in a novel? Since I’m attempting to write a scifi thriller, it is the number two[1] question on my mind these days.

A couple of years ago, I read a New York Times article written by Lee Child, the author of the popular Jack Reacher series. In that article, he revealed his secret sauce to create suspense. I still like his pithy advice. More on that later.

More recently, I read an old bestseller that’s an impressive example of suspense. I’ve never read another novel that’s as effective in maintaining tension. Whether or not one likes the story, the book is a superbly crafted thriller, at least on a technical level. I should’ve read it long ago but kept putting it off, thinking that the story was ruined because I’d seen the movie.

When I finally read the book, I noticed this: many chapters end with a mystery. When I write, my intuition is to wrap up each chapter neatly – conclude the scene before starting the next chapter. You know, tidy. The thing is, while sphincteralness may be great for the sock drawer, it may not be the best way to create suspense.

What this author often does is to end a scene at the beginning of the next chapter.[2] For example, one chapter might conclude like this (I totally made this up):

“Luke,” Darth Vader wheezed like a 20-year-old Hoover clogged with cat hair. “I’m going to tell you who your father is.”

“OMG,” Luke squealed. “It’s Obi-Wan, isn’t it? I swear we have the same cheekbones. LOL. Don’t tell me it’s the Emperor. He doesn’t look like he ages well. No, it’s gotta be Yoda. That’s why the Force is strong within me. Wait, does that mean I’ll turn green if I don’t get enough sun? Spit it out, you bastard. I gots to know!”

End chapter.

Are you gonna stop there? Of course not. Like Luke, you gots to know, right? You glance at your clock on the nightstand: 12:03 a.m. You promised yourself to read only one chapter before going to sleep. Cursing, you flip over to the next chapter, which might start with:

“I am your father,” Darth Vader said.

Nooooo, you mutter to yourself, eyes wide. Bookmark that page and go to sleep? Uh, no. If you’re like me, you like to finish a chapter. Thus you read through the current chapter. By the end of that chapter, the author baits you again. Damn it. The evil cycle repeats. Again and again. The clock now reads 2:14 a.m., and you have to get up at six to go to work. Massively screwed up the … well, you know.

To sustain this continuous suspense, you have to create a series of mysteries to string the reader along. But that’s really hard and a lot of work. Merely thinking about it makes me tired. Also, this setup wouldn’t be right for every story. Nevertheless, it’s good to know.

If you’re still reading this, then perhaps Lee Child’s advice worked: you create suspense by dangling out a question and delaying the answer. What is this novel I’ve been babbling about? Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. The first question being why does my story suck zonkey sphincter, but that’s a different post for a different day when the self-loathing Dark side is stronger. (A zonkey is the offspring of a male zebra and a female donkey. A female zebra and a male donkey produce a zedonk.)
  2. If the next chapter switches POV, then the scene might continue in the chapter after that, when the original POV resumes.

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