Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ready to send that query?

I had a wonderful lunch yesterday with a fellow friend and writer, and it brought back memories of days past submitting query letters in search of landing a big time literary agent.  It also brought back some of the valuable lessons I learned during that process. 

In my eagerness to get represented and then published, I didn’t want to hear some of those important lessons I needed.  So, I’m sure there are others in that same spirit of impatience who will not want to hear them from me now, but nevertheless, I’m going to post them.

1.    Professional – Be professional, not personal, in your query letter.  Your query reveals a lot about who you are, how you write, and what that agent can expect from you as a writer.  While writing may be an agent’s passion, they’re also in a business where success is dependent on the ‘type’ of writer they represent.  They don’t get paid unless they can get their client signed by a publisher.  So, while they may be moved with compassion by your personal story, its business that will be the deciding factor.  SHOW, don’t tell, the agent that you are professional, determined, and filled with natural talent and an overabundance of drive, and you might just get that call.  Don’t write a long, personal sob story about yourself and your dream of being published.  EVERY writer who submits a query letter has a dream of being represented and published.

2.    Polished  - Make sure your query letter is error free and ‘shows’ a prime example of your writing style, a clear and correct synopsis of your story, and has a powerful message.  This is probably the most difficult part of the query; writing that short, but powerful, sales pitch of your story.  You don’t have to write the WHOLE story, just the pitch that gets them to want to know more.

3.    Pro-Active/PromisingAgents ‘invest’ in their clients, because they feel that the writing/novel can be successfully placed and sold.  However, they’re also looking for clients who will continue in that success, and are not just ‘one-trick ponies’.  So make sure you ‘show’ that you’re busy working on the NEXT BIG THING, the next project, the next novel. List your accomplishments, affiliations, and the immediate working project.  DON’T list everything you dream of doing in the distant future – just list the big project you’re currently working on. This tells the agent that you’re not sitting at home biting your nails, and placing all your hopes on this one book.  A good agent knows that the more novels an author writes the BETTER writer they become.

4.    Prepared – This is the MOST important.  Don’t query UNTIL you’re completely prepared.  Your novel needs to be polished, printed and ready for publication, and you already WORKING on the next project.  You need to be DONE – completed, edited and ready to go.  This is how you will immediately lose an opportunity for representation and burn a networking bridge – by getting a request for a partial or full manuscript, but then not have one ready to send immediately, or it’s unedited and not in the best possible shape.  This SHOWS an agent that the writer is unprofessional, lazy and impatient. 

So, if you’re thinking about sending out that query letter, but haven’t covered these basic issues, don’t.  Remove your emotions from the process and tackle it with the prowess of professionalism.  Then watch those requests and offers come pouring in.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, November 26, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012 Winner!

Well, I did it!  I set out to accomplish another goal, and I completed it.  It feels good. It always feels good, that's why I keep setting goals, within reason of course, and then going about  completing them.  It fills me with a sense of accomplishment.  It invigorates me.  It encourages me to do it again.

I wrote a 56,387 word romance novel (my first) in less than 17 days.  This novel is called Survival - Book #1 in the Second Chances series.

Once I begin editing, it will be much longer than 56,000; I'm predicting around 65,000 - 75,000 words, however, I will not set that goal just yet.  Instead of jumping right into the editing phase, I will instead dive right into the second part of this series and begin outlining novel #2 - Separation.  Once I have the outline complete, I will set another writing goal.

For all my fellow NaNoWriMo participants and winners - congratulations!  It's been a huge pleasure making new buddies, forging new friendships, and witnessing how wonderful a little bit of literary abandonment can feel.

Till next year (NaNoWriMo),
~T.L. Gray

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mission Not Impossible

One of the most discouraging things I witness among writers, especially those new to the publishing game, is a defeatist attitude.  They didn’t start with that sort of attitude, but developed it over, most often, a short period of time.  The common denominator in most cases stemmed from the writer being led by their emotions and failing to meet impossible goals.

Setting goals is very important to a writer.  Using our gift is like an invisible electric current that powers us.  However, we have to be smart in deciding what kind of power (Ac or Dc), what level of input and output we generate, how to protect, grow and benefit from our efforts, or else we’ll either blow up or burn out.  Writers often choose to either be Edisons or Teslas, when we should be a balanced combination of both.  Edison, though a genius, was a bit of a brat, egotist and though brilliant, failed to see the potential in his assistant, Tesla.  That assistant, also equally brilliant, failed to concern himself with the practical, pragmatic and business side of his ideas, that eventually cost him the patents and esteem that should have followed his work.

For writers - setting ‘reasonable’ goals, laying out a method to achieve them, and then have enough vision to see the bigger picture to continually propel them forward, should be able to sustain them, and make those impossible missions, possible.   Take passion, though sometimes overwhelming, exciting and/or filled with anxiety, and filter it through rational thinking, good planning, and dedicated follow-through. 

So writers, whatever you’re currently working on, take a step back and evaluate the goals for that project that you’ve set for yourself.  Are they reasonable?  Are they planned through rational thoughts or passionate pleas?  Once you’ve determined you’ve got a good balance of both, then flip the power switch and watch your impossible mission become possible.

Till next time,
~T.L Gray

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Joy of Writing

Today is the halfway mark in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge, the fifteenth day of thirty days and nights of literary abandon to write a 50,000 word novel.  I’m excited to say that I’m well beyond the mid-point curve, facing less than 3,000 words to win the challenge, and perhaps 15,000 words to complete the novel.  My biggest testament of this contest - for the past fifteen days I have relished the true joy of writing.  It’s not only exciting, frustrating, cathartic and even a touch erotic, but truly one of the few things in which I participate that brings me complete joy.

I wake in the mornings with an excitement and an urgency to get started, and quickly jump into my writing regiment (make a thermos full of coffee, get my particular snacks out, pre-make lunch, start the background music, pull out my notes, adjust the office lighting and temperature, and then boot my computer).

I believe we are all made for a particular purpose, a specific task in this life.  I’ve done many things in my life, held many different jobs, walked in many different levels of income, success and social standing.  By the world’s standards, choosing to be an author and spending the majority of my days writing, editing and marketing my finished products, is not considered a rational, practical or  a socially accepted form of employment; where success is measured in sales, networking and social status instead of content and creativity.

I thank God I’ve discovered my purpose, because in it I’ve found my joy.  I know the world is set against me, to steal that happiness and rob me of its presence and its benefits.  I have to protect it, like a valued treasure.  I have to purge those obstacles from my life, encourage myself daily, and stand firm the course set before me.  Some days it’s a challenge, but most days, I do with a smile on my face.

I wish this sense of fulfillment and purpose for everyone.  While we are approaching the joy of the holiday seasons, I’m blessed I’ve found something that brings me joy every day.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

P.S. For my fellow NaNoWrimers – keep going.  You’re halfway there! You can do it!