The Hook and the Meat

As I sit here still biting my nails in anticipation, waiting for my readers to get back to me with their feedback, I need a distraction.  What better next step for an aspiring author than tackling the dreaded Query Letter?  It’s a form letter, sure.  It’s a job application, definitely.  It’s also the single most important piece of paper attached to my novel.  The query letter will either be so good that an agent has to read the actual manuscript, or will blend into oblivion where it- and by extension, my novel- will rot in the slush pile, never seeing the light of day.  No pressure.

So I start where any high-achiever would- the research phase.  There are countless books and blogs written by publishing professionals on all the dos and don’ts for every aspect of publishing and I’m not going to pretend to be one of them.  I can, however, recommend a few that I found particularly helpful and interesting for anyone looking.  Miss Snark, the now defunct (yet still relevant) blog of an anonymous publishing insider, is harsh, entertaining, and insightful, not to mention terrifying to the first-timer.  Nathan Bransford, an ex-agent turned literary civilian has a very straightforward and informative take on all aspects of the publishing industry.  And Chuck Sambuchino, an editor and author, has created a fantastic resource for writers with the best selection of genre-specific posts and actual query letters that worked, alongside the agent’s notes laying out specifically why.

I’ve written a first draft of the hook and the meat of my query (which will be rewritten a thousand times over) and spent time cramming my brain full of tips and warnings, reminding myself to focus only on the positive.  That’s one thing that I’ve thankfully already learned from the music industry.   For every success story there’s another of despair.  But if everyone focused on the despair instead of the success, we’d all stop trying, and where’s the fun in that?

Instead, I’m grateful for the friends who are helping me refine my manuscript, for the internet and its myriad free information, and most of all, for amazing people.  Lee and I recently had the good fortune of meeting one such person who is single-handedly breathing new life into the tired process of DIY creation + commerce, reminding us why we create original art in the first place.  It’s easy to lose sight of why we bother when saddled with the necessity to get it out to consumers, but when the message finally reaches a fan that feels a sense of connection to the author of that creation, the rest just melts away.

First Drafts and New Adventures

I find myself poring over a number of blogs lately.  Photography, cooking, music, and other random blogs I find through “research” which makes me feel slightly less guilty than calling it what it really is- procrastination.  Despite my best efforts at mindlessness, I find myself compelled by people’s stories and interests and couldn’t help wondering if maybe I had something worth saying as well.

So here it is.  My blog.  I decided the most interesting thing I’m currently doing is trying to get my first novel published.  I wrote it as a means to find my own identity after having a baby, determined to think about something other than diapers and breastfeeding.  Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom, but moms are people too.

I made a deal with my husband that gave me two hours every day to go to the library and write.  I didn’t have a time-line or even a workable outline for my story, just a bunch of ideas and characters and a desperate need for a quiet working space.  It just so happened that we lived up the street from the best library in the world, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with a coffee cart outside.  What more could I want?

It turns out that only giving myself two hours a day subverted my procrastination attempts well enough to produce a first draft after about four months.  I was feeling pretty good about myself.  And then I printed it out and fell in love with its heft in my hand.  It’s pretty, right? I thought so.  Until I read it.  It wasn’t the ready-to-publish piece of genius I’d fantasized about.  Drat!  That was when I realized I still had a long way to go.

But I started editing and, page by page, eventually got through it and now, just over a year later,  I have a draft ready for other people’s eyes.  It’s still in the proofreading stage, but I’m starting the process of looking into agents and publishers and the business of writing novels.

There are a lot of similarities to the music industry, which I’ve been working in for the last seven years, but there are plenty of differences to keep me on my toes.  And, during this research phase I’ve also started working on my second novel.  That helps distract me as I’m biting my nails waiting for feedback on my first novel, but I find myself enjoying the creative burst even more the second time around.  I think there’s something about knowing I’m capable of producing a full-length novel that makes the second less daunting.  So far.

I know I’m not the first person to go through this process (and I even have a handful of writer friends embarking as well) but I thought that if I shared my experiences via the world wide web, it may end up catching the interest of someone else on this journey and inspire, inform, or just provide some mindless “research” to fill their minds.  I’m hoping for the first two, but I’ll take what I can get.

They say every journey begins with a first step, and this blog is mine.  What’s yours?

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