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Toe in the door and hoping for more

Posted by Dave on June 5, 2010

Well, I’ve sent out query letters to five agents on my list so far.  Three rejections, one hasn’t responded yet, and one asked for the first thirty pages.  Wait, what was that?  Oh yeah.  One asked for the first thirty pages!  (Trumpets blaring, fireworks going off in the background, bells ringing from steeples across the land, etc…)  I would have posted this sooner, but I just recently came out of the shock-induced coma this caused.  After all, it was my first time.

The feeling I had when I saw the request for pages is hard to describe.  Obviously, I was relieved when I didn’t see “after careful consideration,” “I’m afraid,” or “unfortunately” anywhere on the page.  Then came a brief surge of excitement, quickly tamped down by thoughts of “Okay, I got their attention.  Now what?” 

Well, now it’s a waiting game.  Actually, most sources say to keep querying the other agents on your list, even after one has requested to see part or all of the manuscript.  But I’m taking it a little slow this first time.  Dipping my toe in the pool, so to speak.  While I’m hoping for a positive response (and worldwide acclaim as the next great American fantasy writer….hey, a guy can dream, right?), I also don’t want to get so caught up in the process as to lose all sense of perspective.  Just because an agent has asked to see part of the manuscript, doesn’t mean it’s a given they’ll like it.  Even if this one takes the next step and requests the full manuscript, there is still the possibility of rejection.  It’s all part of this great game called writing.  Thousands upon thousands of hopefuls, vying for a relative handful of spots on bookstore shelves, competing against established authors that have a reputation for sales to support them. 

I do want to take a moment to thank those few that have read the book and offered their suggestions, or pointed out mistakes.  I wrote it, and I’ve looked at it a thousand times, but I still miss things simply because my brain automatically fills in the missing parts as I read it.  It’s frustrating, but I know why it happens, and I appreciate the people who have pointed out where something is wrong.  Now it’s time to get back to work on the next book while I wait for the response.  (Maybe that will keep me from checking my hotmail account every half hour.  Nah, probably not.)

So, keep your fingers (toes, eyes, whatever) crossed for me as I wait to hear back from this agent. 

Catch you next time,
Dave

“I’m arguing with a telepathic bird on another planet about whether or not a human chameleon is my girlfriend.  I think my weird-o-meter is broken.”
Quote from Jason Bennett in Jaben’s Rift.

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Feedback Fun (Pt 2)

Posted by Dave on May 16, 2010

Okay, I’m back, with apologies to you, the reader. 

For the last few weeks, I’ve been elbow-deep in editing, polishing up the query letter, and putting together a list of agents.  Final count for Jaben’s Rift is 109,137 words, a drop of 16,158 words, or almost 13%.  Some of it hurt, but I think JR is better for it. I did end up dropping the prologue that I posted in my last entry.  Although I liked it, it really wasn’t serving a purpose that I couldn’t accomplish in the main text of the book.  Just another example of “killing the darlings” (see the April 4th post).  Now the book jumps right into Jason’s dilemma from the get go.  We’ll see how that works out.

But now, the editing is done, and the initial volley of queries has been fired off.  Two have already come back as rejections, but c’est la vie, right?  Most agents will reject over ninety percent of what is sent to them.  I just appreciate the prompt response from the agents, even if it was a rejection.  Some never reply at all if they don’t like your work, so you hang in limbo, sometimes for weeks.  Hopefully, I’ll land in that lucky ten percent before I go through my whole list.  If not, maybe I’ll do better on the next one.  Either way, I’m not going to stop writing.

Now, back to the feedback thing.  In part one, I addressed the writer’s side of feedback.  Now I’d like to look at the reviewer’s side. 

The most difficult material to review honestly is that of a friend or family member.  There’s no problem if the writing is truly good, but what if it’s not?  How do you tell someone you care about that their material isn’t the best you’ve ever read?  On the one hand, you want to help them improve and reach their goals, but on the other hand, what if your honesty hurts their feelings?  Only you know how they will respond to complete honesty.  If you don’t think they’ll appreciate total candor, and they insist you tell them what you think of their stuff, let me offer this.  Find something, anything, that you do like about the material and emphasize that, while trying to minimize critical comments.  They’ll hear enough of those from other sources.  Also, even if you think you’re the next Jeff Foxworthy or Sinbad, don’t make jokes about your friend’s or relative’s writing ambitions, especially when you’re both with other people, even if you are just kidding around with them.  They may laugh with you, but only they know how important their writing is to them.  Innocent jokes can sometimes hurt worse than blunt honesty.

Now, if you’re a writer, let me gently suggest that you not ask relatives or friends to review your work unless you are completely willing to accept constructive criticism without taking it personally or letting it affect your relationships.  Editors, agents, and online or in-person critique groups will give you the feedback you need to improve your work, and you can get mad at them if you want without jeopardizing friendships or family relations.  And as I mentioned in the first part of Feedback Fun, the feedback you get from family or friends, unless they’re also in the writing biz, may not be the most accurate or insightful, even if they’re really trying to help. 

Although we all love our own writing, we’re hardly the best judges of whether or not it’s publishable, and the people who care about us don’t really want to tell us our material needs some work (and sometimes that’s being polite).  Do you really want to put people you care about in the uncomfortable position of having to break that news to you in case it’s not good enough yet?  And be honest with yourself.  How will you feel if your significant other tells you your story isn’t that good?  Hmm?  Unless you’re sure you’d be okay with it, hold off and let them have some of the first copies once it’s published.  Then you can joke about your less-than-perfect first drafts over a congratulatory toast.

Enough for today.  Have a good one.
Dave

 There are three kinds of people in the world: Those who can do math, and those who can’t.

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For your entertainment…

Posted by Dave on April 19, 2010

Okay, so I didn’t get a chance to write the second part of Feedback Fun. Instead, here is the prologue of the book I’m currently editing. I hope you enjoy it.

Prologue

The ancient structure crouched in the middle of the Scottish woods. For centuries, it had waited…

The sound of crunching leaves broke the late afternoon stillness as a solitary figure pushed through the tangle of brush toward the building. Mesmerized by his discovery, Jason Bennett brushed off assaults by brambles and vines battling to hold their hard-won territory. The teenager stopped as a particularly stubborn bramble won a skirmish with his shirtsleeve, a victory heralded by a loud rip.

“Oh, man!” He scowled at the suntanned skin peaking through the hole in his new shirt. Mom’s gonna kill me, he thought.

With a sharp jerk, he freed his shirtsleeve and forged ahead. A few more steps brought him to the entrance. He eyed what was left of the door lying beside the building, almost obscured by weeds and grass, then looked at the gaping maw where it had hung. His gaze slowly traveled around the crumbling edges of the opening. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. Almost before the thought could register, he stepped inside.

Overhead, the roof had fallen in at several spots, speckling the dirty floor with rubble-strewn patches of sunlight. Vines and creepers covered portions of the walls, and a large section of one wall in the front room had collapsed. The musty smell of mold and decaying leaves hung heavy in the air. He kicked a clod of dirt, watching it disintegrate as it hit the wall. It was just an overgrown ruin, similar to the old, decrepit shacks he had seen back home, the only difference being that this one was made of stone instead of wood.

He explored a few of the rooms but found nothing except more dirt and dead leaves. It was beginning to get dark so he decided to head back to his great uncle’s house. As he was turning to leave, the lengthening shadows revealed a glow coming from somewhere deeper inside the building.

Intrigued, he went in search of the source of the light, the approaching dusk forgotten for the moment. He followed the flickering radiance to a room that appeared to have weathered the passage of time better than the others. The light came from a doorway on the other side of the room. It looked like it opened to the outside, although he would have sworn he was in the middle of the building.

Maybe there’s a courtyard or something like that, he thought. The light might be coming from something out there. Ignoring the small voice of caution in the back of his mind, he stepped through the door.

The light disappeared. The building was empty once more.

***

Something has changed. The being raised its head as a ripple in the ether disturbed its self-contemplation. Was it time? For centuries the being had waited, sometimes watching the interaction between the points of light and darkness that traversed the flowing colors of the vista before it. At other times, it would turn its attention inward, pondering its own existence for decades at a time.

Now, another moved along a dark thread toward the intricate ballet the being had observed for so long. Yet this new addition was neither light nor dark. It shifted between one end of the spectrum and the other, a rainbow condensed into a single point of existence.

A whispering echo broke the silence. “So, he has found the way at last.”

The being knew it was not supposed to interact with the dancers, and for the most part, it had observed the Covenant. It remembered how easily the points of light now twirling before it could be extinguished. But now it reached out and, ever so slightly, shifted the end of the dark thread upon which the newcomer traveled. The others will not know, it thought.

“And so it begins. A new song for the dance.”

Then it watched as the rainbow point of light approached the end of the dark thread…

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