Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Query Check, BoLR Version, Take 2

I think I can fit a few more commas into that title if I really want.  Perhaps I should have added "The Brickening"?

Anyway.  This is once again me begging for query feedback.  I'm exhausted from training at my new job (mental fatigue is utterly and completely a thing), and I don't think anyone wants yet another blog entry about my plots not doing what they should.  >_<  Next week's IWSG will, most likely, be a ramble about why the part of the writing process I'm in right now is most likely the worst one, and the part where it's easiest to give up.

But before that, it's another query.  I took this one in a completely different direction, focusing more on character like I should have the first time.  The first two paragraphs cover the first two chapters of the book, and the third is a summation with much less detail.  Thank you in advance for any help y'all can give me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Query Check, BoLR Version

So things are looking up since last week.  Thanks to a great suggestion from Liz on how to start it, and a helpful link from Rena on how to bring it home, I've got a decent query going for The Book of Lost Runes.

However, much like with everything else in this job, I could use some feedback.  The query's below the cut, and I'd appreciate any input.  Thanks.  ^_^

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Query Letters Must Die.

I don't know how many of y'all follow me on Twitter, but as I tweeted about two days ago, I've started working on the query for The Book of Lost Runes.  And let's just say it's not going well.

Yes, this is the part where I rant.

I feel like this shouldn't be so difficult.  I've been writing queries since 2001.  No, not continuously; I'm reasonably productive, but I'm not that productive, and there was that long dry spell where I hardly wrote anything worth a damn because I was trying to write short stories for publication and everything that came out of that period was crap except for one single piece.  But in theory, I should know what I'm doing.

'Theory' is an incredibly useful word, especially when it serves as an indication that whatever I'm theorizing to be true is utterly and completely not.

To be honest, BoLR is not a book that's easy to summarize.  A significant event occurs ten years before the story even starts, and while I cover that in the first chapter (without resorting to infodumps, yay me), that's presents two problems.  First, it's an essential element for the two main characters, so how can I summarize it in the query?  Second, since it's not actually part of the story's events, do I need to include it?

If you've noticed that these problems are contradictory, then I hope you see why summarizing this story is such a pain in the ass.

I almost wish I'd written the crazy dream book first and edited that one, because I already know exactly how that query's going to go.  But I think BoLR has a higher chance of actually being published, mostly because it's not insane.

Anyway.  There's also the fact that the essential conflict of BoLR changes over the course of the book.  What starts off as a blackmail/revenge plot turns into the discovery of a serious problem involving both the main characters' homes.  In all of my query attempts so far, getting that plot twist across has involved a lot more words than a query letter should have.  I've heard the average query letter is around three hundred words, so I doubt many agents would look favorably on one that's a full five hundred words long.

Finally, there's the whole romance thing.  It's pretty clear in the story itself - as I've said here before, the relationship upgrade happens in chapter two - but it's part of the plot in ways I can't cover effectively in a query letter.  I know I'll mention it when I query agents who specifically want books with LGBT couples, but that means I have to find a way to fit it in that doesn't affect the letter if it's taken out, which is yet another issue.  I'll probably leave it in no matter what.

The one upside is that I've figured out an essential part: how to end it.  That's been the only easy part.  I took the quick description I came up with for the book and worked that into the final paragraph, so no matter what happens with the rest of the query, I get my pseudo-blurb in there at the end:

Airships, blackmail, and ancient magic collide in THE BOOK OF LOST RUNES, a fantasy novel of 80,000 words.  Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Next week: I might have a query to share and request critique for, perhaps two.  Or I might have taken up drinking heavily.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

IWSG: The Moment of Inspiration

"Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration.  The rest of us just get up and go to work."  --Stephen King

Much as I agree with Mr. King, I don't think any of us are opposed to those sudden moments of inspiration.  We just don't rely on them, or expect them, which makes them so much greater when they happen.

I've talked about one of my (steadily-growing pile of) plots in progress here before.  It's about cold places and undead and people with draconic ancestry and it's meant to read like the whole thing has a heavy metal soundtrack.  It's also one of the more frustrating things I've tried to develop over the past few years because no matter what I do with it, it's never quite right.

As an aside, I have to say that this is one of the times when I'm glad to be a plotter, not a pantser.  Yes, it's frustrating to have a plotting document that's fifty-six pages long and contains five different versions of my attempts to get this story and world to work.  But I'd rather have that than yet another book that I tossed away once it was done.  I've been there too many times already.  >_<

Anyway.  Despite the frustration, I'm determined to keep plugging away at this plot, as I like the ideas in it too much to just set it aside.  I go back to it a few times a month, read over my notes on the latest version of the story, and see if I can figure out a little more of it.  Most of the time, I add a sentence or two, or maybe delete one, and close the document while swearing.

Then, a little while ago, I saw this image, and everything fell into place.

A big part of the problem I had with the story was that it ended with the protagonists discovering the true nature of the threat, which the antagonist had been working against in his own less-than-kind way.  Something about that never felt right.  Seeing that image made me realize what I was missing: the story doesn't end with the protagonists discovering the true threat.  The story ends with their first battle against that true threat.

The fact that I've been thinking of this story as 'metal fantasy' and the image references rock festivals going to war is not lost on me.  :P

This, I think, is what inspiration is really meant to be for we writers.  It's not getting the whole story at once, it's not the sudden breakthrough that solves everything.  It's the moment when you realize what the story needs for it to work - what the story is missing.  It's probably best not to expect inspiration, but it can come from anywhere.  Hell, mine came from a message board thread about D&D Demotivational posters.

I still have a lot to do for this tale.  But I have the three acts mapped out, which counts for a lot; now that I know how it starts and how it ends, I can figure out everything that happens in between.  And for a plotter like me, that means a lot.

And now, once I'm done plotting the sequel that I blathered on about in my last two entries, I can get started on this plot.  Again.  Maybe this time, it will actually work.