NaNo Day 12: Let’s Do This Thing

I AM CAUGHT UP IN NANOWRIMO.

I can’t believe I get to type those words. I got on a roll and ended up writing about 3,000 words yesterday, when I only had a goal of 2,000–then I accidentally woke up over an hour before my alarm was supposed to go off this morning, so I ended up pulling out my laptop and cranking out another 1.5k before class, which brought me up to where I’m supposed to be by today.

Which means that for the first time since NaNoWriMo 2015 began, I AM NOT BEHIND.

I am dying a little inside from relief.

Now I just need to keep up this momentum for the next couple weeks and I might just survive this month.

In the meantime: tonight at 8 PM EST is our monthly Ch1Con Chat on Youtube (info and watch link here), tomorrow I’m spending the day at another career forum on campus (this time on the entertainment industry), and in between I have about a thousand and one budget breakdowns and grant proposals to write (yay asking people to pay for me to do fun things).

I’ve got a half hour before Ch1Con Chat starts though, so I’m going to take this opportunity to eat something yummy and take a breath.

(Then maybe I’ll do a little more writing later? I’m so pumped up right now, I feel like I could run a marathon.) (Or, you know, actually run at all.)

Goal for Today: 1,000 + 500 (from Friday)

Overall Goal: 20,000

Current Word Count: 20,035 <– LOOK AT THE PRETTY

~Julia

NaNo Day 2: Let’s Try This Again

It’s Day 2 and I’m already behind! Hurrayyy.

My goal for yesterday was five thousand words. I was making decent headway on that until I realized that I’d started the story at the wrong place (again), so I had to start over (again), so I ended up back at zero words (again). So instead of five thousand words, I only got about two thousand in. (And then went out to dinner and watched a movie with my roommates because, like, my brain was fried at that point and I needed the break.) (Sorry, NaNo.)

This isn’t how I like to start NaNoWriMo. Normally I get enough writing done in the first day to really establish the characters and where the story’s going. Still, though, I’m finally happy with how the story is going now, and the characters are finally coming to life after months of struggling to find them, so maybe this MS will finally stop fighting me so much.

I’m in classes and meetings for most of today, but the last one I was supposed to go to tonight has been postponed, so at the least, that should give me a few hours to write. Here’s hoping I catch up?

How’d your first day of NaNo go? Anyone else have to restart their story partway through to make it work?

Goal for Today: 1,000

Overall Goal: 6,000.

Current Word Count: 2,053

NaNo Day 1: Welcome, Welcome

… to another year of NaNoWriMo and blogging every day in November!

Besides the fact that I’m pretty sure this November is going to kill me (SO MUCH GOING ON), I’m also really excited.

I’m writing a YA contemporary this year that’s basically just going to be a big ball of fluff, and the protagonist is super snarky, and yeah. It’s fun.

Description from my NaNo profile:

Morgan never thought her aunt Margaret would die. More than that, she never thought Aunt Margaret would leave her a weird task to complete before she could collect her mysterious inheritance: spend one month living without fear. But Aunt Margaret was the most fearless person Morgan knew, so she’s terrified of where this next month might lead. And why Aunt Margaret gave the same task to Riley–the boy who first taught her what it was like to be afraid.

Are you competing in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what are you writing about? (Also, you should add me as a buddy!)

Goal for today: 5,000.

Current word count: 3,065.

Happy NaNoWriMo if you’re competing, and Happy Not Being Sleep-Deprived for a Month if you’re not! May the plot bunnies be ever in your favor.

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Restructuring Your Novel by Scene

Winter semester 2014: In which a girl who’s afraid of space thought it would be a good idea to take astronomy. (Basically, this semester cannot end soon enough.)

Obama visited today. The entire campus went insane. You know. The usual.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post about a photo. Specifically, the cover photo of my Facebook page right now:

The picture’s from last July. I was in the middle of completing a revision on a novel that involved a lot of refining for flow and structure, and I was having trouble working things out solely in my head/onscreen.

So I printed out my scene list. And chopped it up. And spread it all across my kitchen table. (Obviously my parents were thrilled.)

Being able to physically move around scenes was really effective and I’m about to do this whole process over again, so this seemed like a good time share it. (Thank you, Joan, for suggesting this topic!)

I give you: Restructuring Your Novel by Scene

***********

Step 1: Make a list of all your scenes.

For each scene in my novel I:

  • Assign a number (so I know where in the manuscript it fits as is, in case I move it somewhere else)
  • Give a title (basically a brief description of what happens in it)
  • Note which chapter it’s in (a bigger picture version of assigning a number)
  • Color code it (a scene that shares a chapter with one other scene gets one color; one that shares with multiple scenes gets another; if it has its own chapter it gets another; and if it has multiple chapters to itself it gets another–this helps me keep track of the structures of chapters in relation with one another, so I don’t have too many of one type in a row or anything)

I also keep track of any scenes that happen to have unique characteristics, like if it’s a flashback, pure exposition, etc. (On this note: the novel I did this for last summer had two types of flashbacks–some were in past tense; others were in present–so I categorized the two types separately. You want to be as specific as possible.)

Step 2: Print the list, cut apart the scenes, and lay them in order on a flat surface.

This step’s pretty self-explanatory. If you have access to a table that you know no one will mess with while you’re working, you’re gold. If you don’t, find a patch of floor somewhere that you can barricade other organisms from touching. (I don’t suggest taping your scenes to a wall. Although that would ultimately work too, I also feel like it would be a lot less functional.)

Last time I did this, it took me about a week of thinking and staring and rearranging for twelve hours a day in order to settle everything. You don’t want your dog to knock a bunch of scenes off the table or someone to leave a sweaty glass on one.

(Protip: Print another copy of your scene list, but don’t cut this one apart. It’ll be useful to refer to while you’re rearranging things, so you can remember where everything was to begin with.)

Step 3: Gather your supplies.

You’re going to want to have:

  • Post It notes
  • tape
  • at least one paperclip
  • several shades of highlighters
  • a couple shades of pens (I use black and red)
  • a pencil
  • lots and lots of love for your novel (because when your patience and sanity run out, love is all you’ve got left)

I’ll talk about why you need everything else later, but first: the purpose of the Post It notes. As you go through the following steps, keep your Post Its at the ready.

Take notes if you’re considering doing something but haven’t quite made your decision yet, or don’t think it falls under one of the steps below. Write ideas for scenes you need to add. Stick a Post It to a scene if what you need to write exceeds the space on the slip of paper. Anything, really. Your Post Its are basically your thoughts on paper.

Now, let’s move onto the fun part: actually working on your novel.

Step 4: Mark which scenes are absolutely vital to the plot.

I star my vital scenes with my red pen, off to the left of all the typed information from Step 1. (I put all of my markings off to the left, and all my made-of-words notes above/below/to the right of the typed information, so it’s easy and fast to find things. Make sure to consistently centralize information; making unnecessary work for yourself is never fun.)

Signs that a scene is vital:

  • At least one major plot point occurs
  • The rest of the manuscript would fall apart if you pulled it

(Unfortunately, simply really loving a certain fight sequence, or cute interaction between your protagonists, or cool line does not a vital scene make. Be careful not to mark something only because you’re attached to it.)

If you have more than one scene that is vital in a row, stack those scenes. You’ll come back to them later, but for now, save some space for the next few steps.

Step 5: Look at the non-vital scenes.

I’m serious. Stare those suckers down.

Consider everything that happens in each scene:

  • What does the plot gain from it? (use your pencil to write this, probably above or below the typed info)
  • Is it super necessary for a subplot or character development? (mark this with one of your highlighters)
  • Does it have a cool sequence/interaction/line that you adore and don’t want to get rid of? (note this in pen, again above or below your typed info)

Chances are, if you didn’t mark it as vital to the plot in Step 4, that’s because the plot doesn’t gain anything from it–so you shouldn’t have anything written in pencil on these scenes. (If you have written something, reconsider whether or not you should mark that scene as vital. If what you’ve written is still too insignificant to the overall plot or too small a part of the scene as a whole to qualify the scene as vital, leave it as non-vital for now.)

You can still move the story forward with a non-vital scene if it influences a subplot or the development of a character (so while it might not be vital to the plot, it could be vital to the novel). However, a non-vital scene can’t just do one of these things. It can’t just explain why Bobby is afraid of marshmallows or be the space for two of your supporting characters to get in a fight.

Each scene has to progress the story in multiple ways. It has to explain the fear of marshmallows, and describe the big fight, and reveal something important to the plot–even if it’s something miniscule.

Think of each important thing that happens like a meal: if you miss out on one (losing a scene in which one important thing happens), it sucks but it’s not a huge deal. Miss eating for a whole day (losing a scene with several important things), and it becomes one. Miss eating for multiple days (a scene in which A LOT OF FREAKING STUFF HAPPENS), and you’re in deep trouble.

Thus, a non-vital scene becomes vital.

So, if you’ve got a non-vital scene that does have multiple important things happening in it, mark it as vital. If it’s near another vital scene, stack ’em. If the non-vital scene only has one or two important things in it (or *gasp* none), prepare yourself for Step 6.

Step 6: Cut scenes.

If a scene does absolutely nothing important for the story, cut it. If it’s repetitious in content of another scene (your protags having a cute back-and-forth; your antagonist being annoying; etc.), chances are you only need one of them–cut the one(s) you like less.

This is the time for that Kill Your Darlings thing. If a scene does nothing to progress your plot, subplots, or character development: Cut. It.

Stack your cut scenes off to the side where you can find them later if need be, but they aren’t in the way as you continue with the scenes you’re still working on.

Step 7: Consolidate scenes.

If you have more than one non-vital scene in a row, consider consolidating them into one. Take the best parts of each scene (favorite actions/interactions, lines, and of course all the important bits) and see if you can stick them into one.

Be aware, though, that you can’t save everything. Again: avoid repetition. Just because you say something in several different ways doesn’t mean you’re saying something new.

Also, don’t be afraid to consolidate scenes that maybe aren’t currently next to each other in the manuscript. Reordering is okay.

When you consolidate scenes, either tape them together (not stacked) and use a pen to draw a line connecting them, or use that pen to write what you’re moving from the scene(s) you’re getting rid of to the scene you’re consolidating into, off towards the right side of your slips. (I suggest highlighting these written notes in a certain color, for a reason I’ll talk about in a second.)

The goal of the cutting and consolidating is to eliminate non-vital scenes from your novel. You do this by either cutting the non-vital scene or combining enough important things from non-vital scenes to create a vital one.

Once all you have left are vital scenes…

Step 8: Make structuring decisions.

Spread out the scenes you have left and look at the order they’re in. Would something work better in another place? Are you absolutely certain you need that water balloon fight in the middle of the scene that’s vital for entirely different reasons? Rearrange scenes as necessary and write down things you’re cutting/adding/changing-in-some-other-fun-way in each scene.

Anything you write on a scene that you’ll need to address while you’re working on the manuscript itself, highlight in a certain color. This will really help separate those things from everything else you’ve got written on the slips of paper.

Look over your list while thinking about the flow and progression of the plot, subplots, and development of your entire cast of characters (not just your core protagonists). If something is missing or not quite flowing right, this is the time to figure out how to fix it.

(Protip: Don’t be afraid to actually add scenes. This process is a good way of figuring out if you’re missing something. Use those Post It notes of yours to add scenes when necessary.)

Step 9: Step back.

You don’t want to rush into changing things without really thinking them through first. Take a couple days (or at least a couple hours) to not think at all about the plans you’ve made.

If you have an epiphany about something during this time, feel free to return to your scenes and add the new changes. But don’t touch the actual manuscript until you’ve had a chance to get away from it for a bit and you’re absolutely positive you want to try a change. (“Try” is the operative word here–if something that seems good on paper doesn’t actually work in the manuscript, don’t force yourself into keeping it. Find another solution. If you want your novel to be the best it can be, you’ve gotta do what’s best for it, even if that sometimes means “wasting” time on things that don’t work. The time’s not wasted if it ultimately lead to a better manuscript.)

Once you are confident in all your decisions, stack your final list of scenes, use a paperclip to hold them together, and get to work.

(Optional) Step 9.5: Make a To Do list of the planned changes.

I say this is optional because it’s something I don’t do, but I’m sure other, more organized people would like to. Either write or type a list of all the changes you’re going to make. This would be useful for keeping track of what you’ve done and still need to do–but definitely isn’t necessary if you don’t care about organization (the notes on your slips of cut out scenes should be enough to remember all the changes you want to make.)

Step 10: Implement changes.

Everyone likes to revise their manuscripts differently. Personally, if I’m doing big changes to scene(s) or adding a scene, I’ll create a separate Word doc to work on those before touching anything in the manuscript itself. If I’m just adding a line or moving a scene to a different part of the novel, I do that right in the manuscript document.

(Protip: Save your manuscript in a new file before implementing any changes. That way you can look back at the old version if you need to review how something used to be, bring back a scene you deleted, etc.)

Once I’ve implemented my changes, I make sure the changes flow with the surrounding writing. Then, it’s time to read the full manuscript to make sure everything’s working–and, once I’ve gotten the MS as good as I can on my own, I send it to a couple critique partners.

A critique partner is the best way to figure out if something’s working or not. A lot of the time as the writer, you subconsciously become so numb to what you’re working on that you don’t notice problems anymore. Therefore, a new set of eyes basically equals a miracle.

**********

And there you have it: my process for revising a novel by scene. (I’ll pretend this is patent pending, since it took me forever and a day to type.)

Do you have any specific processes for revising? Care to share with the class?

85

~Julia

PS. The happiest of birthdays to my CP Kira, who becomes a Twenty Something today! 😀

Wordy Wednesday (“The End Where I Begin, Chapter Three”)

I’m hooooome!

Sammyyyyyyy

I barely got through my classes yesterday because I was just so excited to get home. This was the longest and most disconnected I’ve ever been from my family before, because if I do get to study abroad this summer, it’s going to be for over a month on a different continent and I wanted to see if I could actually do that if I tried. I’m usually that student who goes home every other weekend and sees her dog more often than she sees half her college friends, but evidently I did manage it, so five points to me (and now I’m going to spend my entire Thanksgiving break hugging the living daylights out of Sammy).

I didn’t get any writing done yesterday because it was so busy (class all day, plus packing, then the long drive home and having a family dinner, and we watched The Hunger Games to prep for them seeing Catching Fire today, and WE HAD SO MUCH TO CATCH UP ABOUT BECAUSE I HAVEN’T TALKED TO MY FAMILY IN AGES AND I MISSED THEM GAH). So I’m not sure what that means for NaNo and getting everything done on time, now. It’s only 4.5k more, but I really need to work on my homework (especially my two genetics projects, because I’m struggling to pass that class right now). But we’ll see what happens.

Anyway. This week’s Wordy Wednesday is the third chapter of my NaNo project, The End Where I Begin.

As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff.

Read Chapter One here. And/or Chapter Two here.

**********

Chapter Three

I fidget in the worn, straight-backed theater chair the teachers usher me into in the auditorium. We just finished getting ready fifteen minutes ago, but the shoes I borrowed from Amelia are one size too small, so already my heels are hot and chaffed and my toes ache from squishing into the end. My dress, on the other hand, is two sizes too big—I borrowed it from my brother Calvin’s girlfriend and the fabric, a paler version of the Identiband green, repeatedly dips off my shoulder no matter how many times I pull it back to where it should rest against my collarbone.

Amelia nods her approval as she slides into the seat beside me, like she can’t tell how nervous I am. “Love the heels.”

“I don’t think you’re allowed to say that.”

The shoes are navy blue, the color of a river at dawn, and just tall enough to make it look like my legs are an acceptable length without making me trip all over myself.

“Pshhh. Obviously I can say that, seeing as I had to love them enough to spend stamps on them in the first place.”

“You still sound self-absorbed.”

A crackle and chirp comes from the stage. The rows and rows of students already seated in the auditorium turn. Principal Scully stands center stage before the taller of the two microphone stands set up for the recruiting officers. Amelia leans back in her seat and crosses her arms. She raises an eyebrow—a dare for the principal to speak.

“Hello, New Capital High.” Principal Scully’s voice comes through garbled as the tech team works to adjust the old sound system. “This is a reminder that the Recruitment Assembly will begin promptly in five minutes and you must remain in your seats through the event, or suffer penalization by the Clinic. As always, you must not speak unless told to once the recruiting officers enter the premises. Thank you.”

“He should really try writing a new speech one of these years,” Amelia says.

I bump her shoulder. “No, half the students would have a heart attack. I’ve had this one memorized since year two.”

Amelia is just turning to me to retort when someone beats her to it: “What’s this about having a heart attack? Has someone fallen in love with me again?” Eric slips into the seat on the other side of Amelia and winks in my direction. His pale skin and messy auburn hair draws looks from the other students around us, but he doesn’t bat an eye.

Eric’s been getting those looks for longer than I can remember. He told me once that they bothered him—how everyone here thinks he’s odd since his hair is such an unusual color, a genetic anomaly—but since we became friends with Amelia, he just jokes about the stares.

With all the looks I’ve been getting today, I think I understand why. It’s easier.

I give him a wry smile. “The only reason someone would have a heart attack over you is if you tried making a move on them.”

His hand flies to his heart. “Oh. Miss Alexa Dylan. I’m hurt.”

“Like you don’t already know how I feel about you.” I bat my eyelashes, then pretend to gag myself with my pointer finger.

“You two are so cute.” Amelia throws her arms around us and squeezes. “You’re like an old married couple, minus the old and married and couple parts.”

I push her away. “Disgusting.”

“Oh, you talking about yourself now?” Eric raises his thick eyebrows. “You’d better be, after making me watch your vegetarian food for so long.” He says “vegetarian” like it is something unholy. “What’s happening anyway? Why have you two been so gossipy today?”

“It’s a bit of a long story,” Amelia says, feigning disinterest.

“The recruiting officers aren’t here yet. We’ve got time.” He leans back in his chair and runs a hand through his unruly hair. Eric is wearing khakis and a light blue button-down, but he doesn’t let the nice clothes keep him from resting his loafers on the armrest of the chair in front of him.

The year nine boys sitting on either side of it turn to us, scowls already slipping across their faces, but don’t make a move when they spot Amelia. She smiles at them and waves them away. There’s a reason everyone in Amelia’s family is in politics.

Eric meets my eye. “So?”

“It’s not actually a long story.” I shrug. “It’s just that the Ram apparently has been spreading a rumor that she wants to attack me during the assembly.”

“You mean your pretty face is going to be all messed up by the end of this?” He reaches over Amelia to gingerly pat my head, a melodramatic pout on his lips. I glower and it transforms into a grin. I swat him away.

Amelia slaps her hands over our mouths. “Shhh.” The house lights dim. “It’s starting.”

**********

67

day 27I apologize for the little bit of messiness. Since I’m not at school, I had to edit the numbers using Paint instead of an actual dry erase marker.

In other news, I currently have half a contact lens stuck in my left eye (it ripped in half last night and I was only able to find and pull out one part–I cannot, for the life of me, find the other half, although I can feel it stuck in there) (I know, I’m sorry people who have phobias of eye problems–*cough* Hannah), but yeah. I’m going to go try to figure out what to do about that now. Then work on NaNo until my guilt and panic win out over doing homework.

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“The Publishing Industry for Non-Writers, Part 1”)

I’ve been getting lots of questions on the writing/publishing process the past half a year or so, due to my work on Cadence, so I figured I’d do a condensed overview of what trying to publish a novel is like in a series of Wordy Wednesday posts, for anyone who’s curious, specifically addressing the questions I most frequently get asked. This week I’m going to focus on the process of getting your novel ready to query, and then what querying exactly even is.

I give you–The Publishing Industry for Non-Writers, Part 1: From Idea to Agent

**********

Brainstorming/Writing

This is me writing. You can’t see the laptop, but just know it’s there.

The first step in publishing a book is, of course, writing one. Sometimes a writer will get an idea flash and start writing Chapter One or a particular scene right away, giving up all semblance of having a life for two weeks, and then they’ll be finished writing practically before they started. More commonly, writers will spend weeks or months brainstorming for a novel before they ever write word one. Some people are “plotters,” which means that they make complex outlines that detail various events, character arcs, etc before they begin a novel, so that they can comfortably know where they’re going before they begin to write. Other people are “pantsers,” which means that they write by the seat of their pants, or more specifically: don’t outline. Instead, they let the plot and characters take them where they take them. They might have a vague idea of where the story’s going, but they never know any specifics.

I’m personally, most definitely more on the pantser side, but I also can’t go into a story completely blind, like some writers do. While I rarely outline on paper, I usually have the basic structure of the story, and a lot of the major scenes, already worked out in my mind–and I normally spend a few months, if not closer to a year, working all of that out. Then, once I get closer to writing the end of the novel, I make notes detailing what needs to go into each of the remaining scenes and chapters, just to make sure that I don’t leave a bunch of subplots unresolved (because I’m like Dory the fish as far as remembering stuff goes), and I follow that rough outline pretty closely (although it’s always subject to change). I usually have a few different endings swimming around in my mind, and I won’t know how the novel’s actually going to end until I’m writing that final scene.

Unlike the super-writers who finish novels in two weeks flat (several of which I’m friends with–hi, guys!), I’m more likely to spend half a year working through a first draft. The shortest time it’s taken me to write a novel was four months; the longest was fourteen. Cadence took about seven. I didn’t know what direction I was going to make that plot go (I set it up with five or so different possible antagonists) until I was already halfway through the climax. I think writing this way is a lot more fun than having a structured plot to follow, although it does make it a bit trickier when revising, because then sometimes things that I’ve written with the idea of Billy Bob Joe being a bad guy don’t make sense when he turns out good in the end.

Revising

Snapshot_20130602This is my Revising Face.

After finishing a first draft, the rules of the game state that you’re supposed to put it away for a while (at least a month, if not longer), try to stop thinking about it to the best of your abilities, and then pull it out again after that month-or-longer to start revising.

Everyone revises differently, but I tend to do a quick read-through myself, fixing any and all problems that jump out at me (plot, specific sentence structure stuff, whatever is bugging me), then sit back and do another one more slowly, making sure that the writing flows and the plot truly is justified. Then I hand it off to my critique partners, or “CPs,” (other writers who you exchange writing with) and “beta readers” (people who critique your writing without expecting to really get anything in return) in order to, you know, critique. Some people only have a couple of CPs and betas, others have upwards of fifteen or twenty. I have about three who I use regularly, along with another five or so who I exchange writing with more sporadically.

In general, one of my novels will go through a solid five drafts before I ever move past the revision stage, between finding stuff to fix on my own and going through my CP/beta edits. Unfortunately, though, with Cadence I didn’t get the opportunity to do that. I finished writing it in January, set it aside for a month, and then the beginning of March I had to begin hardcore revising it in order to get it ready in time for the Writer’s Digest Conference. I only had the time to exchange it with two of my critiquers, and I had only read the thing myself once before the conference. By now, it’s seen a little more love, but it was a really scary thing going in to talk with literary agents when I had barely read the novel myself.

Querying

This Is a Query LetterIf anyone writes this novel, I will pay you $10.00 cold hard cash.

In order to traditionally publish a novel with a major publisher, you need a literary agent. Contrary to what most people think, a literary agent is not the same as an editor and a literary agent does not work for a publishing house at all. A literary agent, instead, is a not-so-neutral third party who loves your story as much as you do and tries to champion it to editors at the publishing houses in order to sell it, thus getting you a publishing deal. It is next to impossible to land a contract with a major publisher without a good lit agent’s help, and even if you do land a contract without one, chances are you would have gotten a better deal with one. Agents know all the ins and outs of the publishing world; they know how to get you the best deal possible, and get this–they don’t get paid unless you do. Typically, a lit agent will take 15-20% of whatever you make off your book domestically, and a little bit more internationally. And they’re worth every cent.

However, landing a literary agent is almost as difficult as getting published itself. A typical literary agent gets thousands of query letters every year, requesting their services, and of all those letters, they only offer to represent one or two new writers. Luckily, there are a lot of great agents out there, so getting an agent isn’t nearly as impossible as that figure seems–but it’s still really, really hard. Some people spend years pitching one novel after another to agents without an offer of representation in sight, garnering hundreds of rejections. Others–the rare cases–get an agent in their first patch of query letters, off their first novel. Most commonly, a writer will write, revise, and query multiple novels before finally getting The Call. (“The Call” is a phone call from a literary agent, offering representation. It’s a momentous occasion that I hear generally involves lots of holding-back-tears and trying-not-to-pass-out and general-excitement-in-the-form-of-happy-dancing.)

In order to get an agent, there are a few different paths you can take, but the most common one is to query the agent. In order to do that, you have to write and send a query letter, which is almost as bad as revising your novel (I say “almost as bad” because it gets slightly easier with each novel you query, as you figure out the format; revising novels, however, NEVER gets easier). There are a few different formats you can use to write a query letter, but no matter what, the definition of the query remains the same:

A query letter is a business letter written to a literary agent (or other publishing entity) requesting their services, comprised of a “hook,” which is something that catches the agent’s attention (a brief quote from the work, etc); a brief description of the work–a “pitch,” which details what the work is about, the work’s title, its word count, and its genre, etc; and a brief biography of the writer’s history within the publishing industry, such as past publishing credits and education.

So yeah, that might have turned into a bit of a complicated run-on sentence, but if you’re interested in what exactly A Good Query Letter Makes, you can follow the following links:

AgentQuery Guide to Query Letter Writing

Writer’s Digest Dos and Don’ts for Writing a Query Letter

Examples of Successful Query Letters at GalleyCat

Generally along with sending a query letter, an agent will request that you send sample pages–the first five or so pages of your novel–so they can get a feel for your writing style. If they like what they read, they’ll request for you to send either a “partial” or a “full” manuscript. A partial request usually is for something like fifty pages. A full manuscript request is, of course, for your full manuscript, and getting a full manuscript request is probably the most nerve wracking thing in an aspiring author’s life.

You wanna know why? Once an agent has your full manuscript, that means they’re seriously considering representing you. And they can take anywhere from a day to a year to get back to you about whether (or not) they’d like to.

Getting a full manuscript request is really exciting. I screamed and started racing up and down the hallways of the hotel I was staying in the first time I got one (I’m sure I was popular with the other guests). Getting an offer of representation off an FM is still really rare, though. More likely, the agent will email you back after a couple of months saying that they loved your main character’s snarky voice, or your innovative concept, or your great world-building–but it wasn’t quite right for them.

Snapshot_20130605What can ya do?

As hard as it is to get rejected off full manuscript requests, these are the best kind of rejections. They remind you that even though you still don’t have that shiny agent contract in your hands, you’re at least doing something right, for an agent to have even wanted to have read your FM in the first place. The other kind of rejection–the more common one–is the form letter. This is a letter that’s generally only a couple of lines long that is not at all personalized to you that generally looks something like this:

Dear Author,

Thank you for thinking of me to represent your work of fiction, but I feel that I did not connect enough with the material at this time to further consider representing it. However, I wish you all the luck in placing your work with an agent who feels differently.

Sincerely,

Coolio Agent Person

Or sometimes the agent just never replies at all, which is a “no response means no” sort of deal.

Like I said before, agents get literally thousands of query letters a year. They don’t have time to respond to each one individually. So although getting form letters can be disappointing, it’s important to remember that each rejection is just one query letter closer to an agent who will say yes–because, after all, all you need is one “yes” in that sea of rejections in order to get published. And: Every. Writer. Gets. Rejections. Even the super rich and famous ones. Even JK Rowling.

**********

… And now that I have completely flooded you with information, I think that’s where I’m going to stop for today. Want to learn more about publishing? Vote for the “writing process” option in this week’s poll. Have any specific questions you want answered? Feel free to ask me–in the comments, through an email, on Facebook, or in person. Whatever floats your boat, I’m always open to talking about writing.

After all, it’s my job and I love it. 🙂

42

~Julia

Facebook Page, and Other Such Things

Hey there! So I’m currently at home for spring break, busily revising novels and watching too many movies and plays (I’m literally seeing one or the other every single day over break–this is like Julia Heaven), and I’ve got some exciting news to share with you. So without further ado, here we go:

  • Mel just posted Chapter Seven of This Is a Book on her blog. Check it out here.
  • Requiem–the last novel in the Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver–is coming out this week!!! AND I AM SO EXCITED. Ever since I got to read Requiem as an ARC a few months back, I’ve been dying to gush about the book to you, but I knew I couldn’t say anything until the book was actually released. AND IN A COUPLE OF DAYS I WILL FINALLY BE ABLE TO. So be watching out to a review or something sometime in the next couple of weeks!
  • I made a Facebook page! I’m going to be using it to put out smaller updates than what I’d talk about on here, but still very fun stuff, so I’d love for you to like it. 🙂 Thanks!

Well, that’s it for now I guess (I’m sure there’s something else I’m supposed to be telling you that I’m just forgetting), but I’ll talk to you soon! Have a great week!

~Julia

This Is a Book: Chapter One is Up!

Just a friendly reminder to go read Chapter One of This Is a Booka genre-bending novel that I’m currently co-writing with my friend Mel–over on her blog, The Ultimately Useless Stories of an Average Teenager:

Follow this link link link!

And don’t forget to check back at Julia the Writer Girl for Chapter Two this Thursday! It’s going to be bundles of fun, I swear. 🙂

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Cadence, Chapter 15”)

I have two things to tell you today–one good, one bad.

The good? As of right now, I’m 32,000 words into NaNoWriMo (and 66,500 into Cadence as a whole), which means I’m (remarkably) ahead of schedule by a few days–probably the furthest into the competition I’ve ever been at the two week mark–and that’s honestly so weird and unexpected, because I wasn’t even supposed to be doing NaNoWriMo this year; I didn’t decide on it until like 11:55 PM on October 31st. And, even then, I was only shooting for 25k or so.

Yet, in the midst of doing all this writing, I’m still getting a ton of studying done, and turning in my assignments on time. I have no idea how it’s happening, but I think the magical writing fairies deserve a big thank you right now. If I manage to keep working like I am, the first draft of Cadence should be done by the end of the month. Whoohoooo!

The bad? This is the last chapter of Cadence I’m going to post. There are a lot of reveals in the next few chapters after this, and although Chapter Fifteen isn’t the most ideal stopping place, I don’t think there’s a better one. I’m really sorry–I’ve been enjoying getting your feedback so much, and thank you for reading all these blog posts all these months, but for the sake of maybe, someday publishing Cadence, if I’m super lucky, it’s more than likely not a good idea to post any more of it on the internet, at this point. And yeah.

So: Thank you again, for sticking with Olivia and Caden and everyone else through the past fourteen chapters, and I hope you enjoy this final installment. You have no idea how much your support means to me.

Links to previous chapters of Cadence:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Recap of What’s Happened So Far:

 

**********

[Sorry this is no longer available–I’m editing Cadence now with the hopes of maybe, possibly publishing it someday. Thanks for the interest, though!]

**********

Talk to you next week!

~Julia

PS. Oh, and by the way: My one year Blogiversary is coming up in a little over a month and there’s going to be some pretty cool stuff going down for that, so keep checking back for more info. 🙂

Wordy Wednesday (“Cadence, Chapter 14”)

I’m dressed as an American College Student Muggle, here. It was hard work putting the costume together, as I’m sure you can tell.

We had a tie again this week between a memoir and Cadence, and I have homework and no new memoirs prepared, so guess what: You’re getting Cadence.

Links to previous chapters of Cadence:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Recap of What’s Happened So Far:

 

**********

[Sorry this is no longer available–I’m editing Cadence now with the hopes of maybe, possibly publishing it someday. Thanks for the interest, though!]

**********

No, that is not a yawn. I was most definitely screaming over how awesome/scary/fantastic your costume is. Shut up.

Dressing as a Hunger Games character for Halloween? Send your pictures to [redacted] and I’ll feature them on the blog!

~Julia

PS. So, I just transitioned the blog from still-clinging-to-summer mode to it’s-NaNoWriMo-time-which-means-it’s-winter. What do ya think?