Spring Break 2022–CoronaLife Day 768

So it’s been a fairly productive spring break, all things considered.

I am close to solving a genealogical mystery (or reaching a total dead end).

I am nearing completion of a document about a family Bible my husband’s family has. I will then post it on ancestry sites so others in the family can access it.

I am going to finish the first pass of the edits on The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone.

My co-author Jeff Pero sent me his suggested edits a few weeks ago. I was finishing up my genealogy book, so had to put off looking at it until this week. I imported his Open Office Document, and first Word said it was corrupt and couldn’t open it. Then it said if I trusted the sender, it would open it and see what we got. So I did. All of Jeff’s comments were there, but all his Track Changes were not. Sigh.

First I went through and read/addressed the comments Once that document was “clean”, I opened the original file I had sent to him. Then I merged the two into a new file that would show the differences between them, essentially replicating the Track Changes.

I’ve been working through them, and should finish tomorrow. Then I want to read through it myself, and see if there is anything I would like to polish, since it has been some years since I looked at it properly, and I have learned more about writing since then. I know we need to work on the first chapter, but I have a few ideas to talk over with Jeff.

The rest of the book we are happy with, so once we get that first chapter to where we are satisfied, we’ll move ahead toward publishing. Not sure yet if we want to try for an agent (again) or just move on to self-publishing. We shall see.

So, are you on Spring Break? And if so, what have you been up to?

The Madness of March–CoronaLife Day 747

The weather here has been crazy. Nice and warm and spring-like, then BOOM! Snow squalls and below-freezing temperatures. Is it any wonder that I am having trouble finding my rhythm, when Mother Nature herself is out of sorts?

In spite of it all, this has been a fairly productive week. I have completed the interior file for the public version of my genealogy book. After cutting out the living people, it was 5 pages shorter.

Next, I will get the cover templates for the hard cover and the paperback, and create those. With only a 5 page differential, the cover template size may not change. If that is the case, I can use the same files I used for the family version. Either way, it is not much work.

Then, all that remains is to order the print proof and then have it go live once I approve it.

I also received the latest edits to my middle grade novel The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone from my co-author. We have been trying to find a home for this book for years, but it is not in a “hot genre” so it has been a hard road. We are going to try the traditional route once more after this clean up, and if we cannot get traction, we will self-publish. We believe deeply in this book, we want to get it out to the readers.

So getting to those edits is the next project after the genealogy book is done.

Speaking of genealogy, my mom’s DNA sample is “processing”. Fingers crossed our unorthodox method of collection doesn’t cause problems!

How is March wrapping up for you?

The Non-Writing Part of Writing—CoronaLife Day 432

This was one of those weeks where my other responsibilities fell on me hard, and I got very little done on any writing front. Although I hate weeks like that, they happen and I have to learn to roll with it.

People who are not writers think that if we are not getting words on the page, we are not writing. And while that may technically be true, that doesn’t mean we are not making some sort of writing progress.

As anyone who has followed this blog knows, I have been struggling with rewrites of my science fiction YA novel, Veritas. I’ve been chipping away at it, and feeling fairly happy with the new direction, but I have put it aside for now while I work on the non-fiction genealogy book. I am not in the right headspace to dive into fiction at the moment, so it is a good detour for me to take.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it. I sometimes get ideas that I hurry to jot down in the notes for when I return. And I recently have been enjoying K.M. Weiland’s blog series on archetypes, which is making me think differently about not just Veritas, but the structure of possible follow-on books in a series.

So, my subconscious has been chewing on Veritas while I’ve been away. And I am also re-thinking the first chapter of another project, this one middle grade, The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone. I really love this book, but it has not found a traditional home. My co-author and I are contemplating self-publishing it, but I feel that the first chapter is our issue. We get conflicting feedback about it—some feel it is confusing, others are just fine with it. I think if we can get that right, we might yet find it a traditional home.

I also have another project that is not even on a back burner, more like on the warming pan. It is the sequel to my published book, The Witch of Zal. The first draft is written, but it needs a good deal of editing. And I am in the process of getting a new cover and illustrations for Book 1, before I move on with publishing Book 2.

As you can see, I have been doing a lot of non-writing writing. Sometimes you can move forward even when you aren’t putting words on the page.

How are you advancing your writing these days?

Veritas Synopsis

I have finished sending out my 50 queries for The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone. Now, I am starting on the list for Veritas. First, however, I need to assemble the materials usually required for submission. I have a query letter and a polished manuscript, but I need the final piece–the synopsis.

The synopsis can be a chore. Squeezing 80,000 words down to one page is never easy. Doing it without losing the voice, emotion, and energy of the novel often seems impossible. For many authors, writing the synopsis is a hair-pulling endeavor.

The book I am writing a synopsis forI liked the synopsis I did for Pharaoh’s Stone, so I decided to use the same process to create the Veritas synopsis. Since this novel has three POV characters, there is pretty much no chance of fitting the entire story on one page unless I pick a single character’s story to tell. Luckily, even though all the characters arc, Jinx’s story is the central line. So hers is the story the synopsis will tell.

First, I write a sentence or two about each chapter. Then I work on making each of those as emotional and active as possible. Doing this helps avoid the “and then”, “and then”, “and then” feel of many synopses. After that, I weave those summaries together into a seamless description of the story.

If I am lucky, this polished version will be about 3 double-spaced pages, the length of a typical “long” synopsis. If not, I tweak it until it fits. Next, I single-space what I have, because a 1-page synopsis needs to be single-spaced. This version will be about 1.5 pages long, but pulling out only half a page is not terribly daunting.

A final read-through, plus another set of eyes to find mistakes, and the synopsis will be ready. Then the querying can begin!

What is your synopsis-writing process like?

How Many Rejections Is Enough to Give Up on a Story?

While many writers are choosing to go the self-publishing route in order to reap the many benefits of that path, I’m still pursuing the traditional route of trying to get an agent. Thus the newest round of queries I blogged about last week. While I am having decent response, I am also seeing rejections, and I got to wondering: is there a certain number of rejections where you should get the hint and stop querying?

Because I can’t help thinking much farther ahead than I need to (thank you, anxiety disorder), I do wonder what to do if this round of queries doesn’t land me an agent. If no agent bites, that will be over 100 rejections. In the past, that many rejections would probably signal an end to that manuscript’s life, but these days it opens up a new dilemma: Do I put the manuscript in a drawer, or move onto self-publishing?

Concept cover of The Curse of the Pharaoh's StoneI hate to put The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone in the drawer. It has had a long and unique gestation, so the manuscript is special to me. In addition, I truly believe in this story. Beta readers, both teachers and middle grade students,  loved it, and I feel in my bones that Pharaoh’s Stone has the potential to go far.

But do I really want to carry the weight of doing everything myself? That’s the trade off. Although the marketing largely falls to the author no matter which route you take, the initial editing, book design, cover design, and all the formatting is taken care of with traditional publishing. That’s a huge investment in time and money, as well as a steep learning curve.

The good news is that I have 2 coauthors on Pharaoh’s Stone, so this is not a decision I need to make alone. The other good news is that we have a long way to go before we need to have this discussion. We still have 48 agents to hear back from.

If you go the traditional route, at what point do you “give up” on a manuscript finding a home? Is there a magic rejection number?

Query-Go-Round 2018

January seems to be query month for me.

Last January, I queried my middle grade book The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone. It had some interest, but no bites. After my initial list of 50 agents passed, other issues became more pressing, and I did not continue sending it out.

Over Christmas break this past December, I compiled another list of 50 more agents for Pharaoh’s Stone, and am once more on the query-go-round.

Last time around, I wrote and compiled all 50 queries before I sent anything out. Because each agency wants you to send different material, every query is a little different. Some agencies want just a query letter, others want a certain amount of pages, others want a synopsis, and a few have online submission forms. Preparing them all is a time-consuming process.

This year, I am compiling the queries as I go along. I prepare and send about 5 a day, sometimes more, but never more than 5 at a time. I find that if I do any more than 5, I lose focus and make mistakes.

I’m not sure which approach I prefer. Compiling all the queries ahead of time allowed me to send them all out within 5 days. Doing them as I go along will take me longer to get them all out the door. I suspect the total amount of time invested is the same, it’s just a psychological difference—personal preference.

I keep a list of all the agents I contacted in Excel. Name, contact info, submission requirements,  date I sent the query, and the result. Because so many agents now have a “no interest, no answer” policy, I also have a column that tracks how many days without a response. Some agents give you a time limit beyond which means they aren’t interested, so this column allows me to see at a glance if we’ve passed the deadline. As I send the queries out, I color code my agent database. Green for those out, red for the passes, and yellow for requests for full or partials. So far I have one yellow. 🙂

Do you find that you tend to query at certain times of year? What’s your query process?

Rejection & Perseverance

Latest title to get a rejection

(Concept art)

I’m shopping a middle grade historical adventure, The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone. I’ve had wonderful feedback from all of our beta readers, and am very excited about the quality and prospects of this book.

Unfortunately, real life has other ideas. I have queried 50 agents. 3 requested fulls (yay!), but all ultimately passed. The rest of the agents either passed on the query (19) or have not answered at all (28), which is usually an assumed rejection.

The last agent who requested just passed Tuesday, so at the moment I am in the pity party stage of acceptance. And I will allow myself to feel it until Thursday. After that, it’s back on the horse. (A horse actually threw me once, so I know how this goes.)

I’ll compile a new list of agents and start over. Maybe take another critical look at the query, although 3 requests is not bad in today’s market. And then I’ll send them out.

Am I glutton for rejection? No. I am a stubborn writer who has a book I believe in passionately. Somewhere out there is an agent who will believe in this book as much as I do.

We just need to find each other.

Do any of you have a cutoff point for when you stop querying?

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The Dread Synopsis

I am in the process of gathering materials together to query my middle grade historical adventure The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone. I have a decent query, the manuscript is properly formatted, and I am working on the final piece—the dread synopsis.

The synopsis is notoriously difficult for most writers (there are some odd ducks that actually enjoy it!), and we procrastinate over it as long as possible. It is no wonder we find it hard. It’s a monumental task to take a 56,000 word novel and explain it in about 1,000 words—especially while attempting to infuse it with voice and emotion.

I took some advice from a few blogs on how to get started on the query. First, I wrote one sentence summarizing each chapter, then I turned that list into better-written paragraphs. Next, I polished it, choosing more powerful verbs, adding more emotional language. To my immense relief, the synopsis came in just at 3 double-spaced pages—my target length!

To double-check that I had not missed anything important, I used a technique taught by Kathryn Craft at a recent Philadelphia Writers Conference. By using her advice, I found that I had missed a structural element—the dark moment—and added it in. I also made sure I had enough emotional language and words that showed why this story is relevant to today’s audience.

So now I have a synopsis I am happy with. Yay! Next, however, I have to condense that to one single-spaced synopsis, and then even further to a paragraph. Can I do it? Can I synopsize my synopsis?

We will find out.

Do you have any tips for working on the dread synopsis (of any length)?

Beta Readers: A Vital Part of the Process

Concept cover for The Curse of the Pharaoh's StoneI met with most of my beta readers this week for my middle grade manuscript The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone. My daughter’s wonderful school librarian put together an amazing local team of readers—4 kids, 2 teachers, a librarian, and a mom of middle grade kids. I also have 2 other incredible teachers and authors reading it. I am so excited to get their feedback!

Yes, I said excited. I know many writers get butterflies when they send their manuscript babies out to beta readers. Some writers are downright terrified. And I agree, when you let your work out into the world, even in beta, it can be scary. You’re opening yourself up to criticism, to the possibility that people won’t love your story as much as you do. Sometimes writers even see criticism at this stage as a failure on their part.

But I am strange—I love honest feedback. I think it comes from how my writing process evolved in a collaborative model with my best friend Donna Hanson Woolman. Then when I got my Master of Arts in English, my advisor was a blunt yet positive critiquer.  Of course, if the criticism is personal or nasty in nature, I don’t like that any more than the next writer, but in this post I am talking about thoughtful and honest feedback.

I enjoy the red pen on my manuscript because of my mindset. I am confident that Pharaoh’s Stone  is a good book. Its plot is solid, its characters rounded, and the prose is clean. I have read enough middle grade—both published and from an agent’s slush pile—to know my book is good. I am excited to get my beta readers’ feedback because I know that their feedback will get the book from good to great.

Beta reader copy of The Curse of the Pharaoh's StoneThat’s how we writers have to approach any constructive feedback—as a way to make our manuscripts better. A challenge to dig deeper and raise our craft higher. After working so long and hard on our stories (I’ve been with Pharaoh’s Stone for 11 years), we can lose the objectivity we need to make the final adjustments that will make our work shine.

That’s why beta readers are such an important part of our writing process. They bring fresh eyes, fresh brains, and a fresh perspective. I am so lucky to have an enthusiastic team reading my book, and I am so grateful to all of them for making the time and effort to help me.

Do you use beta readers? Where does their feedback fit into your process?

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Editing Multiple Projects at Once: When It Rains…

It pours. Or in my case, when it snows, it blizzards. We are getting some snow this weekend, and predictions range from 5 inches to several feet. So we will see if this will turn into Snowmaggedon 2016, or be a big bust!

I like to tackle creative projects one at a time (with the exception of when I am burnt out on one story and jump to another for relief). With much less writing time, I prefer to be able to keep the creative part of my brain in one world, one story—it makes my writing time more efficient, since my mind has chewed over the story while I’ve been running around doing life-y stuff.

However, I don’t always have the luxury of focusing on one story at a time, and this is one of those times. I am in the middle of a major revision of a YA manuscript, and my middle grade adventure manuscript has come back to me from my co-authors. So now I have two manuscripts to work on—in very different genres, very different voices.

Veritas-Cover-Art-231x300Pharaoh-Curse-640x1024My YA, Veritas, is a science fiction narrated from three different points of view. My MG, The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone, is an adventure story set in 1922 Philadelphia, narrated by a 12-year-old boy. How can I keep them straight, creatively speaking?

One thing to my benefit is the stage of the writing process for each of them. Curse is in a final proofread/copyedit before I send it out to readers. Veritas is in what I call 3rd draft stage, where I am still working on story, character, and depth. Because the stories are not in the same stage of development, I can switch gears between them a little more easily—copyediting does not call for the same creative muscle as deep revision.

The other thing I do to keep them apart in my mind is that I never work on one directly after the other. In my new work day schedule, I have writing time reserved in the morning (9-11 am), and again after my daughter goes to bed at night (9-11pm). By doing one in the morning and one in the evening, I leave enough time in between to “surface” from one world before diving into the other.

This seems to be doing the trick, although I wonder if it would be the same if I was in, say, drafting mode for both stories.

When you’re working on multiple projects at a time, how do you keep from having them bleed into one another?

Stay warm, people, and if you are in the path of the snowstorm, stay safe!

 

 

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