This isn’t the Matrix, and you are not that fast.

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I am a member of several writing related forums online. I love hanging out with other writers, hearing what they have to say, and helping with their work. There really isn’t too much that can make me snort my coffee through my nose, but a request sent to one of my forums did.

A writer, who shall remain anonymous, asked us as a group to help her finish editing her novel, since she’d gotten a request for material from one of the queries she’d sent out before the novel was finished. Yes. Really.

I understand the temptation. I’ve sent out stories I thought were complete, and then realized after a stream of rejections that it was the story that needed work. But to knowingly send out a story that’s half-finished? That’s playing with fire.

Maybe I’m just a really slow editor, but it takes me 4-5 days to go through a chapter at the best of times. A few chapters have taken me as long as 2 weeks. Assuming I’ve got about 20 chapters, that’s 100 days minimum from start to finish. Assume it all goes wrong and you’re looking at almost a year from start to finish, just to complete a new draft. Then I have to put it away long enough to tackle it again with fresh eyes, and make sure there are no flaws. With that in mind, I’ll be lucky to have the first query letters out for Life of a Suburban Unicorn by 2012.

Saying that, I can see why sending queries out early might be tempting, but suppose I sent a query letter out today, and got a reply back next week. Suppose it’s not a rejection. It’s a request for a partial! I send my edited work, and hey–they want a full!

Now I’ve got 10+ chapters I need to edit over night. >_> Can you imagine?

What’s your take on sending queries out early?

The odds of publication…

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Today i spent my early morning procrastination watching this youtube video, in which Lev decides to write a book. I laughed, because I understand the problem he stumbled across, but it also made me think.

Are the odds of publication really that bad? (Yeah I know, the movie has nothing to do with publication and everything to do with writer’s block, but that’s what it got me thinking on. So there!)

We all read articles about rejection, but let’s take a minute and really think this over. Out of 7 billion people on the planet, about 7 billion have a story they want to tell. That’s a lot of competition, right? Maybe. Except for the fact that 25% of them are illiterate.

Whew! Just by the fact that you’re reading this, you’ve already managed to erase over a billion people from the publication race. Not bad eh?

Bur A.M. Kuska! I hear you cry, what about the remaining 5.25 billion people who can read? Well ask yourself this. How many of those 5 billion will ever pick up a pencil? How many will complete a rough draft? How many will submit to a critique circle? How many will admit their rough draft is somewhat less than perfect and rewrite? How many people actually send their manuscript out at all? Send it again when it’s rejected?

*crickets chirp*

I thought so. Even if we say an agent receives 100,000 query letters every year, it’s probably safe to assume some of those are badly formatted. Some were poorly worded. (Sorta like “The Family” from earlier, but less cool.) I’m sure one or two were addressed to Mrs. Bob, and some are rejected because their YA novel is 300,000 words long. When you cut out all these things…the odds start looking good.

The reality is, there aren’t enough manuscripts out there with good writing, good plot, and good editing. ^^ Yay!

Seriously though, while we can’t track these things, we do know that there are very few agents closed to submissions, which means there are still gaps to be filled.

Author Update

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The first third of my novel is officially FINISHED!!! I have edited and corrected and perfected all the way up to Elizabeth’s discovery of unicorns. I even managed to get just a little bit farther! The meeting of Joseph Thunderhead can finally be written! WOOOO!!!!

Now she’s still bopping back and forth on whether she believes in unicorns 100%, but that won’t come until she actually sees a single-horned beast standing before her. That’ll be about mid-book. ^^

The middle of the book consists of her stay in a unicorn boot camp, and should be fun and exciting to write. I’m hoping for smooth sailing from here on out!

Author Update

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 If Life of a Suburban Unicorn was a short story, I’d put it away for a few years and not look at it until I couldn’t even remember writing it.

I’m so freaking bored of this manuscript, and I don’t want to write on it anymore. I’ve made it all the way to chapter five in my edits, and I want to throw up every time I look at the endless see of rough words ahead of me. It’s not that I don’t love my manuscript. I do. It’s not that I don’t love writing. I do. But for the past three days all I’ve done is write and work at the real job. I don’t want to do it anymore. I want something new, something fresh, something entertaining.

Someone rescue me from this world I’ve trapped myself in. x.x

Are you propositioning me?

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The problem with query letters, is that they are way too transparent. An agent can look straight through your query letter into the inner workings of your novel and see everything wrong with it. Don’t believe me? Check out this interesting experiment by Nathan Bransford. He gave his readers the chance to sort through their own mini slush pile. The result? You write about as good in your query letter as you do in your novel. Really.

Yeah, I clapped my hands over my ears and ran screaming in the other direction too. Then I did what every other writer should do. I came back and tried to see how I could use this to my advantage. That’s how I found out you can use your own query letter to find flaws in your book, without using a critique circle!

(Disclaimer: You should still use a critique circle for optimum error protection. Don’t have one? Now you do.)

To do this, simply go through every chapter in your book, and write down each major action that happens. Don’t explain why it happens. Don’t try to make it sound good. Don’t do anything but note what your character does. I started listing these actions in a summery I wrote of my novel. You can read it here:

Elizabeth Brooke is angry because her mother is keeping a secret from her. A secret that forces her to move out of the main house and allow complete strangers to take over. Jerks.

A little investigating into the situation, and Elizabeth finds out her mother’s secret. The family they have taken under their wing claim to be unicorns hiding in human form from unicorn hunters, whom they refer to as the Lion Team.

Yeah I know, stop sniggering. Elizabeth doesn’t believe it either, at least not until she accidentally triggers a full scale war on her mother’s turf. Instead of siding with her own daughter, mom chooses to banish Elizabeth to her Aunt Deb’s house on the other side of the state.

Wonderful.

Salvation occurs in the form of Joseph Thunderhead, a man who promises to teach her how to unlock her own unicorn powers, if she leaves with him, no questions asked. Remember that scene in Phantom of the Opera where Christine sleepwalks into the clutches of the phantom? We can only assume that’s what’s going on here, because that’s exactly what she does.

>.<

Knownst to everyone else, but evidently not knownst to Bella…I mean Elizabeth…Getting into the car with a complete stranger in order to enter the modern day fortress of doom is NOT a good idea. She does learn how to become a unicorn. She also learns that she is no more than a slave, and that escape is impossible.

Okay, you’ve read enough of the literary vomit I spat onto a page before deciding I needed to fix my novel. To prove to you that I am capable of stringing a decent set of words together, here is the rewritten summery based on my edited chapters:

Anyone would be curious about a handful of strangers moving in unannounced. Elizabeth Brooke certainly is, especially when her mother does nothing to stop the family making themselves comfortable in their guesthouse.

Since mom’s usual response to trespassers involved a 20-gauge shotgun and rock salt, Elizabeth is sure mom invited them herself. What she isn’t sure about is why Mom wants to keep it a secret.

 That’s all for today! Happy writing!