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?

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!

How strong is your creative muscle?

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I have a confession to make. I don’t blog every day. I block out portions of my time to write, and when I write I often switch between writing these articles and working on my manuscript. Today and yesterday I blocked out my entire day. I did nothing but sit and write.

Yesterday I did fantastic, with 15 fantastic blog articles, and four chapters edited on my novel. I wrote, I researched, I problem solved. I went to bed feeling like a super star.

I got up today and couldn’t budge a mental muscle. 12 hours of writing time came and went. My manuscript came along, but at a painfully slow pace. I gimped out 219 words and the solution to one (minor) problem. I wrote no blog posts except for this one, and I had all the time in the world to write.

Thinking about it, the way I feel is kind of like how I feel the day after a really good workout. My mental muscles are just as tired and sore as my physical muscles are when I push them past their normal pace.

Which makes me wonder this also: Is there such a thing as writer’s block? Or is it really flabby creativity? Are we unable to come up with things to write because we’re trying to “lift” too much? How do you correct that? What would our version of a personal trainer be?

That’s my thought for today, and it has given my very sore mental muscles a strain just for trying it. I’m done for a while. My brain needs a break.

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!

Unsend, UNSEND!

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Let’s say your current WIP is going to be a best-seller. Let’s say that it’s going to break records, be on every news channel, and have every talk show on Earth lining up to interview you.

Now let’s also say, that it wasn’t ready when you published it. Would you still want it published? Would you want every person on earth to see those flaws? What if, because this book was so succesful, everything you ever wrote after that would be published, but no one would ever help you edit it?

Could you live with knowing that the world was satisfied with less than your very best?

Writing Buddies

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Every friday night when I lived in California, I would meet up with my best friend at the cafe in Borders, and we would write. We almost never said anything during these visits. We would order coffee, prop our laptops up back to back, and the only noise at our table would be the clicking of keys.

Occasionally, the rythm of noise would be interupted by repeated pauses and backspacing. One of us would look up, and a random (usually bizarre) question would come up.

“If a zombie wanted your brains but only got hold of your hair, would it still try and eat it?”

It was then the job of the person to stop, ponder this serious matter deeply, and respond with a helpful answer. It never occured to us what we were doing might be weird.

When it came time for me to leave California, the first thing I did was unpack my laptop and start searching for a new writing buddy. By any chance, did you know that writing buddies are a rare and precious gift?

I asked everyone I had a nodding aquaintence with if they read, or wrote, or did anything creative. I met one artist, and…and…yeah.

My husband is very supportive of my writing, but his idea of a good day is getting through it without even having to read traffic signs. >.<

Two years I spent searching for a new writing buddy, and talking to my old one on the phone. (It’s not the same.) I joined online communities, I hunted for real ones, and I learned to write alone.

Writing is a lonely profession. Are you lucky enough to have a writing buddy?