Sunday, February 28, 2010

Query Me This...

I just finished my read-through and edit of the first draft of Branson Heights! Now my fabulous 2 first readers are going through it before I give the book to Amazing Ashley--who will no doubt tell me all the things I've done wrong. From there, I'll have a few more beta readers go through it for me, do a final edit, and start to query. Really though, I feel great about this manuscript because of how much I learned from writing and editing Eternal Starling.

I decided to start drafting my query letter, thinking the experience would be as long and painful as writing my last query letter was. So I was shocked when my Branson Heights query seemed to just flow onto the page. The query for Eternal Starling took me about twenty drafts, several phone conversations with Amazing Ashley, as well as advice from an author friend before I got it right. It was truly harder to write than the whole book! I'm not sure what the difference is this time around. Maybe it's because I know what I'm doing now and what agents want, or it might be because Branson Heights came together better and that made it easier to summarize the book in 250 words? But it's nice to know that I learned something and that the more practice I have, the easier it gets.

What about you guys? If you've written more than one novel, do you feel like the whole process from writing to querying is easier with each additional project?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Write Another Book

Several months ago, I had just finished final edits on Eternal Starling and had started sending out queries. I wrote Eternal Starling as the first book in a trilogy and couldn't wait to finish the next two books. I'd gotten about 40K words into the second book and 10K into the third when I went to dinner with a bestselling author friend of mine.

I asked her the question that every writer dreads . . . what if no one wants my novel?

She said, "You write another book." In fact, her advice was to write another book regardless. She said as soon as you start querying, you write something else.

Okay, I thought, that's what I'm doing. I'm already working on the second and third books in the Eternal Starling trilogy. But, then I really considered the second and third book. And here's the thing . . . what's the point of working on two sequels that probably won't sell if no one is interested in the first book in the trilogy? (I know, I know. You can almost hear the sound of the light bulb clicking in my head).

My friend said she had to write three novels before she finally got an agent and then she got one of the most amazing agents in the business. Seriously. One of the best. And even with the agent equivalent of Superman, the book she wrote didn't sell. Her agent tipped her off to a new subject that was gaining in popularity and my friend wrote her debut novel, the same novel that made her a bestselling author.

I just sent my last round of queries for Eternal Starling and I'm still waiting to hear from agents who have partials on the book, but I realized I don't want to put all my eggs in the Eternal Starling basket. I decided to take the advice of my friend and leave the Eternal Starling world behind for a while and write something else. A month ago, I started my contemporary YA, and the chick-lit mystery I just finished.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I got an email from an agent. This particular agent asked for a partial with the query letter. She read my partial and emailed me to say Eternal Starling wasn't for her, but she thought I had a good voice for YA and chick-lit and she'd like to read any other projects I was working on.

First, I was completely elated! A personal response from an agent! An agent who liked my writing enough to tell me she wanted to read other things I'm working on! I mean, a real agent who brokers six-figure deals thinks I have a good voice and thinks I can write. Maybe I'm not insane after all and I do have a tiny bit of talent.

Second, I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I had followed the advice from my friend and written another book. I was able to email the agent back and say, actually, I am working on other books. I'm almost finished with a chick-lit mystery and I just started a contemporary YA. I told her I'd send her the manuscripts as soon as I finished them and she responded with an enthusiastic thank you and that she looked forward to reading them.

Taking a step back from the book I put so much time into wasn't easy. I was so involved in the Eternal Starling world that it was hard to let it go and come up with other ideas I wanted to work on. But because I did, I have an agent who knows who I am and wants to read my other manuscripts. Because I wrote something else instead of continuing my trilogy, I am a step closer to finding an agent.

Only you can decided when you're ready to write something new. For me, it took a while to find another idea I was as passionate about as Eternal Starling, but now I'm really glad I did. And I'll be forever grateful to my author friend who gave me the good advice to write another book.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

First Drafts and Outlining

Can I just say how much I LOVE writing a first draft! For me, there's such a sense of freedom at starting a new story. Maybe it's because I've been writing/editing/revising Eternal Starling for the last two years, but I'm in love with the two new books I'm working on! There's just something about getting to create a new world and meet new characters.

About two weeks ago, I started working on a contemporary YA and a chick-lit romance/mystery. The mystery has been moving at a really good pace so I've decided to finish it first. I'm 100 pages into it and I should be able to reach my goal of finishing the first draft by the end of February.

Let me just say, Eternal Starling did not get written nearly as fast as this book and I think it's because of the different ways I outlined the two books.

With Eternal Starling, I did a skeletal outline of the story. I knew the basics, but I kind of let the characters take me where they wanted to go. If you've read my past posts you know I wrote Eternal Starling in 3 months, then I ended up spending a year doing revision after revision (I think I had about 10 different drafts) because I didn't know my story well enough when I first wrote it. This time around, I decided that since the book was a mystery novel, I needed a more detailed outline. I can't believe the difference it has made. Knowing where the story is going makes it much easier to just fill in the blanks. I know not everyone likes to write that way, and I didn't think I'd like it either, but it worked for this book. I'll have to wait and see if it works for other books I write.

How do you guys feel about first drafts? Do you love them or hate them and just want to get the ideas on paper so you can revise? And what about outlining? Do you write with a detailed outline, or just a basic idea of where the story is going?