MOVE ME NOW OR I’M MOVING ON

45844_482113340992_6896901_nI’m supposed to impress you in these first few words with shocking, dazzling prose that will wreck your heart and send laughter spilling out of you like Niagara so you’ll keep reading. Have I done it? If I haven’t by now, chances are, I’ve already lost you as a reader.

Ooo! You just folded your arms up onto your chest, pursed your lips and scowled didn’t you? No need to pout like that. It’s not going to change the fact that you have one chance and a few characters to impress the judges. Think of it as the Twitter post of your lifetime.

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I was reading at  AndyRossAgency.wordpress.com  and here is what he had to say about making your first paragraph count.

If your first paragraph is characterized by clunky style, pretentious and flowery figures of speech, clichés, literary throat clearing, descriptions of the weather, clumsy efforts to shoehorn backstory into the narrative,  or other stylistic bads, it’s going to take a lot of brilliant writing to dispel that first impression.

I automatically began examining my own writing after reading this quote.

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  • Clunky style– Does my first paragraph read smoothly? Are there sentences that have to be read over again so they can be understood.
  • Pretentious and flowery figures of speech- Does my work have an overabundance of phrases like: The grandiloquence of this discourse nauseates my very soul; if ever a soul could be sickened by such foul text. Sometimes we become very attached to statements like this in our writing because we work so hard on developing them. The fact is people don’t talk like this and while a profound statement here and there is thought provoking, too many can just seem heady and arrogant. Make sure your writing is something people can identify with at the same time as being beautiful and stimulating to the mind.
  • Clichés- Just know what they are and AVOID THEM. You are a talented writer. Surely, you can come up with a better way of saying it.
  • Literary throat clearing– Empty words  and phrases, as well as repetitive descriptions can slow down our stories and cause people to stop reading. (Check out OneWildWord.com for some great pointers on cutting our literary throat clearings.)
  • Descriptions of the weather: Again, just don’t do it. If we talk about the weather when we’re bored out of our minds or when we’re trying to avoid real conversations with people then the topic does not belong in our writing.
  • Clumsy efforts to shoehorn backstory into the narrative- we’ve all read a book where the entire first chapter was used to catch us up on everything the main character has thought or eaten and the consistency of their bowel movements for the last 16 years. These are sometimes things we need to know, however there is a method to getting the information on paper in a way the reader doesn’t even know they are getting it. As writers, we must master this art.

As an author, I want to write  moments that rip the reader’s hearts out, make them throw the book across the room then walk back over to pick it up and read more. I want to write humor that surprises the reader. No lead up, no warnings, just outrageous unexpected humor that people can identify with in their own lives. You and I have to indicate we can do these things in the first few paragraphs in order to get a chance to share our work with the world.

How do you catch a reader’s attention, whether it’s an agent or fan? Do you use these techniques outside of your writing?

WHEN SHOULD I GO BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD?

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Marjorie Brimer

So you’ve sent out your queries and you’ve waited with exceeding angst for replies. Then they start to trickle in, the “we wish you all the best but this isn’t right for us” messages or the “we’ve considered your work and graciously decline. Remember, the market is subjective and we hope you find a good fit for your work,” letters. In the beginning you are just excited to get  responses from real life agents, however pre-formatted they may be,  but after about the 15th to 20th time (maybe the number is different for you) you start to get a little discouraged and ask…

 What is wrong with my work?

Is this a fair question to ask of ourselves? After all, the market is subjective and not every agent is going to love our work. When is it time to go back to the drawing board and how much should I change when it is time?

There are two reasons you could be getting repeated rejections.

Number one is your query. I usually give my query another good looking at each time I send out a batch. I send 7-10 out and wait about six weeks or until all have been responded to then send out a new batch. After waiting and reviewing, I have often found that the query could be better or even has errors-GASP. This is one good reason not to blanket the market with your query! I don’t know about you, but by the time I’m done writing it, I have my query memorized and it’s easy to miss small mistakes because my mind substitutes the correct words for the wrong ones or the ones that aren’t even there at all!

Maybe your hang up isn’t an error. Perhaps, your query isn’t a good representation of your work. We know our stories and it’s easy to fall into the pit of assuming other people understand the plot when they read the excerpt in our queries. It’s a good idea to get someone who doesn’t know your story to look at your query. Ask them questions about it and if they have a different idea of your characters and plot than you do then it’s time to revise. I have a formula I’ve developed after working with some published authors on my queries.

Start with a hook!

Start with a hook!

  • Hook!
  • Use a close narrative voice. Don’t fluctuate!
  • Show don’t tell.
  • Establish the setting.
  • Mention genre, word count, and title and use your character’s full name the first time you mention it. (You  might even capitalize it.)
  • Brief but convincing bio- even if you’re not published say a little something about your platform you’ve been working so hard on and establish the fact that you aren’t a loon.

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    Establish that you are a stable author – not some loon!

The next reason for constant rejection would be your synopsis or manuscript sample. Maybe you’ve noticed that you get requests for your manuscript and THEN you get rejected. A few of these are to be expected because again…SUBJECTIVE. But if this becomes a trend, say five or six, then you may consider revisiting the way you’ve summarized your work in your synopsis. Obviously, your query is doing the job but your work isn’t standing on it’s own. Ask yourself if your synopsis captures your style and voice? If you are submitting sample pages then consider a new opening and comb over that baby with fine teeth for errors. Make sure the cadence of your work flows so  there are no sentences that have to be re-read in order to understand.

And after all this, if you are still receiving rejections consider revisions of the entire manuscript or pitching from a different approach. Is the dystopian concept of the novel truly the forefront or is the romance the focus? If so, pitch it this way. Sadly, there are times that we need to walk away, work on another project and come back with a new approach. Sometimes, time provides the fresh look we’ve been trying to conjure!

Is there a magic number for you when you feel like it’s time to go back to the drawing board? Has anyone revised  successfully and received representation as a result? Do tell!

WHAT IS YOUR PLATFORM BUILT ON?

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So, I’m just going to write a book, find an agent and live happily every after. Bwahahahaha!

When I first started this journey, over a year ago, I spent half my time writing and the other half researching how to be a writer. I remember the first time I read about platform I thought, I’ve got a lot of work to do! Wait, back up a little bit. First I thought, what the Hector Zaroni is a platform? The first visual I received was something you jump off of before landing in the water. I was close.

Our platforms are how people know us. If you were to walk into the mall or into the world dominating franchise that is Wal-mart, what would people be whispering? “Oh, I know him, he’s that guy on face book who had his photo taken, kissing a komodo dragon.” Or, “That’s the guy who rocks the base at the Blue Note on Saturday nights.” Or maybe, “She’s the chick who won the head cheese eating contest at the last Heritage Days Festival!” The methods we use to get people to recognize us are our platforms.

I realize that writers don’t often want to bring attention to themselves, however, the ugly part of writing is marketing; but it doesn’t have to be that way if  you change the way you think about it.

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of marketing yourself, think of it as marketing your work instead.

Platform has changed. It used to be you had a good platform if you’d: ever been on television, you were previously published, you made it big in some other industry like Country Music or NASCAR, you won the lottery or your parents were famous. Today, we are lucky because we can build our own platforms.

Tools to build your platform are plentiful.

Your gonna need a hammer, a level, some screws…Naw I’m just kiddin’. You don’t need any of that stuff. What you will need, however, is a laptop, willingness to learn new things and time. There are so many websites today that help us put ourselves out there like Facebook, Twitter (which I just recently caved and became a twit. FOLLOW ME! @MargieBrimer #shameless plug), Tumbler and the beloved WordPress. These sights make us visible to thousands of people who we could have never have been exposed to otherwise but there is a strategy to networking. You have to be active and responsive and authentic and RESEARCH your butt off on effective ways to format and communicate. Be creative and bold and real.

Don’t wait until you’re famous to build a platform. If you build it they will come.

 These days, many agents are looking for authors who have already put in the work to build a strong platform. It’s an exciting process really because the whole time you’re making relationships and maintaining those relationships and staying on top of posts, it is for a purpose. It’s for the day when it finally happens and when it does your platform will be there for you to step up on….and jump off of.

What other platforms do you use besides our dear WordPress? Can somebody expound on Tumbler and how Pintrest can be used to promote an author’s work? I’m excited to learn.