Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Never Tell Me The Odds - #pitchmadness

I submitted my SPIRIT QUEST entry for Pitch Madness (www.brenda-drake.com/2015/02/pitch-madness-2015-sorry-edtion-agent-game-rules-submission-instructions/) and it turns out that I'm one of 915 submissions!

Looking forward to the results next week. It's exciting and daunting at the same time, dangling yourself out there.

Here's my 35-word pitch, exactly 35 words:

"A native man learns his stepfather was murdered and uncovers a plot to resurrect the Ojibwe God of Darkness. He must learn to use his spirit magic and reconcile his heritage to stop this menace."

Re-reading it now, I'm not sure I like the word menace. I liked ancient evil, but I think I needed to trim down the words.

Here's the 3-sentence pitch:
"When a young M├ętis man with emerging spirit magic powers discovers his stepfather’s murder was covered up, he sets out to find the killer. But there’s a cabal of sorcerers that will stop at nothing to resurrect Malsum, the Ojibwe god of darkness. Can he find his place among a secret society of Medicine Men, learn to control his spirit magic, and reconcile his native heritage in time to stop this ancient evil?"

And lastly, here are the first 250 words of the novel:

"Ashigan didn't fear death, but the thought of those pursuing beasts clawed at his soul.

The road was still kilometers away and the river was his only option. The waheela were toying with him, chasing him through the forest, taking turns attacking, and wearing him down. He would have been impressed by their tactics had they not been hunting him.

The river was the first glimmer of hope Ashigan had since they started chasing him from Misajidamoo's hunting camp. Misajidamoo had left an abrupt phone message claiming a pack of these wolf-bear hybrids were stalking him. But Ashigan knew the waheela never ventured south of the Northwest Territories.

Ashigan had dropped by the camp to check in on his fellow Medicine Man and found the waheela waiting for him. He managed to escape, but they followed him. He had spent many fall days with Misajidamoo in these woods hunting deer and bear. Never would he have thought he'd be hunted in these same woods.

Stopping at the edge of the forest, Ashigan leaned against a tall birch tree that overlooked the river. His shallow breaths stung his lungs. Twenty years ago, this pursuit wouldn't have winded him. Now in its sixties, his body conspired against his efforts to flee.

The tree's spirit radiated out through its skeletal limbs that stretched high into the sky. Ashigan touched each of the white birch's thirty-seven winters and felt its deep root system. The tree acknowledged his presence and passed along a portion of its vitality.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pitch Madness 2 Starts Tomorrow

The submission window for Pitch Madness opens tomorrow!


What is Pitch Madness? It’s a chance to get your manuscript looked at by one or more of the participating agents.

What do you need?
- A 35-word max pitch for your novel
-  The first 250-words of your novel

That's it. Once you have those two pieces (in addition to the completed manuscript), you need to submit it to the link above.

Best of luck!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Agent Hunt - Update #2

It's closing in on 3 weeks since I sent out the first wave of query letters for my novel Spirit Quest. I've received another rejection over the past week. It was a form letter response.

I'm trying to focus on other projects. It's proving rather difficult. Each time I hit a milestone, it seems that the next goal is quite far off. Looking back, when I completed my first draft, I had no idea how much work would be involved in the second and third drafts. Now that I'm on my last pass (recovering comments from a few Alpha readers), I have to avoid having my doubts creep in and stall the momentum I've built up so far. I'm not sure what I expected in terms of the first wave. But, coming off the high of having written the book, I felt like it was going well. I still have 6 outstanding responses, so I'll remain positive and patient.

Reading about how many rejections to expect, I came across the following which made me smile: "Don't give up until you've queried 80 agents or more".

And here's another great article on the query letter process and revision:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

An update on my agent hunt

I sent out 8 agent query letters on January 9th. I received on rejection and submitted to another agent, who in turn, rejected me as well. Both of these rejections were based just on the query letter. So I'm remaining positive for the other 7 query letters as they all include chapter samples. I can console myself in that the two rejections had nothing to do with my actual writing.

I'm resisting the temptation to spend any time tweaking the query letter. I compare my novel, Spirit Quest, to Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles. They're both urban fantasy series that are very similar, although I feel that my story and hopefully series will be a bit more rural fantasy.

At first I had compared my story to F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack as my protagonist would be going around and helping people with his spirit magic. Although we both wrote our stories in the 3rd person point-of-view, Spirit Quest, is also a kind of coming of age novel. That 3rd person point-of-view was important, especially with my strong supporting cast. Tara could easily be the story's co-protagonist, but I'm saving that for the sequel.

Monday, January 12, 2015

And it's done! The final draft of my novel, SPIRIT QUEST, is done!

The final draft of my novel, SPIRIT QUEST, is done. It clocks in around 99,100 words.

I have two Alpha Readers going through the manuscript now and need to recover their comments. When they're done with that, I'll have a read through of the entire thing. But, I want to put a bit of distance between myself and the manuscript. I'm also hoping to cut it down to 98,000 words.

As for how I feel? I'm pretty damn happy. It's been a long road. The idea for this novel surfaced over two years ago. The core of the novel was written in 2012's NaNoWriMo. In 2013, I had an opportunity to pitch the novel and it was well received which prompted me to take that 50,000 and craft it into a real novel. I had a 5,000 word document just of the one-line descriptions of all the little bits and pieces in the story I needed to fix. And that's done!

I know I'm not done done. I can expect at least two more rounds of significant editing (one from the agent and one from the publisher), but I'm taking a moment to enjoy where am. I can look back at 2012 and the two plus years it's taken me to get here with this nice, big, beautiful manuscript and take a deep breath.

Up next, I'm going to spend some time brainstorming ideas for the second and third novels. I also have another project that I NaNoWriMo'ed in 2011, ELEGANT DARKNESS.

Friday, January 9, 2015

And They're Off... Query Letters to Agents

It took a bit longer than I expected to prepare query letters as several agencies had different submission requirements. When you're ready to send out author query letters, take the time to closely read their submission guidelines. For example, most asked for a 5 page sample, but one asked for a 4 page sample, and another a 10 page sample. Some also asked for a synopsis of the novel and even that request had a variety of lengths (from 3-5 paragraphs to 1-2 pages). Cutting and pasting your novel sample is relatively simple compared to the synopsis.

The synopsis itself is an art form. Hopefully you have the basic idea of your novel distilled down to a single sentence. When I started to write my synopsis, I had about 1,200 words. Then I keep chipping away at it until it was down to 900 words. So with this first round of agent queries, I ended up having to continue distilling that down to just over 250 words. It's a great exercise to sharpen the focus of your novel and see what key story items and themes make the cut.

With my first round of author queries, I sent off eight of them to different agencies whose response time varied from 8-10 days to 12 weeks. I expect that there's probably a significant queue already in their inboxes and that I'll just have to be patient and wait. All that work and momentum around starting to feel like a real writer and now I have to wait. I guess that's part of being a real writer.

Of course, I won't be sitting around and waiting. I'll be polishing the handful of little items remaining for my manuscript. I'll also be working on the synopsis of the next two novels. More than enough to keep me busy!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

After Your First Draft...

I'm putting the final touches on the third draft to my novel, Spirit Quest. Although, I could argue that this is actually the fourth or fifth draft seeing as how I've rewritten some chapters.

The first draft is simply getting your ideas on paper, writing it all out. The second draft is taking a long sober look at what you have and finding the real story. The third draft is shaping and polishing that real story.

Working on an existing draft is different than writing. Sometimes all you have to do is cut a word or a sentence, re-write a sentence, or add a new one. Sometimes, it cutting a paragraph or a chapter. And sometimes, it juggling the chapter order to improve the story's pacing.

Don't underestimate the amount of time and work required. The first draft is simply that, a first step. There's a lot of work and a lot of it is thinking work. Thinking about your story and characters and their evolution throughout. Thinking about your ending and making sure you set it up properly. That's another aspect not to underestimate: know where you're going.

Knowing the ending is so key to your whole story. Even after your first draft you might not know where you're going, but you do need to work on that right away as your address your second draft.

It was a great accomplishment to complete my first draft. But, I know now that completing the third draft is a whole other feeling. And it feels great.