My Journey to get an Agent

Are you or someone you know looking for an agent? Let me share with you what I’ve learned in the process. I’m aiming at fiction novelists. If you write short stories, or non-fiction or anything other than novel length fiction this isn’t really for you.10987353554_976862387e_z

There are a few things you will need to start the process–a manuscript, a query letter, a synopsis, and a list of agents.

First and foremost you need a finished manuscript. You can prep the other stuff, but before you send the first thing to a potential agent you need to have your MS completed, reviewed by alphas and betas, and edited as well as possible. It should be polished to a fine sheen, because this is the thing that will cement the deal. Even if you write a great query and a great synopsis, if your manuscript is subpar the agent is going to pass. Continue reading

How to Build a Novel

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CC attributed to Boston Public Library

I haven’t really talked about what I’ve been working on for my thesis. Of course it’s science fiction but it’s very different from my first novel, which is securely trunked for now. I had a different story in mind when I went into residency, but I felt like the story I decided to use was much more timely and relevant. Also, I had a much better grip on how it would end, and I wanted something I knew I could finish to complete my degree.

I’ve been writing with a purpose to publish for about four years now and still have nothing to show for it, but I know I’m a much better writer now than I was when I started this process, and it is a process. The more I learn the more I understand that the learning will never end and it should be a constant improvement as I get more words under my belt. Continue reading

Pitch Polish for Gearing Up to Get an Agent

Deana Barnhart is hosting a cool thing for writers called Gearing Up To Get An Agent or GUTGAA for short.  Hashtag on twitter and all (#GUTGAA).  It is going over several weeks with support for polishing your pitch and finding help with a critique partner.  A part of this I’m posting the current version of my pitch/query and opening it up for critiques.  

AUTHOR’S NAME: TODD MOODY
TITLE OF MANUSCRIPT: CLEAR ETHER
GENRE: SCIENCE FICTION ADVENTURE
WORD COUNT: 120,000

UPDATE:  BASED ON SOME OF THE GREAT FEEDBACK I’VE RECEIVED THIS IS A NEW VERSION.  I HOPE I HAVEN’T RUINED THE VOICE.  IT IS CERTAINLY DIFFERENT.  CONTINUED FEEDBACK IS APPRECIATED!


The pitch:

 

Remie La Jeunesse keeps asking himself what on Earth he has to complain about.  He’s rich, immortal and in the prime of his vampiric life at 786.  But, weary of the death he’s inflicted and the despair of watching family members die over the centuries, his soul is wearing thin. Happiness is as elusive as faster-than-light travel and Remie is ready to end his life, yet one last obligation remains. Vindication against the treacherous Nollevelle Corporation would be one hell of a way to go out. 
While executing his program to reclaim the Quantum Jump Gates his company lost, Remie runs headlong into Anneliese, a young woman who disrupts his scheme and forces him to reconsider his priorities.
Anneliese Trahan is a damn good pilot and a rising star for Nobloquy, the military arm of Nollevelle. Her career path is on the fast track until the intervention of her former lover derails her plans and sets her on a collision course with a man determined to destroy Nollevelle and her one shot at a starship captaincy. Anne needs to figure out where her loyalties ultimately lie and Remie must determine just how much he’s willing to sacrifice to pull off his plan.
The first 150 words of the WIP:
           The idea of happiness toyed with him but, despite having perfect recall, Remie La Jeunesse couldn’t remember what it actually felt like to be happy anymore.  He could clearly remember the details surrounding a moment, like he was viewing an old Polaroid, but not the feeling.  
          Playing the guitar usually offered solace.  It gave him a respite from the monotony and melancholy.  But even that had lost its flavor lately and today was no different than the last couple.  He just wasn’t feeling it.
          Remie pulled the earplugs out and tossed them into the drawer that sat beneath a climate-controlled display case containing an ancient Spanish acoustic guitar, a plaque on the bottom read “La Guerrera de Cadiz, 1761.”  The classic Spanish guitar hung in contrast to the one in the next case, which was a beat up red Stratocaster with black and white cross-stripes, heavily scratched and dotted with cigarette burns.  
 
Please to enjoy.  Clear Ether!

 

Wired for Story

 

Chuck Wendig interviewed Lisa Cron this week for his blog Terribleminds and she gave us her take on developing story.  Another great find for interviews by Mr. Wendig, he rarely disappoints.  Lisa has a very fresh take on the importance of STORY and how it relates to the human brain.  She has a new book out called Wired for Story, and I can’t wait to read it.  She is a big time producer for Showtime and Court TV, a writer and also teaches a writing course at UCLA.  She has spent the last ten years researching the connection between neuroscience and how the brain relates to stories.  It’s quite fascinating and illuminating, allowing us to learn techniques that will make your story click with the reader.  They can’t help themselves, the brain is hard wired for receiving stories and if we can strike the right chord it will resonate within the readers mind.
            On Lisa’s blog she touched on why books that get panned by critiques can still sell at amazing rates.  It answers the question as to why books like 50 Shades of Gray can sell millions of books.  I remember picking up The Hunger Games, because my wife and daughter love it, and reading the first couple of pages and saying to myself, the prose just aren’t all that, but next thing I knew I was 100 pages in and couldn’t put it down.  Stephanie Myers Twilight books have been criticized for not having elaborate prose also, but the one thing all of these books have in common is they tell a great story and in a way that touches those chords in the mind.
            The concept has already had an impact on my writing.  I think it helped me frame the true story for my WIP.  CJ Cherryh had a recent rant on her facebook page (5 July) about the difference between plot and story and now that I have this new frame of reference I can see that she was saying basically the same thing.  The plot is not what drives the story.  The plot is just a tool to get the characters to create the story you are trying to tell.  The plot elements are moveable and malleable. 
When I deal with libraries and such, people who appreciate books, I often get asked questions about the creation of ‘plot’ — in the sense of the sort of book reports we used to have to give in school. These usually amounted to a recitation of what happened in the book. And these always confused heck out of me—I started writing at 10. I had been wrestling with ‘plot’ and ‘theme’ and this sort of thing on an intimate level for (at my young age) years, and the definitions of those terms that I had to memorize for tests just didn’t ring true with the way I did things. There was a wrongness in the basic assumptions that was bugging the life out of me.// Took me twenty years to figure what WAS bothering me—and to this day I really can’t define those terms, because they may shift with every type of book—but I came to a very basic conclusion: there IS no such thing as ‘plot’ in the sense most of these analyses deal with it. Plot is NOT the sequence of things that happen in the book. Those are the ‘things that happen in the book,’ and they actually are the most replaceable, ephemeral, rearrangeable things about the book. If you could lean over my shoulder while I work, you’d see me move things about, put events in different order, yank something I don’t want, put in something similar but ‘else’, and in sort, work with the causality and the chain of events, but these are not the plot. They are gears that need to mesh correctly, these are pieces that need to operate smoothly together—to PLAY OFF the ‘real Plot’ of the book, which is much more of a three-dimensional diagram of the lines of tension between the characters. You arrange events to tweak these lines of tension and cause a chain reaction, and figuring out how to do that may require you to change the events, change the people involved, change how the news travels, change the order of things—you see what I mean? The Real Plot is that 3-d constellation of characters and alliances and relationships, and these Actions are nothing but a set of triggers that could be ANY trigger. Finding the most logical order of triggers is head-work. Theme? I’m not sure what the hell that is. I think it’s the answer to that basic question a writer may want to write down on paper and pin to the wall above his desk: What’s this book about, anyway? And very often there’s no one word answer, or there is—say—like Loyalty; but that doesn’t say much. It takes the whole book to say what there is to say about that item, the way you see it, the way it affects the Real Plot, the feeling it generates. That’s why my teachers sometimes ticked me ‘wrong’ about certain answers, when I’d really thought long and hard about the answer and didn’t agree with the expected answer. That’s because when you start pushing those buttons on my personal console, you just may come up with a different book. Different answers. You may now realize that I’ve just answered that persistent groaner of a question “Where do you get your ideas?” —with the observation that ideas are no problem, so long as a writer has a pulse rate—but that Execution, ie, getting those ideas to assume a good constellation of tensions and then tweaking those lines of force to create a natural cascade of reactions leading to a satisfactory ending—that, THAT is the hard part.
                                                                                     –CJ Cherryh
 
Keeping STORY in the forefront of my mind as I revise the WIP is really helping me focus on the things that can stay and the things that need to go.   It also helped me refocus my Query letter.  I know what the essence of the book is about and was able to better articulate it. Here is the core of my new Query Letter:
 
What does an immortal bajillionaire have to complain about?  That’s what Remie La Jeunesse keeps reminding himself.  It’s how he’s managed to get by the least few decades, but he’s reached the end of the line.  He’s young by Nemesi standards, at 786, but he can’t find happiness anymore.  Weary of the death and despair he’s suffered for the last several centuries, Remie is ready to end his life, but he has one last obligation to fulfill.  He’s just received the call that the plan he’s spent 240 years meticulously planning is finally ready to trigger.  Will carrying out the plan be his demise or will it reignite his passions?
 
Anneliese Trahan is a damn good pilot and a rising star for Nobloquy, the military arm of Nollevelle Corporation.  Her career path seemed to be on the fast track after leaving the comfort and security of her family trade ship, but the intervention of a past lover derails her plans and puts her on a collision course with a man determined to destroy Nollevelle and any chance at a captaincy.  Will she be the one to end his life or save his soul?
At any rate, I ordered Wired for Story and should have it by the end of the week.  I’m maybe a 5th of the way through my 3rd rewrite and hopefully it will be ready for submission soon.
Clear Ether!

Week in Review

I’m a little late getting this up due to MLK Day.  You might think that would give me more time, but I usually find a way to expand my time wasting to fill the available time alloted.  It was a fairly productive week writingwise.  I wrote 6191 words this week for a total of 93106, and am edging up on the climax.  Seems like I say that every week.  I think I’ll get through it this week.  In fact if I push I think I can finish the first draft this week, two weeks at the outside.

I posted a little vignette about how I Suck @writing which seemed to be well received, thanks to all who commented!

I also updated my Query Letter and got some feedback.  I think it’s pretty close.  Close enough to shelve until I polish the manuscript.

Some other tidbits from the week:

Charlie Stross blogged this, he is brilliant as usual:

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2011/01/looking-under-the-street-lamp-.html#more

Ran across this short story by @MaryRobinette Kowal http://bit.ly/flXBY0 quite awesome!

I heard this on NPR this week and liked it:

“We must see the error in our own truth and the truth in our opponent’s error.” — Reinhold Niebuhr

The next thing to tackle after the WIP is finished it to do a synopsis.  I found this website which does a fine job of walking you though how to do a thorough job http://www.writing-world.com/publish/synopsis.shtml

i09 posted this – the most complete map of the night sky so far http://io9.com/5730972/

 

Clear Ether!

Help me with my Query Letter!

Query Letter for Bulletproof Soul

I am seeking representation for my completed science fiction space opera novel of 110,000 words, titled BULLETPROOF SOUL. It can be sold as a standalone novel, but begins a trilogy which traces the action through a series of intrepid events and political intrigue.


My novel is dual tracked with Anneliese Trahan, a brash young pilot working for the military wing of Nollevelle Corporation trying to make a new career for herself after breaking away from the cushy life of her family trade ship. Her once promising career is spiraling out of control and one pitfall after another vector her onto a collision course with Laurent La Jeunesse, an entrepreneur responsible for the breakthrough and deployment of the Quantum Gates that drove the diaspora of humanity throughout the galaxy.  300 years ago he lost control of these gates to the ruthless Nollevelle Corporation, and watched them manipulate who got access and who didn’t, choking interstellar growth and trade in the process, as well as bleed the economies of countless star systems. As BULLETPROOF SOUL begins, Laurent’s plan to wrench back control and free the masses of their oppression is ready to trigger. Using a secret syndicate, he thinks he’s planned for every contingency but he doesn’t realize his real nemesis is an old ally that he hasn’t seen in over 600 years whose been plotting his downfall for centuries.

Does this make you want to read the book?  Ok, I’m asking for some critiques, so help me out please!  It’s a work in progress, so it likely change over time.