Thursday, December 15, 2011

Query on Query Letters

I started off this blog several months ago with questions about how to write the proper query letter. Things haven't changed. I am still facing the same question: Is my query letter the proper way to pitch my first book?

My latest crisis of faith came from an agent's reply. I have avoided agents who take only snail-mail queries, but I decided to try one: John Ware in New York City. I knew of his reputation, but an interview with him I found persuaded me that he would be a good agent to present my work to. So I bundled up my snail-mail request and sent it off to Central Park West, relying on Ware's pledge that he tended to reply to queries within two weeks (which is like light speed for most agents). Well, Mr. Ware replied within two weeks ... with a rejection. But he simply took my query letter, circled three words in it and said, "Alas, not for me. But thanks and good luck."

Those three little words taught me a lesson about my query approach. Now I will look at revising my query and see where that leads. You see, this getting published game has new lessons that are taught throughout the process. OK, I am learning, I am learning. And here is a sincere thank you to all of my teachers.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Quick Addendum

My session on the dreadmill helped a lot. I feel like the obese fellow in the Old Spice commercial, the one in which chunks of his body suddenly start falling off to reveal a hunk of a guy underneath. I'm not to hunk stage yet, but a couple of pieces of that exhaustion have fallen by the wayside. Oh happy day!!

How Do I Find the Time to Write?

I have learned the value of AIC ... ass in chair ... as a guideline for authors. I try to follow it as closely as possible. I take time from almost every day I have to work my "day job" and spend some time on my latest novel.

Sometimes that pledge gets kicked in the teeth. The past week has been one of those times.

Part of the problem is the weight of that day job. I am a copy editor in sports at The Denver Post, and fall is our busiest time. It used to be that one day of my work week was a "light day" in comparison to the others. Not anymore. The weight of copy stays the same, but the number of people to do it has dwindled. We have had people leave the department for other opportunities or take a buyout (The Post just had 19 people with more than 400 years' experience walk out the newsroom door that way), but there have been no replacements. That same amount of work is now being carried by fewer workers. There have been a few nights lately when we will push the last story to print just before deadline, and someone will quip, "Did you get the number of that train that just hit us?" And then I might have four page proofs to read in detail after that, then the next wave of new copy for the next deadline.

That has a gradual grinding effect on the body. I spent a few days being physically and mentally exhausted. Where does the novel fit into that? That's the problem. It doesn't. AIC has to be abandoned. The good news is that I have a little more bounce today, thanks to back-to-back nights of 10 to 12 hours of sleep. I will find time for a workout on the treadmill (or dreadmill, as my wife calls it) and I will have AIC.

Work on the novel has not stopped despite the lack of AIC. I have been up in the middle of the night and spinning story ideas through my brain. I am reaching a point where I will introduce a new antagonist to my second novel ... the BIG antagonist in this work ... and I spent time honing down this person's background, etc., in those middle-of-the-night sessions. Now it is just a matter of AIC and putting all those thoughts onto flash drive.

Oh, lest I forget ...

I forgot in my last blog posting to put in my thoughts on how I would rewrite a screenplay for a new movie version of "Sometimes a Great Notion" ... but here they are. I would start with Hank as the young guy just out of the Navy riding his motorcycle west and meeting Viv in Rocky Ford, Colorado (which isn't that far from Ken Kesey's birthplace in La Junta). That would meet the "great drive west" aspect of the Stamper family's life while introducing us to two main characters and Hank's combative nature. Then I would do a time warp and fade to the logging family's life on the banks of the Wakonda Auga.

OK, AIC time. Be creative. Be hopeful.