29 October, 2013

Fiction Friday:Rejection: the Good, the Bad, and the...

As an unpublished writer there's one reality I have to face: rejection.  And no matter how much I (and my published friends) repeat that everyone has been rejected by agents, it doesn't seem to get any easier.

I have to admit I prefer email to hard copy -- there's something so final about holding a physical rejection letter, but they're all painful, one more tiny pinprick in your self esteem and hopes.

The worst part, for me at least, is that the vast majority of agents don't tell you why they're rejecting your manuscript.

Thank you so much for allowing our agency to consider your material. Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your query, we’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for our agency at this time.  As I’m sure you know, the publishing industry changes swiftly now, as do readers’ tastes and trends. As a result, our own agents’ needs shift and change, as well; therefore, we would like to encourage you to consider querying us with future projects as you may deem appropriate.  

So what didn't you like?  The genre?  The protagonist? The plot?  The writing?  Everything? 

Fortunately there are agents out there who take the time to pass along gems of wisdom.  I had one agent send me a rejection email that went on for 2 pages, listing suggestions for improvement.  And each and everyone of them was valid.  As a result, my manuscript is tighter, stronger, and generally better.  There is also the "warm fuzzy" of knowing that she must have seen something in there if she took the time to read the entire 300 pages.  

Another agent said she loved everything except...wait for it...there are too many culinary cozies out there and mine had nothing "unique." Gulp. Actually, I owe this agent a debt of gratitude, too.  Thinking about what she'd said, I made some tweaks to my protagonist's background that not only make her more interesting, but give her wider latitude for sleuthing in future books.  When (note the positive attitude, please) I find an agent, I'm sending this one a bottle of wine! I've already sent a thank you note!

Obviously agents are flooded with queries, and there is no way they could read, digest, and critique each one. But wouldn't one sentence, one suggestion, be nice? We can only hope. And be thankful for those agents who do reject with both kindness and suggestions.

So what has your experience with rejection been like?  Has an agent given you that extra nudge you needed? Or simply doused your hopes in cold water? 

Remember, rejection is not fatal!

10 October, 2013

Fiction Friday: Teaching an Old Writer New Tricks w/ Scrivener

The last round of revisions are finished and querying has begun, so now's the time to start writing the NEXT mystery. Want to make sure it's ready when I sign that elusive three-book deal. LOL.

Like many Guppies and other writers, I've made the transition to Scrivener.  After taking Gwen Hernandez's class last year, I decided I was ready.  I imported my first draft into Scrivener, broke it up into chapters and scenes, and just went for it.  I loved writing in Scrivener, but I was only using a fraction of the program's features.

Now, with a blank slate to work from, I'm determined to take advantage of Scrivener's power. I'll be posting blogs, at irregular intervals, chronicling my successes and failures.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a Scrivener expert and what works for me may not work for you. . . or anyone else.

By the time I'd completed the final draft of my manuscript I had the basis for a template for the proposed series. That includes folders of potential plots, weapons and poisons, red herrings and twists, as well as complete character sketches, photos of my characters and links to useful sites.
This is what the template binder looks like:
To get started, I created made a copy of my project, deleted all the text, emptied the trash, and then created a template.  From there, I simply started a new project based on the series template.  So far, so good.

In the world of plotters and pantsers, I'm a hybrid.  I like a very loose outline from which I can ad lib.  Scrivener has everything I need for this.  Based on a handout from Gwen's class, I started modifying Scrivener to suit my personal plotting and writing style.

My mysteries have a primary plot, one or two secondary plots, and an on-going romantic plot.
I'm using labels to keep track of the various plots.

This will allow me to see, at a glance in the Binder, whih files relate to which plot, as shown below.

I'm using the labels to show me where within the plot the scene falls.  So far I'm using crisis, red herring, and clue as labels.

This allows me to use keywords for several purposes, including the time line since I inevitably lose track of what day everything happens. I set my options to show the keywords down the side of my index cards. I'm sure I'll be adding additional keywords as I go along.

So here's the beginning of my plot in the Corkboard:

Come back to visit next week to see how I tweak my settings! And leave me any helpful hints you've picked up along the way.