quest


An e-mail arrived in my inbox today with the subject line: “Your Submission: …”

Since I was at work at the time, I had an argument with myself.

“You can’t open that! You’re supposed to be working,” the me with the Midwestern work ethic said. (It’s the same me that never calls in sick because I don’t want to leave my coworkers in the lurch. I have something like 140 sick hours built up because never feel like I can take it.)

“Open it. It won’t take long — and it might be good news.”

“No, really. Good news or not, you can wait until you get home,” the angel me insisted.

My impatient side snorted. “Yeah, right.”

No need to guess which side won. I clicked on that e-mail faster than a hungry dog scarfs down its dinner. I’m not even sure I took time to carry on that conversation in my head before I opened it. (I should have!)

Unfortunately, the news was not good. Another rejection — the second on the partial MS for “Blind Date Bride” … well, the third. Two agents and one publisher have taken a pass.

I still have hope, though. At least it was an encouraging rejection, complete with a “hang in there and stick with it.”

The agent’s complaint? Worry that the voice isn’t unique enough to stand out in the market.

Now that’s a little worrisome, because I don’t have any other voice to write in. And confusing, because in the Beacon Contest judges’ comments, they loved my voice.

Then again, the judges’ comments are on “Beauty and the Ballplayer,” not “Blind Date Bride.” Maybe BDB still isn’t ready for prime time.

And maybe I just need to continue my agent search. Somewhere, out there, is the agent who will fall as in love with my story as I am. I just need to find her (or him).

Lucky for me, my friends at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood wrote a blog post about just that topic today: the agent hunt.

It’s funny how wildly my mood has swung. I was euphoric about my contest final two weeks ago, especially after reading the judges’ feedback. I had a feeling it was the start of something big. I imagined myself on the verge of signing with an agent, selling a novel or both.

Now, I’m down in the dumps, questioning my story … my voice … even my writing talent. Yes, even a “good” rejection stings. (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that.) 😉

I know rejection is a — huge — part of writing. We all get them. Even the bestselling authors got them at one time.

Even so, I can say it definitively: I don’t like the downslope of the writer’s roller coaster.

It’s time to make something good happen so I can crest another hill. 😉

 

Thanks to one of my NARWA sisters, I found another contest to enter … a chance to win a pitch with a Harlequin American editor. Since I’ve long envisioned “Operation Snag Mike Brad” as an American Romance, I decided to go for it.

I can’t say I always envisioned it in that line. When I first wrote it, I had the Love and Laughter or Silhouette Yours Truly lines in mind. But since those are both defunct (sadly, if you ask me), I switched to AR.

The entry requires a one-page synopsis — something I’m getting better at writing, I think — and a logline.

Having never heard of a logline before, I did a little poking around at eharlequin.com. Apparently it’s also known as a “concept line” and is designed to give the editor a broad picture of your story.

One way to write one is to start with a well-known storyline, then reveal the twist that makes your story stand out. You can also use a familiar book or movie as your starting point, so you come up with something like “Elle Woods meets the Terminator” or “Beauty & the Beast set in outer space.”

The advice is straightforward enough, but I’m finding myself confused. Maybe it’s just because my MS is a big, confused mess.

I hope not.

Anyway, here’s the logline I’ve come up with so far:

“Operation Snag Mike Brad” blends “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” and “Some Kind of Wonderful” — but in reverse.

In “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” you have a reporter working on a story and using outrageous advice to get dumped. (Erin is a reporter following a book’s outrageous advice to snag “the man of her dreams” while she’s chasing a big story that’ll get her out of small-town Indiana once and for all.)

In “Some Kind of Wonderful,” you have a guy who thinks he’s in love with one girl but ends up realizing he’s in love with his best friend. (Erin thinks she’s in love with Mike but ends up realizing he’s more like her best friend and she’s really in love with with Brad instead.)

So both flicks apply — at least loosely. The “reverse” part is the whole using the book to snag the guy (not lose him) and the fact that it’s the girl, not the guy doing the falling.

I’m still not wild about it. At least I have a few more days to play.

Again, I went to my NARWA meeting … and again I was inspired by a great speaker. Jennifer Ashley talked about how to finish that manuscript and get it published. And as usual, I had to come back to Flagstaff and head straight to work when I wanted to go home and write.

Agents and the business of writing were on the table, but the most important take-home point for me was this:

Treat writing like it’s your day job and it will become your day job.

It sounds like such a simple concept … yet I’ve been guilty of writing only when “I feel like it” or when I’m inspired.

What I need to do is get in the habit of writing every day, whether I feel like it or not.

Hmm. Now that I think about it, discipline is a big problem in other areas of my life, too. I’m trying to lose weight, but I don’t always stick to my Weight Watchers plan — I do it when I feel like it. (That’s probably why I’m having trouble taking off the last few, eh?) …  All too often, I feel like eating something I shouldn’t, like gooey, cheesy Italian or Mexican food.

But that’s another blog! 😀

Now, let’s get back to the subject at hand: writing. For the next week, I’m going to try something different. Every day, I’m going to spend at least an hour writing — preferably before I do anything else. (That includes hopping online, one of my biggest distractions. Darn that Bejeweled on Facebook! I pull up the screen to play one game and end up playing for an hour …)

I’m also going to finally finish my query letter for “Operation Snag Mike Brad” and start looking for the agent of my dreams. I got some great feedback from out chapter president and will be using it to polish up my query.

It’s time for me to make writing my day job.

I’ll be logging in nightly to report how many minutes I spent writing, so please keep checking in to keep me honest.

I’ve set “Blind Date Bride” aside for a couple of weeks, letting it rest before I start editing. But now I’m at a bit of a loss. What next?

I have other manuscripts I could be editing/rewriting/expanding, including the two that follow my GH entry. (It’s part of a three-book series, “The Women of Willow’s Grove.”) Both are at least 10,000 words too short for a  category romance, and they need other help.

There are also two unrelated stories — one set in Indiana, one in Arizona — that are both about one-third written. Started after I joined NARWA, they don’t need as much in the way of life support …

But what I think I really need to do is start looking for an agent. That means sending Brad and Erin’s story out into the big, bad world. And that, of course, will involve writing a query letter.

That’s where the title of this post comes in. Even though it’s short, I’ve come to the conclusion that a query letter is quite possibly the hardest piece of the puzzle to write. Yes, harder even than the dreaded synopsis.

Why? Your query has to catch an agent or editor’s attention, conveying the heart and soul of your story, along with its tone. Emphasizing your qualifications, if you have any, isn’t a bad idea, either.

And it all has to be done in a single page.

That’s a difficult — but not impossible — task. I think I’m up to the challenge. I’d better be, if I expect to ever see publication.

I spent some time this weekend looking through Debra Dixon’s infamous “Goal, Motivation and Conflict,” in case you couldn’t tell.

The goal, of course, is “what.” Motivation is the “why.” And conflict is the “why not.” Your character wants _______ because ______ but ________.

It seems so easy. Yet when I tried to put the principles to work in Brad & Erin’s story (my Golden Heart entry), it was short on both motivation and conflict.

Hmm. I’m back to that whole “polishing this thing for the GH is going to be more work than I thought” thing. It seems to be a recurring theme here.

I thought I was being smart by going with the already-finished manuscript instead of the one that still had 40,000 words to be completed. But by the time I fix it up, I’ll probably have done just as much work. I’m thinking I’ll have to take a week’s vacation right before the deadline to hole up somewhere and work on it. (Well, that’d be one way to burn one of the four weeks I get and have no idea what to do with — it’s not like I have the money to travel.)

Guess I’d better get to it. Poor Brad and Erin don’t have the  ability to fix themselves — and I’m not going to let my entry fee go to waste.

“Julie & Julia” inspired me to start a blog of my own. I’m sure I’m not the only one. How many people have rushed home after seeing that flick, eager to share their thoughts with the world — or at least the blogosphere?

Actually, this isn’t my only blog. I have a weight-loss blog at Blog to Lose, and I just branched out with a weight-loss blog here at WordPress.

But as I sat there, watching poor Julie struggle with a directionless life and a milestone birthday, I realized I’ve been stagnant myself.

I’ve known since second grade that I wanted to be a writer, you see. As I got older, I realized a writing career isn’t exactly practical. In my high-school-age wisdom, I decided to go into journalism because I could still make a living with my writing while I was trying to sell my first novel.

Well, I’ve been out of college for 15 years and … there’s still no novel of mine gracing the shelves. I’m pushing 40, and I’ve been muddling along as a journalist — making a living writing, yes, but not in the way I had in mind. I figured that by now, I’d have at least one novel sold. Best-case scenario, I was going to be the next Danielle Steele by 30.

Today, it hit me: Blogging has helped me lose weight, so why can’t it help me get published?

Between the support I get from Weight Watchers and my friends at Blog to Lose and SparkPeople, I’ve lost 60-ish pounds. (I have at least 15 more to go, but that’s another story.) If I spend as much time writing romance as I do with my weight-loss endeavors, I can’t fail!

So here we go … follow me on my quest to be published by 40. My first rule: No online time for the day until I’ve written at least two pages (or edited two chapters, depending on what I’m doing that week).