Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How To Win #NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is coming, and those of us crazy enough to participate during such a hectic time of year have a few secrets for getting that novel done. Want in on my big secret? Here you go:

Anyone can push out words, vomiting them onto the page in often a non-sequential mess that is far more painful to edit than it ever was to write. But there is a way around that, a way that will not make you dread editing that mass of words you pushed out in only one month. This tip will help you so much that you may find yourself able to write more than the 50,000 most NaNo writers strive for. It is simple and will make many cringe, but for those serious about winning NaNo, it will work.


Yes really, and no it isn't cheating. Outlining your NaNo novel will help keep you focused and on track, which will make editing that novel a breeze. You don't have to crush your creativity to do it, either. Write a rough outline, one that addresses character arcs, the overall story arc, and pacing (action chapters vs. inaction). By rough, I mean, you don't have to feel married to it. Use it as a guide to combat writer's block, to give you direction, then allow your muse to flow. If your muse moves away from the outline, let it! Just make sure you accomplish the arcs you want to accomplish and you're golden.

Why does outlining work? Because it reveals plot holes and inconsistencies that are very hard to fix in the editing process. If you use this tip, you'll find you are able to edit that manuscript in the same~and often less~time than it took you to write it. Which means, you just might be able to submit that novel before the end of the year. But, never, ever, submit a novel that hasn't been thoroughly edited by yourself! Good luck to all NaNo participants and have fun!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Anatomy of a Query Letter

The perfect pitch is just as important as the perfect first sentence, paragraph, or chapter. Without the right pitch, your manuscript could sail off into the outfield despite how brilliant it might be. Effectively communicating what your book is about, and why it's brilliant, is the key to getting an agent or editor interested enough to read beyond the query, or ask for pages after the pitch session.

In a query letter (to me in particular), you should start with a sentence that says the genre, word length, and why the manuscript is right for that agent/editor (this second part shows you did your research on them and helps personalize it). Some like to put this at the end but I like to see it right off the bat.  The next part is the one-sentence hook. This is basically a summary of your book in one sentence. This does not mean you need to cram it all into a long run on sentence, the opposite in fact. It needs to be under 50 words or so (Twitter length is a good rule of thumb), highlight what is most interesting about your novel, and make them want more.

Following that are two to three short paragraphs highlighting the remaining elements in your novel that are interesting/important. Please remember, this isn't a grocery list, make it flow and read interesting. Think of the voice of your book and try to capture that a bit when you write this part. The elements that must be present are the main conflict, stakes, and resolution (what they must do) of the novel.

Sum it up with a short paragraph of relative information about yourself including social media links, a bit about how you've prepared your platform (social media following, newsletter subscribers, street team, etc.) and give multiple ways to contact you. Now comes the study in patience because responses can take a while.

Monday, October 5, 2015

What Genre Is Your Book?

Sounds like an easy question, until you start realizing how many elements are in your book. It may be science fiction, but it may have romance, air pirates, and zombies. What would you call it, horror, sci-fi, romance, or steampunk? There are many things to consider. 

First and foremost is, what is the heart of the story? Or rather, what is the strongest element in the book, the driving force. Is it the love story? The mystery? The adventure? Or is the main theme a fantasy world, futuristic, apocalyptic?  That will help you determine the main genre. Also, think of where you might find it on the shelf in a bookstore. What are some comparable books? Where are they shelved? If you aren't sure, think about the type of readers that your book will attract. What do you like most about your book? The romance, the intricate fantasy world, forward thinking machines, adventure? These elements are found in books that are shelved in certain genre sections. That will help give you an idea of where to start. 

Don't worry about all the crazy sub genres you hear about out there. They are enough to leave you reeling in confusion. Find the heart of your book and you will have found the genre. And find it you must, for if you do not know the heart of your book, how can anyone else?