Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Monday, October 25, 2010

On Writing Query Letters for Fiction

Everyone knows there are a myriad of things writers are expected to do these days that seem alien to our nature. Being able to market your book is essential and being able to write a query letter is the first order of business. Contemplating all these demands may make you feel annoyed, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Indignant. Where's that Get out of jail free card when you really need it?

Lately, I've been researching the dos and don'ts for writing a proper query for submitting a novel. It's not that I'm going to need it tomorrow. I still have a couple of chapters to finish and then I have to edit the entire novel. The reason for writing a query now is that I wanted to assess the road I've been travelling.

You can look at a query as a pain-in-the-butt--and it is, but there are some things to recommend doing one correctly. First and foremost, it helps you distill the essence of your endeavor. Things happen in the course of writing that you hadn't counted on. What you thought was the story may have subtly evolved into something more. Before you lay a query letter on an agent, lay it on yourself. Wrestle that beast to the ground by imprisoning it in the concise confines of a query. Resist the temptation to ramble, to grab for tired clichés, to ingratiate yourself with an agent. Check you ego at the door and park your ass in the chair. Who the hell are you and what have you written?

Focus on the three essential pieces of a fiction query: setup, hook, and a hint of resolution. Leave the details of stationery, how to address the agent, your credentials, and so on for later. Numerous websites address these issues. The real heart of the matter is the essence of what you've created. How do you distill that down into a shorthand of meaningful words? How do you breath life into your characters and convey the storyline without providing a blow-by-blow synopsis? Remember a query letter is supposed to be on a single page. No, you can't blow the margins out and use a 7-point font. So you're down to about one paragraph.

Here is the question. If you really, really care about what you have written can you spin it into a nugget of resplendent gold?  If you can't do this for yourself, you will never convince an agent of anything but your mediocrity.  There. I've just given myself a lecture. Now I need to go park my ass in a chair and, like the Rumplestiltskin story, spin all my straw into gold.

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