Pitch Epiphany

Thursday, August 17th, 2017 12:24 pm
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
In my efforts to get back in the query trenches, I'm looking at an agent who has a long and unnecessarily-detailed (yet oddly appealing) submission form. One of the several things she wants, in addition to query and synopsis, is a one-line pitch.

Now, I've never had a good short pitch for Highway of Mirrors. The plot is highly dependent on a lot of character and backstory stuff, and it doesn't reduce down to a sound-bite in a coherent and appealing way. It would be much easier if I was pitching ...And The Kitchen Sink, which I've been known to describe as "a rollicking space-opera adventure filled with everything from ninjas to grues to a cyborg platypus." I'm fond of that pitch; it gives you a good idea right up front of what kind of book you're looking at, and if you want more details, you can always ask.

And then it hit me: That pitch for Kitchen Sink says nothing whatsoever about the plot. You can infer a little about the sort of plot from "space-opera adventure", but who does what where to whom? That's for the follow-up discussion, which is what a short pitch is supposed to encourage. And that's okay, because Kitchen Sink is not a plot-driven book. If you enjoy it, you'll enjoy it for the characters and the settings and the jokes about plural nouns. The plot holds up reasonably well, but it's primarily there as a framework to hang all the other stuff on.

And the same goes for Highway of Mirrors. Okay, not the grammar jokes. But it is not a plot-driven book either; what it's really about is the characters, their interactions, and the MC's ethical dilemma. But popular wisdom declares that you have to talk about the PLOT!!!, so every attempt I've made at a short pitch for HoM has been an attempt to summarize the plot in one sentence -- and not only does that tend to come across as confusing and/or stupid, it does nothing to tell you what makes the book worth reading.

So what do I think the point of HoM is? How about: "A spy on the run from her own agency has to compromise her ethics, her marriage, and even her daughter -- to protect her daughter." That could use a little fine-tuning, but it's much closer to why I care about this story in the first place than anything else I've tried. And if you're the right reader for this book, it might just be why you care about it, too.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
original short stories = 62
Green Ring = 2720
Falling From Ground = 2901

Total new words in September = 5683

Oh, nice! I really wasn't sure what I was going to have to show for this month. Turns out there was more nice, steady plodding than I'd realized.

Green Ring and FFG are definitely good counterpoints to have going in tandem, allowing me to switch moods when I need to.

Queries sent = 3 (plus two researched & crossed off)

Not bad! I am, if not getting back on the wagon, at least trotting along in its wheel-ruts, thanks to a little light butt-kicking from assorted quarters.

Short stories submitted = 2

For the trifecta!


Goals: More of the same. Get the other stories that are ready for it out there somewhere. Keep on with the writing.

For querying, I would really like to get through the entire list of possibles (AAR trawl + misc. bookmarks) by the end of this year. That will require a rather higher rate than I've yet done, but with that goal in mind, it seems like it should be feasible. Even if it will then leave me with a quandary for the new year. But that's next year's trouble.

Onward.


Edited because the post that gets posted in October isn't October's word count as this originally said, it's September's. I knew there was something about this one that was bugging me; I'm just embarrassed it took me until nearly November to figure out what.

August Word Count

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 03:04 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I almost don't want to look....

Falling From Ground = 2458
original short fiction = 660
Total new words in August = 3118

Hey, whattaya know! Soft target achieved after all. Pretty good; and with the obstreperous plotlines, computer problems, and other obstactles, actually very good indeed!

No short stories sent out, which is only mostly my fault: the market which I was holding one for has failed to reopen for submissions as anticipated.

There will be progress on querying in September; I have already sent a nudge.

I'm not setting goals otherwise, because the wordcount-pressure has been causing me problems more than it's been helping. There will just be words. Also queries and submissions. Onward.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
This is just here for the record; not much to show for the past couple months.

April:

Haley novel = 38 (I managed to work in a line I really liked and hadn't previously been able to find a place for.)
original short stories = 15
Total new words in April = 53

Queries sent = 1

Looking back at goals, I did get my taxes done. And the flu is gone, though there is a trace of a lingering cough that I'll be very glad to see the back of.


May:

Falling From Ground = 40
original short stories = 184 (incl. more clown history!)
Total new words in May = 224

There were also a couple quick edits on ...And The Kitchen Sink that didn't actually change the word count.

Short stories submitted = 2


What can I say? I've rather had my mind on other matters lately.


I'm not setting targets for June, either; still getting my feet under me from real-life matters. I've an unaccustomed amount of critiquing to do; got the stuff for the library group done just in time, and now there's the 4th Street workshop coming up. I have been fiddling with some living-room fanfic lately, which is a nice low-demand way to ease back into writing. And I poked at Green Ring a little the other night.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat as necessary.

March Word Count

Friday, April 10th, 2015 04:28 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Getting a meaningful total for March is complicated. The first thing I did that month was scrap Chapter 2 of Falling From Ground in its entirety, which put me down -4567 words right from the get-go. Despite some fairly Herculean outputs here and there, that would give me a net total of 1361 words -- which seems a poor reward for a hard decision that really did need to be made and that will make the book sooo much better.

So instead, I'm going to reset to zero after that point, and just look at new production.

Green Ring: 1382
Falling From Ground: 1013
The Kitten Case: 3533

Total new words in March: 5928

That sounds better than it was; a graphical representation of my output would look like an inverted Bell curve. And The Kitten Case is definitely anomalous data: I attempted a NaNo-style ass-kicking and produced a for-me impressive 3500 words in seven days (six, really, there was a day off in there), but I'm not sure I'm happy with any of it. It may end up going the way of FFG's second chapter, and for much the same reason: For all that I'm a fan of wordcount as a metric, pushing for wordcount when the story's not there just leaves a mess to be cleaned up before the real writing can be done.

Still, it's good to know I can push out that kind of wordcount if I set my mind to it. And while I'm sick, to boot. In fact, all of March's stats get the "while I'm sick" bonus, because while the ugly-cousin flu moved in right at the beginning of April, I wasn't exactly feeling spry and healthy for any of the month leading up to it.


Querying: Queried 2 agents, researched and decided against 4. Mostly from the AAR database trawl.


Submitted 1 story.



There are no goals for April, other than to get my taxes done and to shake this rotten flu.

Green Ring: 565
A Cold Day In Spells: 1410
Falling From Ground: 1
old-mission stories: 2428
Haley mission story: 1

Total new words in February: 4405

Well over quota (3000 words), though I could wish it wasn't so dependent on the old-mission stories. They're feeling more and more like fanfic for my own stuff, and fanfic doesn't count for quota purposes. (Also, that number includes the two four-digits bursts, and while those are great, the purpose of the quota is to encourage steady work, which I definitely did not do.)

Still, it's words, which is good.

The one word of beta-editing on FFG doesn't really qualify as "some of it had better be on the Mars novel", but I have been poking at it a bit, and I've at least devised a revision strategy that feels promising. Now I just need to apportion some time and concentration to put it to work.


Having said elsewhere that I wasn't going to manage the AAR database trawl, I promptly went and did it after all. It was discouraging at first to see how many names I recognized (and had therefore already tried), but there turned out to be a decent list of new prospects. And I did query 1 agent, albeit not one from that list.

Submitted 2 stories. Doing fairly well at keeping things out there. I've got two that are "resting" right now, one of which I'm running out of places to send; I may just hang onto it until the market I should have sent it to last year opens up again in a few months.

So, all told, quotas met, goals reasonably approximated. Not bad for a month when real life is so determinedly kicking me.


For March: I'm gonna say 3500 words, because I need to start getting the numbers back up but real life isn't going to let up any time soon. Get the Mars novel moving again, at least to the point of figuring out what Chapter 2 should look like and getting some new words done on it. Start researching/querying the agents from the AAR list. Keep putting stories out there until some editor comes to their senses and buys 'em.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Haley mission story: 1811
Green Ring: 1222
A Cold Day In Spells: 482

Total new words in January: 3515

Queries sent: 1 (and three ruled out)

All quotas achieved! And the revised target of 3000 words handily passed with a generous margin. Had to push a bit at the end of the month for that, but not ridiculously so. And the Haley story is done, and in the hands of the housemate for critique.

Also, I submitted 4 stories! Or rather, I submitted stories 4 times; some of them were the same stories. (That prompt-response thing has its drawbacks.) My goal of keeping all submittable stories out there is going pretty well; only one story is "resting" right now.


For February:

3000 words, at least some of which had better be on the Mars novel.

Extract agent lists from the AAR database.

Keep all short stories that are ready for it in circulation until somebody buys 'em.

Queryitis Recurs

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 02:57 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I tried to send a query yesterday, I really did. Of the five agents left in my worth-considering bookmarks, the first two were both at agencies I'd previously decided against (one not a good fit for various reasons, the other... well, let's just say that's not an organization I want to work with). The individual agents themselves may be fine, but, just no.

The third, it turned out I'd already queried. (Sigh, brains. I have a system, I just didn't quite finish using it.) And the fourth, the agency had a lot of small marks against it, culminating in a blanket "no sci-fi" policy that just rubbed me the wrong way. Sigh. At that point, I decided I'd better just go to bed, and give the last one a fair shake tomorrow.

Now it's tomorrow, and luckily, the last one looks okay. So, query sent!

And the bookmark list is empty. I may have to schedule that date with the AAR database again.

Send Chocolate

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 03:14 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Hey, want to really depress the crap out of yourself? Decide it's time to clean out your email account, and copy & save a bunch of your old query efforts. With accompanying responses, of course.

I'm going to go take a nice, hot shower now.

December Word Count

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 04:23 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Quotas went right out the window during the kitten crisis, and that's okay. So this is here just for the record, and not for anything more than that.

Green Ring = 657
Haley mission story* = 700
Total new words in December = 1357

Queries sent: 2

Which is not bad at all for a week, which was about how much month there was before matters feline pushed everything else aside.


January's goal is to get back in the saddle again, which so far is coming along acceptably. I've written, not huge amounts, but several times. And I've sent out a story. Soft targets for the month are 5000 3000 words, and at least one query.


* Last worked on... a year and a half ago? Apparently.

lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
One agent crossed off, one agent queried. On schedule so far.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Adrian Blissfield = 204
Falling From Ground = 802
Green Ring = 4398
Total new words in November = 5404

...about a third of which was in the last three days, which is not the way it's supposed to work. But it's still words, so, win.

And what, you might ask, is Adrian Blissfield? Well, I came up with a new series idea on the DC trip. It's a short-story series, which if it goes well will make a nice concurrent project alongside the novels. AB is a spy, in the flashier James-Bond mold; the series focuses on his long-suffering support team, who do most of the actual work. ;-)


Queries: Sent 1, crossed off two agents as not being good fits, sent 1, crossed off 1, sent 1. (Total: 3 sent, 3 crossed off.) Not exactly on the 7th-day schedule (more like the 6th, the 24th, the 29th, and, um, today (which I'm giving a one-day grace period, because it came down to getting either the words or the queries by deadline, and the words have to come first)), but they got done, so there.


All quotas met.


For December, more of the same: 5000 words, query (or two cross-offs) every 7 days.

lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
old-mission stories = 1296
Falling From Ground = 466
The Green Ring = 2689
Total new words in October = 4451

Okay, now I feel really bad that I didn't make myself write on the 31st. I wasn't that tired, but it had been one of those days where you'd wish you hadn't gotten out of bed, except even bed wasn't working out right. (I'd had such good plans....)

Oh well.

Shortfall is entirely due to not sitting down and doing it regularly; output was generally quite high on the days I did write. There just weren't very many of those. Which I can't blame on the trip, since that only ate four days; I can blame a little bit of it on the surprise house repair which has been leaving me tired, sore, and cranky for much of the month. But still, I could have made a little more time for writing. And had better do so, going forward.


Query stats: Queried three, crossed off three. Quota met.


For November: 5000 words; query one/cross off two every seven days. And get the bloody house put back together so I can concentrate.
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
So far this month, I've crossed off one agent, queried one, crossed off two more, and I just snail-queried another two. That's quota for the month! So any additional queries I may manage to do are gravy.
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
Been meaning to post this for days, but fell down the rabbit-hole... including two days spent trying to name a character. Which pretty well describes how the de-bracketing on Chapter 1 is going. ;-P

Falling From Ground = 6149
original short fiction = 96
Total new words in August = 6245

Now that's more like it! Having broken through several blocks on the new novel, I was finally able to get the first chapter going. I'm not at all sure it's right; it may need significantly more revision than my first chapters usually do, but at least it's there. Must get it to my alpha-reader, so she can tell me what I've done.

And a lot of that word-count is because, as threatened, I jumped ahead and wrote the scene that was clear in my head, henceforth to be referred to as Chapter N until I figure out where in the sequence it fits. There's lots of material there to work with going forward. Not so much working backward; it'll be interesting to see if the preceding chapters catch up before it gets carried away.


Worthy of note: Rewrote the Highway of Mirrors synopsis to fit on one page!

Queries sent: 2, including the one that required the dread synopsis re-writing above. Also crossed... one?... agent off the list.


Also: Solicited feedback on various short stories from several people, none of whom were obligated to do it. They said yes anyway! The one who's gotten back to me so far has presented a cat's-cradle of confusion that I'm still not sure what to do about, but at least I'm collecting more data to work with.


Next up:

I need to find some more sources for Financial Wizardry. Among other things, it would be nice to have an alternate thing to work on during the de-bracketing/waiting-for-feedback lulls. Anybody know a financial planner / money manager who'd love to talk about his average day?

Keep querying.

And whatever they're on, 5000 words.

Go.

Synopsize that!

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 05:00 pm
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
After much fiddling and crossing things out and rewriting bits wholesale and tweaking other bits for one or two words here and there, I have finally produced a one-page synopsis of Highway of Mirrors! Okay, it's one page with a few formatting tricks (high school essay writing finally has a real-world application!), but it does in fact actually fit onto a single piece of paper without doing anything insane to it. The e-version, sans formatting and with blank lines instead of indents for paragraphs, comes out closer to a page and a half, but the people who want hard copy will get a single page and if the people who want plain-text email take the trouble to convert it to hard copy just to complain if it's over a page, they're probably not people I want to work with anyway. :-P

In the process, I think it got better; while I had to slaughter vast tracts of emotional content, I'm not sure it was working out of context anyway. And I found and fixed a couple of ambiguities that could have been confusing for someone who hasn't read the novel.

And as of today, a copy is on a slow boat to the UK, along with three chapters and a query that's also getting progressively difficult to keep to one page, hopefully to wow that agent that prompted yet another fit of synopsolizationing.

Now, how many other agents have I had on hold pending a one-page synopsis? Let me check my notes....

Oh, *bleep*

Friday, August 8th, 2014 02:24 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Once, just once, I would like to dive back into querying and not get brick-walled by some piece of documentation I don't have.

A one-page synopsis. How the *bleep* am I supposed to distill a novel's worth of grey-shades backstory and complex characterization down to one page, and still have it make any sense?

May Word Count / Goals

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 11:22 am
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
And, with 4162 new words in the month of May, the Haley novel is done!

That's "done", of course. It's a novel, after all.

Technically, the writing was done by the end of the month, but the de-bracketing got done the next day. However, I'm giving myself a one-day grace period on account of getting the edit letter on my first ever professional sale OMG at the same time I was trying to wrap up the novel. And there's still the beta-review to be done, and whatever revisions come out of that.

But it's a kind of done, and I'll take it.

(My unstated goal was actually to finish before MediaWest. That didn't happen. Neither did finishing during MediaWest. And I'd meant "done" to mean done with the beta-revisions, too. But given how hard the last couple of chapters, and especially the last two scenes, were fighting me, I'm delighted to be any kind of done at all.)

It feels very weird, and immensely freeing, to be done with this thing. I've had "must finish book" repeating in my head for months now, to the point that I wasn't sleeping well toward the end because of it. And it's been nearly four years, start to for-now-finish, that this story's been on my plate (though I did, to be fair, take half a year off to write ...And The Kitchen Sink). It's been through one complete plot change and another significant alteration, and more stuck bits than I can rightly count. And now it's "done". There's still the beta-revisions on the last chapter, and then it's going to be drawered for a bit and we'll see what comes out of that, but it feels like an enormous weight is finally off my shoulders.

Oh, and it's tentatively titled Truth From Lies, unless I decide otherwise.


And now? I'm taking some time off. I'll write some short stories, maybe even some fanfic, but for the next month or two I'm not undertaking any large projects. I also need to do some hard-core querying on Highway of Mirrors; I still have that date with the AAR database that I've been putting off to concentrate on Haley. Falling From Ground and Financial Wizardry are still waiting in the wings, but I want some down time before I tackle figuring out another set of novel-sized issues.
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
old-mission stories: 59
original short fiction: 7
Haley novel: 7721
Total new words in March: 7787

Queries sent: 4

Quotas achieved! And then some, on the writing. The novel has reached that endgame portion where I have a constant refrain of "must finish book, must finish book" running in the back of my head. Which is not as helpful as you might think, since instead of useful words bubbling up in my brain I get "must finish book", but it does keep one focused. Word-count achieved by nice steady plodding; there were a couple of minor pushes in there, but nothing remarkable.

Querying wasn't quite on the seven-day schedule (on the 7th, 15th, 22nd, and 31st, to be precise), but it got done, and that's what counts.

I also sent 3 stories off during March, which gives me a total of 4 in various slush piles right now.


For April, another 5000 words. Which should get me pretty darned close to done; I'm on what I think is the penultimate chapter right now, though my ability to predict these things is known to be shaky.

The query-every-seven-days thing has been working well for me -- so well that I've used up my list of potential agents! So I'm taking a break from the seven-days routine; instead, April's query-related goal is to go through the AAR database by genre, and make a new list.

Onward.

lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Historically, February has been a bad month for me.

old-mission stories: 86
Haley novel: 6496
Total new words in February: 6582

Queries sent: 5 (and I've lost count of how many potentials researched & crossed off)

Take that, February slump!


Also sent off another short story, and signed the contract (happy dance!) for my first short-story sale.


I shifted the inertia on the Haley novel, and it's been sputtering along decently since. I kind of feel like I've been burning the writing candle in the middle with a blowtorch, but also that it's been going in fits and starts, so I did a little analysis. Turns out that both are sort of right. I wrote on 15 days for a total of 18 sessions (a few two-session days in there), with an average of ~361 words per session. Which is about average for me; the only oddity may be that the days were clumped together a bit more than usual.

Part of all that, I'll admit, was a drive to not have my word-count suck this February, which, hey, hail to that. Part of it was that, having moved the big end-of-book reveal to the middle-third and decided to use that plot twist that I'd set aside & wasn't sure about, my characters now have something to do, which always helps make the words come tumbling out. Opposite that was the fact that I kept writing headlong and getting distracted by clever, exciting plot things, and forgetting to put in the important character thing, which then didn't fit even though I'd started the scene specifically for it. I finally recognized that I needed to step back and let the latest scene percolate for a bit. It's still sludging around in my head, and may not ever be what I originally envisioned it to be, but I should be able to make it work.

I think it's an important development for a writer to learn to recognize the difference between slacking off and needing to let the back-brain chew on something for a bit.


But now, onward to March. Another 5000 words and a query every seven days. Forward momentum, and forward is thataway.

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