Monthly Archives: July 2009

First Published Review!

My first published review of fiction is up at Thiszine. It’s a review of Hannah Berry’s graphic novel BRITTEN AND BRULIGHTLY. Go here for the full review.

RHDavis

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Writing at home — a “real” job?

Is writing at home a real job? Maybe for Steven King. But is it a real job for aspiring authors who haven’t been published and aren’t seeing any money yet? Most authors (including me) think so, but there are always those who disagree, who see it as a lazy excuse to stay home.

The great write-at-home debate has finally been settled in the Yahoo universe.

This Yahoo news article officially classified “Writer/Editor” as number 9 in the top 10 legitimate stay-at-home jobs. Whatever you or I may think about Yahoo news’ idea of journalism, we must admit that it reflects the appetites and attitudes of pop culture. If Yahoo says it, most everyone is going to ingest it by the end of the day.

So those of us who write full-time at home, let’s raise our fists high and claim the respect we deserve as hard workers!

RHDavis

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Encouragement

With everything we authors have to keep in mind (the ins-and-outs of writing, the ins-and-outs of publishing, the habits, the marketing, etc.) we often forget one important item: positive feedback!

I got positive feedback on FLYNN today. We’re talking the kind of feedback where my reader stayed up late because she couldn’t stop reading, and can’t imagine that FLYNN won’t get published.

After all my hard work this spring and summer, finishing the third draft and preparing to query, I think I deserved a moment of basking in encouragement. We really do need it. We can’t just give and give and give to the writing machine without ever getting anything back.

My courage redoubled, I’m going back to work on my synopsis tomorrow so I can start querying!

RHDavis

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Query Letter Guidelines

What does a good query letter look like? Well, that depends on who you ask. Frustrating as it is, different sources will give you different query letter guidelines. I know this because I’m in the process of querying for FLYNN, and have read two books and several web sites on the subject.

Here are the guidelines which seem to be consistent. A query should: give a concise description of the work; have a hook; make the agent want to keep reading; look and sound professional; be error free.

Beyond those bare basics, I’m afraid it gets confusing. No two sources give the exact same advice. Some say to give a general overview of the story; some say to give only a paragraph-long taste of it. Some say to include a paragraph about your writing credentials; some say to keep it to one sentence. Some say to only talk about your book, while some say to mention your bio and your genre’s market.

So which source do you listen to? When crafting that all-important query, whose guidelines do you follow?

The answer is actually very easy. Follow the guidelines of the particular agent you’re submitting to.

Yup. Different agents want different things in a query, so even if you were to find the “standard” query guideline in some magical book, you’d still have to change each individual letter you sent to fit that agent’s criteria. Most agents have query letter preferences somewhere on their web site, so do your homework.

Does this mean writing a new letter for each agent? No. Your hook will stay the same, and your book’s summary will probably stay the same for most agents. Some may request a short summary of only one paragraph, and for those you might write a whole new letter. But most of their special requirements will only pertain to how much you write about yourself, and whether or not they want you to address how your book fits into the market (most agents don’t look for that in the query letter, but some do).

So look at all those “writing a good query” books and get advice from them, but in the end, craft the final draft according to the individual’s preference.

For sources of general query advice (remember, these are books, not stone tablets with eternal commands), check out:

YOUR NOVEL PROPOSAL: FROM CREATION TO CONTRACT by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook

 YOUR FIRST NOVEL by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb

RHDavis

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And the winner is…….

Thanks to everyone who voted for my query letter hook! The winner is a hybrid combination of sentences 2 and 4, with a hint of 3.

“Sixteen-year-old Flynn thinks learning about her dead parents is a dream come true—until she’s asked to live up to their legacy by leading the army to war.”

I appreciated that you guys took time to actually analyze why you liked or didn’t like each sentence. Many of you will be pleased to see that the telepathic sorcerers no longer make a cameo in this sentence. 🙂   It’s for the best–as one of my readers said, it over-simplifies who the bad guys actually are, and makes the reader think that fighting those bad guys is the book’s primary source of conflict (they are the occasion  for inner conflict, which is the primary conflict).

Anyway, again, thanks for the votes. Please join me this week as I discuss my experiences agent-hunting and query-writing on this blog.

RHDavis

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Best Query Letter Hook

Every novelist faces the dreaded query letter eventually–that unsolicited piece of mail meant to convince an agent that you, a complete stranger, have something worth their time to read. This summer it’s my turn to craft one, and I need all of your help (it’ll only take a second, I promise).

Below, I’ve listed four possible opening lines, or hooks, to start my query letter with. A good hook is essential to a successful query letter, so I want to know which of these hooks is the most interesting to you as an objective reader. All this weekend, you can post a comment voting for your favorite of the hooks (or if you like different elements of two or three of them, mention that too! I’m not opposed to making hybrid hooks from these originals).

Before we begin, let’s review the goals of a good hook; it catches your interest so you want to read on, and it presents the unique angle of your book. In other words, does it make FLYNN sound interesting, and does it make you think that this is going to be a neat story as opposed to a cookie-cutter fantasy?

Here, in no particular order, are the four candidates:

1. As an orphan, Flynn’s greatest wish is to learn about her heritage—she never thought that would mean leading an army against telepathic sorcerers at age sixteen.

2. Sixteen-year-old Flynn thought that learning about her real parents would be a dream come true, but now she has to live up to their legacy by leading the army against telepathic sorcerers.

3. Sixteen-year-old Flynn is excited to learn that her late parents were war heroes, until she’s asked to live up to their legacy and lead the army against a race of telepathic sorcerers.

4. Sixteen-year-old Flynn is excited to learn that the parents she can’t remember were great military heroes—until she’s asked to lead the kingdom to war in their place.

The polls close Sunday night, and Monday I will announce the winner. Also, stay tuned for possible postings of FLYNN excerpts in the near future!

RHDavis

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Female graphic novelists

I’m having a heck of a time finding published female graphic novelists! I’ve been asked by two different sites to submit reviews of graphic works by women. Both sites are female-centric groups who recognize the sad truth: there aren’t enough women in the comics industry!

Think about it. How many of your Sunday paper comics are written by women? How many by men? Go into any Borders, go the Manga/Graphic Novel section and try to find an American or European graphic novel that is written or drawn by a female. I did this the other day. I found two. Two out of an entire front-and-back shelf of graphic novels (I didn’t check the Marvel stuff, though).

I found Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry and Robot Dreams by Sarah Varon. There’s a graphic novel called Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi that I am just dying to read–it was listed in Newsweek a few weeks ago as one of the top 50 books to read to “understand our times,” whatever that means. I think it just means Persepolis is a really good book.

Looks like me and my graphic novel are among the pioneers. All you drawing ladies out there, let’s get to work and break into the public sphere!

But enough of that. I’ve been absent from this blog for awhile, because of business and laziness. I’ve been working on ideas for my web site, reading, and working on critiques of the two female graphic novelists I found. I’ve been trying to keep house, which isn’t working so well, and I joined a new group of ladies for Tuesday night Bible study. Oh yeah, and I was in an amateur music video for a Rock Band competition. More details on that to follow.

Today is going to be work, followed by going to the pharmacy, followed by going to the vet (my little rat Krycek is sick), followed by going to the hometown to see friends. Maybe eating and exercising in there somewhere.

RHDavis

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