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Querying Triage

Posted by Rachel on February 21, 2019 in agent, characters, editing, inspiration, plot, practice, query, writing tips |

Thinking about querying can be overwhelming and a bit nauseating to boot. Mostly there’s just so many questions. So little feedback. So much lost sleep!

Instead of thinking about querying as it’s own unique situation that doesn’t happen the same way in other industries, think of it like a job search. Yes! It’s another overwhelming and slightly nauseating situation with a lot of helpful parallels that might just allow you to figure out what needs adjusting in your process as to finally “get the job”.

Query – Resume

When you send the query out, it’s similar to a resume you may send employers hoping to catch their interest about your skills. The query functions much in the same! It captures an agent’s attention and provides some promise about your ability and story.

If your query is not catching attention, treat it as if your resume isn’t getting bites either. Consider these changes:

  • Adjust who you’re sending it to. Perhaps there are agents better suited for the type of stories you write
  • Be more specific. It could be that the teaser information you provided wasn’t making your concept clear enough.
  • Show your skills by identifying comp titles or thinking outside the box.

Partial Request – Phone Interview

Great work! You caught their eye! This means you’re getting a chance to show your stuff for real. However, if you didn’t get an upgrade to the full manuscript, there was likely something about the pages that turned them off. Look for:

  • Pacing issues. This may make the events of your story feel disjointed.
  • A lack of emotion. Whether on the page or from the characters, missing this crucial element can makes it hard to connect to them.
  • Unclear stakes. Without tension, it can muddy up the reason your character is trying to achieve their goal. Do they even have a goal?

Full Request – The Interview

Whether this is an upgrade from the partial, or a direct result of the query, getting here is a great sign! But when you don’t secure that final “yes” take a review of your story:

  • Look for common reasons the answer was no
  • Was the manuscript fully polished and ready to submit? We’ve all sent things too early sometimes.
  • If the answer is no the previous possibilities, then maybe the reason is the proverbial “not a good fit”.

Along the way, there are different approaches to take that can help better your story in the event there has been a struggle reaching the next stage. Maybe try new betas, new CPs, reading more in your genre, or even letting the idea sit for a while before editing again. And ultimately, if it just wasn’t a good fit, locate some new agents you respect, trust, and admire and send more queries!

It only takes one “yes”!

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2018 Fall TV Round-Up

Posted by Rachel on November 5, 2018 in characters, current event, discovery, opening, plot, romance |

It’s a new season, and I have seen new shows!!

Before I begin, I should note the lack of sitcoms. I usually get invested in at least a few, but this season, none of the new crop caught my eye. However, if you’re looking for ones not to miss, head over to NBC. The Good Place and Brooklyn 99 are back and better than ever!

In the drama department, there’s several notable stories I’ve been watching and the reviews are in:

 

Manifest: This story is from the producers of LOST, so I had to give it a chance. The concept itself caught my attention: a plane (again) fails to return during its scheduled flight, but appears five years later and the passengers are none the wiser of their mysterious journey through time. Cool! In execution, however, it struggles a bit. The cast is great, despite most of them being newbie actors, and their stories are interesting, but the mystery to me seems fairly quickly solved. They must have gone through a wormhole. This trip somehow gave them all special abilities, which is fascinating for sure, but is it enough to keep me watching? Perhaps for the short-term, but I’m not convinced about this show’s longevity.

 

Maniac: A limit series on Netflix that you’ll have to act quick on before it gets replaced by the next new original. However, it’s a really clever look at trauma and how people process their struggles. Jonah Hill is easily outshined by Emma Stone in the acting department, but as a fan of Superbad, it is really great to see them back on screen together. The various hijinks they get up to throughout the show is really thought-provoking as well. Careful though, there is a fair bit of gore in this one. The show does fail in the fact that it’s portrayal of mental illnesses leaves much to be desired, but if you’re interesting in a campy, silly, yet Black Mirror-esque tale, you should check it out.

 

Charmed: I am biased to start as this show was one of my favorites growing up. It’s been reborn into a new iteration with a new set of sisters, a new white-lighter, and more modern problems, but it holds onto the soul of the original with great care. Honestly, this version makes me even happier than the old one! The family is not white! Which is awesome! And the new “lead” sister is gay! EEP! Not hidden whatsoever. They aren’t shying away from their progressive beliefs and that is wonderful to see. The girls powers are familiar, but have a fun new spin and I cannot wait to see where this show goes!

 

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Speaking of witches, here is Netflix’s take on the common Halloweeny theme. This is a more true-to-the-comic version of the old TV show which allows this show to delve into much darker territory than the Sabrina most people grew up with. This Sabrina is crafty, sweet, but not afraid to do the dirty work. The show comes off as a bit of a first draft writing-wise, and lacks any evident sensitivity viewing of it’s many problematic themes (warning: homophobia, transphobia, racism, and sexism all flying under the guise of “wokeness”). It’s an entertaining show that has many flaws, but has set itself up for a likely second season after large viewership and obvious (and catchy) cliffhangers.

 

American Vandal 2: I reviewed this last year for the original season and absolutely loved it! The second season gets off to a less interesting, slower start, but as we get to revisit old friends, and learn about new scandals (Who Is the Turd Burglar?), it’s certainly a teen drama worth the watch. The ending easily surpasses the intrigue of the original. Sadly, Netflix cancelled this show and it will not return for what would’ve been another great seaso

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Choose Your Own Adventure: Part 1

Posted by Rachel on May 14, 2018 in action, characters, discovery, practice, writer's sketch |

Unlike other flowers, this one must be grown in the dark. It needs water every now and then like most plant-life, and seems to perk up when you play it the guitar, but what gets it to glow it’s soft, sun-bright yellow color are the secrets it feeds on.

The delicate beauty was a gift from your grandmother as a seed. A golden pebble that once bestowed into a suitable pot in the dark began to grow only once you accidentally revealed the first secret to it: you had loathed your grandmother for leaving you nothing but a worthless seed. However, after it’s true purpose came to light, like a waterfall the secrets poured from you with haste.

Now, you’ve told it all you can give to sustain the radiant elegance of its shimmer, but the light is growing dim. Perhaps you might think it’s time to let the rarity go and find another once-in-a-lifetime plant, but the secrets you tell this flower help it to produce a heart-shaped fruit that when consumed can cure any ailment.

People come to you from far and wide, placing their name on an ever-growing list to procure from you this precious fruit. As the names become longer, the flower dims. The biggest secret of them all is that no one knows it is these very secrets that grow the curious plant. Slowly, the patrons become agitated, visiting more regularly, begging for their life-saving fruit to be delivered, but you can’t. Supply cannot keep up with demand and you must find more secrets to feed the plant.

Moving the plant is not an option for travel exposes it to dangerous weather that may burn or snap it’s fragile stems. So those secrets must be deliver to it from the lips of their owner. And you cannot give away these precious truths so willingly.

Faced with a choice, you wonder how to obtain new secrets. Fearing the decisions that must be reached to promote more growth, you receive a knock on the door. It is no regular visitor, but your very best friend. Asking for their help is an option, but so is dragging them to the depths and forcing out their secrets.

What do you do?

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Shelved Stories

Posted by Rachel on February 25, 2018 in activity, agent, audience, characters, discovery, editing, musings, outline, plot, query, writing |

Today, I’m thinking about shelved stories.

Those lonely ideas you treasured once upon a time that are now stuck in a state of completion but are no longer relevant. Maybe they couldn’t make it when you queried, or couldn’t catch an eye on sub, perhaps they’re the stories your readers and writing friends thought needed too much work for you to continue. Whatever the reason, they’re stuck on the shelf, with no purpose…right?

Those old shelved ideas can be useful in a lot of ways!

Help You Grow:

The hours and effort you put into a story passion is never wasted and the amount of work that went into these shelved ideas is no different. Through the course of writing, I’m sure you found ways to develop your craft or tweak your writing process. Each story is a step in the right direction, so every shelved book helped you grow to where you are today.

Provide Text:

While the ideas and plot may be very different book to book, perhaps your old writing could be repurposed and bits could be used in a new novel. It might be a description worth a few words, the way you pulled a sentence together, or maybe even whole paragraphs. Those old words might be able to find a new home in your current project so it’s worth reviewing past text for hidden gems.

Learn From Mistakes:

If a concept didn’t come together, or didn’t sell the way you wanted, take the lessons learned from that experience to heart. I’ve found character issues, pacing problems, or even the way ideas intermix to be what held different stories back and I’ve kept that in mind for future books. So thank your shelved projects for lighting the way down a new and more polished path.

Reimagine Old Ideas:

For some of our shelved books, they will never see the light of day again. You know the one! But, maybe there’s an idea buried in its pages that could contribute to something new. Perhaps that lump of inspiration could be planted in a better garden and blossom into a shiny new concept. Take from those well-rested stories your best bits and give them a better platform, a new opportunity for success.

A Good Laugh: 

Let’s be honest, some of these shelved books that should stay hidden could be good for a laugh or two if you have the time. Reading old writing can be hard to get through, sure, but it can also highlight where you’ve come from and where you’re going, too!

A New Start

Maybe this story was the one that got away. The concept you always knew in your heart could make it but for whatever reason didn’t. After time away and new perspective, it could be the right time for a fresh beginning. Start with a blank page and write everything out from a new angle. Who knows what new shape it will take!

What other uses have you found from your shelved stories? Were they helpful? Share them here 🙂

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