rhymes with schmeary schletter

Do you know how many ways there are to write a query letter? According to Google, approximately 2.16 million. Adding the word successful into your Google search bumps that number up to around 3 million. So, apparently, more people know how to write a successful query letter rather than just a query letter. Amazing, right?

For those of you who just read the words query letter and are subsequently staring blankly at this screen, perhaps with a little drool peeking out from the corner of your mouth, because you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, allow me to provide you some background. A query letter—as defined by good ole’ Merriam-Webster—is what you sell your soul to the devil for in order to obtain a literary agent and/or publishing deal. No, I kid. A query is only the first step in acquiring said agent/publishing deal, so I highly doubt you have to fork over your entire soul for it. More like…just a sliver.

Okay, really. For those who don’t follow the publishing industry, a query letter is what you write unsolicited to agents to pique their interest in your work. In order for an agent to request to see any portion of your manuscript, you must first submit a query letter to them. Similar to a cover letter written when applying for a job, it serves as a gatekeeper of sorts, separating the good writers from the not-so-talented. It’s your introduction. It’s your foot in the door. In other words, if your query letter sucks, no agent is going to want to read your work, let alone want to represent you.

No pressure.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m in the midst of developing my query letter for Jaded. I say develop because a query letter isn’t just all about the writing. Yes, writing serves as the majority vote, but there’s also research and reading and research and googling and more research involved throughout this whole soul-sucking experience.

Every writer/agent/publisher out there—including your cousin’s mother’s uncle’s great-grandmother’s last of kin—has advice on how you can write the Best. Query. Letter. Ever.

Now. So you don’t have to, I’ve collected a few of my favorite tidbits of advice I’ve found while sifting thru Google’s 2.16 million answers on how to write the best query*:

By including everything the editor needs to know about your novel and about you—in one page.

Oh, that’s it? Well, shit. I’m totally done researching, now. That explains it all. No one told me it was that easy!

It must demonstrate that you can write effectively.

Oh, reeeeally?

There should be no spelling or grammatical errors.

Oh I ain’t thought agints lycked it wen I show’d ’em mah collage edgukashion sckillz

Do not give your social security number.

Wait. What?

Be sure to show them your voice, your personality.

Okay, good. Got it.

Don’t show too much personality. Your query letter should be formal.

Screw you, Google.

The problem is that there is no magic query letter formula. There is no A + B + C = getting signed by an agent. I can research as much as I want, but eventually it will come down to my own skill as a writer to hook my own agent. What may work for Writer A might not be the best thing for me and vice versa. Also, I eventually have to hit send. As far as technology has come these days, agents can’t actually read e-mails still stuck in my drafts folder. Such a shame.

So, I’m working on it. I’m reading some books (see PS below). I’m researching what agents would be the best fit for me. I’m proofreading. I’m deleting. I’m starting over.

I’m working on it.

Maybe one day, after I’ve signed with an agent, after Jaded has hit bookshelves, after, after, after…I’ll let you read my first attempts at Satan’s spawn my query letter. I mean, we all deserve a good laugh every now and then, right?

– lindsey archer

PS – All joking aside, I have found a few books/sites helpful during my query adventure. I’m currently reading Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract, Guide to Literary Agents and How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover Letters. I’m also a huge fan of Janet Reid and her Query Shark site.

* I did not make any of this shit up. I found each and every one of these gems on actual query advice websites.

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from blah to writing

It’s been one of those weeks.

A few bright spots have been sprinkled in here and there, but it’s just been one of those weeks where all these little things seemed to have built up, stacking pressure upon pressure until it feels like whatever it is that’s holding me together will rip at the seams with one more slight push. Like an old, creaky chair whose screws are loose, the next time someone sits down, the legs will give out and the chair will collapse into a heap of splintered wood.

Listen to me. I sound like my entire world is crashing down around me. It’s really not that dramatic. More like, it’s been a week where the smallest thing feels a thousand pounds heavier than it should. I’m not explaining it very well, am I? It’s just…blah. Like when you’re sick and everything hurts and the slightest moment can send your emotions into overdrive. My emotions feel like they’re on speed. High strung.

And you know what all this makes me want to do? More than anything, it makes me want to write.

Why is that? Why is it that at times I feel my worst are the times I feel the strongest pull to write? Like, somehow, writing will release all this built up pressure and I’ll go back to normal. Like when you poke a tiny hole in the soft area of a balloon to let the air seep out slowly, you eventually end up with the same shape as before you inflated it with your hot air. Whereas if you straight out pop its surface, the pieces of the balloon scatter—unrecognizable strips of rubber permanently torn apart.

When I’m happy and content, writing seems an afterthought. When I’m sad or not feeling fully myself, writing feels like this need. My sad feelings seem to translate into better writing material than my happy ones. Does that make me a writing stereotype?

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
—Ernest Hemingway

When I first started writing Jaded, I wasn’t in a very good place. I was sad and dealing with a lot and writing became this sort of therapy. An escape. A way to throw all my feelings into something productive. Somehow, somewhere along the way of writing my first novel, I started feeling better. I became myself again. Like I’ve previously mentioned, I never intended to write a novel. I wrote small scenes and random conversations that turned themselves into pages and chapters and eventually…a book.

Now Jaded’s completed and I feel like I’ve lost my outlet. Yes, I have that lovely NaNoWriMo piece that desperately needs work. But, I’ve promised myself I won’t touch that manuscript until I get Jaded in the hands of agents.

That means finishing my query letter. I’m not much further along on that than I was two months ago. I do have more than an opening sentence, though. I actually have a full, working draft—albeit a rather rough one. It’s nowhere near where I need it to be. I guess it’s a start. Better than nothing, right?

Does anyone else go thru this? Do you write better when you’re happy or when you’re strung out and feeling…blah? What state of mind are you in when you produce your best material?

Here’s to hoping my blah week turns into something productive. Who knows? This time next week, I might have a working query letter.

– lindsey archer

new year’s resolutions? not so much

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Correction—I don’t follow thru with New Year’s resolutions. Here’s a little breakdown of how they usually play out for me:

January 1st—I’m really excited about this shiny, new resolution. I’m all about it. I can totally do this. This is going to be easy. I can’t believe I’ve never completed one of these before. Seriously.

2nd week of January—I hate this shit. Seriously.

3rd week of January—OHMIGOD WHY DO I INSIST ON TORTURING MYSELF??!?

February 1st—New Year’s Resolution? What New Year’s Resolution? I have no idea what you’re talking about. I totally don’t make those. Those are for crazy people.

I’ve learned my lesson. For the last few years, I haven’t made any resolutions. Because I don’t believe in them? No. Because they’re for crazy people? Maybe. More like, it’s because I’m afraid that—like always—I’m going to fail at them. And, really, who wants to fail? Um…that would be no one.

That’s one of the reasons why it took me so long to finish Jaded—that fear of failing at something new. Besides random papers for school, I had never really written anything before. I leaped from that to investing all of my time and energy into creating something that, until it was finished, I never even knew I wanted to do. And actually finishing it? A novel? I wasn’t a writer! Complete my story? Show it off to someone? Develop a plan for it besides hiding it away in the safety of my iMac? That would be crazy! That would be opening myself up for the possibility of failure I knew I wasn’t strong enough to handle. Thankfully, I’m slowly getting over that small hurdle. It’s all about baby steps.

Once again for this year, I’m not going to pretend to make any new resolutions. No crazy, unrealistic goals. No list of shortcomings that I’m going to half-heartedly attempt to overcome for three lousy weeks until I give up and return to my normal routine of waking up super late and yelling like a crazed maniac at all the slow drivers in front of me on my short commute to work. Instead, I’m simply going into 2012 with one objective: get an agent for Jaded. I may have mentioned it once or twice.

It might not happen in 2012, but that doesn’t matter. Whether it takes one year, two years, five years…ten years—for me, this is a life goal. It’s something I’m going to strive for, but not beat myself up about if it doesn’t happen by the time the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, 2012.

I’m not naïve. I know the road to publication will be riddled with many small potholes of failure, layered with rejection letter after rejection letter. Not everyone is going to like my book. Some might even outright hate it. I’m not excited about that, but I think I’m okay with it. All I’m asking is for one agent to love it.

And, let’s be honest. I think that’s a far more realistic goal than me giving up my road rage.

– lindsey archer

i miss jade henry

After I finished NaNoWriMo this year, I set a goal to take a small break from writing. No more until 2012! I know. Seems drastic, right? It only sounds that way because 2012 is a freakishly large number (can you believe it’s already almost 2012???!?) Really, my break was only for one lousy month. December. 31 days. Not too long, right?

I worked really hard to complete Jaded this year. Then, I chose to become certifiably insane begin an entire new project during NaNoWriMo in November—58,735 words, to be exact. Conclusion? I. Wrote. A. Lot. Why not take one month off and come back in 2012 (seriously, isn’t the world supposed to end in 2012?) with a fresh pair of eyes? I’ve heard from so many other writers about how good it is to sometimes take a step back before editing or evaluating your work—to separate yourself from your writing in order to figure out how to make it better. Plus, I had already sent Jaded off to my beta readers to scrutinize and judge during the months of November & December. So, really, I found myself at a natural stopping point while I waited on that much needed feedback before making my final edits and diving headfirst into querying literary agents—AKA, crazy-depressing-land-full-of-rejection-letters (don’t yell, I’m being realistic, here).

As December draws to an end and the New Year sneaks up on me (seriously, it came out of NOWHERE), I’m finding it harder and harder to stick to my goal of enjoying this little ole thing called a writing break. More so with Jaded than Ugly Parts, which is most likely because I’ve only spent a quick 30 days with my NaNoWriMo manuscript. In case you’re unaware, I’ve been working on Jade Henry’s story, on and off, for approximately four years. I started in the fall of 2007 and while I took many long sabbaticals—often stepping away from it for months and months at a time while I figured out if I really wanted to be a writer—that’s still quite a significant chunk of time to spend on one story. And now? Almost a month removed from it?

miss it.

I miss Jaded. I miss Jade Henry. I created her and her world and her feelings and I’ve come to know her inside and out, better even than I probably know myself. She has so much of me in her that I sometimes forget where her fictional life ends and my real one begins. When I talk about her with my friends and beta readers, I speak of her by name. Jade did this. Jade did that. Jade thought this about that. I discuss her like she’s a real person and not just some fictitious character I conjured up and happened to write about. Because for me, she is real. I’m invested. 100%.

I’ve discovered that taking an intentional month off from her is far different from all those months I merely stepped away mid-novel with every intention of coming back and finishing. My hand is itching to type about her again. I keep finding my mouse hovering over that rough draft file that’s hidden away in my computer, ready to double-click and open it up to get my fix. BUT I promised myself I wouldn’t!

So, I haven’t. I’ve kept my word, despite the many many MANY unholy temptations to do otherwise. Even as that aforementioned feedback begins trickling in from my beta readers, I have yet to double-click on that rough draft file. I’ve left it to collect its imaginary computer dust until the start of 2012. And, as I’m writing this, I’m starting to think this whole break is going to turn out as a good thing.

All this anticipation has me excited. I’m terrified excited to start querying agents for representation. I’m excited to begin my journey of getting Jaded published and somehow on that Discover Great New Writers bookshelf at my local Barnes & Noble (I’ll even settle for the normal, alphabetical fiction shelf). This waiting has me excited for 2012.

So, for all those crazies professing the world is going to end in 2012 because some ancient civilization forgot to include it on their calendar…well, I hope to God you’re all wrong. I’m betting the Mayans either couldn’t count that high or were just too lazy to do so. Because I’m not going anywhere until I see Jaded on a real, actual, physical bookshelf somewhere.

Somewhere other than in my own house would be even better.

– lindsey archer

end credits

It’s been four days since NaNoWriMo officially ended. Five since it ended for me. Because guess what? I officially won NaNoWriMo—one day early.

58,735 words in 29 days. Pretty impressive, right? I’m not going to lie, I have no idea how I managed to pull out a win my first year participating in this writing challenge. There were quite a few days when I didn’t even write a single word, followed by crazy I’m-not-going-to-bed-until-I-write-at-least-5,000-words-OMIGOD-I’m-so-tired-why-do-my-eyelids-keep-closing days. In other words, I kept my local Starbucks in business. Maybe next year I’ll look into getting a coffee sponsorship.

I know I drove my family and friends crazy by skipping out on them, night after night, so I could sit in my room with only my cat for company and write. And write. And write. I’ll admit that my social life was definitely lacking this month, replaced by daily word counts and obsessively updating said word count on my NaNoWriMo profile. I spent so much time holed up in my room with my iMac, my new office chair now has a permanent imprint of my ass. Seriously, I wrote A LOT.

Now I’m kind of scared to go back and read it all. It’s probably going to be awful. Like, majorly-flawed-typo-riddled-crap. On top of that, it’s nowhere near finished. Jaded, in it’s completed 1st rough draft stage, came to 124,000 words—give or take a couple hundred. I have a long road ahead of me to get the story of Ugly Parts anywhere near finished, let alone readable. And, don’t even try to ask me what it’s about.

The point is, I set my mind to do this challenge and I actually carried thru with it. I finished it. I completed it. EARLY. I’m never early with anything. So, yeah, I’m really proud of myself.

As a gift to myself, I’m taking December off from writing (other than blogging—that I’ll still be doing*). I’ve sent Jaded off to my beta readers and hope to hear back from them by New Year’s so I can spend January on final edits, based on the feedback I receive from them. But right now, I need to take a step back from both of my novels. I need to stop obsessively looking for typos and re-reading every chapter and starting to second guess my writing abilities. Otherwise, I just might go crazy and crack under the pressure of figuring out how to write the BEST query letter ever read so I can actually get something published.

And then, come February, maybe I’ll take a peek at Ugly Parts. Maybe.

– lindsey archer

*my December blogging schedule is going to be amped up since it’s the only writing I’ll be doing, so come back often for new content!

you mean people are actually reading this?

Sometimes, I forget. I forget that people are actually reading what I have to say on here.

I’m not stupid. I know that by posting my writing online, it’s open for anyone and everyone to read, analyze, judge, whatever. That’s why I started a blog—I want to get my words out there. I don’t want to keep them bottled up inside or only show them off to my best friend and sister. That’s not how I’m going to become a writer.

But Jaded? The characters. The places. The dialogue. I created all of it. It’s personal. It’s bits and pieces of me—scrambled up, spun around and weaved into a story. It’s my voice and I’m finally getting brave enough to let others hear it (read the first chapter).

With that said, it still surprises me when someone asks me about it. When someone—around whom I’ve never even mentioned a whisper of Jaded to—tells me they’ve heard I’ve written a book and follows up with the predictable question, “So, what’s it about?” I end up just staring at them. Sort of like this:

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. The fact that someone actually approved this image for a book cover cracks me up. And yes, the fact that Levi Johnston got a book deal cracks away a little bit at my spirit.

But back to that little question. My first thought? How the Hell did you know I’ve written a novel, you crazy stalker person?! I have to remind myself that it’s sort of public knowledge since I posted it on a PUBLIC blog. Online. Where anyone and everyone can see it. Once I pass that little hurdle (yes, I’m still staring at them at this point), I kind-of-sort-of start to freak out.

My inner monologue sounds a little like this:

Did they read my first chapter? Did they just see it while browsing my Facebook and not actually read anything about it? Maybe they saw me post something about it on Twitter. Maybe they talked to someone who read my first chapter and OHMIGOD what if they read it and hated it? What if it’s horrible? OHMIGOD it’s horrible, isn’t it? What if they read it and laughed at it and OHMIGOD are they laughing at me on the inside right now? They’re totally laughing. Are they judging me? They’re totally judging me. Look at them, all looking at me with their judgy eyes like I’m a crazy person.

Then I realize they’re only staring at me because they’re waiting for me to answer that easy, simple, little, tiny question I completely forgot they just asked me, hence why I’m staring at them, open-mouthed like Levi Johnston, aka I do look like a crazy person. It doesn’t occur to me that, maybe, they’re actually interested. Then I start fumbling and stuttering (straight up like Len Levy from the Jessica Darling series).

“Well, see, it’s, um, about this girl, um, Jade Henry, and, um, she, um…” OHMIGOD what the Hell is my book about?

I have no idea why I have such a difficult time telling other people what Jaded is about. I’ve lived and breathed this novel for so long, I could recite whole conversations from every single chapter. Except, when someone asks me to describe it to them, I’m fairly certain they don’t want a 10 to 15 minute schpill about all my characters and their feelings and blah, blah, blah. They want a quick summary—like what one would see on the flap of a book jacket. The problem is, I have trouble condensing my 122,000 word novel down to only a few sentences. Am I the only writer with this problem? Am I the only one that freezes and can’t—for the life of me—figure out how to condense my novel into words that capture the essence of my characters and their story?

I’m going to start querying agents in a couple months and I have no clue how I’m going to grab their attention and get them interested in Jaded in a short email. I’ve bought some books to help me, bookmarked way too many sites online about it, but seriously, if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

In the meantime, if you ask me what my book’s about, please just nod and smile if I turn into a stuttering mess. I’m practicing. I’ll get better. Bear with me.

– lindsey archer

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