Friday, September 28, 2012

Query Sabotage

Gmail is wonderful. It really is. I've used it for more than ten years and I won't use anything else. Still, little did I know that beneath those fancy, seemingly organized paragraphs of 13-point Arial was career sabotage in disguise.

Here's the deal. When you're querying, some agents want you to paste the first 5-10 pages of your manuscript into the body of the email. Attachments can be evil, and they take up mailbox disk space, so it makes perfect sense considering an agent could receive one to two hundred query letters a week.

So here I am, happily querying my little list, happily moving a fresh 'no thanks' to my special Don't Open Me Unless There's Chocolate folder, when I notice something funny. Below the agent's message was my query letter, except not my query letter. The synopsis paragraph was a completely different size and font. So was my signature. And those oh-so-important sample pages? Different font, and no line breaks between paragraphs.



I clicked into my outbox. Located the query in question. Stared in disbelief at the blatant lie in front of my face. My version showed everything the same size and font, with paragraphs an appropriate distance apart. Irked, I forwarded the message to my Yahoo account and said something angry at my screen. There was the version of the email the agent had received, looking like I'd thrown it together in two seconds. And I had certainly spent much longer than that getting it ready.


Forward your queries to a different email provider first so you can see what they (really) look like. I've started using a WYSIWYG editor (What You See Is What You Get) where I can switch to the source view of the html and take out all the super funky stuff Gmail inserts when I copy and paste. Then you can copy that back into Gmail and it should behave.

Don't let query sabotage happen to you!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Of Course I Planned It Like That

Every writer has a slightly different approach to writing. Some storyboard the major scenes, some know exactly what's going to happen from start to finish, some sit down with an idea and write until there's no more to write about. Throw a dart somewhere in that mix and you'll get my method. That is to say, I don't really have one. I always know how the book ends. I always know a couple key scenes that have to happen. But I can't outline it. Every scene has a ripple effect, and my characters often end up in entirely different places (physically and emotionally) than I anticipated. I love writing this way. To me it feels unpredictable and fresh, but the downside is that I inevitably reach a point (and oddly enough, it's usually just one place) where I'm not sure where to go next.

So over the weekend my husband took me backpacking. To those of you who aren't married to crazy people, backpacking is a special form of torture that involves strapping a third of your weight to your back, marching up a mountain, and staying there overnight. (Okay, yes, the lake at the top was pretty and I'm sure when I can move again without flinching I might think it was a fantastic idea.) Sunday morning, we're hiking down mile six of eight and to distract myself from wondering if you can still walk after your legs go numb, I start thinking about The Sequel. Suddenly the rest of the book tumbles through my head. Another couple miles and a creative attempt at writing on a bumpy four-by-four road, and I have The Rest Of It!! scribbled almost legibly on five tiny notepad sheets.

I've never had a plan like this before. Maybe that's what happens as you write more, or maybe that's just what happened for this book and the next will be entirely different. Either way, I'm thrilled to be over the current book's Now What? block so I can focus on turning those five tiny notepad sheets into 45k+ words.

What kind of writer are you? Does it change from project to project?

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