While talking to my Mom on the phone earlier today I told her about the difficulties of trying to write a query letter (yes, I’m still working on it…it’s so not easy).
I said, “It was easier to write a 91,000 word book than this 250 word letter about my book.”
Her reply. “You wrote the book for fun, the query letter is more like an assignment and that’s never fun.”
She’s so dang smart! I’m glad we’re related. Lol!
But she’s right. This letter is homework. It’s a sales pitch. It’s not fun. And that makes it hard…and a huge pain in the butt.
I’ve written about ten drafts of the dumb thing and it still needs a lot of work. At least I think I have the right idea now.
I got this idea from my friend, Amanda. This is my list of writing rules. My personal writing rules (so they may not work for everyone).
- Writing should be fun: If you don’t enjoy it then what’s the point? It’s okay to take a day off if you are frustrated, confused, or depressed about writing. Come back to it when you are ready to enjoy the process.
- Be consistent: Setting a schedule, a dedicated writing time, really helps.
- Show, don’t tell: This is an oft repeated rule…sometimes I wonder if those who say it really know what it means (me included)…but that doesn’t make it less true. This is a hard thing to do and I don’t claim to be an expert on this, I just try my best.
- Expect writing to be work: This might seem to contradict rule #1, but they go together. Yes it should be fun, but it is work, it is hard, and it will drive you crazy. Writing isn’t magic, it doesn’t just happen out of the blue. You have to sit your butt in a chair and work. A lot. For many, many hours. If you aren’t willing to do the work, then you’ll never get anywhere.
- Avoid distractions: Turn off the TV, put your phone away, and writing time is not the time to play apps or browse the internet. You can’t write if your mind is distracted.
- You don’t need a muse: I don’t have one, I’ve never had one. It seems to me if you depend on one you are going to waste a lot of time waiting for it to speak to you…because muses are fickle little buggers. Don’t wait for it, trust yourself.
- Read a lot: This is obvious, good writers are good readers first. Know your craft.
- Finish what you start: I know too many writers with files and boxes of papers filled with unfinished projects. I made a vow to not let this happen to me. It takes practice to learn how to finish a good story…so practice and finish what you start. Yes, I understand some things can’t be finished, I’m only saying don’t make it a habit because then all you learn is how to start a story but you never learn the skill of finishing.
- Writer’s block isn’t a good excuse to not write: I don’t believe in writer’s block. Yes, I have hard days. Everyone does. But I always write something, even if it’s a load of crap. Learning to write when it’s hard helps me finish, learning to write when I’m not in the mood helps me be more productive when I am. Work through writer’s block, don’t let it paralyze you and win. That said, we all need a day off every once in a while. Take a break and breathe. Come back to it tomorrow (not the next day or the next day…tomorrow…don’t put it off).
- Do things your way: Stop trying to copy another writer’s style, routine, or process. You need to do what works for you. Just because it’s different doesn’t make it wrong. This includes choosing what you write about, it needs to be a subject you are interested in, not what sells (because that’s just cheap and how could that ever be enjoyable?)
As I said, these are my rules, I don’t expect everyone to agree and use them. Plus there are plenty of other rules (more like guidelines…lol) like grammar, character development, etc. But these are my main rules that I try to remind myself, especially when I’m having a rough time.
I’ve decided that the art of writing a query letter is a special torture designed to make want-to-be authors question their very existence on this planet, as well as getting them to feel like crappy writers.
I worked on one a few months ago, then set it aside because my novel needed more revision. I’ve got it back out again. I’ve rewritten it. I still want to scream. How do you reasonably sum up a full length novel in about three sentences? Yeah, I don’t know either.
Add that to the fact that I have no prior publishing experience, or writing credentials, and now I feel like a complete twit.
I’ll get there, it just might kill me first. Maybe then my novel can be published posthumously? Kidding…kidding…
Another problem I’m having is deciding exactly which age group my novel is best suited for. The subject matter and actual plot suggest middle grade reader. The ages of the main characters (16 and 18) and the word count (approx. 91,000 words) are better suited for young adult. Right now I’m pitching it as “upper middle grade”. Hopefully that’s acceptable.
In better news, my current project has 36,000 words after working on it for about a month. I write a little every day and I’m making steady progress.