Finally!

As I said in my last post, I have been twisted around by several helpful critiques from several people in the know.  Each one makes a lot of sense.  Each brings some sense of the market for which I’m writing.  Trouble is, they all disagree.

I have finally hit on the way I want Hack the Yak to read.  What a relief!  I think I’ve integrated some of the comments, but mainly, I can quit twisting and turning.  I hope.

A Query Letter

Another reason for my dilatory behavior with respect to this blog is that been polishing my query letter for Hack the Yak and have come to realize that style is all.  For instance, ‘dilatory behavior’ probably doesn’t belong in my query, given its soporific effect on a 21st century reader.  While good writing is thought to be timeless, style changes pretty dramatically over time. Here’s the equivalent of a query letter from 1706:

John Locke

John Locke

 

I HAVE put into thy hands what has been the diversion of some of my idle and heavy hours. If it has the good luck to prove so of any of thine, and thou hast but half so much pleasure in reading as I had in writing it, thou wilt as little think thy money, as I do my pains, ill bestowed. Mistake not this for a commendation of my work; nor conclude, because I was pleased with the doing of it, that therefore I am fondly taken with it now it is done. This, Reader, is the entertainment of those who let loose their thoughts, and follow them in writing; which thou oughtest not to envy them, since they afford thee an opportunity of the like diversion.   (John Locke, a letter accompanying An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and addressed to:  the Right Honourable Lord Thomas, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, Barron Herbert of Cardiff, Lord Ross, of Kendal, Par, Fitzhugh, Marmion, St. Quintin, and Shurland;
Lord President of His Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council;
And Lord Lieutenant of the County of Wilts, and of South Wales.)

Writing Groups II

Shoreacres gave a good and trenchant response to my post on writing groups:  “Here’s the key phrase in your post: …having a good writer look at your own stuff…. ” and goes on to say, “(I)f we’re going to listen to other voices, we need to choose those voices carefully.” See her blog at shoreacres.wordpress.com

As I said in the first ‘writing groups’ post, I’ve joined a couple of groups.  I agree with shoreacres that we need to choose carefully.  The hard part of ‘carefully’ has been, for me at least, not choosing just people whose writing I admire most.  I love fine literary writing, and there are a couple of people in my writing groups who are great wordsmiths.  Their critique of my stuff helps iron out the plodding bits.  But I’m writing genre fiction, so I need to listen to folks whose work I don’t read by choice.  In my quest for ‘comps’, which is to say, writers I can compare my own writing to in queries to agents and publishers, I’ve been reading a lot of mystery/suspense lately.  Right now, I’m reading one by a best-selling author whose writing is considerably weaker than at least four (unpublished) writers in groups I’m in.  The characters are square-chinned, chiseled cardboard, and the prose varies from workmanlike to plodding … but the plot drags me along.  For me, it’s a lesson learned.  Reading other genres exposes me to gag-me-with-a-spoon phraseology, but phraseology that’s appropriate to the genre (we’re talking chick-lit, here), but also to writing that has great mechanics (clear description in the right places, despite the heaving-breast breathlessness).  So, I appreciate shoreacres’ insight and would only add that ‘good’ writers’ groups include all sorts of writers.

Overhead … if a Tweet falls in the blogoshere and there’s no one there to ‘like’ it …

MechanicIn a prior life, I knew quite a bit about overhead.  It’s that mysterious add-on the mechanic uses to explain why a $20-dollar-an-hour guy is charged to you at 60 bucks an hour.  Or why a lawyer has to charge $400/hr.  (Never mind … lawyers never explain overhead.)

I have read quite a bit recently about writing.  There’s hardship, writer’s block, the pain of loneliness.  The creative process, like any birthing, is supposed to be painful but ultimately rewarding.  At least, that’s the take of the great writers of, say, the 19th and 20th centuries.  But those writers from days of yore (like, you know, before 2002) never seem to talk much about overhead.  Modern treatises on writing must understand that overhead is an issue, because they allude to it.  They’re often telling you that you have to “make time for writing!”  That chapter is followed by the one called Optimizing Your Social Media Platform.  The subtext is that you’d better do both.  In this connected twenty-first century of ours, everything … everything … needs a marketing component, right?

As an unpublished writer (well, almost published … see self-congratulatory post immediately preceding this one), I guess it’s my lot in life to spend a great deal of time on the pick-and-shovel work of writing.  But it does get old.

I looked back over the last several weeks, and I see that I spent my ‘writing’ time thusly:

15%

Writing blog entries (and I’m behind the sensible prescription to ‘write a short entry every couple of days and a longer one every couple of weeks’)

5%

Figuring out what the #$$% HootSuite is good for

5%

Trying to understand the byzantine kluge of software called Facebook.  (Oh, yes … they changed format a couple of weeks ago, just when I’d got used to the old one)

10%

Rewriting my pitch (aka Query) for novel #1, Hack the Yak (that’s edition 8)

7%

Reading other people’s blogs.  After all, when blogs follow you, you have to follow them …

4%

Cleaning up e-mail from the 85 blogs I follow.

17%

Getting distracted and going on bird walks to find really interesting stuff on Wikipedia, YouTube, etc., etc.

7%

Reformatting and extracting short stories and parts of current writing for submission to writing groups, as well as commenting on others’ writing.

4%

Searching for publishers, agents and literary journals to submit to (I’m mostly on vacation from that for the moment.)

26%

WRITING.  Happily creating, investigating, winding up and unwinding the story of the next novel and watching the people of the novel grow, struggle, fight and fornicate.

So, when I say, “I’m going in to write for a couple of hours,” I guess I have to multiply by 4.

Another Book on Writing

Several Posts ago, I asked for advice on books on writing.  I got some great answers to add to my short list.  One that I missed is This Year You Write Your Novel, by Walter Mosley.  It’s a great, short, pithy treatise on writing by a skilled and prolific writer.  It speaks to my difficulties and aha! moments like no other book I’ve read.