Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Six years ago I wrote and completed my first two novels. Both romantic suspense although two completely different sub-genres. Forget Me Not, which is a romantic suspense I dubbed an Hispanic version of The Bodyguard and Dark Obsession, which is a supernatural romantic suspense I never came up with a logline for.

Shortly after completing both books--which, by the way, only took me a total of four months consecutively (that's what happens when you enjoy what you're doing and have no worries about getting published or meeting deadlines)--but before I completely lose my train of thought let me get back to what I was saying.

After completing the books I began working on my query letters. Now, being very very green...so green I was mold...I started seeking out help from a variety of "self-help" books and writing websites such as Writer's Net and Absolute Write. Unfortunately, when you join writing sites, not only do you open yourself up to ridicule you also invite unwanted "stalker-ish" types of people...those who want to see you fail and do everything in their power to make you feel like you'll never make it. Needless to say, that's what happened to me on both of these sites. But, I also met some very, very wonderful people who were the total opposite of these "trolls" as they were called.

Anyway, one of the WN members, Roy Abrahams (RIP) decided he'd had enough of the flamers and decided to open up his own writers forum. It was a private room and by invite only and although he's since passed on, the few of us who originally attended the forum are still there (I am also the moderator). Our main goal is to help each other as best we can to get published (and some of us are, I'm proud to say).

Shortly after Roy opened his room, two more writers who'd had more than enough of the problems at the other sites decided to open their own site as well. And, thanks to Christopher Graham and Karen Dionne, Backspace was born. I'd like to say I've been with the room since conception, but I was actually invited by my friend Brenda Birch a few months after it opened...although Karen says she invited me at the beginning but my email bounced back. ;-) (I like to tease her about that.)

Anyway, getting back to my original post...see, told you I lose my train of thought.

Backspace is also, more or less, a private forum. Anyone can join, for $30 a month and participate in the active rooms...chatting up such bestselling authors as Kay Hooper, Allison Brennan, Robert Gregory Browne, Sara Gruen, even Karen Dionne herself...just to name a few...and believe me, there are a lot more than a few! but, the rooms are also 'locked' so you can't come in unless you're a member and you can't read the posts...which is a good thing because a lot of members...myself included....will often post chapters of our WIPs for pleasure or critique...mostly critique because Backspace is like a giant critique group.

Now, while I've gotten some really great feedback on my posts/query letters at Backspace I have to say, sometimes it becomes a bit too much.

As we all know, and have been told ad nausem, writing is a very subjective business. What one person doesn't like another will. Even the agents and editors who frequent Backspace agree to disagree about certain rules and guidelines.

So, is it a good idea to post your work in a room for others to critique and give feedback on, or should you work it out on your own?

Well, to be honest, sometimes you need that additional help to point out what you're doing wrong or what you're not doing correctly (sounds the same, but it's not). However, don't get hung up on all of the comments/advice because sometime too many opinions will take away from what you originally planned for your book. And writing a grabbing query letter is, again, subjective.

What I've learned from my dear friend Rhonda (who thinks I'm stubborn and don't always listen to her..heh) is, look at the query letter from a marketing standpoint. You're selling a product...two products...you and your book. So you're going to have to think along the lines of that. What can you say to grab that reader by the collar and pull him into your story and have them beg for more?

In fact, here is exactly the advice she gave me:
    • Choose words in your query carefully. You only have a few sentences to make an impact with.
      -Start with something exciting.
      -Make the blurb sound as active as possible.
      -Remember you are trying to break into a BUSINESS. That
      means they are looking for selling points when they read your blurb. Selling points that they can mention to their bosses, the marketing department, the book stores, the customer...

And, trust me, Miss Rhonda knows what she's talking about!

Admittedly, I've yet to master the art of query writing, but I still try and I still seek advice. Granted, I don't always follow it, but I do listen to it. =)

So, what's the best or even worst advice you've been given?
And, what advice do you have for those still struggling with their own attempts at writing a query letter?

Come on now, don't be shy. =)

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The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews