My New Trick-Bike

When I was 10 years old, there was one Christmas present I wanted above all others–a bike. But, not just any old Schwinn or Huffy. In fact, I didn’t really care what namebrand it was as long as it met my adolescent, stunt-double, daredevil requirements. It needed pegs on both the front & the back, ‘moondiscs’ covering the spokes and, of course, handbrakes. I needed all these ‘gnarly’ bells & whistles in order to pull off the amazing tricks I could already picture in my mind.

This year, there was a similar item on my list. And although it isn’t fluorescent purple like that childhood wish-fulfillment, I’m thinking it’s going to help me perform some pretty fantastic feats.

My copy of 2012 Writer’s Market – Deluxe Edition has already become my most valued & useful Christmas gift. I am currently sitting on my Mama’s backporch in my home state of NC. From the moment the car doors shut the snow out at the beginning of my trip, I have only spent a couple of waking hours without this book in my hand.

I am familiar with the resource from my foray into the publishing world back in 2000. It was my go-to resource back then for writing tips, submission guidelines & publisher leads. I am finding it as useful for marketing my novel as it was for magazine articles & poetry.

At this point, I have narrowed down the 70 listed Literary Agents to just 20 that might be a good fit for my YA Fantasy novel. Those have further been whittled down to a shortlist of 7 agencies that I believe possess the most potential for marketing my manuscript. I sent out my first query this morning. :::gulp:::

I have also scarred up the 174 pages of Book Publishers with highlighter & notes. Online research of the individual publishing houses quickly cut my handwritten HOT list of 35 down to a mere 9 that I would like to pursue. Just as it took me hours of falling, bruising & making trips to the ER while learning to ride that trick-bike of mine, so the research stage of submitting my novel has been time-intensive.

My purple bike is long gone. Although the physical Lucas was never able to hit all the tricks that my imagination’s Lucas could, he was able to accomplish a few of them. I like to believe that I could still perform an Endo on queue if required. Until some sadistic kid challenges me to prove it, I think I’ll keep on hacking away at learning a new round of tricks which will hopefully transform my first manuscript into a published novel.

It’s Harder to Write the Pitch than the Novel

Versions of it go by a lot of different names depending on the length & audience.

  • Pitch
  • Hook
  • Synopsis
  • Blurb
  • Logline

What it all boils down to is a succint, catchy description that makes the agent, publisher or potential reader want to know more. Honestly, crafting this tiny beast has proven itself more daunting than the actual writing of the novel. My current challenge: condense 111,000 words into 300 or less.

Here is what I have learned so far. It can’t be merely plot but it has to provide an overview. The description can’t be too specific or too vague. It has to, of course, make the reader salivate for more. And, most importantly, it is hard as hell to get it right.

I am currently on approximate draft number 2,435,872. Just when I think I might have it licked, the awesome folks at Amazon’s Pitch Thread rip it to bits and expose its [many] flaws. I am grateful for the feedback, suggestions & tweaks but the whole process makes me wonder– is my book-writing as bad as my pitch-writing? If so, it looks like self-publishing may be my only option. Ahhh, but the optimistic dreamer in me won’t even entertain the thought!

Publishing Through a Contest?

Different writers have different goals for their completed manuscripts. My personal goal for my novel is to get it published. And I’m not willing to go the self-published route to do it. Depending on who you ask, I’m either a sucker, a dreamer or both.

The NaNoWriMo site doesn’t leave its participants hanging once November fades. They continue to provide resources, links and advice to those hoping to carry on into December and beyond. I learned of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award from their “Now What?” page. My next steps were to set up a CreateSpace account and read the official rules. My novel would fit. With the possibility of a $15,000 advance & a publishing contract, why not try it? Even if I don’t win, the process will be a good learning experience and there is an opportunity to get my manuscript looked at by multiple agents & publishers in a single whack.

It possibly moves me towards my goal to get published. I’m going for it.

My NaNoWriMo Experience

It sprang to life during a trip to Atlanta in October. An idea. I chewed on it throughout the trip and found it sprouting limbs, branches and buds. Not wanting them to die in place, I set them down in my journal for safekeeping. After returning home to Ohio, the urge to actually form them into an outline– my first  wrangling with such a thing since college– took over.

Then a friend mentioned NaNoWriMo’s challenge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. The mostly-formed outline blinked at me from the screen. It wanted to be born, fleshed out. But I had never attempted to write anything that lengthy. Would it ever develop from a mere jumble of bones to see the light of day? Would I get bored with the idea before it crowned?

November 1st arrived. I signed up with the site and laid down the first sentence– and the next. The daily wordcount to reach the goal was 1,667 per day. I quickly reached that mark & kept on adding meat. Soon, my novel had a heartbeat and there was no way I was going to leave it partially formed. The days clicked forward. The chapters flowed. And by the end of the month I had written over 95,000 words. We were both shocked– the novel and I.

But, it still wasn’t ready to gasp for air. It was a preemie still in need of a few more chapters. I set my own daily goals and completed the manuscript by the first week in December. It finished up at over 111,000 words. All from my head. All springing forth from the seed of an idea.

Two rounds of editing have been completed & a pair of literary-minded friends are giving it a good scrubbing. It’s not ready to be revealed to world just yet but it is kicking and screaming to do so.

The Migraine That Started It All

It began with a migraine 17 years ago. There was a late-night storm ripping at the roof above me while a pounding thumped the inside of my skull. I flipped on the light and set about exorcising the excruciating pain. My first poem spilled out through the cracks between the lightning in my head. I have since ‘misplaced’ that first piece of writing but a few lines still remain wet in my memory.

Falling, flying in a circle
   made of hammers
   made of stones

The journaling started from there. Then, at some point, I decided that my writing was worthy of publishing. So, I set about researching how to make that happen. Apparently, a few publishers agreed with me and I was actually paid [Paid!] for some of the words that spilled from my head. I published a few magazine articles, some poetry & even a couple illustrations.

Then life changed. Other storms tore at me and washed away the urgency to get my writing out there. The private journaling weathered the storm and continues to this day. But, another front has been forming for a few months now. A novel is coming. The clouds are full to bursting and who am I to deny their rain? So, I am begging the words–and the urge to publish them–to explode with abandon.

Falling, flying in a circle
   made of hammers
   made of stones