Slap yourself in the face for even thinking there’s a formula.
STEP #2: through STEP #5:
While writing the story only you can write, repeat STEP #1 as often as necessary.
So much excitement going on around here. Lots of little things, which are amazing just because they will never happen again in quite the same way.
I’ll yap a little bit about my upcoming trip to Toronto, then post some random, un-captioned pics. [Ambiguous posts are ambiguous.]
The trip currently looks like this:
– Amtrak to Buffalo on the 4th. Hang out with strangers for about 6 hours. [Pending]
– Back on the train, passport in-hand, north of the border.
– Subway ride from Toronto to my couchsurfing hosts, 30 minutes north in North York.
– A private room, rooftop parties, lots of tea/coffee/booze, exploring the pedestrian-only Victorian Distillery Distict, random art & performances via the Fringe Festival, whatever other opportunities arise.
– Return train to Buffalo. Vist Niagara Falls with another couchsurfing “stranger”. [Also pending]
– Board the train home at midnight. Arrive in Cleveland @ 3:27 a.m. 2 hour drive home. Report to work at 8 a.m.
That’s the loose plan, anyway.
Because the numbers have changed since the last time I posted a Sub Pie.
Also, the other shoe could drop at any moment.
Also, also, there will be times when I will not be able to openly share ooey, gooey, behind-the-scenes goodness.
So 1/3 of the queries have come back as Form Rejections. Is that the sign of a bad query? Bad matching (on my part) of the agent with the book/genre/concept? Is that above, below, or spot-on with the average? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?
Wow…1/4 of the queries have been coded as “Non-Response”. That seems awfully high, but, based on the agent’s estimated response times, it is accurate. For a previous novel, I had a query response arrive 4 months later than the estimated 8 weeks. That one made me giggle.
0% Full Request Rejections. (At this snapshot-moment, at least.) A few of those are closing in on the 2-month mark. I suspect that % will jump soon. [No! The glass is half-full. The damn glass is half-full!!!] Querying writers, I’m curious about your experience; have full rejections come soon after the submission, or after many weeks? Months? Part of me fears that delay in response to a full = negative news.
Holding at 25% for Outstanding Queries. As long as my hot-list of agents holds out, I like to keep this rough percentage. Each new rejection = sending a new query (or two).
Q: When do I get to add my “Offers of Rep” slice? Soon, you say? I totally ❤ you from here to the moon.
I feel like I’m on The Price is Right. Or something. My entry Plinko’ed through the pegs and channels of Rafflecopter to land a spot in The Writer’s Voice.
Get the skinny here, or here , also here, and let’s not forget here. Mucho appreciation to the lovely ladies throwing this shindig. Barker’s Beauties, or Drew’s Dolls, or Voicy Vixens we might could call ’em: Cupid, Brenda, Monica , Krista, and Kimberly.
There are some wicked-great agents participating, and I’ve got to say, Phreak Show is bouncing up and down with anticipation for the Showcase Showdown. Come on Coaches! Pick this here entry to be one of your 8…errr 9? You know, whatever number, without going over.
When Tera sees through the 600 pounds of fat smothering Twiggy the Blubber Girl, and finds a hurting, size 16 girl beneath, she knows something’s crazy-twisted with The Last American Phreak Show. The wicked Phineas is enslaving teens by wielding their warped self-images against them. Sixteen-year-old Tera has enough crap of her own to deal with, but there’s no effin way she’s letting the jackhole Phineas exploit them in his human zoo.
Tera sacrifices her own questionable normality, and becomes one of Phineas’s sideshow phreaks. Once bound by Phineas’s covenant, Tera discovers that she is more like the powerful showmaster than she’d like to believe, and her presence in the Phreak Show is killing him. If Phineas dies before the captive teens discover a way to break free, they will die with him.
The carnies only have a few days to confront the lifetime of lies lurking within their own hearts. And it will require more than Victorian costumes, sideshow tricks, and creepy performances to save them. The dark magic which binds the teens runs soul-deep. Being a phreak isn’t about looks; it’s a frame of mind
Phreak Show, a YA Greenpunk Fantasy where The Night Circus meets Skinny, is complete at 86,000 words.
With published short stories, articles, poetry, and illustrations, Phreak Show is my third novel. When not writing, I’m an artist who works with reclaimed materials, a spreadsheet junkie, and phreak who has learned to be comfortable in his own skin.
The neon-red TATTOO sign buzzed with the only spark of excitement in Podunk. Or whatever clone of a town I rolled into that day. Slow and gray like all the rest. Railroad tracks stretched down one side of the street while a storefront church and a sorry excuse for a coffee shop sat on the other. A mom wrangled her toddler into a rusty pickup parked against the curb. Old men perched on a bench outside a hardware store, ogling me, some strange teenage girl, invading their land.
At least this Podunk had a tattoo shop. The first I’d seen in two days. Enough stalling. I needed to get it done while I had the chance, before I lost the nerve again, before my money ran out.
A bell jangled as I pushed my way into the antiseptic air. Drawings of hearts and butterflies, daggers and skulls, covered the walls. I slid my fingers into my back pocket and fished out my last eighty-three bucks. And the photo of Jamie. The white crease down its center cut right along the middle of his tiny body. A tangle of tubes and wires snaked in and out of him. All because of me.
“What you need?”
I jerked away from the image in my hand, and followed the voice to the pierced lip of an inked-up guy. Scruffy hint of a beard, jet-black hair, and nerd glasses reflecting the light so I couldn’t see his eyes. I stepped closer, checking out his skinny jeans through the display case of tongue rings and metal bars.
Of course, I had to check out The Price is Right and find out how to get tickets. Not because I’m really going, but just because, you know, curious: http://www.priceisright.com/tickets
Because I love charts and data and spreadsheets.
Also because, why the hell not? Transparency is a trait of mine.
Sometimes that characteristic gets me in trouble, but it is an undeniable part of me. Often, I’m told, it is refreshing. Either way, it’s who I am. And I am a proud phreak who has learned to be comfortable in his own skin.
I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’ve thought of maybe changing to metaphorical tank tops—-or even going shirtless. Alas, I like my sleeves, and I like to leave my vulnerability dangling out there for everyone to see and prod. So, yeah. I feel better now. Huzzah for catharsis via confessional graphics.
If you’re feeling like, perhaps, there is more to the story, you are correct. Sometimes, even transparency has is limits, and a little opacity is required. If you’re reading this Invisible Ink, I ❤ your face. Wear your hearts on your sleeves, you bunch of phreaks.
All querying writers research potential agents.
Oh? You don’t? tsk tsk
What a naughty, naughty writer.
Submission guidelines and genre preferences are important, but we should totally research, investigate, and weigh our findings against our own personality and professional goals. By learning as much as we can, writers can focus our search on lit agents who would truly make a great fit. There is a lot more to an Author/Agent relationship than simply querying and finding rep. We’re entering into a business partnership. We’re committing to what hopefully will be an LTR. Sure, agents choose wisely. But the writer must also choose that potential partner carefully.
Agency websites give an overview, but they don’t provide the whole picture. We are responsible for digging deeper: interviews, current clients’ websites, recent deals, rights’ management experience, Twitter feeds, interns’ blogs, etc. Writers can’t just scratch the surface and call it a day. I mean, we can, but if we do, we’re stupid. We should discover all we possibly can and connect the dots. Read between the lines. Make an informed judgment which goes beyond, “OMFG! S/he likes [x]. I write [x]. S/he’s open to submissions. Must.query.now.”
We believe most agents research potential clients, right? Recently I discovered this is, indeed, not an urban legend. It is truth. You know how we writers joke about stalking agents online? Well, the road runs both ways. And I’m not just talking about agents checking out blogs/websites and Twitter feeds. If an agent has genuine interest, that fact-finding can expand into indepth, hardcore, hours-long, all-hands-on-deck, digital tunneling, Googling, and breadcrumb following.
Recently, an agent mentioned a part of my web presence which I had totally forgotten about—Authonomy. I posted portions of my first two novels on the site, but Phreak Show doesn’t even exist over there. This agent also mentioned online info which has nothing to do with my writing—business websites, for instance. It didn’t creep me out or make me nervous. What it did do, was enlighten me to the fact that a great agent will be concerned about an author’s public image beyond just his/her writing. A great agent will look for anything and everything a potential reader or publisher could find.
A great agent will stalk you.
Sobering? Scary? Are you ready for that? How long has it been since you Googled yourself?
I am not a synopsis guru, nor the son of one.
But a few agents in my god-tier require them.
So, I am posed with the choice:
A) Whine & lazily avoid composing a synopsis, thus eliminating any chance of representation by those amazing agents – OR –
B) Research, work hard, and enjoy the synopsis element of a process which will help me see my publishing goals realized.
Last night, I chose Option B. I whipped out a damn good synopsis in about two hours. The process went uber-smoothly compared to my attempts with previous novels, and I believe I know why. I may draw friendly fire for this next statement…
If you find it difficult to summarize your story in synopsis form,
your story may be inherently flawed.
Once again, I am no guru, but a synopsis is basically an outline of your novel in paragraph form. If that outline is not clear, if the quintessential arc is more of a wriggly squiggle, if the tension doesn’t mount until cresting at a point of inevitable release–then, perhaps, you have discovered the reason a synopsis seems insufferable.
Of course, none of us deals with issues such as those…
So, what to do if you’re positive your story is as strong as it can be, yet the synopsis is still kicking your ass? Well, quit whining and make it happen! Also, research. There are tons of how-to guides and advice articles to scoot you on your way. Congealing & gleaning highlights from a few of these, I will add my non-guru voice to the chorus.
– First, there are no hard & fast rules, but a few guidelines can make synopsis creation easier.
– Before you dive in, keep the touchpoints of motivation, emotion, and conflict in the forefront of your mind.
– Write in third-person, present-tense.
– The standard synopsis length seems to be 1-2 pages. Squeeze it into 1 short page if possible.
– Use strong verbs and adjectives (not too many!) to effectively express the plot points in the fewest words possible.
– Hit these key points: Hook, Stakes, Intro of the MC, Inciting Incident, Midpoint Twist, Climax, Resolution. (Some sources suggest allotting a single paragraph to each of these elements.)
– Ensure your characters are presented with personality and come across as sympathetic.
– An economy of words is key. Only include the true essentials. Wisely select only the most necessary of subplots–if any.
– Yes, the synopsis should give away the ending.
– The writing shouldn’t be flowery, but shouldn’t bore the poor agent/editor to tears either. Strike a balance somewhere between a technical manual and a book report.
– Just as with a novel or query, revise, revise, revise.
– Run your synopsis by your betas & CPs. Ask them to point out clarity issues or extraneous info.
– Embrace the process. Dreading and whining will only make it harder.
– Keep your end goal in mind! Compared to drafting & revising an entire novel, creating the synopsis is a straight-up, cupcake endeavor.
I couldn’t see it before, but now I totally understand why some agents require a synopsis. By comparing the end result of my latest attempt with previous ones, I can clearly see the strengths in my current story. I didn’t stumble over defining the essential stakes, core conflicts, etc. These items rang out crystal clear. And, so, I draw the conclusion that this novel is far tighter than my previous ones, and contains the elements a great, marketable novel should.
But hey, what do I know? Like I said, I aint no guru.
Nevertheless, the creation of this synopsis didn’t hurt. Not even a tiny bit. Maybe my Compendium will help your process flow along as smooth as silk.
Synopsis-hungry god-tier agents, here I come.
What say ye? Do you avoid querying agents who require a synopsis? Does the mere thought of synopsis writing make you cringe? Have you found a structure which works for you? What tips would you pass on to fellow writers?
Phreak Show is having it’s coming out party. Maybe.
Hot off the presses, it’s up for the grabby hands of the self-identified Slush Zombies over at #PitchMadness. If you’re oblivious, check it out here: http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/
The announcements for the pitches which level-up to Round 2 won’t be made until 3/26. In the meantime, I’ll query an EXTREMELY small selection of god-tier agents. I’m doing a short-window-exclusive-of-sorts during this time. Then, should the need arise, I will step down to the next rung of the Echeladder. [If you get the god-tier & Echeladder references, I totally heart your face.] Also, there is this magical nexus where PM & the GT converge…
For more info on Phreak Show:
Ever on the lookout for blogging inspiration–no matter what bush it peeks out of–this Facebook exchange with my writerly friend, Brittany Larson, has a good feel to it. Blog-worthy, I believe. From a random interaction amongst the social media bushes: Making Flash Fiction Your Bitch.
Brittany: HEY! I need some advice on some writing!
Lucas: Ok. I’ve got a few minutes. What’s up?
Brittany: Well I have this story idea swirling around my head about the 3 Archangels Micheal (The Angel Of Mercy) Gabriel (The Messenger Angel) And Azrael (The Angel of Death) And they are all fallen. And Iwas thinking Gabriel and Micheal stay faithful to God while Azreal goes rogue. He makes a deal with the devil that’s simple Bring me Rachel (My girl protagonist) and I will make you more powerful than God. God appears to Micheal and Gabriel and says stop him and you’re back in heaven. And I am thinking that Micheal will be my main male protagonist (Gabriel more as support) so what happens when Micheal falls in love with Rachel and doesn’t wanna go back to Heaven. Something along those lines. So the first question is: sound good? And also I don’t know if I wanna just start writing now or save it for NaNo.
Lucas: Is this a story you will try to market to agents/publishers? I only ask because a few months back many were groaning about the massive amount of “Angel” stories: fallen ones falling in love with a human. There are a lot of those on the market already. So, it’s a trope the pros don’t much care for anymore.
Brittany: Yeah…see I am not too sure. I am thinking. Truly I have never made it even far enough to think about sending it to publishers.
Lucas: A twist would be good. Can they be fallen gods instead of angels? And love triangles are always sellable. Maybe one naughty god in love with your mortal, Rachel, but a second god in love with the first & fighting the matchup? Or, make them aliens, or zombies, or any other creature. Then you could go with the same basic plot without stepping into the Angels theme. If you’re not going to shop it, then just go with whatever the heck makes you happy as a writer!
Brittany: True…true. That would be interesting. And yeah…see I am still debating whether to just write it or save it for NaNo…because I mean I have it written down so I don’t forget it.
Lucas: You’ll have more ideas before Nano! It’s always good to keep writing. Like flexing your muscles to make you stronger.
Brittany: True true. And I sure hope so. This is the Biggest Aha! Moment I have had in a while. My Nano idea wasn’t this solid.
Lucas: Here’s a cool trick for discovering ideas that are novel worthy: just start with a flash fiction of your story. Write out a key scene in 1000 words or less. Focus on using as little words as possible to convey setting, character, conflict.
Brittany: Thanks That really helps
Lucas: Still have the story arc of intro, conflict, climax, closure. This helps me weed out ideas as either long-running or short lived. If the idea feels “done” or exorcised, then cool. You have a flash fiction story. But, if you find the character’s voice and keep thinking about his/her life, then it’s time to plot for a longer work: short story, novella, novel.
Brittany: Yeah. Thanks for the advice
Lucas: You’re welcome, yo. Mind if I post this interaction on my blog in a few days? “I’d rather not” is an acceptable response. 😉
Brittany: Oh that’s fine. I really don’t care…I mean it wasn’t personal or anything:)
Lucas: I can keep you anonymous or remove/summarize your novel idea if you’d like.
Brittany: No it’s fine…put in as much detail as you’d like. I’m not shy.
Lucas: Done! Do you have a blog or Twitter account I can link to? Such things often bring you new followers.
So, let’s get Brittany some new followers.
And, let’s get to using Flash Fiction as a test-run for those awesome ideas we keep coming up with. It tests their mettle, and keeps us flexing those writing muscles. Better to weed out the losers before we invest a half a novel’s worth of time before discovering they suck. Also, our writerly friends are awesome sounding boards for our new concepts. They can often spot holes, provide useful feedback, and tune us in to stuff they’ve stumbled upon in the publishing world but we have not.
Now, you know one of the secret tools I use to tame my overzealous ideas. What do you think? Is it worth slipping into your own bag of tricks?
Reporting from the bushes, this is Lucas, signing off.
Being burned out is different from needing a break.
Other than brainstorming for some flash fiction, I haven’t written for six weeks. [Unless you count writing checks for bills or revising my résumé. Shite. I haven’t even been blogging as regularly as I ought.] That is by far the longest non-writing spell I’ve had during the last 2 1/2 years.
It’s odd how the process for Phreak Show has been so different from my previous novels. As always, the premise & ideas developed over time. They simmered and congealed in my head for months. I scribbled a few gems down so as not to forget them, but then held all that info in a sort of suspended animation in my head. In a moment of weakness, I drafted and revised the opening page before a conference.
And then I made myself stop.
I was holding out for NaNo. I remember dying to get the words out. The characters were yapping all the time–developing and morphing and becoming folks with their own rich, private histories. I’ve never been on a movie set right before filming begins, but that’s what I felt like was going on. The actors were getting to know one another, practicing their lines, feeling one another out. Alliances and enmities were formed. Flirtations began. Evil eyes were cast.
Then the planning and gap-filling for the novel took place. November came, and the mad, loose drafting started. I hit my personal goal of 60k by Thanksgiving. And without backtracking, reading, or revising, I set the world aside.
And then I made myself stop. Again.
I haven’t touched it since. And that is something I’ve never done before.
Normally I blaze through the first draft, maybe take a few days off at most, then dive back into revising the story. Not so with Phreak Show. I didn’t lose interest in it. I definitely didn’t burn out on the characters or the storyline. I didn’t lose steam or get stuck on which way the tale would turn next. There was something about how well the narrative was going and how amazing everything was coming together that made me not want to screw it up. Or something.
Is it a line from a movie or a statement from an actual friend I’m remembering right now? Something about a guy getting his hair cut three days before a wedding so he would look well-groomed but not like he had gotten his hair cut the day before? That is where I’ve been with the drafting of Phreak Show. Another hair analogy [what’s with all the hair?] which comes to mind is planning a dye job a few days before an important event. That first day, the new color is screaming and vibrant. But almost too vibrant. Know what I mean? Like the fiery-red needs to chill out a minute, rest, relax, calm down, age, mellow, whatever.
Phreak Show has been doing all those things.
But, the characters are stirring. The break is over and the cast members are stumbling back onto set. A few are groggy and apparently hungover. Others are chipper and almost too eager to slip back in front of the camera. The propmaster is dusting off the creepy specimens in the Odditorium. The gaffer is ensuring that the sideshow’s Tesla-inspired lighting system is ready for night taping.
If I’m going Paparazzi-Reporter for a minute, I feel compelled to divulge that Tera, in particular, is battling with her nerves. She has recently discovered her new role in the twisted plot and really wants to nail this next batch of scenes. [Sources say she is deadset on an Academy Award this year.] And the growing connection with Niko? Well, they’re both remaining silent on the topic, but they were recently spotted with their lips locked beneath the downspray of a public fountain in Savannah. Not exactly a platonic co-worker kind of move.
So, the stage and actors are ready. So is the Director. I have the loft all to myself for the next 5 days. Guess what that means? We’re gonna finish shooting this thing. Just a few final scenes–jam-packed with emotion, action & major sacrifice–and then we’ll wrap it up and head to editing.
Wish us luck. Tell us to ‘break a leg’ and all that. We’re going back in.
Ahhh! Finally, some more invisible ink. While the “ACTION!” has been slowly building in my throat and moving to the tip of my tongue, a recent event has smacked my back and made me spit out the word. A few days ago, Lit Agent Louise Fury followed me on Twitter. Out of the blue. Like, I haven’t been talking about writing or #PhreakShow or anything. In fact, in the thrust of the holidays and a general hiatus from all things writerly, my Twitter presence has diminished of late. I previously queried her with two other projects and I’m sure I was following her at one point. But when I checked, I had to ‘Follow’ her again. So, I thought the whole thing was interesting, but didn’t revel too much in the thought.
Then, today, I got notification that I had a new comment on the Phreak Show page of this here blog. Guess who it’s from? Yep. Go check it out.