I Have Too Many Damn Words Inside Me


TooMany1

I’ve accepted it. I have too many damn words inside me.

Maybe the worst thing about having too many damn words: I’ll never be able to get them all out.

Maybe the best thing about having too many damn words: I get to curate which ones I set free.

(You know the worst thing about that best thing? It scares the hell out of me.)

I alone have the power to decide which words I let out. Like, nothing I say in real-life conversations or online or on paper gets through without me giving it permission. Every word in any form I ever communicate is my personal responsibility.

(I’m scaring myself again.)

But I should be scared. Because every word matters.

I want to remember that. Not occasionally, but at the exact moment I’m curating each of the too many damn words I’m going to set free.

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Querying – Savvy Little Tip?


I sure do like some spreadsheets and charts

I’ve queried four manuscripts. As my craft developed, my stories moved closer towards marketable, and my aptitude for the actual querying process grew, the request rates slowly climbed.
1st queried manuscript = 2%
2nd queried manuscript = 3%
3rd queried manuscript = 7%
4th queried manuscript = 32% (so far)

That’s an unbelievable increase on the 4th one, like, BOOM. Even now, I’m floored by it.

The core of what writers must do is (we know, we know, we know) craft an amazing story. Solid hook. Identifiable conflict. Unique voice. Unforgettable characters. Consistent worldbuilding. Tight dialogue. Emotional resonance. [Insert a seemingly million other requirements here]. The writing has to be not just strong, but irresistible. And, let’s be honest, the story needs to possess the promise of $cha-ching$ flowing silently beneath the words.

The writing is the most important part, but it’s far from the only element we have to master. And every separate skillset only comes with practice. You know: effort, rejection, frustration, painfully starting over with a fresh manuscript, bringing the scars and callouses and wisdom into the process the next time. Trying again.

This time around, when preparing to query, I became conscious of something I’d been aware of, but never purposefully honed in on—the most common sample lengths agents ask for.
– 5 pages
– 10 pages
– 1 chapter
– 3 chapters
– 50 pages

This little lightbulb went off. Towards the end of my revisions, I focused on making sure those breaking points were loaded with as much tension as the narrative allowed at that point in the story. My goal: to (hopefully) leave the agent thirsty at the end of the sample, to spark that desire to request more pages. Which is the point.

We know to do this at chapter endings. But check this:

When querying, we need to treat the end of each of those sample lengths the same way we would a chapter ending.

For what they’re worth without context, examples of my breaking points:

5 pages

I sighed, and she pulled me closer to stain my cheek with what was left of her cherry-red lipstick.

“Katers demands I hang out with her tonight,” I said, pulling away. “She’ll tell me if I need to quasi-freak-out over this unholy union or totally Astro-freak-out.”

Olivia nudged me from behind, jangling my keys.

Gma pointed at me. “Check in with your daddy first.”

10 pages

I pretend-counted on my fingers. “If we’re including wicked stepsisters, crazy stalkers, and secret boyfriends, then that’s, oh, I’d say, four-point-five. Ish.”

Katers rushed towards me and grabbed my sleeves. “Boyfriend? Why is this the first your supposed best friend in all of creation is hearing about this love connection?”

Love. Ha.

1 chapter

The shadow in the greenhouse shrank to normal size, then the light went out. I grabbed my suitcase and rushed to the house, inside, up the stairs, and into the dark bedroom designated as mine. I peeked through the curtains. Axel Chicory, formerly known as Daddy, looked so inconsequential, a lone silhouette crossing the big lawn.

The New Moon floated directly above him, but its magic had already run its course.

I let the curtains fall closed between us, then locked my bedroom door.

3 chapters

Setting my journal in the grass, I focused on the other book. Plain, black cover. Not the unnamable blue-black of the night sky. Truly boring black. I hooked my finger under the cover’s edge, half-expecting the wind to pick up or a meteorite to land in the orchard when I opened it.

But nothing happened.

So I turned the first blank page.

And then another.

Until I found words.

This journal belongs to:
PIPPOPOTAMUS

I jettisoned the book and jumped up, smacking at my bare legs where the blasted thing touched them.

50 pages

The Heart of Joven.

Gpa had the young whiz-kid architect design the house around it. Ten sycamores planted by my Great-Gma decades earlier. Her hands began the grafting, and Gpa’s continued shaping it when she joined the stars. Axel and I had even touched and whispered to it. Four generations of the Chicory family recorded in the growth rings of a single being who had outlived two generations already.

The third was too busy to love on the tree. The fourth was too scared of screwing it up. Also, too wounded by the mere sight of it to look at it a nanosecond longer.

Among the million things we need to nail as writers-seeking-to-become-traditionally-pubbed-authors, this little piece is a secret weapon. I mean, it’s not a magic bullet. Nothing is. But it’s the savvy thing to do, a special tool to add to the toolbox we’re slowly filling. I believe it played a part—even if a small one—in that ridiculously unbelievable request rate. (Still reeling!)

We all need every hint, trick, key, and password we can get our hands on. Yes? I hope this one maybe helps you.

Invisible Ink! Yesss this manuscript garnered A LOT of requests in its 5 weeks in the trenches. And, maybe, perhaps, it has even gone beyond simple requests. 😉 Pretttty sure there will be another EXCITING post late next week…

Inside the Fish Bowl Castle


glug glug

glug glug

Change.

That’s the reason I’ve been silent on this blog for a bit.

Plenty has been going on in my life. Major things, positive things. But a lot of it is of a personal nature—things best shared over warm cups of coffee, or around a crackling fire pit, but not so much in a public forum. You know, the richness of life which requires conversation, eye contact, Q&A, backstory, body language, and laughter-spiked discussion.

I’m in a period of a hella lot of transition.

And while I know I should (right?) be blogging & keeping my presence here active, that simply can’t happen. Because life. Because sometimes we have to pull back, keep parts of ourselves for ourselves, and curate what we let others see.

I felt a little guilty about it at first—not sharing. I felt like I wasn’t following the rules of posting regularly & keeping my blog active—all those sorts of things we hear over and over. I even worried that this absence would hinder my goals as a writer by not having a structured, frequently updated place for folks to come check me out & whatnot.

I could have forced myself to post things. But, with the real stuff being my true focus behind-the-scenes, I also knew any posts would only be placeholders lacking genuine passion or insight. That, I realized, would just be a waste.

So I did what I needed to do. For me. As an actual person who (surprise!) also lives an existence filled with non-writerly, person-like things.

And I guess that’s the point of this post. Writers, like everyone else, are actual people with families, and friends, and lives, and problems, and celebrations, and times of transitions and change. Yes, we need that sacred “online presence” so agents and editors can see who we are outside of our polished words. But we also need to breathe & focus on the other important things in our lives.

Living in a fish bowl is an interesting thing. Strangers watch us swim. They make judgments based on only what they see. Of course, we do it to strangers, too.

Every now and then, we need to tuck in our fins and shimmy into the privacy of our little underwater castles.

I expect to be in mine for the next month as the culmination of all this personal change is happening. I’ll keep poking my fishy head out on Twitter, etc. I don’t feel guilty or worried about it anymore. This is what I need for me at this time. It’s the right thing to do.

So I should end with a moral-of-the-story or an actionable item, right? Isn’t that a rule? Okay. I’ll totally try.

Slip into your castle when you need to. The outside world will be there when you get back. A bit of respite won’t ruin everything you’ve worked for. It won’t hurt your momentum towards your professional goals. In fact, taking time to take care of yourself is probably the absolute best thing you can do.

*does cool stuff inside castle, where you can’t see. neener neener*

If you find this invisible ink, you deserve a peek into my castle window. My beau and I are liquidating our antiques business, leaving our loft/workshop/storefront behind, and moving into a cute, little house a few towns over. A separate, 20-year relationship is making its final transition—which feels like a mix of freedom and loss, but is positive overall. And I’m doing an experimental writing thing, using a Twitter account run by the M.C. of a fun, ridiculously long titled idea for my next book. Plus other things. neener neener again. 

Saturday Selfie for the Hell of It


Me, on a random Saturday, which is to say: a few minutes ago

Me, on a random Saturday, which is to say: a few minutes ago

Twitter’s such a jerk to me when it comes to uploading pics taken on my camera. I mean, I reduce the image size, scale it down, and everything. TO NO AVAIL.

I probably should look into some Twitpiccy thingamahooey or something. But who has time??? There are chapters to write! Novels to complete! COFFEE TO BUY AND THAT’S THE ONLY REASON I’M EVEN DRESSED RIGHT NOW

And why a selfie? IDK…because I rarely take them? Because I have a dumbphone not a smartphone? Because, have I mentioned, TWITTER HATES MY CAMERA?

So, for whatever spur-of-the-moment reason, a Saturday selfie. Which could be a weekly thing, but what would be the point? Well, keeping track of my everchanging coiffure perhaps. Or touring the loft/studio/storefront maybe.

Well, let’s point out some things with this here pic, at least. Hair: hastily bound topknot to wrangle the mess. Broken arm pose to show off the Phreak Show tats. Oh, and that’s my Astrobracelet on my wrist. (Which, were I savvy, I would have twisted so the pair of stars smiled at the camera.) Setting: ‘Living Room’ area of the loft. I’m chilling on this amazing highback Victorian sofa we recovered in cowhide with nailhead trim.

So there you have it! A — for whatever it’s worth — selfie. (Which also conveniently took care of my need for a blog post. Thanks, jerky Twitter!)

And now: To brave the always curiously gawking, midwest townsfolk in order to BUY SOME FLIPPIN COFFEE WHILE CLOTHED ON A SATURDAY.

Confession: I’m self-conscious of this post. Not b/c of the pic. I’m more than cool with that. But b/c there’s a cussword in the title. Being a “YA Author” with industry eyes on me, I worry about things like that. I actually just edited to  change “DAMN” to “FLIPPIN” in that last line. But the title stays. Is that a weird thing to be weirded out over?

Pitch Slam – Team Stray Tats – BAND POSTER


TST Band members

GOOD LUCK, STRAY TATS

KEEP ROCKIN’ & WRITIN’, EVERYBODY

It’s been a BLAST! Fun, tiring, nerve-wracking, hard-awesome, exciting, ALL THAT. This chasing your dream thing? Your Managers & Talent Scouts know what that feels like. We’re in it with you. We’ve been in the trenches. (Some of us still are.) Keep at it.

We appreciate how AWESOME you’ve all been: following guidelines, participating on Twitter (which made it as fun for us as it was for you). An easy, concrete way to thank the Managers & Scouts: follow us on ALL the social media outets you’re plugged into. (So simple, right?) I’ve got handy-dandy, clicky icons at the top right of this page. I want to hear your success stories. All of you.
Love & tattoos ~Lucas

Pitch Slam – Team Stray Tats – Talent Scout Save!


Title: Ice Queen

Word Count: 65,000

Song: Human by Christina Perri

Pitch:

The Angel Experiment meets The Snow Queen when sixteen-year-old Arianna Lewis falls for her hottie new neighbor. If she can’t figure out how to control her ice juice, it’s bye-bye sleepy beach town…hello frozen wasteland.

250: 

For the love of all things not genetically modified, please let me get to the bus without a Jeremy Watters run-in.

Racing though the empty gym, I slam my backpack into the double doors as the final bell rings. Almost there—

“Hey Ice Queen, I’ve got something to thaw you off.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I stop short of slamming into his overly inflated chest. My fingertips tingle as the sneer spreads across his face.  I dig my nails into my palms to avoid another accident. Two in one day is too risky.

Jeremy casually folds his pumped biceps across his chest, flipping that damn toothpick between his teeth. If only he’d choke on it. Sucking in a calming breath, I choke on the musky air burning the back of my throat.

“Geeze, didn’t anyone ever teach you how to spray cologne?” I let out a gagged cough and hold up a finger, “One squirt. That crap isn’t air-freshener. People need to breathe.”

“Come on Ice Queen, it’s no secret you can’t resist the love potion. Your temperature’s rising just thinking about it.”

Somehow he drags the word love into five syllables as he grabs his crotch and licks his lips prompting me to dry heave. Hard to believe a year ago he used to sneak in my window at night to avoid his parents’ knockdown arguments.

“Oh Jeremy, your tiny package couldn’t thaw out a popsicle.”

“Dude, she burned you,” one of his cronies shouts.

This is so not going to end well.

I chose to save Ice Queen because the character’s voice stood out above all the entries. It captured my attention and had me wanting to read more. Saved! @agirlnamednat, Team Stray Tats Talent Scout

Pitch Slam Battle Royale


Team Stray Tats Poster

The Pitch Slam Managers & Talent Scouts scoured the globe, seeking the next big thing.
Our search took us to karaoke bars, church socials, and, yes,  even (pay-by-the-hour) motels in Vegas.

Because committed.

ALL THIS, so each team could assemble a rockin’ 10 11 12 member band.
These 5 bands are now ready to battle in front of the Executives. Details here.

#TeamStrayTats’ picks (the rockingest in the bunch) include:

– Our Top 10 – Chosen for their kickin’ voices, marketability, and undeniable cat-class swagger
– Talent Scout Save – Chosen by @agirlnamednat to rescue this entry from being shoved backstage
– Rebel Roadie – This is a Rock & Roll  themed contest, right? What’s R&R without a little rebellion? So why not pick an entry we might otherwise rule out due to content, length, from a “saturated genre”, etc etc?

We’re kinda partial to our very own Stray Tats, but…if you want to check out those other bands‘ picks:

Spyder
Magenta
Sweeter
Electric

Good luck #TeamStrayTats!

[And yes, of course, band members on those other teams, too.]

 

Comments are open to Agents-posing-as-Executives ONLY.
They will remain hidden until 5pm Eastern (for Team Stray Tats).

[If you’re a secret Executive looking to snatch up a band member, let me know on Twitter: @LucasMight]

All others: Feel free to share your groupie love and appreciation via the #PitchSlam hashtag.

You found the Stray Tats ~easter egg~ Shhhh…secret, rebellious stuff. If we had 3 more picks, you would have been the ones: Grit of Berth and Stone, Blackball, Enchanted Goddesses. So close! And not just those three, but ALL OF YOU, keep at it. Don’t give up. If writing is in you, you’ll keep honing your craft, hammering out words, editing the hell out of them, taking risks. You’ll make it.