Astroplotting


A portion of the Astroplotting ridiculousness. My copper-clad desk totally helps things go smoother. Somehow?

A portion of the Astroplotting ridiculousness. My copper-clad desk totally helps things go smoother. Somehow?

With Pitch Slam behind me and CP duties complete, it’s almost time to draft my next novel:
If Found, Return to Astropop.

Let me give you the [rough] pitch before I prattle on about the plotting for this many-tentacled monster.

 

SHORT PITCH

Unaware of one another’s gender or appearance, two teens find themselves mutually smitten by reading each other’s journals.

 

FULL (Rough) PITCH

When sixteen-year-old Astropop finds his/her previously lost journal, Astro discovers the mystery person who returned it (known only as Pippopotamus)  read his/her innermost thoughts and traced Astro’s movements like a teenage P.I. This stranger believes s/he is smitten with Astropop—sight unseen. Astro knows this, because teenage Pip wrote a journal in response.

As Astro re-reads his/her own forgotten words, and those of Pip, Astro is amazed at how simple letters on paper can bond complete strangers. In fact, Astro is completely smitten with Pip, too. Using unintentional clues in Pip’s journal, Astro engages in a little P.I. work of his/her own to search for the anonymous Pippopotamus.

With the confessions and intimate stories in the pair of books tangling with Astro’s real life in uncanny ways, Astro reaches the end of both journals. On the last precious page, Pip left one final clue. Perhaps accidental, perhaps intentional. Astropop can finally meet this intriguing stranger face-to-face, but fears, if s/he does, their inexplicable connection will be broken.

 

If Found, Return to Astropop has been percolating for a while. I’m in the final stages of [ridiculous!] outlining. Not because the process is ridiculous. I love it; it’s essential for me. But because this story requires…more than any story I’ve attempted before it.

With 3 separate timelines overlapping: the present, Astro’s journal written 6 months earlier, and Pip’s response journal written 3 months earlier, it’s a beast to manage. Along with those interwoven timelines, I’m also juggling a calendar (noting meteor showers & moon phases important to Astro), a grid of the 3 interwoven arcs, and a complete outline packet for each of the 2 MCs. Plus a OneNote file with random scenes, dialogue lines, imagery. Oh, and extensive research on both arborsculpture and architecture (specifically Art Nouveau).

Confused? Yeah. I would be, too.

Thankfully all these tools help give order to the chaos I’m attempting to wrangle.

This story is rich, layered, insanely interwoven. The timelines wrap back on themselves (in a sense). Events in the present mirror the completely different stories in the 2 sets of journal entries. Yet, the happenings have a completely separate arc all their own. But align. But stand alone. (SEE WHAT I MEAN!?)

To add to the challenge (because this is apparently not enough…) I’m keeping Pip’s gender ambiguous. For reasons.

And, for just a little more personal push, this will be my first Contemporary YA. At least, it’s 97% Contemporary, with about 3% Magical Realism thrown in? I mean, I’m guessing here. It may be considered MR all around. I just don’t know which bucket it fits in. The setting is our world, 100%. Everything works as we know it. But the way the three layers align in uncanny ways, there is a hint that something more than mere chance is at work.

So is that actually 100% Magical Realism?

Hell if I know. But it’s a story I must absolutely tell.

Even if my brain Astropops in the process.

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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

OFFER OF REP! (and why I said no)


guy kneeling crying

Please, put down the torches and pitchforks.

I know how that title sounds. I never, ever imagined I’d turn down an offer of rep from an agent. But I did. I had to. It was a difficult thing to do, but maybe not for the reasons you might think.

It all started with the most recent #PitMad event. The day job was busy sucking the life out of me, so, the night before, I scheduled a few Tweets to jump in and scrap with the thousands of others vying for attention in the stream. By the end of the day, I had two requests: one from a small pub & one from an agent. Right away I knew I wouldn’t submit to the publisher. Because, you see, I’ve made the personal decision that I want an agent fighting by my side, adding value, experience, and wisdom to this passionate dream of mine.

So that left me with an agent who wanted to see more than the (exactly) 140 characters: Tera joins the crazy-twisted Phreak Show where she must embrace the truth: being a freak isn’t about looks, it’s a frame of mind #PitMad YAF

I’d previously researched the agency *a little*. My mind couldn’t instantly dredge up any black-listed reasons not to submit. Plus: AN AGENT WANTS TO SEE MORE OF MY STORY! Once I got home, I hunted the sub guidelines and shipped off the query, synopsis & first 25 pages. I grabbed some dinner and nonchalantly strolled into my weekend.

5 days later, this arrived in my inbox:

I’m absolutely obsessed with this. Your concept looks really tight and the message is just awesome. I think there is something so real about this, but you are entertaining instead of didactic. I could go on and on, but suffice to say I’m fangirling : ) I would be delighted to give your full manuscript a read.

Of course I did a celebratory jig (a cross between Riverdance & walking on hot coals) & sent it right over. An agent. Fangirling over my words! And only then did I do the in-depth research I should have.

Uh-oh.

As this process progressed, a half dozen of my fellow writers, CPs, and an Assistant Agent friend all suited up & went into research-war with me. There were a lot of questions marks, which twisted into perplexities, which then flared into big, flaming red flags.

– Predators & Editors only noted: slow response time to queries. [Well, hell. That’s 75% of all queries I’ve ever sent…]
– No agents with the agency are members off AAR. [Okay, well I know of some top-notch agents who aren’t…]
– No clients listed on the agency website. [Okay. Wait. What? You’ve been in business for years…Your website is a basic (and easy) venue to champion your authors’ work. If you’re not showcasing your clients & their books on your own website, then what kind of marketing value are you really adding?]
– Twitter digging, following the rabbit down its hole, unearthed a few “clients”. [Hmmm…few and far between. The quality of the book covers look little better than something created in MS Paint. Are these self-pubbers? I smell fish.]
– Even though the agency (and its parent Talent agency) has been around for years: no sales listed. None. Anywhere. [Slow the eff down. Even if the agent (for whatever reason) chose not to post sales, then the Editor, or the even the author most likely would. Right? HOW CAN YOU BE IN BUSINESS FOR YEARS AND NOT HAVE ANY PUBLIC RECORD OF SALES?]

And as a few more red flags were firmly planted: that dead fish smell clung to me, my manuscript, my misconception that landing a full request is always a good thing.

THE NEXT DAY: My phone rings during my commute home. I don’t recognize the number. It’s the agent. I pull over. I whip out my notebook, access the mental database of all those questions & red flags in my head.

I absolutely LOVE this. Love.it. The aesthetic you created is perfect for this concept, perfect for YA. The quirkiness is really good; weird in a good way. Your characters are a BIG strength; they feel so real. The whole story felt really emotional without sacrificing plot. It’s so hard to balance characterization, worldbuilding and plot, and you did it beautifully. That’s evidence of a great writer.”

Lucas’ brain: She’s genuine. She reallymeans every word. Damn, those words feel good. Why, oh why, does this have to smell like a Red Lobster’s dumpster?

I’d like to offer you and your phenomenal book representation.

Lucas’s brain: Oh fuck does this suck. Hard.

I dig into my questions: carefully. I ask about the things giving me major pause (or, actually, damn-near a full-on stop). She answers. She’s super nice. Her personality is vibrant, cheery, and wonderful. We’d get along great outside of the whole agent-author relationship thingy. Oh yeah. That’s the whole point. A knowledgeable agent guiding me through the process, selling-the-hell-out-of-my-book, connecting with contacts I don’t have, championing my story, fighting alongside me to make this passionate dream of mine a reality.

I have other fulls out, so I need to nudge those agents and give them the opportunity to offer. A week ought to do. I ask for a copy of the agency’s contract to look over. I can text or email or call anytime with questions or concerns.

I’m torn. There’s no way I can accept this offer. But, at the same time, in an ooey gooey part of me, this is the call I’ve been working SO HARD to receive for years now. THIS EFFIN SUCKS.

If the red flags smelled fish-like, the contract is the bloody meat of every fish who ever died, piled on a shit-covered beach, rotting in the boiling hot sun while zombie skunks spray musk on the stinkbugs chewing on the eyeless corpses. You think I’m exaggerating. I’ve seen a few agency contracts, so I have comparison points. I work with contracts & legal docs in both my day job and in my own business. This contract isn’t for just this project, but basically for your creative soul. The Author’s Work is defined as:

“…all ideas, story materials, characters, situations, formats, and works of authorship which Author has created or creates during the term of this Agreement…”

That feels pretty all-encompassing. “Ideas” are included? And what’s with the “has created” phrase? The word “irrevocably” is used too many times throughout the contract. The clauses involving how the contract can be terminated revolve around a very specific period in time; not just with 30 days written notice, which seems to be the standard. With each new work, the contract auto-renews & resets the clock & the termination clause. The continuation of residual commissions is scary when combined with the agreement’s definition of the Author’s Work. If things weren’t fishy before, this contract alone would have been enough to lead me to a no.

My deadline for getting back to this agent arrives. My gut wrenches as I dial the number. And I’ve heard agents say this before: rejections suck no matter which side of the conversation you are on. This isn’t true with queries or partials, I’m sure. Probably not even with a lot of fulls. But here, with an offer of rep before me, knowing and believing that (despite all the salmon) this agent truly & genuinely loves my work, I feel so awful saying no. And not for my sake. Not because I feel like I’m losing something, but because this agent feels so strongly for my manuscript. My heart hurts because she has expectation and hope. And I’m the one dashing it against the stones.

It bites when agents give you a generic rejection, which leaves you wondering But, really, WHY? It’s harder this way (on me), but I’m super-honest and straightforward with her on the reasons why I am declining her offer. She is gracious, but sadness tinges her voice.

I received an offer of rep. And yet, I had to reject it.

But the story doesn’t end there. Since I rejected that offer, I expanded the deadline: for reasons. Baited hooks still dangle in the sparkling water, with the possibility of reeling in an agent with the passion, experience, and wisdom worthy of a yes. It may or may not happen this round. I’ll keep you posted. Thankfully, there are fish in that wide, open sea who don’t smell fishy at all.

Phreak Show Sub Status


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.

SubmissionsStatus-20130603

 

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 Like My Sleeves


PhreakShowSubmissionsChart

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. 

Compendium of Synopsis Writing Wisdom


LucasCompendium

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.

Lucas’s Compendium of Synopsis Writing Wisdom

– 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?

Pitch Madness vs The God Tier


god-tier

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:

  • Check out it’s dedicated tab right here on the blog.
  • Like its Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/PhreakShowNovel
  • Peruse its Pinterest Boards: http://pinterest.com/gypsyluc/
  • Peep in on the #PhreakShow hashtag.