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

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.

The Next Novel: Phreak Show


My peaceful breath-between-novels has been released. I’m sucking in the freshness of a new premise exploding with heaving, huffing, puffing, oxygenated life.

Here we go. Again.

It’s always a toss-up for me on how much of a premise–how many specifics–I should divulge to the world-at-large. I’m torn. Of course, I want to share ALL THE IDEAS. I want to gush about the nuances, the love quadrangles, character motivations, the twists and turns, the specific tidbits which make my world & story unique. But, then the fear kicks in.

What if somebody steals my gems? What if a writing thug ganks my ideas and appropriates them as his/her own?

So, I share just enough to tease. Reveal pieces of the puzzle which—hopefully—entice others to ache for more.

{No, this isn’t as streamlined as a pitch should be. It’s more like slightly connected thoughts. Bear with me.}

Phreak Show  is a YA Fantasy. It is set in the Last American Sideshow–an anachronistic Victorian subculture existing within, and clashing against, modern-day society. The phreaks are everyday teens who have been enslaved by the mysterious Phineas Maestro. The main character, kick-ass sixteen-year-old Tera, is tricked into transforming into one of the exhibits. Living, working, fighting, and finding love with the other phreaks leads her to discover how they can all break free from Phineas’ imprisonment.

Their own warped self-images have created the personas of Blubber Girl, Gemini the Two-Headed Boy, The Abominable Snowwoman, and the rest of the oddities.  If Tera can control her unique phreak manifiestation as a WhatIzIt, she can help the others face their fears and release themselves from bondage. With more internal baggage than the spoiled Lil Diva lugs around, Tera will have to confront her own effed-up issues before she can begin to help the others. But being comfortable in your own skin is tough as shit. Being a phreak isn’t about looks, it’s a frame of mind.

I have started a few Pinterest boards for collecting visual references for Phreak Show. Some of the descriptions give further clues to the characters and the world I am building.

http://pinterest.com/gypsyluc/

Take a peek for a few more scrumptious, teaserly morsels.

We have all felt ostracized & marginalized at some point in our lives. Some more than others. In a former life, I was a Youth Pastor. [I know, right? Crazy!] The leaders of one employing church in particular wanted me to chase after the athletes, the popular kids, the rich kids. In their minds, if we could get these types involved, others would follow. Frankly, I thought that was pompous, ungodly bullshit. So, I went with my heart. And this heart of mine roots for the underdog, kids from the wrong side of the tracks, the dirty, the broken, folks who are rough around the edges. The result: I ministered to sk8ers, emo kids, regular Joes & Janes–anyone who desired interaction. I still get Facebook messages, emails & phone calls from these kids–now grown–telling me how much I affected their lives… Long live the underdogs.

Agents: How to Cut Your Slush Piles in Half


 
Maybe the title is a tad hyperbolic. Nevertheless, there is a useable nugget of truth here. I promise.
 
Sometimes, a writer has to take a chance on a query letter. I have tried a few things–nothing outlandish–but perhaps a little out of the tried-and-true norm. I know, I know. Gimmicks are almost always an instant turn off. I haven’t used dancing baby videos or written a query as though one of my characters was doing the pitching.  Confession: after a conversation regarding what makes Freeborn unique, I did use this subject line for a few queries:
 
Query – FREEBORN – YA Sci-Fi (With pregnant dudes? What!?)‏
 
Yeah, well, I recovered from that moment of lunacy.
 
Sometimes, writers don’t feel like they’re taking a chance; it just happens. An example of this is querying agents who may/may not rep the genre the writer is submitting. I thoroughly research each agent before querying: agency sites, interviews, twitter, random internet searches, client lists. No matter how in-depth this fact-finding mission, it is often hard to discern exactly what an agent is looking for. Some have a very quiet e-presence, while others throw themselves out there loud and proud.
 
When in doubt, I send the query out.
 
Much love to the agents who spell out their wants/likes/dislikes in crystal clear terms. Unfortunately for the slew of querying writers, there are plenty of agent profiles which merely provide the wide-open, vague “YA/MG” market with no specific genres noted. With these agents, I will take a chance and send a query anyway.
 
***Note to agents with vague ‘What I’m Interested In’ declarations: Want to cut the number of ‘Not Right For Me Queries’? Give us details of what IS right for you.***
 
Both you and your interns will thank me for it.
 
One of my best rejection letters came from an agent who simply listed the “YA/MG” market. This rejection is inserted below. With the Dear John opening address, it starts off sounding like my girl back home is breaking up with me while I’m crawling around in muddy, wartime trenches. After that, there are amazing statements every writer likes to hear. But then it hits–the dreaded asshole-of-a-word–however.
 
Dear John,
 
Thank you for your query. I thought this was a really creepy, interesting concept and that you executed it very well. The writing was super compelling and the pace was great. However, I’m afraid that I don’t do all that much with Sci-Fi, as I’m not a big sci-fi reader and don’t feel I know the market well enough. I wish you all the best and encourage you to submit your query to other agencies. Thank you for thinking of me!
 
Best,
Agent with Vague Profile
 
Let’s recap the key terms and play-by-play reactions:
“really creepy, interesting concept” – [Yay! It’s not a form letter! Perfect compliment. That’s my brand.]
“you executed it very well” – [:: Heart flutter :: We’re off to a great start here.]
“writing was super compelling” – [Wow! This is going really well! This agent ‘gets it’. :: heart rate increases ::]
“the pace was great” – [I agree. And thank you. I worked hard to make sure of it. Where is this email leading…? :: heart skips a beat ::]
– “However” – [F#^k!!! :: heart shrivels and dies ::]
 
After the however, my eyes glazed over. My blood pressure rose. My finger instinctually slid over the mousepad and selected the “Move To: Rejections” icon. Fantastic. Agent read at least part of my sample chapter, liked it, but rejected it.
 
I double-checked the agency website and online info for the agent. Yep. Just as I suspected. Vague market with no genres listed. Don’t get me wrong. I am very appreciative of the customized letter and feedback. I understand that the effort was a gift and took time for the agent to compose. The agent could have simply form-rejected Freeborn since my submission was not in a genre s/he represents. However…