All the how-to book writing books, articles, blogs and tweets insist that the first five pages of a novel manuscript are the most important. This is an author’s best chance to set a hook.
This is where readers first decide whether it’ll be worth it to read the whole book. So publishers insist they be gripping. So agents insist they be gripping. In fact, many agents ask wannabe clients to submit only the first five pages.
So do you write those pages to pander to this demand?
I’m rewriting The Murder Plague right now and I decided to give it a try. Here was my problem. The action really ramps up midway through Chapter 1 … on page seven. Too late? I decided it was.
But those first six pages have gone through multiple rewrites. I liked them as they were; at least I did after the first few drafts. What do I get rid of? Continue reading
I never felt so good about losing a writing contest.
Last spring I entered “The Murder Plague” in the Unpublished Novels (science fiction) category of the Florida Writers Assocition’s annual Royal Palm Literary Awards. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Florida’s a big state. There are a lot of great writers here.
So I wasn’t terribly disappointed last month when I got a notice from the contest coordinator telling me that “The Murder Plague” was not a finalist. A little bit, sure. But it was easy to shrug off. Here’s how the contest worked: We submitted both the complete manuscript and a seperate entry of the first 30 pages. Two judges would read the first 30 pages, and score them. If it scored high enough to be a finalist, then the judges would read the entire manuscript. The winner in my category was “Outpost Earth” by L.H. Davis of Malabar. Congratulations!
So when I got the letter last month saying, “sorry, you’re not a finalist” I moved on pretty quickly. I forgot that FWA promised to share the judges’ comments when the contest was finished.
Those comments, scorecards, arrived last night and they were wonderful. Continue reading
How many agents is it appropriate and practical to query at once?
There are many agents who insist on getting exclusive submissions – meaning one. I’m not talking about them. I skip them. I’m sure many others would hope and assume (but can’t really realistically demand) that we submit to only one at a time.
But let’s face it, at the 3-6 weeks to never that agents tend to reserve to respond even to a query, the prospect of querying enough to get that one-in-a-100 bite would go on until forever.
So I ask you writers and realists: how many simultaneously?
My standard has been five to ten. That’s for practical reasons. You want to research them. You want to personalize your pitch, accentuating your manuscript’s stengths and your own strengths to appeal to an individual agent’s interests. And frankly I have a hard time keeping track of more than five or ten at a time. Continue reading
One of the big differences between the new and improved version of Eve’s Swath and the version that I half-heartedly floated on the market a couple of years ago involves a major flew that I knew all along existed but just couldn’t push myself to fix, until recently.
The flaw involved a hole in the background of the main protagonist, Eve Mirada. I hinted at a troubled past, I clumsily described the troubled past, but I just couldn’t make it real. She was a far weaker character than her co-star, Max Studebaker.
Now that I’ve tackled that issue head-on, with full energy, I feel as if I installed a backbone into a character who was something of a jellyfish. I feel really good about it. I can’t understand why I didn’t come up with a fix for that problem earlier. Part of the problem, of course, was I just couldn’t come up with the answer then.
But frankly, that’s a cop-out. I couldn’t come up with an answer two months ago either. But I read around, I researched, I thought, and I came up with it. I think Eve’s Swath rocks now.
So I really regret putting the flawed version on the market two years ago. Here’s why: Continue reading
I’m back, with a new and greatly improved manuscript of my first unpublished novel, “Eve’s Swath” and a reborn commitment to get back into the business of selling my work.
That means back to regular posts here on Unpublished Author’s Diary from The Naive Optimist. Back to soliciting agents. Back to being the eternal naive optimist
Factors added up that threw me off my game for several months. It wasn’t one thing, unless you want to roll out that old “You lost your commitment” thing. There were the baseball races and playoffs. Issues at the old day job and home. A really harsh rejection letter by an agent who read the full “The Murder Plague” manuscript. Things.
After I come back to it all it’s kind of like returning to a cabin in the woods you haven’t been to in a while, looking around, re-familiarizing, checking to see if everything’s still in working order, and wiping dust. And wondering, why was I gone? Why was I gone so long?
I’ll be posting shortly on what I’ve done with Eve’s Swath and what I intend to do with it now that I’ve got a manuscript of which I’m proud. And what the hell I can do with The Murder Plague, of which I’m also still proud, but in which I’ve lost faith.
These are the moments that unpublished authors must struggle through.