Maybe I’m doing it wrong.

Hello. My name is Katie, and I’ve never done NANOWRIMO.

I know, this is pure blasphemy to some writers, but I’m afraid I can’t write that slowly. Only 50,000 words in 30 days? I wrote two full books in the month of April. 150,000 words total. Is April National Triple Novel Writing Month? NaTriNoWriMo?

Natrino Wrimo sounds like a good name for a Star Trek character. Maybe a pink one with purple freckles and iridescent quills.

I’m currently on book five, and I’m making a concerted effort to slow my ass down. I’m in a neck brace, the skin on both my arms is numb, and I’m to the point of my life where I’m seeing more doctors than movies. But my brain has a method, and not a lot of concern for the body’s guff.

Although I went through all the same creative writing training that most writers encountered at some point in their education, I’ve found that, for me, it was mostly useless. I followed the tried and true “outline and plan” method of writing, but it felt contrived. The characters were puppets dancing to rhythm of the plot. They weren’t alive, so the story wasn’t alive. No matter how interesting I tried to make it, it was just polishing a turd.

So, I stopped, and my brain said, “Hold my beer.” (Or in my case, Yoo-Hoo.)

I write from stream of consciousness, and I have no idea what’s going to happen next. I just sit down at the keyboard, and let it come out. I don’t plan. I don’t second guess. I just let the story tell itself, and everything always works out on it’s own.

Now, some would say that, subconsciously, I’m still planning the story, and that I’ve trained myself so well that I do it automatically. Like learning to walk or ride a bike. I could see how that could be true, but that’s not what it feels like. To me, it’s like I’m watching a movie in my head, and I’m just writing down what I see and hear as fast as possible because my brain won’t allow me to see a scene past where I am in the movie. There’s no fast forward button, so if I want to know what happens next, I need to type what happens now.

Sometimes, the things that happen are not what I would have wanted. Sometimes, they’re horrible things, or cruel things, and I worry that there’s some part of my brain that I’d never want to meet in a dark alley. Or even in a brightly lit grocery store.

Sometimes, the things that happen are so funny that I can’t stop laughing, and I wish I could harness that joy in ways that could help others. Maybe people who are in pain the way I am, or who are tired of seeing so much hate and negativity in the world, and need someone to remind them that humor is as much a human language as intolerance.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my nails trimmed, and the coffee flowing, and try to get as much of this out as I can before the doctors confiscate my keyboard. – K

The Enquiry Gambit

If someone asked me what the most difficult part of writing is, I’d say it’s dealing with the wrist strain. I know that’s probably not the most helpful answer to an up-and-comer, but for me, it’s the most accurate. The second most difficult part of writing, at least as far as getting a book published, is the enquiry process. It’s a bit like trying to hit a target a mile away by pointing an arrow straight up.

For those of you not familiar with publishing, this is basically the part where you have to pimp your book, and yourself, to a complete stranger and pray to whatever deity you subscribe to that you’ve found the magic combination of words that will open that stranger’s door. That stranger then might ask to read the whole manuscript. Then they might offer a contract to represent you so they can pimp your book (with more practiced precision) to an actual publisher on your behalf.

There are many very good reasons for this hierarchy. A literary agent (the stranger) acts not only as a liaison between the author and the publisher, but also as a roadblock for books or authors that might not yet be ready to move to the next step.

Raise your hand if you want to be published!

With my first book, which was a graphic novel, I leveraged my tenacity and in-person SuperCharm™ to get my work straight into an editor’s hands. While this had the advantage of getting my work published faster, I also was at the disadvantage of not having an agent on my side. The result was that I ended up with crappy compensation rates, my royalties from reprints and continued sales were ignored, and my contract was violated by the publisher with no recompense.

Having a literary agent on your side is a good thing, but it’s not an easy thing to come by. You see, first you must write the magic Query Letter – there is no “right” way to do this.

While there are several good resources to locate literary agents, there is no way to know what type of approach they may prefer. I’ve seen successful query letters that ranged from “business-sterile” to “vomiting-into-my-own-mouth-marketing”. Just as every author has their own style, every agent has their own style, and finding someone whose shirt goes with your shoes is even harder when you can’t see each other.

There are some consistent rules that apply to all agents: take the time to learn what they’re looking for. Literary agents do not make their goals a mystery. Check the genres they represent, and check out the books and authors they have backed before. Usually, an agent will resonate with a particular kind of voice. If the voices resonate with you too, chances are pretty good that you’re on the same page. (Book pun.)

Also, be ready to accept that your work might need more work. Listen to your beta-readers, and apply their input. Use something more than auto-correct to check your grammar. (Like something with a pulse and a language arts degree.) Don’t fall prey to the “they just won’t give me a chance” mentality.

The rest is mostly luck. If you want to hit that target, pull the string back with all your might, and aim high. -K

Other Ramblings…