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What are you Writing?

Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by MikeKardec, Nov 18, 2015.

  1. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    I agree that you should put the part about leveraging interest in Hawaii further down in the query letter, though I'm hesitant that you need to include it at all. Publishing is a notoriously slow business and you would be lucky to get your book published by next November even if you snagged an agent now and she sold it immediately. You need to find a way to grab an agent's attention WITHOUT including that.

    One of the pet peeves of agents I've seen is when someone puts "fiction novel." The novel is, by definition, fiction. Also, I don't get a clear sense of what the story is really about - how the characters interact or what the HOOK of the novel is. It is also useful for the agent to know if you've published anything else and what your background is.

    This is the query letter I used that snagged me several requests and finally landed me my agent. It might be helpful.

    Dear AGENT:

    A few weeks ago, I tweeted you to see if you represent historical fiction. You replied that you do; thus, I'm submitting a query for my completed 100,000 word historical novel, The Betrayed.

    Five years ago in Hitler’s Berlin, Max Koenig made an unforgivable mistake, one that forced him to flee to America or face certain death. His position as a history professor at the University of Nebraska brings security for a time, but when questions about his past surface, he loses his job and his reputation.

    When he’s offered a job translating the German-language diary of famous novelist Tallulah Stanwick in the nearby town of Meadow Hills, Max feels salvation is at hand. The locals, however, regard Max with fear and suspicion, certain an “evil Nazi” is in their midst. Max knows if anyone ever discovers what he did in Berlin, an old-fashioned lynch mob might not be far off.

    Days after his arrival, someone steals the diary, and everyone, including the police, immediately pin the crime on Max. The theft opens up long-buried secrets among the townspeople that stretch back to the last war, and Max’s presence is a stark reminder of the town’s sins. With the help of local war widow Jenni Fields, who’s hiding a secret of her own, Max struggles to prove his innocence—until his past in Berlin threatens to destroy Max and everything he’s come to love.

    I am the author of Nebraska POW Camps: A History of WWII Prisoners in the Heartland published in 2014 by The History Press. My articles have been published in America in WWII magazine and Nebraska History. I blog at (WEBSITE) have approximately 1,630 followers on Twitter (@WW2HistoryGal), and more than 10,500 people follow my World War II board on Pinterest.

    May I send you sample chapters or the finished manuscript?

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Tiki Tom likes this.
  2. p51

    p51 Practically Family

    I've written several articles for Army Motors and was a staffer for the UK-based WW2 re-enactor magazine which folded up I think about 2010?
    I wrote an article on my model train layout in this publication: http://on30annual.com/current-issue/
    Another article should run in this magazine next year: http://www.ngslgazette.com/
  3. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

    Latest short story done, 5200 words. I'll let it sit for a little while, and see if I can cut it down some. But it seems like I achieved most of what I started out to do with it.
  4. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    Ms. Amateis is usually right on these subjects in my opinion, so I'd second her advice. My personal take re Hawaii is take is that the days of movie and music fads are over and it comes off as a bit much. If the agent knows how to leverage this sort of thing (which, as I said is not so easy these days) then they know what's happening in the marketplace. If the don't know how then they don't need to be told because simply having the same subject matter wouldn't have worked even 30 years ago ... a good PR/marketing team would have needed to be deployed to make it work. I used to be involved with that sort of stuff all the time and it was always a lot of hard work behind the scenes to get people to make the connections that seemed easy on the surface.

    The ability to publicize a book has been REALLY reduced in recent years. Authors absolutely MUST develop their own networks like in social media and through other avenues. Very few people are writing about books outside of amateurs at places like Amazon and Goodreads (and thank god for them). There are blogs and such but politics, even in the world of books is stealing all the public's bandwidth these days. I'm fighting to publicize a series of books published by a major publisher and it is harder than it has ever been. Learning to self publicize/market your work is a must ... of course if you get good at it you may no longer need a publisher! I keep warning them they need to get better or face obsolescence but it seems to fall on deaf ears. If you have to accept 10%, 12%, or 15% and still promote yourself, why not take 50-70% instead and publish it yourself!
    Tiki Tom and AmateisGal like this.
  5. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Practically Family

    Thank you for your valuable feedback, Benzadmiral, AmateisGal, and MikeKardec. Noted with appreciation. Some very good points made. And so the quest to craft the perfect magic bullet query letter continues. Thank heavens I have a day job!
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
    AmateisGal likes this.
  6. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    You're welcome! It is SO hard to write a good query letter. And ditto about having a day job!
  7. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

    A story of mine from a few years ago has found a home: http://beneaththerainbow.com/mr-carlinos-redemption/ It's a sequel to the "likeable hit man" story "Mr. Carlino's Project," which was inspired originally by the thought, "What if George Bailey had been a hit man . . .?"
    AmateisGal likes this.
  8. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    Getting the plot worked out for the novel. I also rewrote the beginning and like it much better now. If I don't have the beginning well established, I apparently fall into a black hole of misery and am unable to write - at least that's what happened anyway! It's amazing to me how my writing process is so darn weird. I don't like everything plotted out - just the major points - and since I have an agent now, I need to write a synopsis to give her and that synopsis must include the ending. No writing by the seat of my pants to see where things go.

    I'm pretty excited about this novel.
  9. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

    My writing group has reviewed the short story I finished in early Nov., mentioned in post 483. A new member, who tends toward the literary in fiction, suggested that my story falls into the camp of "magical realism." Now I've heard the term, and heard of authors who are well known within the genre. But I'm not sure what it is. (To me, "magical realism" might focus on the economic and other difficulties a wizard would have in obtaining hyena blood and elf bile for a particular potion.)

    What is "magical realism" when it's at home?
  10. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    Magical realism is often a fundamentally realistic story yet with a few fantastic elements that occur. It's best if they play by a decent set of rules and don't corrupt the "reality" too much. A traditional drama where problems are not solved by supernatural elements yet those elements play an important yet minor role, often in dealing with theme or character development

    It first (in my experience) showed up in Latin American literature about 40 to 50 years ago. Think Catholic influences, Indian influences, and the desperation and hope for hope that can stem from poorly run, non ideological dictatorships, countries that limp along on the rim of being failed states, narco states, and the like. I have always felt like Mexico and Central America were like the unconscious of the US and Canada, that may have something to do with it and the US is not immune to the weirdness of the south

    In movies think Pan's Labyrinth; if the little girl's fantasy world is imaginary think of how bad the real world must be. Think of a grandmother character who is visited by saints, a man who offers to become the body on the cross in his church to experience Christ's passion. A LOT of Ray Bradbury's work, the stuff that was't Science Fiction was magical realism (Bradbury had a lot of south of the border influences). A RB story, "The Shoreline at Sunset," a pair of aging surfers, who have lived together and selflessly shared their lifestyle, their women, and what little money they have had in their lives discover the body of a dying mermaid on the beach. Her presence causes differing reactions, considerable conflicts, and ultimately cement their relationship for many years to come. That's a perfect example.

    An example of the sort of reality that initially fostered Magical Realism -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodrigo_Rosenberg_Marzano
    - or - https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/04/04/a-murder-foretold

    Magical Realism is often used within a very restrained "literary" style and can sometimes be a bit silly, an affectation from 20 to 30 years ago. However, I suspect that it can be put to better use if it can be allowed to play a bigger more important role. Oddly, Raiders of the Lost Ark might exist in a slightly Magical Realistic realm; Magical Pulp, perhaps. There was no reason that required the story to reveal the power of god, if that one demonstration of the divine had had greater thematic resonance without tipping the entire thing toward a story about religion it might qualify.

    Used properly to make a point, like in Pan's Labyrinth or the Bradbury story, it's a wonderful genre.
  11. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    It's wonderful to be starting out on a new project. I envy you. I've been in completion mode for so long and there's probably another year to go before this whole project; 3 new books (the first of them just out but all are finished) and 40 postscripts in older works (I think I have 12 or 13 more to go), plus all the needed promotion, is finished.

    Sigh ...

    Oh well, I'll get there soon enough and then starting out will be terrifying!
    Tiki Tom and AmateisGal like this.
  12. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Practically Family

    Although I'm attempting to "swear off" writing, I must confess that an idea for a sequel to my Hawaii mystery is already taking shape in my head. The Ohana in the first book is such an irresistible group of people that I can't resist. That and the fact that there is a rich vein of historical subject matter that is completely unknown to the general public. Sigh.

    P.S. -- My self-published Vienna book is about to come out. Very happy with the results.

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and jolly winter solstice to everyone. All the best in 2018!
    AmateisGal likes this.
  13. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

    So maybe my colleague is right. Mine is fundamentally realistic, with a nameless Midwestern city and an attorney trapped in his job and marriage; and then he discovers that death is not as permanent as we all think. She suggested I continue with the concept, and I think I will.
    AmateisGal likes this.
  14. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    The literary types would poo-poo the idea but there has been a good deal of magical realism explored on TV in the last 20 years. Movies, in general, operate in more of a minor key fantasy mode much of the time.
  15. I think TV has, overall, been the format (vs. movies and even most books) with the best writing and story telling since whenever "Deadwood" and, then, "Mad Men" came on the air.

    It was about that time that movies, IMHO, became more two-dimensional (blockbusters, retreads, superhero everything, kids-product-tie-ins) and many books became two-dimensional political screeds masquerading as novels, but TV exploded in complexity, dimension, depth and complex-and-nuanced story telling.

    While, of course, there have been some outstanding books and movies - and plenty of garbage on TV - as a format overall, TV is running laps around the other two - right now anyway (it will change).
  16. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    It does change, right under our noses. The persistent pattern in TV is that new "channels", networks, broadcasters, whatever you want to call them, do excellent work when they first appear because they are understaffed. In the early years of their existence they just hire the best lead writers (executive producers) with the best ideas that they can find and pretty much leave them alone. Thus you get Mad Men.

    Going back as far as Twin Peaks the situation was the same. In those years creativity exploded even at the old networks because their advertisers had stopped paying the high rates that had previously existed, deregulation was coming and, well ... there was more to this but suffice it to say that there was a crisis in television. The Network Gods threw up their hands in panic and allowed some new, more creative, product through the gates. They lowered their guard and stopped meddling so much. On the down side there was also Cop Rock, a wacky musical police procedural that lasted for a blink of an eye.

    As soon as success is apparent, the corporations tend to hire a bunch of people who's job it is to tell the writers what to do. These are middle management Creative Executives. At that point the product starts to suffer. These "experts" immediately start lording it over all the lesser executive producers and their shows. They also start trying to minimize the influence of the celebrity executive producers because those people are a direct threat to their authority. This entropy eventually makes everything ABC, NBC and CBS. It's like importing a cadre of those bossy grammar school girls that want to control the whole playground ... no one has any fun any more but they are very proud of themselves.

    In the best of all possible worlds top management retains control over the back-stabbing politics among Creative Executives and they are forced to just do their jobs and help make things better. There is always room for men and women who know how to be good leaders if their superiors will just enforce responsibility. Over the years the only place you tend to see this is HBO. Somehow they have kept the process from killing itself.
  17. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    What am I writing? Well, I wrote some Christmas cards and a blog post, but I'm still working through the plot of my novel and making only slight progress on the novel itself.

    I'm also working on the synopsis for my agent. Why are these things so darn hard to write?!?
  18. I'm still plugging away on the verse for a children's picture book. I can see the illustrations in my mind, but writing verse for children is a new world for me. I made a little progress this weekend, maybe. I won't know for sure until I return to it in a few days.
    AmateisGal likes this.
  19. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

    Three-quarters done with a new high fantasy/mystery short story.
    AmateisGal likes this.
  20. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    Moving ahead, I'm concocting a new Audio Publishing project with a mixture of non-fiction and fiction elements using historical recordings and some yet to be laid down material. Probably we'll be using five different voices. It's not an Audio Drama like many I've done in the past but it is a fairly complicated project. I have the basic elements lined up. Now I've just got to get them in order and make sure they meld well ...
    AmateisGal likes this.

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