Becca, Featured Artist Manager for Brown Girl Love, talks about her experience finishing a novel.
Though my fiction remains unpublished, I cannot count how many times I’ve been told “But you’ve written a book! That’s amazing!” My immediate response is, “No, it’s not”. But I understand, writing the novel is the first step in getting the novel published and–from personal experience–many writers spend too much time speaking about writing, blogging about writing (*snicker*) and talking about writing that they don’t ever actually write. Writing a novel is HARD WORK. Honestly, depending on the person, writing anything is hard work and for someone who “can’t write”, what writers accomplish–even those of us unpublished–is impressive.
When I wrote my first novel length work, I was sixteen. (It was High Fantasy atrocity) I was impressed with myself then, even after I found out Christopher Paolini was fifteen when he wrote his book and sixteen when he was published. I wrote six more books after that. Back then, I may have been proud. But now, at 23, a degree in writing under my belt, and a job–albeit fun–I only have to support myself, simply writing the book is no longer impressive. Drafts, rewrites, QUERY LETTERS, hook lines, pitches–those are impressive. (Writing a book is work; summarizing your 100k word story in 2-3 sentences? That’s WERK, honey!) I refuse to be impressed until I’ve reached my actual goal; publication.
I don’t find myself remarkable because of my prolificacy and I am not tooting my horn by mentioning the several projects I’ve completed. But I do acknowledge that just because I’m not impressed doesn’t mean other people aren’t or shouldn’t be. So this is mostly to anyone who has ever wanted to write a book, spoken to me and then wondered how I managed to get through hell and on to the other side.
1. Don’t read any further, go write.
I actually gave away my biggest and probably most helpful tip in the beginning of the post. Many writers spend way too much time not writing. How you write is up to you, start from the middle, a scene, with a character; plan the whole thing out; don’t plan at all. No one can tell you what strategy works for you and therefore advice on that becomes irrelevant. When I finished most projects it was before I discovered forums and blogs on the art of writing. I abandoned so many other things; friends, school work (not advised), play time, television (advised) just to write. But now, here I am reading articles on “The dreaded exclamation marks!”, “Is my protagonist too young?”, “Avoid these cliches!”, “Outline or no Outline”. I over did it. I wanted so hard to find a textbook that would give me the answers to what makes good fiction, what sells fastest and what makes people buy your books. I got distracted. I’m most productive when I channel sixteen year old me and just keep the pen to the paper or in this case, the fingertips on the keyboard. I technically should never stop writing. Unless I’m reading.
2. If you’re still reading this, read a book instead
This really is my only other piece of advice. When athletes are not playing their sports they are taking care of their bodies and when a writer is not working on her project(s) she should be reading, feeding her mind with excellent examples of the genre. (or any other genre). It’s important to read EVERYTHING; fiction, non-fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, articles, blog posts (on things other than writing), candy wrappers, milk cartons, cereal boxes, seriously. School isn’t for everyone, and a degree doesn’t make you a better writer so I can’t necessarily push college down anyone’s throat with a good conscience. I think a formal education in art sounds almost oxymoronic and, at the very least, counterintuitive.
Practice makes perfect, thus writing every day will undoubtedly improve your skill and of course the more you write and the more often you write the faster you get the job done!
Below is my query letter. I update a draft as a I write, along with a list of relevant agents. This keeps my goals in mind without being distracting but it also means I’ll have a polished draft and an extensive list of agents to send it to by the time the book is written.
I used Kasey Mackenzie’s examples as well as instructions found on agentquery.comas references for structure and strategy. But many agents and authors post their “letters that work” all around the web. Don’t bother reading them, though, refer to rules 1 and 2 “
With a Demonic Civil Rights movement promising war for mankind, Camille Valentine is one of the Demon Hunting Association’s biggest hopes. Too bad she doesn’t recall ever being a member.
Memories are overrated.
A car accident has left Camille Valentine with two scars on her back and amnesia. Even though her memory of the first fifteen years of her life are hazy, she manages loving friends, a close relationship with her father and a job as a tabloid columnist. But lately Camille has been getting frustrated; her NYU degree should’ve gotten her a sweet job as a biographer by now, her girlfriend is acting batshit crazy, and the medicine she has been taking for years to suppress her night terrors is suddenly not working. What’s stranger, eerie incidents have been happening all over the country; weather, shootings, etc. But mysteriously foggy skies over NYC has nothing do with Camille’s problems…so she thinks.
A run-in with Father Richards, a priest who knows more about her than he should, leads Camille’s father to reveal a huge secret; for the 15 years Camille can’t remember, she was a Demon Hunter for the Vatican. As those around her succumb to mental and physical illness, docile pets become vicious and suicidal, her newest friend reveals she’s a psychic and several attempts are made on her life, Camille joins the DHA. She becomes trapped in a love triangle between Lamir–an old friend who wants more–and Luisa–a femme fatale who would rather kill than kiss. Camille struggles to regain her memory and her lost skill but one by one those closest to her are dying and Camille knows she’s the next and dearest target.
Unholy is complete at _,000 words. It should appeal to both teen and adult readers, from fans of Kim Harrison to Toni Morrison. I’m looking for a hands-on agent who is passionate about my project and its mission; putting a queer character of color in the forefront of a story that isn’t centered around her sexuality. Unholy is the first part of larger story but I don’t consider it a series so much as a project presented in arcs. Therefore, it can be a stand-alone book. Nonetheless, the second arc Godless, is in the works. I have a BA in creative writing, I work in real estate and currently reside in BK. I hope to hear from you soon.
Thank you for your time,