Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Query Letter Revised

This is an old version as of now. But I figured I'd keep it up just so I can see how ridiculous I once was :)

I'm hoping to start querying soon now that I'm done editing my novel. Please let me know what you think of this query letter. Brutal is fine, but brutal and helpful is better...

Dear XX,

Fredrick angers the village elders when he spoils their plans of marrying Anna off to one of their grandsons by falling in love with her first.

Searching for a way to rid themselves of him, the elders seize their chance when a nearby volcano erupts. They blame Fredrick for the disaster, accuse him of angering the gods, and unanimously banish him. But instead of leaving, he organizes the villagers to help depose the elders.

With a long and consuming fight imminent, during the peak of the harvest season, Anna pleads with Fredrick to submit to the elder’s demands in order to avoid potential starvation come winter. He reluctantly agrees, but swears to Anna that he will return.

Alone in the wilderness, the gods warn Fredrick that he needs to make a great sacrifice to keep the deadly volcanic ash blowing away from the village. He must figure out what that is in order to save this entire community and everybody he loves from a horrible death.

Bleed Well, 89,000 words, is a fantasy novel. Thank you for your time and consideration. Synopsis, sample chapter, and full manuscript are available upon request.

Michael Tate

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Furiously Editing

Right now I'm furiously editing my novel, Bleed Well, as well as my query and synopsis. My goal is to be submitting come the end of August, and so far I'm slightly ahead of my goal, so that's cool. But all this manic work is making me set aside writing my weekly Friday Flash, finally get around to writing that review of the book Dervish House, and posting other writerly stuff.

Hopefully come September I will have lots of insight though as to how fast one can really edit without the aid of non-chocolate forms of caffeine and I'll get back to flash fiction.

Also, perhaps sometime in September as well I will have finished re-designing my blog with my wife and we'll open that up to the world. I'm pretty excited for that.

Until then, I'll be lurking around your blogs and twitter.

Wish me luck 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sensory Images and what NOT to do

When you start out writing, many people will tell you to make sure you put in lots of sensory details, as they liven up your writing. And yes, that is true. If you can smell, feel, taste, hear, and see the story, it will be a lot more vivid than if you are just looking at it like a movie.

But the trap I've seen a lot of writers (myself included) fall into is they end up using the character as a sensory vessel. Now while this would be technically correct to write:

Zachary saw the blooming flowers and bent down, smelling their sweet fragrance.

It comes across as weak. Zachary is technically the subject of this sentence. He dominates. And unless the act of Zachary bending over to smell the flower is very significant, we don't care about it. What you would want to do is, instead, just go out and tell us about the blooming flowers and what they smell like. The reader doesn't need the main character to be a sensory vessel. Here is a quick revision:

The blooming flowers released their sweet fragrance into the meadow.

There were two things I did there. First, I was able to add the little detail about the meadow (in 2 less words mind you) Second, I made the flowers the subject of the sentence. Now we as a reader are focused on the flowers and the image is a lot more powerful.

But you have to be careful when you do this with any POV that isn't 3rd person omniscient (and I don't recommend you use that) because while readers don't want to see Zachary bend down and smell the flowers, the character has to be smelling the flowers. If he is trapped in a glass box where the smell can not enter, then the sentence I wrote would technically have a POV problem. Instead you could do this though:

The blooming flowers swayed in the meadow, and Zachary could only imagine their sweet fragrance wafting through the air.

Granted there are quite a few more words in this, but come on, my MC is locked in a glass box.

This POV problem though also goes for the other senses including sight. If you character can't see it, you can't describe it. But you don't need to (or should) explicitly tell us what your character sees. Again, some examples:

Zachary turned around and saw the bear chasing him.

Zachary turned around. The bear was chasing him. 

It's subtle, but in an industry as competitive as creative writing, every little trick you have to make your writing just a bit more powerful goes a long way.

For you: Have you noticed this in your own writing? Do you have any tricks for showing sensory detail without explicitly having the character experience it?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How do You Deal With Scum?

I've wanted to do a choose your own adventure ever since I was about 8 years old and checking out every CYOA I could find in the library. Now my dream is realized, but wow was this hard to do. Anyways hope you have fun with it and let me know what you thought and what your original path was.

Lizzy paced along the wall of the office with her nine iron dragging across the plush carpet. In front of her, sitting at his desk and surrounded by pictures of him posing with famous athletes, was a skinny man in his early forties, wearing an expensive black suit. “I can’t believe any of those men and women would risk their careers to pose with a lowlife like yourself.”
“Hey, when I go to the games, I’m just a fan.”
“Like hell you are.”
“Let’s cut to the chase. What do you want?”
“I want you to go back to just being a bookie and loanshark. Leave these local business alone.”
“I provide a valuable service.”
“They did just fine before you offered to, as you say, protect them.”
“Listen lady, I don’t have time to fuck around. Put down that club and have a seat.” The man pulled a gun out from his desk and pointed it at Lizzy, motioning towards the chair in front of his desk.

Does Lizzy:

1: Surrender her club and sit down
2: Charge at the man, trying to knock the gun out of his hand

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Toad

Steven bounded through the grass and into the bushes while the earth shook all around him. Diving under a pile of sticks, he tried to hide himself. He wriggled further and further into the brush, the moist dirt sticking to his chest. Behind him, the shouts of the children thundered through the air and caused the ground to vibrate almost as much as their giant feet.
Suddenly, he heard the snapping of branches as a hand reached into his hiding spot. He could feel one of the children’s fingers running down his back. He just hoped they wouldn’t recognize him, but soon another joined in.
He tried to move further in, but he was stuck. The only way out was behind him. He waited in silence as still as he could as the fingers groped at him, pulling him ever so slightly out of the bushes. He grasped onto the sticks, but he was no match for their strength.
Pulled up high into the air, Steven contracted himself into as small a ball as he could. Everywhere he looked, it was a massive drop the ground, and the child kept hoisting him higher, up to her own eye level.
How do these creatures live so high up. How do they even get so big
Steven shook and cried out for them to put him down. Soon, he felt a wet stream running underneath him. The child immediately lowered her hand, opening it just enough to where he could squirm his way out. He looked over the edge of the child’s hand and swallowed. Staying their prisoner would be certain death; however jumping might also kill him. He calculated his odds.
He blinked and made his move, leaping away from the child as he began tumbling through the air. He flipped once, twice, three times before landing in the grass on his back. The fall stunned him for a moment as he tried to right himself, but he didn’t think he was hurt.
His endocrine glands dumped all their available adrenaline into his blood; his tiny heart beat as fast as it could to distribute the life saving drug. The child, still shaking off the urine from her hand, stopped her pursuit for the time being. He quickly hopped over towards the pond and dove under a rock, out of sight from the child. Here he would be safe.

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