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Dear Writer:

You are officially invited to my Query Party.

What is a Query Party, you ask?

Well, a Query Party is an opportunity to replace the idea of querying as an onerous task with – yes, you guessed it – a PARTY!

Anybody want to play? Come on, you know you do…

There are several advantages:

1. You get lots of query letters out there. After all, industry advice is to ‘query widely,’ and the more good queries you send, the more likely you are to connect with your special agent.

DISCLAIMER: Before any stray agents come by my house to perform a drive by shooting, let me clarify. Querying widely does not mean sending out blanket queries to every agent you can find. It does not mean sending one email query with 300 agents CC’d, addressed to “Hey You,” or even “Dear Agent.” It does mean researching agents to make sure they are a good potential fit for what you are sending, and making sure you have a professional letter to send.

2. You get to feel virtuous about having done something to promote your work and get it published. And eat lots of candy. Don’t forget that, because it’s important. Buy your favorite snacks. Lay in a supply of good music. This is a fun day. Indulge yourself. (Just save the alcoholic beverages for later. Drunk querying is not recommended.)

3. You beat the post-November onslaught of crazed Nanowrimo completers who will flood agent slush piles in December with ill written queries. We do not want to query stressed and grumpy agents. If we could, we would provide rainbows and bluebirds and perfect chocolate to every agent who is about to read our queries. Some of you may have these magic powers. I do not. In their absence, I will try to query wisely.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not talking about responsible authors getting writing done with Nano. I love Nanowrimo. I’m talking about the idiots who apparently complete the rough draft and throw it in the mail without the re-reading, proofreading, beta reading and editing that are always necessary before moving to submission.

THE DETAILS:

Where: Why, wherever you choose to be. At home, at work, at the library or the coffee shop.

When:   Friday, November 6. Begin at 6 am, and stop at 6 pm.

Stop in here anytime during the day to report progress, ask questions, seek support or share candy.  If you’re on twitter, by all means hang out all day. You’ll find me there as @uppington.  Look for the hashtag #queryparty.

And that’s all folks. I hope you’ll join me. Now it is time to get back to my turtle paced revisions.

Friday and I’m back to work, with a weekend On Call ahead of me.  I was thinking about my writing goals for this weekend, and how this place I am currently at in my writing is different than – well, anywhere I’ve ever been.

I spent the last three days in a frenzy of preparation for what Em calls Query Road. I’m more inclined to go with the metaphor RA Ballard and I came up with on Twitter the other day. Getting ready to query feels like standing on a cliff, with the sea spread out a mile below, while all of your new writer friends are shouting, “come on, jump in, it’ll be fun.” With a hefty dose of angst and a lot of help from my friends (Tasha and Em, I love you) I got a query letter and synopsis together, and took the plunge.

The water is cold, but refreshing, as I knew it would be.  Frankly, I was mostly afraid I might smash my head on the rocks on my way down. Now that I’m here, I feel more at peace than I have in weeks.  The company is excellent, and I have done what I set out to do.  I have a marketable product, a professional query letter, and a solid synopsis all ready to go.  First rejection is back, but it was personalized and positive.  From here on out, I’m trying to think of this process as the business venture that it is.

And I’m back to writing.  Now that the pressure is off, I’m working on Swimming North once again.  And you know what?  I love this manuscript, with all of its faults and weaknesses and weirdness.  Not to mention the challenges it presents. My brain is humming with possibilities, the muse is dancing around the room singing, and I’m just trying to keep up with her.  Today, while I was driving home from work, she gifted me with a couple of ideas that nearly took my breath away.

My weekend goal for myself is unusual for me.  I’m a ‘pantser’ to the core, but this book requires a firmer hand. I fear that revision will need an outline of some kind, although the usual outline format never works for me.  I’ve begun with the Armature: it is clearly stated on an index card and pinned to my bulletin board at my writing desk.  Also on an index card, in big letters, is my MC’s primary goal.  I’m visualizing a big poster board with a combination of pictures and words.

While I’m busy visualizing, the universe is probably conspiring to present me with a number of really interesting work related challenges that will keep me from writing.  But then again, maybe not.  What about the rest of you?  How’s the writing process these days, and what are you planning for this weekend?

It’s been an interesting day.

Early this morning I took my eldest offspring down to the DMV so he could take his written test.  Yes, I am going to have to cut him loose soon.  There have been moments of panic about this, usually in the middle of the night.  What if he gets in a car wreck?  What if he gets lost, or has a flat tire, or his car breaks down in the middle of nowhere at 1 am? What if?  

But here’s what I know, learned the hard way by experience: you can’t live life by the ‘what ifs,’ because what actually happens is usually something you didn’t even think to worry about.  And there’s really no control over what happens anyway.  If you locked your kid up forever in their room in order to keep them safe, there would probably be some ironic tree that would fall on your house and take them out while they slept.  Or a prince might come a long and scale the wall, by means of the princesses’ long, long hair.  My point is, life is what it is, and both the the probable and improbable will happen despite your best efforts at control. 

As I write this, people are stomping so loudly on my roof that the windows are rattling. Normally this would be cause for alarm, but since there is a roofing project in progress, I’m trying to ignore what would normally send me out the door shrieking, “are you okay?”  This was another one of those ‘sometimes you just have to do it’ projects.  There is a long story here,  involving shoddy construction by the original owner and the unfortunate consequences thereof, and the project requires literally taking off a section of the roof and replacing it.  We were going to tackle this bit of fun and excitement on Monday, but the weather was oppositional.  It sulked, it stormed, it precipitated. Consequently, the weather for today was a topic of concern and debate.  There was angst, there was hesitation.  Should we do it now, or should we wait?  The contractor won’t be available again until the end of the summer.  What if, what if, what if?  And finally the decision was reached to boldly roof, a process which has been going on all day.

As for me, weaving in and out of the kid driving, the alarming roof noises, and rescue runs to the hardware store for roofing supplies, I’ve been working on a query letter.  If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you’ll know that this is not my first query letter, nor is it the first time this novel has ventured out into the world.

But this time there is an important difference.  The extensive and painful revision and restructuring process I undertook has paid off.  I love this book.  There used to be a little niggling doubt, a reluctance to let people read the manuscript.  Now I can’t wait to show it off.  I want to run around accosting total strangers and saying, “hey, you want to read what I just wrote?”  Consequently, when it comes to writing the query letter, the fear is deep and laced with a sense of responsibility.

There is so much to lose this time.  Don’t get me wrong: last time around I sent the novel out in good faith.  I truly believed it was ready to go. The novel wasn’t bad, the query was good enough to garner a partial read and some invaluable feedback.  But part of me really didn’t want to succeed because subconsciously I knew the novel wasn’t as good as I could make it.

Now I’m in a different place altogether.  I feel responsible to this novel – I owe it the best possible chance of making its way in the world.  Which means that so much more is at stake.  And I find myself lying in bed in the middle of the night, asking “what if, what if, what if?”

But there is no what if.  There is only what is.  Along with taking risks, and living life to the fullest, and writing the best story that is in me.

So that is what I intend to do.  (Once I get a green light from my absolutely fabulous query consultant – you know who you are.  I know you don’t want my firstborn child, or I’d be tempted to offer…)  When the query is ready, off it goes.  And I go back to writing, which means tackling Swimming North again.  Frankly, I’m looking forward to it.

Please feel free to share your ‘what ifs’ here in the comments.  Writing them for all to see kinda takes the energy out of them, I think, and opens the way for accepting both ‘what is’ and ‘what could be.’

Okay.  So one person commented that she missed the weekend challenges.  Not exactly popular, maybe, but the Weekend Challenge is back!

In ten hours and 20 minutes I will be off the clock for the weekend, and there is some serious writing work to be done.  Of course, there’s also a bunch of other things to be done, and it is now officially spring outside.  Fortunately for the writing, it looks like rain.  Outside all of my windows everything is green.  Some of the trees are starting to flower.  The hummingbirds are back, and the turkeys have been hanging out for longer and longer stretches of time, grazing in the field.  If it’s raining, it will make things greener, and keep me confined to the house where I can watch it all through the window while I write.  Rain is good.

Next weekend I’m off to a writing conference.  I passed on the opportunity to pitch my work to an agent because nothing is truly complete at this point. Still, I want to be prepared for all possible contingencies – you never know who you might fall into conversation with.  When somebody asks me what I’m writing, I tend to go off into a rambling, muttered morass of something that starts with “this sounds really stupid, but…”

Not the best opening line to sell your work to agents or earn respect from other writers.  

I want to arrive at the conference with written book jacket type blurbs for Swimming North, Remember, and The Sword of Zelindreh.  If I’ve refined the concept enough to write the blurb, I just might be able to express it articulately if the occasion arises.  And if I never speak to a living soul the whole time I’m at the conference, there is no time lost – I’ve got the beginnings of a query letter.

So my goals for myself this weekend are:

1.  Relax a little and enjoy spring.  Get the flowers planted (a little rain won’t hurt me)

2.  Finish reading Here on Earth (might as well make it a legitimate goal, since I know this will happen.)

3.  Finish the ‘helicopter fight’ scene in Remember, and move on to ‘Denny meets Murdoch’

4.  Write rough, initial drafts of blurbs for the three novels mentioned above.

5.  Take teenager driving.  In the dark.  He needs night time driving experience. I love the concept of teaching teen to drive in the dark.  I do.  (I will talk myself into this eventually.)  

Anybody want to play along?

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