Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My First Taste of Rejection

Monday night I signed into my email account and low and behold I sat glaring at an email from an agent. I wanted to check it immediately--but I was too scared. I feared it might be a "no". I didn't know what to do so I left it there. I chickened out and left the email unopened in my inbox. I thought it safer to assume it was a "no" rather open it and confirm it. Besides, how many people actually get a yes on their first query letter? Not many I imagined so I thought it a safe assumption that mine was a "no" as well. I checked my Facebook account. I walked away. But a few minutes later, I had to know. So I reopened my email account and clicked the email open before my brain had a chance to register exactly what it was I was doing.

I read "We are sorry...."--rejection letter. Not just any rejection letter. A FORM rejection letter. The rejection stung enough but after sitting and thinking about it for a little bit I realized I have no way of knowing what they didn't like. I just got a standard "we don't want you" which isn't to say I blame the agency. They are busy but it just leaves me to wonder whether it was my query or my idea. With a form rejection letter, I have no clue. It could be that I just didn't sell my book well enough in the query letter or it could be that the book isn't good enough or good right now. I don't know.

So I'll tell you what I'm doing, on the advice of some very good people I follow on Twitter. I am:

-remembering that it only takes one "yes" per @KarenMusings (so I'm resubmitting my query to other agents and giving them the chance to say "yes" :)
-recognizing that it does get easier per @BookEmDonna (I just need to do it more often)
-and carrying on and improving my craft per @LStrongin (I love writing and luckily the only way to get better at writing is to write so I'm focusing on that instead of the rejection).

Not that the first rejection doesn't sting the most but this is all very good advice and I'm choosing to follow it--dealing with the rejection one sting at a time. It's kind of like what they say about beekeepers. Some of them get stung so much they become immune to it. Here's to hoping I get immune to the sting of query rejection letters.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson: A Review

By Stieg Larsson
Copyright 2010
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
Cost $27.95

I read and enjoyed The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest but not in the same way I enjoyed Larsson's other two novels.

In this novel, we find Lisbeth Salander hospitalized following injuries she suffered at the hands of her father. But in typical Salander fashion, her father suffered equally from the damage she inflicted upon him. The novel continues where the second novel left off---with Salander accused of multiple murders. This novel however follows Lisbeth Salander as her guilt or innocence is proven and she tries to regain her life---pre-guardianship, pre-psychiatric evaluations, and pre-Zalachenko.

One thing this novel has working for it is that it is familiar. Salander is still silent but deadly. Blomkvist still sticks his nose into his stories well beyond that of a reporter. It even continues to ring of Larsson and his penchant for detail--right down to the type of sandwich his characters eat and when.

What works against this novel, and is completely different from the others, is the beginning. It opens with too much background information. The beginning of the novel consists of either a flashback in time or a description of events that occurred in the second novel. If you've already read the other two novels, like me, then the beginning tends to drag. If you haven't read the other two novels then the information will seem unnecessary in order to enjoy the book (per a friend of mine). I found myself waiting for the book to catch up to present day and take me on the adventure I knew lay in store.

And thankfully it did....eventually. And when it did, it became the page turner that made the first two novels bestsellers. Overall, I would definitely recommend the book but buyer beware you will need a dose of patience to reap the benefits of a good read.
I give it 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

Happy Reading!

I'd love to hear what you think. Have you read it? What did you think? Am I on point or completely off in space somewhere? Of course, I mean with the review. I already know I'm off in space with everything else.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Do You Compare?

Upon hearing this question, the writers out there are either thinking "I can't help but to compare another writer's success or style to that of my own" OR "absolutely NOT". But I'm not talking about comparing whether one writer got an agent or not, how fast an agent was acquired or how many query rejection letters one writer got compared to another. I'm speaking purely as a reader.

I find that when I read two young adult novels back to back, I instantly compare. And one doesn't live up to the other. Dare I say it....but I enjoy one of the books less than if I had read a crime fiction novel in between the two young adult novels. It's almost as if one of the novels isn't getting a fair shake or review. Subconsciously, I think the main character of this novel drips of likable sarcasm while this one falls flat. When in reality, they are both great, strong female characters---just different. Or it could be the story line. The list of comparisons goes on.

After I discovered my bias I decided I would never read the same genre back to back. That has thus solved my problem. But I want to take a poll.

Do you read books in the same genre back to back? Does it affect how you feel about either novel? Or can you form an opinion of both novels completely separate from each other?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins follows 16 year old Katniss Everdeen as she volunteers to replace her sister in the Hunger Games, a live death match played out on television in the country of Panem. She faces almost certain death with that decision. However, between rehearsals, costuming, lighting and her survival instinct in the end she stands a chance at winning.

Because I’m probably one of the last people on the planet to read The Hunger Games, I’m sure you all know how great the novel is already so I won’t bore you with a rave review. If you haven’t heard how great The Hunger Games is then just check out the New York Times bestselling list. I’d rather analyze why the book was so great and use it to improve my own writing not that I think I could ever be a Suzanne Collins.

However, she made me want to go back to my work in progress and make sure some elements of good writing were in my novel and add them if they weren’t. In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins nails the hook, emotion from scene to scene and original story.

I read several pages before I even realized it. By then, I was hooked and wanted to know what took place between those two covers. I cared without knowing I cared. She paints the world very well and without being so matter of fact about it. She writes great description without going on and on setting up the world for the reader. Katniss sees stuff and moves about, action, but disbursed in between that is description about what she sees and what her life is like. Not to mention an emotion permeates the opening as well. An emotion is evoked right away. I think a hint of anxiety is written into the scene. And it’s written in first person which is way more immediate. The reader doesn’t have time to protest, they are thrown into Katniss’ world.

Even though I won’t change my novel from third person to first person, the opening alone makes me want to write my opening with a definite emotion in mind. In my novel, I tell the reader what setting the novel takes place in albeit very descriptive. But after reading The Hunger Games, I want my character to look out over the landscape and have the reader see the landscape through their eyes. I’m adopting the You Won’t Know It’s There Unless One My Characters Look At It approach or touches or smells it. I’ll see if that adds another element to my writing.

While the opening got me curious, I stayed interested in The Hunger Games because of the emotion that carried from scene to scene. Even though there was heavy action throughout the novel, it was not all action. And even when there wasn’t any action the writing was interesting. I think that was accomplished by filling each scene with an emotion. Love, sadness, fear, anticipation. You name it.

I opened the book to two random places and read the scenes. In one Katniss watches the reaping selections on television. The scene goes from anxious to humor. The next one---of the stylists prepping Katniss for the games leaves her bewildered and resentful while the stylists are excited. This element makes me want to go back through my WIP and evoke an emotion under the action or happenings in each scene. Subtle or not. As long as something is there.

Lastly, The Hunger Games is a pretty original story. The world is its own, with Districts separated from each other--each producing something for the capital. And while war is not new and the Romans fought to the death in the coliseum first before live audiences, The Hunger Games still brings something new to the table. We find out how children fare in all of this.

While I can’t write a Hunger Games and my story is set in the here and now of America—not Panem, I most certainly can make sure my novel has at least a small element that makes it unique when compared to others. And truth be told, I think I have this one covered.

So how about you, can you think of some other elements that made The Hunger Games an excellent read? Are those in your novel? Are the elements I noticed in your novel?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When Do You Stop Reading?

I'm currently reading a book, which shall remain nameless, that I just can't get into. I'm on page 32 and finding it a complete chore to read. This isn't the first time this has happened to me. I have failed to connect to other books for various reasons: characters I don't care about, not enough at stake for me, or a foreign dialect or setting that the writer fails to overcome--among others. However, this is the first. time. ever. that I've actually considered not reading the rest of the book. I usually painstakingly read the entire book if I chose to take it off the bookstore or library shelf in the first place, just to see where it goes or if it gets better. The books I have had to say this to myself with in order to keep reading--don't. Get any better. But I tell myself that anyway. Otherwise, I feel a sense of failure at having given up on the book. But for the first time, I may move on to another book that should make better use of my time.

How do you feel? Can you stop reading as soon as your connection is lost with the book? Or do you keep reading? When do you stop reading--if ever?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Up Next

Per one of my twitter followers, I have decided to choose the next book I read completely at random. Her suggestion---place all of the books I received from the Friends of the Library sale on the floor and throw a rolled up sock at them. I read the one the sock lands on. Picking the next book to read was virtually impossible any other way since I got so many at the sale. So here goes:

And the winner is:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightdress by Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Has anyone read it? If so, what did you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Until then, I'm off to read---and hopefully review by next Tuesday.

Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Where am I now?

Much like the reality shows I love so much, I must ask myself "where am I now"? With the end of March fast approaching and a quarter of the year almost over, I thought it appropriate to see how I'm doing on my writerly New Year's resolutions.

First up, my goal to publish 5 freelance jobs this year. Status report. I've only submitted one query to one magazine for one article. Ummmm. Status update. Not good. I haven't heard back from the editor yet but I sent it less than a month ago and it takes 2 months for a reply. I'll keep you posted.

Goals 2 and 3. I wanted to edit my MS, have it critiqued and then submit it to a few agents. Status report. I haven't even finished the first draft. I have 10K more words to pen. Oy Vey. And that brings me to my next resolution.

I wanted to start and finish a rough draft of my next novel. But (in my best Sopranos impression) forget about it. I haven't even finished the first draft of my first novel.

Lastly, I want to add 100 followers to this blog. Status update. I've only added two but hey I have to start somewhere. I absolutely love the 17 followers I've got.

Some people may wonder why I'm writing about this but a status report is the perfect way to find out where you are and where you need to go. For me, where I need to go is off to write. See you later. Happy reading and happy writing.

By the way, how are you coming along with your New Year's Resolutions? Or have you completely pushed any thought of them to the back of your mind? Feel free to leave me a comment and let me know.