Hit Me Baby One More Time

Have you heard of a query letter? It’s the way an author submits their manuscript to an agent. If you did a Google search right now, you would get a hundred results on “How to Write a Query Letter”. And you would get a hundred different ways to do it.

How do you whittle down all your hand work and labor into a couple of paragraphs, maintain your tone, and your sense of writing, and snag an agent’s attention?

It takes a miracle.

First, you spend hours, months, YEARS even working on your baby.  You edit it. You edit it again. You edit it one more time. Then you set it out into the world and let your friends and a couple of unbiased sources read it. Then you take their advice and edit it again. You fix it. You add more. You take stuff out. Then, when you think, ‘holy crap, I have a book’ you send it out into the world one more time, like a brand new college freshman, and hope someone likes it a fraction as much as you do.

Two Steps Forward

I finally have a readable draft. I sent it off to my early readers (AKA my awesome women’s running group and my mother because moms are the best) and now I wait to hear what they have to say.

It’s difficult because I find myself reading books I got at the library and comparing them to what I’ve written. It makes me loathe my own words.

But, just like most of the pictures in magazines are Photoshopped within an inch of their lives, I know these books have been looked over by an editor, picked through with a fine tooth comb. A person’s whose job it is to make a book sell-able went through and told the author how to fix things. What to focus on. What to change and what to keep.

At one point, though, it was a draft on a computer, just like mine. A shaky draft, full of errors and in need of help, but full of so much potential just waiting to be read.

Will that ever happen? Will I ever go to my library and pull out a book from the shelves with my name on it?

God, I hope so.

Daydreaming

When I was in high school I used to write stories when I should have been taking notes. I would scrawl tales of romance and teen love across my spiral-bound notebooks for hours on end. My teachers never suspected–at least in my mind they didn’t–because I looked like I was taking notes.

Luckily for me, I was a decent student even without paying attention.

Sometimes, I would share the stories with my friends. Sometimes, I would write stories specifically for them. If someone was having a bad day, I could create a little escapism for them during first period Physics.

Most of the time, I wrote for me. I wrote because there were people in my head who wanted me to tell their stories. I wrote for the pure joy of it. There is something so satisfying about putting pen to paper. I can still feel the pressure of making the two little curved lines of a quotation mark

I wish high school Margaret had thought to keep some of those tales. It would be interesting to go back and read what my seventeen year old self needed to write. I am sure most of it was unrequited love for Ryan H., who I adored from afar. He was the cool basketball player, I was the somewhat shy, bookish girl who was in the choir. There’s a story there.

I guess there’s a story anywhere if you look hard enough.

Say Something

Sometimes I’ll  be writing and I find myself forcing the characters to do something they don’t want to do. I will push and push and push until finally, one of them will look at me and say, “Margaret, come on, we don’t want to fall in love.”

That happened with my most recent book. I finished the first draft back in December, then left it to stew. Something was off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I went back to it a few weeks later, and started the fun editing process. As I went through I changed things and added things and re-wrote whole chapters and still, it niggled at the back of my brain. This is not right.

I finally figured it out. I want two characters to be in love, I want them to have hot, steamy sex, and the rest of the story, the rest of the book, shit, even the characters, simply do not want to. It’s not needed. I want this to be a romance novel, but really, it’s a novel about women and friendships and what it is to be in your mid-thirties and realized everything you have believed about yourself is wrong. It’s about finding yourself again. It is not about love and sex with a cute, younger man.

That, I can leave for a different story. Picture a cute assistant principal, one slightly broken woman with a niece who goes to his school, and voila! There is my steamy, sexy romance novel.

Now I just need to motivate myself to get back to the rough draft. To tell the story that ACTUALLY wants to be told. That is a different problem. I find it hard to creative in this current time. I feel stifled and depressed and I know in my heart of hearts NOW is the time to be creative. To write and let the world hear a dissenting voice! It’s just hard to work up the energy when so much shit keeps bogging me down.

Break On Through to the Other Side

There’s a scene in Armageddon (what you don’t enjoy cheesy Michael bay action/disaster films with super fake scenarios that would never work except in a movie? Then get out of here!) where the drillers…hang on, if you haven’t watched this movies then let me say SPOILERS…have to get to a certain point in the asteroid. The only way to do that is to keep pushing through the gas pockets and iron and all that shit until bam, there they are at the depth they need to be to save the world!

Cue Aerosmith song.

That’s what I feel like when I am writing. I have this plot, this idea, the end, the characters, some funny stuff, a training montage…but I just need to write in order to get there. I find myself pausing in front of my laptop, fingers hovering over the keys, frozen, until I internally yell, “Just write. Just get words written down. You will come back later and fix them.”

Just keep drilling.

It’s shitty. The words suck. But, I need to get it out of my head. Once it’s all out I can go back and fix things. I try to remind myself my first book looked NOTHING like it does now. I have to thank my sister for reading that first dreadful copy which I sent to her without re-reading. Just hit The End, then send. Oh how I regret that.

That Naked Dream

We have all had it right, that one where you are in front of a crowd or your friends and you’re naked? And all you can think is how exposed you feel.

It really is a terrible feeling.

Letting other people read words I have written down makes me feel naked. I want to write books people read, obviously. Except, when people actually start reading my stuff, well, that’s when shit gets real.

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The Luckiest is officially live and for sale on Amazon. I posted about it on my Facebook last night and I had a whole bunch of friends share the link and noticed on their links people commenting “Oh I bought it, it sounds cute”, etc. Holy shit, strangers are buying something I wrote!

This is as bad as the naked dream except it is real life, folks.

Please let it be worth the $1.99! I mean, people get crappy food from fast food joints for $1.99, right? Buy my book, it is healthier for you than an order of french fries and maybe cheaper depending on where you are eating!

The Luckiest

I have attempted to write the Great American Novel more times than I would like to admit. I get into a novel, get it started, and then my interest immediately wanes. Writing is no easy feat.

After several failed attempts I figured I would listen to the old “write what you know” idea. I tweaked it a bit and changed it to “write what you would like to read”.

I like romance novels. I like happily ever after. I like there to be a little bit of sexual tension. I like couples falling in love.

That’s what I attempted to write. A light book. One you can devour while snuggled up on your couch or sunbathing on the beach. I wanted it to be a book you can finish and think, “well, that was nice.”

Here’s hoping.

The Luckiest by Margaret Berger