Sunday, February 22, 2009

An Idea for Query Letters and the Web

I read something recently that got me to thinking. Their idea: a website where writers can post a query letter, synopsis, sample chapters, and the manuscript in a sort of profile. That way a link sent to an agent could provide them with any and all of the information they needed. It's a good idea, but it has quite a few problems that will arise from its creation. (i.e. links to wrong site, the initial e-mail doesn't tell if the book is something the agent would deal with, etc)

So I thought about it a while. I remembered some of the search engines for agents already in existence. And then I thought to myself, what if there was a website with the reverse? A site where agents who are looking for new clients can go to do a targeted (advanced) search of what THEY are looking for, what they want to represent. That would certainly take the load off of them, seeing how swamped with queries they are this year. Also, the only way they would need to send a rejection letter is if they requested the manuscript. No need to feel like they hurt anyone's feelings or receive a nasty reply to the rejection. You can see where the writers benefit as well.

On this website, writers would have a profile with their short bio, query letter, synopsis (short and long), and sample chapters available. The full manuscript could either be downloaded from the site where it is stored (with the author's permission first), or if storing the manuscript file on the web is too difficult for such a website, then the agent can request directly from the writer via their e-mail address or contact info. This would also give writers an opportunity to show their personality, unlike the standard, stale query. In the design/layout, through a blog or link to a blog, and maybe some pictures, they could show the agents what kind of person they will be dealing with. If you appear to be likable and intelligent, it might influence an agent who is wavering on a request. Some other good things for writers include that they could take their time, make friends and get critiques or advice on the website from their fellow writers. Generally, they can have fun with the process as opposed to stressing over it.

I'm not saying this idea would make finding an agent/client nothing but sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. Or that it is without errors. I'm saying this has the potential to make the process significantly less stressful, more efficient, and fun. Who would have ever thought that writing query letters could be fun? Well, I'm saying it is possible. With a website like the one I propose, I can even say it is probable.

Seems like anything that could take away some of that pain I see in my fellow writers' eyes upon rejection, or turn an agent from a stressed out cynic into someone who can smile while doing their job (and mean it), would be worth the try.

What do you think?


Mel

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Comparing the Writer’s Growth with the Child’s Growth

In spending so much time among other writers I have observed many personalities, behaviors, and situations. I came to understand quite a few things from my interactions with them. Looking back now, I consider how very similar a writer’s growth is to that of a human’s --mentally and sometimes, physically. I'm speaking of the growth and not the fact that writers are humans (well, for the most part), if that makes any sense to anyone other than myself.


To become a writer is like being born again (not the religious reference). In the beginning we need special attention and encouragement, as an infant would. Our fragile egos and underdeveloped skills need a loving hand to survive that most difficult time. And yes, beginnings are always the most difficult stage for anyone. Rarely can a writer survive that time alone.


As we grow, many of us will continually test our boundaries, only to be put firmly back in our place because we aren’t yet ready, as a child who wants to play with the older children. Many of us cry, some of us grow more determined, and some of us turn away all together. Sadly, there are writers who become stunted at this stage and never evolve past it. That could be due to a ‘parental’ or teaching’ figure who leads them down the wrong path, or being held back so long they fear going forward, or even being told by an authority figure that they shouldn’t ‘quit their day jobs’. But for the rest of us, we eventually learn our strengths and weaknesses. We start to understand when we are ready. Then we make adjustments or advance accordingly.


In a writer’s teenage years you see the same rebellion as with children. Their book is tied to their volatile emotions and they react to any changes or restraints on their ideas with defiance. They don’t want to believe the system can hold power over them. Sometimes they rebel in small ways, and sometimes they make grand statements. In this stage, many writers fall because they let their emotions overrule their reason. In these years, we eventually learn to temper our reactions, toughen our skin, and generally make improvements upon ourselves so that we are ready to take our work out among the bigger fish in the sea.


As a young adult, there are more lessons to be learned --I suspect we never stop learning. Here is where gaining social skills and an understanding of society, as well as the world around you, is vital to evolution. Though writers are, more often than not, naturally reclusive, they force themselves to socialize. In selling themselves (not their bodies, ugh), they are selling their book(s). That doesn’t mean you have to be Miss America or Brad Pitt –though that can’t hurt your case. What it means is you have to be likable to your readers, respectful to your colleagues (other writers/authors), and conduct yourself in such a way that people (publishers, agents, etc) will want to do business with you. All of those manners you were taught (or read about) as a child come into play here. With any goal there will be discouraging obstacles, but those that learn to overcome them are the ones who move on from this stage.


As a mature author the ins and outs of business will take up a lot of their time. Life can make you weary. Everything you have cultivated will have to be maintained. Along the way many create a family of sorts made up of other authors who they respect and care for, to reflect their personal life and any family they might acquire therein. Their career may rise and fall with the goings on in the world, just like any other career. What makes the greatest of these authors is that they live their careers. Writing becomes so much a part of them that all of their days and nights are touched by it, called by it. A mature author must find the balance in the call and the life outside of that calling.


Since I am not old enough, nor have I spoken to enough elderly writers, I can’t continue on with my comparison. But, as you can see there are numerous similarities thus far. Writing is a rebirth…first of the mind, and at some point, part of the soul. For every true writer draws from their soul, and that is how they come to claim the title.


If you were to ask, many authors couldn’t exactly put words to how they ‘knew’ they were a writer. Some have mentioned being published; others have claimed it was something they always wanted to do. And yet, I think the truth is in the evolution of the writer, and whether or not their mind and soul become a part of that existence.



Mel

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Blog and My First Novel

I thought I would start an Author blog. I don't have much to say at the moment, but I'm sure that will change. In the meantime, here are some links to my websites and my profile on Amazon.


http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1699WE0IBTPAM

http://www.melskinner.com/

http://www.nightmaresofnevaeh.com/

http://www.myspace.com/nightmares_of_nevaeh


Later!

Mel