"...everything in life is writable...if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."..... Sylvia Plath

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why haven't I sent out my first query letter yet?

OK. My manuscript is essentially done.  I've had feedback from my critique groups, suggestions from Beta readers and completed three re-writes...the last very major. I've finished an update of my proposal, and query letter. I've been on Agent Query and started an appropriate agent list on Query tracker. I've scoped out agents I think I will send my proposal to and checked out their blogs and/or websites to make sure they accept my genre and to get a feel for their personalities, likes and dislikes, and experience.

I'm ready to send out my first query letter. Right? Well, you would think so after reading the above. Ok then, why haven't I done it? This is the question that was haunting me when I woke up this morning....and still is. Instead of systematically sending out letters to potential agents, I keep going back to my proposal and the chapters in my memoir and re-reading them over and over, tweaking here and there....and actually re-writing in some places.

Am I procrastinating? Or just being careful? After all, I keep hearing from authors, editors, and writing experts how important it is to have you work perfectly polished before you sending it to an agent. And that's what's getting to me. Is this the best I can do. Honestly, I don't think so...but then again I'm one of those people who always thinks she can do better. It just occurred to me that maybe I need some imput from my virtual friends.

So...what would you do?

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Getting the theme across

 On this, my third major re-write of my memoir, I have tried to learn and incorporate what I feel are the most valuable ideas from authors, editors (who've read my pages), and readers (who've read my pages).  Currently, I'm reading two books on re-writing memoir: Fearless Confessions by Sue William Silverman and Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon. I'm learning a lot from both.

     William Silverman's book has focused my attention on a number of things: internal story and depth of writing, showing feelings, and emotions, using metaphor, and discovering and delineating the theme in each chapter or piece. I have only read half of her book, so I'm sure there will be much more for me to learn. But these particular issues are ones I've been grappling with for a while. So, in my re-writing, I've been going chapter by chapter and attempting to delve beneath the surface of my story text, develop appropriate and interesting metaphor, and focus on theme.

      I was particularly interested in her third chapter on theme. According to my beta reader, in one of my chapters the theme was not carefully delineated. I was all over the place. I knew what I wanted to say but was letting the story get away from me. After reading what William Silverman wrote about theme, I  analyzed the chapter in terms of focus. At times, I just sat and repeated the theme over and over. I found I had to go back and delete everything that was not slanted towards that narrow theme, which was " moving to Louisville." All that deleting was hard at first.. But as I re-wrote, the theme revealed itself more succinctly. William Silverman says "the discoveries we make during revision are a vital part of the writing process." And I can't agree more. When I realized the specific message I was trying to get across,  it made the deleting easier.

     Furthermore, as I focused on the theme, I started "slanting" the details, as she suggests, so as to reveal more about how I was actually feeling about moving. As always, I attempted the use of sensory language and the technique of showing instead of telling. It sounds so easy, and it does get somewhat easier as we remain aware of what we're trying to do, but in reality, it's not easy. And we must always be vigilant. I've already caught on to thinking of each event in my memoir as a scene, like in a movie. And that helps with the "showing." but I discovered that I was relying too heavily on just telling my story without letting the reader in on the whole picture.

     It's a slow process, but a rewarding one.

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