Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pinteresting coincidence

It's weird how Pinterest is blowing up right at the exact moment I've become obsessed with old fashioned pin boards. I posted a few weeks ago about my homemade bulletin board, which is now completely covered, by the way, obscuring the fact that I never did get back to the fabric store to buy more of the ribbon for the unfinished border. I have an unseemly pride in the thing and the way it has accumulated layers of clippings from the newspaper, old maps, note cards and sheets torn from large pads of paper.

In the meantime, I also spent a long time thumbing through and cutting articles and photos out of old magazines from the 50's -- Life, Home and Garden, etc. I don't have any more bulletin board space to speak of, so I used big sheets of sketch paper and glue stick (wish they had had that when we were kids) and made collages. I filled three of them and have them hanging up in spare space in my office. I worked on these in the evening in front of the T.V.

I did similar clipping and collecting with my previous books, but I didn't have any bulletin board space then, so it all just went into folders and never got looked at. I don't know how inspiring the pictures actually are. (The notecards with the plot are key.) But just the act of looking out for them is probably important.

When it comes to the Life magazines, it's really tempting to marvel at and cut out the corny ads. That would get old pretty quick, because that's pretty much a bottomless well. And more importantly, it doesn't really help get in touch with the era. I don't think readers then really saw "Pleasure In Prince Albert!" tobacco ads as reflecting reality, however much it might have created desire. So when I was really looking for the occasional articles in those magazines that did some kind of reporting or pictorial on real people. Very very rarely they would have some kind of "day in the life" thing about a person or people from the provinces, and if I squint -- or clip aggressively -- I can pretend it's the particular province my story is set in. I was looking for some face that wasn't Doris Day's or Rock Hudson's or the model driving the new car. I wanted to see what a real person looked like then, and I got a few.

Anyway, I don't want to sound like a hater, but I couldn't do all this with Pinterest, I think, and even if I could, the result wouldn't be hanging on the wall when I step into my office every morning. I just thought it was funny that I was spending all this time with scissors and glue at the exact moment every other post on Facebook was about Pinterest.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Back to the query letter grind

Friday now. I took a week off from my second book to go back and work on my third book. (See previous posts to understand the logic behind that.) Specifically to wage another campaign to get it published. It's been about 3 months since I sent out the first round of query letters, and it was time to try again.

First I took another pass at my query letter. I'm probably fooling myself, but I think it's a good letter. I didn't change a lot. Of course, in the context of a short letter, a little change can be a lot. I certainly didn't re-envision it. Normally after a few months away from something I see serious flaws and rethink the approach entirely, but I'm not seeing it here. Someone else is going to have to tell me how my letter sucks.

Then I went over the first 50 pages of the typescript again. (Most agents request 50 pp. or less with the query, and I have excerpts sliced several different ways -- 5 chapters, 4 chapters, 5 pages, 1 page, etc.) I did find a lot of opportunities to sharpen it, but, again, not a total re-envisioning of it. This was red-pen work -- slow close reading on paper and then inputting the changes on the computer file. Then recreating all those different excerpts.

Finally today I went to my list of agents to consider querying. It's a slow process of picking an attractive prospect, reconfirming the info I have, reviewing all the info out there on them that made them sound interesting to begin with, trying to spot a way to pitch to them individually. Then when I have one I'm ready to query, I have to build the email with just the right material included, subject line, the magic words, etc. At least these days it's almost 100% email whereas when I was going through this with my first book a couple years ago there was still a lot of photocopying, SASE, lines at the post office, etc. Still, it's all pretty time consuming. I've found that even with all the writing done and a lot of preliminary research it takes an hour to get 2 queries reconfirmed and in shape enough to hit the send button.

Someday when I strike it rich I'll let myself vent. For now, suffice it to say that sometimes I don't feel 100% positive about this process.