Monday, May 10, 2010

It's All In The Set Up

I've come to some pretty big conclusions this past year about life in general. However, since this is a blog primarily about writing I will weave writing into this post. You'll see.

The set up. That's what brings success. And easiness. And peace. And excitement. And respect. And.

And..

And...

The set up. What do I mean by that? Curious? Let me set some scenarios to show you what I mean:

1. You're a Parent: You have a child who is strong willed and oh so vocal in public. You want to go to the grocery store to pick up a few things. The past few times you've taken this child to the grocery story he's had an absolute fit because he couldn't get a candy bar. I'm talking a real good fit, as in, everyone looks and whispers. The kind of fit you want to put your hood up, grab your kid and slink out.
THE SET UP: In the car on the way to the store you say, "Now listen to me, you are not getting a candy bar today. I am only running in to grab a few things for the house. Do not ask for a candy bar. Not even once. Do you understand me? No candy bar today. If you ask me you will go directly to your room when we get home. Are we clear?"

Guess who won't ask for a candy bar?

2. You're a Teacher: You want your students to compliment each others writing with genuine and heartfelt compliments...something deeper than, "It was good. I liked it. I liked it because it was good."
THE SET UP: The day before the compliment activity you say, "Now listen up everyone, I'm going to put some statements up here on the board and I want you to talk at your tables...which statements are genuine and heartfelt compliments? Be prepared to share out why you think the statement is genuine and heartfelt and why another statement is NOT genuine and heartfelt."

Guess who won't put, "It was good. I liked it. I liked it because it was good."

3. You're a Writer: You want to get agent requests from your query letter. As in statistically impressive requests. (*note - I am not claiming to have said impressive requests)
THE SET UP: Before you send one query letter out you know, from the depths of your writer soul, that you have the tightest and most revised and solidly magnificent manuscript humanly possible. This of course requires ridiculous amounts of time writing, re-writing, revising, editing, revising again and again, then sending it out to be read by people other than your family...you know, people that have no problem telling you when it falls apart or makes no sense or the part that made them want to put it down.

The stuff that hurts badly.

THEN and only then are you ready for the next set up. Now you need to set yourself up. Mentally prepare yourself to spend a significant amount of time researching the art of writing an effective query letter. Hopefully you stop by Elana Johnson's site. Now you're ready to craft query letter version #1. Get feedback - you have to strap on a set and put it out there...online so it can be ripped to ever loving hell by fellow writers. This hurts so good, trust me.

Draft #2

Put it out there again for another lashing.

Draft #3

Repeat.

You may be ready to sent it out...depending on the feedback from fellow writers. If you keep getting negative feedback, do draft #4, 5, 6, etc...

When you have exhausted your set up by every means possible, and by exhausted I mean you have the energy to hit send...now comes more research.

Seriously.

DO NOT HIT SEND ON THAT QUERY YET.

Now you have to research who the hell you plan on sending your well crafted work of art to. Who are the agents that live in your fantasy world?
Who are the agents that rep what you write?
Who are the agents who seem like they'd be a good match for your personality?
Who are the agents who are open to queries at the moment?

Yep, you have some more setting up to do. Every waking moment you have "free time" (ha, as if any of us have such a nonsensical entity, but you know what I mean) you need to spend it researching agent and their blogs, their websites, their comments, their contests, their tweets, their thinking, their current literary wants, their personalities, their interviews...basically everything and anything you can read about them.

Once you've compiled your list, visit Query Tracker.net and get to work querying your little heart out. Query wide. Query smart. Query with the supreme confidence that you are ready because your manuscript is as kick-ass as it can be & your query letter is a kick-ass as it can be.

Query well my blogger friends. Query well. Query successfully.

Query with statistically impressive results. It's ALL in the set up.

p.s. if you wonder how I came to this thinking, well, I lived it...the HARD way, the wrong way, the I-wish-I-knew-what-I-know-now way.