Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kindle-ready zombie book

One good thing today, aside from the agent letter, is that I've finally had The Big Idea for the next book that makes it possible for me to start writing in earnest. I'm setting the whole thing in Baltimore around 1900. What was missing from my original concept was machinery: the turning of immense iron gears, the clanking of man-sized pistons, chains dripping black oil, and the sounds of metal against metal like locomotive engines mating. Also, zombies! The subject line is the working title of the work-in-progress. I think it's Amazon-friendly.

I may re-think the zombies, but the Baltimore-in-1900 setting is certain.

request for a partial

Last night, very late while I was waiting for my neighbor to get her clothes the hell out of the dryer so I could finish my load of darks, I sent off a query letter (and first five pages of the ms) to a literary agent. It's what I do: whenever I get a rejection from an agent, I find another one to annoy. Yesterday I got two form rejection emails, so I was a bit depressed.

On checking my hotmail account first thing this morning, I saw a reply from the agent I emailed last night. Oh, fucking hell, I thought. Don't reject me this quickly; I haven't even had my first cup of coffee. But imagine my surprise and delight when I opened the message and saw the words, "Thanks so much for thinking of me for this! Could you send along the first 100 pages..."

So, like, yay! I'll send him the partial ms after work, tell him he's got an exclusive (which means that I won't let any other agents read it while it's in his hands), and see if he wants to see the entire book.

In other news, last night I began making an outline of my next novel. I consider moving the story from contemporary times into the early 20th century, just before the Great War. We'll see.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

to remain positive

To date, I have sent queries (all via a newfangled technology called "email" that I think will eventually catch on with the general public) to six literary agents. Thus far I have received two rejections, both in response to the first version of my query letter, which was admittedly a pretty awful piece of work. My new version, I like to think, is better. I've been looking for agents who'll allow writers to include the first chapter or so of the book with the query, targeting them in the hopes that the quality of the novel writing will outweigh the quality of the query letter. Yes, I know: that's the wrong attitude and I should really do more work on my pitch.

The problem with query letters and book pitches is that, while I quite like the novel I've written and I have great faith in it, I'm not comfortable boiling it down to six or seven sentences. Which is to say, I don't like that I need to focus on a single aspect of the book because such a narrow view will naturally exclude some of the aspects that I think make the book worth reading. Good art, I tell myself egotistically, is difficult to narrow down. Still, I keep playing this game where I try to see the story from different angles and try to imagine from which angle the thing will look most attractive to an overworked, distracted intern who's got 30 seconds to read each of 350 email queries in a day. It is difficult to remain positive at this stage.