Thursday, April 29, 2010

Defying Gravity...

Yeehah - Team NZ in action at the International Cheer Union World Comp. That's my girl looking extremely flexible and a bunch of other gravity defiers.
I am fascinated by the current trend of writers of adult fiction segueing into childrens fiction, for example John Grisham and Harlan Coben are the latest with YA books coming out. There are others as well. If writing for children is often seen as the poor relation why are writers for adults suddenly trying to marry into the family? I guess I am a little confused.
With the world shrinking as technology embraces the planet and becomes increasingly more versatile, writers, especially in geographically isolated countries like New Zealand are seeking to extend their search for publication overseas. As we do so the need to understand the rules of engagement in other countries becomes essential. Agent, publisher and author blogs provide a wealth of information and bloggers are generous with tips, advice and exemplars of how to proceed. Agents and editors justifiably hold unknown authors at arms length and we must impress them in a couple of succinct, pithy paragraphs (aka the query letter). Really this should be our strength. After all, good writing in any genre rests on the ability to say so much with so few well chosen words laid out in just the right way. What in theory should be so easy becomes mind blowingly hard. Its a few paragraphs to sell the agent/editor on something you have been slaving over for weeks, months or maybe years. The hours of toil, sweat, tears and frustration are now distilled into a page long (at the most) query letter that must capture the essence of your story wrapped in the voice and style you have employed in that work. Shesh. And there's something extra scarey about the fact that its about selling your product. I am not a salesperson. I doubt I could sell raincoats during a monsoon. Maureen Crisp has a lovely clip on her blog today of Nathan Bransford talking about how to pitch your novel. If I find writing query letters a tad tricky, pitching face-to-face has an extra degree or three of difficulty. I can talk the hind leg off a donkey when there is no pressure or scrutiny or judging. I can write a novel. But distill my manuscript down to its essence and then verbally sell it? Ha ha ha - no. The fact is I can't neglect this skill or avoid it cos it scares me. It has to be part of the modern (or is that post-modern or post, post-modern) writers toolkit. Fab writer Brian Falkner talks about the tag-line. If your book was a movie what would the single sentence on the promotional poster be (one of his examples being In space no one can hear you scream for the movie Alien). This is a great way to approach that distillation process (without the support of any other distilled product). Of course while this is an easy concept to grasp it becomes a little harder when you try and apply it to your own work. Those Hollywood folk have a bunch of experts to come up with their pitch to the world. One of my favourite ways to nut out a problem like this, especially about writing, is to talk about it. I'm talking about it here and I'll take it to my other writery friends and hash it out with them. No one else can do it for my books but me. I suppose its made things a little easier up till now not having to query or pitch like writers do overseas but of course now that makes me the complete newbie amongst a large crowd of people for whom it is the norm. If I discover any secret formulae or super insightful tips on queries and pitches (beyond what is already available out there on the blogosphere) I'll let you know. Right now I'm relying on rescue remedy.


Old Kitty said...

First all I can say is WOW seeing the pics of your daughter and the cheerleaders most definitely defying gravit and flexibility!

Well done your daughter and all the NZ cheerleading team!!!

Taglines: I had a whole course of it last year - it looks so simple but when we were asked to write one for our novel - the amount of headscratching and steam coming out of one's ears...

It is a very, very, very difficult thing to do. So I envy anyone able to do just that.

Pitching face-to-face is for the very brave and the very confident! Good luck!!

I'm all for rescue remedy - not just one or two drops either.


Take care

Maureen said...

I woke up this morning mulling over a blurb description of my Mars story. Strange I thought but maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me to get to the core theme and stop going for side trips around Martian real estate...Of course now I have to figure out the main theme...

Pitching is hard. We are all with you on that one.

The cheer team did amazingly well and the flexibility and strength shows through. Also the trust that you must have in your fellow team members.

What a great team sport! You know the world cup is coming up in Auckland maybe a video link to their performance in an email to the rugby union wouldn't go amiss...