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Posts Tagged ‘first three chapters’

As I’ve been creating mystery #3, taking place in mid-December New England, I discovered I was mixing up Colonial timelines and character names with the later Victorian architecture.

I had to make a decision so I could write the opening scene in the appropriate location.

Victorian period would allow the story to unfold in a beautifully appointed bed & breakfast, converted from a generations-old family home.

Colonial architecture would age the bed & breakfast, allowing centuries-old family history to filter into the story.

Earlier this week, my husband and I visited the Daniel Webster Estate in Marshfield, MA, to help narrow my choice. And yesterday, I stopped by the Society of Mayflower Descendants in Plymouth, MA, for a nice chat with the two women behind the desk and a man sitting at a research table.

In the end, because my fictional Harbor Falls series is located on the coast of Massachusetts, I settled on a Colonial backstory. Connections to the Mayflower pilgrims, a sad eighteenth century ghost, and parallels to current times will round out the main mystery plot with ghostly connections to my amateur sleuth’s personal subplot.

Such fun!

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Hollihock headerNext weekend, I’ll be attending the second annual Hollihock Writers Conference in New Bedford, MA. They are offering multitudes of classes, panels, and speakers throughout the 3-days.

This is a new conference as you can tell by the title. I found out about it this past spring at a Writers Retreat on Cape Cod. One of the other writers… Diana Grady from Buzzards Bay Writing Project… mentioned this conference because she thought I’d be interested. Diana will be leading one of the workshops.

Learning new tips and tricks about the process of creating fiction is not only a pleasure, but keeps my retired brain active and alert. There is always something to be gleaned from every class, every speaker, every panel participant.

If you live in southern New England, and haven’t yet signed up, the ‘REGISTER HERE’ button on their website still appears to be active, so what are you waiting for?

http://www.hollihock.org/

 

 

 

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sketch of question personOK… so I’ve been wrestling with my opening chapter for what seems like forever. I’ve read many writing craft books. One craft book says the author can’t mess with normal until your reader knows what normal is.

And so I’ve arrived at a quandary… how do I hook my reader [and my first reader is an agent] with the inciting incident and show my main character’s normal life at the same time?

A while ago, I attended an event at a local library called Author Idol, where the 25 authors sitting in the audience had each submitted their anonymous first three pages. The four agents up on stage raised one hand when the reader came to a place where the agent would reject the manuscript. Two agents’ hands in the air signaled the reader to stop. Would it surprise you to hear that most of us didn’t get past the first two paragraphs???

How scary is that???

How perfect does that opening have to be???

What happened to editors???

If an agent is not willing to read at least the first three pages, what hope do I have of ever getting published?

So it’s back to the drawing board. On Saturday, I’ll submit to my writing group yet another attempt at my opening. My fingers are crossed that I’m at least getting closer.

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sketch of question personThis past weekend, I attended the Malice Domestic Conference in Bethesda, MD. Although this mystery gathering is more an opportunity for fans to meet their favorite authors, a writer can also glean valuable information from the various panels.

In addition to author breakfasts, interviews, and the Poison Lady, I chose these panels: When Secrets and Lies Descent into Murder, Mysteries with a Touch of Magic, How Seasons Effect Story, Sleuthing with the Dead, When Music and Painting Lead to Murder, and Cozy in the City.

Carolyn G. Hart, one of my favorite authors who is publishing her 50th novel this year, spoke with me about writing, and not letting anyone try to change my words into their own.

On the other hand, when I asked a panel of published mystery authors when their body drops, here are their answers: first sentence, first chapter, first paragraph, and prologue. Another author on a different panel said it has to drop no later than the last chapter you submit to an agent, which is usually the first three. That beats the crap out of my body drop 1/3 of the way through my story. So now I need to decide whether to tackle a major rewrite and move it forward…sigh.

Not sure I will attend this particular conference until my own novel is published. That could be next year or a decade from now…who’s to know?

 

 

 

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sketch of question personThere are several publishing houses out there who do not require an agent. This sounds tempting until I read the fine print for their submission guidelines.

The one that I’m considering requests a query email, a 2-5 page synopsis and the entire manuscript as attachments.

My concern centers around my constant worry that someone will ‘borrow’ my story without my knowledge. Compared to the usual process that an agent requires, which is a query letter first, after which they request perhaps the synopsis and possibly the first three chapters, it seems to me that providing everything upfront, electronically, with no prior interaction with a human being puts me at somewhat of a disadvantage.

Am I being a bit paranoid? Probably.

I’d be interested to hear from those of you who are published whether you worked through an agent or dealt directly with a publisher.

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…to send it out!!!

After many, many revisions, my story finally begins in the right place…I think.

My stronger protagonist encounters the “inciting incident” by the end of page seven.

I’ve moved evil back story into future chapters.

I’ve eliminated narrative that interrupts the plot.

I’ve eliminated duplications and replaced weak verbs with stronger ones.

I’ve been mindful that my internal and external character arc mesh and mingle.

I’m hopeful that readers will be hooked and not put it down until page 309…The End.

So why am I petrified to enter it into a contest for first time novelists!

Where do I find the nerve to JUST DO IT? …no idea.

My calendar is marked with a deadline of mid-October… will I push the button? Stay tuned.

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Several weekends ago, I ‘pitched’ my novel to an agent at the New England Crime Bake, the annual conference sponsored by both Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

Sitting on the other side of the table from the agent was not as daunting as I had expected. She smiled at me, and I explained the story behind my novel. After asking a few questions, she looked at me and said, “Here’s my card, email your first three chapter.”

YEA! It was all I could do not to jump up off my chair and dance around the room. But, of course, I didn’t, being a completely professional person. I thanked her as we shook hands, and exited the room, passing the next author in line on my way out.

And so I sit and wait for her to find the time to read my chapters and get back to me with either good… or bad… news. The good news would be if she sayd, “I like your writing style and your characters sound interesting. Your story has potential, so I’d like to read the remaining chapters.”

The bad news would be, “I’m sorry, but your novel is not what I’m looking to publish right now.” That would be so disappointing, but I’m prepare to hear those words as well.

And so I sit and wait.

 

 

 

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