Friday, July 9, 2010

Away for a Week

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Good day, everyone.

I just wanted everyone to know I'll be gone this next week attending my daughter's wedding and helping to get her moved.

I should be back a week from today.

I look forward to speaking with you all then.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

How to Pitch an Agent

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by C. Patrick Schulze 

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

You know what's more difficult than writing a NOVEL? Selling your novel to an AGENT. It's one of the more daunting aspects we writers face.

By nature we writers live in world more solitary than most. We sit alone and clack on a keyboard for hours on end. And welcome the opportunity. It's this aspect of our collective personalities that tend to ensure our strengths lie in areas other than finding an agent to represent us.

However, there's not as much to landing an agent as you might think. All you have to do is sell them on your book. And all that takes is ninety seconds. You can do anything for ninety seconds, right? In four words I'll tell you how you do that.

Fill the agent's needs.

Not enough? Okay. Allow me to outline the agents needs for you. This get a bit deep, so hang on. They need good authors to represent.

Now that I've done the hard part for you, how might you fulfill their needs?

One secret, after you've written that high quality novel of course, is your book pitch. It's that ninety second synopsis of your novel.

Keep in mind a pitch has only one function. To make and agents think, That's interesting.

To convince anyone something is "interesting," you've got to be able to tell them about it. In our world of writing, we explain our books and novels with a book pitch.

With an effective pitch, I'll bet you're eighty percent or more on your way to publication.

So, how to put our ninety seconds of fame to good use? Here's a simple way to do that.

Think of your pitch as your verbal sales brochure. If you've ever studied brochures, you know they say very little but feel very good. That tells us our verbal brochure, our pitch, should be infused with an emotional tug of some sort.

Remember our old friend, CONFLICT? Yep. He comes into play here, too. The secret to your book pitch is conflict.

That is to say, if you want to pitch an agent, just give them a short summary of your PLOT. Mention first what the protagonist desires, why he wants it what keeps him from it. If you get nothing else in, it's okay. It is nice if you give them word count, genre, target audience, etc. If you don't have the time, they'll ask if they're interested.

Now for a couple of other things to keep in mind.

First and foremost, nothing happens until you make it happen. Go to the writers' conferences and set appointments with agents. Pay a reasonable fee if you must.

Keep your pitch itself short. Think three sentences and ninety seconds, tops.

Can you read your pitch to them? Sure. It answers their questions whether you recite or read it. Tell them before you pull out your cue cards, though.

Be sure to point out any connection you have with the agent, no matter how small and to let them know why you chose to speak with them.

If you're not sure how to write your pitch, begin your first sentence with the word, "when" and your second sentence with the word, "can." That'll usually put you on the right track.

Of course, you know this is a business meeting, so treat it as such. Be polite, professional and considerate.

And for my final recommendation, always remember, my friends, fortune favors the bold.

By the way, I've got a joke for you.

How do you pitch an agent?
Why, you wind up and toss 'em.

Until we meet again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the now-at-the-editors novel, "Born to be Brothers"

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How to Master Setting in Novels

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How to Master Setting in Novels

by C. Patrick Schulze

Have you ever been to war? Have you felt the pulsing of battle within your body? If not, then read author DAVID L. ROBBINS. With his NOVELS, this guy jams his readers into the center of a battlefield in such a way you can almost feel the heat of the bullet as it screams past your head. How does he immerse his readers into the horrific environs of battle so well?

He's mastered the art of SETTING.

With that in mind, let’s introduce those components of setting which give your readers a full sense of the time and place in which you plunge them.

1. The geographical location of your novel
2. The time in which your novel takes place
3. The climate and/or weather in your novel
4. The lifestyle of your characters in your novel
5. The atmosphere or emotional quality of your novel

As to the geographical location of your novel, it helps if you write about a place you know, but it’s often more interesting if you create your own WORLD. Either way, the secret is to be as accurate as possible, for readers can spot a mistake in less time than it took to write it.

The type of story you craft will often dictate the time. The secret is to learn, or imagine as the case may be, as much about the era in which you write. I write novels that take place during the American Civil War. Therefore, I read about the time, walk the battlefields, visit towns of the era, visit museums where uniforms, dresses and quilts of the time are exhibited. Then, as I write, all these things assist when I attempt to create a true to life setting for my readers.

Climate is one of those aspects to setting many writers forget to use it to its maximum advantage in their novels. It offers so much in the way of establishing the mood of a scene. It also gives a writer any number of opportunities to incorporate sound and visual enhancements into their novel.

Lifestyle is an aspect to setting that generally comes out in the novel of its own volition. However, the best writers specifically use this as a tool in constructing setting.

Atmosphere is the mood or feeling of your book, the emotional quality of your novel. Imagine the mournful howl of a lone wolf at night or the cheery chirps of birds at dawn, and you'll understand how setting can alter the atmosphere of your novel.

Why is setting so important in your novel? The major reasons are as follows:

Setting Creates Consistency within Plots and Subplots. A consistent setting can keep it all joined together so the reader mentally stays within a comfortable framework.

Setting Enhances Conflict. Think about a scene with rumbling thunder and stabs of lightning in the inky sky. Does that create more tension than say an idyllic spring day in the park? Should you wish to use that tranquil day among the flowers, plop a flock of buzzards in the middle of the field and see how things change.

Setting Illustrates a Character’s Character. The manner in which your characters speak, dress, move and even curse will evoke in your reader a picture of your character. Imagine a dockhand who never utters a profane word. Would that image provide an insight into your character?

The real secret to setting is to introduce it not in chunks of information, or the classic info-dump. Rather, introduce it by way of your character's action, dialogue and such. As an example, it's probably best not to describe the landscape with narrative. Rather show how the character moves through tall grass, picks the flowers or smells the honeysuckle as it bursts forth and fills the air with its sweet nectar.

Before I close, I’d like to offer you one last tip as to setting. Employ your readers’ five senses. All authors seem to work in sight and sound by rote, but many aspiring writers miss the other three senses. Ensure your characters also smell, taste and feel their surroundings and your readers will do the same.

Are there any tips on setting you'd like to share?

Until we speak again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the now-at-the-editors novel, "Born to be Brothers"