Thursday, October 15, 2015

I'll Teach You All the Lessons of MasterClass Week 6

I'm so ashamed. Not only am I once again late with an update this week, but last week I also missed my second update this year; first since March. I was doing so well. Even if I was a couple days late, I still made sure to put in the effort to write an update every week. The fact that I completely neglected this blog so far this month annoys me.

To be fair, though, it's been a crazy month that has kept me from writing. I unintentionally went on a two-week writing hiatus. It sucks, but it was kind of unavoidable. I was going to push myself to at least write a blog update last Wednesday, but what would the point be? This is a blog about my writing, and I hadn't done any.

The month started with my mother-in-law getting a visit from her sister for the week. So Hubby and I spent a few days hanging out with them. It was also the week of our wedding anniversary. Wow. Four years already! It's going so fast! I can only imagine how much quicker it will fly once we have kids.

Speaking of marriage, two new friends of ours got married this past weekend. It was a lovely wedding. Fantastically done and so much fun. I told the bride that there was at least 17 different non-traditional elements of her wedding that matched my own almost exactly. It made the day even better, because it was like attending my own wedding. Loved it! Nearly every 10minutes something happened that made me love this couple even more. Such kindred spirits! It's great how many of those I've found up here. I'm going to miss them when Hubby and I eventually move a bit closer to my mom.

Anyway, I knew the first week of October was going to be non-stop, and so I anticipated the writing vacation. I also knew that this past weekend was going to be shot. What threw me, though, was the week hiatus in between.

I was frantically attempting to make up for us not really being at home the first week of October, which meant I was going into a cleaning spree. Sadly, that ended up making the place look even worse. In order to organize one room, I ended up emptying everything out into another room so I would have space to put things away. I then slowly filtered stuff back in to the now clean room. Problem is that I decided to actually clean - not just organize - since I had now actually had the free space. Each room really needed the scrub down from ceiling to floor, but it delayed the whole process. Plus, all the stuff that wasn't supposed to be in Room A remained sitting around Room B until it's time to clean Room B, and then it will shift into Room C; so on and so forth. It's a long-winded process. As is everything I do, apparently.

The fact that it's such a long process has been majorly stressing me out. Not only because it keeps me from writing - and I get super cranky when I haven't written in a while - but also because of that issue I talked about last post. Namely football taking over my weeknights, which means people over. Any cleaning I do manage ends up being completely futile since the living room - and kitchen if we provide dinner - ends up a sty by the end of the night anyway. Then there's "Superhero Tuesday" where Hubby and I go to our neighbor's to watch the comic book shows during Prime Time Tuesdays. And Spink really wants to talk about her wedding plans - understandably - and so any free time I have ends up going to her and everyone else. I am just never home!

The few hours I AM home I spend cleaning so I don't hurl things against the wall in frustration. Absolutely no time for writing anymore. That daily alarm at 5pm to remind me to go write for an hour has been taunting me for almost a month now. It's getting pathetic.

Well, Monday I put an end to that! True, I still ignored the alarm at 5 - once again I had company - but I managed to get a solid two hours of writing productivity right around noon. It was a fantastic two hours! Hubby's anniversary gift to me - among other things - was a replacement battery for my netbook. So I'm now cordless again!
Hacker Girl Facebook Sticker
by Birdman Inc
It is fantastic! I've been outside enjoying the unseasonable warmth as I write. It's a great motivator. The natural light keeps me energized, I'm more comfortable outside, and it's healthier to get some fresh air and Vitamin D from the sun's rays. I can also ignore my mess of a home while I'm out there.

If it weren't for work or visitors, I may just stay out there with my newfound freedom from dawn to dusk.

I haven't touched a MasterClass lesson in weeks, and so that's exactly what I did on Monday. This, my friends, is the Meat and Potatoes. I don't know if it's the subject matters, or if it's because I haven't written in a while, or a combo of the two, but these lessons really struck some cords with me.

I started off with the class I forgot about during Week 4: Ending the Book. Silly how I somehow neglected to watch this one...

James Patterson reminded me of something I do periodically, but really should get into the habit of doing more regularly: analyzing other people's works. Since this is a lesson about endings, he was specifically talking about that, but it works with everything. Characterization, setting, pacing, dialogue, over-all plot, ending, first lines, closing lines, scene breaks, love scenes, fight scenes, humor, etc. Analyze them. Maybe not all the time - I had a college professor who did that, and I have no clue how he got enjoyment out of anything he watched or read - but ENOUGH of the time to note what worked and what didn't. How you would improve on something.

Granted, it's all mostly based on opinion. The neighbor I spend Superhero Tuesdays with has a completely different taste than I do. I'm actually surprised we enjoy ANY of the same stuff; appeals to different parts of our differing tastes, I guess. Either way, there are characters that I absolutely love that he finds mindbogglingly boring. There are characters he loves that I find more irritating than nails on chalkboard. His favorite episodes are ones I wish were never written. My favorite episodes are lackluster for him. So on and so forth.

Point is, keep in mind while doing this analyzing exercise that it's based on YOUR opinion. However, your readers are more than likely going to share your opinion, so... grain of salt. Anyway, analyze what did and didn't work, what you did and didn't like about some story - movie, show, book, video game, etc - and use that while working on your own stuff.

He also had a suggestion that he deemed "The Secret to Great Endings" - both chapter and novel - as well as "one of these pieces that's worth the price of admission..." The whole segment was a minute long, and so I won't give you the full transcription. Here's the paraphrased concept, though:

 Patterson: Bullet down every, and I mean every, possible ending that could happen based on what has happened in the book so far. Think of every character – even minor one-line characters. Make as long of a list as it needs to be, and then look at them when you're done. Pick the most outrageous one of the bunch, but it has to track with the book. It has to make sense with everything else. But pick the most outrageous ending that makes sense, because – in my opinion – that will be the most entertaining one to read.”

Patterson actually finds this bit so crucial that making the bullet list of ending possibilities is actually that lesson's assignment. The other part of the assignment is to take the existing outline and ending chosen from the list, and create another list of about three or four more bullet points. This time, each bullet would be a clue given to the readers about how the book will end. Then, add these clues to the chapter outline if they won't spoil the surprise.

This isn't really how I work. If the ending is completely different than what I planned it's because the characters took it to that new direction, not because it was one of multiple possibilities I thought up and decided was the craziest of the bunch. I could try it out though, see how it works. I might have to get back to you guys about that.

I do want to include one last quote from this lesson before moving on to the next one. It really has nothing to do with writing, but Patterson's observation is so on-point it made me chuckle.

 Patterson: People are funny. They'll watch television shows. At the end of the season the whole cast is in a plane accident, and, you know, "See you in September." And they go "oh, okay, fine. We'll see you in September." You do it in a book and everybody's birdshit. They're writing letters, and they're giving you Fs on Amazon and Barnes&Noble and stuff. "You didn't give it an ending!"

Sad, but true. I mean, people will gripe about cliffhanger season finales, but it's expected. They'll whine for maybe a week, and then patiently wait for the next season's premiere. That's just how things are done with television shows; a way to hook and draw the audience back for more. Cliffhanger endings for novels on the other hand? Not as much of a norm. Plus, waiting four months for a conclusion to a season finale is a bit easier than waiting months or years for the next part of a novel series.

The next lesson in the MasterClass was about that oh-so-painful editing process. In truth, I don't do this all that much. I polish as I go - a bad practice, according to Patterson, but it's how I best work - and usually finish the story in one draft. Sites like,,,, or are such enablers of this bad habit of polish as you go. Which is why authors post one chapter and then write the next, instead of writing the whole manuscript, and then post after they've revised it.

This is probably why Please, Let Me Explain has been giving me such headaches. I'm actually doing the editing process. I get so frustrated with all the rewrites I do, but according to Patterson, this is a great thing. The whole kit 'n' kaboodle is rewriting again and again and again, because each rewrite refines the story and betters it. As an author, each rewrite is practice. And Practice Makes Perfect.
  Patterson: You need to be confident that as you're rewriting it's a good thing. It's getting better. It's not that you made mistakes. I think that's an important distinction for you to make...."Oh, my god, I made all of these mistakes." No. You didn't make mistakes. You're just making it better. You're making it better. You're making it better. You're making it better.... Please, don't beat yourself up... you're not making mistakes because you keep fixing things. That's how it works.

The trick to making it better in each revision is this second quote from Patterson:

 Once again it's always that same thing of moving the story and characterization forward. And if you keep simple things like that in your head – I repeat them – but you should repeat them for the rest of your writing life, because that's all it is.

My stories are all so long; maybe my readers expect that from me now, and so it's not a bad thing. However, I really need to make sure that I AM moving the character and story along. As I mentioned in the last blog update, I did have a "Fellow Student" comment on my Dialogue assignment. The person found it boring and repetitive. I, on the other hand, didn't see the repetition. To me, it felt like it was advancing the characterization and story by adding more of the backstory with every line. You found out that the couple had kids that are fairly grown. You found out that the wife - and kids - were feeling neglected because the husband was a workaholic. You found out that even though he was a workaholic, the husband has had multiple issues with his boss. You found out that the wife, at the very least, thought her husband would be willing to do anything in order to advance his career. You found out that the couple hasn't had sex in a while, that the husband spends his nights looking at porn, and that the wife suspected him of cheating with his secretary - probably her justification for her own cheating. So much is discovered in just dialogue. I thought that was good, it really let the readers know where these people were in this argument. The wife wasn't just a horrible woman who sleeps with anyone. The husband wasn't fired because he's a slacker. And the readers cared a little about each as their secrets came out.

None of that came across, though. At least, not for that person. So, maybe I wasn't moving the characters or story forward as much as I thought. Maybe I was keeping them in the living room for too long. Maybe I'm doing the same thing in PLME, which is why Ronoxym is having such difficulties; why I ended up ADDING about 6pgs instead of SUBTRACTING when I did my revision. So much for condensing down, huh?

Now, as I mentioned a little bit ago, I polish as I go usually, and Patterson finds this to be a bad practice. Why? Well, because he's noticed that if you polish as you go you end up polishing the sentence, or the paragraph, or the scene, or a full chapter until it's this beautiful thing that you are so proud of. Then you get to the end of the book, read back through it, and realize "Shoot. This beautiful piece that I polished to perfection does nothing to move the characters or story forward. It doesn't belong here." Problem is, you're so proud of your work you just can't bring yourself to cutting it even though it needs to go. For the betterment of the story as a whole, it needs to go. So, better to not polish it, that way it's easier to cut it later if it doesn't belong there.

A very valid lesson that a lot of you may take to heart. One that I really SHOULD take to heart. This is another reason why PLME has been such a struggle to edit. I've polished my sentences and paragraphs and scenes until it becomes something I just can't find it in me to cut. Yet, cut I must.

Instead, I add things in order to work my way up to that beautiful piece of writing. Thus my six added pages that Ron has to wade through. Maybe he'll be better at cutting my beautiful little darlings. I mean, I'll still have them in an older version of the story.
Yeah, I notice that it's repetitive or lagging the story, and I'll shift and reword to better keep the pace, but I'm almost afraid to go back over the latest chapter of PLME in order to truly see if I managed to keep moving the characters and story forward. I fear the answer is "no" and that I'll have to be brutal with that Red Pen.

  Patterson: You eliminate everything that doesn't really make that scene work ideally.... If it doesn't really get at that core of what that scene should be, it goes.

One of the things he spends a decent amount of time on is editing dialogue specifically. He admits that, once you get the conversation going, it's really easy to just let the conversaion flow. Problem is, you may have three pages of dialogue when what you really need is just one. I have to say, between the added length of PLME, Ron's reaction to my lengthening of PLME, and that poor review on my dialogue assignment, I'm really afraid that rings so true for me. The characters just go, and I let them. I allow my stories to be character-driven more so than plot-driven, and dialogue brings out so much of that characterization.

Perhaps I let it remain too "natural" though, instead of "heightened reality"; where it SOUNDS natural, but it's edited down to be the most concise in order to keep the pacing and entertainment value. Most people do this already when they write dialogue. Most people cut themselves off mid-sentence to restart, or ramble, or repeat themselves, or use the wrong word, or interject "uh" or "um" or "but uh" to stall while gathering their thoughts. You don't generally see this awkwardness in dialogue. Granted, I do use it on occasion to portray a particular character trait, or to showcase how nervous someone is. However, for the most part, authors generally edit out those bits of typical dialogue. Why? Because have you read an unedited transcription of a conversation? It's boring and a bit confusing. It becomes a daunting task that no one wants to take on. So, writers "heighten" the dialogue by editing that awkwardness out. I just need to go the extra mile to make my conversations between characters not last forty pages, I guess.

The most important lesson from this particular class, however, is his closing segment: Take It In Small Pieces.

I've touched upon this a couple of times throughout the course of this blog, but let's go over it again.
  Patterson: It can seem overwhelming until you need to break it down into parts. The parts are manageable. You can conquer the parts.

That's it. That simple.

A great example would be me working on my X-Future reboot. Creating a whole new world with all these new characters and new terms; it's daunting. Then I broke it down into parts. I started with terms. I knew I needed a new term for Mutants, and so I spent time figuring that out. Forget everything else, just think of that. Glitches; done. I even found the word Preternatural, which will be the "Politically Correct" term the Glitch advocates will be pulling for. Next, I needed to world build, but I didn't need to create the WHOLE world in one go. The main setting is Xavier's School. I needed to remake that. Forget the rest of the world, that will come along, but right now I had to figure out the school. An orphanage with a boarding school attached. Done. The Danger Room is a separate building with VR "games". Done. The whole world has a semi-cyberpunk feel. Done. I needed a handful of Marvel-owned characters, and so I needed to remake them. Fine, do them one at a time. Don't think about the others, although Shadowcat's remake Emily was sort of pieced together while creating the others due to her heavy involvement in their lives. Point is, I spent a week over this past summer just focusing on one character. Not as scary that way. The rest of my creating X-Future Reboot will go just like that.

Same for PLME. I went scene by scene - and made them into chapters - so that the whole story didn't seem so long and overwhelming. Now that I have a better understanding of editing, I'll have to go back through again. Sentence by sentence; make sure nothing is wrong or out of character. Then paragraph by paragraph; is it moving the story forward? Scene by scene; nothing repetitive, and the story is still moving? Finally, the story as a whole; does everything fit in the story? Does it all belong? Does it all stay with the heart of the story Ron wanted to tell?

I should probably send that last paragraph to Ron so his editing of the story doesn't seem so impossible, especially for someone with ADHD....

Then, while he's struggling with editing PLME, I'll have my own fun with the assignment for the editing class:
▶▶ Write the first two chapters of the novel you outlined in lesson 07. When you’re finished, cut the word count by 10 percent. Then cut it by another 10 percent. Which is the strongest version?
▶▶ Begin editing your first chapters using James’s advice on removing distractions and making sure every chapter propels the story forward. Share it with a friend a chapter at a time. Are they looking forward to reading the next one? Ask for their feedback on the pace of the chapters, the characters and the dialogue.
Oh yeah, cutting my word count by 10% and then another 10%... THAT'S gonna happen.

There was an interactive assignment as well. It was a bit fun, and a bit annoying at the same time. Using a tool MasterClass called the "Delete-o-matic", we were supposed to go through five pages of Patterson's unedited work, and make our own edits. Once we were done with a page, we "submitted" our edits, and saw how they compared with the ones that Patterson had done. There were three categories: Your Extra, His Missed, and Edit Overlay. The aim of the game is to get as close to 100% in the Overlay category; your edits were the same as his.

I was pretty close on that first page: 93% overlay. I can't recall how many of his cut words I missed, nor do I remember how many extra words I cut, but 93% is pretty close for a first go. Then it goes down hill from there. The rest of the pages I ranged from 40% to no more than 16%. By the end of the exercise, I only ended up editing 40% of the same things Patterson did. However, I really don't feel all THAT bad about it.

The exercise asked us to then comment about what we learned about our own work; I learned that Patterson and I have completely different styles. It wasn't that I cut way more from the story than he did, or that I couldn't cut anything at all; something I feared would be the case, because I struggled in knowing what to cut the first read of each page. After seeing the percent of overlap for each page, I looked at my extra cut word count. I then looked at the missed word count of Patterson's edits. They were usually fairly close, maybe off by three or so. One page we cut exactly the same number of words; just not the same ones.

I would go through the edited page and read the version he left versus what I left. To me, both sounded fine - obviously the world would prefer his edits considering how many books he's sold - it was just a slightly different story depending on which of us edited the page.

Two great examples are when it was obvious that two words right next to each other didn't both belong, but Patterson and I differed on which needed to be cut.
Example one: "motorcycle bike" who ever says the full thing of motorcycle bike? I cut the word "bike" while he cut the word "motorcycle". Differing tastes. He felt his character would only refer to it as a bike, while I - not knowing the character's voice - thought it would be best to clarify that it was a motorcycle, and not a bicycle.
Example two: "Criminal genius mastermind" clearly all three words in this phrase are unneeded. It's repetitive. The page was talking about an arsonist who managed to make the fires seem accidental and completely unrelated to each other. He might even get away with the arson because it doesn't seem like a crime, let alone a rash of one. To me, it isn't really all that genius of a plan, and so I went with "criminal mastermind". I didn't really know much more of the story, but I figured he had a master plan for the arson, and so mastermind seemed the appropriate word to keep. Patterson, on the other hand - knowing where he was going with it and how intelligent both the character and the plan was - kept the word "genius".

Different strokes for different folks. It gave me confidence to see the same number of words striked out. It meant I really am as cutthroat in editing as I need to be, probably because - much like when I was a beta reader - it's a lot easier to edit someone else's work. You're distanced from it. If it doesn't work, you can pick up on that and chuck it out the window.

It was also annoying that the editing overlay was so small most of the time. The things he kept confused me; the things he scrapped did the same. I wish I could go back through the assignment in order to really analyze what he cut versus me, but the part that I really picked up on is that he's clearly more of a plot-driven writer while I'm more character-driven. Understandable, since he writes mystery/suspense/thrillers. Quick pace; lots of plot; just enough characterization that people care for them.

My stories tend to not really move all that much in regards to plot, but dear lord do they pull at your heartstrings; according to my reviewers. You feel for every character, and you have no clue which one you want on top. You know that not everyone can be happy due to the conflict I create, but you sure as hell want them all happy anyway. That's the kind of writer I am. Does it work for everyone? Most likely not. There's the rub.

Which is why collaborating with the likes of Ron, ChibiSunnie, or even Phfylburt a little is so great for me. They can help me with plot and having the story move forward. They can help me delete my beautiful paragraphs that don't fit. They can nix ideas that don't work, but build on ones that do.

As Patterson puts it in his "Writing with a Co-Author" lesson: "What’s great about working with co-writers is that you get two talents."

I learned a lot in this one, probably because I've collaborated a lot lately. Even my roleplaying on Hubby's X-Future play-by-post game is collaboration.

Right from the get-go, one of Patterson's co-authors talks about how he writes his outline of the whole story; that crucial outline he preaches about this whole series. He then sends her the outline so that she knows the story, knows where it's supposed to go, and knows what is expected of her to write. She can then input her notes on the outline in order to feel more comfortable in writing that story. Plus, a different set of eyes may take the story in a different direction; one that works better than the one he thought of. This is how show writers works, more or less. You either have a Head Writer that comes up with the concept of the episode, and the other writers give notes until the episode is the best it can be, or they all pitch the ideas jointly at the brainstorming meeting until they end up with an episode they want to write. Either way, I love this method.

Not gonna lie, I wish Ron and I had thought of this. I would have had his outline of what he wanted to do with the story, and over the past year I could have used that outline to write my version at least. Instead, it's just sitting in the back of our figurative writing closet, waiting for him to make the next move because I don't know where he wanted to go with it.

The next bit that Patterson talks about touches upon something I've routinely brought up in this blog: fanfiction writing. When you're a co-author for an established writer - like James Patterson - or you become a writer for a TV show, you are basically a glorified fanfiction writer. The world and characters are already established. The voice and tone are there. Your job is to keep it while creating something new.

Now, another thing I wished Ron and I had thought of - and something that really shouldn't have been such an issue since we have each others' numbers - but Patterson actually calls and talks through his notes with his co-author. The one they interviewed for the lesson says she typically writes ten chapters at a time, and then sends them to Patterson to make sure he likes where the story is going. This way, if he doesn't think the pacing is good or the voice is right, or if he loves what she's doing and wants her to run with it - outline be damned - then he can let her know before she gets too far. He can encourage her if things are going well, and he can gently redirect her if they're not going according to plan. On top of that, they don't just send notes back and forth - like I do when I beta - they actually talk it out. That way she can defend something, or ask for clarification to make sure they're on the same page. Perhaps talking through Patterson's notes helps them brainstorm a great twist for the book. All-in-all, this is fantastic!

The key thing for me, though, is that encouragement. When you're off on your little writing island for a full book, it's easy to get discouraged and wonder if the book is as good as it should be. It's easy for that inner critic to rear it's ugly head and make you doubt your skills. If you have that periodic encouragement while you're writing, it's a lot easier to stay positive and energized and want to write.

Another fantastic element to Patterson's co-authorship is that he gets back to her with his notes THE NEXT DAY. I'm such a horrible beta reader. I made my poor writers wait days, weeks, poor Chibi waited MONTHS for a response. But, to have someone get back to you in such a quick turn-around must be exhilarating. You're still in the flow from the writing the day before. You know the person cares because of how quickly they got to reading your work. You're anxiously waiting for that response. It's fantastic.

It's sort of why Ron and I did so well at first as collaborators. I would send him what I wrote, and reading it would get the gears running, and he'd be motivated to write. He'd send me back his part the next day, and I would have been sitting there refreshing the page for the past 24hrs just waiting to see what he wrote. I'd be antsy at work wondering if his update would be there when I got home. We fed off each other so much, and I imagine it's the same for Patterson's co-authors.

That being said, I also loved getting the next chapter from my beta writers. I wondered what would happen next in the story, or what concept they had for their next one-shot. I just feel so bad that I slacked off so much; that I let life get in the way so much that I couldn't get notes back in a timely manor.

If and when I get back into beta reading I am going to do better. But first, I should probably clean out the list of seven stories on FanFiction that have been added and I haven't read yet. I'm so good at life, you guys....

Another thing I really want to do when I get back to beta reading is the call to the writer. Some of them I've never heard their voice, and them mine. I don't mean actual phonecalls, but Skype voice-only calls would be fine. Just a sort of "hey! How ya doing? Here's my notes.." kind of thing. Especially since I did have to clarify things - and the author clarified things - after a few messages back and forth. Doing so in real-time may really help us keep the momentum. Might be a bit tricky, though, considering a lot of the people I beta read for are in a different time zone - Delaroux is on the other half of the planet.

Still, a great practice that I really want to adopt.

Fun little side note, though. Patterson and I edit the same way; at least, edit other people's work. We both write notes as we go. Something doesn't quite seem right, I make note of it right away. Something sounds really good, or seems out of place, or makes me feel something unexpected. Anything that I think of, I write as I go. If something is clarified later down the page, I may go back and erase my earlier comment, but I still comment as I go so I don't lose that initial reaction. Most people won't read through, and then do it again once they have the whole story. So, my initial reaction as I read will most likely be the same one your audience walks away with.

As for my own work? Well, I know where I'm going with it, and so I can't be as objective and edit as I go. I have to go in chunks. I have to read a few paragraphs at a time and then go "did that work?"

The assignment for this lesson allows us to feel what it's like to be Patterson's co-author. Just like with the people he works with, Patterson came up with the outlined concept for the scene, an it's up to us to write the actual words. The example they have in the workbook is again poor Jonathan V - the same guy whose dialogue assignment was "just too damn long" and so Patterson just jumped over it. Sadly, the same thing happened with this assignment. Patterson gave up a few paragraphs in. I don't even know why they bother using him as an example.

To be fair, the start was a bit boring because Jonathan tried to be artistic with his descriptions, and it just didn't work. If Patterson jumped to the back half - when the character actually does something - it's a bit better, and I wished Patterson had commented on that.

Anyway, here's the writing prompt for our assignment:
Emmy Dockery wakes in the middle of the night. Her small cottage on Chesapeake Bay is ablaze. Her room is on fire and she’s about to be burned alive.
Oh, I get to go back to my bloodthirsty roots with this one.

In high school I concerned a lot of people because I ran around asking if anyone knew what happened to eyeballs when a person was burned to death. This might be a fun story to tell....

While I'm nowhere near ready for it, the next lesson was about getting published. A lesson that needed to be learned, even if I'm not at that point yet.

His main advice? To keep positive - being rejected may not mean your book is bad; it's just not for them - and to be persistent without being annoying.

You also need connections. The trick is to find that network. Look for them. Look for people you know that are published - mentors, writing teachers, friends, colleagues, etc - and try to get them to introduce you to an agent or publisher.

But what if you're like me and don't know of anyone? For instance, the only one I know is Ali Luke, who self-published. While she is doing a great job in teaching others how to self-publish, she's not the person I need to talk to in order to get an introduction to an agent. Well, Patterson suggests looking in the acknowledgement section of books in the genre you're writing. Even if it's a book or author you can't stand. Even if you're just lurking around in a library or book store or a well-read friend's house. Just look for the author's agent, then research them. A little bit of research could let you know if they're looking for something close to what you wrote. It also gives you that connection that you're missing without the liaison; makes you stand out from the crowd of unsolicited query letters.

Speaking of which, that's our assignment: to write a query letter. MasterClass was gracious enough to not only explain what goes into a query letter - because, frankly, I knew what the letter was but had no clue what to write - as well as a link that shows examples of letters that actually got the book published.
Start by simplifying your letter into three key elements to grab their interest.
1) A hook - Refine the raw idea you wrote for the assignment in lesson 03.
2) A brief synopsis - Refine the plot summary you created for the lesson 04 assignment.
3) Personal bio - Don’t be modest! Share your previous accolades, your education (if it relates to you writing), and any information you think the editor will find relevant
to your novel.

Need some more help in structuring your letter? Check out this list of 23 sample letters that landed an agent.
Patterson made sure to point out that this is the agent's introduction to your writing, so it has to catch their attention and make them want to ask for sample chapters. You're asking them to spend about six hours of their life reading your book; something they are hoping will earn them money to make that time worthwhile. You need to hook them in one page. You need them to want to take that gamble of reading your book instead of spending time with someone else's.

Patterson, being true to his preaching, suggests an outline. Just like with your novel, you need to plot out exactly what you're going to write, and how you're going to do it. You then need to use your first line skills to really catch the agent's eye. Also, be sure to NOT deviate from the format above: hook, synopsis, bio. You'll just deter an agent if you vary from that; it proves to them that you either have no clue what you're doing, or you have complete disregard for the business.

His closing statement for this lesson was to "enjoy the victories." No matter how small; enjoy them. Your spouse or family member or friend loves your work, take it. "Revel in it." Enjoy it. It may be one person right now, but it's proof that you do have an audience; you are good at this. You are like me and only have a handful of readers, but they all adore your work? Love that! Take that victory.

I'll go back to that dialogue assignment that baffled me. One reviewer didn't like it. Alright. I'll take the critique, because that's what we're here for. It may not apply to that assignment as much as the reviewer believes it does, but it may be valid for some of my other works.

What I didn't mention before is that my initial post has two likes. No further comments, and so I have no clue what they're liking or why they're liking, but it has two likes. My response to my reviewer commenting on how I didn't break it up with action because the assignment specifically said not to, but I'll still give the project another once-over to refine it also has two likes. I'm not sure who or why for that either. The reviewer's comment? No likes.

So, take that how you will, I guess. I'd like to take the victory and consider those anonymous likes as proof that at least two people liked what I wrote.

The last lesson for the week was on titles and book covers; things I struggle with. Sadly, there really wasn't much for me to take away from this one. Patterson talked about how he came up with the title and cover for his break-through book "Along Came a Spider" but not really much more.

Most of my take-away from this lesson came from my workbook. The people from MasterClass in charge of writing the workbook made the following suggestion: "If you’re having trouble finding inspiration, take a trip to your local bookstore and identify the book covers that grab you. What is it about these covers that strikes your fancy? Try incorporating those elements into your design."

Patterson's addition to this is two-fold: "No book has ever been bought that wasn't picked up." For the most part, it's the cover that gets people to pick it up. "It a major communication about what's inside." The cover and title need to convey to potential readers what genre the story is, that it's different than others in that genre, and it has to catch enough attention to make the reader want to spend time with it.

This is another case of analyzing other things. What about other book titles and covers make you want to buy them? What deters you? How about promos for shows, movies, or video games? What caught your attention? What made it look boring an uninteresting to you? What conveyed the type of genre that story is in? Use these analysis notes to better understand what you need to do for your own story.

In the meantime, I'll be in the corner banging my head as I fail at writing a good title....
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by Birdman Inc
I'm going to hate this assignment of creating three alternative titles for my novel....

And, because I don't have ENOUGH writing on my plate already, I had noticed that - aside from forgetting the "Ending the Book" lesson - I somehow managed to completely miss the second assignment for the Suspense lesson! Whoops....

Now, the first part of the assignment was one that I pretty much ignored. Mainly because the modern-fantasy genre my story is in really doesn't need the Red Hearings that mystery novels like Patterson's utilizes. Still, the concept of writing your third chapter like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel, and then asking a friend to chose which path they like best, is an interesting concept. Might be best reserved for when I don't know how to end a chapter.

The missed assignment was another one that actually had examples in the workbook; I must have just completely missed a page somehow. We were supposed to describe a suspenseful scene in just one paragraph. This might be fun!

The first example was a bit on the boring side. Too much build up of the character, which was greatly unneeded for the actual suspenseful hook. It was an athlete being blackmailed into not competing in the Olympics. The person is in the Olympics; it's a given that she's a great athlete. There was no need for the author to go on for five sentences about how great she was, and how she could just trust her body to do what she needed it to in order to win. And the fact that her birth mother was on the cover of the magazine was interesting, but not really threatening. If this unknown or hidden path was with the "do not compete" letter as an extended warning, it probably would have been better.

The second one was a lot better. A man was asked for eight days straight - by eight different men - for his wedding ring. He refused each time. On the ninth day he was arrested for the murder of his wife, but the man recalled seeing the same thin silver chain from his wife's body on one of the men that had asked for the wedding ring. In other words, it's strongly implied that the man with the silver chain had killed the wife and set up the husband for the fall. The questions become "why?" Why the set-up? Why wait eight days before giving up and murdering the wife? Why was the wedding band so important? Why target the main character?

Granted, the paragraph needed some polishing, but the concept was good. I was interested. Now to try my own hand at it...

Boy, do I have a lot of writing to do, and a lot to try to show you folks next week.

Speaking of which, due to my now consistent working on Wednesdays - and Tuesdays becoming increasingly hard to pre-write the post so it's good for noon on Wednesdays - I have officially decided to move my weekly updates. I'm still bouncing between two weekdays.

Mondays I have almost always had off since I changed departments. Plus, I also have Sundays off, and so I can attempt to write at least a rough draft while watching football. On the flipside, I may not have time to write due to football, and Mondays are already pretty full with me attempting to do my MasterClass lessons before my Monday Night Prime Time shows come on. Still, this seems the safest bet.

The other option - as showcased today - would be Thursdays. I'm not scheduled off as regularly on Thursdays, and they tend to be "shopping/errand" days due to it being payday. However, after my Wednesday long shifts, I don't really have anything else prior to 10pm Wednesday nights. Perfect for writing the post ahead of time if need be.

So, there you have it. Monday - probably not; it's only a few days away! AAAAH - or Thursday will be my new weekly blog update days. I'm hoping to get a better feel and make a final decision by the end of the month.

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