Terrible Tips Tuesday: Courage!
Of all the heroes in literature, the one I most identify with is Rincewind of the Discworld series. The reason is that he’s not a hero at all. When the shit hits the fan, he makes sure to run the other way. Of course usually this winds up leading him to somehow save the day, but the point is that he’s got no illusions of being brave and bold. He realizes it’s only in stories that heroes can save the day without getting killed or at the minimum badly maimed.
That’s my kind of hero. I’m not brave or bold at all. I get nervous at the thought of conflict. Probably because I got no muscles or sweet kung fu moves. Or even a gun. If I did then it might be a different story.
That’s why I’ve put off sending any queries for this. I have a couple of drafts, but none I really love. That’s probably just as well, because if I love a query then it’s probably really awful–the same logic you should use when reading these tips. I call it Costanza Logic after the Seinfeld episode where George realizes that every instinct he has is wrong, so to get ahead he should do the opposite.
Anyway, I did go on QueryTracker once and half-ass browse around. I even signed up for the Premium membership so I can use all the features. Have I been back there since? Nope. I keep making excuses like the query isn’t ready or I don’t want to send them on the weekend or I don’t want to send them on President’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day. Or I just try not to think about it at all.
At some point I’m going to have to work up enough courage to bite the bullet, though. What I should do is like in the old days and get myself good and drunk. The query letters would certainly be a lot more interesting then!
Of course I know I’ll fail because I’ve failed every other time. So why would this be any different? But there’s always that little voice that says maybe this will be the time it doesn’t. I like to call that the gambler’s fallacy. You keep playing because you think at some point you’re bound to hit. Well, statistically the odds are that someone will win–it just probably won’t be you!
On other blogs they’ll tell you all the ins and outs of submitting queries. They’ll tell you to research the agent and all that stuff. I say, why bother? The less I know about them the better is what I say. What really really sucks is when you get your heart set on something and then you don’t get it. So what good is it to research and find a “dream agent” only for her intern to give you the old form letter enema? That’s like setting your sights on Anjelina Jolie; you’re never going to get her without ether, duct tape, and a quick getaway car so what’s the freaking point? Aim low, buddy. Real low.
My tip is to muster courage is stages. Get just enough to write the query. Then a while later to look up some agents. Then much later to actually send the query to them. Then do a Rincewind and run like hell the other way before the form emails start raining down.
But then maybe I’m just a fatalist. Or a realist as I’d put it.
Anyway, at some point I’ll probably must enough courage for that final stage. Someday. Maybe soon since I’m going on about it in the blog. Which really is why I’m doing it, to psych myself up. Give myself a public challenge. Call myself out. Though I already admitted I’m a coward, so…yeah.
If you want a real tip, though, one thing I’m not going to do is update you on this feeble quest. I’m not going to say, “Today I submitted to agent so-and-so.” Or “today Ms. Ironfanny sent me a form letter back.” What’s the point of that? I sure as hell don’t see any point to it. You the reader don’t care and the agents don’t care. Though it would be in character for me to be that selfish. Yes, yes it would.
Just for the hell of it, here is one version of the query:
Some are born to be heroes while others stumble into the job. Dr. Emma Earl’s path to becoming a hero begins when she’s nearly disemboweled by a monster known as the Black Dragoon.
In the hospital, Emma is led by her mother’s ghost to a hidden cavern beneath the museum where she works. There she finds a suit of red plate armor that allows her to jump long distances, deflect bullets, and turn invisible. By donning this armor, Emma becomes the latest in a line of heroes known as the Scarlet Knight, the Dragoon’s sworn enemy.
A Hero’s Journey is a 100,000-word novel that begins not only Emma’s path to greatness as the Scarlet Knight, but as a person as well.
As Mike would say, it’s probably not charismatic enough. I mean it’s not funny at all. Kind of boring really. I need to hire a better joke writer.
Lately, while I make any excuse not to begin the Rain of Email Death to come, I’ve been toying around with something more like this for what I call the Chick Lit Version:
Dr. Emma Earl has it all: a great new job, an apartment with her best friend, and her first steady boyfriend. Then she gets the last thing she wants: a suit of magic armor that makes her a superhero known as the Scarlet Knight.
She soon finds that being a superhero isn’t fun like in the comic books. Being Rampart City’s savior means prowling the city’s dark alleys all night, facing death a half-dozen times while pummeling criminals to a pulp, and then getting home at five in the morning with only a body-length bruise as a reward. It also means ingesting copious amounts of Red Bull just to keep from falling asleep at her desk and some serious bags under her eyes. Even when she goes to the opera with her boyfriend to relax for a couple of hours, her arch-nemesis the Black Dragoon shows up to wreak havoc.
It’s after this Emma realizes that being a superhero also means choosing between her duty to the city and the man she loves. A Hero’s Journey is a 100,000-word novel that follows Emma as she learns what it really takes to be a hero.
Or I could do the more Insane Rant version:
Being a superhero really sucks. In the comic books it’s all fun and games. You put on some tights, punch some bad guys, and then the hot damsel in distress gives you a kiss. In reality being a superhero means getting the shit beat out of you on a nightly basis. It means going to work on almost no sleep. It means you have some psychopath supervillain gunning for you all the time, taking your loved ones hostage and forcing you to choose between their lives and the rest of the city.
Dr. Emma Earl finds out just how much being a superhero blows when she stumbles on a magic suit of armor. Sure now she can deflect bullets, jump really far, and turn invisible, but there’s a lot of drawbacks that come with it. As the latest incarnation of the superhero known as the Scarlet Knight, she has to protect Rampart City from evil. In this case evil comes in the form of the Black Dragoon, the Scarlet Knight’s ancient enemy. He happens to have his own set of armor that lets him deflect bullets and jump really far, not to mention he has some really sharp claws. As if all that isn’t bad enough, she’s falling in love with her coworker at the museum. She wants to spend the rest of her life with him, but the rest of her life might not be very long if she can’t stop the Dragoon.
I’m still working on a way to engineer a priest, a rabbi, and Dr. Emma Earl walk into a bar joke to lead it off…
Thursday let’s get back to something more sensible with a discussion of short stories…