Sunday, February 27, 2011


I signed with an agent ten months ago, and today I sent her manuscript number five.

Today I sent her genre number five. (And I wonder if Katie MacAlister started this way.)

So I guess, if there was ever a local case study on what happens when you don't stick to one genre, I'm the guinea pig. I shall know, in a couple of years, whether or not the plan paid off.

Only there wasn't really a plan. I'm not truly schizo. I don't have ADD. I just had a story to tell, and it happened to be in a new genre...five times.

But I look at it this way. I had five fishing poles, five lures. I could drop them all off of one boat, or I could drop them each off a different boat. Since none of us really know where the fishing is good these days, I took option number two. I'm fishing in five different waters. We'll see which ponds have fish for my bait and which do not.

Simple. I'm letting the fish pick me. Only they can't pick me unless I have a line in the water, now can they?

Drop your lines, people, while there are still fish to be caught. Who knows when physical authentic fishing will no longer be an option? Who knows when we'll have to trade that thrill of life jerking on our pole for something...dare I say...electronic.

For those of you who are curious, the five genres were, in order, Time Travel, YA Paranormal, Scottish Historical Romance, Middle Grade, and Picture Books. My next project may, indeed, end up being Speculative Adult Fiction. Not kidding.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ghosts To Avoid

Here's a great quote from Neil Gaiman: "Sometimes I think that when I die, or perhaps as I am dying, I shall be confronted with my characters. Not the ones you would expect, the ones who had their stories, but the other ones."

Who, among your novels, is waiting for his or her own story to be told?

I can think of a few already, and they're not the people I want hovering about when I'm struggling for words, reaching for a caring hand, and gasping for air.

Motivation enough for me. How about you?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Piss or Get Off The Pot--Seriously

I'll be gentle for those readers just joining this blog...

If you wish you were a dancer, do you tell people you're a dancer, hoping that someday you can prove you weren't lying?

If you wish you could be a rock star, do you tell people you are a rock star and hope, by some flick of a wand, you will suddenly become one?

Then why would you tell anyone you are a writer if you do not write? Writing is the key. Actually hitting those keys on a regular (or regularly sporadic) basis will do.

Let me give an example.

I was enrolled in a screenwriting class a few years ago. We all decided we would write screenplays and enter them into a major contest. We all cranked out what we thought was a brilliant attempt, which was probably complete dark sticky piles of ****. We entered and got lovely loser letters with a raised little Oscar on the stationery. It was very exciting.

Some of us were all hanging out in an office during a Sundance Event being held downstairs, in the art gallery, when our professer walked in. A very popular movie producer walked in behind him, and everyone scrambled to get out of their way. I didn't recognize the guy, so I stayed where I was. Then a great thing happened that I will always remember.

The professer introduced me. "Lesli, this is So and So. So and So, this is Lesli Lytle, a writer."

It wasn't that I got to shake the guy's hand and he treated me well. It wasn't that we made small talk about Robert Redford. The thrilling part was being called a writer.

After Mr. Big left, I thanked the professer for calling me a writer and said he'd really given me a thrill. He frowned and said, "I wasn't pretending you were a writer; you are a writer. You don't have to have a Guild card to be a writer. You have to write."

I've introduced myself as a writer ever since.

Are you a rock star?
Are you a writer?

So, if you are a writer, are you selling your material yourself? How's that going for you?
What about an agent? If you're not trying to sell yourself to magazines or publishing houses, you must be trying to find an agent to do it for you.

You don't think your product is ready? When will it be? You don't know? Then you'd better be finding out. Find someone to read your baby. More importantly, when you find someone willing to take the time to read a chapter or two, ACTUALLY HOLD OUT YOUR BABY AND LET SOMEONE TAKE IT.

It's not going to be your only baby, surely. And if it stinks, you don't have to spend the rest of your life feeding it and trying to make it a pretty baby. You get to start over.

Here's some great motivation for you to aggressively seek an agent:

Pretend I can tell the future. For you. Just for you.
What if I tell you that you will find an agent only after you have received 30 rejection letters/emails?

What if I tell you that you will be published only after you have written four complete novels?

Here's the promise:
After you have queried 30 agents, and after you have completed 4 novels, you will have a really good grasp on what you need to improve in order to land an agent. Finding a publisher is the agent's business.

And when I say four novels, I don't mean absolutely pristine, polished-like-a-brass-doorknob finished. I mean finished. It doesn't have to be the Holy Bible, or Lord of the Rings, or Pride and Prejudice. It has to be you.

Four books and 30 emails. The only way to fail is to give up--and you know it. That's why you say you are a writer, to deny that you have given up. If indeed you have given up, I say, piss or get off the pot. Admit it and make your life easier.

If you haven't given up, then you'd better get your query letter ready and a list of agents. Make sure your first three chapters are as good as you can get them, and give yourself a time limit to get that done. (As in a number of days, not weeks.) When time is up, you have to stop and say "good enough".

I want to hear about it.

(By the way, I got my agent with my second book, but by the time I signed, I had four books finished and thirty rejections in the can.)

Friday, February 11, 2011


Does it bother anyone else that we can never go the non-social days of media?

Remember when you had to call a person to see how they were? Remember the sound of their voice? The real-time conversations? And I'm not talking about IM-ing. That is not real time if one of you can walk out of the room and get side-tracked by a dozen different things before coming back to pick up the conversation.

Twitter, you argue? Not real time. Replies are hardly real-time. And who's idea was that phrase anyway--real time. As if there is a false time, an unreal time. I've had times that were unreal. It felt pretty un-real when I got "the call". It was pretty un-real when I held my new granddaughters in my arms. They were so identical it was unreal.

But it's the real that can no longer be defined. That is your assignment, should you choose to accept it. Define real. Find real.

I'm afraid real life will require 'real' vacations, where we will go to an island where there is nothing wireless, electronic, or prepared for us. We'll all go insane from withdrawals, kill each other, and try to build computers from bones. Aliens will look down and decide we're not worthy of our world and toast us. And we'll deserve it. All because we couldn't define what's real.

So find the answer, people. Save the world.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Went to the Salt Lake City Library on Saturday. First time there. Great Building. The fact that there are five stories of books (kids are on a lower level), makes the building a breathing, thinking entity. Very cool.

What made the trek most productive was I GOT OUT OF MY OFFICE.
What floored me was the monster in the basement.

Yes, there was a monster. In the children's section. On the lower level.
And I'm not talking about some wild new toy for kids to climb on or crawl through. Not talking about the lion at the door of the story-time room. Or the treehouse room, or the computer room that looked like the control room in a submarine. That was all very cool.

But the monster of which I speak lurked between the bookshelves, always just an isle away while I hunted. Did I know I was hunting a monster? No. I thought I was hunting for some trend in middle grade books, something I could try and get ahead of in the marketplace. I wanted to know what was overdone and what was up and coming.

You know what I found?


THAT was the monster.

It looks like Middle Grade is being avoided by writers, ignored even. There was a plethora of picture books with bright chubby illustrations, some with weak colors and pale lines from years of little fingers brushing over them. Plenty of books for baby, etc. But what did they have for middle grades? Jungle gyms.

It was if librarians, writers and parents had all gathered for a meeting and decided that kids aren't going to want to read much at that age, so let's just make the library a fun place to be. Perhaps when they're a little older, they'll still think it's a cool place and we'll have a lot of great YA books ready for them. But for now, we'll leave a row of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Captain Underpants, and King Harry Potter. Potter will get them through, just has he has for years.

Are there books out there for young boys? Yes. Thanks to Lemony Snicket, Fable Haven and others, there are at least......a few month's worth of reading. A year's worth, you say? Maybe.

The age group is 8-12. Four years. If there's a year's worth of reading for the kid who enjoys reading, we are telling him, "I'm sorry. This is option A, there is no option B. Read slowly. Make it last. When that's gone, you can fill your time with...gaming. When you finally mature enough, through the magic of gaming, you'll have new options."

No wonder kids are in a hurry to grow up.

Well, I'm going to do something about it. My boys are grown now, but I remember when they got excited about Aragon and Harry Potter. And I remember when the supply ran out.

I know it's a grand undertaking. I can't do it alone. A few books from me won't fill the need, won't chase that monster away--the one who whispers, "There's nothing here for you, little boy. Play somewhere else. You didn't really want to read, did you?"

Don't you want to subdue that monster with me, pull his teeth, superglue his tongue to the roof of his mouth so all he can do is growl and roar, like any self-respecting monster would do? Come on! Give it a try. There is plenty of room on the shelf, once we blast his hairy ass out of there. PLENTY of room.

It all starts with a little boy's name.
My little hero is named Fletcher...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

TIME TO WRITE--Or, immersing myself in Scottish rain

Let's say you've done the impossible; you've found time to write, your systems are all a 'go'. You're fed, hydrated, and you won't be interrupted for a while.


But how do you get started? How do you get into your current work in progress without going back to the beginning and reading all those brilliant words you've already written?

Well, I was wondering the same. I was ready, stoked. I even remembered where I'd left off and what I needed to do next. But I just couldn't do it. It was like getting out of bed when I didn't have to. The chances were slim. But that was crazy--writing was what I wanted to do! I was sure of it.

I needed to immerse myself, give myself no other option. I knew I'd forgive myself for whatever I did once I was in the zone. Then I thought...IMMERSE MYSELF.

I was trying to project myself to the Highlands of Scotland, to pick up a trail while it was still fresh. But like in the movie SOMEWHERE IN TIME, I was sitting in a 21st century home office. It was holding me back. There was just too much...air.

So I imagined water rising in my office, damaging nothing, but commanding my attention away from the business of social media, interior design, from Mr. Feng and Mr. Shui. The water warmed my feet, my aching knees, my fingers. As it covered my eyes, I stopped noticing the goals pinned to the wall, the hero's journey mapped out on the whiteboard.

When the room was full, I felt only the water against my skin, the pressure of its density on my chest. I closed my eyes and felt it on my lids. And I projected myself, and my water, to a bluff above a glen filled with nothing but heather. A walking path cut through the waving purple branches. And there, along the path, my heroine pulled the reins of her tired horse.

I hovered, there in my bubble of warm Scottish rain, and watched alongside the hero as she shortened the distance between us. Despite her own fatigue, she smiled as she trudged toward the bluff, pleased to have finally shrugged her pursuer. And he and I waited to see the look on her face when she would realize she was wrong.

And later, the difficult part was getting me back from Scotland. But my family is well-trained. They send a request for my company and attention, but don't hold their breaths while they wait for a reply. Only sometimes, the more devious ones leave a 1970's penny in my pocket...