The Fear

This really has nothing to do with the querying process or any of that. In fact, I just got another full request a few days ago, so I’m feeling pretty good on that front. This fear has more to do with my abilities as a writer, and that’s not something I doubt often.

Well, I guess I should rephrase that. I know that I’m a good writer when I have something to write about, and there’s the rub–I feel like I don’t have anything to write about right now. My last book just kind of sprang to life after many years of trying and failing to write stories that I thought had direction but ended up dying three or four pages in (if that). Under the Surface took hold of me and, after about 15 pages in, demanded to be told. It was that magical moment all writers talk about, when the story takes on a life of its own and you just have to let it happen. I loved it, but part of me is afraid it’ll never happen again.

While I’m waiting for replies from queries and submissions, I want to start a new project, partially because I want to distract myself from the waiting and partially because, if I do land an agent, I want him or her to know that I’m serious about having a career. I’ve started two novels, both of which I have vague ideas for, but they don’t seem substantial enough to warrant a full book. Great concepts, but not enough potential for follow through. I’m panicking.

How do you deal with that? I’ve been trying to work on the one novel in particular, and I love the main character’s voice and the situation he’s in, but I have no idea how to bridge the gap between where he is now and where I want him to be. It’s really, really hard, and it’s something I struggled with at the beginning of Under the Surface. I’m having trouble getting over the hump, and that’s scary.

I guess the main thing is to keep writing because you can’t fix or edit something that doesn’t exist. If I at least have something on paper, that means I’m working and trying to break through the obstacles, and if what I write doesn’t work, I can re-write after I have a better idea of what the story is. Man, I wish I were one of those writers who could effectively outline. I feel like my life would be easier if I were.

But what’s life without a challenge, right? Right?! Sigh.

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Why I Write

This may be a cliche topic, but I think it’s important to realize and hold onto why you started doing something in the first place. I write because I have always written. I got my first computer when I was six years old. I spent as much time in the word processor as I did playing any of the games the computer came with. I used to tell stories at the lunch table, friends and strangers alike gathering around to hear what weird stuff I’d come up with next. I have the need to tell stories.

Words have always been a solace to me, especially written ones. Writing has always been my way of processing everything around me, both good and bad. I deal with my problems via writing. I document my high points via writing. It’s as essential and second-nature as breathing. For a long time, I didn’t realize that other people didn’t work the same way I did; it wasn’t until my seventh grade English teacher pulled me aside that I realized my writing made me unique and was the path I should choose to follow.

I have never once doubted my ability to write and create. I have many doubts and insecurities about myself, but writing has never, not even for a moment, been included in those. I think that’s something worth holding onto–something that gives me confidence in a world of self-doubt. When I was in eleventh grade, a boy in my Spanish class scoffed at me when I said I wanted to become a writer–he actually laughed out loud at me in front of the class. That moment has stuck with me, not because it was painful but because it has provided me with so much motivation over the years. I can’t wait until the day I can prove him wrong… it will be delicious.

I know spite shouldn’t be a prime motivation, but it’s definitely there for me as a last-resort when I start to wonder and agonize about these query letters. I see his face and know that, someday, he will have to feel stupid about being a condescending asshole, and that’s literally all I need.

If anyone has ever told you you couldn’t do the thing you love, take that negative energy and turn it into fuel. The energy they spent hating you is energy you can use to prove them wrong. It’s a beautiful thing. Don’t let anything hold you back… use it to push you forward into bigger, better, more brilliant things.

Editing and Editing

Yesterday I did an editing marathon. The editor I’m working with sent back a marked up draft of my novel, and I spent at least eight hours–six of them consecutive–going over the comments and trying to make things flow better. You know what I realized? Editing your own work is HARD. You see things a certain way when you write them, so you automatically assume that others will see your vision the same way you do. A lot of the time, they don’t.

BUT… that’s why editors exist and why it’s so important for writers to trust them. It’s hard because your writing is so often a reflection of you, your views, and your passion. It’s ridiculously difficult to extract yourself from that, but when you do, it makes the process so much easier. I’ve been trying to do that, and for the most part I’m hoping I’ve been successful. We’ll see when I get the next round of edits. Either way, it just feels good to be transforming this story into something better and better. It deserves that.

I might be a little loopy from staring at a computer screen for so long. I should probably go do real people things like… oh, God, what do real people do?

Baby’s First Rejection

This morning I awoke to my first rejection, and you know what? It felt great. It’s hard to navigate through this process when most agencies adopt a “no reply means no” policy. That open-ended crap just serves to torment the writer. Did they get the query? Did they even read it? Should I send it again? Am I so terrible that they won’t even bother to respond?

I understand that it’s sometimes necessary for the agencies to conserve their resources and only reach out to potential clients whose projects sounds like a good fit, but it’s definitely not easy for the writer. I haven’t been waiting long on my queries, but I can imagine how I’ll feel in a month or two when the only emails I’ve gotten are automated confirmations of “yes, we got your query.” Being in the dark is difficult, especially when it’s something so personal and important to you.

I use QueryTracker to stay on top of the queries I’ve made (only seven thus far), and I find myself more drawn to agencies whose response times are quick, even if they reject almost all of the submissions. I’d rather be rejected and know it than sit and twiddle my thumbs for a few months. My impatience will be the death of me–I’m sure of it.

In other news, I’m hoping to start with a freelance editor sometime in the near future, so I will try to hold off querying until I’ve addressed editing the manuscript. That’s probably what I should have done in the first place, but OH WELL. Live and learn and then get Loves, right? (No one will get that reference because my brain is a circus.)

For the rest of the day I suppose I’ll organize potential agents into categories so it’s easier to make queries down the line. I am the least organized person, but when it comes to this, I just want to feel like I constantly have forward motion. I don’t want to waste time and get behind, or worse, become unmotivated. I assign myself busy work so I stay in check. Then I reward myself by playing Skyrim. Hey, it’s a good system, okay?

So, moral of the tangential story? Rejections are good because they mean you can cross one more dead end off of your list. Live to love that silver lining, baby.

Crazy About Queries

The title is misleading. I don’t think anyone is crazy about queries. I think, to some extent, they literally drive me crazy, but I don’t enjoy them…

…yet there’s this certain rush associated with submitting one. I know, that truly is insane, but think about it: you’ve slaved away on a manuscript, and then you reach out to a person who has the power to turn that manuscript into a book. A real book, with a dust jacket and an author blurb. It’s intoxicating. Even though there’s a good chance the agent isn’t going to give a shit about what you’re writing, there’s also that very alluring chance they will. Hold onto that.

That being said, though, it’s a really foreign idea to me to metaphorically knock on someone’s door and be like, “Hey, I’m awesome. Here’s why I’m awesome. This is my awesome book. You should represent my awesomeness.”

Who does that? Yet you’re supposed to market yourself in a way that is both honest and intriguing, both humble and self-important. For someone who doesn’t know anything about the business and is intimidated by its nuances, this can be a difficult balance to strike. I try to read every agent’s blurb on their agency’s website to get a sense of their personality, and then gauge my pitch accordingly. I mean, I’m not going to write to a very by-the-books person and say, “Hello, sir. I’ve been drooling over your client list for the past fifteen minutes, and I want to be a part of it.”

I will, however, say something conversational if the agent seems like a person who would be receptive to that. The way I figure it, these people see dozens and dozens, sometimes hundreds, of query letters every day. If you don’t do at least something to establish yourself as an individual among the slush, you’re way more likely to slip through those very large cracks right into the reject pile.

Of course, I’ve only heard back on one query, so I’m hardly the person to give any type of advice. So… take it with a grain of salt, preferably around the rim of a delicious margarita.

Anyone out there have any query advice that has worked for them?

The Waiting Game

I’ve never been a patient person. That’s a lie. I’m patient with situations that drive most people crazy, like long lines at the supermarket and getting brought the wrong order at a restaurant. I can roll with the punches. I understand that people are human, and humans make mistakes. That’s all within the realm of my being able to be patient.

However, when it comes to things that only affect me, I’m one impatient little lady. I couldn’t sleep last night. I have a bad thyroid, so I could probably sleep through any number of apocalyptic events, yet have me send out a few queries and I’m wired for a week. Ridiculous. I’ve never been so excited and nervous in my life. I check my email compulsively. It’s disgusting.

I really hope I get better at waiting, because if I don’t, I’ll drive myself into psychosis within the month. (Appropriate for Halloween, maybe, but not much else.) The only saving grace I have is that Gilmore Girls is now on Netflix, so when I feel particularly antsy, I go and watch that. God bless you, Lorelai Gilmore.

I love this and hate it so fiercely. It’s like Christmas, but instead of Santa bringing presents, he gives you a 1% chance of making your dreams come true (and a 99% chance of crushing your spirit). I am exhilarated. I am scared. I am in need of a stiff drink.

The Full Request

Wow. As of this morning I had sent two queries out, both of which were sent on Friday night. This afternoon, I got an email from an agent at Dystel & Goderich requesting my full manuscript.

I don’t think I’ve stopped doing cartwheels since. This is a very exciting, nerve-racking, weird time in my life. It’s all new and possibly wonderful, but it can also come crashing down in an instant. Very delicate.

For now I guess I will keep working on queries and looking forward to working with some editors. It’s hard to stand still now that I feel like I have forward motion. I’m patient with people, not situations. I’m reminded of that now. Oops.

Three cheers to little victories!

(This post is about as disjointed as my thoughts are right now. You’re welcome.)