An Apology and Some Advice

I had every intention of updating my blog with more consistency, but… I haven’t. I’m sorry! I was going to do a lot of reading in my genre and do book reviews of sorts, but to be honest, I haven’t had time to read much. Instead, I’ve been working on writing and publishing, which is my passion anyway. Even so, I should have blogged about it. (So now I will!)

Twitter. That’s been the name of the game the past few weeks. I’ve never been all that active on Twitter before. It’s taken me a long time to get my footing in the writing world. For many things in my life, I’ve had the luxury of having mentors to help guide me until I find my own way—training wheels, of sorts. However, with writing, I’ve had to figure things out on my own. That hasn’t always been easy; I’ve had to make a lot of mistakes to get to where I am now, and I’m still far from where I’d like to be. It’s a process. The best thing I’ve been able to do for myself, though, is to get more involved on Twitter.

It’s hard to understand how Twitter can be beneficial. 140 character commentary? Come on. But really, it’s true what they say about the importance of networking, not necessarily for getting a step up but to find people who are walking the same path you are. I’ve learned more in the last month about the writing community than I had in the year or so before. Because of the Twitter community, I’ve entered three different writing contests, found an online critique group, won a free five-page critique, gotten invaluable feedback, and gotten to know some incredible writers, editors, and agents.

If you’re not involved with Twitter, I would seriously suggest signing up. Most agents have Twitters and post their manuscript wishlists as well as comment on some of the queries they find in their inboxes. Of course, it’s also a place to commiserate with other writers trudging through the query trenches. If you get yourself on Twitter, check out the #10queries/#tenqueries, #MSWL, and #askagent hashtags to get started. And, if you’re interested in contests, right now the #PitchtoPublication and #NewAgent feeds are bustling! (They also have great advice for ALL writers.)

As for the status of my publishing journey, I’ve gotten a few agent requests and my fair share of query rejections. Overall, I’m happy with where things are. I’m starting a new WIP, which is terrifying, but my main focus is getting my finished novel in the best shape possible.

What tools do you utilize in your writing journey? I’d love to know! I’m on the hunt for great resources.

Keep on Keepin’ On

I’ve been MIA mostly because there hasn’t been much to report. I have three full manuscripts out with agents and have received quite a few query rejections. The fulls are thrilling, addicting occasions. The rejections? Usually I can handle them, but when a whole slew of them comes one after another, I find myself depressed. I know I shouldn’t; this is my first book, and I’m 22. I have a whole career ahead of me, so I shouldn’t sweat this first learning experience. However, this book means so much to me, and I want to give it a chance to be heard.

I revamped my query letter based on some sample ones I’ve found. I’m a huge fan of querytracker.net, which has been an indispensable tool during this crazy process. They have success stories posted. Someone sends the same interview questions to anyone on QT who has signed with an agent, and one of the questions is if the user would be comfortable sharing their query letter. Most do. I realized that mine was a little off the mark–I had more information about the market of the book and its themes rather than a back-of-the-cover blurb like most other letters I saw. Interestingly enough, though, my original query has generated more positive responses than this new one. Such a confusing game.

I’ve been trying to query in batches, waiting to see how my query letter is doing now that I’ve made some changes to it, but it’s so hard to keep any semblance of patience. I’d really love to hold off querying until I have at least one response on a full, but we’re entering into the holiday season, which means that soon enough I won’t be able to query. To keep my mind off of the endless conundrums, I’ve decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, which I’ve never done before because I’ve never really had an idea worth fleshing out. I’m happy to say that I’ve already got a bit over 3,000 words on paper, and I don’t hate them. Success! It would be delightful to have a second project to labor over, but sticking with things hasn’t always been my forte. I’m working on it.

Luckily, I’m the master of distraction, so when I’m not writing, I’m binge-watching American Horror Story or playing vintage video games on an emulator I downloaded last week. (Pokemon Blue, anyone?) The waiting has definitely gotten easier, but I still jump every time my phone chimes with a new email. Still, it’s progress.

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.

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.