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.

The Full Rejection

As much as you convince yourself you are okay with rejection–actually expecting rejection–it still hurts when it comes.

I’ve had a full out with a dream agent for a month now. I have steeled myself for the worst, but, as is human nature, I fantasized about that agent requesting The Call. At the very least, I thought I would get some feedback so I could gain insight into how to improve.

And then, this morning, I got the email. Great premise, not enthusiastic enough, please think of us next time. Of course I’m grateful that I got the request in the first place and that someone took the time to read my manuscript, but I’m not going to lie and say it doesn’t hurt like hell. You never realize how high you’ve gotten your hopes up until it all comes crashing down.

I’m trying to keep it in perspective. I still have two fulls out right now, one with another dream agent. All it takes is one yes, and I know that. All of my requests have come from having sample pages with my query, which definitely gives me confidence about the writing, but I’m still worried that it will all fall through. I can rationalize all of this pretty well, but it’s pretty much impossible to be emotionally unattached to your work, you know? I want it to succeed. A rejection to a full request is not the end of the world, but it still sucks. I can rationalize that, too.

My hope for the other two fulls out is that I’ll receive feedback, although if it’s just not a right fit, what else can they say? Of course, my overarching hope is that I’ll be scheduling a call to talk to an agent and will take that next step, but that’s everyone’s hope. That’s the dream.

I won’t stop dreaming.

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.

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?

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.