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.

Ends & Beginnings.

Hello, blogosphere! (Is that still a thing? Do we still use “blogosphere,” even if just ironically?)

The semester is finally over, so my musings and writings on the humanities and the research process are over. That means we’re back to the regularly scheduling fretting about becoming A Writer, the caps implying published and not starving. One of my aims for this summer is to maintain this, documenting not only my journey as a writer but as a reader. I have a whole stack of YA I’ve borrowed from a professor of mine, and I’m more than happy to write about books.

Now that I’m not bogged down by my thesis, I can devote all of my time to researching agents and sending out more queries. My manuscript is currently in the hands of the aforementioned professor, who happens to be a YA scholar and a good friend of mine. I’m looking forward to her criticisms so that I can revise and put my best work forward when querying. Since my last update about my publishing journey, I’ve added about 13,000 words to my book, all for the better. Everything feels more solid and fleshed out, and I’ve never been more excited about or more proud of my work. Hopefully agents will agree.

I do have a partial out currently, which was a total surprise. In some finals week haze I sent out three queries and had all but forgotten about them by the end of the week. This weekend I got an email requesting the first three chapters of my book which was like a chorus of angels singing. I’m more calm about this request than I have been about others in the past, which might be indicative of personal growth on my part but I think it’s really the fact that I have no attention span in the summer.

All this to say that I’m going to pay more attention to my blog this summer now that I’m free from the shackles of thesis writing. Though, I have to say… my thesis kicked ass. And yes, that’s the academic way to put it.

Happy summer, y’all. Let’s get to reading and writing. No ‘rithmetic allowed.

Query Hell, Part 2: Doubt

Before you go looking for it, there is no part one. I’m just a huge liar.

First of all, I feel bad that I’m using this blog for two purposes. I try to make each reading response for my senior seminar class as accessible as possible, but unless you’ve read what I’m responding to, it’s just going to be a lot of noise. However, you get to see me as a student, so that’s cool, right? (Insert sound of crickets, pins dropping, etc.)

Anyway, so I’ve been querying again, and when I say that, I really mean that I’ve rewritten my query letter obsessively and have reached out to less than a dozen agents. (Self-doubt, you old, evil bastard.) I signed up for a webinar on writing query letters, which is telling because I regard most webinars as scams. The damn thing cost $89 and, because I’m an overworked college student (see previous entries), I slept through it.

Yeah. That’s a thing that actually happened.

Not all is lost; the webinar is on-demand for anyone who paid for it, and payment entitles you to a written critique of your query by an actual agent. I mean, I guess that’s worth $89, but I’m also broke and wracked with unshakable doubt–not about my novel but about my query letter and querying in general. Who thought it was a good idea to use a glorified elevator speech as a way to get a literary agent? It’s like, I dunno… literary hazing.

(Realistically, I totally understand why it’s done this way, but I’m insolent right now.)

The twisted beauty of the situation is that I’m now so distracted that I don’t have time to torture myself about querying. For instance, it took eleven days for any agent from my last batch of queries to even get back to me. I hadn’t realized it had been that long because I had been so busy. (I did, however, realize it was a rejection, but I was too exhausted to dissect the letter a thirtieth time.) It’s lovely not to check email obsessively, waiting for those responses, but at the same time, my classes are already picking up and it’s week three. At this rate, querying will be an even slower process.

So, tl;dr version is that query letters scare me and I nap at inappropriate times.

For any of you writers out there, how have your query letters evolved over time? Do you find it ever gets easier?

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.

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.