Tag Archive: writing process


Sticking It To Rejection

The list of writers who made to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award was posted yesterday and alas my name was not on the list. How tempting it is to pout and unmute my inner critic (who is most certainly shouting, “You suck!”). How easy it would be to give up. How simple it would be to shelve the whole project. However, I’m not doing any of those things for a couple of reasons.

First, any rejection I get is added to the stack and treated like a badge of honor.  Every rejection, silent or otherwise, brings me one step closer to the agent who will say “yes.” Regardless of what my inner critic would have me believe, The Muse does not suck and neither do I.  The Muse is a kick-butt novel that deserves a shot at publication.

Second, my readers gave me a precious gift. When I posted a short story for the first time in more than a year, you all showed up to hit that “like” button and write amazing comments. None of my previously posted short stories got that kind of attention and I’m beyond thrilled that Blink evoked such a strong reaction.

Part of the reason I held off on doing anything with Blink was because I thought it was too weird and no one would get it. Obviously, I was wrong. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my odd little story.

As an added bonus, here’s the image that inspired Blink. I’ve used it before for a series entitled Sundays in London, but it’s an image I come back too often for inspiration.

A side-street in London, near Trafalgar Square
Photo by: c.b.w. 2005

All I have to say to rejection is, “bring it.” As soon as I knew I hadn’t made to the second round of the competition, I immediately started Googling “young adult fantasy literary agents.” I’ve already got a new list of agents started and they will all soon be receiving a query package from me. Get ready guys, The Muse is coming to find you.

How’s that for sticking it to rejection?

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c.b.w. 2014

2014 Goals: February Status Report

Sometimes it feels like I’m not doing nearly to reach my goals, but then when I sit down and reflect on the last month, I’m amazed at some of the big steps I’ve taken for my writing “career.”

1. Pitch The Muse.

February brought the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. Every year I’ve watched this competition from the sidelines because I either hadn’t finished a novel or I didn’t have enough confidence in the novel I had written. This year, however, it’s a different game entirely. Not only do I have a finished novel, but I believe in every page of it. The Muse is ready for some readers!

I wrote a new 300 word pitch, (which is leaps and bounds better than my query) and sent it off along with a 5,000 word excerpt and full manuscript. I figured I had nothing to lose by jumping into this competition, so it’s worth a shot!

2. Outline and start writing The Muse: Lineage.

My day job continues to be all consuming, but once again planning AP Art History is giving me all sorts of inspiration. As I delve into Post-Impressionism and Art Nouveau, new characters are starting to take shape. While I can’t write the story right now, it is exciting to see new faces!

3. Submit writing.

A winner was announced for the Writer’s Digest November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge, but it was not me. However, the poets who won totally deserved the honor. Follow the link to read their work.

4. Continue to build author platform.

Pinterest continues to be my favorite place to hang out, but I have a feeling I’ll be playing on Twitter a little more as it’s been unblocked at work. Yay! Now if they could just unblock Facebook all would be right with the world.

Facebook Likes grew from 357 to 363

Twitter followers grew from 544 to 549

Thank you so much for the follows and the likes!

5. Inspire others.

As always, I hope I am a positive presence!

Let’s not forget the sixth “invisible” goal:

6. Be Flexible.

My eyes remain open for opportunities and my sense of adventure is always ready to take flight.

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c.b.w. 2014

The Writer’s Waiting Game

Query letters have been sent. Competition entries have been submitted. Drafts have gone off to beta readers. In the age of instant gratification, waiting for a response in the writing world is a grueling endeavor. Weeks and months are a long time to wait when you’re dying to know whether your work is good enough to get picked up by a publisher. Or at the very least, whether somebody like it well enough to say, “good job.”

In the case of waiting for a literary agent to respond to a query letter, I go in with the assumption that nothing but silence with follow my inquiry. When a kindly worded rejection shows up in my inbox, I’m thrilled. Positive thinking is a powerful thing on this journey. So is keeping busy. The wait for any sort of a response is agonizing and it never seems to end. You’ll go nuts unless you keep yourself occupied with something other than obsessing over that elusive response.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve perfected the art of waiting with distraction. Trust me, keeping yourself busy makes the process a lot easier to take and in many ways softens the blow of rejection. Here’s a few ways to keep your muse inspired and give your patience a boost…

1) Keep writing.

Start that next novel or punch out a few short stories. Maybe even dabble in poetry or non-fiction articles.  Follow your muse and write because you are a writer, regardless of your publication credits, (or lack thereof). Sometimes a “distraction” piece can turn into something great. My second novel began as a distraction and ended up as my passion project. It got me through a number of rejections and ultimately lead me to a new path.

2) Research literary agents.

Finding the right agent takes a lot of work. It takes research, research, and more research. Every agent has different tastes, query package requirements, and personalities. For those of us playing the waiting game, all the work and time required to find the right agent plays right into our hands. It takes a lot of time to compile a list of possible agents and prepare customized query packages. Luckily, time is something we have in plentiful supply!

3) Read.

Every writer I know is also a voracious reader. Between loving a good book and wanting to figure out how published authors crafted a great story, writers are inherently addicted to reading. While waiting for any sort of response to arrive, it’s nice to escape to another world and enjoy the ride. Plus, some authors thank their agents on the acknowledgments page. This ties in nicely to #2.

4) Edit.

Most writers are never happy with a “final” draft. We’re always looking to make a sentence better or find a more perfect word. My final draft for The Muse has been altered (albeit slightly) multiple times since I started pitching it. A word here, a comma there, I’m always tinkering with it to make everything about it a little bit better. It’s time consuming and tedious work, but well worth every hour. While waiting for that one e-mail to arrive, I am happily ensconced in my fantasy world.

5) Find a hobby.

My craft closet has more stuff in it than my clothes closet.  When an afternoon of writing is done, I’ll pull out a craft project to keep my hands busy and my mind occupied. It beats sitting around and thinking about why an agent hasn’t sent an excited request to read my manuscript. Of late, knitting has been my savior as it inspires my creativity and challenges me to try new things. My muse loves it, too. While I’m knitting row after row, she whispers to me and new stories are born.

This weekend, I sent off my entry to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which means a new round of waiting and waiting has commenced. I suspect my to-read stack of books will get shorter and the sweater I’m knitting will soon have sleeves.

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c.b.w. 2014

Writing a great novel doesn’t guarantee publication. The publishing industry is brutal, highly subjective, and has no room for the weak-willed. I’m relatively new to the novel pitching game, but I’m already learning it takes a lot of determination and thick skin. Four rejection letters and two beacons of silence are all I have to show for The Muse, despite months of querying.  Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? I can go on and on about how important it is to be tough, but I think the bigger lesson is to remember to have a little fun with it and don’t take anything personally.

I’m not an expert by any means, but I have pick up a few nuggets of wisdom along the way …

1. Agents are not evil-doers who love to say no.

I’ve read horror stories of vicious rejections letters and negative interactions with agents, but so far my experience has been quite positive. The rejection letters I’ve received have all been very encouraging even though they all said “no.” I don’t know if this is because I only pitched to super nice people or if my work is good enough not to elicit venom. Honestly, I like both possibilities equally.

2. Sometimes a response can take months.

We all like to think literary agents have the superhero ability to stay up all night and read really fast, but the fact is they are human. They need sleep and they like to read carefully while considering someone’s work. The last response I got from an agent came four months after I sent the query letter. I had already marked the agent’s space on my spreadsheet with “no response!” It just goes to show you never know when a response will come. Patience is everything.

3. Finding the right agent takes a lot work.

There are literally thousands of agents looking for a good book. And they all want different things! It took months of research to create a list of six agents I though might be interested in my novel. As much as I hate using a cliché on this point, the process of looking for the right agent is exactly like looking for a very tiny needle in a huge haystack. In the end, I’m hoping all relentless research will be worth it when I find the perfect agent.

4. Writing a synopsis sucks.

I know as a professional writer I should be able to write anything, but squishing my entire novel down to a single page is pure torture.  Moreover, it’s ridiculous that I can easily write a short synopsis for a book I just read, but not my own! It’s been six months and I’m still editing a synopsis for The Muse. I’m either being too picky or I’m a moron that can’t write a synopsis.

5. Persistence will pay off.

Every account I’ve read from a published writer reinforces the reality that persistence is everything. Agents don’t go looking for you, so you have knock on their door with a kick-butt query and novel. Getting published is all about self advocacy and seizing every opportunity. If you skulk in a corner and refuse to speak, your writing will never see the light of day. Persistence is everything … and so is a little luck.

Write those queries and believe with everything you’ve got!

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c.b.w. 2014

2014 Goals: January Status Report

January was a rather quiet month on the writing front, but a few surprises still landed on my doorstep in terms of my goals for this year.

1. Pitch The Muse.

Four months after sending my first batch of query letters, another actual rejection letter arrived in my inbox. I was pretty excited to receive it as any response is better than dead silence. Despite rejecting The Muse, the letter was actually quite positive.  My novel was rejected simply because it wasn’t the right fit for the agency.  Even better, the last line of the letter told me to keep trying. Don’t worry, I will!

2. Outline and start writing The Muse: Lineage.

At the moment, my day job is taking up most of my time. Instead of outlining, I am planning lessons for AP Art History.  If anything, researching different styles of art is going to help me as my main character Ian has a hand in inspiring some famous artwork. I may not be able to outline at the moment, but I’ll be thinking of Ian as I head into planning a unit on Impressionism.

3. Submit writing.

My last submission was my chapbook entry to the Writer’s Digest November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge. No word yet on who won.

4. Continue to build author platform.

I have a feeling my playtime on Pinterest is contributing to my Twitter feed more than anything else, but I can learn to live with that! Over on Facebook, I haven’t been around as much as I’d like. It’s blocked at work, so that makes it hard to post! Regardless, both have grown this month in terms of followers:

Facebook Likes grew from 350 to 357

Twitter followers grew from 542 to 544

Thank you so much for the follows and the likes!

5. Inspire others.

As always, I hope I am a positive presence!

Let’s not forget the sixth “invisible” goal:

6. Be Flexible.

Keeping an open mind has already paid off. This month I was contacted by an author who wants to use two of my photographs in her book. Not only am I honored to have my photographs featured, but it feels great to have my work acknowledged with a photo credit.  As soon as I have more information about when the book is being released, I’ll be sure to pass it along.

I wonder what February will bring . . .

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c.b.w. 2014

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