And We Go Back

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It’s been very quiet on the novel front (even though my muse has been very chatty on the sequel!), but that’s about to change. I’m ready to take another dive in the literary agent pool, despite the ever growing odds against me.

I spent the summer waiting for query responses that never came – the silence was deafening – and evaluating both my novel and query package. After another round of rejections, I can’t help but ask myself if some of the changes I made were doing more harm than good.

The last round of query packages included a new query letter and a full Chapter 1 rewrite in the novel. Both changes were prompted by several rounds of rejections. There’s only so many rejections you can take before you consider that maybe there’s something wrong with the product.

Prior to the changes, I was averaging about 75% actual responses and 25% no response to my query package. While it is gratifying to receive some sort of a response, the fact of the matter is they were all rejections.

After the changes, the stats changed significantly and not in a good way. In the last round of querying, less than half of the agents I queried responded. The rest offered nothing but silence. This was either a really bad stroke of luck or I need to rethink the tinkering I did on my novel.

Given the drastic change in statistics, I’m thinking it’s time to get back to basics. It’s obvious the rewritten first chapter isn’t grabbing agents’ attention (all that I queried requested the first chapter as part of the query package), so I’ll be scrapping the rewrite in favor of the original version.

After comparing the two this weekend, I can honestly say I like the original version better. It moves a bit slower, but it offers a stronger introduction to the lead character. Furthermore, it provides stronger contrast to the character she evolves into as the novel progresses.

As for the query letter, that’s where it gets a little tricky. I like my new query letter better than the original, yet it’s also part of the package that incited little or no response. So, now the question becomes, was it it the query letter, the rewritten first chapter, or both that turned off so many agents?

Yeah, that’s a sticky wicket.

I went back and read my original query letter and there’s a lot to like about it, but it’s not that exciting. The new query letter has a little more personality and leaves a little more room to personalize it for individual agents. The logical solution to pull the best elements of each and combine them into one new query letter. Yet, I’m left asking myself if that’s really necessary. The original letter has a great track record for getting responses – why mess with it?

If I’ve learned anything in this process, second-guessing yourself can be disastrous. I’ve believed from the start that my novel is something special and I can’t afford to lose that focus. The plan moving forward is to submit the original novel (as structured by me and my editor) and to utilize both query letters. As I research agents, I’ll decide which query letter might be the best fit for each agent on my list. Social media, blogs, and websites for prospective agents offer a lot of insight on personality and preferences.

I’ll consider this last round as yet another lesson learned. We’ll just add it to the lengthy list of things this process has taught me! Despite the constant failure, I remain optimistic. My novel will find its way into print – it’s just a matter of when.

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c.b.w. 2016

Back To The Novel Front

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It’s been a loooooong time since the subject of my novel has come up here, in my head, or anywhere else. Some think I’ve given it up or just don’t care anymore, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s always been lingering in the background waiting for me to come back to it.

Here’s where things get brutally honest. There were a number of reasons why I had to shelve my passion project. Most of them revolved around having no choice but to reorganize priorities. I’ve heard writers are supposed to have tunnel vision when writing and pushing for publication, but I refused to keep the blinders on when it came to being there for those I care about when they needed me the most. That meant redirecting my muse towards shorter writing projects so I could be at hospital beds, visit with friends who had limited time in this world, and provide extra care to aging furkids.

There was also the little thing of having to take care of myself. I needed to take a step back in a number areas of my life, so I could evaluate and adjust to so many changes that have taken place in the last three years. It’s been overwhelming to say the least and I’m not sorry for taking the time I needed. Slowly but surely, I’m coming back to things that have gathered dust during my absence.

Last week, my novel muse is started to whir back to life. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I opened the file for The Muse. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about after so much time …

Would I still like it?

Does it still read like a finished novel?

What about the Chapter 1 rewrite – does it still work?

With all those questions rolling around in my head, I read through the most recent draft. I still love it. Minutes later, I opened my Query Tracker spreadsheet and updated all the information I had for agents on my list (a lot has changed since my last round of query packages!). While it sucked to add a few more rejections to the list, it was energizing to select the next batch of agents that will be receiving query packages.

Now, here’s where things get fun. It turns out my muse had another surprise in store for me. My characters started talking to me again (I swear I’m not crazy!). The sequel for The Muse has been locked away for a while, but I opened up the file again and pulled my Novel Notebook from the shelf. I outlined two major sections of the plot and found I need to conjure up two new characters, and add depth to one that already exists. How cool is that?? It looks like this summer will be full of creativity and more world building!

Like so many other things in my life I’m sure the process will be slow, but it’s nice to be back on the novel front.

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c.b.w. 2016

The Rejections Keep Coming

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Five months ago I sent out several query packages for my novel. I had every intention if sending out more, but the needs of an elderly furkid forced me to make some changes to my priorities. For the record, I’m not sorry I shelved my writing dreams for a few months as I would not trade the time I had with my dog for anything.

During those “off” months, absolutely nothing showed up in my inbox. Ugh. Rejection by silence. That’s the worst kind! I went into my spreadsheet and marked all open queries with “assumed rejection.” How depressing is that??

Just when I think the silence is going to kill me, I get an actual response from an actual agent. While it was rejection, it was a personal email rather than a form letter. She took the time to explain why she was turning me down and gave me encouragement to keep looking for an agent who would be the right fit for my work. Even though this is a rejection, her kindness reduced the sting a little.

As I look through all my rejection letters (there’s more than 30), I’m noticing the vast majority are personalized responses. I’ve decided to look upon this as a good thing. In addition, I only have five “assumed rejections” from lack of a response. That’s not too bad.

I remain optimistic, but I’m also not going to lie. It is discouraging to be at it this long with little or nothing to show for it. Sometimes it truly does feel like this publication thing just isn’t going to happen for me. This is an industry where the competition is fierce and there are literally thousands of incredibly talented people vying for a small number of contracts.

So what’s next? Another round of query packages, most likely. I still have a number of prospective agents on my list and I’m motivated to add more agents to my list. Part of my motivation comes from knowing well-established writers have all experienced the repeated sting of rejections. It’s part of the process and I just have to endure. When I see writers like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling received rejections by the hundreds, my thirty rejections are just a drop in the bucket. This is not over and I’m not giving up.

Thank you, J.K. Rowling for inspiring all of us to keep going!

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The right agent is out there somewhere and I’m going to find her.🙂

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c.b.w. 2016

 

2015 Goals: July Status Report

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1. Work towards getting The Muse published.

I finished drafting the new beginning and it’s looking good! However, during the read-through (to check for consistency with the new beginning) I hit a snag in the epilogue. Grrrr!

The snag is not a new thing. My editor saw the same snag and I though I had worked it out, but during the re-read, I realized there was still a giant pothole right at the end of the book.

The good news is I figured it out. Thanks to progress made on mapping out ideas for Lineage, the solution was right under my nose. I’m now in the process of filling in the pothole with a small rewrite.

2. Start writing Lineage.

This is probably where the most exciting things happened this month. Re-reading The Muse got my characters talking – I think they’re getting anxious for their story to continue!!

For the first time I got a very clear visual of how the opening scene is going to play out. I could hear my characters speaking to one another and I got a nice start for dialogue going in my notes.

Filling the epilogue pothole got me thinking about a new character which will be introduced in Lineage. His backstory is starting to come come together and so is a little plot twist that took me by surprise. Writing this guy is going to be fun!

3. Submit poetry.

Once again, I participated in the Poetic Asides community via Writer’s Digest. As always, I find the prompts challenging and the community inspiring.

I also completed another month of National Haiku Writing Month’s daily prompts via NaHaiWriMo’s Facebook Page. July prompts all started with the letter S and were very diverse. I fell behind a bit while on vacation, but I still managed to compete the   month with at least one haiku a day.

4. Don’t give up or get distracted.

I took a little breather this month and I’m not sorry! While on vacation, I focused on gathering inspiration rather than acting on it. I took pictures, breathed in experiences, and choose to be in the moment. When I came home, everything started coming into focus for Lineage – it’s very exciting!

5. Be flexible.

Oregon and Indiana had much to offer on the inspiration front. I’m busy sorting through photographs of everything from nature scenes to cityscapes. Can’t wait to see the words they inspire.

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And let’s not forget the word of the year:

Persistence

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How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

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c.b.w. 2015

2015 Goals: June Status Report

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1. Work towards getting The Muse published.

Chapter 1 has officially been deleted! I am now in the final stage of restructuring Chapter 2 as the new beginning. The trick was keeping in mind the list of things agents hate to see in an opening chapter, (see Killing Chapter 1). The more I mulled over this list, the more I realized it applies not only to agents, but readers as well.

Gone are all the references to weather descriptions, the sky, and a main character waking up. With the new beginning, the reader is dropped right in the middle of the main character’s life. Bit by bit, her story comes into focus without any sort of an information dump. I’m liking the breadcrumb approach a lot more and I think this set up allows my main character’s personality to take center stage.

Next on the agenda is doing another read through to make sure the rest of the novel is not impacted by the deletion of Chapter 1. I’ve got to dig through each section to ensure there are no references to anything that was mentioned in the old beginning. There are a few things I’m already aware of from memory and I’m sure I’ll find more!

A writer’s work is never done!

2. Start writing Lineage.

My muse is starting to talk for this project. I’m anxious to see where she takes me.

3. Submit poetry.

Once again, I participated in the Poetic Asides community via Writer’s Digest. As always, I find the prompts challenging and the community inspiring.

I also completed another month of National Haiku Writing Month’s daily prompts via NaHaiWriMo’s Facebook Page. June prompts all started with the letter R and were quite challenging. Still, I managed to write one or two haikus each day.

4. Don’t give up or get distracted.

Free time in the summer can be a blessing for a writer, but also an invitation to distraction. There are always so many things I want to do! Luckily, I was able to find a nice balance between writing and other projects each day.

5. Be flexible.

My journal is coming with me to the wilds of Oregon this week. I’m anxious to see what will inspire me.

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And let’s not forget the word of the year:

Persistence

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How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

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c.b.w. 2015