Sticking It To Rejection

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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

The Writer’s Waiting Game

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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

Decoding the Novel Synopsis

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After finally completing a rough draft of a synopsis for my novel, I’ve emerged from the haze of confusion (hopefully) a little wiser to the process.  While I’m still a few drafts away from a polished agent-ready synopsis, I can’t help but reflect on everything I learned from just sitting down and writing the first draft.

1) My biggest roadblock was figuring out how to condense 80,000 words down to one page.  I went into panic mode – How am I supposed to do that?!  This is where blogging most likely saved me from total failure.  I started writing book reviews about some of my favorite books with the logic that if I can learn to write snapshot overviews of other novels, I’ll eventually be able to do it for my own.  It worked like a charm.  When I started writing my synopsis, I put away all my notes, outlines, and the novel draft itself.  I simply asked myself, “Okay, what is this book about?” and started writing a summary just like I’d done a dozen times before.

2) The layout of a synopsis is essentially that of a basic 5-paragraph essay, which is the same format I use to teach my students how to write.  I have a teaching tool called the Essay Hamburger and I realized all the parts of my novel could be filed into the various parts of the hamburger.  All I did was modify it to match the requirements of a synopsis. This is by no means a perfect format, but it does provide a nice place to start.

Each layer of the burger represents a paragraph and can easily be modified for any genre or special requirements.

3) There are a number of outlets with information about writing a synopsis, but it’s crucial to find resources that relate to the genre of the novel in question.  My novel falls into the mainstream/literary category, which means synopsis formats that work for sci-fi, mystery, or romance will not totally jive with my character driven story.  This little epiphany came courtesy of Writer Unboxed.  Click on the link for a great article that offers common sense advice about writing the perfect synopsis for your book.

4) If I had it to do all over again, I would write the synopsis first and the query letter second.  The query letter requires an even shorter summary of the novel and it has to pack a  punch to get an agent’s attention.  Why I decided to start with the more difficult query, I will never know.  Shortly after starting my synopsis, I ended up re-writing my entire query letter.  Something clicked and I finally understood what goes in a synopsis and what goes in a query.

5) It’s not as hard as I thought.  Fear, apprehension and panic made this waaaaay more difficult than it needed to be.  The most important part of the process was learning to relax and trust my abilities.

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p.s. I feel compelled to note that I finished the rough draft 11 days before the deadline I set in my February Status Report.  So, I can also say I learned the value of setting a deadline!

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c.b. 2012