Back To The Novel Front

Standard

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.

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

The Rejections Keep Coming

Standard

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!

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 5.19.40 PM

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

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

 

2015 Goals: September Status Report

Standard

1. Work towards getting The Muse published.

It was a relatively good month on this front. I sent out four query packages, including one with a (finally!) completed one-page synopsis. This is my first time sending a synopsis with a pitch, so I’m interested to see what sort of response it elicits (if any).

Within days of sending this round, I received a rejection. It was actually personalized and very nice. While disappointing, it’s also  a testament to the fact that I’m trying. I’m not afraid of being rejected or failing. I’m more afraid of falling into the trap of not trying at all!

Next month, I plan on sending out at least five more query packages. Here’s hoping something good happens!

2. Start writing Lineage.

My muse has been oddly silent on this project (especially since it was so chatty in August). I did however, jot down more dialogue notes and have started to consider creating a general outline.

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.

Results for the 2015 April Poem A Day Challenge (via Poetic Asides onWriter’s Digest) have not been updated in a while, so I’m still waiting to see how the rest of that competition plays out – 19 days are still up for grabs.

National Haiku Writing Month’s daily prompts via NaHaiWriMo’s Facebook Page were incredibly challenging this month. I am currently seven days behind and have learned the letter “u” is not my friend when it comes to haiku! Still, I intend on catching up before October prompts begin.

4. Don’t give up or get distracted.

The letter “u” was a serious thorn in my side, but other than that I managed to stay relatively on track. I intended to send out five query packages, but I settled for four because I finally completed a synopsis (something I’ve been trying to do for more than a year). Sometimes focus has a mind of its own and forces you to adjust your goals. And that’s okay! Hence, #5 below …

5. Be flexible.

See #4.

I’ve also continued experimenting with monoku. The more I play with it, the more I love it. I’m seriously toying with the idea of writing nothing but monokus for NaHaiWriMo’s October prompts. Full immersion in a practice always yields the most interesting results!

– – –

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

Persistence

– – –

How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

– – –

c.b.w. 2015

How To Stay Alive In a Pile of Query Rejections

Standard

In the midst of gearing up for a new round of submitting query packages, a fellow blogger asked me how I’m able to stay so motivated after multiple rejections. That’s a good question and I’m sure a lot of aspiring authors are wondering the same thing.

Earlier this year, I collected eight rejections (five actual responses and three no-response) to go along with the previous five from last year. Thirteen rejections are not fun, but in the publishing industry this is a minuscule number. To pay my dues as a writer, I know I have many more rejections coming my way. That means I have to be ready to take them and keep going.

For me, staying motivated comes down to five basic principles:

Remember that it’s all subjective.

In any creative field, individual judgements are part of the game. Agents, editors, and publishing houses, all have their likes, dislikes, wish lists, and hate lists. A submission is considered through all of these lenses, along with the business side of publishing. A book has to make money. Period. A prospective agent or publisher can love a book, but if they think it won’t sell, it’s all over.

I liken it to my own personal judgements of books. Sometimes I love a book so much it earns a special place on my bookshelf. Then, there’s the books I hate – the ones I can’t sell to Half Price Books fast enough. Yet, someone else out there has read it seven times and loves it every time. Agents work the same way.

Try to remember it’s not personal. An agent isn’t sending a rejection as a personal attack. They are simply looking for a project that works with their individual interests and business goals.

You have to show up. 

Taking a risk can pay off with great success or tank with astounding failure. The point is understanding that if you want something to happen you have to show up and take action. Doing nothing = nothing happens.

You can write an incredible novel or poetry anthology, but if you’re too afraid of rejection it’ll just sit in a drawer and collect dust. Agents and publishers do no send out hunting parties to scope out introverted writers or dig out the next bestsellers from hidden writing rooms. They need writers to come out of the shadows and make themselves known.

If you hide, they can’t find you.

Let rejection be your fuel.

I don’t like to lose at anything, so I turn that competitive edge into a tool.  It’s all about attitude and choice! If I choose to let each rejection become a roadblock, I will lose the game instantly. If I choose to let each rejection be part of the process, then I stand a chance to Pass Go and collect $200.

Every rejection I receive only fuels my fire to try again. A “no” just means I haven’t found the right outlet and I’ve simply eliminated it from a giant pool of prospects. Soon enough, I’ll have it narrowed down to that one “yes.”

Wear Your Thick Skin

Rejection can sting pretty badly if you don’t wear protective armor. My thick skin was developed through enduring beta readers picking apart my work, losing countless competitions, and realizing something I’d written was total crap.

Thick skin is only possible if you’re willing to open yourself up to criticism, rejection, and reality. It is absolutely essential to let these three things sink in and make you stronger. Mainly because you learn that not everyone will fall in love with your work and that’s okay!

Rejections bounce right off of thick skin like one of those super bouncy rubber balls.

It only takes one Yes.

In the end, it won’t matter how many “no’s” stack up in my inbox. What is going to matter is the one “yes.” Keep the focus where it belongs – directly on the goal. At the core of motivation is eternal hope and hard work. Never lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish and never stop believing that it will happen.

When that “yes” shows up it will erase every single rejection you’ve ever received.

I’m still waiting and working for my “yes,” but I’m pushing forward  with these five principles in mind. As Galaxy Quest so eloquently put it: Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

– – –

c.b.w. 2015

Query Letter Madness

Standard

While I’m in the midst of reading the commented version of my edited manuscript (more on that later – what an eye opener!), I’m busy putting the finishing touches on my new and improved query letter.

The inspiration to write a new query letter was the result of going through the process of hiring an editor. I figured my manuscript was getting a make-over, so it made sense for my query letter to go through a similar transformation. After all, my previous manuscript and query letter were rejected six times. I know that is a very small number of rejections, but deep down I knew I could do better on both fronts.

At the same time, the fact that I got any sort of response from six agents told me I had something worth pursuing. Even though they rejected my work, they took the time to give me a written response (most agents don’t bother with queries they aren’t interested in representing). One agent even went as far as to encourage me to keep searching for the right agent for my work. It was that response that made me realize I am not chasing a lost cause.

Despite getting those responses, I understood I had to take things a step further. That’s when it dawned on me: If I could get multiple responses with a fourth draft manuscript that was never touched by an editor, imagine what could happen with an edited manuscript and a better query letter.

After reading so much about query letter formats, do’s and don’t’s, and countless articles on the subject, my head was stuffed with information. Too much information. Every time I sat down to write a new query draft, I went into panic mode from worrying too much about writing the so-called perfect query letter. The result was a stiff, hesitant query letter. Who wants to read that??

I decided the best way to escape the panic was to sit down with the same ease I had when writing my novel. I didn’t care about whether I was doing it right or if everything fit into some prescribed format. The story mattered to me and nothing else. So, that’s the attitude I decided to take on when writing my query letter. I let go of all that stuff that was making me nervous and just started writing.

The letter I now have is decidedly different from any other draft. The stiffness is gone and the personality my writing style is much more vivid.  A strong voice is key in selling any novel, so it makes sense for my query letter to match my novel on that level. In addition, I think I’ve laid the story out with more clarity. In the past, beta readers have told me the summary didn’t tell the complete story. Now that I’ve identified the holes, I think I’ve got the leaks plugged!

The only problem I’m struggling with is length. A standard query letter is usually around 250 words, but my current query is 325, (and will potentially go up to 340 when I add personalized details for each prospective agent). I’m tempted to go in and start slashing words, but I’m also trying to remember that I purposely let go of the rules. Perhaps, its time to go with my gut and see what happens.

– – –

c.b.w. 2014