2015 Goals: September Status Report


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!

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


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How are you doing with your 2015 goals?

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c.b.w. 2015

How To Stay Alive In a Pile of Query Rejections


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!

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c.b.w. 2015

Query Letter Madness


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.

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c.b.w. 2014

2014 Goals: August Status Report


I’m a little late with this update, because I was way too excited about finishing the read-through of my edited manuscript. Priorities mandated writing about that accomplishment first!

1) Pitch The Muse.

August was all about finishing up the monumental task of reading through the edited manuscript of The Muse, (see The Last Line). Thanks to work and a nasty cold that task took a little longer than I would have liked, but ultimately the goal was achieved.

As I wrote last week, I am immensely happy with the work my editor has done. I have a small list of changes (about 30) to make and I’ll be working my way through that list during September.

In addition, I’m close to finalizing my query letter. Once changes are made in the manuscript, I plan on starting the pitching process once again. The most recent issue of Writer’s Digest has a list of agents looking for writers and a few of them might be a good fit for my novel. Here I come!

2) Outline and start writing The Muse: Lineage

As I wrote last week, the epilogue for The Muse is causing a few problems.  Therefore, most of my focus for the sequel has been on figuring out how to get out of the corner I’ve created. The good news is I’m starting to make some headway.

3) Submit writing.

Tunnel vision regarding The Muse keeps this goal on the shelf.

4) Continue to build author platform.

Facebook continues to be my favorite hangout. This month saw more growth in traffic and Likes. Hope you’re all enjoying the quotes, images, and random quips!

Twitter, however, continues to be my weak spot. Once again, my total followers dropped despite acquiring several new followers. One of these days I’ll figure out why Twitter is fun.

Facebook likes grew from 373 to 375

Twitter followers dropped from 551 to 544

Thanks so much to everyone for clicking those follow and like buttons! Your support is greatly appreciated.

5) Inspire others.

As always, I hope I am a positive presence.

The invisible goal:

6) Be flexible.

My eyes are open and so is my mind. As I start to see out agents, I’m also seeking out other modes of publication. One way or another The Muse will be in print.

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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