Peering Out From Rejection

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Can you see me over the enormous pile of rejections I’ve collected? Maybe if I jump you’ll catch a quick look at the top of my head. It’s rough out there and I’ve got the battle scars to prove it! That being said, this round of queries was actually more successful than all previous rounds. Success is all in how to you choose to define it, right?

I call this round successful because it has the highest rate of actual responses. This means I got personalized emails, rather than the usual deafening, soul crushing silence that makes me think my query package ended up in a black hole somewhere.

In total, I sent out 13 query packages that included a revamped query letter (which I created after taking a great workshop at Phoenix Comicon). Considering this was a test run for the new query letter and freshly drafted synopsis, I decided to keep the total number packages sent out on the low end.

Within 9 weeks, I received 6 personalized responses from agents. The last one came just a couple of weeks ago. All were very positive and encouraging, citing that my project just wasn’t right for them. While its never fun to be rejected, I do take some pride in the fact that I wasn’t chastised for terrible writing or told I should give up (I’ve heard horror stories from writers who have received rejections of this nature).

With 7 total responses, that means 53% took the time to answer me and they did so with something other than a form letter. You know what? I’ll take that with a smile. In previous rounds of queries, I was lucky to see a 30% response rate. This is progress.

On the other hand, there were six black holes. I’m in the process now of learning how to check in with agents who have not responded. I’ve never been brave enough to do it, but at this point, I don’t think I really have anything to lose!

In addition, I’m diving right back into the battlefield. I’ll be participating in #PitMad on Twitter today! Search the hashtag and you just might see my pitches for my novel. If an agent favorites the tweet, that means they are requesting a submission. It’s my first time, so I have no idea what to expect. Nothing may come of it, but I figure it’s worth a try. And it’ll be fun to see what other authors are pitching!

The rejection pile is high and mighty, but I keep telling myself one thing: All it takes is one “yes.”

 

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c.b.w. 2017

The Finish Line

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After four months, I’ve finally worked through all of my editor’s comments and my list of revision notes for The Muse. While the process took longer than I would have liked, I’m still basking in the accomplishment of reaching the finish line.

As I look back, I can’t help but laugh at myself a bit. When I first started this project, I thought I had a polished manuscript with my Third Draft. Ha! They say ignorance is bliss, but in this case it’s a first class ticket to the slush pile. After reading a little more about the publishing process, I had the good sense to realize I had A LOT more work to do!

I got brave with my Fifth Draft and sent query letters to five agents. Looking back I probably jumped the gun a little bit, but I still got responses from all five. Even though those responses were rejections, the fact that they took any time at all to answer me told me I had something worth pursuing. After some reflection, I figured out two things: 1. I needed an editor. 2. I needed to research agents on a deeper level.

Hiring an editor turned out to be the best thing I could’ve done for my novel. The particular editor I hired turned out to be the best thing I could’ve done for me as a writer. Not only did my novel go from an okay piece of work to a beautifully polished novel, but I got some serious insight into my strengths and weaknesses as a writer.

My editor, Kristen Fairgrieve, has an eagle eye for grammatical and word usage errors, but also for plot holes. I’m not going lie – there were a lot of grammar issues and a few plot holes. Not to mention superfluous sentences and paragraphs that she painstakingly condensed. Even now I sit in amazement at how she whipped my manuscript into shape!

While she fixed the majority of this issues plaguing my work, there were a few things that only I could address. Instead of offering a quick fix, she asked me questions or made comments to make me think. When it was all said and done, I probably spent more time thinking than I did typing. The process was enlightening and forced me to consider my characters and plot line with a new perspective. In many ways, Kristen showed me what me readers might be thinking as they work their way through the story.

So now comes the tricky part: getting published. In the midst of thinking and editing, I researched agents who might be interested in The Muse as well as self-publishing options. At the moment, I’ve pegged nine agents who might be responsive to a query package. I selected them by digging around in directories and checking the acknowledgment pages in YA books with a similar theme to The Muse.

My query letter has gone through several drafts, but I think I’ve finally got something that represents my novel in terms of voice and selling points. My ducks are all in a row, which means there’s only one thing left to do – Get brave and query!

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c.b.w. 2014

The Genre Game

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It turns out the hardest part of writing a query isn’t trying to fashion a snapshot synopsis, (although that is definitely not an easy task). The hard part comes in the “logistical” paragraph. Right after the title and word count, agents want to know what genre fits your novel. That’s a toughie for those of us who write something that doesn’t exactly fit into a precise pigeonhole.

The genre section of my query letter is a sentence with a blank space until I figure out what genre best describes my novel. I have a few choices that include sub-genres of YA: fantasy, paranormal, romance, urban fantasy, magical realism or a combination of two or more.

I decided the best place to start my research was at my neighborhood bookstores. The Young Adult section is divided into Fiction, Fantasy, Fantasy & Adventure, Romance, and Paranormal. I looked at various books on each shelf to find anything that had any sort of reference to Greek mythology or re-imagined myth. One bookstore had those books shelved under Fantasy, but another had them shelved under Paranormal. Yet another, had them shelved under Romance. Clearly, there is dissension among the ranks.

Now even more confused than I was at the start, I went online and researched general definitions for fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal and magical realism. These are the four genres I feel have the strongest relationship to my work, but after researching them I’ve discovered the line dividing them is much thinner than I previously thought.

Fantasy: commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as primary plot element, theme or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures are common.

Urban Fantasy: sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.

Paranormal: encompasses elements of the paranormal, such as ghosts, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and any sort of magical or otherworldly creatures. This type of fiction often goes beyond fact and logical explanations to speculate about the things that cannot be seen or proven.

Magical Realism: magic elements are a natural part in an otherwise mundane, realistic environment. Magical realism portrays fantastical events in an otherwise realistic tone. It brings fables, folk tales, and myths into contemporary social relevance.

Hmmmmmm. A story about a girl who falls in love with a male muse could easily fit into both fantasy and magical realism. Plus, the fact that the bulk of the story takes place in a modern city gives urban fantasy a point as well. Heck, we can even give YA Romance a point! The only one I think I can safely eliminate is paranormal because it seems a little darker in subject matter. Muses aren’t remotely scary like a vampire or werewolf.

The Muse takes place in the real world for the most part, but also in a fantastical world towards the end. It includes human characters and magical beings. And mythology is re-imagined and ushered into the modern era. I’ve got fantasy on one hand and magical realism in the other. Can it be both??

Why all the fuss about genre? Agents are pretty picky about they want to see in their inbox. If I don’t label my novel correctly, it could end up in the slush pile without a single look.

What’s a writer to do?

I have no idea.

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c.b.w. 2014

Genre Information courtesy of Wikipedia and http://www.wisegeek.com

2014 Goals: July Status Report

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July is always a strange month. I’m still basking in summer vacation, yet at the same time my “day job” starts to creep up on me. As the new school year approaches, (August 12), I can’t stop myself from getting a jump on lesson plans and classroom preparation. What can I say, I like to be way ahead of the game before the first day of school!

That being said, I still managed to reserve part of every day for writing. Whether it be poetry or paging through edits on my novel, my muse and I were very mindful about staying on track for this year’s goals.

1) Pitch The Muse.

I am more than halfway through reading the edited version of The Muse.  The process has been very exciting and enlightening. So far, I am on board with all the changes my editor has made as they are very subtle.

Even though most of the comments are absent from the edited version, there are a few that offer suggestions for change or point out discontinuity. In some cases she fixes it and in others, she leaves it alone offers possible ways to fix the problem. As I read, I’m keeping a log of notes with her comments, my thoughts, and the page number. Once I get done reading the draft, I can start working my through my notes.

On the query letter front, I spent some time editing the new format. The word count is a little high, but I think a few more revisions will fix that problem. Meanwhile, I found two more literary agents to add to my “possible agents” folder.

2) Outline and start writing The Muse: Lineage

This month, I focused a lot of my attention on adding to my playlist for this project. I found some great music to help me construct the next phase of my characters’ journey. In particular, Imagine Dragons and Coldplay are helping me feel what my characters are feeling.

3) Submit writing.

I’m so busy playing with my edited novel, I haven’t had much time to think about anything else!

4) Continue to build author platform.

I’m still having a blast on Facebook and traffic is up even though my Likes haven’t grown by much. The interaction is a lot of fun and I hope to keep the momentum going. However, Twitter continues to be a struggle. I don’t hang out on that platform very much and as a result my followers have dropped. Perhaps, it’s time to get back in the Twitter groove!

Facebook likes grew from 371 to 373

Twitter followers dropped from 560 to 551

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.

Even though I’d like to land a literary agent, I’m also looking into self-publishing. I’ve researched several companies and platforms that fit my budget. Plan A is still the ultimate goal, but I like having a Plan B in my back pocket!

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c.b.w. 2014

Five Things I’ve Learned About Pitching a Novel

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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