Moving On

Writing is a journey, and there is so much to learn along the way. One of the things you must learn is when it’s time to move on. I knew the odds of publishing my very first novel were slim. It didn’t stop me from loving the book and trying my best. It has been through many revisions, and no one has shown much interest. I still believe in it, but know it needs help that I don’t have. So I had to take a hard look and decide it was time to move on. Doing that in the midst of the stress of a pandemic and social unrest made me feel a bit like this.

While querying, editing, and querying again, I also wrote two other books. One is another children’s book that I have yet to even begin editing. The other is my memoir, detailing the 25 years I spent in the entertainment industry. I was able to use the stay-at-home order to find more time to finish it and finally pare it down to find its form.

I thoroughly enjoyed going through my work orders, reading my journals, and falling deep into the memories of the time spent with Kevin Costner in South Dakota, or with Bob Hoskins on a soundstage at Television City, I relived the infamy of turning off Bill Clinton’s mic in the middle of a speech, and the sublime feeling of standing on the field of an NFC championship game with my eyes closed, imagining what it would feel like to have the roar of the crowd be for me.

Professional Eavesdropper takes the reader behind the scenes in Hollywood and leads them on a journey from naïvely wanting to be a part of celebrity culture to the realities of the toxic environments that culture encourages. With help from beta readers and wonderfully honest critique partners, the memoir began to take its shape. It likely still needs a lot more work, but I think it’s a fairly entertaining read.

Tomorrow, after finishing the polish on my query letter and synopsis, I will send out a couple of queries, testing the waters. I am cautiously optimistic that I have something people beyond my friends and family will find interesting, and something that can begin a dialogue on what celebrity culture does to society.

Some day I hope to return to Fear Unleashed and find the missing pieces to it. Until then, I am moving on with renewed optimism and excitement where this memoir might lead. Wish me luck.

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Dipping a Toe in Social Media

For years I’ve avoided most social media, because, well, it is the devil.

The most engaged I’ve been with it is Facebook, and that is just for friends and family I know. Even that has its myriad of downsides, and the more engaged I am in the real world, the less I’m interested in Facebook.

I have a Twitter account, but for years I mainly followed breaking news, celebrities, and friends. It was also an excellent place to vent my anger or frustration at a variety of companies that failed in putting the customer first. I never cared about gaining followers, and in fact, was more comfortable having few people listening to what I said.

I have an Instagram account. Can’t tell you the last time I posted.

However, all that is changing. It has to. There is a wonderful podcast called Write or Die, and many of the guests talk about the supportive writing community they discovered online. Twitter seems to be the hangout for the literary set – agents, editors, writers, publishers, all hanging out around the #writingcommunity water cooler.

I started following a few writers and agents, attempting to jump into conversations here or there, but never really connecting. I continued as a Twitter wallflower.

Last year, I discovered a mentoring contest called PitchWars, just before it began. There was time to enter, but I missed out on the socializing that went on beforehand. This year I’m using PitchWars as an excuse to finally dip my toe in the social media pool.

Downside: It is a time sucker, and I hate that I’m spending more time in front of a screen.

Upsides: I am connecting with other authors pursuing publication, as well as published authors, editors, and agents. In the last month I’ve gained 30 followers, which I know isn’t many, but for me it’s a lot. Quality over quantity. Not only am I following authors and agents, a few are following me. I’ve met a new CP (critique partner). It’s starting to feel like I’m finding my community.

Writers have vibrant worlds and stories in their heads, but we alone can see them. Then we spend years alone, putting them on paper not knowing if anyone will join us and fall in love with them too. Writing is a very lonely and often disheartening endeavor. Social media can help. Struggling with writer’s block? Tweet your frustration and you’ll have a chorus of suggestions and encouragement. Confused about the query process? Ask the #writingcommunity and get advice from industry professionals. Search #MSWL to see which agents would love to see a book just like yours. Social media can bring you inside the #writingcommunity and out of the wannabe cold.

Even if it’s not your thing, make it your thing. At least try it.

You can follow me at @LynnieDN I’ll give you a follow back.

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Content

So, you ask, does the title refer to the content of a book, or being content in life?

It is both. You see, I’ve discovered some things about my writerly self. It is easiest for me to write when I am happy. It is harder for me to write when I am unhappy. But, it is hardest to write when I am content. In other words, being content means I produce little content. See? Both.

I began the new year with the determination to turn off the screens and read more. I have done that. I set a goal of 50 books this year and I’m almost to 40. The free time also set my mind to niggling at problem areas of my book, which along with feedback from critique partners, helped me delve back into a rewrite. Success on that front.

Already feeling a slower pace of life from reading more, I then discovered a meditation/breathing technique that calms anxiety and finally allowed me to sleep well after over 20 years of interrupted sleep and constant weariness. It’s amazing how much more manageable problems seem when you’ve had a good night’s sleep.

The biggest problem I have to manage is my finances, and I can’t say all the worry from that is gone. I’m slowly depleting what’s left of my savings, but all the things that truly matter in life are in place. My work is fulfilling, I’ve found my tribe, and I’m strong and healthy. And with better sleep and less anxiety I can appreciate all that even more. Thus, I am content.

Yes, being a published author is an unfulfilled goal, but since I’m content, I’m happy to keep journeying. If the road leads to a career in writing and I don’t live my senior years trying to figure out how to keep a roof over my head, that’s a bonus.

The down side to all this contentment… it’s hard to find the motivation to spend hours a day carefully reading each sentence of my manuscript, making sure it says exactly what I want it to say. There’s just no rush.

Pitchwars is coming up, so I have that as a deadline, but it’s still far enough away that I don’t feel the pressure. And I wonder, should I just start querying again and skip the mentor contest? That would give me a more immediate goal and keep me rewriting. After all, I now have a killer query letter and I think the first 10 pages will grab the reader. Do I just go for it? However, I see so many Pitchwars mentees get book deals after having a mentor help them.

I think I will wait and submit again, because if I submit and get no requests, I will know I still have work to do, and won’t have burned through any agents. Sadly, that decision won’t speed up my editing process, and it will be even longer before I start querying again.

That’s okay. What’s a few more months when you’re content and enjoying the scenery.

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Once More Unto the Breach

Four years ago today I arrived in Springfield, MO – my spirit nearly broken, exhausted, and clinging to a small bit of hope that my life wasn’t irreparable. It wasn’t, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful for the leap I took.

Looking back, I have to laugh at my naivety. I had done the math, knew the cost of living in Springfield, knew the profit I made from the sale of my house, and figured I had 3-4 years to get a book published before it all fell apart.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know that the journey to publication can be a very, very long one. Many authors don’t get published until they’ve written 9-10-20 books. Each of those books might go through 6-16 rewrites. 3-4 years! HA!

Of course there are always the wunderkinds – the ones who get published right out of the gate. There are the self-published who can claim the title of published author, but can’t claim to have many readers or earn a living. But the vast majority of authors who want to publish traditionally, toil away in the trenches for years, learning to write, learning to tell stories, and learning to deal with rejection.

This is what I’ve gathered the path to publication is: write – celebrate – edit and polish – celebrate again, imagining agents thronging to your brilliant book – rejection – rewrite – test the waters – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – agent – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – publisher – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite. Publication!

I’ve been stuck in the rewrite process, floundering. Not sure what direction to go. Since form letter rejections leave the author blind, and my writer’s group has disbanded for the time being, I needed to get some pertinent critiques from authors who write and read similar books to what I’m writing. I got a couple of critique partners online and we are in the process of reading each other’s manuscripts and giving feedback. I’ve gotten one back already and it has given me so much to think about. Many areas that I had problems with, but my early readers assured me were fine, gave them problems too. I wish I could learn to listen to my own instincts more.

I am heading back into the rewrite breach. What will follow is analyzing the already written story for structure. Breaking each chapter down. Examining plot. And most daunting… possibly rewriting the entire novel from a different POV. Right now each chapter is told from each of the main characters point of view – rotating through to tell the story. I am considering switching to third person omniscient. It seems overwhelming to even attempt it, but I may give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, I still have my original.

So for those who ask where I am with my writing… that is where I am. Once more unto the breach.

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#authorstats

If your’e an aspiring author, search Twitter for #authorstats. This hashtag was started to give us encouragement. They asked published authors to list their stats… how long to get an agent. How long to sell their first book. How many revisions.

This is the first one I saw:

Author after author had a similar story. It took years to get an agent, and it took revision after revision after revision.

The hashtag succeeded. I feel encouraged. I’ve only been trying to get an agent for a little over a year. I haven’t even completed ten revisions. My lack of success at this early stage is entirely normal.

Whew!

My only concern now is managing to pay the bills until I land an agent, sell the book, and earn a little income from my hours and hours and hours of up-to-this-point free labor. Because I now have a firm belief that it is not if I sell, but when.

The latest round of major revisions is complete. My next task is to sit down and read it from cover to cover to make sure the new additions flow. Then it will be off to the editor for another quick go-over, and then it’s back to querying.

I’m excited for the next rejection that might give some feedback and lead me to another revision. Of course I’m even more excited for the possibility that they might request my manuscript. Or beyond that, that they might request their own set of revisions (meaning they’re interested enough to see if you can do the work.)

Of course, in quiet moments I doubt myself. I’m sure I’m a talentless hack who has deluded herself into thinking she has something to say. Criticisms and slights ping pong around my head. However, now there’s one thing I can counter with. I’m not an idiot. And even if the doubters are right, right now – I can learn. I can improve. I can revise. I can do this, just like those other authors did.

What goal are you trying to achieve that seems out of reach? Are you frustrated that others make it look so easy? Does that make you doubt yourself more? Rather than stewing about it, try asking them about their journey. Find out their stats. You may just find your doubts are unfounded, and you’re right on track for success.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Yippee! Another rejection!

After my recent rewrite, and having found Diana Urban’s blog post about querying, this time around things are going much better. If you are querying, check out the blog post for some great information. I won’t write about all her suggestions, but I’m going to share the two I wasn’t doing that are really making a difference for me.

From day one, the entire querying process has been daunting. You only have a few paragraphs in the query letter to get them to read a sample, which is what will hopefully lead them to ask for the manuscript. I’d done some reading online and gotten some advice from an editor, but each time I sent a letter out, it felt like an experiment. The problem was, if the experiment didn’t work, you couldn’t just try again with the same agent. Most were then off limits unless you did a major rewrite.

To solve this problem, new author Diana Urban urges querying authors to hire a professional, such as an editor or junior agent. From my understanding, junior agents assist agents. One way they assist is by screening queries. If you want your manuscript to make it to an agent, you first have to get past the junior agent. (And if I’m wrong about that, they at least likely know what agents want.) By hiring a Jr. agent to edit your query package, you can be sure it includes all the elements an agent would want to see. Ms. Urban recommended two people, and I chose K. Johnson Editorial. She provided great feedback that allowed me to improve my query letter, synopsis, and submission pages. It seems I’m already seeing results and will hire her again for my other synopses.

The other suggestion that has been so helpful is to use QueryTracker. Part of the pain of my previous querying attempt was the silence, and slow, erratic drip of rejections. Now I can see what other QueryTracker users have submitted to the agents. I can see which of those submissions has been rejected or had a full manuscript request. Because of that, I can see where my query is in the process and the rejections don’t come completely out of the blue. Are there still 10 manuscripts between mine and the ones rejected? I know I have a while to wait. Or, like recently, I could see that manuscripts before mine, and after mine had been rejected, leading me to believe it had made it past the junior agent, and was waiting to be reviewed by the agent. While it was still eventually rejected, that information from QueryTracker gave me so much hope.

And my most recent rejection gave me my best hope yet. Literary agencies receive hundreds of queries each week. We authors are dying to know why we were rejected, but they don’t have time to tell us. It’s frustrating, but totally understandable. This week’s rejection came with really useful feedback. If they didn’t see potential, they wouldn’t have bothered with feedback, and I now know if I can introduce my character in the way they’re looking for, I can sell this book. The story, query, and synopsis are where they should be. The first chapter is not.

I have a long weekend of work ahead of me, but I’m very excited to get to it. I believe the first full manuscript request is just around the corner. That doesn’t mean an agent, but it means another step forward, and right now, that’s all I need.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Square One

That’s is where I am again. All those rejections? Meaningless.

You see, I have done a major rewrite of the book, and now I get to send out queries to all those agents again.

When the idea for this book first came to me, the protagonist was a girl. As the story developed, it felt more natural to make it a boy, so early on, I switched. I think I had only written the first chapter before I made that change. Looking back, it was my age that made it natural to want a boy in the character because they liked science. My worldview and the time I grew up in, made my instinct incorrect for today’s world.

As I researched agents, I kept finding they wanted girls who fight with swords or girls who like science. I have a girl in the book who plays a major role, and if agents had had the patience to see my story through, would have discovered in many ways, the story was more about her arc. But unfortunately, she did fit the stereotypical girl’s role — a dreamer who didn’t like science.

So finally, after having these thoughts niggle at my brain for quite some time, they burst through while I was in the shower and took solid form. This often happens. Not sure why. But I suddenly knew I needed to reverse my two main characters. That led to an entire weekend of flipping genders, which means flipping pronouns that sneak in there everywhere. There was also the need to evaluate each scene to see if it still rang true. Surprisingly, there was very little that needed rewriting. And actually, it’s an interesting trick to short circuit my age-related biases — write a stronger boy character, then simply turn him into a girl. It will be tricky as I keep writing to keep that same strong, adventurous character consistent. I have no doubt I can do it.

I like how the rewritten story reads. I like some new possibilities for the story. It’s a very good rewrite. I’ve now got a girl who likes science and fights with swords. Plus a good story to tell. I’m feeling more hopeful.

Additionally, some reading has led me to new query letter knowledge. One author suggested hiring a junior agent to write your letter. They often offer this service to supplement their income. Since they are the ones who read query letters and make recommendations to the agents, they know what works and what doesn’t. Once I feel confident that the manuscript is ready, I will hire someone to write my letter and begin the query process again.

So here I am, back at square one with a fresh manuscript and a whole lot of hope. It’s not a terrible place to be.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Chinese Water Torture

It’s maddening. It truly is. The slow yet constant drip of rejections, coming at an unpredictable rate. I never know when I’m going to open my mailbox to find a letter from an agency I queried. I got one Sunday morning, when I wouldn’t have expected agents were responding to queries. Then I got one last night before bed. Sweet dreams.

Without even opening these emails, I immediately feel defeated somehow knowing it’s a rejection. Lately I try to pause and allow myself the sliver of hope that it might be a request for my manuscript. I remind myself that things can change any second. It only takes one yes. The results haven’t been any better.

Then I read a tweet from an author saying, “My lifelong dream to be a published author is finally coming true.” I clicked on her profile.

She’s 24. Her lifelong dream has maybe been ten years.

As someone who is susceptible to insecurity and a lack of confidence, the battle to keep going is requiring more energy than I expected. I’ve decided I need to do two things. First, I need to look at the first five pages, which is pretty much all they allow you to send them. When I wrote this chapter, it was in chronological order, and my editor snatched it from the middle of the book and made it my prologue. I’ve realized there are things discussed in that chapter that would be familiar to the reader by the time they got to the middle, but would have no meaning whatsoever to someone not yet immersed in this world. I need to look at this chapter with fresh eyes and see what can be improved. The difficulty with that is that my prologue is already at 5 pages, and if I expand on description, I will not be able to send the entire prologue as my sample.

After I’ve improved those first five pages, I need to read the entire manuscript. I’m beginning to doubt my story, my writing, my characters, and pretty much everything else. I know when I’ve read it before, I’ve gotten sucked in and kept turning the pages. I need to remind myself of that. It’s been long enough since I read it that it might even feel a little fresher. I need to regain my confidence that someone will recognize the value in the story I’m telling, and I just need to keep looking for them.

So many agents are looking for books with a quick hook, and I’ve read those books. They’re fun. But a year later, I couldn’t tell you the plot or characters of most of them. I might remember the stunning location where it was set or maybe a scene that was impactful but the rest fades away. They’re fast food fiction. Really enjoyable in the moment, but not really sustaining.

My story doesn’t have such a quick hook. I’d like to think it’s intriguing, but I take my time introducing characters and unwinding the story at a comfortable pace. As the book moves along, and the conflict builds, so does the pace. So is it going to grab you by the throat right away? Probably not. It’s why I’m so frustrated that the entire book is judged by the first few pages. Not only can you not judge a book by it’s cover, you can’t truly judge a book by it’s first few pages.

Now, I get it. Agents are buried under queries and manuscripts. One agency responded in their rejection letter that they get 500 queries a week. One agency – 500 queries in a week. How could anyone possibly keep up with that? There has to be a quick way to weed through and focus on the best choices, so they’ve decided the first five pages and a snappy query letter are the way to do it. I wonder how many quality novels have slipped through the cracks because of it.

There’s nothing to do about it, but keep searching for an agent that will give it a read. I’ve also found two publishers that will accept hardcopy manuscript submissions without an agent, so I intend to print one out and get that in the mail soon. And of course the final option will be to self-publish and let the public decide. The amount of marketing I’ll have to do is daunting, but hopefully I’ll have book two finished by then and in the editing process (if I can afford it) so can focus more on marketing.

Until then I will reread, perhaps rewrite, and try to keep my sanity and hope under the drip, drip, drip of rejections.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Everything is Possible

It’s been a long while since I posted, mainly because little was happening with the book. It was with the proof reader and all I could do was wait. Sure, there was the next book to begin work on, but it felt as if time stood still while I waited for the first one to be polished.

Finally, it was back in my hands. I spent an entire day going over each change suggested and either accepting or rejecting them. More time consulting with the editor. A few more changes and I fired it back to the editor, waiting for a final chat this weekend before it was given to the literary agency that has some interest.

It’s kind of a surreal moment. I’m like a plucked harp string – thrumming with excitement. Everything is possible… perhaps not probable, but possible. For instance, it is not probable that I will top J.K. Rowling in sales, but it is possible I will publish this book and finally be able to support myself doing what I love. It’s also possible it will be very successful, be turned into a movie, and I’ll get sucked back into the very industry I fled. Or it’s possible it will get published, fail, and I’ll still have to find another way to earn a living. Who knows. It’s pretty much all possible.

I feel change on the horizon, and as I drove to work the other day, I reminded myself to be present because it’s possible my life could be changing. And I have been far more mindful. Two years after I replanted myself in Missouri, it still feels like paradise. I sit at my desk to write this blog and look out across the green field in front of me, binoculars nearby to watch the little red foxes that live in the park and sometimes come out to play… as well as the human wildlife that occasionally jogs by on their way to the greenways trail. I have just come in from sitting on my sun porch, sipping on my first batch of homemade kombucha, and eating a couple of mulberries from my neighbor’s bush that drapes into my yard. We had a delightful thunder storm last night, and today puffy white clouds with dark undersides push their way across the sky, telling me more storms are coming. Tonight I will go to a drumming circle with my friends at the Friday Night ArtWalk.

It all feels perfect. In the past two years there has not been one microsecond of regret for the move.

Perhaps that’s what made it easier for me to absorb the latest bad news, when I found out the book is being put on hold just a bit longer. My editor is unexpectedly unavailable until next week, and once again I’m cooling my jets and putting my dreams on pause. One silver lining, I am pleased with my ability to absorb the disappointment and not get dejected. In LA, the frustrations had piled up to the point where even the slightest disappointment led to a spiral of despair – proving to me once again that I was never destined for a career as a writer – that the universe was conspiring against me. This time I took a deep breath and went on with life. No big deal. So, if that was the test from this hiccup, I think I passed.

I’m grateful to have made some personal progress, if not book progress. I’ll focus on that for now. It’s good to take the time to notice when you handle your struggles a little bit better, and then celebrate it. So what did you handle better today than you did last year? Give yourself some credit for improvement. Celebrate. Look out the window. Listen to the birds. Take it all in, before it changes, because it will. It’s inevitable.

Hopefully the next time I post, it will be with the news that I have an agent, or the news that I am continuing the hunt for one.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Inching Forward

Writing a novel is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. I knew this before I started. I know it more now. I’m days away from having the final product from the editor. Well, sort of final. I then have to make one more pass to put in a few changes. Clarity on details keep coming.

In some ways, this is the most frightening thing about declaring this novel “done.” There are two more books to write before this story is told, and this world is still revealing itself to me. I know there are more surprises ahead. Which one of them will make me realize that I didn’t set that up in the first novel, and now I either can’t use it, or I use it and hope nobody notices. I almost want to finish all three before trying to publish, but there is simply no way I could afford to do that.

When this one is done, it has to be well enough crafted to be a solid foundation to tell the rest of the story. That’s terrifying. Though, I will probably be done with the second novel before the first would be published, so I suppose maybe there are still opportunities for edits to volume 1.

In adding new chapters at the end, I was pleased to see not only an improvement in my writing, but an improvement in my attitude. When I first got notes and questions from my editor, my inner voice was defensive and resentful. I had worked so hard. How could there be holes? How could there be problems? How on earth was I going to find a way to fix them? It was impossible and I should just give up! I’m a terrible writer and too old to be starting novels. This time, when I got notes and questions, I was excited. I have come to realize whenever I have been pushed, either by a professor, or now an editor, the end product is always vastly better than the original. Those notes and questions mean I’m going to tell a better story. That excites me. While there will always probably be a tinge of panic that I can’t find a solution to the problem, it is quickly smothered with the curiosity of following the problem to its source and its solution, as well as the excitement of a better story. Growth!

By the end of the week I plan to have the manuscript to a proofreader, and after that, it is off to the literary agency that expressed interest in reading it. I really should be working on a query letter for other agencies, because the chances of being taken on by the very first agency are about the same as me winning the lottery tonight. Well, slightly better since I don’t have a lottery ticket. And maybe in this case, just a fraction better than normal because this is a connection from my editor. But still, I shouldn’t start planning my first book tour just yet. Oh goodness, I dread that part of the job (though would be lucky to experience it). Writers are introverts. Crowds, especially crowds of strangers, drain us. Why on earth would you make us do book tours and public appearances? Just let us sit in our offices and dream stories!

The last two years have been beautiful. I will always be grateful for this opportunity. I hope it’s not over. I hope my talent is enough to get me to the other side of the chasm, and I can continue to do what I love to do.

Here we go…Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

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