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.

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Out of the Nest

It’s time. Time to push my chick out of the nest. For more than a year I have been putting words together to tell a story, and now it’s time to see what other people think about it.

One of the things I love about writing is that I get to hear the story first. There is no one else on the planet who knows this story but me. How cool is that? Then again, maybe it’s a story nobody wants to know. That is what I’m about to find out. It’s time to share. It’s time to see if anybody else thinks this is a good story.

I’m relieved to have a large part of the work done. In fact, until I start getting feedback, there is nothing more for me to do. But, behind the relief is terror. What if nobody likes it? What if I’ve done all this work for nothing? What if the characters I have loved so much, die a quick death right along with all the much loved screenplay characters I’ve created over the years. What if I have to face the fact that I will never have a writing career?

What if, what if, what if? Why are my thoughts never filled with things like – What if they love it? What if it’s a best seller? What if I have a contract to write the rest of the series? No, my brain never goes there.

Now that the major writing is done, one thing I’m looking forward to is rebuilding a bit of a social life. In the past few months, as I worked hard to finish up the book, I have let myself become reclusive on the weekends. This writing/social balance thing is one I’m still fine tuning. There have been times I have gotten out of balance the other way. I’m beginning to learn to recognize the emotional cues telling me I am out of balance, I’m just not always so good at finding it again.

I’m also looking forward to long afternoons, reading in my hammock.

But today, after a long day of editing and finally printing, and no hammock time whatsoever, there are 4 printed copies of my book on the floor behind me. It’s a weird feeling, both good and bad at the same time. It’s time to see if my chick flies, or tumbles out of the tree.

Oh boy…

 

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Feedback Fear

Whew! Tonight was the night. It was the writer’s group where my first two chapters were critiqued. If you’re not a writer, and you’ve never had your work reviewed, you will not understand the exquisite agony of having your precious child put on display for judgment. I desperately wanted feedback, but it also set off waves of fear. Maybe I’m talentless. Maybe my idea is crap. Maybe it’s boring. Maybe it’s confusing. Maybe this whole leap is a fool’s errand.

Luckily for me, this group is made up of people who also understand these fears, and they are exceptionally kind, while giving lots of notes. So helpful!

The feedback was great. Everyone found it enjoyable, liked the pacing and flow, as well as the characters and dialogue. Since those are some pretty core necessities for a good book, I am pleased. Everyone had questions about what comes next, which indicates they were invested in the story. All good signs.

However, from previous feedback, I knew the story had a weakness and that was confirmed tonight. 25 years of focusing on writing screenplays has left me with a few weaknesses. Probably the biggest weakness is description. Screenwriters do not spend a lot of time describing the appearance of people or places, because that is stepping on the director’s creative toes. A screenwriter might write, “Interior – classroom” and that is all that is writen about what the room looks like, unless you need to describe the additional presence of some prop that is important to the story. That doesn’t really work in a novel. The reader may be the creative director, but they need a little more information to complete the picture. So, I need to spend more time on description of time, place, and scenery.

Because this novel is set in a unique world, yet still has many similarities to ours, it can cause a great deal of confusion to the reader. When is it? Where is it? Is this Earth? Is this the future? I had gotten this feedback from people who weren’t familiar wtih the genre, and tonight was the first opportunity for feedback from people who DID know the genre. I got the same note. To be honest, figuring out if this truly was a problem or not, was most of what i hoped to learn tonight, and i did. Success! I think a prologue of some sort will be needed in order to set the stage. Combining that with more description, I think the problem can be solved.

It was also delightful to hear someone say, “I loved this line” and then reel off something I also loved. I actually got chills a few times.

So all in all, a great night. I successfully handled both praise and criticism and walked out of the room feeling more confident than I went in. I have read the manuscripts of a few of the other writers, and they are a talented group of people, so their desire to read more felt like high praise.

There was also an exciting bit of business. The woman who invited me into the group has a novel coming out any day now, and she is starting her own publishing company. When this book gets done, there will be someone I know personally that may be able to help me get it out there. That is so very exciting. The publishing world can feel like a confusing maze, and maybe I’ll have a guide to help me through.

It really is true, everything you want is on the other side of fear. I made it through my feedback fear and am now able to improve my work even more. It was a good night in this writer’s world.

 

 

 

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Creator of History

Another week where I’m posting late. To be honest, I wouldn’t be posting at all if I weren’t procrastinating.

Last weekend I put the finishing touches on my first two chapters and fired them off to the writer’s group. Of course, once I’d done that I found several glaring errors I wish I had caught. It was the same way with my college papers. So, in a week and a half I will sit quietly and with the appearance of calm, while inside I am a quivering pile of fear at the feedback my fellow writers will give me. Yet, I am also excited to hear what works. Perhaps it will be well received? Who knows!

The current chapter has been a real struggle for me. Nothing has flowed. I’ve struggled to make progress. I spend as much time as I can, playing the chapter in my head like a movie, but there’s one downside to my new life here. I fall asleep quickly. Insomnia used to play an important role in story development. That means I now need to allocate more time for daydreaming. For this reason I spent $30 of my precious budgeted money on some resin adirondack chairs for my sun porch. Now I can sit out there and let my mind wander, and yesterday I discovered this is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two.

My struggles with the chapter had me doubting the entire book. It is a YA novel, which like so many others, has a boy wizard protagonist. Ho hum. Who cares? There are a gazillion of those out there, most of them poorly written. I know the other stories that have inspired some of my story. Is mine just derivative of theirs? Is there any point? Then again, there are really only 7 stories in the world. We’re all just retelling the same thing with different details.

In reworking the first few chapters, and strengthening the theme in those chapters I was reminded that my story has depth. The characters are good. The underlying themes are unique for the genre. The setting is an entirely new setting of my creation. I am a Creator of Worlds! So yes, there is a point. Yes, some people will surely care.

Last night the rest of the struggle with this chapter was finally revealed. The fact that this is an entirely new world, means I am woefully short of background material. Yes, fantasy is incredibly freeing because there’s nothing to really research. You, the writer, make it all up. But that’s just really a trap. The writer has to make it ALL up. Every last detail. I hint at events that have occurred during their history, but I don’t even know what I’m hinting at. I haven’t created some of the in-depth history that needs to be created. Foolish! Of course it’s difficult to write a scene set in a museum when I don’t even know what history that museum is displaying.

So today I have my work set before me. I need to write a few things that I landed on yesterday, and then I need to spend a few more hours in my adirondack chair, dreaming up history.

And now, I guess I have run the course of my procrastination attempt. Though it is lunch time, so there’s that.

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