#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.

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Keeping the Faith

Prepare for a somewhat rambling, stream-of-consciousness blog.

I’m sitting on my sun porch listening to the sounds of the night. Perfectly synchronized tree frogs, crickets, and other unknown insects are creating a symphony. They are accompanied by the urgency of sirens, and the groan of traffic.

The blue fairy lights wrapped around the old growth trees in my yard are all pulsing, completely out of sync. I spent the afternoon repairing one strand that a squirrel had decided was a chew toy. I’m taking great pride in seeing it twinkle, though I miss the fireflies that added white lights to the dance.

The writing has been coming at a slower pace, partly because I’ve been busier socially. It’s so hard to find that balance. I’m either holed up, or never home.

Another query needs to go out, and yet I find myself hesitant. Once again I feel like the outsider in the agent world.

Perhaps it is who I’m querying. They all seem to be about 22, bouncy, and adorable. They post about all the books they represent that are coming out and many seem instantly forgettable. They tweet all the story ideas they’re looking for, which sound an awful lot like mine, yet the rejections keep dripping in. And then they tweet about all the mistakes querying authors make, and this process begins to take on a familiar feel.

It reminds me of Hollywood, where I was never quite good enough. I was expected to play by rules I had nothing to do with setting up. It didn’t matter how much talent I had, or how many original ideas I had, if I didn’t meet certain expectations and play the games of the men in power.

Now, instead of sexism, I feel the weight of ageism. I feel the need to be hip and current. I’m expected to condense my book into 140 characters in a twitter pitch fest, or find just the right combination of words to win over an agent in a few paragraphs. And then there’s the whopping 5 pages of my manuscript I’m allowed to submit. I think about Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and wonder how it ever got published. The first 100 pages were excruciating, yet if I don’t wow them in 5 pages, I have no chance. Once again, I’m just not hip enough. Not cool enough.

Then there was the depressing moment recently when an agent I was really interested in, revealed her love of Twilight.

She is clearly not my agent.

I have a good story. In fact, I have a really good story. I’ll admit, there may be times I don’t tell it as well as I would like, but it’s as good, if not better than many of the books lining the shelves of bookstores. It will take three books to tell that story, and somehow I have to get an agent who has the patience to see where this is going. Either that, or I have to find a way to support myself while I write all three books. 45’s recent attacks on healthcare make that more and more unlikely.

But I don’t have just three books. One agent I follow recently tweeted that too many authors focus on breaking in with their first book and not on building a career. Frustrating! After this trilogy, I have an entire middle grade series in my head. I also have an adult dystopian book with a killer title, Dwellers of the Eye. I would love to build a career, but I need the income of breaking in with my first book to do it. Why is it so hard for those who have broken in to remember the frustrations and struggles of those still trying?

When I send a query off, I am filled with confidence. I’m certain this will finally be the agent to request my manuscript. When I receive a rejection, I am filled with fear and doubt that I have just wasted my entire life savings, and I am going to spend the rest of my life struggling to keep a roof over my head.

I had the silly idea that as this went along, the rejections would get easier. They do not. They get far harder, and with each one it also gets harder to keep the faith that I’m not on a fool’s errand.

Still, what else is there to do but to forge ahead. I’ve chosen my path and I have to see it through. Peak after valley, after peak, after valley, I will keep riding this publishing roller coaster and do my best to keep on keeping the faith so I can keep on sitting on my sun porch, listening to the music of the night, and living a life that feels filled with purpose.

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Social Media Blackout

Currently I am participating in something called the Whole Life Challenge. Every week there are different challenges to participate in that are designed to imscreen-shot-2015-09-28-at-7-05-06-pm-615x450prove your life. One of last week’s challenges was a social media blackout. For an entire week I did not check Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Surprisingly, the hardest was Twitter. I use it as my breaking news feed, and without it, I feel out of the loop. I had to go on Facebook for work, so I got little glimpses of my feed as I signed on, then switched over to the business page. A friend adopted a new kitten. How could i not respond? What else was I missing out on? Whose birthday was I appearing to ignore because I didn’t send them good wishes? I resisted, and for the most part didn’t miss much. Here is probably what I missed – pictures of delicious looking food, political outrage against either candidate/party/party supporters, humble brags, cute pictures/videos of kids, cats, and dogs, recipes that look easy because somebody already prepared all the ingredients into cute little bowls, and memes that have made the rounds several times but are new to the poster and they’re wondering why more people aren’t liking it. Does that about cover it?

So what did I learn? I learned that checking Facebook is more of a habit than an addiction. Whenever there was a lull, I wanted to grab the phone. It wasn’t out of any burning interest to see what was going on, it was boredom. While I do miss being aware of what’s going on in distant friend’s lives, I am fully engaged in the lives of friends nearby, and that is far more important for all of us. I don’t post much on Facebook anymore anyway, and now I’d like to do far less skimming, as well.

Twitter, well… I’m still a news junkie, I don’t think I’m willing to give that up just yet.

On to editing. We’re closing in on the end of the editing process. My editor has done the Herculean task of fixing all my rookie mistakes and bad habits. His eye is so critical he finds fault with Tolkien, (and destroys my illusions in the superior story telling of the Lord of the Fantasies) which means he is pulling my story apart and finding the weak spots. At times that feels frustrating. I’m a little burned out on this portion of the story and just want to move on. And of course I would like to believe I’ve already produced something perfect. On the other hand, I know better and want the story air tight. I want it to be the best it can be, so I ignore my wounded ego, learn from my mistakes, and do the work to make it better. After all, if it is popular, I wouldn’t want someone at Comic Con getting stabbed with a pencil over a plot point argument.

I have a growing confidence that some publisher will want this series. I’m not saying it will be the next big thing, but I think there is an audience for it. I might not have to get a full time job just yet. And really, that’s what I want – the chance to keep writing and to keep this enchanted life going.

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