Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Random Wednesday of Randomness

Some day I'll come up with clever things to blog about. Eventually. Until that day, I'll try to regale you with ideas running around in my head.

Querying is actually kinda fun this time around. Yes, it's stressful, and yes, I compulsively check my email. But I'm enjoying the process in a way that I never have before. I think it's because I like this book so much more than my last few.

And I think it's important to enjoy what you write. I understand that a few writers get stuck writing a series that they absolutely hate (รก la Tarzan) simply because the market won't tolerate anything else, but that shouldn't stop a writer from finding joy in their work.

I think that's why I'm liking this book, still. That and it's still early in the process. I haven't received tons and tons of rejections. I'm not "demoralized" by "failure." But I have higher hopes for this project and realistic expectations of what comes next.

I don't know what comes after the queries all go out simply because I can't see the future or read the minds of agents. But I DO know that I'm going to start writing a new book soon. I'm already working on ideas. It's just a matter of time before I sit down and start plotting.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pitching

This last weekend I went to a writers conference. I met new people, hung out with old friends, and learned lots of awesome stuff from great presenters.

I came to one conclusion this weekend that I'm actually surprised not to have seen elsewhere on the internet. It's about pitch appointments with agents and editors. Ready for this?

Even if they ask for pages, pitching to agents at a conference doesn't really increase your chance of landing representation. I HAVE heard a few writers say that they've never heard any stories of writers getting their agents as a result of their pitch appointment, but that's not what I'm talking about.

What I'm saying here is that at that appointment, you're pitching an IDEA. Sure, you have a complete book that contains that idea, but in ten minutes, it's impossible to sell a full manuscript. You're just not going to do it.

Getting their attention is still key, though. If you have trouble with queries (as I tend to), a pitch appointment is a great way to get them to notice your idea. Because in a query, you're still pitching your idea.

Once you have their attention, that's where it's all "business as usual." They will be judging your work on the quality of the writing. If they request pages from a query, pitch appointment, or because you pulled them out of a burning building, the decision will ALWAYS be based off of your writing. I know this from experience. Every time I've pitched an agent at a conference, they've asked for pages. But that last project (NOT the one I'm pitching now) wasn't ready for publication.

I haven't gotten enough insider response to say whether or not my current book is ready, but I am sending out pages soon. I'm confident in the story I've written. Excited about the idea, the prose, the opportunities!

Now that you've gotten to the end of this post, don't think that I'm saying ideas don't matter. A really bad idea is going to be a tough sell. It sets up roadblocks simply by existing. Just don't oversell the good idea. Let the writing do that.

Don't undersell it, either.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Navigating Uncertainty

I've discussed the importance of community a few times on this blog. Well, not too long ago, I had an opportunity to experience the benefits of being part of a writers community firsthand.

I received some feedback on my current project that seemed contradictory to everything I'd read about publishing a debut novel. Immediately, one of my friends pointed out that there aren't really any rules dictating what is right or wrong in writing a book. Stylistically, anyway. And she named a few books right away that did exactly what I'd been told to do in my book.

Other friends listened (and I use that term loosely since this all took place in a Facebook conversation) while I rambled on about things I've read from agents and editors. Some of the members of my critique group spoke up and told me, with a good deal of confidence, that in my particular situation, many of the changes recommended by this bit of feedback wouldn't really work for my book.

And that was something I suspected, but with how eager I am to move to the next step, I needed to talk things out before making any decisions. I'd tried some of this person's suggestions in earlier drafts of my book, and they felt forced and boring. But a part of me wanted to jump in and start fiddling with my book right away on the off chance that I might be able to move forward with my career.

Without the support of other writers, I'd still be pulling my hair, desperate to figure out what the feedback meant and how to apply it to my book. I could've butchered the entire thing and turned it into a mess that might have sent me back to the beginning with this project. Unless I made all of those changes in a separate document, which is what I planned. But after the conversations I was able to have, I know that wouldn't have been the best use of my time.

The biggest reason I bring this up is because this was a completely new experience for me. Not the feedback, per se, but where it came from. I didn't know how to respond, and without the support of fellow writers, I think my head would've exploded.

My point, I guess, is that when a stereotypical hermit writer hits that point of uncertainty, like I did, they need to break away from their solitude and seek the advice and support of people who can give them a fresh perspective. It's dangerous to do this alone. With the quality of writing I keep seeing in the bookstores, and with the overwhelming mass of people vying for a chance to be published, I don't know if it's even POSSIBLE to do this alone anymore. If it ever was possible.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Next Project

When the first project is finished, it's important to move to a new project. As quickly as possible. That doesn't mean that the current project is tossed aside, but I've wasted a lot of time querying one book and doing nothing else.

To be fair, I didn't know what I was doing when it came to querying and get my book out there, so it wasn't ALL a waste. But now I have a better idea of what I'm doing. It's important for me to start something new while I work on getting my current project out into the world.

The problem I'm running into right now is that I don't know where to begin. I don't have writer's block, or anything, I'm just feeling a bit disorganized. Cluttered. Distracted. I can't decide if I want to write another sci-fi, go back to fantasy, do something more modern (like urban fantasy or near-future), or even which age group I should write for.

I don't want to waste any time. So I'm not giving up. I'm going to push through this brief "downtime" in my brainspace, and I encourage every one of you to do the same.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fear and Excitement

For the first time in almost a year, I feel like I'm part of the writing community again. When I worked on my project, I found myself focussing solely on the project, interacting with my critique group, a few writers I know from twitter and facebook, and no one else. At all. Despite my attempts to remain interactive with the community, I couldn't bring myself to do it. And I know it showed in my blogging and twitter feed.

Now, I feel like I'm out in the world again! It's exciting, and I'm very excited to pitch my book. I've already sent out three queries this week, and I'm going to send out one more by the end of the day tomorrow.

It also makes fear resurface. Not fear of success or even fear of failure, simply the fear of the unknown. What's the result going to be? Will I still be excited by this project if/when I start getting rejections? Will I get full requests or offers of representation? Will those offers be the right offers for me, and what will I do if they're not?

It's a lot to think about, and it turns my stomach in both a good way and a terrifying way. Part of me wants to celebrate all of my success, but the rest of me is constantly remembering that I need to keep working, enjoy what I've accomplished, but refrain from major celebration until I start moving forward again.

Just some random thoughts for this surprisingly sunny lunch break.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Be thorough

In everything that you do in your writing career, be as thorough as possible. For your own sake. If an agent represents your genre, and you think they might be a good fit for you, good! It means you've done your research. At least, if you come to that conclusion it SHOULD be the result of research. If not, go do research. Do it now!

But let's say that agent accepts your work and offers you representation. Do you say, "Yes, absolutely, without question!"?

No. Do some more research. Are they making an industry-standard offer? If they require a higher or lower percentage of all sales, ask them why. Read your contract. Are YOU the client, or is your IP the client? If they leave the agency, do you go with them or get sent over to another agent?

More than that, can you WORK together? Based on interactions that far, do they seem like the type of person you'd be willing to work with for the next 20 or 30 years?

Don't just agree to a business partnership because they asked. Make sure the opportunity is the RIGHT one. Be careful, though, because saying no just because they're not your "dream agent" could cost you a great working relationship. At the end of the day, if you don't see yourself working with that agent long-term, try not to waste their time by making them jump through hoops just to have you tell them "no thanks."

It goes back to my first point: be thorough in your research.

Monday, September 09, 2013

The First Draft

One piece of advice that I heard years ago really stuck with me, and it helped me out just last week. I don't remember how it was originally worded, but it came down to this: get the first draft down on paper, complete with cliches, weak description, and lack of emotion. Then go back and fix it later.

The point that came across to me is that a writer shouldn't try to make it perfect on the first draft. Because it won't be perfect. So many things will change from day one through day 365+ that if a writer polishes up each chapter before moving on, they're going to end up rewriting so many times they'll never finish the project.

I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but personally, that's how I write. I did it with my query last week. I couldn't figure out how to pitch my book on a single page, and I kept getting hung up on phrases that sounded cliche and generic. But when I "got over" that, I wrote a basic pitch and sent it off to my critique group for some review. Now I have a direction to take the query, and I have ideas that'll help me make it a solid pitch.

But if I wanted to get it "perfect" the first time around, I would've spent weeks and weeks dreading the task of writing a query letter, even when I sat down to work on it.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Charity of the Month: Feed the Children

It seems to me that every month I read a new story about how foodstamp usage is way up in this nation. I'm fortunate enough that I don't need assistance that that service provides, but I also know that many people on that program, and many more who are not eligible, still need help.

That's why I love Feed the Children. They put food in the mouths of people who need it, both in the U.S. and around the world. Please head over to their site, check out their mission, and consider donating. It doesn't take much to help a child eat.