Fatigue

I’d say it’s time for our quarterly report… erm… post… But that might imply there’s some sort of regularity, rhyme and/or reason to my posting (or lack thereof) on this blog.

Still, it having been four months or so since my last update, I figured it was about time to check in with news… Except there aren’t any, other than I’m exhausted, and emotionally/psychologically drained thanks to the brutal cycle of querying-and-rejection.

Warning: This is a rant. The whine-minus-cheese kind. If you’re not up for it, I urge you to leave while you still can. If you’re brave enough (or curious enough) to keep reading, I recommend popcorn, dark chocolate or your choice of alcoholic beverage. Heck, have all three. God knows I might.

Did I think I was going to have insta-success in publishing, back almost a year ago now, when Wonderful Husband and I decided I should take some time off work to focus on my writing?

No.

Seriously.

The truth is, shopping around my current young adult novel is not my first rodeo. Not exactly. A few years ago I finished, revised, beta-ed, re-revised and submitted a sprawling historical novel which is currently shelved in the ‘to be reworked someday’ section of my hard drive. Back then, I had no idea of the dismal odds for a debut author to be able to entice an agent in this day and age to read (let alone represent) a 120,000-word manuscript. Yes, you read correctly: 120,000 words. And that was heavily edited already, because originally, that puppy clocked in at just over *mutters* xxx,xxx words. Ahem. Let’s just say it was almost twice as big as its current size. So, after a few form rejections (and a lot of research on the publishing industry), I decided to shelf the mega project temporarily.

So I knew about rejection. And I knew one hell of a lot more than when I started shopping around the monster manuscript.

So when I decided to start a brand-new project, I went in with eyes wide open. I took my time. Came up with an idea. Developed it. Self-edited. Had an alpha reader go through it. Revised. Shelved to gain some distance. Re-revised. Shelved to gain distance again. Had several beta readers go through the latest version. Revised. Revised. Revised. Polished to a friggin’ shine.

In the meantime, a lot of life stuff happened, crowding my life so much (in a good way), that I found myself unable to devote the time, energy and effort that serious writing required. Enter The Experiment–or what I like to call my Writing Leave, in which with all the support of Wonderful Husband, I have the opportunity to take at least two years off the day job to focus on my personal goals. Namely, to see my name in print.

Did I think I’d just finish my “last” round of revisions, submit and get an agent within two weeks/months? Nope. I might have thought so back when I finished my original mammoth historical, but not this time. From my previous experience (and the still dismal odds), I knew it was going to be hard. I expected rejection–plenty of it. I expected it so much, at first it didn’t really bug me all that much. I workshopped my query letter, revised, re-workshopped, came up with a few alternative versions. I figured, eventually, at the very least, I’d start getting some sort of personalized rejections–something that would at the very least hint at what I was doing wrong, so I could have something to puzzle over and have a fighting chance to fix. After all, more often than not, I took pains (and tons of friggin’ time) to research potential agents well, painstakingly personalizing every query letter. Innocently, I thought it would be just a matter of time before someone would reply in kind and a personalized rejection would hit my inbox.

To date: NADA. That’s querying from April – June, halting to re-workshop a new version of my query, and restarting in August.

We’re talking about hours upon hours upon HOURS of work here, from idea, to draft, to revised draft after revised draft after revised draft, for both the manuscript and the query letter(s). Then more hours upon hours upon HOURS researching potential agents, making sure they sound like a good fit for myself and for my book.

And what have I got to show for it?

Form rejection galore–from the super nice ones, to the ‘go away’ equivalents, to the deafening silence of the non-responders.

Partial requests? Three. One was form-rejected, two are still out there, weeks later. I will be nudging on those, because they were both requested at a conference, but at this point, I swear I’m no longer holding my breath.

Forums and Twitter feeds and success stories all over the Internet say to not get discouraged, to never give up, to keep writing. I’ve been trying desperately to follow this advice, but the truth is, I’ve finally hit the point of utter exhaustion.

Since I started querying what is actually the first in a young adult trilogy (heavily tailored to stand on its own), I’ve finished drafting the last book in that series. It’s still very, very, extremely rough, but it’s there. I also started a brand-new, completely unrelated project, too. So, yes, I’ve made a point of keeping writing. But lately, I find that I sit in front of my computer, and even though I kind of sort of already know the story in my head, the words are just not coming.

The truth is that, no matter how much I get a kick out of playing with words, how much I love making stuff up and developing characters that start to feel real in my head… It’s really hard to carry on when you don’t have even the slightest hint of validation coming your way. And note that, at this point, I’m not even talking about The Offer. I’m just plain aching for just a personalized rejection. Something that says to me, “your idea is cool, but work on the writing” or “your writing is good, make it great” or ANYTHING, really–even a “I can’t sell this. It’s maudlin/over-written/wordy/too voicey/not voicey enough/fill in the blank.”

Thing is, I know I can write. I did make my living at it for almost a decade. And if I, my past employers and recent beta readers are wrong and my writing, in fact, sucks, it would be nice to know and figure out how to fix it. But you can only fix something so much when you don’t even know what’s wrong anymore. It might be the idea/concept. But, again, I’m just guessing here. I mean, I think my concept solid, taking a known theme in a completely different direction. (I know it’s different, because I made it up. Also, I read a lot and I know there’s nothing quite like it in the market right now.) I’ve tried about a gazillion different things to highlight to make the query stand out. Clearly, not one of said gazillion things is working, because, beyond the silence, all I keep getting is form rejections. So maybe I’m wrong and the concept sucks. Again, just taking a wild guess.

So, now I’m at the point of not really knowing what else to do. I will continue querying with bettered and modified query letters for a little while longer, but at the end of the day, I’m starting to seriously consider self-publishing–not because that’s what will be best for my book (or for me), but because it increasingly seems like the only viable answer. And while not ideal, what’s worse? Having my characters just languish in my hard drive after all the hours of work and all the heart I’ve put into their story? Or send the book out into the world, even if it has to go all alone, with no one but myself to champion its cause?

 

 

 

 

 

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The six-month mark

Ok. I do suck at the upkeep of blogs… But, believe me, if there was anything exciting to report, I’d be here in a jiffy! As things stand, though, I’ve been using my time to do some actual writing, instead of writing about writing! At the same time, I figured it was about time to give a quick update on how these first six months of chasing the dream have gone for me:

On Revising

  • Fully revised Book One of the trilogy I’m currently working on, including full rewrites of some parts after some extremely useful pointers from my beta readers.
  • Polished, repolished and had alpha reader do one more read through to check for spelling, typos, grammar, inconsistencies, etc. Manuscript deemed “polished” at about the seventh draft, all in all.
  • Minor revisions of Book Two of said trilogy. Will need more revisions before this book can be out to the betas

On Writing

  • Started full on crazy writing mode of “draft zero” of Book Three. (Draft zero = really, really messy first draft). It may be messy, it may be crazy…. But it feels good to write, to really, really write again
  • Clocking in at about 5,000 – 6,000 words a day. Still no clue how anyone can get to 10,000 words a day. Between time limitations and wrist strain, that goal seems still unattainable for me. I have been known to do 10,000 – 12,000 words’ days, but they’re certainly more the exception than the rule.

On Submitting

  • Have about four different versions of a query letter for the first book, peppered around about 25 agents at this point. Mostly have received form rejections, but I do also have two partial manuscripts out and two fulls out with agencies right now.
  • Now that agents are back from Book Expo America (BEA), I’ll be getting ready to send the next round of queries.
  • Continue to hope that the right person will see my query and read my stuff at the right time.

Miscellaneous

  • Beta-read a fellow writer’s manuscript (met said fellow writer through the FANTASTIC, wonderful and incredibly helpful forums at Absolute Write Water Cooler)
  • Currently madly typing out about 8 -10 pages of beta notes
  • Offered feedback on about a half dozen query letter drafts posted on said fantastic, wonderful and incredibly helpful forums

Wow. And that’s on top of being a wife and puppy mum, struggling not to fully alienate my friends and feeding a flamenco addiction. So, I was feeling down about not having accomplished enough, but I think I am not doing too, too badly… I still have NO idea how I would have been able to accomplish a fraction of all that while still working full-time and doing all the other life stuff I need to do!

All in all, a busy half year so far… Can’t wait to see what the next few months will bring.

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A little experiment

Given that I’m still suffering from Query Block, I decided to try something a little different today.

Like I’ve done dozens of times, I visited one of the most awesome query-writing resources out there, Query Shark. Only this time, I wasn’t looking for formulas or tips or anything. This time, I just wanted to sample a few mixed entries–both those whose many failures had been pointed out by The Shark, and those which had earned her stamp of approval.

Now,  I didn’t do this to argue The Shark’s pointers or tips, or to make myself feel better about my current inability to revamp my own ineffectual query. No, no. I just wanted to imagine for a moment what it would be like to be an agent myself and get a couple hundred of these mixed queries in my inbox every day. I wanted to see where I would stop reading and why.

The result?

If I had been an agent receiving these queries–even the good ones, I probably would have only asked for pages for about three or five from a sampling of a few dozen. Let me tell you why:

For me, other than skipping the queries with glaring spelling mistakes and/or brutally dreadful prose, I didn’t care much for whether the query was considered to be “good” or not so much. Basically, I just found myself just gravitating towards the stories I actually wanted to read, informed by nothing other than the fact that I’ve been a voracious reader since I learned by ABCs.

Interestingly, many of the “queries that worked” wouldn’t have worked for me, personally. Not because I disagree with The Shark’s assessments–this wasn’t an exercise on analyzing form and content. It was a genuine “what would happen if I received all these in my inbox today?” experiment (morbid as that may sound).

While the quality of the good queries almost invariably prevented me from just stopping reading and moving on to the next one, that didn’t mean I liked what I read enough to request imaginary pages. And having dozens of those puppies to get through, I was sure as heck not going to write a personal response to everyone. But at the end of the day, personal taste did rule above everything else when it came to imagining myself requesting pages for x, y, or z manuscript.

So, I get it, agents: There’s a reason why you do the things you do. Sometimes, “not for me” isn’t actually code for “you suck.” (Although, sometimes, I’m sure it is). Sometimes, “not for me” simply means “not for me.”

Thus endeth today’s little bout of procrastination… erhm… experiment. Let’s see what else I manage to cook up to avoid rewriting this sonofagun letter of mine…

 

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Returning from a wee break…

It wasn’t really a planned break… It just kind of… unfolded as such…

See, Little Miss Lab went in to get spayed last week and has been recovering since. This alone shouldn’t have accounted for the complete hiatus in my work, of course… Except that Wonderful Husband stayed home from the office to help with Pup’s first few days of convalescence, which kind of changed our routines quite a bit… And then, one day after Little Miss Lab’s surgery, I got a stupid cold, which is still dragging and has now turned into a nasty cough. Ugh.

So, needless to say, my computer kind of gathered a bit of dust over these past few days, temporarily abandoned in favour of watching movies while cuddled up in the couch with Recovering Pup on one side and Loving Husband on the other.

Oh yeah, and the fact that I recently decided that my query needed a full revamp hasn’t particularly inspired me to be at the keyboard again, either.

I mean, writing a book is hard work–we’ve already established that… Well, it’s an EFFING PIECE OF CAKE when compared to the dreaded task of writing a query letter. And you know what? It doesn’t get any easier.

I’m currently considering abandoning the task and the “business” side of things for a little bit… Just take a little time off that crappy, crappy side of things, and focus on actual writing instead (imagine that!). That might remind me why I’m doing this in the first place…

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The non-writing part of writing

And so. The dreaded, soul-wrenching, ego-flattening, must-not-despair phase of this writing biz is upon me.

Welcome to the Querying Phase.

Beware: This is not for the faint of heart. Or the large of ego. Or the thin of skin.

Enter at your own risk.

Quite honestly, if I could skip this phase altogether and just magically have my book published and making me just enough of a living that I never have to work full-time in an office again… Well, you get the idea… If I could skip this all, I would. There are few things I can think of that are more terrifying and potentially dream-crushing. Rationally, I know the rejections will come and that’s ok. Because my book will not appeal to everyone. And, again, that’s ok. To each his own. On to the next one. Etcetera.

The thing is, while I know all this through Reason, I know myself, and I know that once those rejections start trickling in, it’s going to be really effing hard to keep myself motivated, focused. And not depressed. While rationally I’ll just do my best to plod along, I know that inside, my self-confidence will be taking quite the pummeling.

And while I tell myself over and over and over again that Plan B does not carry the stigma it once did, I hope hope hope I don’t have to use it. Hope that the right agent sees my query at the right time and I don’t need to use Plan B to get my work out there. Enough time and soul has gone into it and I just refuse to just let it fester in my hard drive, I’ll do what needs to be done… But it’s early times yet.

For now, I’m just starting to send my bookbaby into the world, one query at a time… Bookbaby steps…

And so, it begins. First, the agonizing over the query itself. Then, researching agents and choosing a few. Then… Clicking the dreaded “send” button. And waiting. And trying to not hope too hard or obsess too hard because–rationally, again–I know it’s pointless. But will that really keep me from hoping and obsessing? Yah. A lot easier said than done. At least I have a trilogy conclusion to write and a middle book to edit (and a puppy to cuddle), so hopefully I can keep my mind off things as much as I can.

Gawd. I hate this part.

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Feeling accomplished

Back when I started this writing adventure, I said I’d have to give myself a few little personal deadlines to keep me focused… The first was to get the latest draft completed and re-revised by mid-March. Well, I finished it off last Friday, so I’m actually ahead of schedule! Now the latest incarnation of said book baby is in the capable hands (and e-reader) of Prime Beta (a.k.a. Wonderful Husband).

So, the inevitable question is at this point… Now… what?

Part of me just wants to carry on with the story, now that I’ve had the time and chance to get reacquainted with my characters–you know, start notes and rewrites for the second book, and even start developing the conclusion…

Part of me is eager to start the terrifying querying process…

And yet another part of me (a BIG one) is just paralyzed with fear about said querying process.

See, no matter how well I’ve done my research, how many hours I’ve spent agonizing over my query letter and synopsis… I’m really not looking forward to that whole thing.

Is it the fear of rejection?

Uhm… Yeah.

But it’s not the fear of the first rejection–or even of the first ten… It’s the whole… what happens if I don’t even get one ‘yes’? Or what happens if I get one yes and it’s not a good working match?

That whole business side of the writing biz is what terrifies the heck out of me. More than an empty screen/blank page. More than zombies, revenants and North Korea’s nuclear weapon tests.

There’s always Plan B, of course. Gone are the days where self-publishing was riddled with stigma. And it certainly worked for Amanda Hocking, Hugh Howey and Lisa Genova–just to name a few. And there are even those who don’t get a traditional publishing deal out of self-e-publishing, but still manage to make enough out of their e-sales to pay a few bills…

And at the end of the day, that’s all I want: To make a living out of my writing and my imagination. That’s all I’ve ever wanted (other than a Wonderful Husband and a cute puppy… But there’s already check marks next to those items…)

So… ONWARDS… Hmmm…. Business letter to agents? Or rereading and making notes on the second book? Hmmm…. Decisions decisions…

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A productive bunch of weeks

I realize that this blog has been a bit comatose for about a month now… But with good reason!

You see, since I decided to take the plunge and do the whole all-writing-biz-all-the-time thing, I’ve been… well… Writing (or re-writing anyways). Sure, there’s Pup to look after, but she’s pretty wonderfully mellow most of the time… Well, kind of… Point being, once we’re back from her morning stroll, she’s content to nap for a long while.

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So, Gloria’s been getting A LOT done over the past few weeks. Lots of rewriting–from minor fixes, to a few scenes and issues that needed major work.

And I tell ya, I cannot stress how absolutely invaluable it has been to have MONTHS away from the manuscript to start with, then re-read it with fresh eyes. That’s to say nothing of the wonderful notes and questions the betas had. Sure, it can be a bit daunting to tackle the scenes that need major work, or to even step away from it all and think through any big issues or questions that still need to be resolved. But at the end of the day, I know all this work is turning the book into something better.

But the re-writes themselves are not the biggest challenges I’m facing right now. No, no, no…

The Big Problem is I just hit the “I suck” stage. (Hence taking a moment to finally blog about what’s been going on in my Great Writing Adventure…). I know every writer has these moments. Heck, I’m sure every artist does! Still, it’s a bit stressful and depressing. But I’ll struggle past it. It’s not like it’s an unfamiliar foe! Plus, I’ve promised myself and Wonderful Husband I’d have a new draft for him to read by mid-March. Not that he’s asked for it, but he is Prime Beta, so I’ve kind of offered it to him. He won’t hold me to it if I need more time. But I’ll hold myself to it! Somehow, just having that loose deadline looming ahead makes me feel more motivated!

So, Self-deprecation and Insecurity: Get lost!

Two more significant scene re-writes and I’M DONE. (Well, with this next draft anyway…)

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