Having successfully completed another semester of school, and not having posted anything on my blog in that entire semester, on this first day of my summer break, it seems like a good idea to update.
My writing life has felt very much on hold for the past four months, but when I think about it, I did make some progress. I got 5 rejections from agents for my Erica Flynn novel (3 of those in the same day, which is a first for me). I converted my 50,000-word rough draft from NaNoWriMo 2010 into a reasonable working outline.
Now that I have all summer free (well, free aside from my job and my assistance in the archaeology lab on campus) my brain is turning to questions about new project options. Should I finish outlining the unwritten 2/3 of the events of my NaNo 2010 project? Should I draft something new? And if I draft something new, which of my new ideas should I work on – or how can I combine all of them into one cohesive novel? Should I outline first, and then write a draft of a new book? Or should I wing it, NaNo style, but spread it out over 3 months instead of just one?
It popped into my head this morning that it would be sort of fun to do a complete outline of a book every day for a week, no holds barred on going over the top with the plot or being silly about it. As a rule, I get a lot more out of nonsense than I do over-planning and being too serious with my work. It might be a good way to loosen up and shake some inspiration loose! Maybe I’ll do one tomorrow and my next post will be about how it turns out.
- Send your query or story out again to someone else. Immediately. Before you even feel an emotional reaction.
- Talk to another writer or your critique group. Most of the time, writers are really excited for their fellow wordsmiths’ attempts at publication and are highly supportive and encouraging in the “low” times. They may even suggest additional markets or resources, or help you pinpoint issues with your query letter itself.
- Do something nice for yourself. After all, you put yourself out there – and you’ll keep putting yourself out there, right? Right??? – so reward your own efforts. Buy yourself dinner or a book or a movie (hold off on the good Scotch until you get an acceptance. Alcohol is a depressant, after all.)
- Remind yourself that better writers than you have been rejected. They stuck with it and got published, and so will you.
- Write back (but don’t send it). Say the publisher/agent wrote, “Sorry, I’m just not sure what to do with this piece. It just isn’t quite what I’m looking for.” Okay, so you can’t really respond and make a big joke out of the guy who wrote this to you, but you can pretend you’re writing back. “Dear sir, what you can do with this piece is PUBLISH it. I have to tell you how to do your job now? Okay, but I want extra royalties for that.” Again, don’t actually send something like that to anyone. Ever. They won’t find it funny.
- If you’ve sent the piece/query out to, say 25 places, and haven’t had any luck yet, it may be time to look it over and consider reworking it. You don’t want to rewrite everything every time you get a rejection, but at least look it over after a big chunk of “no”s and see if anything pops out at you that could be done better.
- Think of every rejection as one step closer to the time someone says, “YES! I want your story!” Above all, don’t let it get you down when you get turned down. It happens to everyone (well, almost everyone – but we know about those people who get accepted their first try, right? Deals with the devil never pay off in the end…!) Rejections are to writers what sandworms are to the dead people in Beetlejuice – everyone hates ’em, but you have to deal with ’em if you want to get out into the world. Learn how to use them to
defeat Beetlejuice get published.
So I’ve started the process of marketing my book to agents. Yesterday, I got my first rejection for this particular novel. Yay! That’s one down, and one less between me and publication.
In the realm of writing, I think I can safely say that so far I hate query letters more than any other part of the process. It’s intimidating to sit down and pound out a one to two page letter that will make or break your first impression to the folks you’re counting on to take an interest in your baby – that is, your book – which you have so carefully nurtured and raised and revised and cultivated.
Intimidation aside, every agency seems to want slightly different information in a query, although the basic recipe is as follows: word count, genre, title, blurb describing the story and protagonist/antagonist and their relationship, any author qualifications or prior publications, and why you think this particular agent or agency is a good fit with you and your work. Some agencies want a full synopsis summarizing the entire plot and hitting all major characters and story developments, and others want just the query letter itself and will ask you for your synopsis only if their interest is piqued by your letter. Some agencies want sample pages or chapters (so far I’ve seen anywhere from 5 to 50 pages requested) and others want you to send that if you make it past the synopsis stage while still holding their interest.
My advice – which may not count for much, since this is my first journey toward publication of a novel and I’ve only taken on the first mile or so of the trip – is to go ahead and write your synopsis when you draft your first query, make sure your first fifty pages (especially the first five) rock, and query the living hell out of agencies and/or publishers with full confidence that you have everything you need at your disposal.