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Archive for the tag “querying”

My Quarter-Writing-Life Crisis

When I first started writing, the blank computer screen was like a ginormous bag of dress-up clothes where I could play make-believe every day. I didn’t always write every day–I was fourteen years old and I had all the time in the world. Even when I wasn’t writing, I could daydream about characters I loved in a world I loved, and all the amazing and shocking things that would happen to them. I had my own private movie studio in my head, and the power. Was. Incredible.

Then I finished my first novel.

If you’ve never experienced this high, it’s even more awesome than the private movie studio. Suddenly, you want everyone to know what you’ve done, and you want everyone to read it, and you have mega dreams, so you have your mom read it, and your best friend read it, and your English teacher read it, and of course they are supportive and glowing and they are lying through their teeth BUT THAT’S OKAY because it’s what you need to hear at the time.

And then sooner or later you get to work on the sequel. (There’s always a sequel).

By the time I was neck-deep in my sequel, I was in college, and finding time to write proved more difficult than it was in high school. Also, I was pretty arrogant, and didn’t do much in the way of studying the actual craft of writing fiction. I’ve always had a pretty good grasp on flow and grammar, and I knew how to tell a story (out loud) really well, so I figured I pretty much knew what I was doing. This was the wrong approach.

By the time I was halfway through the sequel’s sequel (that’s the third novel, if you’re keeping track) I discovered AbsoluteWrite’s forums and my writing took an FTL jump ahead. Suddenly, I could see all the things I was doing wrong, and that there are gadzillions of resources for writers on the web. I’m also grateful that I didn’t seriously start my querying journey until I learned about Writer Beware through the AW forums. There are a LOT of predators lurking out there, seeking to scam unsuspecting writers out of their cash and dreams.

About that time, I passed my 10 year anniversary of writing, and it was like a little celebration. I felt like a grizzled veteran. I felt like I was making major progress. I started new novels in completely new worlds that I actually plotted and planned out ahead of time.

I was going somewhere.

And then I passed 12 years. And then 15 years (wow, fifteen years), and then like every other good 30 year old I know, I kind of stopped counting. “I’ve been writing for fifteen years,” I would say, very aware of the hard work it takes to get published. “Fifteen years.”

Finally, I did the math yesterday, and it hit me like a ton of soggy pancakes. I’ve been writing novels for seventeen years.

That isn’t gloating you hear in my voice. It’s panic. I don’t know if it’s the extra syllable in seventeen that makes it sound like an eternity, or the fact that I’ve been writing longer than most of my characters have been alive (ahahahahasob), but coupled with the fact that I’ve heard lots of stories recently about writers who’ve been writing two or three years getting agents and book deals, it made me feel like a failure.

And then I found this incredibly heartfelt and honest blog post about a writer experiencing those same feelings of failure–and at the time she wrote it, she had an agent and some meaty nibbles from a publishing house. Even though both of those things didn’t end up working out, she later got a new agent, and a publishing contract, and her first novel is getting published next year.

I feel better! I feel re-energized! I’m calming down now!

Anyway, I realized that maybe I’m going through a bit of a quarter-life crisis, except that it’s for my life as a writer, not my actual calendar age. I know for a fact that this is what I want, and that I am still learning and growing as a writer. Publishing doesn’t work like school, where you put in x-number of years and come out with your goal in hand. It will happen when it happens, and until then I won’t ever give up.

And if you are a beginning writer, or at a different stage of the journey, I hope this has been helpful. Don’t be like me and waste years of your writing life toiling without learning your craft. Take classes. Read widely. Follow blogs and agents and editors on Twitter. Get a writing partner or three and read the AW forums. Join a writer’s association.

As for me, while I query and pitch my novels, I’m going back to that box of dress-up clothes, where I can put on a big, floppy hat and heels four sizes too big for my feet. I have a new project to write. 🙂

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Wednesday Writing: QueryTracker

Today, I’m going to highlight one of my favorite resources for writers pursuing traditional publication: querytracker.net.

Query Tracker let’s you search an extensive database of Literary Agents and publishers, organize your findings, set up a plan of “attack” and execute it–while tracking the whole thing. 

From the website:

Literary Agents Listed: 1,266
Publishers Listed: 153
Members: 52,720
Success Stories: 785

Those might not look like great odds (785 out of 52,720) but that’s the publishing business for you. If you look at it a different way, that’s seven hundred and eighty-five brand new authors who give QueryTracker credit as a vital cog in their pathway to being agented (and ultimately, published) authors.

The free version of the site is certainly adequate, but if you’re getting serious about publishing, I highly recommends the $25 annual fee for premium membership. It gives you lots more search parameters and let’s you organize multiple projects at once. And I usually choke at the idea of spending money on “membership fees,” so that should tell you something.

Before QueryTracker, this was what the inside of my brain looked like:

Okay, going to make a list of agents to query…okay she looks right, what are her submission requirements? [search search] Okay, found the requirements, now, I need to find her pet peeves and make sure I don’t do those [search search] oh, he looks like he might be a possibility, too, let me dig further [search search] wait. What did I decide about the first agent? Where did I start? Did I actually query her? What did I SEND?

I’ll spare you the panicked thrashing. It suffices to say I had the hardest time organizing my research and tracking who I queried on what day, how long it had been, if I should wonder if I got lost in spam, etc.

After QueryTracker, my head looks like this:

First small batch sent out: check. Next batch lined up: check. Oh, did I just get a rejection? Oh well–let’s close that out…and okay, who’s up on the next batch?

You see how being organized and tracking your queries actually helps you deal with rejection? And bonus: there are lots of people posting comments on each agent listing, and that gives you a vibe for the kinds of projects an agent is accepting, the kind she/he tends to reject, and makes the entire writers-querying-agents process a lot less lonely.

Friday Frivolity: Spam Spam Spam Spam!

These days, I think I take Gmail’s exemplary spam filter for granted. Unlike my junk-riddled work email account, almost nothing spam-like gets past Google’s little electronic guards.

But that doesn’t mean those junk mail guards aren’t also blocking real emails.

For weeks, I’d been wondering why I was no longer receiving alerts for when it was my turn in an online game I joined. It didn’t occur to me to check spam.

Then yesterday, I noticed that I never heard back from a literary agent I queried on February 15th. So I requeried her (This agent seemed to recommend doing it in case the emails wound up in HER spam, but don’t assume that’s the case for all agents ).

She wrote back that she must have been caught in MY spam, because she remembered Veiled Iron vividly and had requested to see more of the manuscript!

Good news for me (and I sent her the MS right away), but also kind of a wake-up call (and indeed, those missing alerts for my online game were also in spam). So check your spam! Check it now.

And now for something completely different…

Back?

*Michelle climbs back onto the face of the earth.* Whew, quite a tumble I took there wasn’t it? I haven’t posted anything new since July?? And I’ve read so many books I should review, too.

Here’s what’s coming in the next few weeks: review of the TV show “Farscape,” review of Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, review of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (yes, I was living under a rock after falling off the face of the earth, so it’s taken me awhile to get on board with the book everyone and their senile uncle has read) and a Grammar Nazi post (really, she should rename herself the Spelling Nazi, because that’s all she really harps on. *ouch* Okay, she just smacked me for finishing that sentence with a preposition. And she’s seething over this entire paragraph. Heh.)

On other news, I’ve finished the major revisions to Veiled Iron and have begun querying. I’m planning on entering a few contests, and resuming work on Broadway High (for those of you keeping track, that’s the YA musical novel). My fanfiction story is finished, and several lovely readers from that experience have volunteered to read Veiled Iron for me and give me some feedback. Yay 🙂

Happy New Year everyone!

Michelle

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