What to Expect When You’re Expecting (an offer of representation)

Hi all! Today I welcome Kaye Draper to My First Book. Kaye is one of the newer bloggers that I’ve been following, but I find her blog, Write Me, a useful spot for all sorts of information from writing tips to books to add to my TBR list and good music to write by. She doesn’t have a big following as yet, which I think is a shame, so please do me a favor and go check Write Me out?

Are you back? Good, now you can read her post on querying…

I was kind of stuck as to how to approach this topic, since I’m not a published author , yet. A previous guest post spoke about the query and submissions process with publishers/editors, but I haven’t even gotten there yet. So, I decided to “write what I know”. New writers don’t realize how grueling the process of becoming a published author can be. Maybe we hear it, but we don’t believe it. It can’t be that bad. Listen to me new writer. Eyes on me. You listening? I’ve been there. I’m still not published, but I’ve been at it long enough to learn some small things. And here they are:

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (an offer of representation)

1) Expect to spend a lot of time agonizing over how to write a query and synopsis that somehow does you new Bouncing Baby Novel credit

2) Expect to dash off your e-mail to Super Agent (and about 20-100 others)

3) Expect to check your e-mail every five seconds just in case someone responded with a manuscript request while you were in the bathroom

4) Expect to get no requests for Bouncing Baby Novel, even after checking your e-mail every five seconds for a months

5) Expect to start working on Next Great Novel just to distract yourself from checking your e-mail

6) Expect to repeat steps 1-3

7) Expect to finally get an e-mail from Super Agent (or one of the 100 others) asking for more material

8) Expect that Super Agent wants an exclusive

9) Expect to repeat step 4 while stalking Super Agent on her blog, twitter, interviews, and anything else you can dig up on the web

10) Expect to send a follow-up e-mail to Super Agent “just checking in” after six weeks on the unspecified exclusive, because seriously, you’re dying here

11) Expect an immediate response that makes you think she never even looked at the manuscript

12) Expect crushing despair, alleviated momentarily by another request

13) Expect to gain ten pounds while waiting for that rejection

14) Expect to pull yourself up by the seat of your pants and start all over with Next Great Novel #2

15) Expect a couple more immediate request for material on Next Great Novel #2, one within minutes of sending your query

16) Expect to repeat step number 3- even though by now you KNOW better

17) Expect to wonder why, dear Gods and Angles WHY this process takes so long. Meanwhile a published author laughs at you. You have no idea. It took her a year to get her first book published AFTER finding an agent

18) Expect to have moved on to your next project before you even get a rejection on the requested material

19) Expect to be almost finished with Next Great Novel #3 while still wondering what ever happened to that manuscript you sent to Super Agent for Next Great Novel#2

20) Expect to finish Next Great Novel #3 before you ever hear back from Super Agent

The morale of the story? Query widely. Then move on. Don’t sit around waiting for actual, you know… ANSWERS, to the query. Move on to Next Great Novel. Otherwise it will be really easy to become discouraged and never move forward. It might not be your first, second, or fifth novel that lands you an Agent, Maybe it’s book six or book sixty. But if you were still stuck on the first thing you’d ever written, you would never have gotten to book sixty to find out.

You probably won’t believe this until you get there. I think new writers hold out hope that their story will be different, that they’ll be an instant success on the first try. It could happen. But statistically speaking, it’s not likely. Don’t let yourself get stuck. And don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Even when you get an agent (when, not if) you’ll just have to go through the whole process all over again with publishers. And no agent is going to want to rep you if you expect to sit on your hands until something gets published. Butt. Seat. Write. Good luck!

Thanks so much for the great insight of what it’s like to be in the query stage, Kaye. I definitely won’t be querying one agent at a time.

So Ladies and Gents, this brings us to the end of Query Month at MFB. July is the month of Inspired. Must be a good theme, because almost every Friday is full. Only the 27th is open. So if you want to snap that date up before anyone else, or any of the other dates for the rest of the year, please check out this post and contact me.

Have a great weekend, all!

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Indecision



Credit

I’ve got a bit of uncertainty going again. See… I’m coming closer and closer to finishing the edits to Doorways. And… I’m starting to think I don’t know what to do with it.

I mean… now is the good time to start drafting my query. But do I really still want to go the traditional route?

Yes, it would be a huge feather in my cap to have my ms accepted by one of the big 6. Or even just by an agent. But… in the current climate where traditional authors are pushed harder and harder to produce more and compete with the self-publishers, do I really want to sell my soul and contract my art in that way?

All this came about when I was speaking to my mother about how authors making a lot of money and producing best-seller after best seller… while they’re actually not writing the books with their names on it.  

Or people producing books to the exact same formula. Again. And again. And again.

I have to say that I don’t have a lot of respect for those authors. In fact, (and I’m sorry if any of you do this), I feel that those books don’t really deserve to take the space that could have gone to authors who spent hours perfecting the craft. Honing it to get to agents’ and publishers’ standards. Only to be told no because the quota has been filled.

But. As time has passed and I got more attuned to the comings and goings of the publishing market, I realize that a lot of this has to do with pressure. Those authors seem to be trying to produce enough books a year to stay fresh in the readers’ minds. And now, they need to produce even faster to compete with self-publishers who need a lot less time to get their books published.

Where am I going to draw the line with my writing? Am I willing to publish less than my standards in order to keep a publisher happy? Do I want the  added pressure that if my book does not compete, which it can’t because it’s at least three times as expensive as most self-published books, I’ll lose  the deal with the publisher?

How much of my soul am I willing to risk in order to get my stories trad-published?

How do you/did you decide your chosen publishing method?

Any advice?

Key-Word Cavalry: My Greatest Fear

Today’s key-phrase of choice is: “What is my greatest fear in writing.”


Well… I obviously can’t tell the person who’d done the search their biggest fear, but since I’m assuming their search is about the reasonable fears of being a writer, I thought I’d talk about that.


I think that all writers have two fears, although to varying degrees.


The first fear: That we’re not as good as we thought we were.
The second fear: That we’ll get our books out there and readers won’t get what we’ve written or the book doesn’t sell.


So… pretty much your run-of the mill fear of failure. Of course, when you’re stuck in the grips of fear, it doesn’t really feel all that normal.


But it’s necessary to remember the following: Firstly: We’re never as good as we think we are. We’re always too critical or not critical enough. So accept it. Then there’s nothing to be afraid of. But there will be things that we can do. We can write more to hone our craft to the best it can be. We can give our work to crit partners who will (if they’re worth their salt) point out the errors and give you suggestions for improvement. That way you can see where you need to improve and work to improve it. Also, having someone else read your work will give you a slightly more accurate measure of your ability to get across what you want readers to see. But crit partners are a topic for another day.

The Red Vinyard at Arles

As for the book not selling, there’s always a chance that it won’t. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad writer. Reading, like art, is subjective. So the amount of books sold does not reflect on your success and failure as a writer. Remember: Vincent Van Gogh sold ONE painting in his lifetime. The rest all went to his brother Theo. Including:

This one (it inspired a song):

Starry Night over St Remy

And my favorite:

The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night

Units sold isn’t always a measure of talent. It’s a measure (to a large extent) of conformity. It’s a measure (to a huge extent) of luck.

If you think about things from this perspective, these fears aren’t all that scary, are they? Just never let go of your perspective. It’s vital to your sanity as a writer.


What’s your greatest writing fear?

Interview Tuesday: Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

Hi all! It’s time for another writer interview. This time it’s with another lady I’ve been stalking/following for a long time. In fact, I think I started following her blog back when I first started blogging and it has never stopped being one of my favorite places to visit. Without further ado, here’s my chat with Sandra Ulbrich Almazan…


Thanks for visiting my blog today. What can you tell us about yourself?

Thanks for having me! My name is Sandra Ulbrich Almazan. I work in an enzyme lab (I used to be in R&D, but I was transferred to QC a couple of years ago.) I’m married with one son, Alex. In my rare moments of free time, I write science fiction and fantasy.

When I hear that someone writes more that one genre, I always wonder: Do you write your stories one at a time or simultaneously?


Usually I have only one story active (as in writing or revising) at a time. However, I may research one story while working on another. I may also switch to a different project if I’m having trouble with my current one or if a new story idea bursts into my mind and demands to be written this instant.

You said in your rare moments of spare time, you write. How do you make time for it?

I make writing a priority. There are two main times during the week when I can write: on my lunch break at work (I bring my laptop with me) and after my son goes to bed. Weekends can be trickier because I have to catch up on the household chores while keeping my son entertained. Sometimes if he has an activity (like a class at the park district), I’ll bring my laptop and work, or sometimes my husband will watch him for a while so I can write. If I’m going some place where I know I’ll have some idle time but can’t bring my computer, I’ll print out a page from my work in progress and write manually. Every little bit helps!

Are you someone who keeps a writing routine with every extra bit of time that you can, or do you write when you feel like it?

I try to keep to a writing routine. The discipline helps me work toward my long-term goals, and I personally feel that if you write at the same time and in the same circumstances on a regular basis, then it’s easier to shift into the writing frame of mind.

What hits you first when you get the story idea, character or plot?

It varies from story to story. With my SF novella, Lyon’s Legacy, I came up with the plot first and then created a character for the plot. With some of my fantasy stories, I came up with the characters first, and they suggested part of the plot.

Mind telling us a bit about your favorite character?

Gladly! My favorite character is Paul Harrison, star of my upcoming SF novel, Twinned Universes. (Twinned Universes is the sequel to Lyon’s Legacy). Paul is the clone of a famous TwenCen musician, but he’s more interested in acting than in music. We first meet him as a teenager when he’s impulsive, charismatic, determined to do what he thinks is the right thing, no matter what. His heritage gives him a surprising ability, but you’ll have to read the book when it comes out to learn what that is.

So are you published/planning to publish anything in the near future?



I have one short story, “A Reptile at the Reunion,” that was traditionally published in the anthology Firestorm of Dragons. Last year, I decided to switch to self-publishing. I currently have one novella, Lyon’s Legacy, out in e-book (Kindle, B&N, Smashwords) and in paper; another short story, The Book of Beasts, is out strictly as an e-book (Kindle, B&N, Smashwords).

Any self-publishing horror/success stories?

I don’t really have anything dramatic to report–either good or bad–yet. I’m still at the stage where I’m trying to get my name out there and build a fan base. It takes time, and it can be hard to be patient. But more established authors, such as Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, always say that the best promotion for your work is the next book, so I just have to focus on revising what I’ve written so I can put it out there.

Any books coming out later this year?

I’m planning to publish Twinned Universes, the sequel to Lyon’s Legacy, later this year. Currently I’m revising it based on feedback from my editor. (I do hire a freelance editor to make sure my work is as good as I can possibly make it.) I may publish some shorter works as well, but Twinned Universes is my priority at the moment.

So are you an edit-lover or hater?

Editing can be a pain, but it makes the story stronger, so it’s worth it in the end. 

And last but not least, where can people reach you on the social networks?

Website
Blog
Twitter
Facebook

Thanks so much for doing the interview with me, Sandra. I really enjoyed finding out more about your writing life.

If anyone else wants to do an interview, please feel free to contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

And while your here, why don’t you answer some of the questions above in the comments?  

Others have said: Unsought thoughts mean the most.

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. 

Francis Bacon

Sometimes we spend hours in front of blank pages, searching and searching for the right thing to write. And then once we wrote what we’ve thought of, we’re critical. Some of us tend to spend hours editing and changing every. single. thing. we’ve written.

I know I do, if I don’t watch my internal editor like a hawk.

But here’s the thing. Those thoughts and ideas that I actively go looking for always have something lacking in them. Which is why I edit the writing that comes from those thoughts to death.

There are other thoughts and ideas, though. Unbidden ones. If I spend too much time on thinking when I write, those ideas are rare. Or maybe they pop up as often as always, but they’re drowned out in all of my forced thoughts.

Those jewels appear, seemingly out of the ether. They’re the ones that are the miracle cures of writing. More often than not, they’re brilliant. All of my original inspirations, plot problem solutions etc. come from unbidden thoughts.

I could be wrong, but from my own experience, unbidden thoughts and ideas come from the subconscious, after my mind has taken into account more aspects than I could even have thought of and untangled the mess. The result therefore is more complex than the one I consciously could have thought of and yet simple to apply.

And usually, it solves more than just the issue that got me thinking in the first place.

Because of this, I never worry about a writer’s block. It’s just my mind working out some issues in the story that I haven’t even perceived.

It’s also the reason why I zone out when I write. I don’t want to consciously decide what I’m writing. Because those conscious decisions have led me astray time and time again. To me, conscious decisions are for revisions and edits.

They have no real place in my creative process. Which is why I always refer to my muse, or to my characters making the calls. I don’t really believe in muses. But for me to write, I have to keep my writing mind (one dependent on unbidden thoughts) as far from my conscious mind as possible.

Without that, I would never have been able to create something as complex as the Doorways series.

While writing, do you consciously decide what you’re going to write? Or do you also try to disconnect your thoughts as far as possible?

Querying for Beginners

My name is Matthew. Matthew MacNish is the pen name I publish fiction under. You can visit my blog, The QQQE, if you would like to know more.

Misha asked me to write about querying for beginners today, and especially mistakes some beginners make. Before I get into that, let me tell you a bit about myself, and my history with query letters, and point you to some places where I learned about them.

When I first started sending out queries, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know any writers in real life, and I hadn’t met any on the internet yet at the time. So I crafted what I thought was a good query, and sent it out. I got a couple of requests (surely based more on the pages than the query), but I was inevitably rejected. I wasn’t ready. Neither was my query—or my book.

You can read some of my terrible old queries, and see many good examples of the mistake this beginner made, by checking the label “queries-rejections” at my blog.

So I decided to study query letters, and as much as I hated them, I decided I would get good at them. So I started my blog, and began by sharing my own mistakes, so others could learn from them. Then I started finding some great resources for helping to learn how to write a better query. First, was Nathan Bransford’s blog, specifically posts like Query Letter Mad Libs, and Anatomy of a Good Query Letter. Then it was Kate Testerman’s blog, and especially her service Ask Daphne! About My Query. Then I met Elana Johnson, read her e-book From the Query to the Call, and after getting to know her (and the other great hosts) for a while, I won a query contest at Write On Con, which you can read the results of, in which Literary Agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe critiqued my query, here.

Once I figured out how to write a decent query, I started hosting and analyzing successful ones on my blog. They didn’t have to have earned the author an agent, just a full or partial request. The fun part though, is several of those queries are now published books. You can find a list of those posts, here. Then, once I became familiar with good queries, I started critiquing query letters on my blog.

You can find those posts by checking the label “queries-critiques” on it.

Now that you have some background let’s talk about query mistakes.

First and foremost is the Rhetorical Question. This one is so bad, and so famous, it’s almost an internet meme. Here are some examples of what people think of rhetorical questions in queries:

Tahereh Mafi makes fun of them

The Rejectionist answers some of them
The Query Shark threatens those who use them

Nathan Bransford writes some for classic novels

So yeah, don’t use rhetorical questions. In fact, I would advise you just leave questions out of your query altogether.

The next most common mistake I see is vagueness. Being vague in a query is even worse than being cliché. Well, okay, not always. A really bad cliché could probably ruin a query, but I don’t see that as often as I see people being vague.

When you write a query, get specific. Don’t say character x’s life flipped inside out when her mother came back into her life, show us how it changed, specifically, because even though we can all imagine hundreds of ways in which that kind of incident would change a person’s life, we need to know exactly how it change this character’s life, so that we can begin to picture the world within the story the query letter is describing, and not be left wondering what actually happens.

Not as common, but probably worse, is when a query has no sense of character. I often see people begin with the character’s name, but then just jump right into the inciting incident. You can have an awesome plot, with a perfect inciting incident, but if the reader does know what kind of person your character is, they’re not going to care what happens to them.

I could probably go on, but this post is long enough already, so I’ll leave it to your readers to ask questions in the comments if they have any, Misha.

Thanks for having me on today!

Thanks so much for this great post, Matt! I’m just there will be more than one reader who has been dying to find such a good list of tips and research links as this. I know I have. It was wonderful to have you here.

Anyone else interested in doing a Guest Post Friday? I have two in July and four in August open. If you are, please see this post for more information and contact me.

Have a great weekend everyone!

I’m going on a writing fast.

I’ve been sitting without writing anything new for almost two months now. It’s not that I don’t want to write. It’s just that the drive isn’t there. So… instead of feeling bad about this, I decided to go on a writing fast.


Which I guess is good, since I’m supposed to be in the edit mode while I finish up Doorways.


Still, I can’t just sit down and laze around in front of the TV. Or I could, but I don’t want to.


This obsessive-scribbling-free time can be spent on refueling my creative tanks. And boy am I.


I spent about a quarter of my salary to buy canvasses, paints, papers, charcoal, erasers, brushes etc. to rekindle another love that I’ve left to stagnate when I was at university. Painting and drawing.

Credit

And you know, rather than itching to write, I’m itching to paint. Sadly it will have to wait. I (in a moment of passion and stupidity) bought oil paints. WONDERFUL on canvas. TERRIBLE on drying time. And I only have five weeks until we have to move. Five winter weeks. In the Cape. Where it’s humid.


Siiiiiiiiiiigh. I am not going to take that risk. What if I love the painting only to have it be smudged?


Canvas + oil colors + smudge = HORRIBLE disaster.


I’ll just have to make do with sketches. Actually it’s good, because it’s been years (almost six) since the last time I painted. So charcoal drawings are a great way to get my eye and hand in. Getting the flow and light and shades right.


But it’s not the only thing I’m doing. I also joined the gym, so the flow of oxygen might do my muse a world of good.


And I can read more. Maybe even finish the library books that I’ve been loaning for six months now. Yeah there’s an idea. I can get out more.


With all these different activities, it will only be a matter of time before my muse returns demanding that I write. Can’t wait. But in the mean time, I’m going to change things up and expand my horizons.


Have you ever gone on a writing fast to focus on refueling your creativity? What do you do in that time?