The Starving Novelist
 
Off the emotional rollercoaster, that is.  Seriously, I feel more like Sybil these days- complete with multiple personalities- than a writer.  Matter of fact, since they've been spending so much time with me lately, I feel it only right that I should introduce them (my alter egos, of course).  Note: these are just some of my favorite personalities, they visit me the most often ;o)

Confident Connie- She can do anything.  She will keep on revising, editing, and querying; knowing she will eventually find the perfect agent.  If it doesn't happen, that's okay, because her next novel will be totally awesome and will definetly get someone's attention!

Anxious Annie- She questions and worries about everything.  Should she include a prologue?  Should she nudge that agent?  Is her synopsis long/short enough?   Should she dump that chapter?  Does that paragraph need to be clarified? 

Gloomy Glenda- She usually comes for extended stays after after a rejection, but will pop in for a visit while writing and revising.  She questions whether or not she's 'good enough' and if she should be 'wasting' her time. 

Determined Deanna- She is usually the one to kick Gloomy Glenda out.  She knows she has no other choice but to carry on.  Writing is her destiny, her calling, her dream.  For her, writing is living.  It's as vital to her as food and air.  She will reach her goal!

Determined Deanna is my favorite.  I just wish she'd visit more often.  ;o)


 
 
This is a continuation of last week's entry, regarding some of the important things I've learned since undertaking this journey a year ago.

The first chapter- The first chapter is almost just as important as the query in getting a request for a submission- especially since a lot of agents request sample pages along with the query.  When I originally wrote my opening chapter, I THOUGHT it was original, creative, and most of all, pulled the reader in.  However, as of lately, this first chapter of my ms has proven to be my nemesis.  How do I know this?  Well, for starters, ALL my submission requests came from queries with NO attached sample pages, and when I got feedback from agents regarding submissions, there was often a mentioning of my first chapter.  Back to the drawing board!  Lesson- don't put hours and hours into a query, and then neglect your first chapter.  Your first chapter needs to introduce the main characters, and at least HINT at the conflict.  Oh, and don't overload the first chapter with backstory (another one of my faults)!!  Spread it out throughout the ms . . . leave a little mystery ;o) 

Agents- One piece of advice I'd like everyone to take with them is: Don't lose your integrity!!  Remember who you are!!  Agents are not God's, and we are not their little minions.  They need us just as much as we need them.  Let's face it, most of us are . . . well . . . desperate.  We want to find an agent so bad, we sometimes put up with a lot of behavior we probably wouldn't put up with in any other sort of business relationship.  Don't get me wrong, I've had really good experiences with several agents (even though I received rejections from them), and will most likely query them again with future projects.  They were considerate and respectful, and I would highly recommend them.  On the other side of the spectrum, there are some who are . . . . less considerate and respectul (I'll avoid specific details- no need to start a debate).  We've all heard author/agent horror stories.  Don't become one of them!

Feedback- What is there to say?  This stuff is like gold- most of the time.  I say most of the time, because sometimes the feedback can be very vague, like "I don't get a sense of urgency" or "the writing doesn't sparkle".   Just like I did, you're probably racking your brain right about now, trying to 'break the code'.  My point is, sometimes you have to disregard some of the feedback, or else you'll drive yourself mad trying to figure out what the h*ll they're talking about.   However, if you're receiving similiar feedback time and time again- USE IT!!  Don't disregard it as 'coincidence' or some kind of 'conspiracy'.  Take it, and use it to make your manuscript "sparkle" *sarcasm*.

Moving on- Don't throw in the towel until you've done everything in your power to get represented.  I've heard of people sending out HUNDREADS of queries before getting an offer of representation.  The key is to always be open and willing to making changes to your query and ms.  Oh, and continue to write!!  Try to get a little bit of writing done while querying.  Also, in my own opinion, READ, READ, READ!!  Reading other books will give you ideas on how to word things, or how to set up your plot.  Personally, I know the more I read, the better I write (strange, but true).

Wow, if I've learned all this (and more!) in a year, I wonder what I have to look forward to this year?   Here's to wishing all my fellow writers a wonderful and successful New Year!

 
 
I wasn't planning on posting anything until next week, but I wanted to share a funny little story.  First off, I should mention that when it comes to following your dream/calling/destiny (whatever you want to call it), I don't believe there are any "accidents."  I'm not an overly religious person, but I do believe God gives me little signs that I'm on the right track, or to keep going (especially when I'm about ready to throw in the towel).  For instance, a couple of my requests for submissions came when I was at my lowest- and I mean LOWEST.  Also, I've had two requests that have come from unusual cirumstances (me screwing up). 

Happy accident #1-  I touched upon this in my previous post, but I'll say it again.  I once received a request for a full from a big time agent at one of the biggest agencies, AFTER sending the query addressed to the wrong agent!  Of course, I noticed right after the fact what I'd done, so I quickly re-sent the query, along with a little note apologizing.  Some people told me this probably made things worse (I kind of agreed with them, but oh well).  Anyways, you can imagine my surprise  when the request for the full was in my inbox.  I like to believe (my slip up) wasn't an accident.  Maybe it made my query stand out, or maybe she's just really understanding when it comes to things like that.  Either way, woo-hoo!

Happy accident #2 (my funny little story)-  So there's this agent.  I originally emailed my query to her in mid-September and got a rejection shortly thereafter (didn't put the date I got rejected on my spreadsheet, just marked it off as 'rejected'). On October 29th, I ACCIDENTLY queried her again! I somehow must've overlooked her on my spreadsheet (this has NEVER happened before). Anyways, guess what was in my inbox on Monday? A request for a partial! The funny part is, the two queries weren't all that different. Who knows, maybe she was in a bad mood the first time she read it, or maybe two different people read the queries (interns possibly?). Either way, I'm thankful for the second chance.

Like I said, there are no accidents when it comes to following your dream ;o)
 
 
I started writing The Fine Line in November of 2009.  A year has past, and with the new year just starting, I thought now would be a good time to "reflect" on everything I've learned.  Well, maybe I won't write everything I've learned (more than likely, you have a life, and have better things to do than listen to me ramble on, and on, and on).  Also, just to ensure I don't bore anyone to tears, I will do this in two parts (part two will be next weeks entry).

1) Writing- sometimes you LITERALLY have to force yourself to do it.  Come up with a schedule and stick to it- no matter what.  I HAD to write at least two pages every night, no matter how long it took.  To most of you, this might not seem like a lot, but I didn't want to set myself up for failure.  I wrote five nights a week (after putting the kids to bed).  I wrote on holidays, birthdays, nights I had to hold my eyelids up with toothpicks, and even when I was sick.  If by some chance I couldn't write, I had to make it up by writing on one of my "nights off."  I stuck to my schedule, and my first draft was finished in six months. 

2) Editing/Revising- I've mentioned this before, but I think it's worth mentioning again- after you finish your project, LET IT REST, and THEN start editing and revising.  I've heard the suggestion of six weeks, but some even recommend letting it sit longer.  This is probably the most valuable piece of advice I've acquired this past year.  It's so important to distance yourself from your project.  It's AMAZING what you find wrong after you've taken a break from it.  I didn't do this, and I could kick myself for not doing so.

3) Writing the query- There is no hard and fast rule for writing a query.  I used to be very anal about this, and therefore, drove myself crazy visiting every website under the sun, trying to figure out the "right" way.  Some say to put the genre and word count at the beginning, some say at the end.  Some say you should always include the first several pages of your ms with your query, some say don't include anything not requested.  I've learned that the MOST important thing about writing a query is the "hook" or "blurb" (another thing, can we require that everyone in the writing business use the same lingo? Thing of how much confusion would be laid to rest).  When it's all said and done, that's what agents REALLY care about- 'can this book make money?'  The second most important thing when writing a query is, common sense.  This means, keep in simple, formal, and respectful.  Mistakes can be overlooked (i.e. addressing the query to the wrong agent- yep guilty!  BUT ironically enough, I did get a request for a full from this agent!), but a lack of common sense can not. 

Next week- the first chapter, agents, feedback, and moving on
 
 
Happy New Year to all!  I hope everyone enjoyed the Holidays.  I did my best to relax, and succeeded somewhat (it's hard to relax when you have children home on winter break- especially chidren that spend 50% of the day fighting with one another).  I even took a week off of revising/editing my ms, and treated myself to some mindless entertainment.  Though I suppose that statement isn't exactly true- watching  "The Tudors" isn't exactly 'mindless'.  You REALLY have to pay attention to what's going on, or you'll get lost.  It also helps to know a little of the backstory.  Lucky for me, I'm a HUGE Philippa Gregory fan (The Other Boleyn Girl is probably her most well-known novel) , so I have a little bit of an advantage.  

Yes, it is safe to say that I'm momentarily OBSESSED with the Tudor Dynasty, especially Philippa Gregory's novels on the topic.  I love, love, love her writing.  I've always said there are two types of authors, (1) those who can tell a good story, and (2) those who can write a good story.  Regarding the latter, some people can write a book beautifully- the writing is, simply put, "pretty".  It flows like poetry, and reads with ease.  While reading one of these books, you can tell the author was confident with his/her writing, and did not struggle, or at least the author makes it seem that way.  On the other hand, there are some writers that are REALLY good at telling a story, but the writing itself is less than stellar.  There's a very well-known author, whose books were like an addiction to me when I first discovered them- I literally couldn't put them down, and when I wasn't reading them, I was thinking about them.  This author is an awesome story teller, but her writing isn't exactly . . . the greatest.     Anyways, my whole point in all of this, is that Philippa Gregory is both- a good story teller AND a beautiful writer. 

I am a very picky and critical reader, so when I find a book I love, I will usually read everything the author ever wrote (I've done this with Mya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Laura Ingalls-Wilder) .  I am on my fourth novel by Philippa Gregory, and she has yet to dissapoint.  I highly recommend checking her out- especially if you're a fan of historical ficiton (funny thing is, I never used to be!). 

As for "The Tudors." I finished season 4, and I am half way through with season 1 (I haven't seen 2 or 3 yet- I know, I got a late start).

Again, Happy New Years to all!!  It feels good to be back! 
 

 
 
That's exactly what I'm doing.  I am literally pushing myself every night to revise/proof my ms.  Like I said in my previous blog entry, it is going so excruciatingly slllloooooow.  I'm not sure what happened to the patience I had a year ago while writing my book, but it's long gone.  Replacing it, is this never ending pang of anxienty.  I know in the end, it'll be worth it.  Even if nothing becomes of it, at least I'll know I did my best, and I in the end, that's all that matters (so they say). 

I read on someone's blog (can't remember whose- sorry!) that you're supposed to wait six weeks after completing your first draft of your ms, before you start reading and revising it.  All I can say is, I WISH I HAD KNOWN THIS SIX MONTHS AGO!!!!  This would've saved me so much time and frustration.  I literally starting "revising" the day after I finished it.  My ms was like my newborn baby- "perfect and flawless" in my eyes.  I zipped through my ms in probably a week (as opposed to the two months+ it's taking me this time).  Sure, I noticed some typos, and maybe a couple gramatical errors, but other than that, I thought it sparkled <supressing laughter>.    Needless to say, lesson learned.

Just keep revising, revising, revising . . .

Oh, by the way, just a note to the one or two people who follow my blog-  I probably won't be posting any more entries until after the Holidays.   Christmas (and everything that goes along with it) is sucking up all my time.  Not to mention, I'm REALLY tired of writing about REVISING, and hopefully this will be my last entry regarding the topic ;o) 

Happy Holidays to all!!
 
 
I haven't posted much, because as stated above, I've been revising (again . . .).  I've yet to hear from the two agents who currently have my ms, but I've decided to start on the revisions anyways.  The storyline is still the same, but I have been doing more slicing and dicing than a sous chef. 

Deep down, I believe my first chapter was killing me- I've had a couple agents tell me so, and according to everything I've read online, my opening chapter committed just about every sin a first chapter can commit (too much backstory, off-putting to the reader, etc.).  Sooo . . . I totally gutted it.  Of course, there were parts I really liked (and that are important to the story), so I'm going to plug those in at different spots throughout the ms. 

I am very surprised by how long this revision process is taking me.  At the rate I'm going, I figure I won't be done proofing for another six weeks.  The difference this time?  Well, I'm really taking my time to read through each chapter with "cold eyes."  The previous times I proofread, I was mostly concerned with making sure the plot flowed nicely, and stayed on course.  This time, I want to make sure every sentence sparkles, which means, taking out all the "well's, really's, that's, just's, etc."  Needless to say, it's AMAZING how "wordy" of a writer I tend to be, and how many mistakes you can find when you change your perception.  I'm reading each chapter approximately three times, and each time, I find something . . .  

At the end of this journey, I want to be able to say, I did everything I could to get my ms represented/published.  I'm not ready to give up on her yet!  The girl sitting on the bleechers is getting a make-over, and hopefully when she's all done, she won't be sitting on the bleechers very long!
 
 
"Writer's block is the psychological or social condition in which a writer temporarily loses the capability to continue writing, whether through losing inspiration or confidence in his/her creativity, or through other personal difficulties. Writer's block - Origins of Writer's Block. True writer's block can be closely related to depression and anxiety, two disorders that reflect environmentally-caused or spontaneous changes in the brain's frontal lobe." - Encyclopedia.

Well, now it all makes sense.  I'm about four pages into my next novel, and I feel like I've hit a brick wall.  I know exactly why too.  My confidence has taken a nose dive.  I received a rejection in the mail the other day on a partial submission, and it crushed me.  I can handle a rejection based on just about anything- the storyline, the plot, the characters, blah, blah, blah.  BUT, criticize my writing?  That is a shot below the belt.  Everything else can be fixed, but if someone tells you they don't like the writing, what can you do? 

Now, I will be the first to admit, the first chapter of my novel isn't my favorite.  It was the first thing I wrote after all.  I was actually told by another agent that the first chapter was a bit "off-putting to the reader."  Personally, I love some off the writing in that first chapter, but at the same time, there are parts that kinda/sorta make me cringe too.  I've decided to wait and see what kind of feedback I get from the two other agents that have submissions, and then I'm going to rewrite the entire first chapter.  If I can . . .

Of course, my fear is that it's just not an awkward first chapter.  What if it's my writing in general?  What if I'm just not good enough?  The fear is paralyzing.  That is what is causing my writer's block.  It's so bad, I could barely bring myself to write this blog entry.  I know, I know- "you have to have a thick skin," "write what you love," and "don't worry, just write."  Knowing and doing are two different things though. 
 
 
I'm getting there . . . slowly but surely.  I've started to get my writing playlist ready for my next novel (music is VERY inspirational and important to me when I write), and the character sketches are underway.  My playlist for this novel will include a lot of Tori Amos.  My mc in this book is a very strong, driven and intelligent woman; and I needed music to reflect that.  Also, the emotions that come through in Tori Amos's music are very similiar to what my mc feels- at least at the beginning of the book. 

The Fine Line is still sitting on the sidelines.  Sometimes I feel  my novel is like the girl sitting on the bleechers at a high school dance,  just waiting for some good looking guy to pay her some attention.  She's kind and pretty- maybe not as drop dead gorgeous as the Homecoming Queen, but special in her own way.  Just like my book, her time will come. 

I did recieve a very nice rejection from the agent  I wrote about below.  She offered some constructive criticsm, though some of it was so vague I didn't really understand it.  That's fine though.  Any time I get something more than a "Sorry, not for me," I'm happy.  I still have a full and partial out.  I'm trying to stay hopeful and positve, but I must admit, the rejections are starting to get to me.  Not so much the individual rejections, but the sheer quantity of them.
 
 
Funny how God knows exactly what you need, and when you need it.  As explained below, I am was taking a break from the querying process.  However, while perusing one of my favorite websites, querytracker.net, an agent's profile caught my eye.  Fellow queriers (is that a word?), had left comment after comment about how positive this agent is- she not only gives writers a fair chance, but she's very  . . . how should I say it . . . polite.  If you email her wanting to know the status of a query or submission, she emails you back (imagine that fellow writers!).  Even her rejections are polite, and often, personal.

I decided to take a chance and send an e-query to her myself.  Low and behold, I woke up this morning with a request for a full submission in my inbox.  Needless to say, I hurried and got that sent off to her associate that handles fiction.  

With two full submissions out (still haven't heard back from the other I wrote about previously), I'm starting to feel more and more like a "real" writer.  I won't lie, it's a little bit exciting.  Though it it's one thing I've learned, always hope for the best, but expect the worst.  So much for my sabatical, looks like it's back to work for me!