Newbie Post #9: Your Novel Is Not Ready to be Seen by Anyone!

Your Novel Is Not ready

So you finished that novel! All 129,000 words are shining and screaming for attention: Read me! Read me! Read me! But they’re not screaming at you. Oh no, they have much juicier prey to sink their many, many, many teeth into. So you hit up your husband, or your mom, or your sister, or that college friend who was an English major. But let me stop you right there . . .

First, there’s a good chance your novel isn’t ready to be seen by anyone. Believe it or not, you have some editing to do. Read through that monster, and take your time. Check for typos, delete unnecessary sentences, replace and/or delete filter words. You may need to cut scenes that aren’t advancing the plot or combine characters because you have too many, or any number of other tweaks and fixes to make that novel shine. And you’ll get far more out of your readers if you’ve ironed out some major kinks before you toss it in their lap like a basket of rocks.

And keep in mind, friends and relatives are not the best readers of your work. If you need a confidence boost, and don’t mind burdening your loved ones with that task, then go ahead. But don’t expect real constructive criticism. Even if they’re a reader. I have found not one of my family/friend readers have given me very useful feedback. Well, excepting that one doctor who helped with my medical scenes. And my Hubby who always asks important questions about the story. Otherwise, they serve to help me believe it isn’t total rubbish. That’s about it. (Even if it was total rubbish!)

My advice to you would be to read as many books on writing as you can find, Google articles and blog posts on revision and editing, check out my post on filter words—coming soon—and while you’re at it, my Pinterest board The Business of Writing is a plethora of articles and posts related to writing. There’s no shortage of info to help you be a better writer, so use it. It can’t hurt, and it will most likely help in a big way.

Newbie Post #10: Filters Are For Coffee, Not For Writing!

Newbie Post #1: My Humble Beginnings . . .
Newbie Post #2: Dreams Awakening . . .
Newbie Post #3: Yeah, About That Hobby Thing . . .
Newbie Post #4: Sally Green’s Acknowledgments and Why They Mean Something to Me
Newbie Post #5: Let it go! Let it go! Turn away and slam the door!
Newbie Post #6: Sometimes you Win; Sometimes you LEARN!
Newbie Post #7: Beta Readers and Why They Rock! . . . Most of the Time . . .
Newbie Post #8: Writing Prompts Are One-Night Stands!

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The Query Process: Its Own Brand of Crazy!

Reject Key Means Decline Or DenyAs if the grueling process of writing an entire novel isn’t enough, now you have to find an agent to represent your book for its best chance of publication!

I know I jokingly said in an earlier post something to the effect of, “How much time can querying agents take?”, but that was a little tongue-in-cheek. I actually knew researching agents, crafting personal letters and compiling submission material to meet guidelines would be time consuming, I just didn’t realize how much.

And that’s not even considering the mental and emotional strife I’m dealing with. *Refresh email* *Refresh email* *Refresh email* *Partial request!* (Writer’s high) *Form Rejection* (Writer’s low) I think that’s why I find myself emotionally distancing myself from my novel right now. A rejection sends me into a flurry of, “What did I do wrong? What can I fix?” The emotional distance of finding the right business partner for the business document I have written is far less mentally taxing than waiting to see if a brilliant lit agent I admire will give my literary baby a nod of acceptance.

And it’s only week two. I’ve only dipped my toe in to the proverbial shark-infested waters. I’m not calling you literary agents sharks by any means. It’s just that to a writer seeking approval, it can feel like our egos are chum floating in the mixed waters of self-confidence and abject misery. *sigh*

Well, off to research more agents, try to find someone you think you can connect with through nothing but interviews and webpages, and write another sparkling query that will hopefully garner the right attention. This is far harder than actually writing the book, but I would like to say “Thank you!” to all the agents who have taken the time to read my letters. It can be just as hard for an agent to find that diamond in the slush pile, as it is for we writers to find the perfect partner for a literary career.

What kind of querying experience have you had? Do you use a rejection spike for rejection letters? What helps you to keep going, even after multiple rejections? And how many rejections before you say you’ve had enough and move onto another project?

Why a blog post is like a kid’s soccer game . . .

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I recently attended a cold, windy soccer game for Minion #3. With 5 kids, I’ve seen a lot of soccer, and I’ll be seeing a lot more! At this particularly unpleasant evening I had a, er shall we call it . . . an altercation with another parent.

I was pushing a double stroller back and forth behind the rows of parents, keeping one ear to the twins’s demands for “Bottle!” or “Nack!” or “Toy!” (They do speak in complete sentences, but not when they’re whiny, cold and miserable) and one eye on the game. As I passed the row of parents for the opposing team (keep in mind we are all from the same town, same schools, same everything!) I heard a father who is known as a complainer make a comment about the ref’s calls. I’d like to point out these kids are 6 and 7, just for clarity’s sake. His comment was mild, but wrong, and since I’m the wife of the regional soccer commissioner, I took it upon myself to issue a gentle reminder aimed at all the parents as I passed. “It’s just U8 soccer. Thy’re just kids having fun.”

I honestly meant it as a gentle reminder. There was no malice involved. And I wasn’t even singling him out. I didn’t say his name. My tone was not aggressive. And we’ve known each other for years. Apparently, this was unacceptable.

He marched after me demanding to speak and informed me he “didn’t appreciate me calling him out like that.” The discussion ensued, which included me pointing out that the refs are volunteers, they aren’t perfect, it’s U8 soccer, they’re just having fun, and he was wrong anyway because the ref called it right, he just didn’t know the rules, but it was wasted breath. He just wanted to argue, interrupted everything I said and brought up other issues that had no bearing on the discussion in the first place. But the biggest problem was, he was upset I dared to challenge his assessment of the game. And this is where a soccer game is like a blog post.

If you want to internally vilify a referee, call them every name in the book, complain about their calls, convince yourself they are being paid by the other team (I actually had a parent claim this about a volunteer ref at a recreational soccer game for 12 and 13 year-olds) then be my guest. If it’s in your brain you can think whatever you want. The minute you blog, Facebook post, Tweet or speak about your opinions (soccer or otherwise), you have allowed the world around you to respond. So don’t be pissed when someone disagrees with you!

I think it’s important when you respond to an opinion to be as respectful and calm as you can be, otherwise you’re just perpetuating an argument. In fact, if someone’s opinion has you so worked up you’re spitting teeth, it might just be better to hold your tongue. If their opinion is so far out there that you’re that upset, nothing you say can bring them back to the realm of reality. It can be hard, but sometimes it’s better. I could have let that incident go without making my comment, but I wasn’t angry, and I didn’t realize how angry this other person would get. But that was his issue, not mine, and I never apologized for my comment, because he was the one who took it wrong. Plenty of other parents smiled and waved and indicated they agreed with me.

Anyway, just keep that in mind when you post. If you don’t want people to respond, then keep it to yourself. That’s what a blog is for: to generate discussion and share ideas. It’s not about you being right, or getting the last word. And if that’s what you’re aiming for you might want to reconsider why you’re blogging. And the same goes for commenting. Opinions are like . . . well, you know, everyone has one, so don’t expect everyone’s to match yours.

Do you like receiving comments on your blog posts? What if they don’t agree with you? And do you comment on the blogs of others? Why or why not? What’s your biggest pet peeve when bloggers respond to your comments on their posts?

What should I write next?

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I’ve decided to try NaNo this year, and since I personally believe the best way to attempt NaNo is to be fully prepared, I’m going to work on book 2 for I Have No Name, which ironically, has no name right now. That novel is plotted, planned and thought through, er mostly. There’s a few sticky spots I’m not sure about, but they usually come to me as the words flow through my fingers. Regardless, it’s a far better bet on completion than flying by the seat of pants with one of my barely conceived ideas. Buuuut . . .

I’m also considering the fact that working on book 2 in a series is putting all my eggs in one basket. If I Have No Name isn’t picked up by an agent or a publisher, I need something else to work on. Something else that will hopefully be published. Obviously, a book 2 doesn’t fit that bill. I’ll finish NaNo, and then finish at least a first draft of book 2, but after that, I’d like to start something else.

So here are a few ideas I’ve been percolating. I’m going to be very brief, because I am a little nervous about sharing my ideas, but if you’d like to chime in on what sounds interesting to you, then please do! Oh, and they’re all YA ideas.

1) Jane Eyre meets Lunar Chronicles with assassins thrown in for good measure: A Jane Eyre-like character who’s trained to be an assassin in a fantasy/sci-fi world reminiscent of Lunar Chronicles.

2) X-Men meets Red Dawn meets scary alien ruler guy: I totally have an image for this guy, but I’ll be brief. Picture Voldemort with abs and better fashion sense. But he’s just the bad guy. I’m seeing teens with powers hiding out in an abandoned hotel to fight the alien invasion.

3) Story about an alien whose species doesn’t understand emotion, but crash lands on earth, takes human form and meets a girl.

4) Story about a dance hall girl during WWII who doesn’t believe in the war, but whose boyfriend volunteers. They break up, but the story continues, her at home, him in Europe(?) and then what happens when he returns.

5) Story about a boy in modern American who finds out he’s a fairy changeling and goes on a journey to find his birth mother and get answers. The usual: evil villain, fairy-world domination at stake, mothers possibly dying.

6) Last of the Mohicans re-told in a future/sci-fi environment where home is a space station orbiting earth, while earth is the unexplored frontier after pollution/nuclear meltdowns have changed everything. Hundreds of years into the future and traveling to earth is like exploring North America in the 1700’s.

Well, that’s it. Actually not. I have notebooks of ideas, but this is what I’m sharing. 🙂 Any thoughts? I know I’m being brief and coy, but what appeals to you? What doesn’t? What would you want to see in these stories that I maybe haven’t included? Thanks for your input!

Let down . . .

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I’m a little sad this morning. First, the Lions lost yesterday to the Buffalo Bills. It was a game they should have won, but hey, it’s early in the season. I still have hope of a good run. And I’m not one of those fans that gets down on their teams. I believe until the very bitter, bitter, end. But the Lions only gave me a little downer, it was the Tigers that clinched this mood.

They’re one of the best teams in baseball. Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Price: these are some of the tops guys in their respective positions. And that’s not even including guys like Tori Hunter, a veteran player who brings leadership and amazing skill to the game. We picked up J.D. Martinez, a guy the Astros didn’t want. The Astros! And he turned out to be money in the bank. That was a great acquisition. And there are a lot of other guys. Good players. Good team mates. Of course, we won’t talk about that bullpen. I just can’t. I can’t.

And in case you don’t follow baseball, we Tiger fans had high, and realistic, hopes of getting pretty far in the post season. Maybe even going all the way. The first half of the season was amazing, and boy did we fans Believe! After the All-Star Break, things went a little downhill. We had to play catch up just to win the division, but they did. American League Central Division Champs four years running. And then came the Orioles.

Sadly, the Orioles had our number this series. The Tigers gave me hope in the 9th with a hit by V. Martines and then J.D. Martinez getting the RBI, but that was it. A quick double play ended the season for us. I am sad.

But it’s not all bad. We have a great team and I look forward to what next year brings. I’ll always support my guys through thick and thin. And on an even brighter note, I got a request for a partial on Friday. My first!

I am totally freaking out!!!

I am totally freaking out!!!


That was supposed to be a gif. It didn’t work.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but at least it looks like my query is decent enough to attract attention. So that’s great. I’ll just keep plugging away at this query process, but the agent who requested? She’s one of my top picks. Feeling pretty good right now!

Except when I think about the Tigers . . . 😦

Agent Research: I forgot to tell you something!

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Okay, so I didn’t actually forget, I discovered something I’d like to share in addition to my original post Queries! Queries! Queries! Part 1: Researching Agents. Originally I talked about taking notes on the agents you research. Well, actually I’m not even sure if I said that. Yikes!

Anyway, you should research agents you are interested in and keep extensive notes on them. What are their submission guidelines? Be detailed! What books would they like to see cross their desk? What do they represent? Who do they represent? What genres are missing from their lists? (Don’t include genres they say they don’t want to represent.) Do they like personalized intros? Or getting right into the heart of the query? Do they want comparative titles or does this annoy them? Read their website, interviews, Publisher’s Marketplace page, QueryTracker, etc. Why?

Because this will help you craft the best query possible. Your intro can be based on the info they specify. You can eliminate pet peeves they have that other agents don’t. There are so many reasons to know everything you can about the agent you are querying, and you may have noticed my Submission Spreadsheet doesn’t have room for all of that info.

Here's an example of my spreadsheet. Sorry if it's too small to read!

Here’s an example of my spreadsheet. Sorry if it’s too small to read!

That’s because I kept paper notes and only included that which was important for query tracking in the spreadsheet. This is where what I forgot to mention comes in handy.

I lost my notes. Hey, I wrote them a year ago. And I lose things all the time. This is an organizational problem. Sure, I had to re-read everything I could find on the prospective agents anyway, just to verify that all information was still accurate, but I could have just been verifying, instead of re-writing all my notes. I had my spreadsheet, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So this time I created a word document and saved it in my Submissions Folder for my MS. No losing it now! Every tidbit I found on an agent is saved for posterity, or until I need it again!

And on re-researching if you’ve done your original research a year, or even months before: DO IT! I can not stress this enough. An agent may have changed agencies, changed their submission policies, or as I found about one of my top ten agents, no longer accepting submissions until they dig themselves out of the slush pile that has consumed their office. Always verify before you hit SEND!

***Author’s Note added 10/3/14 at 11:00am***

Annnnd I forgot something else. In re-reading both my posts on querying agents I realized not once did I mention finding the right agent for you! Big sales, famous names, and representing authors you like won’t matter if you and the agent don’t have the same ideas for your career. I’ve heard it recommended to attend conferences and find ways to meet agents in order to get the best idea if you would work well together, but this is not realistic for most of us. So our best bet is to troll the internet for every interview, guest post or website that mentions our prospective agent. Not only so we can craft the best query to achieve representation, but so we can determine if they are the sort of agent we want representing us in the first place. Good luck to all agent-hunters. I hope you all find the best agent for you and achieve publishing success!

What tips do all of you have for researching agents? What do you look for when trying to find the perfect agent? And if you have one, what do you like about him or her?

More of my posts on querying:

Queries! Queries! Queries! Researching Agents

Queries! Queries! Queries?? Hot to Write a Query Letter

Rejection Spike

Silver-Linings in Those Rejection Letters

How I Got My Agent (Or the art of never giving up)

Newbie Post #8: Writing Prompts Are One-Night Stands!

One-Night Stand

I think we can all agree that we writers have a world. Critique groups, writing circles, online forums, blogging, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter. We are inundated with ways for our traditionally hermit-like tendencies to branch out into social sharing, learning, critiquing and commiserating the woes of being a writer.

When I first started searching the online forums, reading blog posts and generally dipping my toe (then diving head first!) into the world of writers, I came across a lot of new information. For one, there a lot of acronyms. It took me awhile to catch on to all of these, and I might do a quick post in the future, but I did eventually get them. I still only use a few, because I’m a write-it-out kind of gal, but it’s helpful to know what other people are talking about.

And the process of writing and getting published was a huge mystery. I learned from doing and from listening to others talk about their process, until now I think I have a pretty good handle on it (says the woman without an agent or book deal.) What really has me confused are two things: Writing Prompts and NaNoWriMo.

Yes, I know what both things are, but I just don’t understand their purpose. They seem pointless to me. And for those of you who may be wondering what NaNoWriMo is, it’s National Novel Writing Month, held every year from Nov. 1 through the 30th. Pretty much everyone in the writing world has heard of this. If you haven’t, no biggie, but you might want to get out more. 🙂

So why don’t you see the point?, you say, your hackles rising in irritation at my audacity. I love writing prompts and NaNo is my favorite time of year! I will tell you why, but let’s start with writing prompts.

I have notebooks full of ideas. I have ideas from my ideas. I have kernels of thought buried in my brain so small and inconsequential I haven’t written them down. What do I need writing prompts for? The exercise, you say. The act of taking an inspiration and turning it into a short story. Many a novel has been derived from a short story derived from a writing prompt. I’ll give you that. But if you have ideas that are inspiring you, why do you need more? And if you’re writing everyday like a good novelist should, why do you need the exercise?

This may sound like I’m being detrimental and mean, but really I’m not. I get they work for other people, but they are pointless for me. And there’s a tiny, persistent voice inside me that says they should be useless for you too. It’s small, easily shouted down, because what works for one writer doesn’t always work for the next. I allow that, but I feel if you are taking the time to write shorts based on writing prompts for the fun or the exercise, or you are doing writing exercises of another nature, you are wasting time you could be working on that novel. Writing itself is an exercise and if you are writing everyday with an end goal in mind (completed novel) then you don’t need the exercise of prompts. You’re already doing the work of improving by simply writing. And then there’s the editing phase. You learn more in that than you do the whole time your plowing away to reach The End, because now you’re networking out to others. Your betas will tell you what’s wrong and hopefully give you pointers on how to fix it. You yourself will read and see that first drafts are crap. Beautiful, shiny, wonderful crap, but crap nonetheless.

So this is where I’ll leave writing prompts. If they work for you, okay. But ask yourself if all the time you spend coming up with short stories you’ll never use would be better spent actually writing the novel you’ve been dreaming about for years. If the answer is no, then by all means, prompt-away. But if the answer is I don’t know, or maybe, or yes, then drop the prompts and get with that guy, er, novel that will stick with you through the test of time. Make a commitment. Don’t be scared! What’s the worst that could happen? You write 30k words then lose interest? Maybe, but that sounds a lot better to me than 30k split over ten stories that just sit on your blog or hard drive and never go anywhere. Rome wasn’t built in a day, my friends, and your writing career won’t be either. So treat it like a long term commitment, not a one-night stand. Quit being a writing whore!

And on to NaNoWriMo . . .

By now your blood is boiling at my insulting attitude, but hopefully you’ve stuck with me. I’ll be a little gentler on NaNo, though based on his popularity, I think he can take it. So, once again for anyone who doesn’t know, NaNoWriMo’s purpose is to write 50k words in one month. And I have actually heard of writers who have turned their NaNo-baby into a polished, published novel. I think Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was a NaNo-baby. Hmm, I like that term, NaNo-baby. I think I’ll keep it. And like your NaNo project, you may want to keep it too. At least here I can see the purpose. NaNo teaches you discipline, gives you goals, shows you how to track progress and takes those constant-editors and turns them into word-churning machines.

But I’ve never actually worked that way. I have carved out blocks of time in my life for writing. Very little interrupts that. I get done what I can get done and that’s enough. Unfortunately, I am a constant editor, and this is an area where I could use some improvement, but the discipline required to complete 50k in a month has never seemed like an asset to me. I’m in it for the long haul, the career, the commitment. There’s no short cuts to success and serious writers don’t need gimmicks to get them to complete a novel. In case you didn’t hear the sarcasm in that last sentence, it was there. I fancied myself above such silly games. I didn’t need to be tricked into writing a novel, I’ve completed two, by golly!

But you know what, I’m beginning to rethink that. No, I don’t need NaNo to complete a novel. I really have written two full-length novels. I know I can do it, and I have no doubts about my abilities to complete decent fiction. I’m no Hemmingway, and neither do I aspire to be, but I’m pretty sure my YA is better written than half the crap produced these days. Of course the other half makes mine look like cow dung, but still, middle of the packs not bad. So what can NaNo do for me? Well, like I said, I’m a constant editor. If I really look at the amount of time I’m writing, (this includes networking, blogging, etc., not just writing) I have a part time job of 18-20 hours a week. Some weeks more if I can squeeze it in. But I could write faster. I could force myself not to go back and correct every mistake, or re-write something because it “sounds” bad. That’s what the editing stage is for.

Like I said, I don’t need NaNo, and I’ve never participated, not only because it seemed pointless, but because I was already in the throws of writing (or in the throws of life!) when NaNo came around. Right now, though, I’m querying agents. So really, how much time per day does that take up? I’ve been networking and blogging (a very little) and generally spreading myself thin over Facebook, Twitter, Absolute Write and Pinterest. All of which has value, but I’m ready to start writing again. So why not? I have the second book to I HAVE NO NAME pretty much plotted in my head. It’s ready to go. I just have to pull the trigger, er, hit the keyboard. Why not turn it into a NaNo-baby? I’ve heard NaNo-babies have a face only a mother could love, but that’s okay. I’ll polish that precious bundle until she’s a shiny, sparkly manuscript.

And I have no illusions about winning NaNo. (You get to call yourself a winner if you complete the 50k, no matter how terrible they are!) Chances are good that life will prevent me from achieving that illustrious number, but it will kick start my writing. And for me, it’s more about teaching myself to push through and write than anything. Even if my NaNo-baby is a preemie at only 20 or 30k, I’ll have something to work with. So okay, I’ll give it a shot!

Newbie Post #9: Your Novel Is Not Ready To Be Seen By Anyone!

Newbie Post #1: My Humble Beginnings . . .
Newbie Post #2: Dreams Awakening . . .
Newbie Post #3: Yeah, About That Hobby Thing . . .
Newbie Post #4: Sally Green’s Acknowledgments and Why They Mean Something to Me . . .
Newbie Post #5: Let it go! Let it go! Turn away and slam the door!
Newbie Post #6: Sometimes you Win; Sometimes you LEARN!
Newbie Post #7: Beta Readers and Why They Rock! . . . Most of the Time . . .