Well, this is embarrassing.

So, it appears, ahem, I haven’t posted a new update on this page in more than a year. Well, I’ve been busy! Well, sort of. In a way. After a fashion.

I haven’t, sadly, been busy writing. I was working on it, and it was very tedious – much more so than the first draft I wrote. And around Memorial Day, I just got stuck, and … well, I ALLOWED myself to get stuck. And I didn’t get un-stuck until Labor Day. Since then I’ve written a chapter and a half, which is no great shakes, but it’s something. I’m finally moving again.

Since I last posted, I also got more active with the Columbus Sisters in Crime chapter. It was Sisters in Crime, Columbus, Ohio (yes, that’s SiCCO for short), but we’ve since rebranded into Buckeye Crime Writers. That website is my handiwork; I took the time to learn how to use WordPress properly functionally, and got that going. I’ve even taken over the Facebook and Twitter feeds. It still has some bugs to be worked out, but I’m getting there.

Anyway, that’s where things are for now. Thought I would, er, attempt to catch things up!

Time to get going again

So, my plan when I created this blog was to keep it updated pretty regularly as I got going through the writing process. And then, I got stalled. I got close on a couple of queries, but ultimately got turned down, and came to the conclusion that I need to make some more revisions. And then I wasn’t quite sure where to start, and then I got laid off, and real life became suddenly more important. I have since spent months looking for work, then found a new job, and a new career, and have spent several months getting settled into that. Add in raising a toddler, and, well… the excuses came easily, I guess. But, I’m getting the itch more and more lately. My dilemma now is which of three choices to make.
First is to make minimal revisions and start querying again. That’s the easy way, in some ways, though I haven’t even read what I wrote for nearly a year now, so maybe not.
Door number two involves going back and doing a rewrite. And frankly that might be the best option, because I’ve thought of some improvements I can make. (Though I haven’t necessarily written those ideas down, so that’s a problem.)
And the third option is to scrap it and start something entirely new. I’m not sure how I feel about that, to be honest. I mean, a new project would be fun, of course, but I think I would feel like the last one either wasn’t finished, or just wasn’t very good. And maybe it wasn’t very good; it was a first effort, after all, so that’s not really something to be ashamed of. And yet, I think it would still bother me.
It’s probably going to come back to that rewrite. Now, to remember what those improvements I had in mind were. It’s annoying, because one of them really felt like a eureka moment, too… well, I guess if it was that good, it’ll come back to me. I hope!

Update

Well, there’s not really an update; I just realized I haven’t updated anything in a few months! So, for now, I’ve stopped sending queries. I’m making some minor revisions and will start again soon, but my day job (or unexpected lack thereof) is taking precedence at the moment. Hope to have more to say soon!

On to the next?

So, I’m still querying agents on my book. One has a few chapters of it now, so crossing fingers there; she seems pretty cool. In the meantime, though, I’ve been pondering what to take on next. I still might try one of these short stories, but the turnarounds on them can be pretty quick. I was all set to submit for one of them, had the story all ready (in my head, at least), and then saw that the deadline had already passed. Typical, eh? So, I’m about ready to just sit down and start writing again, a new book. I don’t quite know yet what it’ll be about, but that’s how I did the first one, too. And after reading Stephen King’s “On Writing,” it appears that’s a method he uses quite frequently, which makes me feel a whole let better about it. 🙂

While I’m waiting…

So this part of being a writer is challenging. Tom Petty had it right; the waiting IS the hardest part. I’ve sent various materials to various agents and I’ve resisted the urge to endlessly tweak the book for fear that I’ll tweak something good right out of it. I haven’t fully started another one yet, though I have some ideas.

In the meantime, though, I’m toying with submitting some short stories. I’m learning that there are various publications that take short story submissions, sometimes themed, and pay a few bucks for the right to publish it. Once I started looking for those, I was almost overwhelmed at how many options there were! Anyway, if I do that (and if any get accepted), I’ll keep you posted.

Still plugging away

Well, hello there! I realize I haven’t been keeping this up lately, and that’s largely because I haven’t been keeping ANYTHING up lately; work has been particularly busy these last couple of months. So, here’s the quick update.
I’m still looking for an agent for my book. There for a while I was busily seeking agents, with 10-20 active queries out there. One of them did ask for the full manuscript, and I got so excited that I sort of stopped sending new ones out. It turns out that was a mistake, because the agent ultimately passed. In the meantime, my active list dwindled down below five as other agents either passed or just didn’t respond by their self-imposed deadlines.
I do begin to see why some writers see this part of the process as rather soul-crushing. I get it; I’ve had my own self-doubts about whether what I wrote is good enough. To be honest, it’s probably the first time since a particularly rough English class in high school that I’ve written something and not gotten pretty good reviews. Oh, there have been articles I’ve done in the past that people didn’t like who let me know about it, but rarely did anyone suggest it wasn’t well-written; they just didn’t like the content for one reason or another.
Anyway, I’ve started sending queries again, when I have time – which is to say, I’ve sent two in the past week and identified a few more agents to contact. Also, thanks to a friend in NYC, I have a couple of other folks to contact who might be able to offer some additional insight, so we’ll see what happens there.
So there’s my update.
Sincerely, A Frustrated Writer

So, I’m a bit confused.

When I sat down to write a novel, my goal was to write something unique. My goal was to write it my way, and to tell a story I hadn’t already heard somewhere else.

Yet, it seems many agents are quite set on comparing you to other authors. Some want mashups (“This is Stephen King meets JK Rowling! Only be more obscure than that so we know you’re paying attention”). Others seem to want re-tellings; familiar stories told in new ways. (One had an example of a Cinderella story retold as a cyberpunk story. Yeah, really.)

In some ways, I guess I don’t get it. That doesn’t feel original to me. Now, I freely admit that I decided to take the plunge in part because of a King novel I was reading at the time. And I’ve told people that’s sort of my comparable (in format/genre, anyway, not that I’m comparing myself to one of the most successful authors of all time!). But it just feels a bit strange. I didn’t set out to be Stephen King. I can’t be him, or any other writer out there. I can only be me. People will either like my writing, or hate it. I can live with that.

The other thing that gets me is that agents seem to want to know that you’ve read obscure authors in your genre. I first started finding that, and panicked. I don’t have a lot of free time to read these days. I haven’t read a horror novel by anyone not named King or Koontz in probably 10 years. Why should that disqualify me? That doesn’t mean I can’t write.

Anyway. I guess that’s my rant for today. 🙂

So much to learn

It’s been eight months since I decided to sit down and write a novel. It doesn’t feel that long.

It’s been, say, seven months since I decided that it might actually work. I initially didn’t tell more than a few people I was even doing it because I was afraid it would peter out and end up incomplete.

And it’s been six months since I declared that particular dragon slain; it was done, I told people. Done!

Of course, it wasn’t. There’s revising. There’s editing. There’s revising and editing again. There’s tweaking.

And there’s a whole industry to figure out. I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the first real turn-offs for me was seeing how many agents tell you right on their websites that they don’t respond to the majority of people who send them queries for representation. They don’t send form letters or thanks-but-no-thanks or anything else; they just tell you that if you haven’t heard from them in some predetermined amount of time, anywhere from two weeks to four months, then just assume they’re not interested. They don’t want you to re-query or nudge them or anything; if they don’t like your work, they just don’t tell you and pretend you don’t exist, and don’t particularly want a reminder.

None of them put it quite so rudely as I just did, of course; they’re more professional than that. But from a writer’s point of view, that’s how I heard it.

They’re not all that way, of course. Some of them are apologetic about not being able to respond to everyone, at least; and it seems many of them do at least send out form letters. (I’m not speaking from personal experience, here; most of the agents I’ve queried are still reviewing what I sent them.) From an objective viewpoint, though, I do get it. These people get hundreds of queries a month. And I’m sure some of them are downright terrible and don’t warrant a response (though it would still be polite). And I get that if they sat down and wrote a response to each person, they’d probably never get through all of the submissions in the first place. Still, that sort of passive rejection doesn’t feel right, somehow. And that’s why I’ve sent my earliest queries to agents who do appear to respond to a high percentage of contacts, even if it’s to say no.

I’ve also been intrigued by those agents who take the time to blog about how the industry works. It’s invaluable. I was reading one the other day that posted a whole list of questions authors should be asking when an agent offers to represent them. I never would have thought of half of them on my own. Sure, perhaps web research at that juncture would have revealed them to me, but as it stands now, I could get a call tomorrow with an offer of representation, or at least a request for a full manuscript that leads to an offer within a week, and I’d be scrambling to prepare. (I still would, actually, but at least I have that blog as a starting point!)

Only now am I starting to appreciate how vast and complex this industry is. It’s a little intimidating, sure, but I’m also excited about it.

The waiting is the hardest part…

So, I’m still waiting on that second agent. And the truth is, I don’t know if I want a yes or no.

That feedback the other agency gave me was good, and I’ve started incorporating it. So now I have two versions of the book sitting here – one I’ve sent out, and one that’s a little better. Not only did the feedback inspire a change at the beginning of the book, but also gave me a great idea for the end of the book, too.

And the stuff I did at the end (which I’ll do regardless, since the agent I’m waiting for hasn’t seen the end) sets up the book for a possible sequel. 🙂 Which is something that should probably go in the query letter.

To be honest, I’ve been a little too busy with work and daddyhood to think much about waiting for this agent. It’s been more than a week; his website said if I don’t hear from him in two weeks, I won’t. (I know there’s a valid reason for that, but when they all say it, it seems more intimidating, somehow.) So in a few more days, it won’t matter what I do to the book. 🙂 That said, though, it also means I haven’t sent this new version out, in part because I haven’t finished it yet. Basically, what I’m doing is taking a scene that’s in Chapter 1 out of it. Well, two scenes, really. One of them, while interesting, really isn’t necessary for the story. And the other one is, but it doesn’t have to be in Chapter 1. So I’m looking for the best place to move that, and to filter in the few tidbits from the other unnecessary scene that do have to be shared somewhere, but can be done in other ways.

I guess it’s fine-tuning. I’m not sure I’d have believed how many minor tweaks could go into a 93,000-word story if you told me that before I started.