Category Archives: writing

Anxiety and Art

The past 6 weeks I have been looking for a new job. My current position ended unexpectedly, but my employers did give me plenty of time to search for a new position. However, finding time to write with the mental turmoil of job-loss and job-searching has been difficult.

There is a huge trend/stigma/insert-favorite-term-here that the suffering artist produces the best work. For me, the “suffering” writer is a basket case who can’t focus on reading a PB, never mind writing a novel. For me, my anxiety made it much harder to connect with my stories and characters. Even the characters in my depressed, emotional YA novel I avoided. Writing sad made me sad, and writing happy was impossible since I couldn’t find it myself.

My writing hiatus made me recognize that my anxiety was out of control, and I did find help. I’m not afraid or ashamed to say I have a therapist and I went back on my anti-anxiety medication. Many of my friends who are literary/visual/musical artists also struggle with mental illness and have found relief in reaching out. Asking for help doesn’t mean I was suicidal or crazy or so depressed I couldn’t move. For me, my meds help me deal with day-to-day anxiety and make working and enjoying my life easier. It’s like wearing glasses. Sure, I could wander around squinting, never drive, and be unable to read things farther than 2 feet away, but why would I do that if there’s a better solution?

This blog is turning into a plug for mental health awareness and I’m totally okay with that. As artists, we all function on different levels of anxiety and stress. Some stress is important. It keeps us working to make deadlines and push ourselves to be better writers/musicians/visual artists. However, if stress and anxiety is prohibiting you from making good art, something is wrong. For me, I do not know if I will be on my meds for the long-term (side effects are real and annoying and affect day-to-day life) but for this transition it has helped. I’m sleeping and eating again, and I’m writing. I’m still stressed because looking for work isn’t fun no matter who you are, but even if I’m editing a couple chapters a day it’s more than avoiding it all together.

Taking a break is valid and healthy for those of us who have been working a lot and need to not think for a while. Listen to yourself. It’s okay to ask for help from friends, family, doctors, and professionals. Artists don’t need to struggle to make beautiful, meaningful, important art. We can be happy. We should be happy.

Leave a comment

Filed under anxiety, artist, struggling, writing

Sticker Advertisements Work!

It doesn’t take much to peek someone’s curiosity. While spending money on advertising is important, for those of us on a slim budget it can become difficult to advertise and market when the payoff is not as big as we’d like. However, I found a good conversation starter: stickers!

Yes, stickers. And buttons, or anything you can slap on a purse/bag/coat that people will see. Mine says “Ask Me About My Novel”, and you know what? People do ask! Whether I’m waiting in line at the grocery store, going for a walk, or hanging around a coffee shop, it’s not unlikely someone will bring it up and ask me about my novel! Below is my sticker, I ordered a few on Vista Print and found the quality to be very good. A little ratty from being on a purse, but it’s not going anywhere!20170413_124700

You never know when you’ll find someone interested in talking about writing or someone who wants to buy a copy. Today, an amazing thing happened. I was in a play place with the kid I nanny and a mom asked me about my writing. Turns out, she and her business partner are opening a children’s book store in Evanston! They both have young children so their picture book collection is great, but they want to expand to a wider range of ages and genres. I write MG fantasy, so she was very excited to talk about her business and how she wants to get local authors to come to her store. I gave her a book and a business card (ALWAYS carry business cards and books when possible) and she said she’d read it and get back to me. I see her at this play place frequently, so I know I’ll run into her again at some point.

It just goes to show you never know what could happen. Little advertisements start a conversation, and even if you don’t sell a book that second, you never know. There are readers out there looking for books like yours! Let them know your book is out there.

Leave a comment

Filed under advertising, ideas, marketing, writing

Too Many Ideas

I have a stupid problem: I have too many ideas for books.

Before you cuss me out or throw things, think about it this way: I have ideas, but that doesn’t mean I have a book. Sometimes I start writing all excited, then I get to page 11 and I’m like “well, that was fun, what happens next??? Oh right, I don’t know.”

I’m having a hard time focusing on one project. I have my trilogy, but I’m also inspired to work on another MS. However, I also really want to get published so I should edit that first book in the trilogy. Oh, but what about this cool idea. I should write that first. (And so on.) It’s strangely frustrating. It’s nice having options since I can’t write without being inspired, however I want to work on editing my trilogy versus starting another book.

Again, it’s a stupid problem.

Part of the issue I think is that I’ve spent so much time editing the first book in the trilogy I’m getting sick of it. I’ve queried but I’m taking a break to get some feedback on the opening and work on the synopsis. I think it’s improved, but i don’t want to burn out all of the agents I want to query before it’s where it should be. I have the query, it’s solid, but I don’t want to keep sending it out if the material still needs a little extra something.

I want to be motivated to edit this trilogy since I have a history of abandoning projects. I’m so far down the road I know I won’t abandon it, however it’s been a while since I’ve looked at it. Every time I try to edit I keep skimming and getting nothing done. I’m waiting to hear from one more person on the book, hopefully then I’ll have enough feedback to put in the final touches and start sending it out again.

1 Comment

Filed under agent search, Editing, ideas, Uncategorized, writing

Contract Offer…Yay?

Today I received my very first contract from a publisher! Woo Hoo!!!

Stop. Read. Think. Re-read. Research.

I am new to contracts, so even though I may not be clear on every detail of the contract, I know to take a step back, understand what I can, and research the rest. The contract came from Black Rose Writing (BRW), and unfortunately their reputation does not make me optimistic. Most of the articles I found online are at least 5-8 years old, so the publisher has changed since then. However, it’s unsettling to read the unsavory reviews of a publisher who sent a contract.

They are not asking for money upfront, insisting I buy X number of books (as they once did), but I’m still hesitant. I’ve reached out to an author published through them to get an author’s experience of the publisher today. I’ve also reached out to SCBWI, my friend who writes and reviews contracts, and other authors in my critique groups for advice. It’s tempting to say “I did it” and sign away, although if BRW is a vanity publisher it’s about as exciting as getting a participation trophy at a sports event.

ABOVE WRITTEN FEB 14

Today I have heard back from several trusted people about BRW. Most people I have talked to are also skeptical and want to know more. This uneasy response has confirmed that I will not be choosing BRW as my  publisher.

The joy of getting a contract has worn off and disappointment has settled in, but I am glad for it. It’s important to do the research and tap into resources. I talked to a librarian today and she knew of another indie publisher in IL that is small but produces quality work. I will check them out. As a new author, using a small publishing house is a great way to get published and start the process of getting known. BRW, however, boarders the line of vanity press and requires the author to do most of the marketing. At least that is the vibe I get from the contract and website.

For those of you new to publishing who are afraid of getting targeted by vanity publishers, here are some things to look out for:

  1. A reputable publisher WILL NOT ask you to pay money upfront. If someone offers you a contract and requires you to pay a fee, buy a certain number of books, or pay for marketing services: run.
  2. Weird typos. Publishers like words and order and professionalism. Having a stupid typo in a contract is a scary sign. BRW had two: 31 of February, and Witnesseth.
  3. If you contact the press and they can’t say anything specific about why they chose you, it probably means they didn’t read the MS. You want someone who loves your work, not your wallet.
  4. Vanity and Subsidy press is the same thing. Both will prey on authors and try to get money from them. A publisher is supposed to support YOU, not the other way around.
  5. More info about staying safe and informed below.

RESOURCES

  1. http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/vanity/
  2. http://theworldsgreatestbook.com/self-publishing-vanity-publishing/

If you have experience with author contracts, what to look for, and how to stay informed, please comment below. I too have a lot to learn, and sharing helpful information unites us as a writing community.

 

1 Comment

Filed under agent search, contract, query, questions, Set Backs, subsidy press, vanity press, writing

Death to Synopses

Ok, everyone knows writing query letters take time, energy, tears, editing, and more tears. However, a synopsis is perhaps the worst thing I’ve ever had to write.

The query has its own cute little synopsis built right in to get your attention and catch your interest. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a long synopsis that lists every major event, main characters, and all the plot twists. As an agent, I’d love to have that to know what’s coming without reading 10 books a day. As a writer I want to strangle my computer.

The problem with synopsis is not giving away all the juicy secrets, it’s the total lack of formula. Finding an example query is not too hard. Most agency websites have them, most Google searches can help you out, but a synopsis can be anywhere from 1 page to 50 pages depending on what the agent wants. It’s even more infuriating when the agent doesn’t say how long the synopsis should be! Rant rant rant rant rant etc.

Thank you for listening to my frustrated brain. I’ve tried looking around for help from my SCBWI stranger/friends, but I’ve come up dry. They’ve been instrumental in helping craft my query and MS, but they too seem to have different ideas of what a synopsis is. Some people thought I meant query letter with the baby synopsis. Nope. Some people thought the synopsis was an old practice. *sigh* Nope. One person read my synopsis and gave me their opinion on what they think I should be focusing on. Umm….nope, but thanks for the second guessing?

It’s very frustrating and concerning. My query has gotten a couple agents interested and I want my synopsis to do the same. There are people I want to send my MS to who also want a synopsis, but I’m afraid of sending the “wrong” synopsis and then have them brush me off as someone who didn’t read the directions. I like directions. I will follow them to the end of time. I promise, agent-who-may-read-this-some-day, I don’t want to flood your inbox with spam!

Anyway, my current synopsis is 500 words (ish) with all the juicy secrets, about 4 characters worth mentioning, and maybe some kind of flow (but not likely.) I’d like to find a way to improve my brain fart of a book summary. Please, does anyone have a great source of where to find good example fiction queries?

I appreciate you taking the time to read this. I like to be helpful when I can in my blog, but right now I’m at a complete loss.

Leave a comment

Filed under agent search, book synopsis, query, writing

New Book!

So remember my last post about getting the “itch” to write again? Well….I may have finished another book already!

It’s short, only about 25,500 words, but I think it’s for 5th-6th graders so the length may be just right. I’m sure there’s more to add to it for detail and so I’ll be looking for a critique partner after the holiday. It has a whole plot line and everything! It started with a small idea, and then I just kept wanting to work on it. The monster was creepy, the heroine geeky, and, naturally, the dragon was awesome! It was so much fun to put together and I’m excited to see where it goes.

I’m really excited about this new book and the break it gave me from my series. While I still love my series and the main character, looking at it over and over with little positive feedback from agents was getting me discouraged. Taking a break and actually writing helped clear my head. I can come back to the series a little fresher and maybe see some things to improve or at least get up the courage to start writing again.

Another inspiration I found was from an SCBWI article the other day about the author Kate DiCamillo. She wrote Because of Winn Dixie and Tale of Despereaux among others. Her first book about the dog Winn Dixie won a Newbery Honor Award, but she collected 470 rejection letters before it published! If that doesn’t get a writer inspired to keep going I don’t know what will.

Leave a comment

Filed under inspiration, query, Rejection, Self-Publishing, writing

Inspiration

Since the last post I’ve received about 5 more rejection letters. One person asked for the first 20 pages, but she read a bit and said it didn’t have the “spark” she was looking for. One person had a lovely rejection letter that at the end said:

Also remember that sometimes, writers endure long terms of rejection before they find the winning combination for themselves. They refused to give up, as I hope you will continue to do.”

That was nice. It was a cookie-cutter rejection letter, but this agent understands the struggle and was sincere about it. Many people do give up and I can see why. It’s hard getting rejections on a project I’ve worked so hard on with a character I love. My skin isn’t as thick as I want it to be. The rejections are getting a little easier, but it’s also hard to think someone will ask for a partial and then really like it. That’s the dream, but it’s hard to imagine when my MS isn’t sparkly enough for the agents who’ve seen it.

I’ve spent several weeks meekly picking at my MSs. I have the first 2 books written in my series–I’m trying to publish the first one–and I have no idea what to do with the third book. I’m not the kind of writer who can force myself to write. I need inspiration, something to fix, or some kind of itch to add and see what happens. That itch hasn’t existed since I started querying. I’ve been editing which is good. It gives me something tangible to improve without needing to think of a new idea out of nothing. I like editing. It’s easier to work on something that’s already there and improve it than think of the whole book in the first place sometimes.

Last night, however, I got the itch. An idea crept from somewhere in my brain and I had an idea. It’s a new book, not part of the trilogy, but still related to dragons (of course). Lucky for me, the baby I nanny for napped plenty today so I wrote over 3,000 words! It’s the most I’ve written in one day in a long long time. I’m still figuring out the details of the book, but it’s nice to get into a new character and some new plot twists. It’s like buying a new dress after you’ve worn your others a few times.

I’m excited to get started on this new book, but I do worry about straying too far from my series. In the past I’ve dropped projects and then taken years getting back to them, if I get back at all. I’m hoping this new book is like a cleanse to get the writing flowing. I can keep querying agents but also avoid staring at my finished MS and driving myself crazy! I’m hoping a new idea will get me excited about writing again. So far today it’s been just what I needed.

Leave a comment

Filed under fantasy writing, inspiration, writing

No.

My list of 75 agents is growing smaller and smaller. I didn’t realize how many agencies have a policy where “A no from one of us is a no from all of us.” I have to trust they actually shared my query with their co-workers, otherwise I may have missed a chance. Two agencies have said no, and I was hoping to query about 8 people I now can’t because of this policy.

My heart is racing. I turned on some fun music to pump myself up today, and I finished 4 queries. My query letter is good and my MS has been edited about 4 times so I hope it’s ok. I don’t want to exhaust my options. Again. I know it’s all part of the process, but it’s still disheartening.

Two weeks ago when I had a MS request was the most excited I’ve been in a long time. The no from that was hard, but not as hard as it could have been since I prepared for it. Yet, with each query sent I feel rejection is inevitable. It’s hard to get out of this funk. Self-publishing is not an option for this book so I have to hope an agent likes it.

If I go through all my agents, then what? This question has been plaguing me since the first rejection. I’ve been through this before, but my skin is not as tough as I thought it was. Do I start a new project? Do I push harder for this one? Do I, I dunno, troll Facebook for answers? I want to be optimistic but having a back up plan would help me a lot. Anyone have some good advice? Anyone been through this funk before? Wisdom welcome!!!

Leave a comment

Filed under agent search, query, questions, writing

Got my Hopes Up

Last week I got a manuscript request from an agent. After collection 15 rejection letters I was over the moon excited, but I knew it wasn’t an offer. I sent along The King’s School and all week I’ve been resisting checking my email every 5 minutes.

Today I heard back from him………….

It was a no. 😦

My heart sank and I’m upset, but not crying-and-throwing-my-computer-through-a-window upset. I sent him a thank you email and asked if there’s anything he could suggest to improve my writing. I don’t know if he’ll get back to me, but I gave it a shot. He said my MS has “a lot to appreciate here” but he’s not convinced he can advocate for me. I at least got a personalized rejection which is more comforting than an elaborate, cookie cutter “NO” from someone.

Oh well. There was a glimmer of hope though! My query worked with someone and my MS caught someone’s eye. Now I need to find someone to fall in love with it. I will keep going, even if I have to exhaust all 75 people on my agent list.

1 Comment

Filed under query, Set Backs, writing

Querying Literary Agents

It’s time. I feel confident in my MS “The King’s School” and I think it’s time to start working on querying. Today I made a list of 56 agents and agencies to consider. I found the agents at the website http://www.agentquery.com which is a legit and important website. I also found agents in the 2016 Writer’s Market book which is a good resource for writers to find agents and get tips on publishing, blogging, and more.

This is the third book I’m querying and I hope this one has the charm! Searching for agents is easy, but making sure you query the right agent is important. I like agentquery.com since you can narrow down the list of agents based on the target audience and genre. For example, when I search I click “Middle Grade” and “Fantasy” to get a narrowed list of agents. However, it’s important to read what the agent is looking for in case agentquery.com missed something. It’s also important to check in at least 2 places that the agent is: still working for the same company, is a real agent, is not trying to scam you, and is still accepting submissions. Sometimes an agent wants what you wrote, but they don’t accept unsolicited MSs (i.e. they need someone in the business to tell them it’s worth reading.) Places to double check agents is: agentquery.com, the agency website, and Writer’s Market. If an agent asks for money to read your MS it’s a scam. NEVER give someone money to consider your work.

Even though I’ve done this before it’s daunting how many people there are to consider. My list is narrowed down from HUNDREDS of agents, and narrowing down is important. You can’t query an agent who isn’t looking for your genre because they won’t even read it. Make sure you know each person you query, follow the guidelines for submitting, and add a couple sentences at the start of your query specific to the person you query. Agents like people who do their homework, it shows you care about the business and have a case to show they need to read your MS.

Take time searching for agents. It’s not something you want to rush, and be persistent. The business of writing comes with many rejections. If an agent takes the time to write you back, read their comments seriously. It’s amazing what you can learn from a rejection letter. You may find it’s not the writing, but the agent thinks it will be hard to sell your book since the topic is not “in” currently. You may find the query letter gave you a bad impression, or something else. Not every agent responds to queries, so when they do listen. They want to find the next great book, they aren’t here to hurt your feelings.

Need help getting started? Make a chart! Have the categories: AGENCY, AGENT, COMMENTS, DATE QUERIED, DATE REJECTED, DATE ACCEPTED to keep track of who you queried.

Leave a comment

Filed under agent search, writing