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.

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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.

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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!!!

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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.

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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.

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Writing all the Things–Except in this Blog

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written here. My recent ideas have been circulating my novels and the blog got lost. Well, I’m back, and hopefully will take a shorter vacation from here in the future.

I’ve been writing a ton in my novels! I just finished the second book in the trilogy I’m working on. It’s going very well I think. Both MSs need plenty of editing of course, but it’s nice to be in a groove. With the second book done my plan is to go back to the first book, make sure everything flows together, and then start adding more details to the scenery to both books. I love writing dialog, but my time period and place struggles in my early MSs. The trilogy takes place in an iron-age type setting. Knights, horses, mule carts, swords, and dragons. However, the writing is pretty contemporary so I need to be sure the setting is clear enough to understand.

I’m hoping to start querying agents in the next couple months. As much as I want to start now, I know I need to focus on revisions. Editing is fun, sometimes, and hopefully the more I read over and edit the clearer I’ll make the characters and setting and maybe get ideas for the third book. My biggest fear is the third book falling short and becoming a repetition of what’s happened. There are several series where the third book is essentially the same as the first book but with a couple new characters. I want some of the same themes to be consistent, but I don’t want the same conflicts coming back again and again. Flow and pacing is key. All I need are a few more new ideas, some returning characters, dramatic events, and I’ll be fine. Easy. (Yeah…right…)

What is everyone else working on? Any tips for writing series books?

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Morning Jolt

The past few weeks I’ve really hit my writing stride! I don’t know if it’s the spring weather or if my inspiration from the Fox Cities Book Festival has kicked in or both!

I like to write in the morning. I’ve been trying to write after breakfast and then edit after lunch. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, but I at least get something done every day. I’m working on the second book in my trilogy and ideas keep coming! I’m enjoying this book so much that writing gives me energy to last for a good part of the day. It’s so satisfying to get my morning jolt from a good writing session. There are days when I have to drag myself to the computer, but this week has been awesome.

May spring bring you good fortune in your writing as well! When do other people like to write? Does anyone else have those awesome days where you’re excited and happy after a good day with your book? I’d love to hear your stories.

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Fox Cities Book Festival!

Today was the first day of the FCBF. There are so many great authors attending, including Leonard Pitts Jr., Michael Perry, and Jacqueline Mitchard to name a few. I want to attend at least one event a day while also spending my week in WI with my family and friends from college.

I saw Leonard Pitts today and, although for me it wasn’t an eye-opening speech, it was a good talk. Most of what he talked about I have heard or experienced before, but it was fun to hear of another author whose characters wrote the story for him. My characters always have surprises in store for me. They get in fights, form relationships/bonds with someone unexpected, die, etc. A true writer lets the characters run the show. (They know without them we as writers are helpless!)

I am gearing up for my presentation on Friday afternoon (3pm at the Kaukauna Public Library.) I don’t know every author on the list for the week but I know I’m on the young scale, if not the youngest author. It’s pretty intimidating being among authors who have made names for themselves, but it’s also a huge honor. I was asked to present because the Kaukauna librarians loved my event I did with their students a year ago. You never know what kinds of connections you’re going to make.

Hope to see some of you around this week!

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Rubbed the Wrong Way

I recently finished the first draft of a new MG novel and I was eager to get some help with it. I know it’s a first draft and it probably needed more time with me before I sent it out, but I wanted to see if anyone was interested in doing a MS swap anyway. I found someone at SCBWI who was interested. I explained it needed help/was a first draft in my email when I sent it along.

I got an email from this person with critiques. They were honest and helpful about specifics I should be aware of for MG writing, but at the end of the list this person admit that they didn’t finish my MS because I needed to get the basics right first. I went through the attachment they sent and it looks like they only read 16 pages of the MS.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this feels rude. I am reading this person’s full MS, regardless of what condition it is in, because that is what we agreed to do. There was a full disclaimer that my novel was in the infant stages yet this person took a brief look and decided it wasn’t worth their time. I expect that from agents/editors but not from a fellow writer.

The comments they wrote made sense. I know I need to get to the action quicker, and there was a good point on how I should make the protagonist younger to fit the age of my audience. However, if I were critiquing the MS, I would put examples of good action and how to connect the dots. I would have read more to get a sense of the whole plot arc; to get a better idea of what was working in addition to what needed work. Reading 16 pages out of a 150 page MS is not enough. I don’t know this person’s views on what parts work for the age range since most of the action happens later. This person has written a couple MG books, but I can’t say I was helped since I don’t know what’s working. Why not say how long it took until you were engaged in the story instead of bowing out after chapter 3?

The basics I need to change (according to this person) include: age of character, getting to action faster/hook, and keeping interest in a first person POV. I don’t know if this is enough. These are things that can be improved, but it also sounds like problems with the beginning. What about the middle when more happens? How can I get there faster? What is too old/young for the age group in future events? I have so many things I want to know but I won’t get to because this person never critiqued the whole story. I can handle tough critique, I just can’t handle not fulfilling a promise of a full critique.

Am I justified in being upset and frustrated? Has anyone else had a critique partner who did a similar thing?

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One Novella and One Novel

I’ve decided that Charley’s Dragons is going to stay a novella. I think it’s working as a shorter work and I don’t want to try and add more than it needs. As much as I want to have it be a novel it’s not up to me. Like a child, a MS will decide on its own what it wants to be when it grows up. I will return to it soon to continue editing and maybe even paring it down a little more in places I tried to boost the word count. I’ve already started researching novella contests and journals to hopefully get it published in the future.

My last post I went to another MS in process and that was the best decision I’ve made in a long time. Despite getting sick (AGAIN!!!) I have gone through the whole MS, edited the parts that were written, filled in the middle, and COMPLETED the first draft this morning! I’m so excited to have another book done! It’s a middle grade fantasy so it’s shorter than an adult novel, but it’s in the upper range for MG which is great since I can see eighth graders especially enjoying my bad@$$ character.

This is going to be the first book in a trilogy following a young girl on her path to becoming a Dragon Rider. (Obviously I’m a little obsessed with dragons in most of my books…) I never considered myself to be a series writer, but when I started working on this book I realized I had too many ideas for one novel. Spreading it out and developing the character over three books I think is going to help the story. Yet another example of how a MS will decide what the writer is going to do.

I’m sure you’ve heard authors say that books write themselves and it’s absolutely true. Since I started writing as a little girl my characters told me what their futures will be. Sometimes I argued with them, but the characters win. Listen to your characters, feel what your MS wants, and enjoy writing. It’s a journey, and much like life, the path to finishing a book is never a straight line.

(Image Source: MotivatigGiraffe.com

 

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