The Next Chapter

Writing is a mixed bag of emotions. Yet no matter how difficult the journey, writers simply cannot quit writing. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. I heard this sentiment echoed among the women at a private writer’s retreat I recently attended. I also heard the same thoughts expressed in the two writer’s groups I joined.

The great thing about these two particular groups is that everyone is incredibly supportive of each writer’s success. Still, we sometimes communicate our desire to be ahead of where we are. A friend told me he wished he had several novels he was sitting on while waiting for the market to be right for them such as I am doing. I longed for a contract with a major publisher such as the one another friend recently landed. What I hope is that all of us can learn to be happy where we are in our writing lives while maintaining a forward progress.

I mention this because I have just completed an important step in the writing process: the completion of my second novel. I actually revisited this particular manuscript to increase the word count because although I believed I had finished it, the advice of others suggested that there was room to grow the book even more. Turns out these wise people who were able to step back from my work and assess it were correct.

Fortunately for me, getting back into the world of these particular characters was welcome and enjoyable. The novel grew in positive ways and is now in the hands of beta readers. While they read with pencils poised to correct and suggest, I’m experiencing post-writing letdown as I bid a gentle goodbye to my characters. Of course, I know this is not the end of my relationship with them. There will undoubtedly be editing and revisions in my future, but I must switch gears to engage another, less favorable part of my writing life: the dreaded query letter.

I returned to a post I wrote in December of 2014 (The Terror of Querying) where I admitted some things to myself regarding my query letter. While I’m preparing to query another book, the same principles apply. And this time, I find I’m much less afraid when thinking about of the process which, hopefully, will help me when I actually query.

While I’m on the secure-an-agent leg of my writing journey, I’ll continue writing by working on those amazing blog posts I promised you earlier as well as planning my next novel and reading every moment I’m not writing. As always, thanks for taking this journey with me.

Baring My Writer’s Soul – Part 26

It’s time to take a deep breath and mentally prepare myself for one of my least favorite challenges in my writing life: querying. I remember the first time I queried my novel. I labored over my letter, presenting it to members of my writing groups and submitting it for a paid critique, as if I was writing the Declaration of Independence. Every word had to be perfect. Nothing less than exceptional would do as I crafted this key to unlock the doors to the world of publishing. But never mind the doors; I must first get past the gatekeepers.

Researching agents is a full-time job unto itself. I found literary agencies that represented my genre, and then I located specific agents within the agency. After choosing an agent, I looked to see which authors they had worked with and which titles they represented, hoping to find a title comparable with my novel. Using tips I’d picked up from webinars, I hunted for any connection between myself and the agent. (Did we have similar hobbies and interests, did we grow up in the same state, do they have pets?) All this was before I even sent the letter. Crazy, isn’t it?

Just today my husband wished for me the kind of writing life where I didn’t have to worry about publishing. And what is the concern, really? Can I not create art for the sake of art? Trying to have my work published was my idea. No one forced me to do it. But then I struggle with the question of why write if I’m not going to try to publish, and I start thinking maybe I should find a job. I hate the way money always pops up in my thoughts.

The truth is, I have a supportive husband who isn’t insisting that I find work or publish to bring in a paycheck. When combined with the abundant amount of free time I have, you may wonder what my complaint actually is. Sometimes, I do, too.

There are days I wish I’d never sought publication because I remember how it felt to write freely without that pressure hanging over my head. Don’t think for one minute, though, that I don’t want to be published. Because I do. I’ve invested in my blog and I maintain social media toward the endeavor of publication. My problem is that my two desires are at war in my mind and my heart.

There are also days when I wonder if I’m creating this drama for myself, and I laugh thinking at least I’ll get a good blog post out of it. Because really, it’s better to let this stuff out than it is to hold it in. So again, deep breath.

I am aware of the emotional toll querying can take on a writer, but I’m not ready to abandon my dream. I’ll balance it by realizing how good I have it in that while I’m waiting for replies, I can write freely to my heart’s content. I’ll fill notebook after notebook with words the world will never see. Writing just for me. And once again I’ll…

…Write Happy!

Baring My Writer’s Soul – Part 19

I’ve admitted before in my Writer’s Soul series that I’m not the opening up and sharing kind of person. I created Baring My Writer’s Soul to help me get over that as well as many of the anxieties I have about writing. Well, it worked until it didn’t. Now I find myself back at the beginning of my own series, reading Part 1, and trying to figure out how I derailed myself yet again.

I’ll take responsibility for my derailment when what I really want to say is that I allowed it to happen. I could even pinpoint the exact moment it happened three days before Christmas of 2016. Instead, I’ll return to the methods that had been working for me up until I jumped the tracks and seek fresh methods for dealing with the new worries that have sneaked into my life.

I’ll start by making peace with all the bad, whether real or perceived, that occurred up to this point for it’s the only way I’m going move forward. Even as I do this, I know the negative thoughts will rear their ugly heads to remind me that the sky is falling in my world and that this never happens to anyone else. It would be so wonderful if I could predict when this is going to happen, but since I can’t, I’ll keep stockpiling my Writer’s Toolbox with the tools and supplies I need to move past the bad.

Another thing I’ll stop doing is thinking so much. I overanalyze until I’ve worked myself into a tizzy which dumps me into the middle of comparing myself to others, and we all know that’s the death of joy. I must learn to content myself with not knowing all the answers right now, all at once, or ever. Giving myself a reasonable amount of time to make it back to a healthy writing me is also essential. This is a tricky one for me, and I must admit that, but I must also not fall into the trap of believing that I don’t have time to get it right.

writers-soul-19The biggest issue I’ll need to deal with in my writing life is one that I’ve been working up to:  rejection. All writers face it at some point, but we are also aware that knowing this doesn’t make it one whit easier. The first ones were the hardest, but then I leveled out for a while and took them in stride. At the end of last year when my submission tracking spreadsheet began to pile up with Nos and No Responses, I pushed my writing muse off a high mental bridge and jumped in after her. Together we wallowed in the river of grief.

The best way I have found to deal with rejection is to remember that it is not a reflection on who I am, what I have written, or how I present myself and my writing. Rejection does not alter the merit of my writing or me. People get turned down all the time for various reasons, and it has nothing to do with their worth. Furthermore, rejection is not a valid excuse for quitting. Just like I kept on looking for the perfect man before I met and married my husband, so will I continue searching for the best agent to represent my work. I feel bad for the ones who passed me up, but I don’t want someone in my life who isn’t thrilled just thinking about me and all that I have to offer. That line of thinking landed me an amazing man, and I trust it will connect me with a terrific agent.

So, as I sift through the past Writer’s Soul posts, I’ll keep in mind that all rejection is just re-direction and begin plotting a new path to happiness as I continue writing. I have to do this for myself because my happiness is dependent on me and no one else is going to do it for me.

Remember: Write Happy!

The Terror of Querying

The Terror of Querying

I don’t know about you, but the idea of querying an agent terrifies me. I have two opinions of this process based on various articles I’ve read.

One: As long as Starbuck’s doesn’t mess up the coffee order for the assistant to your chosen agent, your manuscript might have a chance of landing in said agent’s hands.

Translation: As long as everyone is having a good day, your manuscript might be smiled upon.

Two: Agents are fearsome gatekeepers to the world of fulfilled dreams, and I’m standing outside the gate.

That one is pretty clear.

Today I’m stocking my Writing Toolbox with a blog post from Writers in the Storm guest blogger, Julie Glover. Her post, “Are You Ready to Query,” posed questions to me that I hadn’t seriously considered before. What I had been doing is letting the answers jumble around my brain without pinning them down because I felt foolish about them. Now I think I may have been on to something.

Admittedly, I need to perfect my answer to question number one. Yes, I know what my story is about, but do I communicate that well?

To questions number two and three, I have a combined answer. I used to play a game where I fantasized about what critics would say regarding my brilliant novel. It went something like this:

If Wally Lamb and Billie Letts had a child and Isabelle Allende was her nanny, that author would be HL Gibson.

Grandiose, isn’t it? And yet, I believe this game answers the questions about writing voice and comparative titles. I consider the above-mentioned authors to be some of the best storytellers on Earth, and this is the role I want to achieve with my writing. So now I have published authors and titles to which I can compare myself and my novel.

As for voice, it’s all about the storytelling for me. My style is easy and familiar. It reads like the voice of an older relative relating family tales and history, the stories you grew up listening to at every family get together, and the ones you now find yourself telling the next generation.

As for question four, I have feedback from several beta readers, and I have completed two rounds of edits. There are beta readers waiting in the wings to assist me after I complete round three edits. A daunting process for sure, but after reading Ms. Glover’s post, I’m encouraged that I’m on the right track.

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