Another Round of Edits

In my last post, I mentioned that I had just finished writing my second manuscript. I sent it off to a few agents and was fortunate enough to receive some excellent feedback from one of them. Yay, awesome agent, who actually sends out more than a form letter that says “sorry to send you this form letter.”

The first bit of advice was to walk away from the project for a while before I made her suggested edits. Okay, done. I’d already been away from it for a couple of weeks. What’s a few more, right? Yeah, we’ll cover that in more detail below. The next tasks recommended by this agent were to read as many ghost novels as I could and to watch as many ghost movies/shows as I could while I was “on a break” from my manuscript. Wait, what? You’re giving me permission to binge watch Netflix? And I can tell my husband it’s for “work”? Thank you very much, kind agent. So I did just that, watching both good and horrible movies, and ending with a viewing of the first season of American Horror Story.

The reading portion stumped me, at first. Now, I know that to be a better writer you need to read a lot. And I do. A lot. Goodreads has even become a bit of an obsession for me in tracking my reading habits. But, for some reason, I had it in my head that I’m not supposed to read the genre I’m writing while I’m writing it, in an effort not to “accidentally” steal someone else’s ideas or style. When I mentioned this to one of my writing group cohorts, she had heard the exact same thing, but neither of us could remember where. But we have this sneaking suspicion that we heard it in our creative classes back in the college days. After we discussed this topic in length, we both agreed that this agent makes more sense than our previously held beliefs. Thus, my reading in the genre of ghost stories began. As of today, I’ve read four books and have listened to one audiobook (this is how I always fill my time in the car). I’m also halfway through another book and just began another audio. I’m all about this kind of research. And that Netflix kind is good, too.

After walking away from the project for over six weeks, allowing for that much needed distance from something I was much too close to, I’m finally back to working on the latest round of edits to my manuscript. I cannot tell you just how thrilled I am to be reunited with these characters and this story. I’ve missed them more than I ever thought I would. I tried to work on other things over the last six weeks, but found it difficult to focus knowing that I was coming back to this project, again. I started a new novel, even producing a healthy amount of words in the effort (close to 10,000) before I realized my heart just wasn’t with that project, yet. So I put it on hold. I turned my attention to short stories, which, as most writers know, are more difficult to write than novels. I managed to complete one, although I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece by any means. But I made a promise to myself a while ago to write every day, and I made sure to keep that promise, even if it meant producing work I probably wouldn’t use for anything other than bettering myself as a writer.

As I continue on this journey to publication, I’ll keep posting about it here and will try to do so more frequently. For now, I’m going to focus on those edits and enjoy the reunion with my characters. Happy writing to you!

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Joys of Novel Completion

I’ve always been amazed that authors could write books so quickly. It took me almost four years to complete my first manuscript, so when I started on my latest novel, I expected it to take a fair amount of time. Lucky gal that I am, my husband encouraged me to quit my job back in June to focus on writing full-time. I finally finished that first manuscript back in November and dove into my next writing venture immediately. And I finished that novel yesterday, in just four short months, shocking myself.

What’s even more shocking is how much more I love this novel than my first. I completely connected with these characters, losing myself in their world, even when I wasn’t writing. These characters made me laugh, made me cry, but also made me cringe. The story was inspired by the old German poem “The Dreadful Story of Harriet and the Matches“. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of ghosts, so writing this particular story with Harriet as a ghost was quite fulfilling.

You might ask how I was able to finish this book in a mere four months when it took almost four years to complete the other. The difference, my friends, is that I was able to work on it every day, from start to finish, immersing myself completely in this story, something I was never able to do with the other. Another shout out to my husband because, without his support, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I completed the first draft in about three months and spent an entire month doing thorough edits. The result: a story that feels cohesive, honest, and owns a piece of my heart.

My best advice to any writer is to do whatever you can to write every day, even if it’s only a few hundred words. Staying in tune with your story will be a major factor in how quickly you can complete it, but, more importantly, how cohesive the finished product will be. Another suggestion would be to join a local writer’s group. I have the best group of four ladies who read for me constantly, cheerlead for me when I need it most, and act as my sounding board whenever needed.

I began the submission process today and I’m hopeful I’ll find someone to represent me in time. Best of luck to everyone else out there who walks the same road. Rejection is hard, but continue to write and strive for your dreams, and never, ever give up.

Rejection is Tough

I knew the process of finding an agent for my novel would be a long and hard road. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to take criticism well, doing my best to learn from all advice given. I’m the kind of person who loves workshops and craves all feedback, including the harsh negative comments that make you want to curl up in a corner and cry.

So I was prepared for rejection after rejection from literary agents once I started sending out the novel I’ve poured my heart and soul into for close to four years now. Totally and completely prepared. But I didn’t realize just how agonizingly painful it would be to watch the rejections pile up for this book, which has become like a child to me, and has been workshopped to death with my Hunchlings writing crew, to the point where it’s an entirely different novel than where it began (shout out to the best writing crew ever).

I’ve been writing for over twenty years but this is the first novel that I’ve completed. That’s not to say that I haven’t started many others, but it’s the first to reach completion. In the beginning, I hid my love for writing because I viewed it only as a personal hobby and not as a career that could ever actually happen. For fifteen years, I worked in the information technology business with a large corporation. IT has never been my passion. I just kind of fell into it at the age of nineteen and worked my way up through the company. In 2009, like many other companies, the one I worked for decided the time had come to send my job (and many others) overseas to India. Out of work in a time when jobs were sparse, I spent eighteen months searching for a new job in a field that I couldn’t stand. All the while, I was writing, and hearing from friends that I finally shared my work with that I needed to pursue writing as a career, instead of IT.

In 2011, I made the decision to go back to school at thirty-seven years of age and pursue a creative writing degree. That was one of the best decisions I’d ever made. For three years, I worked my tail off to finish school and received a bachelor’s degree in 2014. I also established relationships with the gals that now form that awesome writing crew I mentioned above and who keep me on track and slap me around when needed. My writing classes were wonderful and I truly miss having those in my life. I worked with amazing professors and learned more than I could’ve ever dreamed possible.

But now I’m out in the real world, again. And the competitive market for publication is a scary road to walk upon. Explaining my book in one to two paragraphs without making it sound ridiculous, deciding whether or not to send my prologue as the first five to ten pages because I’m not sure it portrays the tone of my novel accurately (but not sending it means I’m not truly sending the first five pages of my  novel), questioning whether I should’ve written the whole thing in third person instead of first, well, it’s all incredibly overwhelming. I’m starting to understand why so many people turn to self-publishing.

The number of rejections received so far isn’t insane. Only four, in fact. And my writing group keeps reminding me that J.K. Rowling received twelve before success. But I’m not J.K. Rowling and I haven’t written the next Harry Potter. I do, however, feel that what I’ve written is written well and deserves to be heard. I’m holding out hope that the right agent will come along someday. I’m just hoping it’s sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

Website Revamp

Much time has passed since my last blog entry. So much so that I decided to get rid of the old and start anew. I finally finished my novel. You know, that one I started over three years ago during Camp NaNoWriMo. I thought the day would never come. I must offer many thanks to my Hunching workshop crew. Without our weekly meetings, without their support (which often came with a slap on the wrist when I expressed interest in starting a new novel), without their honest and sometimes harsh criticism, I wouldn’t be standing here today with a completed novel that actually feels complete.

I’ve decided that I’m going to broadcast my journey into publishing here so that anyone interested can walk the road with me. On November 2nd, I submitted queries to three literary agents. I chose to submit to only three on the advice of my college writing professors. I just received my first rejection yesterday, two weeks to the day, which I fully expected. I chose my top dream agents, which I know was a long shot but also knew I’d likely look back and wonder if I didn’t at least try. Upon that first rejection, I submitted to another agent so that I would still have three outstanding queries.

I decided to use QueryTracker to track my queries. This is a great site that offers a free option, but also offers a more expanded option for a very reasonable annual fee. This site makes it so much easier to search for literary agents that fit your needs. One thing that I like about the expanded option is that it allows you to see outstanding queries logged by other authors, as well as rejections, requests for full manuscripts, etc. For me, the expanded option was the way to go.

While I’m waiting on responses for my first novel, I’ve started work on my second. This one is a little different from the first. For the first novel, I chose to write in first person present tense with only one POV. For this new one, I chose to write in third person past tense with three different POV’s. And I must say that I’m quite enjoying the change. Like my first novel, I also started this one during NaNoWriMo. I began a day later than most and we’re now on day 16. I’m still behind but I’m completely okay with that. For me, this challenge forces me to write each day and my only goal is to write at least 1,000 words each day. If I end the month with only 30,000 words instead of the NaNo goal of 50,000, I’m good. The process this time around has been significantly different for me. I’m taking my time, processing each chapter more thoroughly, and trying to make sure that my editing process isn’t nearly as gruesome as it was with the first novel.

So that’s it for today’s update. I’ll post more updates as I have them. To all my fellow NaNoWriMo folks, good luck and happy writing!