2017 is coming to an end.
I could write about the unbelievably crummy things that transpired (and continue to transpire) this year, but I refuse. Instead, I’d like to reminisce about the good things. Because for all the shit that happened (and there’s A LOT of it, let’s be honest), there was still an awful lot of good.
I finished the final draft of my first novel. I queried it out to agents. I finished the final draft of my novel again. *looks innocent* I started my second novel. I’m still waiting for a taker on my query, but goddammit, I did it and I’m proud–and in no way disappointed or disillusioned that it hasn’t happened yet.
My kid was awesome this year, totally taking his creativity and running with it. He kicked ass on his drums. He channeled his inner Bob Ross into some amazing paintings. He got into the next round of the National Geographic Geography Bee.
My husband stood by me through all my writing (and life)-related tantrums. He was the best editor and sounding board I could have ever asked for. He works so hard for our family, and I could never thank him enough for everything he does. And while his back is banjaxed right now, he’s making the best of it and trying his hardest to recover and get back to it.
So, what about 2018?
I’m hoping to have a published book by year’s end. Whether it happens with an agent/publisher or I do it on my own remains to be seen. I’ve still got a dozen-or-so queries out, so it’s a waiting game for a little while longer. If they don’t pan out, I have some other ideas and strategies in mind to get a physical book in my hand with my name on it. I’d also like to have the first draft of Book2 in the bag. As of right now, I’m not giving myself a deadline, but it’s nice to look ahead hopefully anyway.
Personally, there are some goals I’m hell-bent on achieving this year, so cross your fingers that I keep my promises to myself!
Thanks to each and every one of you: in my personal life, on social media, and wherever you might be. Thank you for supporting me, being my cheerleadeers, and making my world a better place.
Here’s to a new year. This one’s been a doozy, that’s for sure. But 2018 will only be what we make of it…so let’s do it up right.
It’s been one year since I finished my first draft.
I didn’t even realize it until Facebook reminded me, to be honest. I’ll chalk that up to being so engrossed in querying and writing the second book. But more likely, it was because I was building a settlement on Fallout4. Priorities, I know.
When I wrote that last sentence last year, I thought I knew what was in store for me. While I wasn’t wrong in my assumptions, some things certainly didn’t happen the way I envisioned. Some for the better, some not-so-much.
What followed that last line was months of revisions, revisions again, and REVISIONS AGAIN. Test readers. Incredible feedback. Worry. Anxiety. Countless hours of hard work and an occasional tantrum. And that was just getting the final draft ready.
My test readers were wonderful. The feedback I received was more incredible than I could have ever dreamed of. With their suggestions and opinions, along with those of my right-hand-man, husband/editor, I finally finished the fourth (and final) draft of my manuscript.
Then…came the tantrums. The hair-pulling. The head-desking. SO MUCH SWEARING. I thought the writing part was the hardest part. I was wrong. I thought the query letter-writing was going to be scary and difficult. Again, wrong.
I can honestly say now, after spending months doing it, that writing a synopsis for agents is the single-most awful thing I have ever experienced during this whole novel-writing process. Never in my life have I been so frustrated, so ready to throw in the towel. Cramming almost 170-thousand words worth of story into a synopsis was downright torture.
Synopses come in all shapes and sizes, and each and every one of them nearly caused me to smash my laptop. I started with what would become my “long” synopsis. It topped out just under five pages. Not many agents want one that long, but it was a place to start. And let me tell you, it was bare bones. It was so frustrating to have to get every important plot point in without making it too long.
Then came the “short.” If I didn’t already have short hair, I would have pulled any long locks out over this one. Condensing my five-page synopsis into two was downright impossible. I chopped. I slashed. I cried a few times. I PLAYED A LOT OF FALLOUT TO EASE MY VIOLENT RAGE. When I was finished, husband/editor and I agreed that it was the absolute shortest it could possibly be without sacrificing any more plot–which I already had done. It pained me to see my story smashed into *shhhh* two-and-a-quarter pages. I literally could not cut anything else, or I risked not being able to tell an already truncated story properly. Do I wish I could make it longer? Hell yes. Can I? Not really. So, I made peace with my short synopsis and called it finished.
We won’t speak of the agent who wanted a 2-paragraph synopsis. I didn’t even try. I did, however, swear a lot at the thought of attempting such a feat. It took me months to get it down to just over two pages. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that two paragraphs was never, EVER going to happen.
After those dastardly pages were written, I focused on the letters. They were, surprisingly, not as intimidating as I had expected. Many months before, I had drafted a rough template and it was very helpful in crafting the final, personalized letters. My research took me a few weeks, and afterwards I was armed with a long list of potential agents. My original deadline for first letter wasn’t achievable at the time, but after I extended it two weeks, I made it with a day to spare. The rest of the letters went out within a month.
I’m done sending them now, and have been waiting.
So far, there have been no takers. As of today, I have twenty-three rejections. And you know what? I’m one-hundred percent okay with it. Not bummed in the least. Not discouraged. Not willing to give up. It only takes one “YES.”
But what if that “YES” doesn’t come?
I’m okay with that, too. Self-publishing is always an option. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified of landing an agent. I’m scared of what an outside editor may want to do with my book. I’m scared of being under possible deadline for the second and third volumes. I’m scared of losing control over my pride and joy. Self-publishing would give me absolute control over everything–but also leave me with an incredible burden.
I’d have to do all my own marketing. Make a website. Set up sales. If I use Amazon, they at least cover me with a nice link and easy ordering. (But they also take a big chunk as commission.) I’d have to shell out money for art, a cover, marketing materials if I want to hawk my book locally and at conventions. But…I’d be in control of everything.
Maybe it’s my personal Kobayashi Maru.
If I get an agent, I lose control over a lot of things. If I self-publish, I open myself up to a whole host of new trials and potential problems.
So, for now, I wait. When all the rejections have come in, or the deadlines for such have passed and I don’t have any bites, then I think on the next step. I’m trying not to get too ahead of myself, (even though it’s fucking hard).
Book Two is very much underway and plugging along nicely. Some characters are cooperating, some are not. I’ve had a lot of days where I’m pissed at certain someones and ignore their chapters to work with those who are willing to be written. I have absolutely no timetable on completion of the first draft. Sometime next year would be ideal, but we’ll see how the summer goes with my louder-than-loud, clingy child!
2018 is almost upon us. Will it be the year I get an agent? Will it be the year a publisher prints my book? Will it be the year where I self-publish? Who knows? Until then, I keep on charging forward. One way or another, I will see my book in print, on my bookshelves.
And it’ll be so cool.
After careful deliberations, I have decided to extend my query letter deadline to October 16th. I hemmed and hawed, mad at myself for not sticking to the original plan, but in the end, I knew it needed to happen.
This final edit has been painstakingly slow, and I’ll admit that I’m picking this thing apart waaaaay more than I should be. Second-guessing every little detail has become second nature to me. The moment when you spend LITERALLY six hours trying to decide whether or not a list of somethings should be capitalized or not is the moment you realize things have spiraled out of control and you need to step back. (I walked away, did a twitter poll, asked my trusted friend, and finally came up with an answer. It was to NOT capitalize.)
After this final edit and format is finished, I still have to research my list of agents and cut-and-polish my query letter–which will then be torn apart and put back together again to tailor it to each agent’s specs.
While I’m disappointed in myself for amending the deadline, at least I can say I gave it a try, and was a big enough lady to know when I needed to surrender…for now. I was running out of time, and I didn’t want to send anything that wasn’t completely ready just for the sake of sending it by self-imposed deadline.
Off to edit chapter nine of 38 (plus two interludes and an epilogue), and begin the new countdown to query.
My self-imposed query deadline is October 1st.
That’s the date that I have to send ONE LETTER by. If another letter doesn’t leave by November, that’s ok. Will I actually make said deadline? We’ll see. If I don’t, I won’t beat myself up over it. After all, it’s a self-imposed deadline. I don’t want to send a letter just to send it, especially if I’m not ready with one or more of the components.
I have finished formatting my manuscript for query–side note: that was one of the most stressful things I have ever done. Putting headers in on MS Word, anyone? It’s a wonder I still have hair left. Today I began the final readthrough before I put my manuscript aside and fight the urge to mess with it any more. After that, I need to research my list of 43 agents/agencies for exact info on what they want in query.
I think I might be insane for trying to make this deadline.
I can honestly admit that this query process absolutely terrifies me. I know rejection is a real–and expected–thing. I’m prepared for that. What’s throwing me is the opposite: what if I get accepted? What then? Contracts. Compromises. Publisher’s deadlines.
That last one scares me the most. I wouldn’t say I’m a turtle writer, but there are times during the year (summer vacation, for the most part) where I get little to no writing done. My son is home, and before I’m a writer, I’m Mom…and he gets my attention from June to September. It has taken me a little less than two years from first sentence written to cut-and-polished manuscript. That’s a long time. That’s four drafts, countless edits, and eight weeks of sitting on my hands waiting for test reader feedback to return. I’m really worried that if I get picked up, a publisher will want the second and third books to be totally completed much quicker. It’s just not something I think I can do–and have the end result be what I need it to be. The other two books in the trilogy are heavily outlined, but I still don’t think I could ever crank one out in a year-ish.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I have to get picked up first!
So, here’s to all of us who are terrified of querying, spend weeks agonizing over their letters (starting to do that here), and who (hopefully) eventually see success in their adventures.
Did I mention I’m terrified?
That’s in twenty-eight days, people. Less than a month to complete the first draft of my novel. I have (maybe) four chapters and an epilogue left to tackle. I’m hopeful I can get them all written, but with the holidays and some other stuff going on, it’ll be a photo-finish for sure. But, I’m up for a challenge any day.
I’ve never given myself a deadline before. I was hesitant to do it this time around. But, I realized that if I didn’t, I’d be piddling around on this thing forever with no end in sight. I needed something to work for, and once I set that date, it was game on. There were times where I thought for sure I’d fail and miss the deadline. (One of those times was just last week when the shit hit the fan in our family.) But, we persevere, recover and take life by the horns and hang on for dear life.
I’m confident I’ll finish on time. I’m excited (and terrified) to finish on time. When it’s done, that means that there’s still a bazillion things left to do. Edit. Edit some more. Edit again. Send it to my beta. Edit again. Then–publish? OMG I can’t even. But I’m nothing if not determined. Bring it on.
What inspires you?
For me and my story at-large, it’s the world around me. I watch television shows about far-off lands and can see my environment unfold before my eyes. I attended my brother’s wedding, and decided that one of my characters needed to tie the knot. Walking through a hedge maze this last summer gave me a great idea for a perilous situation for my heroes.
When I was writing fanfic, it was the existing stories and canon. Don’t like a situation a character was placed in? Change it and call it AU! Want to give them a new adventure? Go for it! Kill someone? Well…we won’t discuss what I’ve done. It’s between me and my readers. *looks innocent*
But what inspired me to write in the first place?
When I was young, I always had my nose in a book. First it was Ramona and Superfudge. Then I graduated to Star Wars and Star Trek novels I’d get at my favorite store, Waldenbooks. Remember that one? Ahhh…the memories. By the time I was ten, I had amassed a book collection that rivaled some adults, I’m sure. My mother always said she never minded spending money on books, a mantra that I have adopted all through life and continue on with my son. (Seriously, this kid has a library that would boggle your mind and he’s only eight.)
One day, I decided to go down the fantasy aisle at good ‘ol Waldenbooks and what did I stumble upon? A book series that would change my life, of course. I picked up a blue book with a young man, and old monk and an electrified greenish-yellow sword on the cover. Forging the Darksword became my instant favorite. I finished it in record time and ran (well, not literally–it was miles away) back to the mall to get the second in the series. Repeat again with the third. I couldn’t get enough. When I was finished with that series, I clamored for more from my new favorite authors, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I wasn’t disappointed with the selection. My next conquest would be The Deathgate Cycle, a seven-book series that captured my entire imagination–and then some. Then came all the Dragonlance novels, and all the incredible off-shoots that it spawned.
I’d like to thank Margaret and Tracy right now for being my ultimate inspiration for becoming a writer. Even if I didn’t know it at the time, reading their works forged a life-long love of writing. I’d like to think that, even if I wasn’t realizing it aright then and there, that all the while when I was writing fanfic, it was because of those fantastic books I had read as a teen and adult. I saw that I could become a successful writer and bring my ideas to life. No plotline was too fantastical. No character was too quirky, no monster too horrible.
When I decided that writing a novel was what I really wanted to do and put my mind to, my husband encouraged me with all his might. He even said I didn’t have to go back to work if I was going to really do this! (What a guy!) I told him once, as we were at the bookstore looking at the fantasy shelves that I hoped to be here one day, looking at my own book. I even pointed to the space, right next to Margaret Weis’ books, where I hoped mine would be some day. (Our last names are close alphabetically!) He smiled and said it would happen. Then our son farted and ruined the moment. (Thanks, kid.)
Reading brings out the best in you and your imagination. It allows you to leave the real world (and let’s face it, right now there’s a lot about it that SUCKS) and enter into a new realm where you can live vicariously through incredible characters and awe-inspiring stories. When you’re the author, you have control over your environment and, even if it’s just for a while, can leave reality and make the world how you want it to be. Characters do what you tell them, say what you want them to say.
I watch my son read some of my old fantasy novels, worn and tattered, and I see the wonder in his eyes. He finishes a chapter and immediately wants to discuss it. He hogs my computer so he can write his own works. He tells me he’s proud of me for trying to write a book.
Who knows, maybe something I create will inspire a nerdy teen out there someday to swallow their fear and go for it–just like I did.