Friday, May 15, 2015

Reflecting

It’s been about a year since I picked up my first manuscript again, dusted it off, and revised it. It's been an interesting journey since then and can't believe how much I've learned and grown.

I started querying my vampire manuscript last September. As much as I want it to be picked up, I know vampires are a tough sell right now. I really love this story and believe in it, so I'm not giving up. However, I've learned so much that I see ways to improve the story that require another revision, or three, so I've stopped querying it for now.

What else have I accomplished in the past year?

I’ve written the sequel to my vampire novel. It’s still in rough draft but once I get the first manuscript fixed, then I can work on the sequel. There’s at least two more books planned for this series. No matter what the outcome is of the original manuscript, I will write them. If I don’t, the characters will hound me to finish their story.

When I finished my vampire sequel, I wrote a new urban fantasy novel. The idea came from the title of a non-fiction book. I read the title and thought, ‘That sounds like a good book,’ not knowing it was non-fiction until I looked at it. Well, since it wasn’t the book I envisioned, I went ahead and wrote what I thought the book would be about. At this time, I’m getting ready to do the final proofread and start querying it.

Querying my vampire manuscript was an amazing learning experience. Heading into querying my new novel, I'm better prepared. I know more about researching agents and writing a query letter (though it's still not easy).

I also bit the bullet and joined Twitter, which I blogged about (see the post here). I’ve made some new friends and found encouragement among other writers when I struggled. I also really enjoy the monthly #SFFlunch chats that World Weaver Press does. If you write fantasy or sci-fi, think about stopping by for one. I mainly joined to follow agents and participate in the pitch parties (#PitMad, #SFFPit, #adpit, etc) where you pitch your book and through the day, literary agents take a peek to see if there’s anything that interests them.

There has been a lot of learning this past year. I attended a workshop with Brian Henry of the Quick Brown Fox blog and have another one coming up. I’ve been reading and talking to writers and literary agents (mostly via Twitter), gathering tons of information I can use in my own work. My email is crammed with posts from blogs I subscribe to, everything from literary agents to writers dispensing useful advice.

I'm looking forward to see where the coming year takes me.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dealing With Rejection

When I was trying to get my start in radio, I received rejections from almost every station in Ontario...repeatedly. This was before sending mp3 files for demos was the norm, which meant I had to record my newscasts onto cassettes and mail them out (like that doesn’t date me). I sent out demo tapes every three months looking for a job (I’m nothing if not persistent). There were days where I cried, believing I would never get a job in radio.

Guess what...I did.

Having that experience probably prepared me for the querying process. I expect to receive some rejections during my search for the agent that’s right for me. I don’t like it and it’s still disappointing, but I eat a bag of chocolate, drink some sambuca, and move on. I remember how my persistence paid off long ago and am sure I can do it again.

What surprises me is seeing tweets from agents mentioning the nasty responses they sometimes receive when they send out rejection letters. Personally, I want someone who is as passionate about my work as I am. That passion will transfer to their sales pitch to publishers, making it more effective. I’ve started viewing the search as almost the equivalent to finding a mate – you don’t want to settle for just anyone and you want someone who truly loves you (in this case your work).

Rejection is hard and it sucks. It seems to be a lot of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. When an agent rejects you, it’s not personal, but it can feel like it after spending months (sometimes years) pouring your heart and soul into a manuscript. It’s tough because books and stories are so subjective. What one person loves, another only likes, and someone else hates. It all has to do with personal preferences in everything from plot to writing style. Sometimes it’s the market, because writing is a business after all, and an agent may not think the book can sell right now.

So what can you do?

Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep improving.

When you get a rejection, give yourself time to wallow but then start writing again. Actually, it’s best if you don't stop while you’re submitting to agents. Get that new project going so you remember why you are putting yourself through the grinder. Write something new, something better.

So these agents said no. Guess what, there are more. Persistence is what pays off in the long run. Many popular authors were rejected multiple times (some over 100). They didn’t give up and that’s why they got published.

Don’t stop moving forward. Keep looking for ways to improve your writing. There are always things to learn and ways you can make your writing or story better. If you keep improving, it increases your chances of getting an agent who can sell your work to a publisher.

Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate the steps along the way. Completing anything, whether it’s a short story or a full-length novel manuscript, is a huge accomplishment and you should celebrate. Celebrate good feedback you receive along the way, celebrate a personal response from an agent, celebrate anything that helps you move forward and let go of the negative.