I’m done with the query for my first novel. I decided to go out on a limb and try it out in a contest with mentors and agents involved. At first I wasn’t going to do it…but I convinced myself that I have nothing to lose by trying. This is like a taking it on a little test drive. I’m not looking to win, I’m interested in the feedback, which I can get if I can make it just into the first round. My entry was sent in this morning. I’ve never done anything like this before, wish me luck!
Lack of blog posts means I’m happy and busy writing. That’s not a bad thing, I’m just very quiet around here. Things are moving along about how I expected, here’s my progress report:
1. My current WIP (3rd manuscript) is at almost 80,000 words. I have a ways to go until I’m done and it will need major revisions to control the word count. That’s for my personal preference, I like to keep my stories well under 100,000 words. This book is the sequel to another book I’ve already finished which is about 75,000 complete (subject to change as it’s edited). For books in what I’m thinking will probably end up as a trilogy, I’d like to keep them close to the same length…I’m not J.K. Rowling (haha). My goal is to finish this first draft by the end of May, I think that’s doable.
2. I have a workable query for my first completed book. If you think writing something this short, a 250 word letter, shouldn’t take this long, well, you’d be wrong. The query letter is hard. My advice to anyone planning to query an agent…start working on your letter sooner rather than later, it’s going to take longer than you think to get it right. I think mine is close to being ready and I’ve been working on it since January. My plan is to have it ready to send out in June, when my WIP is done so I have time to focus on the query process while I work on revisions for my second and third manuscripts.
3. I’ve been getting a flood of new and sudden ideas for a story I dreamed up years ago but never fleshed out. I started writing them down, and this story keeps interrupting me while I’m trying to finish my WIP…it’s kind of annoying. I keep thinking, “Yes, story ideas, I like you…but can you hold off for a minute while I finish this?” But they don’t listen and I’m afraid if I ignore it I’ll forgot all of my cool ideas. So, I’m taking a little time every day to write those ideas down. I also think this will be the next story I actually write, instead of completing my trilogy because it’s more solid right now and my trilogy…I’m still not exactly sure how it’s going to end. For me it works best to let the stories stew and simmer in my mind, so I’m thinking I can let my trilogy cook for a little while as I work on something new. It might help me not get bored with focusing too hard on one story for too long and I’ll feel fresher when I come back to it.
While talking to my Mom on the phone earlier today I told her about the difficulties of trying to write a query letter (yes, I’m still working on it…it’s so not easy).
I said, “It was easier to write a 91,000 word book than this 250 word letter about my book.”
Her reply. “You wrote the book for fun, the query letter is more like an assignment and that’s never fun.”
She’s so dang smart! I’m glad we’re related. Lol!
But she’s right. This letter is homework. It’s a sales pitch. It’s not fun. And that makes it hard…and a huge pain in the butt.
I’ve written about ten drafts of the dumb thing and it still needs a lot of work. At least I think I have the right idea now.
I got this idea from my friend, Amanda. This is my list of writing rules. My personal writing rules (so they may not work for everyone).
- Writing should be fun: If you don’t enjoy it then what’s the point? It’s okay to take a day off if you are frustrated, confused, or depressed about writing. Come back to it when you are ready to enjoy the process.
- Be consistent: Setting a schedule, a dedicated writing time, really helps.
- Show, don’t tell: This is an oft repeated rule…sometimes I wonder if those who say it really know what it means (me included)…but that doesn’t make it less true. This is a hard thing to do and I don’t claim to be an expert on this, I just try my best.
- Expect writing to be work: This might seem to contradict rule #1, but they go together. Yes it should be fun, but it is work, it is hard, and it will drive you crazy. Writing isn’t magic, it doesn’t just happen out of the blue. You have to sit your butt in a chair and work. A lot. For many, many hours. If you aren’t willing to do the work, then you’ll never get anywhere.
- Avoid distractions: Turn off the TV, put your phone away, and writing time is not the time to play apps or browse the internet. You can’t write if your mind is distracted.
- You don’t need a muse: I don’t have one, I’ve never had one. It seems to me if you depend on one you are going to waste a lot of time waiting for it to speak to you…because muses are fickle little buggers. Don’t wait for it, trust yourself.
- Read a lot: This is obvious, good writers are good readers first. Know your craft.
- Finish what you start: I know too many writers with files and boxes of papers filled with unfinished projects. I made a vow to not let this happen to me. It takes practice to learn how to finish a good story…so practice and finish what you start. Yes, I understand some things can’t be finished, I’m only saying don’t make it a habit because then all you learn is how to start a story but you never learn the skill of finishing.
- Writer’s block isn’t a good excuse to not write: I don’t believe in writer’s block. Yes, I have hard days. Everyone does. But I always write something, even if it’s a load of crap. Learning to write when it’s hard helps me finish, learning to write when I’m not in the mood helps me be more productive when I am. Work through writer’s block, don’t let it paralyze you and win. That said, we all need a day off every once in a while. Take a break and breathe. Come back to it tomorrow (not the next day or the next day…tomorrow…don’t put it off).
- Do things your way: Stop trying to copy another writer’s style, routine, or process. You need to do what works for you. Just because it’s different doesn’t make it wrong. This includes choosing what you write about, it needs to be a subject you are interested in, not what sells (because that’s just cheap and how could that ever be enjoyable?)
As I said, these are my rules, I don’t expect everyone to agree and use them. Plus there are plenty of other rules (more like guidelines…lol) like grammar, character development, etc. But these are my main rules that I try to remind myself, especially when I’m having a rough time.
I’ve decided that the art of writing a query letter is a special torture designed to make want-to-be authors question their very existence on this planet, as well as getting them to feel like crappy writers.
I worked on one a few months ago, then set it aside because my novel needed more revision. I’ve got it back out again. I’ve rewritten it. I still want to scream. How do you reasonably sum up a full length novel in about three sentences? Yeah, I don’t know either.
Add that to the fact that I have no prior publishing experience, or writing credentials, and now I feel like a complete twit.
I’ll get there, it just might kill me first. Maybe then my novel can be published posthumously? Kidding…kidding…
Another problem I’m having is deciding exactly which age group my novel is best suited for. The subject matter and actual plot suggest middle grade reader. The ages of the main characters (16 and 18) and the word count (approx. 91,000 words) are better suited for young adult. Right now I’m pitching it as “upper middle grade”. Hopefully that’s acceptable.
In better news, my current project has 36,000 words after working on it for about a month. I write a little every day and I’m making steady progress.
I started manuscript #3 on February 5th. So far I’m 15,000 words into it and it’s going really well. All the things I learned from revising my previous works is helping my initial attempt at this project go much smoother.
Bonus: I look forward to writing each day…sometimes I have to make myself stop so I can get other things done. That’s awesome!
As part of my attempt to keep my writing goals this year, I decided to start a writing journal. Every day I write just a little bit, nothing huge, about my daily writing experience (or if I didn’t write, my reasons behind it, etc). I also keep track of how long I worked, and how many words and/or pages I got through (for revisions it’s easier to keep track of pages instead of words). So far I think it’s really helping me to stay dedicated and see how much I’m getting accomplished, so I think this was a good idea for me.
I finished my revisions on manuscript #1. Truth be told, I’m sick of looking at it. Is it perfect? Of course not. But the reality is I could keep picking at it for the rest of my life and it would never be perfect. It’s time for me to move on. Even though I’m scared, it’s time for me to query some people and see if I can’t move on to that next step…getting it published. I’m realistic, I know it’s a long shot, but I’ll never know if it’s any good if I don’t try. The worst thing that can happen is people say no, it’s not the end of the world. But this is where I’m at. That’s my next goal for this particular project.
Manuscript #2: I did some major revisions on it late last year and have let it sit for two months. Last week a friend of mine, who knows I write, contacted me about starting a new side business as an editor. Since she’s just getting started she is looking for people with manuscripts they’d be willing to let her read. In exchange I would write a testimonial for her website when she gets it up and running. We’d both be helping each other out. It sounded like a good deal to me so I dusted off manuscript #2 and I’m almost finished giving a quick read before sending it off to her. Some of it is so rough the wording makes me cringe…but I’m still very fond of the story so I think it just needs a load of work. I figure I need readers for it, and since she’s offering not only to read it, but do a nice editing job on top of it, why not? This will really help me kick start my next series of serious revisions on this project. So I’m in the last chapter, I’ll be sending it off to her tonight or tomorrow.
That leads me to manuscript #3! It’s been bugging me for while now, begging for me to start writing it down. So, it’s time. I’m actually really excited to get back to nitty-gritty, raw writing. I’ll probably be spending the next few months getting the rough draft of this one completed. Manuscript #3 is a sequel/continuation of #2…and I also already have an idea for a third installment of this story. That will probably be it though, for this story. I have ideas rattling around for others things as well, but nothing solid yet, there’s time for me to get serious about those ideas later.