Wednesday, March 31, 2010
UP FRONT CLARIFICATION! the title of this post is in no way a cheeky attempt to call agents assholes. agents are rock stars, got it? even the ones who reject me. Rock. Stars.
now then.. an update on my path to publishing:
yesterday, i got my second rejection on a full manuscript. my first rejection was a form reply, which is fine, but tells me little beyond "cross agent off list." my most recent rejection came with a long list of revision notes. that was kind of the agent to do because she did not have to.
Agents DO NOT have to give you feedback on your rejected work. Any agent who does is doing you a solid out of the kindness of his or her own heart.
anyway, i learned two important things from this rejection.
first, i got to experience firsthand what everybody means when they say "this is a subjective business," because the suggestions in the rejection revision notes were point-by-point, the opposite of the suggestions made by Agent Almost, for whom i am currently revising.
second, i learned something about myself... that even if these revisions had come attached to an offer of representation, instead of a rejection, i still would not have gone with the agent.
when i started the query process, of course i did my research and everything to target appropriate agents, but i have to admit there was that little voice in the back of my head screaming, "agent! Agent! ANY Agent!" the revision notes sent along with this rejection silenced that voice.
it truly is critical to find an agent who can get on the same page with you. (pun intended)
NOW! A REMINDER! i am preparing to pass out gooey, glowing, gushing compliments to every one of my followers as soon as i have TEN of them! and bonus! i'll post links to your own blogs with reasons why people should click them!
i know, it's not a lot of incentive, but i don't have ARCs or books or other things to give away, because i'm not a big deal... yet. ;)
but follow me, and big things could happen, kids. BIG things!
Sunday, March 28, 2010
for the past couple of weeks, i've been struggling to decide whether that manuscript would be GRIM or BD&B. i now know why i couldn't decide... because deep down, i knew the work on BUTTER wasn't done.
and oh! the work that lies ahead!
i am about to embark on some pretty major revisions, based on the tremendous insight of... well, let's just call this person "agent almost."
i say "almost" because there has been no offer of representation. instead, there has been great communication and now - a beautiful and lengthy (i'm talking 1300 words) revision letter.
we can do a tiny little happy dance here, because it's not a "rejection, revision ideas and offer to resubmit" letter, but a definite "work on this, because i want to work with you" letter.
and people, this letter is as inspiring as it is intimidating.
phrases like "deep and universal," "vivid and complicated," "strong and authentic" and "captivating" had me on my tippy-toes, reaching for cloud nine.
while words like "unrealistic" and "stereotype" kept me grounded.
i thought i would want a revision letter to tell me exactly what to do - add this scene, take out that one. instead, i got one pointing out what needs improvement and leaving it to me to figure out how to do it. and i couldn't be more thrilled. now, any changes i make are still my changes, my work. instead of being given direction, i was given inspiration.
i also thought revisions that require some pretty major overhauls would be a reflection of a big messy book. instead, i felt like "agent almost"was saying: you wrote something good, but you have no idea just how GREAT the book you're writing could be.
it made me feel like someone out there has even more confidence in me than i have in myself.
and i hope every author gets to read a letter like that someday.
Monday, March 22, 2010
anyway, this post will hopefully be a pick-me-up for any writer currently in purgatory, waiting to hear from agents.
so you write and write and edit and edit and research and prepare and query and…… wait.
it’s tough, as a writer in search of an agent, to have so much momentum then suddenly have to hit the brakes and practice patience. it can be maddening, actually.
WHICH is why… some of those writers nudge potential agents much too soon. with emails such as this:
thanks again for requesting my full manuscript! i know your guidelines state it could take you up to 3 months to read requested materials, but query tracker says you usually take less than a month. plus ,i am stalking you on twitter, so i know you were out to dinner with friends last saturday when you probably should have been home catching up on your reading. how dare you have a life when my literary future is on the line! don’t you know who i am?! or.. um.. who i WILL be, once you agree to represent me?
which IS why… agents are all over blogs and twitter and writing forums stating how much pushy writers turn them off and that they won’t represent such crazies.
which is WHY… even writers who have it together and understand the process become quivering bundles of nerves when it comes time to contact an agent for any reason other than to query or send requested material, for fear of irritating said agent and blowing our chances at representation.
i felt that heart-racing uncertainty last week, but i dove in and sent two emails - one to an agent who invited me to nudge her after a month, the other to an agent who is preparing a revision letter for me.
and… whaddaya know?! they both sent back quick replies, BOTH thanking me for staying in touch and BOTH updating me on what was happening on their ends.
those emails made me feel reassured, confident and more than a little silly for worrying so much.
what did I expect? perhaps that they would email me back that i was a pushy, needy author and that not only would they not represent me but i’d “never work in publishing, NEVER!”
of course the responses were polite, because the nudges were appropriate.
as long as you’re following the agent’s guidelines or industry standards for reasons and timing of contact, i say: Be confident. Click send. this is your (potential) career. and few people ever built a successful career by sitting back and being a wallflower, waiting for good things to just land in their laps.
now, the agent who told me she takes 3 months to respond to full manuscripts? she will be hearing from me in 27 days, 8 hours and 36 minutes… and not a second before, because that would be rude. but lookout, agent #3… in two months, you’re going to get a nudge to knock your socks off!
Friday, March 19, 2010
however, i don't have anything witty or informative to say about writing at the moment.
so we're going to veer off course for this post to bring you something new that may or may not become a regular feature on the blog.
STRANGE THINGS AT STOPLIGHTS!
since i live in a huge city and commute to both work and my boyfriend's house, i spend a lot of time stuck in traffic. often - freakishly often, in fact - i see some very strange things while stuck waiting at stoplights.
i always try to snap photos of the odd things i see, but the pictures just end up getting deleted because i don't really have a place to share them. that is... until now. :)
which brings us to this:
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
a lot of YA books are heavy on dialog, so i've been pushing myself to let my characters do the story telling.
this is from an early scene in BILLY D. & THE BULLY, a work in progress that still has a looooong way to go.
WARNING: this snippet contains language that can be offensive on several different levels, especially since this clip is out of context.
“My name’s Billy Drum, but everybody calls me Billy D.”
“I don’t care.”
“Who are you?”
I smirked. “I’m your worst nightmare.”
“You’re not my worst nightmare! My worst nightmare is about a snake and a-“
“I don’t care.”
“My next door neighbor Mark calls you ‘that dick,’ but that’s not your name. I know what a dick is and it’s not a name. In my life skills class, they call it a penis, but I know it’s also called a dick, and it’s definitely not a na-“
“DUDE! I don’t want to talk about dicks with you.”
“What do you want to talk about?”
“I want to –“ I threw up my hands, then paced backward a few steps down the sidewalk and forward again. “I don’t want to talk about anything, Man! Go away!”
Billy was unfazed by my outburst. I picked up pace, and he adjusted his stride to match mine. “Ok, but if you just told me your name, I could tell Mark and he wouldn’t call you ‘that dick’ anymore.”
“That little piss fuck knows my name, and I’m gonna kick his ass later for calling me a dick.”
“Ok, then will you tell me what your name is so I don’t call you dick and get my ass kicked?”
I sighed and covered my face with my hands. “Dane, ok? My name is Dane Washington.”
“Washington like the president?”
“Yeah. Like the president.”
“If you say so.”
His steps became lighter, almost a skip. “So now I’ll call you Dane, and you won’t kick my ass!”
“I might kick your ass anyway if you don’t shut up.”
“You said you don’t beat up retards.”
“You said you weren’t a retard.”
He fell quiet for a few blissful seconds, then: “Sooo, wait. Does that mean you can still kick my ass?”
I dropped my chin to my chest and closed my eyes. This was going to be the longest walk to school ever.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
i would love even more to be telling that story someday myself.
but since i am unpublished, i'll have to settle for telling you about my path to publishing so far.
step 1) find a passion for writing.
i found mine as a kid.
(i distinctly remember one story, inspired by the 'babysitters club' books, about a group of girls who go on a cruise together. every girl got a different color font for her dialog. and i remember writing a play about dinosaurs that we performed at school in first grade.)
step 2) finish a book.
this took a lot longer for me. once i started writing novel-length works, i found myself not finishing any of them for various reasons. i finally figured out the only way to finish was to not allow myself to get distracted by any new ideas. if i came up with another story, i would have to wait to write a single word of it until i finished the project i was working on. it was a tremendous motivator.
step 3) revise that book.
in the case of my first finished rough draft, this is the step i didn't complete. i did some copy edits, but realized the book needed more than surface editing. it needed a plot overhaul and a complete rewrite from a first person POV. (that's point of view, for the non-writerly readers). instead of tackling that mountain of work, i let myself work on one of my new ideas. now THAT book i did finish and revise.
step 4) get beta readers.
i love my mom and dad, and sending them my books chapter-by-chapter to read is a great motivator during the writing process. but their biased opinions alone cannot be trusted. so i found writers on Absolute Write (see link on the right) who were willing to beta-read for me. i also shared the manuscript with one friend who is not a writer, but is an extremely honest and critical reader.
step 5) revise again.
incorporate the beta suggestions that you agree with (and give your work a good critical look before you dismiss any ideas). also, by the time you get beta feedback, you'll have let your manuscript sit for a few weeks, so it's a good time to look at it with your own fresh eyes. if you're like me, you'll find more to edit.
step 6) polish manuscript.
that may mean more beta reading or just some copy cleanup. in my case, for BUTTER, at this step it was mostly manuscript formatting.
step 7) do your research !!!
other than writing the book, this is the most important step. for me, the research began before i ever finished the first book. i joined forums like Absolute Write and soaked up everything i could about the publishing process. AW was also a great jumping-off point for my agent research. I began to follow agent blogs and tweets. I started scouring sites like query tracker and publishers marketplace to see which agents represented which authors, etc...
then i compiled a long list of agents who might be interested in what i write.
step 8) write a query letter.
at least, this is the next step for most writers. personally, i like writing the query almost as much as writing the book itself, so i tend to write my query FIRST, to give me an outline of where my book is going.
step 8-A) get feedback on your query from sites like AW.
step 8-B) revise and polish that query.
step 9) write a synopsis (essentially a 2-page summary of your book, including the ending).
repeat steps 8-A and 8-B above.
got your polished book, polished query and polished synopsis? good. then proceed to:
step 10) query agents!
in my case, i started with a top tier of about a dozen agents. i queried 7 (because that's my lucky number) and decided i would query another agent for each rejection that came in. then i made a spread sheet of agents, in order of preference, and prepared to query hundreds, if necessary. i did get a few rapid-fire form rejections and sent out queries to the next agents on the list within the first day or so of querying.
then, something pleasant happened. after just 4 days of querying, i got requests for full manuscripts from 4 of my first-tier agents. at this point, i decided to put querying on hold until i heard back from most or all of those agents. after doing my research, i already respected the opinions of these agents, so i knew their feedback (if any) would influence me, so if they all rejected it for similar reasons (plot sucks, hate the characters, etc...) then i would revise before sending out any more queries.
step 11) wait.
...and wait ...and wait.
this is the limbo i am in now. the average response time on a full manuscript seems to be around three months. in my case, one agent suggested i nudge her with a reminder email after a month, so i'll probably be doing that next week. another agent already sent me a form rejection (so no feedback there, unfortunately). another agent doesn't like nudging until after the three month mark, so i can't bug her for two more whole months!
however, sometimes this happens:
the fourth agent who requested my manuscript called me three days after i sent it!
he called just to tell me he was still reading and liking it. he complimented the voice, the concept, the use of humor despite the dark theme and said his assistant had already finished it and liked it. (not exactly THE CALL, but Yiipppeeeee anyway!)
a week later, that same agent emailed to say he had finished the book and still liked it very much but had some revision suggestions. (my research tells me it is very common for this particular agent to ask for revisions before signing a client, so i was not a bit surprised or put out. i would love his input).
he had hoped to have revision notes for me the next week, but my research also tells me that agents are insanely busy, so i am trying not to be nervous that it has been a couple weeks since that email.
i guess it's back to "wait."
...and wait ...and wait.
which brings me to:
step 11) write something new.
work on a new manuscript while you're waiting. better yet, start a blog too! just keep yourself distracted.
so that's what i'm doing. and i'll keep you all posted as i get (hopefully) further down the path to publishing.
(preview: if i'm lucky, it will go something like this...
steps 12-437) get agent, revise for agent, agent submit book to publishers, an editor likes and decides to buy, agent sells to editor/publishing house, revise for editor, revise some more, revise for copy editors, revise some more, get a marketing plan (or not), get a book cover, get advanced reading copies, get a publishing date, get early (hopefully good) reviews, get book on shelves, get readers so hopefully book stays on shelves for more than a couple weeks, write a new book, rinse, repeat.)
wish me luck!!!
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
anyway, on to the post!! today is... TEASER TUESDAY!
teaser tuesday is a fun trend i've seen all across the YA blogosphere. (YA, for you non-writerly folks, is young adult.) Lots of YA writers with blogs post snippets of their works every tuesday to give readers an idea of what they write. I've decided to jump on the bandwagon because:
a) i, too, write YA.
b) i don't really have an idea for another post yet.
c) what better way to start a writing blog than to post some writing?
so, without further ado, here is the first page or so from my young adult novel, BUTTER, currently on submission with literary agents:
One stick of butter
You think I eat a lot now? You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Tune in December 31st, when I will stream a live webcast of my last meal. Death row inmates get one. Why shouldn’t I? I can’t take another year in this fat suit, but I can end this year with a bang. If you can stomach it, you’re invited to watch… as I eat myself to death.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Those are my followers. I already have two followers, and I haven't even written my first blog post. Now THAT is popular, people!
Of course.. um.. maybe I should confess: my two followers are my dad and my boyfriend. Now, if I could just get Lucky to follow me, that would be all the main men in my life.
This is Lucky, by the way:
He is one of the many distractions that keep me from writing as often as I'd like. Which leads me to the title of this blog. I picked "Write Me," because I think that's what my stories would say if they could talk. I have a pile of unfinished manuscripts and a mountain of unwritten novels in my head.
Ever since I first started writing novels, I've been a serial story starter - and never a finisher. I would lose interest in a plot, get distracted by real life or let things like massive manuscript-eating computer malfunctions break my will to write.
It went on like that for more than a decade: start-abandon-start-abandon... until last year I finally finished my first manuscript. (but more on that later. have to save something for future posts!) It turns out finishing just one teaches you quite a bit about what you need to know to finish at all. So I wrote another book - and finished again! Are you seeing a pattern here?
The point is, with a couple of completed manuscripts under my belt and one of them being read by agents (more on that later too - much, much more!), I figured it was time to join the ranks of other aspiring authors and start a blog..
..and hopefully a blog following.
See how we've come full circle here? The purpose of this first post is truly just to beg. Please, oh please, won't you follow me??
Just kidding... sort of.
The purpose is actually to introduce myself
Hi, I'm EJ. I write stuff.
and to tell you what this blog will be all about
It's about me writing stuff.
Hmm. I guess I already accomplished that with the subtitle above. Wow. Blog Fail. I promise to get better at this. ;)
oh, P.S. I also picked the title "Write Me" because it rhymes with Bite Me, which makes me giggle, because I'm mature like that.