Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why "wrong thinking" can kill your work

Today's blog is short and sweet and on my lunch hour ;). (yes, I'm one of those lucky souls supporting my writing career with a mundane muggle type day job ;))

I've been thinking about authors and negative thoughts. I just read a blog about NOT making your blog your own personal diary They made some great points and if you don't already use Query Tracker (and read their blog) I suggest you do so :).

But the blog got me thinking about this field we've chosen to be in- we're in a very subjective field. Only actors and boxers take more hits than we do. Yet so many writers seemed surprised when the rejections roll in. Then they kick themselves for not being good enough.

What does this accomplish? If you have done your homework, learned your craft, gotten unbiased feedback, then you've done what you can. Just because you get rejected doesn't mean your work isn't up to snuff (neccessarily) it could be just not what THAT agent wants at that time. Or you really could suck.

If you really do suck- then you can fix it (and get new beta readers ;)). If you DON'T really suck- then holding these "woe is me I got rejected again my life is over" thoughts only hurt one person- YOU. And more importantly your writing and your career. Yes rejection hurts- but no one made you do this. You want a writing career get used to rejection. A LOT of it. Even when you have an agent. Even after a contract. This career is one punch after another.

So, why make things worse by wallowing? Suck it up, fix what needs to be fixed, AND GET BACK OUT THERE! No public blogging of failures- just muster on :).

Never give up and never surrender!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fear of going forward

Ok, so one of my little darlings has been flitting around the agent pool for a bit now. Still out and about and on it's own. The others are waiting in the wings, holding on as they wait for their turn.

Where does that leave me?

Starting a new project! *cue scary music here*

Now it's been over a year (OMG) since I've started anything new. I've had my head buried in one or the other current/finished projects for what seems like FOREVER. But I need to get back in that idea pool- I can't sit around resting on my four book laurels ;).

So what project to start? I keep a file (part mental part documented) of ideas. Diving into it I came up with two- one more of a Fantasy adventure, the other more paranormal romance. Neither one felt "perfect" to me though. The adventure one didn't have enough heart and the paranormal had too much.

Cue Light Bulb over head ;).

I'm going to combine them! Now the world issue is a problem- the paranormal was current world- but I can't help it, I feel better in my own world thank you (I'll let the shrinks figure out what that says about me later ;)) so that's where this one will be- a world of my own creation.

I don't have the project started yet- even a pantser like me needs something to grab onto- but the two ideas just might blend into an awesome book!

While I do almost feel like I'm cheating on the folks from my other books- I know I need to move forward. All of the previous books are separate series. I have big arcs for them even though all could stand on their own. But at this time (aka no agent no publishing contract) I think I need to keep moving forward and invent new worlds.

What about you folks? How do you dive into a new world? Does it freak you out?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The agent dating game

I just got back from a mind expanding couple of days up in Los Angeles, the Romantic Times BookLover’s Convention. Along with the great chances to see folks I either only know online or see very rarely and take great workshops, there’s the chance to see agents in person. Today is about that- agents in a controlled environment, but still wild and unpredictable.

At least one agent compared the relationship between writer and agent as a marriage- if so then events like RT are dating groups. Some agents have great online presence, they have active blogs, do webinars, have a ton of exposure. Kristin Nelson is a great example; you get a very good feel of who she is as an agent and as a person from all of her online activities.

But for many agents, there really isn’t that level of interaction.
I think writers get so caught up in the great search they forget to make sure the searchie is someone they can live with. For hopefully a VERY VERY long and successful time. We need to find an agent with a great track record-yes- but they also need to be someone who loves our work. Who gets it and gets us. The best agent in the world is useless for a writing career if they don't love the work and get along with the author.

Events like RT are wonderful in that you get to see a variety of agents roaming about. They are in panels, they do workshops, they take pitches, they are hanging out at the bar drinking just like you. And the writer gets to understand them, see who might be right- or wrong- for them. There are a few agents that upon meeting them, seeing them, or even in one case dealing with them online, whom I have taken off my list. All are successful- but there were personality differences that just told me even if that person totally loved my work- we would be heading for divorce court very quickly. Again, the writer has to decide if they are just going for a quickie one-book shot or a career. I’m looking for a career and I want someone who wants that as well.

This year a couple of agents really stood out as “keepers” just by the way they interacted in panels and socially. And one of them really got my work. I mean he totally got it. The fact that this was a very successful, talented, and well respected agent was just icing on the cake- HE GOT IT!

Now this agent was on my list, but until I saw him speak he hadn’t climbed head and shoulders above the crowd- he has now. Not only did he get my work, but the things he said about working with clients and the field in general really grabbed my attention. He’s a very cool guy.

Now, do I think you have to have a cool agent? No. But you do need someone you like. The agents I’ve taken off my list were removed because I really didn’t like them. They aren’t bad folks- it’s just we wouldn’t get along. Can you imagine being in a marriage where you didn’t LIKE the person? Why would you want to work with an agent you don’t like?

This agent who got my stuff was so good he made me change my mind about synopsis (if you missed it here’s my tirade on the subject over at Castles & Guns Well, he modified my opinion of them anyway- I still don’t like them. But I have a better grasp of their reason for being, and thanks to his workshop I hopefully will write better ones ;).

So my long rambling point is that writers NEED to go meet agents. Not just to pitch, or network, but just to see who they are. See which ones will just chat with folks, and which ones build a barrier between them and the great unwashed masses (to which I do wonder WHY are they there?).

See who you might want to ask out on a date.

So save your pennies and find a conference to go to. RT has agents, RWA Nationals has agents, SDSU writer’s conference has LOTS of agents. The Guide to Literary Agents blog often posts conferences with- you guessed it- agent appearances (just sign up and have the blog sent to you-much easier). Don’t just look at their track record- also look at their personality.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Putting the guts in being a writer

"Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential." - Jessamyn West

Being out on the submission circuit is making me look at my own mental process a lot more closely than I do when writing or editing (or it could be argued- a lot more closely than any normal person should look ;)).

When I saw this quote it just really hit me. That is so flipping true. Even if you are the most talented writer in the world, if you don’t have a pretty big helping of guts, you’re not going to be published. There is no writer's soda fountain for an agent to discover you at ;).

Think of the time and emotion a novelist spends on a single work. Even the faster writers are still spending months. On a single project. Then we spend another huge slice of our life editing the thing. Then comes the terror…is it ready? We've invested so much time and effort in this single project that the idea that it may not be is enough to choke us.

Now many writers prowl around the internet, looking for signs their work is ready. Have others look at it (preferably not just folks who like us ;)), make sure the formatting is perfect, get query letter and synopsis in working order.

But how do we KNOW when it’s ready? I think part of the terror, and the part where the guts step in, is that we don’t. Not really.

Let’s face it- is any work REALLY done? Most authors would still find things to fiddle with in their published and much loved books if they were given the chance.

So how can an unpublished author tell when it’s done? We have to go by feel. Ask ourselves, is this the best I can do AT THIS TIME? Knowing full well that in even a few weeks our answer could be different.

Part of this is the fear of closing doors. If my work isn’t where it needs to be, should I really send it to my “A-list” agents now? Even if I think it is as good as it can get right now? Do I sit on it? Constantly revisiting it, re-writing, re-working- always not sure it’s there yet?

Fears and self-doubt aside, I have to take a deep breath and hit send. That is probably the hardest things in the world. To take a project that has taken months to complete, and sending it out without any assurance that it is good enough. Knowing that it may run through all of the agents on my list and still come back alone.

But I’m in this for the long haul, a writing career not a single book- so I have to do it. The thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that this isn’t my only book, that I’ve shown I can write more. But it still causes a pit of terror when that email or letter gets sent.

Writing is definately not for the timid of heart.