Number 53

A common theme in blogs posts on my site is rejection. Like choosing a character’s name and plotting a general outline, rejection is another part of the path to becoming an author. It is also one of those bullet points that we, as writers, don’t really concentrate on–especially when you have just begun walking the writing path.

In the beginning, rejection letters are one of those things that happen to other people. You are not ‘other people,’ and know–for a fact–you’ll walk the path of JK Rowling and Dr. Seuss. After a small number of rejections (you know, from literary agents who didn’t know any better) you will find your agent. Then, of course, you will find your fame. (Or whatever it is you’re looking or at the end of that writing tunnel.)

Maybe fame isn’t your ultimate goal, but the one thing we all have in common is feeling we’re worthy of literary representation.

But then life happens. You pass the 12 rejections. You passed 27 of Dr. Seuss. And then what?

My last novel, and I’m not sure I should even call it that seeing it remains unpublished, is at 53 rejections. 53.

I read an article once claiming  you shouldn’t quit sending queries until 80, but let me tell you 53 stings in ways I never imagined. The longer I do this, write new stories and send them out to get rejected, the harder it becomes.

The small voice in the back of my head tells me to keep going, but heart isn’t so sure it’s worth the beating any more. I’d like to say, “you get used to it,” but I’m not sure that’s ever true. How can you ever get used to subtly being told you’re not good enough?

Maybe it’s time for a little break. I’m not sure… the only thing I can say is, if you’re a writer, thicken up your skin, and I really do hope you get the fastest acceptance ever.

happy writing–xxoo-a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The map of me

At seven, when I began writing, I wrote because it was fun. Bad poems about ax murders and dragons (don’t judge) and adventure tales that involved hot air balloons and evil people chasing me was the bread and butter of my portfolio.

None of it was “ready,” but like I said–it was a blast. (Even the time the principle called my mothers to rat on me about a mean spirited poem I wrote centering around a girl in my class. To clarify, she’s punched me–I only wrote about wanting to hit her. I’m the classy one.)

In my teens I wrote more poetry. Filled with teen-angst and “why is the world so cruel” themes. This was in my journal. Even the story about a frog that was the wrong color. Everyone made fun of her, until she finally left home. Then, she made a friend–an albino crocodile–and together they saved everyone in her pond. (No, the crock didn’t eat anyone. She was lonely too.)

In my twenties I started to take writing more serious. I wrote a futuristic fantasy novel that had elves and talking crows. Once finish, I promptly showed it to no one. That said, I did my research, all with the intent to publish–yet I never did.

My second attempt was a romance novel. For me romance has always been a palate cleanser. I read the genre when I need a break from the other genres I read. I actually love romance–for this reason. Sometimes a story only needs to be skin deep. Two people meet, they fall in love, life tears them apart–they find each other in the end. There is perfection in that formula.

This novel was rejected. I wasn’t as tenacious back than as I am now. After one rejection I quit–for a long, long time.

I still wrote. Poems. Songs. Long rants in my journal about how I felt, my love/hate relationship with the world. With life. A script about a girl in love with a guy in a band. Two scripts that were horror movies. (One I still love. The other, I love one scene from. Sadly it doesn’t translate to novel writing. It was a camera thing.) And another story (which I adore, but the premise wasn’t my idea, so I let it sit, dusty and untouched) was the story of a young boy–set in NYC in the late 70’s. Seriously, I sometimes think about this kid. If you know me, and have read some of my stuff–the kids name was Malcolm. I loved him so much, I moved him into a new world. I made him grow up. He became a wonderful man–I’m slightly in love with him.

Then I got pregnant. Lost my job. Went to yoga teacher training to help reinvent myself–and then it happened. At our graduation celebration, a yogi friend said, “What are you thinking about now, Aryn?” and before I could lock my brain down or keep my mouth shut, I said, “Writing. I wish I was writing.”

And so I did. I moved. Had a few poems published.

I wrote another book. Then I rewrote that book. And then I rewrote it five more times. Rejected. (a big whole bunch.) (YA Fantasy/Horror)

So I wrote another book. This one for someone. The first draft sits, because… I don’t know. I can’t seem to reconnect with the content. This, like the story with the boy, has some parts I adore–but there is a mind blockade. A wall of white noise. It wears me down. (Historic Fiction)

Wrote a novella. (Sci/fi YA)

Then the one I have out on query. Actually, this was written prior to the one for a friend. I sent it out–Rejected. So I reworked it. From first draft to fifth, I found a writing partner. She helped me fix it. Still rejected. (Speculative Science Fiction)

Rejected so many times I’ve learned to flinch when my email pings. I turn my ringer off now.

In October I finished the first draft of a new book. I have high hopes for this one. It’s early. I hoped to have the second draft down by now–but the hell death plague that devoured my house, and my health, made certain that wasn’t an option. (Urban Fantasy)

I haven’t been seven in a very long time, but I can tell you this with all honestly–writing is still fun. I no longer write about the mean girl, or how I wish something bad would happen to her. If there is one thing that writing has taught me is the importance of being selective–in what you write about, who you spend your time with, where you put your energy.

It shows.

I’m hoping this next book is my lucky charm. Or maybe there is an agent out there–right now–reading my query for my current piece on submission who wants more. I don’t know. All I’m sure of, flinching aside, all I’ve ever known is writing. It is my expression. My soul. It is all I want.

Words.

Queries: Just how many is the right number?

This is a solid question. When you set out into the land of submissions, you’re happiness level is high. Just as is the level of hope you hold in your heart and soul.

–and you know it’s coming–

–rejection will sneak into your psyche like a rat into your toilet–

Maybe in the beginning you got a bite, but now… nothing.

So what is the magic number? When do you stop?

Back in 2014 there was a Writer’s Digest posted an article titled, “Don’t Give Up Until You’ve Queries 80 Agents or More.” (that link will take you right to it)

But honestly, if you read the article, it doesn’t explain why 80+ is the way to go. Yes, it does go into a succession of analogies on what it takes to deal with queries and rejections–but not why the number is so magical that it’s plopped in the middle of the title.

My guess as to why they didn’t touch on the why is because there is no magic number. All there is, is perseverance and the knowledge that if we (as writers) keep writing and working to improve ourselves and our crafts–if we don’t chuck our MS into the nearest trash can and say, “time to give up on that dream.”–we increase our chances of actually finding an agent and succeeding.

I set out to find a magic number because I have made a list of potential agents on QueryTracker.com. (This is the site I use. If you know of a better one, please share a link.)

On QueryTracker.com I created a list of 33 agents. I’ve sent queries to 28. Of those 28 I’ve received 17 rejections–one no reply that stated after a month it was an auto-rejection–and I have 10 letters sitting out there in the land of digital inboxes. 5 other names sit on my list. Some have been there for months. Most days I stare at them.

So this is my real issue. My novel–The Trials of Imogen Grace–is speculative science fiction. I supposed in the great scheme of things that yes, there are 80+ agents out there looking for science fiction–but where? At 33 I feel like I’ve exhausted my resources. Those 5 I stare at are because they’re so boarder line when it comes to accepting Science Fiction I’m already 98% they’re rejections and I haven’t even typed out, “Dear Agent,” on a saved draft in my gmail.

Now querying has gone from a necessary step along this path of getting my books published and has been twisted into a middle school math word problem.

A trail leaves Los Angeles with you, your computer, and a query on board. It is bound for an Agent in London. Your research shows they accept science fiction. You’ve done you’re homework and are plainly excited–this may be a good fit. BUT…they like to meet in person, and  that’s when you realize A TRAIN CAN’T GO TO LONDON! You forgot the Atlantic ocean!

But you’ll figure it out. You get out your trusty pencil and write out the equation: 80 – reality = ???

DON’T GET ON THE TRAIN!

In conclusion I’ve come up with my own hypothesis on how many queries is the right amount. As many as you choose to send.

I’m not crazy. (for the most part). I get how this all works and I’m trying to look for the signs, or whatever was stated in the above mention article–but at the end of the day I also learned something more: self belief.

I like my book. I really, really do. I’ve read it about 500 times and I’m sure I’ll read it even more as I edit it one…more…time.

Yes, I feel like I’ve been at this a long time–ten years is a long time. Not on this novel, but in general. But instead of my need and will slipping away, I’ve found in those ten years I’ve worked harder, learned more, been more open to improvements.

Sadly, there is no magic number–just faith in yourself and your manuscript. If you love it and believe in it, than yes–you’ll get past that 80 mark. You probably bypass 100 as well–because you, like me, want what you’ve written out there.

Now all I can do is keep trying and hope someone will believe in it as much as I do.

Never give up! Never surrender. Happy writing! xxoo-A

 

The continuous road of writing…

I’ve now been sending queries for 25 days. I know this because one agent I emailed sent an auto-reply telling me after 30 days–it wasn’t me, it’s him or her.

Why is sending queries like getting dumped? Besides the obvious rejection. But seriously, that is what all auto-rejections feel like. And here I am–in my teens again, getting the, ‘It’s not you. It’s me,’ speech from some catholic school boy whose name I can’t remember.

The only difference is I’m not sixteen any more and I’ve matured enough to believe that the sender is correct. You can’t please everyone now can you? And why would you want to for that matter?

As the query wheels roll I’ve taken the time to look at what else I have in my writing armory. There is full history fiction novel, a half novel that still has potential not to suck a ton, and then the long queue of new ideas burning holes in my brain.

[They keep me up at night. Does this happen to you?]

Most ideas I let sit for a while. If they vanish I know I was right to wait. How great of a concept could it have been I can’t even remember it existed? Then there are the others… Over a dozen random characters in my head poking my frontal lobe just to see if I’m paying attention.

My brain needs a receptionist.

On top of that I have one other problem: two of these stories are promises–one is a first draft (a very, extremely, oh god help me! first draft,) that was a promise to a friend and the other is for my son.

I came here to write about it because seeing the problem on the computer screen helps me make decisions. I suppose that is another cure of being a writer–the transition from brain to page. My hazel green eyes need to rest firmly on the blackness of the text in order for my brain to calm down and make a decision. It also allows me to distract myself–because while I’m busying myself filling out beat sheets, typing up character breakdowns, and deciding where to put a big chunk of my energy for the next four weeks, I’m able to hold onto the notion that I won’t be sad on June 16th when I don’t hear from that agent…

Querying is such a roller coaster! (which is an amazing place to pick up emotional traits for the characters I write about. Damn it. Writing is like the song that never ends. It just keeps going and going and going and going…)

 

Writing, querying, PitMad, & words

What is in a name? Shakespeare. He had Romeo ask  that very question as he looked over a thorny rose–trying to convince himself what he was doing was right.

A few nights ago I asked a writer friend of mine what inspired him. What made him want to write? For me it’s everything. Maybe I’ve heard a name that interests me in a way that I’m compelled to attache a fictitious body to it. Then, I collect these imaginary people in my head. I leave them there to stew. Some survive. Some are forgotten.

But maybe it’s not a name, but a situation. An overheard comment. A dream.

Writing is a salve that cools and heals the life around me. My WIPs are made up of all those words I didn’t say at the right moment.

I don’t know how long I’ve been working on my latest project, THE TRIALS OF IMOGEN GRACE. I wrote the first draft two years ago. I’ve change the POV three times, and done countless edits and rewrites. And now…now I’ve entered the Query pit. The endless bit of sending off letters, chapters, pages, fulls, halfs, synopsis, pitched–all ties to hopes and prayers.

If you write, you know what I’m talking about.

The last time I did this–sent queries–was much harder. This time I feel different. Not as hopeless. Yes, I’ve received more rejections than not–but still–I’m not sure why I’m so calm. It’s refreshing. haha…

If you’re out there writing–don’t give up. I wish you luck! The same goes to those sending endless queries and everything else writing related. Follow your dreams, my friends. Life is to short for, ‘I wish I had.’

For Shakespeare also said, ‘To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’

Pen caps and [soy] ice cream sandwiches…

 

Chart 'o Writing stuff

 

…or even better, “The nearly uninteresting life of an aspiring author.” But let’s be honest – that title is a bit to contemptuous even for my liking.

So, you’re an aspiring writer. You woke up one morning (or afternoon, or evening – I won’t presume to know your sleeping schedule or lack there of) and you decided you want to write. No! You decided you want to be an author! Ah, yes! The glory of the written word. The world will now know every secretly hidden gem you have held so closely to your chest it burns a light so bright it can be seen for miles and miles.

You sit down at your computer (because while paper is fun, typewriters are antiquated – lets face it – the world is digital) and you pour out your soul. There are laughs!!! There are tears… There are epic moments!…!…!

You type the words “The End” and nod proudly at the blinking cursor (as you compulsively save the manuscript 100x) – you, my friend, are D-O-N-E! Boom!

 

BRING ON THE LITERARY AGENTS!

BRING ON THE 3 BOOK DEAL PUBLISHING CONTRACTS!!

AND BRING ON THE SWEET MOVIE FRANCHISE DEAL!!!

(Everyone wants a movie deal these days. It’s insane. I mean, if you want a movie deal so badly why not just write a movie script? Just an observation…)

But alas, that is not the truth of the writers journey. It is a myth brought on by a combo of believing everything you see in movies and just plain lies. So I would like to give you a list of truths. And why do I want to give you this list? To be honest I don’t want you to quit.

I’ve been writing for eons. In the past year alone I’ve written two books and I am currently working on a new one.

Are these books published? No.

Do I have an agent? Not yet.

Will I self-publish? Probably not.

Will I keep writing? Yes.

YOUR TRUTHS ABOUT WRITING:

  1. If by this point you haven’t heard the Stephen King writing quote on how to become a better writer, here it is: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” I know, he has several other quotes – people LOVE the kill all your darlings one – but this  is my personal favorite. Writing is hard work. There is no book out there that just popped out of someone’s brain polished and ready to be published. (If you don’t believe me pick up the On the Road: Original Scroll and prepare yourself for utter boredom.) 
  2. Your “1st” Draft. This is one of those things that boggles my mind. It is called a “1st” draft – the title alone would imply there are more than one of them. As stated above – writing is hard work. Can you do it? Yes. Will you? That’s up to you. Go, hide, write your first draft. Look at it like the bones of a skeleton and when you go back add all the meaty parts that make it a body. Don’t be afraid of this. DON’T assume someone else out there will do it for you. It’s your book. It’s your job. YOURS and yours alone.
  3. Thomas Edison said “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” So it writing.
  4. That Literary Agent you love and want to rep you – well they may or they may not – but you’ll never know unless you send off your query letter. So SEND OFF YOUR QUERY LETTER! Do it! Right now. Stop with the excuses.
  5. There will always be something else. There will always be your day job. You will always be tired. Your children will take up your time. Your friends will be in the way. You will need to wash your laundry (Please wash your laundry. And guys, wash the sheets.) THERE IS NO GOOD TIME TO START WRITINGS. I will say it again: THERE IS NO GOOD TIME TO START WRITING! So you may as well start right now.
  6. People keep telling you to write what you know – which is fine. I mean, for me that means I will write stories about being a yoga teacher stay at home mom who is vegan. NEW YORK TIME BEST SELLERS LIST, I’M COMING FOR YA! (not). Back to #1 – read and write about things that inspire you. You love The Game of Thrones and want to write the next epic fantasy novel! Go read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Why? Because the characters are amazing and you can use what you learn there it give a different perspective in your warring world. Want to be the next YA Fiction God/ess? Read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Hienlein – because his use of dialect is a game changer. Expand your horizons and don’t be afraid to thing about thing you may not know. We live in the information age. Google it. Look up someone who has the info you want and email them, give them a call, ask questions. If you’re a woman and want to know how a man would react to a certain situation – ask them. Ask questions. Watch documentaries. Get the hell outside your comfort zone.
  7. Okay – so you already know all of that stuff, now what. The biggest thing about being an aspiring writer is not giving up on yourself. Yes, you’re going to receive rejection letters. Some will be the fun, “It’s not you, it’s me” break up style letters that leave you feeling empty and raw. This is where the ice cream sandwiches come into play. Don’t give up, but take a second to treat yourself and tell yourself it’s okay, because let’s face it. You’ve tired and that’s a lot more than some have done.
  8. This is my final one – pen caps. On this journey you will meet an assortment of people. You’ll meet the ones who tell you to keep going and you’ll meet the ones that tell you to quit. Take the pen cap and shove it up their nose (metaphorically of course). Believe in yourself. Be open to criticism, use it to make yourself a better writer. We all have hang-ups. ALL OF US.

Writing is hard, but it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid of hard work, and don’t try to cut corners. But most of all, don’t give up on yourself. If you want to write and become an author – the only thing standing between you and that goal is yourself. Get out of your own way and go write.

 

It’s not karma, it’s just a process.

Everyone likes to remind me that J.K. Rowling received 12 rejections prior to finding an agent to represent her and (the now juggernaut) Harry Potter series. It has become one of those things I smile and nod through. I know the intentions are good, the people are being supportive and encouraging, which is sweet and wonderful. But the longer I write and querying, the less I  speak of my rejections. This silence make life easier, plus its a wonderful excuse to make brownies at 10 o’clock at night on a Tuesday.

But that doesn’t mean the rejection still don’t still. They do.

Above is an image of a rejection letter addressed to Andy Warhol, infamous artist and socialite. It is a letter like many others I have seen, read, and used to encourage myself on low days and my friends and family are right – one day I will find success. While the sane side of my brain understands and comprehends that it’s a lot of work, the emotional and artistic side is thrown into a tizzy of “woe is me” and “can’t they see my genius?” all of which morph into something I like to call the Karma Effect.

Obviously I’m being punished for some past indiscretion. Yes, that’s it. Blame the universe!

I’ve heard it all before: From “I must have done something wrong.” to “They don’t know what they’re talking about.” Massively bi-polar reactions to the same event, but I know it’s not karma and know they do know what they’re talking about. Maybe I’ll get more than 12 rejections (which is very, very, very, very common) and maybe I’ll have to write more than one book (which is also very, very, very common) but blaming the gods won’t get me any closer to the prize I want – only writing will.

In the end it is a process, like anything else, and you’re going to have to be willing to work REALLY hard to make it work. But the funny thing about passion and doing something you love, is that it never feels like work – it feels like love. That’s what it is, isn’t it?

It’s the process of expressing our love of writing. What are a few pesky rejection letters? They are the paving stones to the fabulous writing life you’ve wanted, allow them to lead the way – not block it.

Now… I have to go write.