The Agony and The Ecstasy….

I’m sure I must be the slowest writer in the world. Honestly this road to publication is a long and winding one, and I’m not exactly zooming along. More like creeping with ten pound weights tied to my ankles.

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I finally sent my MS of the first book to an editor that I met a couple of years ago at the When Words Collide conference, and who was interested in working with me. She not only does the line by line edits in terms of spelling and grammar, but also takes a look at the big picture. Story structure, pacing, characters, etc. In the meantime, I have been forging ahead on edits to Book Two.

Just last week I got the edits back. Gulp. The truth hurts, right?

A lot of what she said is definitely truth. So it’s all good. But it’s hard to know exactly where to start to fix it. I have a lot of work and rewriting ahead, and it’s hard not to be discouraged by that, but it’s okay. Ultimately I want this to be the best effort I can muster, so I’m willing to do the work.

There’s a lot of trimming to do (she took out whole chapters!) and a lot of thinking on how to make it all work. It might turn out that I have only two books, not three. I know that one of my failings as a writer is to overwrite – not only in the story but also on a sentence level. So having to trim and condense isn’t necessarily a bad thing. (See? “Trim and condense?” I could have just said “condense”. Overwriting. Heh.)

 

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I have some homework to do in terms of some articles and books to read, so I will get to work on those and then sit down with my book to see how I can whip it into shape. Leaner and hopefully better.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

Fall is upon us. I don’t know how that happened – just yesterday was the first day of spring, wasn’t it?

I’ve had a busy but refreshing summer, and I’m looking forward to getting back at the desk and back to work on my novel revisions.

I’ve sent out my MS to a couple more agents and publishers, but no one is knocking at the door yet. I’m sure I’m going about this all wrong. I should be sending out dozens of queries at a time, not just a couple. But seeing as it is probably non-productive to send out queries to agents that don’t want to represent a historical fantasy trilogy set in Dark Ages Britain I’ve tried to limit my queries to agents that I think just might be interested. And there aren’t that many of those, it seems. Of course if you are one of those agents and are reading this, let’s talk. 😉

In my research I’ve found that lots of agents don’t want fantasies set in medieval times (and even though mine is not technically medieval, it would still get tarred with that brush). Especially those set in Europe/Britain. If my book was set in  medieval Japan or Africa, well, maybe I might get in the door. They are looking for the next “thing”, not the old “thing”. There seems to be a feeling that fantasies with a European setting are yesterday’s news.

Historical fantasy is also a narrow field. Unless you are looking at steampunk, which is a genre all its own, it’s hard to find a niche of books including fantastical elements set in a real-world historical setting. It’s not impossible, mind you, but difficult. Which means that not a lot of agents are looking for these books, either.

Elves are also “yesterday”. Even though my take on the Fey is different from most of the stories out there, the agents/publishers have to actually read the book to understand that. Right now they just see “Fey” in my proposals/query letters and their eyes glaze over. I think.

And the fact that my main character is a person of faith whose struggles to reconcile a faith in a good God with all the bad that is happening in his life (including demons chasing him to 643 AD) probably knocks it off quite a few more agent’s acquistion lists. Unless you are making fun of Christianity or making it responsible for all the bad in the world in your novel, agents and publishers aren’t interested. Ok, I might be exaggerating that a bit but it sure feels like that some days.

So….okay. I suppose I could spend another year sending out the MS, but time is a-wasting. I’ve already spent many years of my life on this project, and I’m getting impatient to get to the next step. Which is to actually get it in front of some readers. Release the kraken, so to speak.

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I spent a weekend in Calgary at the When Words Collide Festival again, and I sat in on quite a few presentations on self-publishing. There are pros and cons, of course, but at the moment the pros (especially the fact that by doing this I could actually get the books published!) are outweighing the cons.

So I’m getting ready to go down that path. I’ve been in contact with an editor, who will do a professional edit (both developmental and copy-edit) of my MS. Which is somewhat terrifying but I’m looking forward to it, too. I want to put the best book out there for my readers, and this will help me do that.

I’m building in time this fall to do some intensive research on the whole process of self-publishing. I could upload my book to Amazon tomorrow and start selling it right away, but realistically if I want to give myself the best chance of success I need to do some preparation. Self-publishing means that not only do I wear the “author” hat, I will also be donning the “marketing and promotion” hat, the “business plan” hat, the “book cover design” hat, and the “book distribution” hat. I have been listening to some podcasts about all these things, and I have some ideas of what I need to do, but I’m going to need a little more flesh on the bones of my plans before I can launch. I’ll be reading some books on self-publications, talking to other authors who have gone this route, getting a plan in place for both the launch and beyond. And plus, I have to keep going on Book 2 revisions.

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My tentative plan is to have the book published by Christmas, but….I’m not entirely sure how realistic that will be. There’s quite a lot I need to have in place before I can jump into the fray. So, watch this space! I’ll keep you all appraised of my progress. A more realistic statement is that by this time next year, my book should be out and I’ll be well on the way to the release of Book 2.

Thanks for being with me on this journey! I’m looking forward to sharing with you a firm publication date, once I have it all figured out. In the meantime…stay tuned…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuck In the Middle

I thought it was probably time to do a bit of an update on my trilogy, and how it’s all going.

I would love to report that I have found an agent, and he/she has found me a publisher, and that the publication date is in a couple months. But alas, that particular goal is proving elusive.

So, here is what is going on in my writing life as I pursue publication.

Agent/Publisher search – since October 2014 I have submitted my MS to 6 agents/publishers. I realize that this is not a lot, and one of my goals is to up my submitting rate. I wanted to start slowly, to see if I got some feedback on my query and hopefully tweak things a bit to improve it. However the only feedback I have got was of the “enjoyed the book but it’s not quite right for us” or the polite, “no thanks” form letter. Or, nothing, which translates to a “no”.  I am preparing my query to send out to two more agents this week.

The whole query process is challenging, and I have written about it before.  The problem is that most agents or publishers don’t actually want to see your book unless they are intrigued by your query letter. Sometimes you get to send in your first three chapters but often it’s just the query letter they go by. So it means you have to craft a letter that contains an exciting, short synopsis (really, a couple of paragraphs) that will make an agent want to read the book. It’s quite daunting. You might have the best book ever, but if you suck at writing a query letter, no one will see it.

Finding an agent to query is another difficulty. There are thousands upon thousands of agents out there – well, kinda. I found out last summer that there are only eight literary agents in Canada. Eight. And although one of them actually requested to see my query after my pitch to her at conference last summer, I never heard back, which means “no”.

I can submit to publishers directly. There are lots of small publishers out there, who don’t necessarily need an agent’s recommendation. And often these smaller publishers are willing to take a chance on a book that is perhaps outside the mainstream in terms of content, genre or style. Likely I will have more chance with my book at one of these publishing houses, mainly because historical fantasy is a pretty small market, and because it also deals with religious/Christian/spiritual themes the market becomes smaller still.

So the pool of agents/publishers, while seemingly so vast when you start to look, often becomes much, much smaller once you start to do the research on what agents are actually looking for. Right now it seems like “diversity” is a buzz word, both in terms of authors and subject matter, and fantasy set in non-medieval settings, or fantasy set in international locales, or based on mythology from non-Western civilizations, etc etc etc. None of which you can apply to my book. It gets discouraging, but all you can do is to keep on plugging away at searching out places to submit and throwing your stuff out there.

Revision update – I am in the process of revising my Book 2, the middle book of my trilogy. Book 1 I have called Wilding, Book 2 I am tentatively calling Bound. The revision is going slower than I would like. Mainly because I have decided to tackle one of the problems that I see with the book, and that is the absence of Nona, my main female character.  Because I wrote the whole thing as one book and later divided it into three, this middle section of the book takes place away from Bebbanburg and Lindisfarne for the most part, and the action doesn’t involve her. Which is a bit of a problem for a middle section of a book, but a bigger problem for an entire book! Part of the problem with Nona’s character is that I dearly wanted to write some scenes from her POV in the book, but as I was writing the original draft of the book-that-became-three I realized I already had quite a few different POVs and it was getting long already, so I decided I couldn’t add yet more scenes.

So….I am figuring out a way to get her more involved in Book 2. Which means I have to rewrite a few things from Book 1, which is ok, as those needed fixing anyway. I think I’m done doing the “backwards” fixing now, but the challenge still remains as to how to involve her more in the book going forward. I’m a bit stumped, to be honest, and I need some concentrated time to just brainstorm and fiddle for a bit to get back in the flow. It’s hard to do this – I have to go back and reread large chunks to make sure what I have added now fits properly, and then I have to take those new scenes and make the new information they suggest now work in Book 2. It’s like you have a big jigsaw puzzle that has been all put together and now you have some new pieces that you have to put in and still make it a seamless whole.

I will likely have to change other parts of Book 2 to make this all work, which is ok, nothing is set in stone at this point, although I do have to make sure I still keep the train moving on the right track to get to the destination point I’m aiming for in Book 3.

Middles are hard, whether they are the middle of a book, or the middle book of a trilogy. You have to keep the momentum going, and not start slogging around in side trails. Which I suppose you could apply to your own story of your life, as well!

Full steam ahead – my plan is to keep submitting to agents until around summer time, and then if I haven’t got any luck, start the process of self-publishing, with an aim to having my book up on Amazon sometime around Christmas.

I’m still tentatively on that timeline, although I will admit my submissions to agents has gone a lot slower than I hoped. I want to see if I can submit to at least 20 agents, so I’ve got quite a ways to go.

It’s all very interesting, though, and although I progress only in fits and starts, I enjoy the process. Nothing happens if you don’t keep going, so I’ll continue to walk down this road as far as I can and then decide what to do next if I hit a dead end. As the Albert Einstein quote at the top says, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

Onward and upward!


Featured image from The Quotepedia

 

 

 

 

The Click of Faith

Well, I’m certainly feeling a little dizzy these days. I’m sure fellow writers can relate. The journey to publication is long and hard. The whole process seems designed to make the lowly writer despair of ever finding anyone to take a chance on their book and publish it.The fact is that there are thousands upon thousands of writers out there, many of whom are also trying to get noticed and achieve the Holy Grail of a publishing contract.

It’s a pretty daunting concept. And the hardest thing is to start.

By “start”, I mean, you actually have to write something. This is surprisingly hard. At least it was for me. For a long time I had a dream of being a writer, but I was stalled in the gap that existed between my desire to write and the fear that I might not be “good enough”.But one day I gathered up my waning courage and plunged in. To be truthful, it wasn’t exactly “one day”, it was a day after I had just turned 40 and my mother had recently died. Both those events culminated in the realization that I wasn’t getting any younger and time was slipping by so if I was going to do this thing then I had better darn well do it.

My end goal was always to write a novel. But I knew enough to know that I had better not start there. I needed to learn the craft. So fast forward a few years and many thousands of words on the page and some short stories published. That clock was ticking all the time in the background, so I scolded my muttering fears and started my book. And wrote and wrote and wrote until I had the story I wanted to tell.

Then followed revision, editing, sending the first few chapters to a professional editor for her edits, more editing, the realization I actually had enough material for three books not one; back to the drawing board and figuring out how to make THAT work, sending the manuscript off to a few beta readers for feedback, more editing and revision, and finally, finally, about a year ago I had a trilogy with Book One ready to go and Books Two and Three in first draft form.

Now what? There are many routes open to authors for publication, and one day I may expand upon those in another blog post. But suffice it to say I have decided to go the traditional publishing route to start with. I’ve done a lot of research on exactly “how” to do this. Again, options abound. It depends on if you are seeking publication at a big New York publisher or a small indie press and all the variations in-between. Some of that decision will depend upon what kind of book you have. Some of it depends upon if you are already published or not.

To go the traditional publishing route generally you will need a query letter, which is a one-page letter that summarizes your novel in a way that makes an agent  or publisher want to read it and includes some information on your writing credentials. Sounds easy? It’s NOT. Try condensing a 136,000 word novel into three paragraphs, max. If you manage to do a good job, and your letter lands in the inbox of an agent who is looking for “just” that book, well, he or she will request a full or partial manuscript to look over. And then they will decide whether or not they want to represent you.

So as you can see a lot is riding on this letter. I have spent a surprising amount of hours on mine. Because basically you only get one chance with an agent. If you mess up your query letter you could have the best book in the world but they won’t know because they won’t request to see it.

It’s all very nerve-wracking. I’ve spent years researching and writing my book (s). I’ve spent months figuring out how to take the next step in terms of publication and who to approach first. I’ve spent weeks on the proposal and queries. Finally I had the query letter all polished up and ready to go, pasted into the body of an email, not an attachment, as per request of that agent, and I couldn’t bring myself to click the mouse to send it. What if I messed it up? What if she doesn’t like it? Should I redo that sentence? Does it sound too formal? Or too casual? Is my freaking book even any good at all, I mean, I have been working on it and rereading it and editing and revising it for so long it all seems so blah to me at this point. Maybe I should just chuck it all into a bin and go walk my dog.

Aargh!! It’s enough to drive you crazy. You have to really love this writing thing to keep going, let me tell you.

Finally at the end of the day, after I had hemmed and hawed and re-read and fiddled with the thing I forced myself to click “send”. Off went my query into the ether. This particular agent promised to read every query and respond within a month. So, now I wait.

I’m not going to send out a bunch of queries all at once. Partially because I want to see what kind of response I get. I might be able to tweak some things depending on how it is received, and hopefully have a better chance next time.

Besides, it’s too hard. I need to gird my loins to prepare for the next one.

In the meantime I tried out #PitMad, which is a twitter event in which authors “tweet” a 140 character pitch for their book on a given day, in this case, it was yesterday, June 4th.  Agents and publishers “favourite” the ones they like. If your tweet gets favourited you can send that person a query.

I’ve spent a couple days condensing the book into that 140 character pitch and scheduled them all, as I was working on Thursday and wouldn’t be able to hover over Twitter all day. At the time of this writing (4:23 PM) I’ve had one favourite – woo hoo! A couple hours to go yet, and there might be agents looking over the #PitMad twitter stream tonight, so who knows.

At least someone liked my pitch enough to request a query. It’s a little bit of hope that keeps writers going.

In the meantime I drink my tea and continue researching agents and keep plugging away on the Book Two revisions and try to find time to write more short stories and…..

I’ll keep you posted as to how it all goes….watch this space…..

Photo cred: Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom, by Justine Warrington, on Flickr


Have you ever been too afraid to take that final step on a project you’ve been working on forever? Any other writers out there who have a hard time with the “click of faith”? Tell me about it, I’d love to commiserate with you!