Getting Back in the Swing of Things, Writing Things, That Is

I’ve decided to stop p***y-footing around.  And I use the asterisks because I hate that word, but I can’t deny that that is exactly what I’ve been doing with my writing lately.  It is time for me to really try to get an agent.  No more feeling sorry for myself because query writing sucks (which it does, btw).

For the rest of this month, if I’m not working on wedding stuff or actually at work, I’m going to be revising Twenty-Five again, working on my query letter, and researching new agents to query.  A friend of mine from TNBW thinks I have a good shot with British agents, so I’m going to add a bunch to my list.  I’m not giving up on getting an agent for Twenty-Five until I’ve exhausted every single possible agent out there.

Beginning in May I’ll be sending out all of those queries, and since sending out queries really doesn’t take that much time, I’ll be devoting the rest of my free time to writing.  Because I need to finish The Death Effect.  Anytime I read portions of TDE, I love it, but I very rarely work on it.  I’m going to finish it.  I am determined that Twenty-Five will not be a fluke, I will finish another book!  I will, I will, I will!

Your job, my lovely readers, is to hold me accountable.  I am really going to need your help.  If I haven’t posted in a couple of days, leave me a comment or send me an email asking for an update- even if you don’t care for an update.  I need motivation, I need goals and deadlines.  My goal is to have sent at least 50 query letters by the end of May and at least 60k words of TDE.  Since I’ve already sent 18 query letters that means I have to send 32 letters, and since TDE is already at 28,535 words, I only have to write 31,465 words.  Now if I can just forget that it took me five months to write the 28k words I already have, then maybe that 31k won’t seem so daunting…

Think positively, Rach.  You can do it.  You can do it.

Irritated and Inadequate in North Carolina

Dear fellow Bloggers,

I’m slightly irritated.  I know, big shocker.  I tend to get irritated at the drop of a hat, but at least I recognize that about myself, right? Possibly why I’m still single?  But I digress…

Okay, so why am I irritated?  I just finished reading a book.  I both enjoyed the book and hated it.  Isn’t that the worst?  I enjoyed it because I was rooting for two of the characters and really wanted a love story for them.  I hated it because it did all the things we aspiring writers are told not to do and did not do them in a way that made me say, “Well, if you’re going to break the rules, do it like that.”  It broke all those rules and did it in way that I was annoyed throughout most of the book thinking, I SO would have loved to critique this book before it went to the agent, maybe then there’d be fewer instances of POV head-hopping, information backstory dumps, more explanation of what certain things that may not be familiar to the entire world are, and a helluv a lot more character depth, growth, and development.

This particular book was the third one published by this author.  I wonder if the glaring rule-breaking was present in her first book.  I wonder if she was able to get the first book past agent gatekeepers with these same really annoying elements.  Actually makes me want to read the first book.  Isn’t that weird?  But my point is, that I think it’s so much easier once you have an agent and you’ve had other books published to produce a mediocre book.  Why weren’t the obvious instances of POV head-hopping addressed before this book was published?  My guess is because it didn’t go through as much editing before it went to the agent and publisher.  Because the author already had the agent and publisher.

And of course, thinking this way about a book that I’m holding in my hands and reading makes me think about my own book.  Makes me wonder if I’ll ever have the courage to attempt another round of queries, if I’ll ever be able to hold it in my hands, bound, with a cover bearing my name as the author.  I think that it should be out there in the world, that it would make people happy to read it.  But I can’t pluck up the courage to sit down, write a query, and send it out.  I believe the book is good.  I know that the only thing holding me back is me, I’m just not really sure why I’m holding myself back.  Isn’t that what cripples most people in pursuing their dreams?  Themselves?  What am I afraid of?  Being told I’m not good enough, I think.

In all honestly, I think that fear has plagued me my whole life.  The fear of being inadequate.  And yet, I make myself inadequate by not just going for it, by not believing that I AM good enough.

I told that story the other day about the waiter who hit on me and I tried to make it funny, because when I step back and think about it, it really was funny.  But the truth is, I didn’t find it that funny when I wrote about it.  When he told me I was beautiful, my first instinct was to laugh and immediately dismiss it as a joke.  I certainly didn’t feel beautiful and couldn’t really understand why he would say that.  The more I thought about it the less funny it became.  When I left the restaurant and got into my car, I imagined telling people what had happened and my next thought was that no one would believe me.  Or that people would believe that it had happened, but not that the guy actually meant what he said.  I did tell a few people, I guess in the hopes that they wouldn’t have that reaction, and no one did.  And you know what my next thought was?  That they did have that reaction internally but were keeping it to themselves.

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THAT PICTURE?

I’m never going to have confidence in myself if my brain automatically goes to that place where I can’t believe it when someone says something nice about me.  I’ll always be “not good enough” if I don’t allow myself to be good enough.  I don’t know why I’m sharing this with the world, if indeed the few people who read this blog can be considered the world.  I guess because I write now.  Even if sometimes it does make me feel inadequate.  And maybe writing this will force me to be good enough for myself so that I can take my book, that I spent a year pouring my heart into, and actually try and get it into the hands of someone who can make it good enough for the world.

Sincerely,

Irritated and Inadequate in North Carolina

Confidence

Where do writers get their confidence?  Because I can’t seem to find mine.  I used to have some, remember back in November when I was so excited to start sending out queries?  Well, now I feel paralyzed.  I have no confidence, no courage to send out a new round of queries.  I know I need to.  I’ve edited Twenty-Five to death. TO DEATH.  It’s at the point now where I don’t want to make any changes again until a professional (i.e. an agent, editor, or publisher) has read it.  But I can’t work up the nerve to send it out there to professionals.

The whole query process just makes me sick to my stomach.  You have to write a query letter which has to be so knock-your-socks-off fantastic that the agent thinks, “Hmmm… that’s interesting.  I want to read the first couple of chapters.”  Because no matter how knock-your-socks-off fantastic the query letter is, chances are it isn’t going to be soooo fantastic that the agent is going to want to read the whole book.  Unless you’re a friend of mine who has 6 full requests pending at the moment!  (YAY!  She’s so freaking talented if she DOESN’T get an agent than I might as well give up forever.)

Then, once the agent has the first couple of chapters, they have to knock them out of their chair, pick them up, and knock them out again in order for the agent to think, “Hmmm… that’s interesting.   I want to read the rest of the book.”

Then, the rest of the book has to be the ABSOLUTE BEST THING that agent has ever read.  And even then, you may get this response: “While I think your writing/book/story has promise, unfortunately it is not a project I can take on at the moment.”  Or something similar.

So, if you are out there querying- how are you doing it?  Because I can’t.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I don’t think my book is bad.  I want people to read it.  But I can’t send out a damn query letter.

I think it’s the query letter that is my actual problem.  They are so freaking hard to write.  I can’t seem to boil the 96K words down into 250 words and it still be interesting.  I know that people do it every day, so why can’t I?  Every time I try, I lose my voice.  I lose the spark that makes my book special.  Because the truth is, even though it deals with a very simple idea- love found, love lost, love found again- it is incredibly complex.  There are so many components that make it unique and special and different, but I can’t put all those layers into a query letter.  And I can’t seem to figure out which ones are the most special, the most unique- the ones that are going to knock the socks off an agent.

If anyone can share some of their confidence with me, I’d really appreciate it!

Official?

**Update 11/21/11** I tried to go to Mezzo Magazine’s site, and it was gone 😦  My previous triumph now seems premature.

 

I’m officially a published writer!

Well, sort of.  My poem, “My Pen,” has been published in the online magazine, Mezzo Magazine!  It’s amazing to go to the site and see it and know that I didn’t upload it for feedback, or as something random on my blog, or as a note on Facebook.  I submitted to a group of editors and they chose it for the magazine.  They Chose My Poem!  I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that.

BTW, I absolutely love the graphic they came up with to go along with my poem.  It’s really beautiful.  I wish I could  get a jpeg of it.  Maybe I should email the editor…

Okay, so now a question.  Should I use this publishing credit when I’m querying my book?  It really has nothing to do with my book, but it’s the only publishing credit I have right now (keep your fingers crossed that there will be more in the future).

Does this mean I’m a “real” writer now?  I don’t know.  It doesn’t feel like it yet.  But will it ever?  I guess I’ll just have to wait for some other little writing victory to come along to see if I feel any different.  For now, I’ll say, I’m one step closer.

The editor saw my blog post and emailed me a copy of the jpeg!  So, here it is, my beautiful graphic thanks to Mezzo Magazine!

What’s at Stake

My desperate wish is for someone out there to see something valuable in the stories I’ve written.  I’ve been feeling really pessimistic about Twenty-Five lately, but deep down, I don’t think it’s a bad book.  Even though the subject matter isn’t really unique, it isn’t a formulaic book about love.  That’s where I have a problem in writing my query letter.

I keep getting the suggestion to answer three questions in my query:
1. What does the MC want?
2. What does she have to do to get it?
3. What happens if she fails to get what she wants (the stakes)?

Okay, so I’m going to try, but this is where I’ve been having problems, answering these questions.  You would think this would be easy, but I don’t think it’s so black and white as these questions seem.  Here goes:

1. Abigail wants love.  She wants it so badly she doesn’t believe she’ll ever find it.  She wants to be a journalist, she wants to have a column published in the magazine she works for.

2. To get love, she just has to be open to it.  She has to believe that Ben really does care about her and that she deserves his love.  To get her column, she has to persevere and write from her heart.  She has to not care what others think.

3. Here’s the issue.  She can’t have both, but she gets both.  Ben falls in love with her, she falls in love with Ben.  She gets her “Facing Your Fears” column and then she gets offered a column in London.

She can take the column in London and advance her career, but doing so means leaving Ben behind.  Why does it mean leaving Ben behind?  Because she’s scared- her old insecurities pop up and once again she thinks she’s not good enough for him.  She thinks that he won’t be willing to do long distance and when he doesn’t encourage her to take the job she takes that as him saying their relationship can only exist while she stays in America.

She could pass up on the column and stay in America with Ben, but to her that means facing a lifetime of regret and resentment.  Regret that she didn’t take the opportunity to advance her career further, knowing that turning down one job puts her in a negative light with her editors and the possible chance that she won’t be given any more opportunities.  And resentment of Ben that he didn’t support her and allowed her to pass up the opportunity.

To her it seems like an impossible decision.  She chooses to take the job and break up with Ben.  She’s wrong- but that’s the decision she makes.  He would have been willing to do the long distance, but she never asks him to.  Of course, the fault isn’t all on Abby, he doesn’t offer it either.

So what’s at stake?  Her relationship with Ben and her job.  In the end, they find a way to make both work, but it’s a long time coming.

So now, how the HELL do I put all that in a query letter?

I’m having an “I Suck” day

So a while back I posted that I kept writing because I thought I was good at it.

Today I’m not so sure. Today I pretty much think I suck. I think about the very talented writers I’ve gotten to know in the past nine months and I realize how crap I am.

My book sucks. It’s never going to get published. 18 agents have seen my query letter. Only one wanted to see more. And once they saw more, they rejected it. My book sucks.

I’ve started writing five other books. They suck. And for some reason I can’t seem to finish them. My writing just sucks.

Will I ever not suck? I hope so. But if I can’t finish another book, how will I ever get to the point where I don’t suck?

I’m feeling really chicken about starting more edits on Twenty-Five. I love the story, but if the writing sucks, why bother? If no agent is ever going to be interested in it, then why spend the little free time I have trying to make it perfect? It won’t be perfect, because I’m not perfect. Because I suck.

Query Update

I’m going to hold off on sending more queries until mid-January.  I’ve just got too much on my plate right now with trying to find a new job and can’t really concentrate on revising my query letter.

The official count now stands at 18 letters sent (I know, so much for sending one every day in November).  I’ve gotten 10 rejections and haven’t heard from 8.  Of the 8 I haven’t heard from, 6 don’t respond unless they are interested in seeing more, so if I haven’t heard from them by the end of December, I’m moving them to the reject column.

I’m not discouraged completely.  I know it takes a long time to find an agent and it’s going to take a lot of rejections before I do, if I ever do.  I’m discouraged slightly because I feel like I queried some of my top choices too early.  I should have held back on one or two of the agents that I really thought would like the book until I had test-ran my query letter a bit more.  Oh well.  Maybe with the next book.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!!

NANO… um, not so much!

I fully intended to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.  I wrote a synopsis and I outlined the entire book and I wrote like crazy for about a week.  And then life got in the way.  And really, I’m kind of glad.  I think back over the work I did and know that the book I was writing is not a book I would ever be proud of.  I love the first couple of chapters, but after that, it really just falls apart.

And I’m cool with that.  Not everything is going to work.

Part of the reason life got in the way this month is that I was trying to do too much.  So like me.  Always the over-achiever.  Throughout the month I stressed myself out with editing Twenty-Five and querying, plus writing for NANO, plus trying to figure out what I’m going to do come January first when I don’t have a job anymore (yes, I officially quit the hair salon, I put in my notice), plus trying to train someone new to pick up some of the shifts I’m leaving behind.  Yeah… I’ve been busy.

So I’m glad December is almost here.  Even though December brings a whole new round of stressors (hello my other company has 3 weddings in December!!!),  I think I’m more prepared to handle them now.  I hope so.

I’ve started a new book.  One that I think better suits me as a “writer” and I’ll be writing that in December. I don’t intend to stress myself out over word count.  I want to write something I can be proud of when I’m finished with the first draft so that I actually want to edit it and create a second!

I’m putting Twenty-Five on a back-burner for now.  I need time to fall in love with my characters again so that the next time I look at my manuscript I don’t kill them off in a fit of panic and fury.  Or something worse.  Like tossing my handwritten first draft into a fireplace.  I know I have it all typed on a computer, but I think it would be like burning my own heart to toss the first pages containing my characters into a fire.

So anyways, that’s what’s going on with me.  How about you?

Synopsis for Twenty-Five

Okay, friends, I need feedback on this synopsis.  I have to send it out to an agent and I need to know if it grabs your attention.  Any places that are too boring, too confusing?  Is the writing good?  Does it make you want to read the whole book?  WARNING SPOILERS hahahahaha   If you want to be surprised by the ending of the book, don’t read this!

 

When twenty-eight year old BEN HARRIS’s car crashes into ABIGAIL BRONSEN on her twenty-fifth birthday, neither is prepared for the instantaneous attraction they both experience.  It isn’t until a month later at a chance encounter that the sparks reignite.  They make arrangements for a first date, one of many to come.

Abigail is wary of the relationship at first, having never had a serious boyfriend.  Ben is also hesitant as memories of a cheating ex-girlfriend haunt him.  And Abigail’s reluctance doesn’t help.  But slowly, Abigail learns to trust Ben.  Her trust is tested when she opens herself up and reveals a personal decision: to remain a virgin until she gets married.

Ben is surprised and confused by the news.  What is the appropriate response to that sort of news in this, the twenty-first century?  And, how is it possible that such a gorgeous girl can still be a virgin at twenty-five?  Abigail explains her decision to wait is based on a story her mother told her as a teenager and on the desire to be truly connected and loved by the person she shares such a special experience with.

Ben isn’t sure he’s prepared to give Abigail that commitment, but his own sexual history makes it easier for him to try.  In his last several relationships, sex complicated things, leaving Ben with nothing more than memories and a broken heart.  He doesn’t want to risk hurting Abby, as he’s come to call her, or himself by getting intimate too quickly.

As the couple struggles to build their relationship without sex and in the midst of career troubles for both, Ben finds a list Abby made in high school.  “25 Things I Want to Accomplish by Age 25.”  He always knew her age was a touchy subject and the list tells him why- she hasn’t crossed anything off.  Ben embarks on a secret quest to help her complete the list.  He convinces her to donate blood, ride a motorcycle, go scuba diving, and learn how to surf, falling deeper in love every step of the way.

One thing he can’t help her cross off is item #4, “Write a column in a national magazine or newspaper.”  At least, he can’t help her directly.  But his push for her to give blood leads her to write an article titled “Facing Your Fears,” which the editor of the magazine she works for decides to publish.

Everything in Abby’s life now seems perfect.  She’s in love with a wonderful man who’s helping her tackle her fears and insecurities and writing a monthly column for the magazine where only a few months ago she worked in the mailroom.

On her twenty-sixth birthday, Abby experiences a new collision, of a very different nature than the previous year.  Her editor offers her a new column, “An American in Europe,” which would require her to move to London.  Before Abby can discuss the opportunity with Ben, he presents her with a photo album showing all the list items he’s covertly helped her cross off over the year.  It ends with a promise that he will marry her someday.  The amazing gift floods Abby with doubts about the decision she must make.

She is forced to choose between moving to London to advance her career and staying in the United States with Ben, the first man she’s ever loved, the man she wants to marry.

She chooses to take the job, knowing she would have always regretted passing it up, leaving both herself and Ben brokenhearted.

Ben can’t understand why the new job is so important to her when she already has a column and his love in the States.  He’s too hurt and stubborn to ask her to do long distance and she doesn’t want to force him to attempt it.  Her old insecurities flare up and she convinces herself that he’d be happiest without her.  She is incredibly wrong.

With Abby in London, Ben tries to forget about her, to move on.  But everything reminds him of her: a pink baseball hat, the scent of vanilla, riding his motorcycle.  He tries to date again, but the vapid blonde he chooses is so devoid of interesting conversation she only reinforces the qualities he loved in Abby: a good sense of humor, modesty, her struggle for independence.

He throws himself into his work, the one place he can be free of Abby-reminders, until he learns she recommended him to a journalist friend for a human-interest story on his athletic complex in Sports Illustrated.  He’s thrilled about the opportunity, but perplexed by Abby’s involvement in it.

When the article comes out, his first instinct is to call Abby to celebrate, but the fact that she can’t be there in person for him weakens his desire to speak with her and ignites his anger with her all over again.  Meanwhile, Abby in London reads the article and has the same instinct to call, but loses her nerve, thinking he’d only be upset to hear from her.

Not long after the SI article is published, Abby comes back to the States to attend the wedding of Ben’s best friends MATT and TRISH.  She’s hoping to reconcile, but Ben is determined to get closure once and for all.  He vents all of his frustration out, bringing Abby to tears, and declares that he never wants to see her again.  Her plans of kissing and making up torn to pieces, she returns to London, broken in heart and spirit.

A few weeks later, Trish confronts Ben about his behavior at the wedding and encourages him to read the articles Abby has written since she left him.  Each one details how much she misses and loves him, how she never would have had the courage to go after her dreams without his support, and how badly she wants him back.  The final article pleads for a second chance at Matt and Trish’s wedding.

Ben realizes not only that he is still very much in love with her, but also how wrong he was not to encourage her new job opportunity.  He rushes to the airport and takes the next plane to London, praying he hasn’t lost her for good.  He waits for hours on her doorstep for the chance to beg her forgiveness.  Reading her articles over and over, he holds out hope for a future with the girl who stole his heart when he smashed into her car.

When she arrives, she’s confused to find him, but he explains he hadn’t read her articles before the wedding.  They both apologize for the mistakes in judgment that led them to break up and live in misery for eight months.  Ben presents Abby with a new list, “What I Want to Accomplish Before I Die.”  It includes ten items, all about their reconciliation and new life together.  He gets down on one knee and proposes while a crowd of on-lookers cheer them on.

Abby grabs his shirt collar and raises him to his feet.  Her kiss says it all.  Yes.  Of course she’ll marry him.