Of Missing Posts and Matrimony

I’ve been neglecting this blog for the last few days! Terrible, I know. Especially considering my habit of forgetting about projects once I start them. There was at least a 40% chance I would forget about this site entirely after the first day I missed writing a new post.

That said, there is a reason for my relative silence. My older sister is getting married! In about a week and a half. And despite my status as bridesmaid rather than maid of honor, I have been put in charge of a LOT of preparations. The excuse for that being that I am in the same state as the wedding, and my older sister and her maid of honor are not. Therefore, for some reason, it makes more sense for me to do everything and bring stuff along with me to the venue. And I’m happy to do it, except when I’m not. 😛 But it’s nearly all finished, now!

This is just a brief post to assure whatever readers I still have that I have not forgotten about this, and I will be posting with more frequency again…after the wedding.

~Sofia

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Finding Your Narrator

Currently Listening To: Wake Me Up, by Avicii (vocals by Aloe Blacc)

 

I’ve written about my struggle with deciding on which type of POV to use before. I still struggle with that. Right now, I’ve made it 33 pages into a new WIP and I still don’t know what’s going on with my narrator. Usually I default to 3rd person limited. I’ve been playing around with 1st person a little lately.

But with this WIP, I’ve tried it 3rd person limited, and something didn’t sit right. Tried it in 1st person, and it was wrong. So, so wrong. The characters in this piece do not want the reader in their heads. And I don’t want to be in their heads. It’s a little scary in there, for one thing, and it also takes away a sort of lingering sense of mystery and not-quite-knowing that the story seems to require.

So what’s left? Well, right now, I’m giving 3rd person omniscient a try. I don’t usually write that, and I think it’s a tricky type of narrator to pull off. Things can get muddled when your narrator knows all there is to know about the story. And then will your narrator be its own character, of a sort? Or will it just tell the story without much…color? Is it going to pass judgments here and there? Drop many hints about what’s to come, or none? Omniscient narrators are hard to find a balance for, and past attempts at it with me have been either 1)boring or 2)involved paying far too much attention the narrator’s voice, to the point where the narrator might as well be the new main character. I chalk that last bit up to the fact that I’m easily distracted.

Basically, I have a lot of writing to do. And I really do hope that this narration style works out, because I am not looking forward to rewriting it again with another new narrator.

~Sofia

To Plot or Not to Plot? (I Never Do)

Currently Listening To: Chandelier, by Sia

 

Plotting and I have a love-hate relationship. Actually, no. We don’t. That’s a terrible way to describe it. I hate plotting. I’m very bad at it. I don’t like to sit down and think through the entire story and figure out where it’s going to go. I’ve tried it, and something about it just doesn’t work for me.

Instead, half the time, I don’t know what story I’m even telling until I’ve written 30 pages of a manuscript. By then, I’ve got a sense of who my characters are and what the world is that they’re inhabiting. Once I get that nailed down, I can figure out where the story is in all of that. It’s like carving something out of a slab of marble: the sculpture is in there there entire time, and it’s just a matter of chipping away the excess and finding what’s hiding inside.

So I write and I ramble and ramble until I can see the plot hidden in amongst the nonsense. Then I trim away the nonsense.

But the moment I attempt to actually outline a plot for anything–whether that’s a short story, a poem, or a full-length novel–there’s nothing. I can get maybe the beginning, or maybe I know something that’ll happen in the middle…and that’s it.

Instead, my manuscripts end up looking something like this:

 

Once upon a time, there was a character, who lived in a place, etc. etc. [ADDMORE LATER]

Then I ignore all that beginning stuff and start writing some kind of scene that popped into my head, sometimes including characters I have not named or even quite fleshed out as far as what their role in the story is. So I keep writing the scene, adding other things in brackets like [CHARACTERNAME] or [WHATEVER THEY’RE HERE FOR] and I keep chugging along until I get to the end of the scene and I either don’t know what’s coming next or don’t feel like writing what comes next, so we get another handy-dandy set of brackets! Like so: [CHARACTERNAME LEAVES. THE OTHERS HEAD TO WHATEVERPLACE. SOMEONE GETS STRUCK BY LIGHTNING(OR WHATEVER I DECIDE NEEDS TO HAPPEN)]

And then I skip ahead to the next scene I think of.

 

Basically, my manuscript has more holes than Swiss cheese for most of the creative process. And then I jump around in the manuscript, adding some scenes I skipped or tweaking what I’ve already written. I fill some holes, while others just…shrink a little. The ones that shrink sometimes get to the point where I’ve got to think of just a few sentences to stitch together the pieces, and they’re sometimes the toughest to fill. Sometimes I know that I’m actively skipping “the boring bits”, or neglecting important moments for some characters purely so I can jump ahead to a character I want to write more. It’s largely illogical and it makes it nearly impossible to find out just how much progress I’ve made and how much I still need to make before the project is finished. But that’s how I do it.

And anyone who gets a peek at any of my manuscripts thinks I’m an absolute lunatic. Maybe I am.

Rejections

Currently listening to: Stay the Night, by Zedd (Feat. Hayley Williams)

I’ve decided to continue querying agents for a bit longer. I’ve still got self-publishing in the back of my mind as an option, but I’m not going to back out of the traditional publishing route just yet. I’ll stick around, participate in #PitMad next week, and just generally tough in out in the query trenches a while longer. Because I do think that there’s an agent out there who will be interested in taking on my manuscript. The only trouble is finding that agent.

That’s all querying is. You do your research, find agents who you think might be interested in your project, and you agonize over your query for days and weeks and months trying to craft the perfect letter. Basically, you’re trying to make your bait pretty enough to get an agent to bite. You’re fishing.

And a lot of those agent-fish won’t bite. Most of them, in fact, since you only need 1 to say “yes”.

All of this means that when you’re querying, you will get a lot of “no”s.

So today, I’m going to take a look at the various kinds of rejections an author can get, as well as some of my own rejections. It’ll be fun!

 

DISCLAIMER: None of what I say below is in any way a criticism of agents, and it’s certainly not a criticism of any agent in particular. I’m strictly speaking in terms of what querying writers might feel about each of these rejection methods; I’m not passing judgment on which is better or worse than any other.

 

No Response Might Equal “No”

This has to be one of the most agonizing kinds of responses for the person doing the querying. And usually, it’s a problem that arises when the agent hasn’t listed a clear policy anywhere, so people querying them just go off the experiences that others have had and try to figure out what to expect. Like, for every 30 people who insist that the agent is a “no response=no” agent, you’ll get two or three people who report getting a rejection email. Sometimes people will get those rejections a year after sending the query. And so everyone who submits to this agent just stares in confusion at their spreadsheet or Word document or whatever else they might be keeping track of queries on, wondering whether or not they should consider the query CNR (closed- no response). Not too long ago, I closed out a query after around four months (it’s usually pretty safe by then to assume), and  a week later I got a rejection from that agent. The rejection didn’t really sting me, since I’d already closed it out and assumed it was a rejection, so I guess that’s a plus side: if you assume they’re a No Response = “No”, and then you get a request for more, you’ll be really excited. But you also won’t be too disappointed if you end up getting a written rejection.

 

No Response = “No”

No question here, this agent does not send rejections. There’s some comfort in that, because usually the agent clearly says that if you haven’t heard from them in X weeks, you can assume it’s a “no” from them. Some of them also keep authors updated via Twitter or their blogs, in case they’ve fallen behind their usual pace for reading queries, or if they’re ahead of schedule. This is a nice, quiet sort of rejection, I think. You just mark the close-out date somewhere, and when that date hits, you can just cross it off your list. I think it keeps it a bit more detached than getting a written rejection, which, depending on your personality might be either fantastic or horrible.

 

Answers All Queries…Eventually

Some agents are really on top of their query-reading. Like, if they tell you you’ll get a response in 4-6 weeks, you will get a response in 4-6 weeks. Other agents might say that they answer all queries…but four months later, you realize that you haven’t gotten a response yet. So you check out sites like Querytracker to see if others are having better luck (maybe your query got lost or overlooked and you need to requery?). And what you find is a sporadic pattern of responses or lack of responses. Someone queried last week and got a prompt rejection, but fifteen other people are still waiting on responses to their queries from January. Did all those queries get lost in cyberspace, or did the agent perhaps just happen to see that one person’s query when they had a spare minute and the quick response was a fluke? You don’t know, and you probably won’t know. The only thing you can do is keep waiting, or requery if you want to take your chances that way. Maybe keep an eye on the agent’s Twitter feed or website to see if they say anything about where they’re at with queries. Bonus pain points if the agent literally never says anything about where they’re at with queries.

 

Answers All Queries Scarily Fast

On the flip side from the last entry, these agents are really quick to answer queries. They might say to give them up to 6 weeks, but they tend to answer people that day. Sometimes it’s really good to get those fast responses. After all, you don’t need to sit there squirming at your desk for two months or more, wondering if they’ll like your work. But on the other hand, there’s also a niggling feeling that they might not even have read your query. I mean, agents get a lot of queries every day, generally speaking. So what kind of magic is this agent doing that lets them knock out queries so fast? My thought is that these agents are probably looking for some pretty specific things. Maybe their client list is pretty packed, so they’re really hoping for, I don’t know, a space opera told from the POV of an intergalactic treasure hunter who is also a frog. They really know what they’re after, and what will catch their attention, so anything that doesn’t hit those qualifications is easy to exclude. Or they have an army of query-reading elves at their disposal. Who knows? Agents are mysterious creatures.

 

Personalized Rejections

I don’t know if I love or hate personalized rejections. For me, it’s like an extra twist of the knife. Like, great. You liked my project enough to take a minute to personalize the rejection, but not enough to ask to see more or offer representation. It’s sort of a like a yo-yo of emotions: you’re pleased that they liked your work that much, but you’re also really, really bummed out that they didn’t like it enough.

 

Form Rejections

“Thank you but no,” basically. Usually short, sometimes they’re personalized to include your manuscript title and your name, but a lot of them are also “Dear Author” letters. Some of them are super sneaky and are designed to look personalized, but really they aren’t. Sometimes agents seem to have a “flat “no”” rejection, a softer “I liked it, but no”, or maybe sometimes a more enthusiastic “This was great! But not quite for me.” Sometimes thanks to systems like that, that series of different form letters, optimistic authors have trouble telling whether or not they just got a form rejection. There might be a flicker of hope that it was personalized (often considered to be a better sign than a form rejection, because we like thinking we got more attention, maybe?), and then that hope is crushed when they head to Querytracker or somewhere else and realize that 150 other people got the exact same rejection this week.

 

Sofia’s Rejections

For me, most of my rejections are form rejections. And honestly, I think that in general, most agents do form rejections. It’s easier, especially when an agent is particularly sought-after. If you got 500 queries flooding into your inbox at the same time, wouldn’t you get a little tired of trying to think of a way to personalize every letter? It’s hard enough trying to personalize the query letters you send off to the agents; picture them trying to do the reverse and personalize their response. There are only so many ways to say ‘no’.

 

This is my favorite form rejection, I think: “Thank you for thinking of me, but I am not a good fit for this.  All my best [agent name removed].” How’s that for concise? And that was from an agent who responded in less than 24 hours, to boot. Remember that thing I said about how you almost get the feeling that they didn’t even read your material? I almost got that sense with this one, but I also know that like I said, agents are busy.

 

Then we have this:

Dear [Sofia*]:
Thank you very much for sending [my manuscript title] to [agent] and thank you for your patience while she considered it.  She regrets that her busy schedule does not allow for a personal response and she has asked me to respond on her behalf.
 
She appreciated the opportunity to see your material, but unfortunately, she is unable to offer you representation at this time.  Due to the enormous number of submissions we receive here at Writers House, and an already crowded client list, we are forced to be extremely selective when considering new clients.
 
Please remember that this is only one opinion in a highly subjective business and another agency may feel differently. Good luck in finding representation, and thank you for thinking of [us].

Looks kind of personal, yeah? It includes my name and my manuscript name, and it’s pretty long. But it’s a form letter, boys and girls. Sent via the agent’s assistant, and it’s a lovely form letter. It’s the kind of form rejection that lets you feel good about yourself even though you were just rejected. And that last paragraph is pretty standard in a lot of form rejections, I’ve found. Some variation of “remember, it’s subjective and someone else might want this, maybe, so good luck!”.

 

And:

Dear [Sofia],

Thank you for your query and for letting me have a look at your work. I apologize for the impersonal nature of this email but I receive so many queries that it makes it impossible for me to respond personally to each one. Thank you for your patience.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel that this is right for me, so I’m passing. Just because I wasn’t quite drawn in, however, doesn’t mean there isn’t another agent out there who will love it. I encourage you to continue to submit elsewhere.

Thanks again for thinking of me, and I wish you all the best in your endeavors.

This is a form letter I really like. It owns the fact that it’s a form letter. There is no gray area for new queriers to suspect they’ve been gifted with a personalized rejection.

 

Of course, I’ve also had a few of the ambiguous “might-be-personalized” rejections. Like this one:

“Dear [Sofia],

Thank you so much for sharing [manuscript name] with me. Though I think you have an interesting story here, I didn’t quite fall in love with it in the way that I need to in order to take it on. In this subjective industry, I’m sure another agent will feel differently, and I wish you the best of luck on your writing journey.”

This is a form rejection. I’m pretty confident in that. It’s probably from an agent who has different levels of form rejections, like I talked about above. So maybe my query was in their “maybe” pile for a little bit, or they paused and thought “It sounds pretty good, maybe” but still didn’t want to take it on. Either way, it’s still a form. But if it were the first rejection I received as someone new to the query process? I would probably totally have thought it was a personalized response. Same deal with another rejection in my folder (yes, they’re all in my email still. I have a folder for resolved queries, sent queries, drafted queries I might send, etc):

Dear [Sofia],

Thank you for your query. While your project sounds promising, I’m afraid it’s not a perfect fit for me, and so I’m regretfully going to pass at this time. 

The rest of that one is the standard “it’s a subjective industry and someone else might want to represent you, so best of luck, etc.”. But that part? It sounds personalized. I mean, surely they can’t call every rejected project “promising”, right? But they totally can. Or, again, they can have a sort of grading system of “awful queries”, “interesting queries”, etc.

 

So that’s a trip through rejections. I try not to dwell on them for too long. I mean, the first few rejections I got hurt. Like really hurt. But you have to shrug it off. Maybe revamp your query, or just move on to the next batch of queries to send out. After a few rejections, the sting either dulls or it crushes you. Don’t let it crush you, of you’ll never get anywhere with your work.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I got an email about halfway through writing this, and it’s from an agent I queried yesterday. I’m about 98% sure it’s a rejection, but I should probably open it to make sure first.

~Sofia

 

Update: It was, indeed, a rejection. A very kind form rejection, but a rejection nonetheless.

 

*I don’t query using my pen name. Instead, I use my real name, which shall not appear here! Bwahaha!

Now What? #Post-PitchWars

Currently listening to: I Really Don’t Care by Demi Lovato (feat. Cher Lloyd)*

I was unfortunately not lucky enough to land one of the coveted spots as a Pitch Wars mentee or alternate. That’s sad, but there are like 1,000 other people in the exact same boat. We entered, our queries and first chapters and manuscripts battled it out until one two were left standing for each mentor, and the rest of us fell off to the wayside.

Some entrants are off licking their wounds, others have hunkered down in their writing lairs and madly started writing their next MS, and still others are gearing up for #PitMad (September 9th on Twitter).

What am I doing? A little of all of that, but also none of it. I’m not really coddling my wounded ego or hurt feelings. Honestly, I’ve always been the type of person who assumes the worst. That way, I get a nice surprise if something goes better than I planned! So I was hopeful for a day or so after submitting my Pitch Wars entry, and I watched my four mentor picks’ Twitter feeds, wondering if I’d see any sign that they were interested in my MS. I didn’t. I mean, there were some that could have been mine, or general genre statements that matched up to mine, maybe, but I never sat there thinking “Omg, they’re talking about me. They’re considering me!”

This morning (or last night, depending on how you decide to look at it), the results were posted, and…my name was nowhere to be found. I checked Brenda Drake’s blog (where this was posted) at like 6am, because I didn’t feel like getting out of bed yet, but I needed to at least be able to claim consciousness so I could get to work on time. I might have felt a quick pang of disappointment, but then I shrugged and took a shower and that was it.

I’m not upset about not being picked. Not at all. There were over 1,000 entries to the contest, and some mentors had over 100 writers vying for their attention. My manuscript was a piece of hay in a haystack. It didn’t catch the attention of the mentors in the same way as their top pick or alternate pick. Hell–it may not even have caught their attention as much as 50 entries that weren’t mine did. Maybe they thought it was God-awful, maybe they liked it. I probably will never know. So why dwell on it?

The bit thing for me, though, is what now? I could dive back into the query trenches, as one fellow entrant put it. But I’m not sure yet if I will. My latest batch of queries is almost entirely resolved, aside from a few that I can consider CNRs by the end of the week and a few that I’ve given up hope on because the agents have a bit of a habit of just responding…eventually, maybe, or absolutely never, and no one seems quite able to pin down any rhyme or reason to it.

Self-publishing is another option. I’m confident in the MS I entered to Pitch Wars. I’m proud of it, I’ve spent months upon months polishing it, editing it, having others read it, critique it, edit it…I’m ready for it to be published. I’ve tried the traditional route, and maybe I’m not patient, but it’s not been panning out for me so far. And I have other WIPs that will probably fare better in that arena–they’re more commercial, or more in line with current trends. That’s why I also have a draft of my manuscript formatted for self-publishing in paperback and Kindle. I’ve been prepared on that count for a while. I spent months researching the pros and cons of both traditional and self publishing. I’m not looking to get rich off my books; I don’t even care if I manage to pay a single bill with my sales. That’s not important to me. What I do have an interest in, though, is getting a work I’m very proud of (and I would say rightly proud of) out there where people can see it and buy it and read it.

So now I’m just…waiting. I’m not going to rush to self-publish as a knee-jerk reaction to not getting picked in PitchWars. Maybe I’ll send another query or two, test the waters one more time. Maybe I’ll take part in #PitMad and give myself another shot to catch some agents’ attention that way. Or maybe a month from now my book will be available on Amazon.com.

While I struggle to make up my mind, I have a WIP that is badly in need of attention, and it involves familiarizing myself with regional Irish accents.

~Sofia

*no link today because I’m lazy and also may or may not be at work and people will frown at me if they see me using Youtube