Sunday, April 17, 2011

A little perspective

So, the other day I wrote about our first "no" on Knightspelle. As I said, I'd been thinking about how to define "success" and all that.

Then yesterday happened and I got a little perspective.  At a bit after four p.m., the tornado sirens around my place (I think near Methodist University) went off.  I'd been watching the news, watching a tornado heading straight for Raleigh, and thinking "gee, I hope we don't get any here."  The news station was in Raleigh, so while they were mentioning the cell near Fayetteville, it was not their priority.

So, I grabbed my two cats that were downstairs and hid in the closet under the stairs with my cellphone. The tv was loud enough that I could hear it, and I could hear them discussing what was happening and saying that, indeed, tornados had hit Fayetteville, too.

My phone rang--my house phone--and it occurred to me that maybe I should have brought it in the closet with me. I didn't go fetch it. Eventually I got a text from my bf's mom. Her power was out, so I told her that I was fine, but hiding in a closet.  I got a call from my bf. He was at work, and I told him I was fine, but still in the closet.

I kept checking updates on my phone. After the warning had passed, I came out of the closet (you had to know the joke was coming)--much to the delight of my kitties. My place is fine. My bf's place is fine. My school is fine.

Lots of folks are not fine. Apparently it passed between me and my school and my bf's place and did some serious, serious damage.

So, to conclude: rejection sucks. But at least I didn't get blown away by a tornado. Thank God for that.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It took less than 24 hours...

To get the first rejection of Knightspelle. Magical Words has been doing a series on how to measure success, and that just sending out stuff is a success.  So, WHEE! Or not. It's hard not to be discouraged a little bit, but there isn't any cure for it but to keep moving forward. The rejection was cheerful and pleasant with a "I swear we read it and read it carefully, but it wasn't for us..." and "remember it only takes one yes." All in all, very friendly.  It was by email (query and rejection, obviously, as I don't think there is a place in the US where the post moves that fast anymore), and so very much a form letter.  I wasn't certain we were the right fit for this agency and agent, as our work is in the genre she works with, but not quite in the same category as the stuff that she lists that she really likes.

But, ONWARD, without ado! :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The first one is out of the gate...

So I sent off the first query letter for Knightspelle. I will be sending more out shortly.  I'm excited and nervous and all those things. It's always a risk sending stuff out, and I'm trying to view the fact that I'm sending stuff out as a success in itself. (See David B. Coe's 4/11 post on success at Magical Words for a lot of thoughtful ideas about it.) There was a lot of talk about the "scrawled on rejection."  That is, the rejection that is still a "no," but on which an editor or agent wrote something encouraging.  It means that it moved beyond the standard form letter.  The general idea is that agents, editors, etc. are busy, busy people. So, if they take the time to say something positive, especially if it is something like "this was close but not quite right for us. Query again!" it really does mean that a writer *is* close.

And I believe that's true.  Mostly because I mean it when I write "you've improved! keep up the good work!" on student papers. I try very hard not to write something like that when it isn't true. There's a fine line between encouraging someone and, well, lying.  I do this mostly because I believe in positive reinforcement as much as I believe in critique. Without critique, obviously a writer (or anyone, really, doing anything) won't get much better.  But without positive comments, I think it is tough to improve, too.

A writer I edit told me mid-edit the other day that he appreciates that I point out the things that are working. It helps him keep his spirits up when I tell him things aren't working. It also is a feel good moment to know his writing worked. Finally, it's also useful to know what he does well.  The moment struck me because years ago I said almost the exact same thing to my dissertation director. I told him I wanted him to be my director because he'd said positive things about my work. It wasn't that he'd said nothing negative--certainly not--but that he had taken the time to say things like "good argument here" or whatever.

So, as I'm thinking about querying folks, a I'm just reminded of how important it is to be positive, both about my stuff and other writers' stuff as well.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Preparing for the Query Process

So I've written two novels. Knightspelle and Hell Mary: Full of Fire. The first is with my co-author, Sarah Adams. The second is my own. I've given 'em to beta readers. I've edited 'em. Now it's time to see if they really work. I'm getting ready to start querying agents. I've got my initial agent list. I've got my list of their requirements. It reminds me a lot of applying for professorial jobs when I was at the end of grad school. Everybody wants basically the same thing.  That is, they want a query letter, they want some sample pages, and they want a synopsis.  The specifics vary, and require charts. Some people want a 1 page synopsis. Some people want a 5 page one. Some people want the first three chapters, some the first ten pages, some the first chapter.  Some want by email, with everything in the body (that's common), some want attachments (rare), some want by snail mail (definitely rare).  This is all fine, of course. It's part of the job, part of what you do to get an agent, etc.  But it is nit-picky detail work.  I want to (and will) follow the guidelines, but I do sort of wish they all wanted one thing, so I could put a massive amount of work into ONE packet.  I'm personalizing all the agent letters they are personal. They are the agents I've heard of, whose authors I read and enjoy, who I think would be fabulous agents, and who I think would like the stuff I've written.

All of the work, though, is not much compared to the anxiety. If no one wants it, of course I'll pick myself up again and start over. There's no point in NOT doing that. But it is still scary. I know my books are good. I like them, and I've read them a lot. But that doesn't make showing them to others, to people that matter, any less nerve wracking.

So, wish me luck, y'all.  :)