The waiting is the hardest part

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If I had a crystal ball to look back at all the times in my life I had to wait for things, I would probably be astonished at how many hours I have spent in a holding pattern.  In those moments of uncertainty, time takes on a mystical quality and one day feels like a week, a week feels like a year and anything longer than that feels like an eternity.

Trying to connect with, and build a relationship with, a literary agent has taken waiting to a whole new level.  I have crafted something I am extremely proud of and want so much to find someone as passionate about sharing my story as I am.  But that takes time – a lot of time.  Agents are very busy people and I understand that.  My manuscript is one in a pile of hundreds that they have to sort through to find a collection of phrases and characters that speak to them and that they think they can sell to a publishing company.  I get it.  But that doesn’t make the waiting any easier.

I recently submitted my full manuscript to a literary agent in New York.  Her email, although encouraging, did say it would be a few weeks before I heard back from her.  That email was sent 9 days ago but, in my estimation, it feels like 9 months have gone by since we had any communication.  In that 9 days, my emotion has gone from elation to worry, from feeling confident to being self-deprecating.  It has been a roller coaster of emotion but it is a train I have been hanging on to because that ride up and down those tracks and through those loops is part of the thrill of the journey to being published.  I can only hope that the ride ends well and I don’t veer off the tracks into a wall.

 

Listen to those who have been there

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Knowledge is power, this is a universal truth, and over the last few days this truth has made itself extremely evident.

I have been immersing myself into a world that is new to me and there is a huge learning curve as well as many veins of information that branch out from that curve.  To gain as much knowledge as I can, I have been spending a great deal of time travelling down those arteries of wisdom and storing as many nuggets of information as I can into the recesses of my brain.

Every author I have spoken to about getting published has said the same thing – it’s really all about luck and timing.  I have no reason not to believe them because they’ve been there.  They have pounded the same pavement on which I now find myself so they know this route much better than I could ever claim to know.  I have been spending a great deal of time learning about different literary agents, what they like and what they don’t like, and only adding those agents who may be a good fit for my book.  I have been spending much more time on Twitter as that seems to be a more popular social media site for those in the writing world and last week I was introduced to the hashtag #PitMad.

PitMad is a pitch party where authors have 280 characters to describe their unpublished manuscript.  If an agent likes your tweet, you have the green light to send them a query based on their submission guidelines.  I tweeted my first pitch and sat back, hoping for the best.  But then I wanted to know all I could know about PitMad.  It turns out, you can send a maximum of three pitches for the same book, so I carefully constructed a second tweet and sent it out into cyberspace.  When I checked back a while later, my second tweet had a beloved heart below it.  An agent liked my tweet!  I had the go-ahead to send a query and I did that as quickly as I could so my story was still fresh in her mind.

Luck and timing magically combined and, when I got home from work that day, there was an email from the same agent requesting to read my full manuscript.  I’m not under any illusion that her interest in my book is going to mean that she is going to take me on as a client.  I am quite grounded in reality.  I am, however, under the illusion that her requesting my full manuscript means that my writing has enough merit to make her want to see where I take the story and THAT is a huge step for a new author.

I follow “LitRejections” on Twitter and they post very encouraging tweets to help authors keep writing and survive rejection.  This tweet is the one that got under my skin and keeps me going ~ “Rejection of your writing will not break your spirits. You are going to do this. You will not quit. You WILL be successful.

Putting yourself out there

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Trying to find a literary agent is much like putting yourself on an internet dating site.  You spend a great deal of time stressing over how to describe yourself and your work without sounding obnoxiously confident but you have to nail that very fine line between determination and arrogance without exaggerating either of those things.  Contrary to internet dating, that agent is only looking for one very specific thing and if you don’t have it, they move on.

I have never been comfortable being the person to profess my strengths.  I can write for days about subjects that have nothing to do with me, but words vanish as soon as I have to point them in my direction.  I am extremely happy with the final product of my first novel and so are my Beta readers.  I want nothing more than to find an agent or a publisher who believes in it as much as I do.  But that process is much more daunting than staring at that first blank page, knowing that you have to string together over 80,000 words in an articulate and entertaining way.

Agents and publishers who are not interested in your work will not dangle bait in the water to see if you bite.  They are more than willing to move on to the next pond because there are so many fish and so few anglers.  An agent can’t even cast a line into a body of water without a frenzy of fish ready to fight to the death for the rare hook that shines in the distance.  In a sea of Piranhas, I feel like I am the poor carrion waiting at the bottom to be consumed by the predatory beasts with the sharper teeth.

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But there is always hope.  I know that one day, those Piranhas will have distracted themselves by something very shiny and I will be in the right spot in the pond at the right time, staring at a hook that was meant to catch only me.  And like every angler who is waiting for the “big one” knows, it’s all about patience.

 

Every now and then you meet the right people

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Throughout my journey as a fledgling author, I have encountered many encouraging people along the way.  In the initial stages of writing it was friends and family who were at the forefront of my support team.  As I talked more about my writing progress, my circle of support grew much bigger and began to gather friends whom I have never met face to face but have become friends through this blog.

The nice thing about friends is that they have other friends, and some of those friends can provide a wealth of knowledge about the very thing that I am most passionate about – writing.  Yesterday, I met one of those people.  She was able to give me a much more extensive view into the publishing world since she has two published novels and a third is due out in October of 2018.

During our conversation, she was more than just supportive, she was engaging.  She gave me some great insight into ways that I can establish more connections and receive some honest opinions about my writing.  She told me about her journey through publishing and made me have faith that the rocky roads I will face in wanting to be published can quite possibly pave the way to eventual success.  And the one thing she told me that I will continue to hold onto is to never give up.

The best thing I have learned about this process is to take advice, to take lots of advice.  Some of it may have no bearing on my path or my success, but at least I can face the daunting task of publishing with as much information in my arsenal as I can get.

The two most important things I have going for me are tenacity and an extreme desire to succeed.  If I can keep meeting the right people and following the right path, I just might find that success.

 

The feeling came rushing back

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Last year, I made the courageous decision to let two of the guests at the lodge read the first three chapters of my novel.  It was a large hurdle for me to jump, to trust my writing enough let them read it and, as I sat waiting to hear back from them, I was concerned that their critique may destroy the hope I had for my book.  I was dead wrong and I wrote about it here.

That same couple checked back into the lodge yesterday for their annual “Shammy” vacation.  I was delighted to see them again and we embraced like we have known each other for decades.  We had been corresponding by email over the winter and they were two of the people at the top of my list to share my news once I had finished writing the book.

As she began to leaf through the 8 1/2 by 11 pages, I watched her brow furrow.  She agreed with the changes that I had made in red ink but I sensed there was an underlying urge in her to be wielding the same red pen she had used last year.  Instead, she set the pages down on her lap and seemed so overjoyed that I had finished my work in progress.  She was thrilled and her joy seeped into me.  I was elated.  The excitement I had felt after finishing the writing now came flooding back and the two of us acted like we had just won the lottery.

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I have been dutifully editing my novel for egregious grammatical oversights as well as making the story flow as well as it should so the reader is not lost at the beginning of any of the chapters.  I plan to spend all of my free time over the next week finishing the revisions and beginning the hunt for an agent.  Game on!