No, not take a picture of myself every other day and post it on social media but should I self-publish? When I first finished my manuscript, I contacted a PR person and I made a list of all the things I would need to do to make my book a professional looking product. In the end, I reasoned that it would be “easier” to get an agent and learn the ropes through their professionals. With that mindset, I decided self=publishing for my first book at least. I wasn’t delusional about the process, I knew that to get an agent would be a challenge and that it would test my patience.
So here I am one year after I sent out my first round of agent submissions and still no agent. I know it’s only been a year and I’ve only submitted to under twenty agents but I tired of waiting for someone else to approve of my work. Plus once I got them, they would work with me on manuscript and then shop it around to publishing houses. So it could easily take years to see this book in print. The question becomes should I do a few more rounds to agents but prepare to self-publish at the same time?
If yes, what would I need to do to self-publish?
Find a stellar editor, which I am lucky that I know one.
Find a good artist to do the cover art work, which I think I can get that one nailed down by pestering a few people.
Then there’s the book layout. I can do my own layout through In Design, which would be great since I’d have ultimate creative design control over it.
The only thing I don’t know I want to deal with is the marketing. Just thinking about doing all of the marketing makes my head hurt. I don’t mind blogging, tweeting, and facebooking my info. Well, I guess I could also go to local book stores and talk with the people there if they would carry my book but I don’t want to do much more than that. Call me lazy but I know that isn’t where my strengths are.
It seems to me that I should prep for both because I want to share this work with the world. And if I keep looking at the manuscript over and over again, I think I may start to hate the work. It’s been over two years since I started writing the manuscript, I’ve lost a good friend in the process and almost lost my mother to illness so it’s time I put a little joy an cheer back into my world and get this out there.
I recently had a friend ask me how I structure my novel and how I keep the details of my characters in order.
So here’s a bit of my writing process:
When I first started to write novels it was a hard thing to figure out just how to structure my story, should I write with a fill in the blank structure or fly by the seat of my pants. Well, I’ve done it both ways. First, I didn’t want to be constrained by outlines (AKA a pantser) so I just wrote; no plan on what was going to pop up all I wanted was the words onto the page. I didn’t want to impede my ‘natural creative brain.’
After over 100 pages I realized that I need to have structure so went to the opposite extreme, where I scripted the entire thing. I build a meticulous outline detailing all the major scenes and the conflicts within it. Yet that was too much restraint on my creative
process. So now I have a calendar of how long my book is going to take in character time (days/weeks/months) and I write down major scenes that I have mapped out with no idea how to move the character from one event to the other so I allow that to flow out of my actually writing style.
Well what about characters, how much must I know about their background before I start? When I first get an idea for a novel, I normally see the beginning scene in my head and see a few of the character’s personality traits but for me they grow and evolve as I ‘meet’ the character. As I write I normally know my destination but never exactly how I shall get there. I have a software called Snowflake written my a writer who is also a scientist that I fill in about the characters & their background as I go along so I can keep all the details like their physical descriptions straight but that’s normally after I’ve made it a good hunk of the way through my first draft. While writing the draft now I’ll leave myself a comment about quirks, nicknames they call each other, or hair color so later I don’t have to hunt as hard.
So I guess I kind of write with a rough cage of what I want but allowing me the most amount of freedom to let the story develop in fun and surprising ways. The only thing I know for sure is that for me how I write is in flux and I have to find fight a delicate balance between too much structure, where I stifle myself, & too lax, where my story falls apart because I don’t know exactly where I’m headed.
So I guess the only conclusion about how to write and structure it, is that nothing is wrong as long as you keep getting words on the page because at the end of the day that’s what really matters.
Since September I’ve been sending out my manuscript, query, and synopsis to literary agents. It’s been a bit disheartening and hard to keep my own personal moral up. I don’t mind the thank-you-no-thank-you letters/emails, it’s the no word ones that kind of tie me up.
By them not even sending a note, I have to wait the entire 2-8 weeks before I feel comfortable sending my paperwork out to the next set of agents. I know I don’t need to but it feels unprofessional to do otherwise. So I send out to agents in batches and then wait and wait to hear nothing except my calendar inform me that I can begin the process again.
Yet this time, I got a little tug on my line. An agent actually requested to see the first five pages of my manuscript. I know it’s not much, it’s not even 2% of my book, but it makes me feel great. Which is exactly what I needed to keep my edits and writing humming back on track. Even if this isn’t the agent for me, I appreciate that her asking for more, it lifts my spirits and juices my drive to hit the pages harder.
To the work!
Please let me channel the Energizer bunny behind the keyboard,
I’ve been hunting for the elusive literary agent. They seem overwhelmed by the changes in the publishing world and overworked from everyone and their mother seeming wanting to be represented. So what can one lone safari tracking writer do?
Write the best story they can.
That’s it. Our job is to write because it is in our heart and soul to do so. Getting a literary agent or publisher to find your work is just due diligence & a mountain of patience. I know people have tip lists and rules of thumbs to find the right one but it all comes down to what you can control and that is what you write. So be fearless; continue to write even in the face of thank-you-no-thank-you canned email responses.
My advice may not be rock science but good old grit and determination. Believe in why you started down this path. For me, it was because if I didn’t write the story, they would be stuck in my mind with the characters screaming to get out until I slowly stopped believing in them and then they would start to die of neglect. Now is that anyway to treat my imaginary friends?
So I continue to write and take the time to continue to search for a way to share my character’s antics with the world by submitting to literary agents.
It’s funny when your tank and creativity is dry and you feel like the most unoriginal writer in the world, when you receive a kind word from a random person. That one drop is like water to parched land; I feel better and it gives me the fortitude to continue the work.
Without these tiny nudges to remind me that I doing what I’m meant to do, I doubt I could go on. So I thank all of those who read my early work, read by blog, or just random people who I meet and when I tell them, “I’m a writer,” they aren’t dismissive but instead are genuinely excited that they know someone who is blazing a path to capture their dreams. I don’t know where I’d be without all of your love and support; I’m more grateful than mere words could express, which is a great concession to someone who adores words, but my hope is that I am able to support you to in return.
As a writer, I am developing a deeper love of reading; I know, I didn’t know that was possible either but I’m so glad to be proven wrong. So now when I read things I am struck by various writers in different ways.
Here’s but a short (and not the all) list of writers who I want to emulate as I work on my own stories:
Laurie R. King, in her Mary Russell series, has blown my mind in how she unabashedly wields her large vocabulary and complex sentence structure to reinvent and flesh out an older Sherlock Holmes in a new century.
Jill Shalvis and Richard Paul Evans in their ability to build flawed characters and build conflict between two people. (Though I’m not the biggest fan of romance, I’ll read Jill Shalvis material because she nails it.)
Jennifer Cruisie, Katie MacAlister, Jim Butcher, and Kevin Hearne because they are in rare form every time I read what they write. They are amazing story tellers but most of all they make me laugh. Almost any book I pick up from them is a treat and I trust their name on the cover will be a safe bet.
If I want to grow as I writer, I must keep filling my tank up with inventive, creative, and better writers than me. It’s also a great excuse to continually read more. I’m always on the lookout for other great writers and when I find them, I’m not shy about extolling their wonderfulness to others. There’s nothing better than recommending a book to someone and when they come back they have the same glint in their eyes that I have about reading another great story.
Do you have trusted authors that you reach for time and time again? Why? I’m always got an open ear for “undiscovered” authors, well ones that I’ve never read before.
Finally, my first beta reader has finished my WIP (work-in-process). I love getting the feedback from them. Why? Because they are honest and will tell me what I’m missing and what they thought of it as a whole. My beta reader is not a writer but an avid reader. I choose them because they are my target audience, not writers, but readers. My next round of readers are all writers so I expect my book to be dripping red questions marks and slashes but this first round gives me hope that the story in its entirety is decent at least.
Plus I know I will constructive criticism, which should be the only type you get on a WIP. If they don’t like something, they will give me a reason as to the why they didn’t like it not just a rewrite.
Now all I need to do is go and pick the manuscript up and have a little heart to heart with my book.