Monday, February 22, 2010

Nuts and Bolts?

This morning when I woke up I decided to do a sort of nuts and bolts post about what I've done so far on my road to getting published.  And I still intend to do that, however, you know that scene in Love Actually when Laura Linney kisses her long time crush and then has to go into her stairwell and have an absolute freakout.  Well, excuse me, I'm headed into the stairwell.  I GOT A REQUEST FOR A PARTIAL FROM A NEW YORK LITERARY AGENT!!!!!!

Okay, and we're out of the stairwell.  Now I will proceed onto the nuts and bolts portion of this post. 

Nut (or bolt, take your pick) number one:  I wrote a book.  Now I know this may seem elementary, but I've been surprised by the amount of agents who say on their blogs and agency websites not to query them until the book is complete.  I thought that sort of went without saying, but apparently not.  So, if you've actually completed a book, pat yourself on the back.  You're ahead of an apparently significant portion of your competition.

Nut number two: While I was writing said book I read books about writing.  How's that for a trippy mess with your head sentence?  The book I found to be the most helpful was On Writing by Stephen King.  I already worshipped the man because of his phenomenal characterization ability, but this book almost deified him in my eyes.  Part autobiography, part writing advice it is absolutely amazing. It was also at times so crazy hiliarious I laughed until I cried.  I also found this article by bestselling author Elmore Leonard to be extremely helpful.

Nut number three: I followed the advice dished out in what I read.  I went through and trimmed adverbs, adjectives, passive voice and, in an effort to also expunge static voice, changed most 'was doing' or 'had done' to just plain 'did'.  I also finished my first draft and, following more of Stephen King's advice, found some beta readers with teeth (some were toothier than others, but all were very helpful) and put my manuscript into their hands and out of mine. I involved myself in another project and almost two months later, when I felt my slate had been wiped clean of the first manuscript, I went back to it.

Nut number four: After I edited all I felt I was capable of on my own, I sort of flailed around for awhile because I didn't know what to do next.  I knew I wanted a professional edit and exchanged emails with a published author who provided this service, but I wasn't really sure if she had the kind of editing experience I was looking for.  Then one of my aforementioned beta readers (who also happens to be my sister) suggested a writer's conference.  I went and enjoyed myself enormously.  I also learned alot about the publishing process (Query letter, what the hell is that?  Wait, an agent, I need one?  Really, I shouldn't mention that my mom and all my siblings loved my book and are convinced I'm the next insert famous author of choice here? Pink, scented paper is a bad idea?).  I also spoke to one of the authors who did a self editing workshop.  She referred me to these guys.

Nut number five:  I got my edit back from Precision, implemented nearly all of my editors suggested changes and then hit a wall, a big, fat, thick one that looked like this QUERY LETTER.  From October until December I did nothing on my book, but I did spend a lot of time on this blog and this one and especially this one. I also downloaded and read this great book by agent Noah Lukeman. I even submitted a draft to the shark, but unfortunately mine either wasn't quite bad enough for her to sink her rows and rows of teeth into or she just hasn't gotten to that particular steaming pile of craptastic query yet.  Finally, I ended up back at Precision, draft in hand or in email.  They posted it on their blog for Monday Mania and it, my friends, crashed and burned, big time.  Second draft went straight to the author who edited my manuscript.  It too tanked.  It took me a month to work up the guts to try another and, lo and behold, it passed muster. 

Nut number six:  With the ok from Precision I began querying immediately, like, literally that day.  I got rejected, immediately, like, literally that day.  Talk about disheartening.  I initially sent off ten queries, decided that wasn't enough and sent off ten more over the course of the next week. 

Since doing so, well, obsessive doesn't even begin to describe my behavior.  My email is never closed.  My postman probably thinks we've finally returned from a two year vacation because this is the first time ever in all the time we've lived here that I get the mail on a daily basis.  Sometimes I even check a few times between four and four thirty when he's late getting here.  I also spend a ridiculous amount of time on Nathan Bransford's blog and Jennifer Jackson's blog and Janet Reid's blog and The Rejectionist's blog and, well, you get the idea.  These are the important lessons I've learned from these agents:

Always, always follow the submission guidelines.  If it says send a query letter, send only a query letter.  If it says send a query letter, a synopis, a bio and the first chapter, send all of those things and only those things.  If it says they don't accept attachments, don't attach anything.  If it says send a picture of yourself painted yellow with purple spots standing upside down then find a friend who's handy with a paintbrush and start practicing your handstands. 

Personalize your query.  At the very least address them by their name, i.e. Ms. Jackson, Mr. Branford.  If you really want to go the extra mile and set yourself apart from the crowd find something in the agent's bio or client list that you can refer to in your query so they can see you did your research on them.

Be professional.  They're professionals. They want to work with professionals.  Nuff said.

Don't lie.  Don't say you've read one of their titles when you haven't.  Don't say you love one of their authors when you don't.  They will catch you and, aside from being humiliating, it will also ruin any chance you had at getting them as your agent.

Nut number seven: Don't let rejection get you down.  Remind yourself that you write because you love it, not to reach some end goal of publication, or fame, or wealth.  If you remind yourself of this it won't matter how many times you get rejected because you're still getting the most important thing out of your writing, joy.  I say this with ten rejections under my belt, one request for a partial and nine pending queries.  And folks, that's not much, especially compared to some of the authors I most admire and respect.  Take a look at Stephen King's rejection tally in On Writing if you truly want to see something impressive.  He never quit.  Neither should you.  I'm not.  My current online haunt is here selecting the next agents that I plan to query if the nine still pending and the agent who requested a partial all reject me.  But I know we all have down days, so if you need a little pick me up, take a little trip to this blog and see who's rejected Jenny today or for a good laugh check out this funny and creative collection of literary rejections.

As usual I've spent far more time on this post than I should have.  I gotta go work on my 'real' writing now.  Good luck y'all.


The Rejection Queen said...

Oh and thanks for mentiong me in your blog! That's awesome.

The Rejection Queen said...

I sent you another comment...but I don't think it went through?

KarenG said...

Hi Angie!

I think every prospective writer should read this (yes, rather long!) post of yours just to see how MUCH WORK it takes, and it's not gonna be easy, and you've GOT to do the research and put in the hours and hours!

Best of luck with your writing journey! You are on your way!


angfla said...


Thanks so much for dropping by my blog. I tried to go to yours but there isn't a link on your profile, just the blog name. If it isn't something you have to kill me for if you tell me could you let me know the best way to get to your blog so I can check it out. And yes, it's a very loooong blog post, but I'm glad you think it was worth all the words. I hope I'm on my way. Lately what with all the rejections I sort of feel like I'm just spinning my wheels.