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Keeping up hope

Trying to find a literary agent can be a long process for many authors, and I’m no exception. I’ve been querying agents with different manuscripts for about four years now, and though I’ve eventually found homes for those books with a small publisher, it still gets me down that none of them fit with the lists of the agents I queried.

Rejection after rejection can make authors numb to it after a while, and the hope that each query or submission sent out is a potential offer of representation dwindles until it starts becoming something done out of habit rather than real intent.

I start out querying a project with all the enthusiasm in the world, but six months later when the answer has still been no, self-doubt creeps in. My usual method to combat this oppressive feeling is to simply get on with the next book, but this year something else happened that re-ignited my hope.

A writer I know, who’s also been querying for a long time, finally found representation with an agent. (And they’re raving about how good her book is on Twitter, which is awesome to see.)

I was so happy for her that it was almost as if it’d happened to me, and the reason why I think I felt that way is because I knew how hard she’d worked to get there, and all the rejections she’d faced. It was like someone had plastered a sign on the wall in front of me, saying ‘See, it is possible!’.

So now when I feel that imposter syndrome trying to take over, all I need to do is think of that, and I know I’ll pull through.

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A note on rejection

Every writer gets rejected at some point. Whether it’s by peers or beta readers, agents or publishers, it’s always going to happen no matter how good your writing is or how many times you’ve meticulously edited your manuscript.

When I was teaching a workshop at a school the other day, one of the students asked me if I’ve ever been rejected. When I said yes, and that I’ve been rejected around a hundred times for each different project I’ve worked on, she and the rest of the class were pretty shocked. And as it wasn’t something I’ve really thought about that cumulatively, I was surprised too.

I then told the class what I always say about rejection: it doesn’t matter how many “no”s you get, as all it takes to change things is a single “yes”.

Which is true for all of my published works. But I think it’s important to note that sometimes those “no”s are worth listening to, not to make you give up on a project, but to take another look at it to see if it needs to be revised. Now, if you’ve already spent a long time trying to perfect your manuscript, this is hard advice to follow. I’m no exception, it takes a lot of willpower for me to revisit something that I’ve already poured so much time and energy into. I hate it, and I put it off as long as I can. Especially when all the rejections I’ve received have been form rejections or complete silence, as I don’t know where the problem is.

However, the one thing about those kind of rejections is that for me, I think they hurt less. Whereas a rejection with feedback included is like a punch to the stomach that doesn’t disappear for days. I had one such rejection last week, and I’m still not fully over it. The feedback was quite specific, and left me wondering whether to implement it or not, a question to which I still don’t have an answer.

Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your point of view) the manuscript was actually one I sent out when I knew it wasn’t really ready, but wanted to see if the idea might catch some attention, so I’m actually in the process of revising it anyway. One thing that rejection made me realise is that the manuscript is more plot driven than character driven, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that I might have to do some more research to make sure that when I do send it out properly, I’m sending it to people who enjoy that style of storytelling — if I choose to keep that side of the book as it is. That’s not to say I’ll be neglecting my characters, either. Far from it, in fact.

Anyway, there’s no real moral to this post (other than don’t send your manuscript out early like I just did!). I think I just wanted to share some of my rejection experience, so that anyone else in the query trenches knows they’re not alone.

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Unofficial Detective’s 2nd book birthday!

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, then you probably already know this, but Unofficial Detective, the first book in my Half-Wizard Thordric trilogy, has been out for two years today. And looking back, things have been a little crazy since then.

These past two years have been full of personal struggles, but one thing that’s been a constant throughout, despite lack of time, depression and overall burnout, has been my writing.

[Side note: I’ve written at least one book every year since 2011, and though I had so many manuscripts, I only found my first publisher in 2017.]

Since Unofficial Detective has been out, nearly every book I wrote before then has either been released or is currently under contract for release next year. And the books I’ve written since its release (3 novels, 3 picture book manuscripts, 3 poetry collections – including A Book For Pandora, which came out in February this year) are either awaiting editing/being edited or on submission. Add that to the fact I blog every day at the moment, and even I have to admit it’s a lot of work.

Now, I often forget the sheer amount of effort I’ve put into a project as soon as I move onto the next, and as my focus is usually on what I’m currently working on, it’s been a long time since I’ve looked back and appreciated how far I’ve come. But today I stopped to think about it, and it left me both overwhelmed and immensely proud.

Being a writer has been my dream since I was a little girl, and while it’s true I earn very little from it – for me, earning money from writing has never been the point – I can genuinely say I’ve achieved my dream and will continue living it.

So, I think the note I want to end with is that for any aspiring writers out there wondering if getting published really is attainable, just stick with it. Yes, it probably will be hard and you will feel like quitting completely at some points, but if it’s what you really want, then no one can stop you. And that remains true regardless of whether you’re looking into traditional publishing or self publishing.

books_mine

Lastly, a list of all my published works to date:

Half-Wizard Thordric trilogy

Unofficial Detective

Accidental Archaeologist

Unseasoned Adventurer

 

Stand alone books

The Door Between Worlds

The Origin Stone

 

Poetry

A Book For Pandora

Poetry, Uncategorized

Pi inches of parchment

Unfurling the scroll, it seems

it will never end,

a list upon a list that is

stuck in my hands

for an eternity I don’t want to face.

Ticked boxes, completed tasks,

I’m winning,

then the scroll is reversed

and instead I see

how much I’m losing.

Losing, or lost? That’s

the question now.

All I need is a chance.

Just one,

and then I’ll feel like me again.

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Cool hashtags that help

So I was in the query slump again recently, where I wait and wait to hear back and end up losing hope that my books will ever get picked up. This happens quite a lot (every time I send out a new round of queries, in fact (and by round, I mean I make a list of 12 agents and then send off to them individually, but usually all within the space of a few days)), so I know by now that I’ll get over it. ┬áMostly it’s by hearing stories by other authors about how they got picked up by agents or publishers (there are a few of these in the Writer’s and Artist’s yearbook, and of course, if you look at author bio pages on the web, you’ll find them there too) and copious amounts of chocolate or cake, or simply chocolate cake…

This time, though, I discovered the hashtag #500queries, which shows you queries from an agent’s point of view (in this case, Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary agency), which may seem harsh at first, but after reading a few it really helped reassure me that my query wasn’t a total shambles, and also showed me what needed to be improved, too. There’s also a #10queries/#tenqueries version, which is equally helpful.

I also recently discovered #MSWL which is a great tool to find agents interested in your genre, and a few other cool hashtags that help with querying, like #pitmad and #PitchCB (Curtis Brown’s twitter pitch tag).

So, even though I’m sure I’ll slump out again, for now I’m feeling more positive about all those queries and submissions I sent out.

Still rather impatient, though.