Tag Archives: Burn Like Stars

Querying: A Necessary Evil

I totally understand the necessity of the querying process. It’s rough, but think about what would happen if we could just call up our top-choice agent and say:

“Hey, I write fantasy YA. Want to represent me?”

“Sure, sounds great. Send me your book. I’ll get it to the publishers and it’ll hit shelves next week!”

Barnes and Noble would be flooded with crappy, awful books that we would all have to avoid, and awesome books would get lost in the shuffle. Agents simply don’t have the time to give full attention to the hundreds of thousands of writers that want to be published. We have to prove ourselves, somehow. That being said, I hate, hate, hate querying.

I started querying two weeks ago. So far, I’ve sent query letters to 18 people. I’ve gotten 5 rejections, and 1 partial request. I’m still waiting to hear back from everyone else. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t realize that the over-thinking, the constantly checking my email, and the relentless waiting would get to me as much as it has. Staying positive is so hard. I’ve always been kind of a Negative Nancy, and, starting with the querying process, I’ve been determined to turn it around. I have a mantra that I’ve begun to repeat to myself in between prayers. “My work has value. Someone will love it. Good things will happen.”

This has been my querying journey (and let me tell you, I’m just beginning):

July-December 2014– Agent research. I hunted down a large group of agents that take fantasy YA and put them together in a long list of website links. I threw around query ideas, and had a long document with about six rough queries in a row. I also spent these six months editing BLS until I thought my brains would fall out! Revisions and more revisions, my friend. It really helps!

January 2015Finished edits for my book and started to play around with getting together a really solid query letter. After writing one that I thought was decent and informative, yet short enough, I sent it to about 5 beta readers to have a look. Unfortunately, none of them had queried before, but they all gave me useful advice. I edited it until I was really happy with it.

First Week of February 2015– I smiled at my polished query, said a little prayer, and sent out 5 letters over Monday and Tuesday. Within 24 hours, I had two rejections. Both were kind, saying that my work looked interesting/promising but it wasn’t right for their list right now. I was happy to see that they didn’t say “your letter had typos and your writing needs more work!” but I didn’t want to be too stubborn to see what was happening. Such quick rejections signaled, to me, that perhaps my letter wasn’t sharp enough. I studied my letter and decided that, while it was a good length and well written, it wasn’t catchy. It needed to be memorable, even if I had to take out important story elements to accomplish that.

Second Week of February 2015– After spending 5 days reimagining my query, and having it scoured by a few more beta readers, I felt confident in sending out a lot more letters. Between Monday and Friday, I sent out 14 queries, and along with three rejections, I GOT MY FIRST PARTIAL REQUEST!!!!!! I danced all around the office, and my boss, who was on the phone, got super weirded out, but that’s okay. Because AN ACTUAL AGENT actually wanted to read 5 CHAPTERS OF MY BOOK! I was thrilled and sent it out immediately. (No word yet, but that was Thursday and it’s only Monday- and a holiday at that- so I should give it some time).

Here’s my plan for the rest of the month:

Third and Fourth Week of February 2015– Send out another 6 queries to agents this week and perfect my 2 page synopsis, so that I can send out more queries to people who require those (I have 10 agents I really like picked out). With any luck, I’ll hear back from the agent who requested a partial, and she’ll want to read more! And hopefully, more agents will start requesting partials. I just started the process two weeks ago, and I know most agents say 4-6 weeks, so now is when I have to start being a patient person. (I just snort-laughed into my coffee as I wrote that. Patience is for suckers -or healthy, well-adjusted people, if you want to look at it that way. Punching bags, pizza and headaches are for people like me.)

I hope other querying writers agree with me when I say that there is majorly conflicting information on the internet with regards to queries. Some people say that if you don’t get 50% of the agents requesting more material than there’s something wrong with your letter/chapters. Others say that, because everything is so subjective, that anyone requesting material is a good sign. I’m going a bit out of my mind with all of this. Seriously. Everyone says querying is hard, but I didn’t think it would affect me at a base, cellular level. Fair warning to soon-to-be queryers. Better write some positive, inspiring messages to yourself on your bathroom mirror. I have. Here’s some good ones to get you started:

goodthings fallingapart plottwist

The last one is my favorite. It cheers me up every time! All the best to those who are querying like me. I always find it inspiring to look back at now successfully published writers’ blogs and see how they handled the querying process. They all had rejections as well. I enjoy Sarah J. Maas’s blog a lot. She has a few posts from her time querying. Take a look. 

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The Editing Process: When Is It Ready?

This week is my last week of editing my book before I start querying. How do I know it is ready, you might ask? The answer is: I really don’t. I read recently that a work is never really done. I agree with this statement. At some point, you just decide to stop sweating the small stuff after you’ve ready through and changed the same sentence around 6 times.

That being said, I have worked long and hard on edits for my book. I have been editing it for the last seven months! I did many stages of adding/removing/story-changing/plot-hole-filling/character-adding edits, and have most recently drudged through the dreaded Slow Edit. Now, after spending nearly 2 months on the slow edit (on a paper draft), I have to plug in all the changes. I’m halfway through the book, but this part of the process takes very little time, in comparison. I am planning to start submitting to agents next week!

Here’s the general process that I used.

Early July 2014– First Draft Finished!!!

Mid July 2014– After a week away, I did a quick read to check for any glaring issues. I ended up adding a small battle sequence that introduces an important question.

Late July 2014– I pass my book along to my beta readers, who promise to finish the book in a month’s time.

End of August 2014– One Beta reader has completed the book and given me excellent notes. I set about making the appropriate changes and decide to introduce a character who I had originally planned to introduce in Book 2, in Chapter 1 of Book 1. It makes the whole story much more exciting. Thank you Beta reader 1! Beta reader 2 didn’t finish the book.

September 2014– I continued to make the necessary edits and additions until I was happy with the content.

October 2014– It’s time for a closer look. I took another pass (rather quickly) at the whole book, but spent extra time on the first five chapters. They had always been my least favorite portion of the book, and are the most important for agents to see! After this, I printed out a copy of my book and put it in a drawer.

November 2014– I took the month off to participate in NaNoWriMo. I worked on a science fiction piece to get my mind far away from epic fantasy! (Also, Beta Reader 2 has finished only half the book and hands me notes on what is done. Unfortunately, they’re much more about word choice and grammar, and not the story.)

December 2014– Time for the dreaded slow edit. I pulled the printed copy out of the drawer and went through it: word by word, line by line. It was boring, it was grueling. But it was necessary. TYPOS ahoy!

January 2014– I finished my slow edit. Yes, I’m not proud to say that it took me almost 6 weeks to finish it! Then, I started putting any edits from the printed copy into my Microsoft Word document.

And what now?

February 2014– Submit to literary agents. Set Burn Like Stars aside, and start working on Part 2 of the series!

Wish me luck!

❤ Cameryn.

What I’ve Learned: Editing Book 1

When I sat down across from my beta readers after they read an early draft of my first book, I expected that I had already fixed most of the major issues. I was prepared for “more about X, less about Y, why does Z do this? I don’t get it” kind of comments. Instead, I got something wonderfully enlightening: I had made consistent, stupid mistakes. I knew I wasn’t happy with my first 50 pages, but I couldn’t have told you exactly why. All I knew was that it needed to be ‘punched up.’ Instead, I found that I made a few crucial mistakes, like overuse of the word ‘had’ and the fact that NO ONE had a conversation in my first TWO chapters. Yes, that kind of bad.

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Looking back, it’s terribly obvious. But as you write your own book, you will miss major errors like that. You’re focused on the idea and the feeling, less on the wordy minutia. I went through the book once after I wrote the wrote the first draft. I wanted to do my own revisions before I gave it to my beta readers. I caught some smaller issues and added some excitement in the middle of the book, but I missed SO much. I should have taken a month break away from it before I edited it.

Enjoy the experience with your beta readers, take criticism and keep in mind, your beta readers don’t have to be writers, they just have to read and pay attention!

What I’ve Learned: First Draft, First Book

I am currently deep in editing for my first complete novel, an epic fantasy called Burn Like Stars. I conceptualized the book for about eighteen months before I began writing. The writing itself took me seven months (some of this time I was between jobs and ultra-dedicated to word count), and editing has so far been taking me three months, but I think it will take me a total of six. The process has been lengthy, and I haven’t even started querying yet, but I have learned a lot! Here are a few major lessons:

1. Go for a walk.

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Stuck on an idea? Go for a walk around the block. Leave the headphones at home and bring a notepad. Stay focused on the story. I always have my best breakthroughs while concentrating on the idea as I walk around the fountain near my apartment.

 

2. Everything can be unwritten.

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Have fun and write what you enjoy. So what if you have a ridiculous amount of self-analysis in your first two chapters? You’ll take it out later. For now, your only task is to get your thoughts down on the paper!

 

3. You’re never too good for books.

books, kitties and tea

Reading books on writing is often scoffed at by true artistes. However, I always read them with a particular story in mind and always come out with more ideas! I am currently enjoying Writer’s Guide to Character Traits and Bullies, Bastards and Bitches.

 

4. Give yourself a break.

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Once you’re done with your first draft, give yourself time. If you’re like me, you want to plunge right into editing and get it done! However, you won’t be able to see your own mistakes clearly without some distance. I waited 6 weeks after my first draft to begin editing and I caught mistakes I was shocked I didn’t see when I read through it after the first draft. You will be surprised at your own crazy typos! (My favorite of mine- I spelled ‘the tree’ as ‘three.’ Talk about lazy!)

 

Have a great NaNo! I’ll be working on my Space Cowboy project, tentatively titled Outworld. Follow my tweets at @camerynf.