Well That Was Stupid

So here's what not to do. You remember those posts from the beginning of the year? If not, scroll down the page and take a gander. I haven't posted much this year so they're still easy to find. To summarize, I was all enthused about my novel FAMILY JEWELS. It turned out great, it showed wonderful progress in my own skill as a writer and was receiving positive attention from agents. I insisted, even if this one didn't work out, I was on my way. I would not be defeated.

And then I did something stupid.

I bought into the attention. The attention was strong and it was quick, and it was from people whom I wanted to receive attention. You know those lists you're not supposed to talk about where you have your favorite agents (pieced together from their clients' works, their online presence, and perhaps meeting them at conventions despite the fact they may not be the best fit for you). Yeah, we all have that list. Well the top of my list jumped on my query. Multiple full requests, private messages over Twitter, the whole thing. It's the kind of story published authors tell later. "I thought my early work was so awesome but it was shit. But I kept working and working and when it really was ready, it all happened overnight." And it certainly did feel like it was happening overnight. Two days after my first round of queries, I had multiple full requests. Holy shit, ride that roller coaster! And they were from people on my top five. Including the agent I've wanted to work with most since before she became an acquiring agent and was still an agency assistant. This is IT! Woo hoo!

So I did something stupid.

I waited for my happy ending. I stopped querying other agents, because I was about to get my happy ending. Why would I want to dangle my genius in front of them only to yank it away to work with the person that as about to ask for a call at any moment. I waited. I started my next book. Actually, briefly, I started a sequel to FAMILY JEWELS, but I'm superstitious about that kind of thing, so I started a new novel. And then I waited.

Then I focused on the beginning of the roller derby season and I did a LOT of roller derby. Also, I waited. Then I followed up because it had been a couple months now and I hadn't heard anything, which was odd given how so many people were interested at the beginning and that all of them should suddenly fall silent at the same time. Did the internet break? I didn't get the memo. That's all right. I have this new novel and I have roller derby.

And then I did more derby. And I did less new novel. And I did MORE derby. And I did less new novel. And then I stopped writing.

Because I'm stupid.

Four months of silence from people who showed an interest in my work more effectively killed my creativity than five years of rejections. If this is how the people who like your work treat you, what's the point? Of course, that's just my brain pouting. People have reasons. They get busy. Their actual clients need attention. They change jobs. Who knows, but it's wrong to think it's malicious. (And less wrong to think they brought it on themselves, but we all have obligations, so I don't hand wave that away as easily. I allow a grace period where "overworked" becomes "unprofessional" and I'm still trying to figure out where that line is.)

Either way, I started writing again yesterday. I started by deleting 250 words and then writing 500 or so. They weren't very good. They weren't very bad. But they were more than I had written in the weeks before. Last year, I was hip deep into my second draft. In years before, I was usually on my second novel. This year, though, I'm still on a first draft, and for all my inability to ever give up writing, my enthusiasm for professional publication has been smothered by months of silence.

I'd say I almost prefer rejection, but that's stupid. There's still that chance I'll get an email saying, "Sorry about not responding for forever and a day, my hamster had cancer and things have been hectic here. I loved what I read. Is it still available?" and I'll be able to answer, "Strangely enough, it is."

Run for Your Lives!

An exciting thing happened to me in September. An agent read a full manuscript of mine and offered me a recommendation. I know it's not as cool as offering me representation, but a recommendation is pretty awesome in itself. "Send it to X and Y."

Well hell yes I will! Especially since both X and Y are on my short list of agents I would like to work with. What an awesome opportunity!

The thing is, both X and Y are at the same agency. Now some agencies specifically say "do not query multiple agents" but this isn't one of them. HOWEVER, I was still nervous of querying them both simultaneously. Some asshats out there will use in their query "so and so said I should email you" when so and so absolutely did not do that. They assume agents are enemies and don't talk to each other. Publishing is small folks and agents absolutely talk to each other. If you lie, you will get caught.

So I didn't want to appear to be one of those people by querying two agents at the same agency that I was contacting them on a recommendation even though it's absolutely true. I weighed the merits of both and chose which to send to first. And now I'm waiting. It's hard to wait for a response to queries. Harder still when you have a recommendation that you're hoping will help your already awesome manuscript (of course) rise to the top of the slush pile. Harder to the umpeenth degree when some agencies (a la Nelson Literary Agency) frequently send responses in two weeks or less. I've had agents respond to queries six months after I originally sent them. One time, I finished a manuscript and then received a rejection for the manuscript I had written BEFORE that one. There is not a set schedule for this kind of stuff.

So here I am waiting and it dawns on me. Shit, NaNoWriMo is here! With NaNoWriMo comes the SUPER-SLUSH! That period at the end of November through the middle of January where hopeful participants think their 50,000-word quantity-over-quality block of text is the next Harry Potter. I've made the mistake of querying during the super-slush. If you are serious about your career, just skip this time period. It's a billion times harder to get noticed. There are holidays and there is a ton of shit coming in.

So I am going to query second agent now so I don't get lumped in with the pending onslaught of 50k novels. If you're working on your query right now, I recommend you get that thing polished and out the door.

How Thick Is Your Skin?

So agent extrodinaire, Kristin Nelson, has a feature seminar she takes to conventions and the like. Participants bring their first two pages up to the mic and start reading. She tells them when, if they had submitted those pages to her, when she would stop reading and why. You might think, "How awesome! She's giving feedback!" but pause for a second and let it settle in. She tells you when she would stop reading. Not, she lets you finish and then tells you when she would stop reading.

What would it be like, to be up there in front of all those people and have an agent tell you stop after your first sentence? Not so exciting now, eh?

Oh, it is? Yeah, to me too. And how cool is it that she's offering that seminar directly through her new programs? Now you can knuckle down and muscle up even if you're not at a con. Payment is by paypal, so if you're set up to withdraw from your bank account, you won't have your payment processed in time. If you're linked to a credit card, you still could. It's this coming Wednesday at 8pm Eastern (6pm Mountain--I hope people realize the time is listed as Mountain). Submit two pages and see how you do!

I paused in my current wip and returned to PRINCE OF CATS. It's the only finished draft I have right now that I haven't previously queried. I have beta reader feedback, but I've been having difficulty figuring out how to incorporate it. Until Tuesday, which makes this seminar ideally timed. I've started revising the draft for querying AND for this seminar. I am both thrilled at the chance of getting great feedback (and maybe having all two pages read?!) while at the same time terrified at hearing stop after the first sentence. It's like bungee jumping, it's both terrifying and exhilarating.

So if you're interested, you should join in. Kristin rocks the house.