Friday, January 1, 2010

2010: Looking Forward

by Heather Moore

I literally gained ten pounds writing my most recent book. It wasn’t really that I ate more chocolate (although that could be true), or ate more fast food to cut back on shopping or cooking time (although that might be true as well), but as I became so caught up in finishing the project, it seemed that every spare moment was be used in writing, not exercising.

This week, I managed to go running (30% running/ 70% walking) three times. This is a record since probably, oh, August. Because it’s freezing in my city, I dragged my 12 year old with me to the local rec center to run the track. Monday was quiet there, Tuesday was busier, and by Thursday it was packed.

As we maneuvered ourselves in and out of other eager runners, I told my daughter, “It will stay packed like this through January, then by the first week of February only a few will remain.”

Ah, the New Year’s Resolutions, and the initial burst of energy and determination that fades almost as quickly as it starts. I have seen this lately with many writer friends. Queries have been sent out in a flurry in November and December, many times unpolished. Rejections have already filtered in, and discouragement has set in. One of my friends, after four rejections in just a few weeks, completely gave up.

It’s hard to stay motivated and positive as we write and submit. We might spend a weekend researching agents and by Monday morning we have submitted to six or eight of them. But in a recent WD article, agent Ann Rittenberg says she receives 3,000 queries per year, and 75% are for novels. Of that, 90% are for first novels, meaning 2,000 queries are for first novels. Ann says that “80 percent of those query letters about first novels never should have been sent” (“Submitting Your Novel: Basics of a Solid 3-Paragraph Query,” Writer’s Digest, January 2010, 62). Ann also says that many of those queries are for types of books that she doesn’t represent, or it’s obvious that the writers “were not ready to be published and the books were not ready to be agented.” (ibid)

But what if we are ready? We’ve finished the book, gone through revisions with trusted editors, written a powerful query, and we are still receiving rejections? Do we stop going to the track? Stop running altogether?

Looking forward to 2010, my advice is:
1. Use rejections to improve your work. Slow down a little and put in the right effort to submit to the right agent. Researching agents and/or publishers will be worth your time.
2. Understand that the submitting process is a waiting game, which means that you need to have more than just one writing goal.
3. Stay open to ideas and options. There are many genres and avenues you can get published through.
4. Don’t just set "be all, end all" writing goals, but set back-up goals when you reach that left turn.
5. As we know, writing is not for the faint-hearted. It’s wonderful to create, but there will come a point when you feel as if you are slugging through the muddy marshes of revising.

James Michener said, “Being goal-oriented instead of self-oriented is crucial. I know many people who want to be writers. But let me tell you, they really don’t want to be writers. They want to have been writers. They wish they had a book in print. They don’t want to go through the work of getting the damn book out. There is a huge difference.” (as quoted in WD, Jan 2010, 46)

Will you still be “running” in February? I hope so!


folksinmt said...

Perfect timing...I just went to the gym for the first time in months today as well! Writing is so much more fun than exercising!

So here's a Q4U: should we mention how many novels (unpublished) that we have under our belts when we query?

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Great post,Heather. As you well know, my problem is more along the lines of too many ideas, too much to accomplish, so I tend to write in waves. Some weeks I'm a madwoman, writing, editing, submitting, etc. Other times I can't make myself write a single new word on the page. Although I'd still like to publish fiction, I have learned that non-fiction brings my paycheck. Does that mean I stop my dream? Nope, it just means I have to work harder to find the time for both avenues of self-fulfillment.

In answer to folksinmt's question,do not mention your unpublished work in your query, but try to get some publishing credits somewhere. Write an article for the local paper or a magazine. Editors and agents want to see that you know how to complete an assignment, work with an editor, meet a deadline, etc. and the way to prove that is to show that you can be published elsewhere.

Good luck to us all for a GREAT publishing year in 2010!

L.T. Elliot said...

Excellent, excellent post, Heather! I remember this last year at Storymakers when Jaime was discussing the First Chapters Contest. She mentioned how several chapters had been disqualified for various reasons and it would make our jobs so much easier as writers if we'd only make sure to follow the rules. She said how that one simple thing sets you up ahead of the rest--just by following the rules.

I've never forgotten that and think of its application for the querying process, often. It may take a bit of extra time but I think it's worth it just for the end result.

Terresa said...

Great Michener quote.

I like LT's point, too: Follow the rules.

The idea of a pretty hardback novel drives me just as much as the idea of becoming, evolving, growing as a person and a writer.

I feel the dawning realization some days of the vast amount of work it will take to become a published author. And the road I see right now is only the first few steps.

All the same, I'm willing to take the journey. I see it like mothering my children: I'm in it for the long haul. And I'm no quitter.

Elle Strauss said...

It's hard to have time for both writing and exercise...I have the same dilemma. I also share the second one, to keep on keeping on, even though it seems like an impossible dream.

So I altered the dream. Writing is it's own reward. So is fitness. I'm taking on the challenge to do both.

Annette Lyon said...

Excellent post! Writing is definitely not a sprint--it's a marathon.

One thing that helps me keep going is other writer friends--that kind of support is priceless.

Julie Wright said...

I can guarantee I won't be literally running as I have no resolve for such resolutions, but I'll be writing :) Great post, great information! Loved the quote.

Heather B. Moore said...

folksinmt: I agree with Lu Ann. You don't need to mention other unpublished manuscripts you have in your initial query letter. Save that for when the agent is ready to ask you more questions about yourself and your writing.

LT: I thought Jaime was very brave to do that, but it taught us all an excellent lesson.

Terresa: Persistence is the key, and writing a book is like mothering a child (who is sometimes less than angelic).

Elle: You have an excellent outlook :)

Nishant said...

As you well know, my problem is more along the lines of too many ideas, too much to accomplish,

Work from home India

kanishk said...

As you well know, my problem is more along the lines of too many ideas, too much to accomplish

Work from home India