I’ve Been Tagged: The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

This is a meme going around for about a month wherein tagees answer WIP-related questions and pass it along to others.

I’ve been tagged by Janice Hardy, fabulous YA author of The Healing Wars trilogy, and by one of my Beta buddies Linda Morris, whom I’ve had the pleasure of Beta reading two of her works and am so happy they’ve found publishers!

Rules for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop:
***Use this format for your post
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?

I have several works in various stages of the pipeline. My current WIP is NOT ANOTHER DARCY, a magical realism/meta fiction romance, which I’m doing for NaNoWriMo this month. Langouring in revision is my steampunk romance STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY. Coming out on December 19th with Secret Cravings Publishing is BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS. But the one I’m going to post about is the one that I shopped for an agent, my time travel romance MUST LOVE BREECHES.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve always been a sucker for time travel and I’m a Jane Austen nut, so when I was brainstorming ideas for NaNoWriMo back in October 2010, I thought it’d be cool to go back in time to the Austen era and do some kind of tie in. But then there’d been others who’d explored that ground already and so I was noodling around in Wikipedia looking at famous people in that time period my heroine could meet and looking at Lord Byron’s page. It was while looking at that that I saw the entry about Ada Lovelace, and I was like HER. My heroine needs to meet her! So I readjusted the time period to 1834.

What genre does your book fall under?

Time travel romance, and in contests that usually falls into the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal category. I do get dinged by some judges saying they don’t understand why it’s in the paranormal category, which is frustrating, because that’s where it’s supposed to go according to their own definitions.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh man, I’m horrible with actors’ names and who’s who. I know that during revision, when I saw Toby Stephens play Mr. Rochester in one of the Jane Eyre versions, I sat up and thought, hey, that’s the closest in my mind to Lord Montagu! So him, but for Isabelle I have no clue, sorry!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When a modern American girl working at the British Museum finds herself stranded in pre-Victorian London by a mysterious artifact, she must find a way home while navigating the pitfalls of London society, resisting her growing attraction for a hunky lord, and ultimately having to decide when her true home lies.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I signed with Maura Kye-Casella at Don Congdon, Associates on October 4th. We were scheduled to start submitting November 1, but Hurricane Sandy has delayed that, but hopefully we’ll be submitting soon.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I think it took me a little over thirty-two days? I did it for NaNoWriMo and passed the 50K mark after twenty-eight days, but I kept writing as it wasn’t finished and I seem to remember that it was a couple of days after NaNo ended. But that was in 2010 and I’ve been revising and polishing it until this past September.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s a tough one. For time travel and humor, maybe Sandra Hill’s The Last Viking. In my queries I compared the tone to Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and Katie MacAlister‘s contemporary romances. After querying, a comp did come out: MacAlister published a time travel in September, A Tale of Two Vampires: A Dark Ones Novel. However, I also said that fans of the movie Lost in Austen would enjoy it as well.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

NaNoWriMo looming around the corner back in 2010!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think it’s a little different in that it explores an aspect of 1830s London often overlooked, which is the scientific side of things. Not only is Ada Byron Lovelace a main secondary character (credited as the world’s first computer programmer), but my heroine stays at the home of polymath Mary Somerville, and she attends a soiree at Charles Babbage‘s house, and sees him demonstrate The Difference Engine. She narrowly misses seeing Michael Faraday at the same party.

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

Here’s my peeps (these are all Beta buddies–those whom I’ve swapped stories with for feedback):

  1. Kate Meader, who has a wicked-fun sense of humor, so I jumped on the chance to Beta her MS. She then landed an agent a couple of months ago and already sold her first series! Her debut (the one I Beta’ed) is Feel The Heat, coming out in 2013 by Grand Central!
  2. Donna Cummings, who ALSO has a wicked-fun sense of humor, so I also jumped on the chance to Beta her MS I Do… Or Die, which also recently found a home. Look for it December 10th with Crimson Romance
  3. Stephanie Lawton, fellow Mobilian whose gritty and haunting YA paranormal I beta’ed and just loved, recently found a home for it with Evernight Teen. Be on the look out for Shrapnel in January!
  4. Celia Breslin, urban fantasy and paranormal romance author, whose first chapter of a geek novella I critted and can’t wait to read the rest!
  5. Sarah Wesson, whom I’m eagerly awaiting for her to finish revising Full Metal Librarian as it just needs to be published, that’s all I’m saying!

How Accurate Do Your Historicals Need To Be?

I’ve heard various opinions on this, either in conversations with fellow writers or in blog posts. One thing I’ve found is that opinion amongst those romance writers I’ve talked to vary WIDELY.

One writer I talked to, when I said that the historical inaccuracies in one NYT Bestselling Author used to bother me, but her delightful writing and humor won me over, stated she couldn’t read her works because of the inaccuracies. I’ve heard others say that they don’t worry too much about historical accuracy when writing because they consider the historical past a fantasy world.

I think I fall somewhere between, with my bar as a writer higher than as a reader.

While I agree that the worlds we are creating for our reader are fantasy worlds, that fantasy world can be popped if we’re too careless with facts. It’s true that we write about situations and events that might not have happened, heck, I wrote a time travel, and we know there just weren’t that many scorchingly handsome, progressive-thinking single dukes to be had in Regency England for our Bluestocking heroine. But I do think we have a responsibility to be as accurate as we can while still creating that fantasy world for our readers.

I feel like if a book has the basics down, I’m able to suspend my disbelief and immerse myself in the straight-up Regency with the aforementioned hijinks of the duke and heroine, or into the wonderful world of vampires, werewolves and tea in Victorian England, like Gail Carriger’s wonderful Parasol Protectorate series. I wonder if it’s the same level of tolerance paranormal writers talk about? You can have one made up thing/premise, but throw in more and you risk popping that bubble?

So if the premise is what we’re making up, shouldn’t we try to be as accurate as possible with the day-to-day, non-plot elements? Nothing yanks me out of that world than simple historical details that could easily be fixed without affecting the plot. Some things that yanked me out recently:

  • Addressing someone by the wrong title. It should have been Lady Something, not Miss Something
  • Introduction etiquette–who-gets-introduced-first type of thing.
  • Having the heroine refer to wearing bloomers (and using that word) in a Regency. Not only a problem with word choice, but they didn’t wear pantaloons or drawers in the early Regency.
  • Having an historical character know that a Jane Austen novel was written by Jane Austen and the book is set prior to 1817. I blogged about fact-checking last year and about this particular date.
  • Using modern day valuations for transactions. I remember one historical where the hero gave the heroine like a 100,000 British pounds piece of jewelry. While yes, today, that would be extremely expensive and would show how wealthy the dude was, did the writer understand how freakishly, astronomically expensive that would have been in modern terms when converted to the valuation of the pound in the novel’s time?
  • Using the word fiancé or fianceé in a Regency. They used the word betrothed until about the 1850s.
  • A Scotsman from the 900s wielding a claymore.

I know that there’s way more than this that will yank me out, but that’s all I can think of that I remember, or came across in my reading in the last week (wish I’d taken notes!). I also know we can’t possibly get everything accurate, because sometimes even historians are divided about what really happened. And also because sometimes we just can’t know. Or it’s something that only someone with a doctorate in history would happen to know. After all, we’re not writing non-fiction, we are writing entertainment. But for things that are basic, like what they ate and wore, etc., we should strive to be as accurate as possible. That’s my take.

Also, others might look at some of my examples and roll their eyes as their tolerance as a reader is lower. And that’s fine. It’s all about the reader and what keeps their willing suspension of disbelief.

This also underscores how important Beta readers are. I know mine have caught numerous historical inaccuracies and anachronisms in mine! (Thank you!)

As a reader, where do you fall on this spectrum? Writers, how accurate do you strive to be? As a writer, is your reading tolerance higher or lower than what you write?

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Baumgartner Space Jump LEGO Reenactment!

Song playing right now on my playlist: “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” by U2

NEWS: This week MUST LOVE BREECHES won 1st place in FF&P’s On the Far Side contest in the time travel/steampunk/historical category and a full request from the judging editor. It also finaled today in the Windy City Four Seasons Contest, paranormal category

Writing and the Writing Life:

Browncoats:

In Geekdom:

Confessions of a Contest Whore…

Hi, my name is Angela, and I’m a contest whore.

It’s taken me finding an agent to finally break this habit I started  less than a year ago. I thought I’d parse what it’s been like and things I’ve learned in case it might be useful to others.

To give a little background, I entered my first contest in December (didn’t final) and have been ridiculously addicted ever since. I’ve only participated in RWA (Romance Writer’s of America) chapter contests, and for those unfamiliar with this unholy round, local and special interest chapters of the national organization hold contests whereby for a fee, you can compete with other authors in your category, get feedback from judges (usually some of them are published authors), and if you final, get your MS in front of a coveted agent or editor. Sometimes you can win things other than a certificate and kudos (money, extra pitches at contests, pendants).

So, I happily began marking my little Men of the Stacks calendar at my writing desk with deadlines and forking over the $20-$35 entry fees, nervous and excited. In the beginning, I didn’t expect to final, I was mainly doing it for the feedback and to see how I fared against other unpublished writers. I still remember my first final notification. I had just checked into my room at the hotel in New Orleans for FF&P’s Fantasy on the Bayou writer’s conference (March) and looked at my email on my phone before getting freshened up for my FIRST PITCH EVER. And there was a notice that I’d finaled in Washington, DC’s Marlene Contest. I was stunned and overjoyed and also SO GLAD of the confidence booster as I embarked that weekend on so many firsts (first writer’s conference, first time pitching to an agent, etc). It told me that I was not crazy for embarking on this writing thing.

Other finals followed, as well as many other times where I fell short (sometimes by one spot) and didn’t final. The finals told me the first one wasn’t some fluke like I’d secretly suspected. Over the summer was a day where I finaled in two, bringing the total number of contest finals to seven. I remember thinking, okay, not only were the others not a fluke, this must mean something. As of today, MUST LOVE BREECHES has finaled in ten contests (and won one of them so far), and STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY (which I’d just started entering) has finaled in one (haven’t heard back yet on the few others it entered).

So what have I learned through this madness?

Entering contests is a good trial run at receiving reviews

You will get tons of feedback, sure, but it sure as heck won’t be consistent. I’ve literally had judges in the same contest mark the same sentence as either needing to be cut, or as one of their favorite lines. I’ve had judges say they hated my heroine, and others that loved her. Same with the hero. What this has taught me is that I can’t please everyone. This has been good practice for what it’d be like if I ever get published. I can’t argue back with the judges, even when they’re wrong (yes, they can be wrong). Just like reviewers might be. I can’t get mad if they scored me low because they just don’t like time travels. Just like reviewers might not. I can’t get down every time I don’t final and/or get a low-balled score. Just like I can’t with reviewers.

One tactic that came out of this was that I realized that having a strong voice could hurt me with some judges who just didn’t like it, period. And their score would skew my final score. So then I began to only enter contests that dropped the lowest score when my goals changed from wanting feedback to wanting to final.

Entering contests is good practice for evaluating feedback

With this varied feedback, you quickly start to learn how to evaluate feedback and whether you should heed their advice or not. The absolute WORST thing you can do is make every single change that every single judge suggests. First off, it would be impossible because they can be contradicting another judge. Second, they don’t know your whole story and your characters and sometimes you have to trust your gut. Finally, they could be flat out wrong. And I don’t mean subjective, I mean literally. I had one contest where the judge gave me a 3 for grammar and punctuation (3s in contest lingo is 3 out of 5 and indicates that the entry requires major revision before sending to an agent or editor). Confused I looked at my entry and only three things were marked. Not only was it a tad excessive to give a 3 for three errors in a 50 page entry, but all three were wrong! The lady didn’t know her grammar. Being thorough, and a little insecure, I double-checked my grammar sources. Yep, she was wrong. One of them was for a sadly dwindling form of grammar–the subjunctive mood. Some of you might say, well it’s a tad formal nowadays to use it, but the part she marked was from the hero’s POV and he’s an educated man in the early 1800s, so dangit, he’d use subjunctive mood. I won’t lie, sometimes when reading feedback, I gave the computer screen the finger. But I chalked it up to toughening up my writer’s skin and as a growing experience. Many times I got invaluable feedback that really helped me see what I was or wasn’t doing.

Entering contests helps you network

Sometimes judges will leave their name, or will contact you after you send your thank you. I’ve had many who have told me they want to be notified when (and believe me I ate up this optimism as they seemed to have more faith than I on this outcome) it’s published. I duly added them to a group in GMail I created for that eventuality, if it happens. I’ve struck up email correspondence with some. I’ve had others recognize me at conferences and say nice things. Look, this journey is hard, so every positive experience you, er, experience, is something to be savored.

Entering contests builds your bio

I listed my contest finals not only on my About page, but also in my query letters to agents.

Entering contests can open doors

I got a request for a full from an e-publisher (I didn’t send it though as I was pursuing agenting first) who was judging the final round in one contest. In another, an agent was judging in the initial round and told me in the last comment in my MS that if I was still seeking representation to contact her. After a while, I started feeling the pinch financially of entering all these contests. Coupled with already getting invaluable feedback, I changed my goal to who would judge final rounds and I began to only enter those contests whose final judges I wanted to be in front of.

Entering contests can help impose discipline

Having deadlines to make cannot hurt you at all. It will help get you used to revising in a hurry to make a deadline, or to plan ahead, etc. Regardless, you work out your system in this setting rather than with an editor.

Entering contests can help train you for the submissions process

Each contest has different rules for formatting and for what to send and how. Just like agents and editors. Some contests won’t refund you the money if you don’t do it right. You learn what standard manuscript formatting looks like and to read instructions carefully. Just like you’ll need to do when querying.

Entering contests can buoy you

All of us face doubts about our writing–whether we’re good enough, whether it’s pure crap, whether it’s superficial drivel. Getting comments from judges who absolutely loved your story and your characters can give you the boost you need when you feel yourself slipping into self-doubt. I literally had last-minute, grave misgivings about querying in September. I’d done everything I needed to do and it was time to query, but I had a panic moment where I seriously worried if it was ready. I worried about sending the partial requests I’d gotten at RWA because if it wasn’t ready, I’d just blown it with those two agents. Same with any others I queried, as many nowadays ask for the first 5-10 pages. I DM’ed my writing buddy Jami Gold on Twitter and she stepped me back from the Self Doubt Cliff and reminded me of my contest finals and win. I seriously had to tell myself that yes, okay, those meant something. It gave me the confidence to go for it.

What about you? This isn’t a pure confession as I haven’t revealed how many I entered, but are you also addicted to these things? Did you learn anything I haven’t covered? Did you also get conflicting feedback? How did you handle it?

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Oppan Klingon Style (Gangnam parody)

Song playing right now on my playlist: “I Shall Believe,” by Sheryl Crow

Writing and the Writing Life:

Romance Writers:

In Geekdom:

  • And I’ll leave you with this KLINGON STYLE (Star Trek Parody of PSY – GANGNAM STYLE) – h/t: @geekgirldiva — they’re even singing it in Klingon (turn on subtitles)!

So you want to NaNoWriMo? Plotting and Fast-Drafting

This was prepared by me as a presentation for this month’s Mobile Writer’s Guild monthly meeting and cross-posted on their website. I thought it could be useful to those outside their reach, so thought I’d post it here too.

First: What is NaNoWriMo? It’s an acronym for National Novel Writing Month, which is a project spearheaded by the Office of Letters and Light and happens every November. It’s fun, it’s crazy, and it’s a great way to get you unstuck from the dreaded writer’s block. You pledge to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

This is compiled from my experiences in participating and “winning” NaNoWriMo both years that I participated, as well as from taking Candace Havens’ FastDraft class, which aims to write more than 50,000 words in just 14 days.

On board? Here’s what you can do ahead of time to help you succeed:

In October:

Plot (Yes, plot. Keep reading)

Use October to plot as much as you can stand. I pantsed my way through NaNoWriMo, but there were definite moments, er, days, of panic when I wasn’t contributing to my wordcount because I was stuck. For FastDraft, I plotted out as much as I could the month prior and boy did that make a difference. I’d conceived my idea and then started storyboarding it. Even if you believe down to your very tippy toes that you are not a plotter, try it. You might be surprised how much you can stomach. You might find that you fall somewhere in between, where you can come up with your turning points and some scenes all the way to the end, but that conducting character interviews is going too far. That’s okay. Experiment and push to see how far your muse will let you dabble in plotting before it protests.

PANTSERS: See if you can do any of these beforehand:

  • Write your logline. Can you boil your characters and conflict into one sentence? See if you can fill this out (from author Holly Bodger): “When [MAIN CHARACTER] [INCITING INCIDENT], s/he [CONFLICT]. And if s/he doesn’t [GOAL] s/he will [CONSEQUENCES].” This is not the only way to construct a logline, but you must have character, goal and conflict and hopefully a dash of irony. This will come in handy when you’re ready to pitch your story. For more on this, see Kristin Lamb’s Structure Part 5–Keeping Focused & Nailing the Pitch–Understand Your “Seed Idea”
  • Write your main characters’ GMCs (Goals, Motivations and Conflict). See if you can fill out the following for each character (especially your main character(s)).  ___________ (name) wants ______________________(goal) because __________________(motivation) but _____________________________(conflict). And see if you can do it for their internal and external GMCs! (Internal is emotional and external is the external plot—external is what the character thinks they want and internal is what they really need.) For more information, Debra Dixon wrote an excellent book (don’t pay the exorbitant price on Amazon, go here). And here’s a blog post that goes into more detail.
  • Identify your opening scene, first major turning point, second major turning point, dark moment and resolution.
  • Brainstorm scenes that could fill in between these
  • Write a two page synopsis that covers the main turning points and ending.
  • See if you can identify your theme (it’s okay if you don’t, sometimes this happens organically)

Of course you plotters do WAY more than this, so this isn’t geared to you. You already have your system ;) Pantsers, keep experimenting with how far toward the plotter end of the spectrum you can push yourself. It will save time during revisions and make your first draft go much smoother. It will enable you to write faster because you already know where you need to go.

With me so far?

Prep your physical and mental space

Okay, in between running around getting Halloween costumes and candy, see if you can clear the decks as much as possible. By that I mean, alert your friends that you might not be around so much, stock up on food and snacks, clean your desk and get whatever you need ready.

Do you write to music? Make your playlist! I have a playlist called “NaNoWriMo” actually.

For FastDraft, I was using Scrivener and so I entered in all my scene cards that I had mapped out.

Another important step is to get prepared mentally:

  • Believe in yourself. Here’s what Candace Havens says, “You have to throw out all those preconceived notions about how fast you write. This is different. NEGATIVITY in any form is not allowed. Let go of the past and move forward with your writing. We are thinking positive. We are thinking how cool it will when we have a first draft done [in thirty days]”
  • You have no time to polish. Give yourself permission to write crap. Yes, crap. You’d be surprised at how much more creative you are when you’re not censuring your words as you type.

Don’t forget to actually join NaNoWriMo. Go to NaNoWriMo.org and sign up. It’s free. You’ll find lots of support in their forums, but during November, don’t get lolled into the forums too much! But it’s a great way to ask quick questions and find other participants in your area. Mobile might have a team you can join and meet with them for “write-ins.” Having other people share in your journey is a great motivator.

November

All right. So November 1st dawns. What do you do? Here’s some tips:

Tip #1 – Think in pages, not words.

I’m going to adapt the FastDraft method here. For NaNoWriMo, you must write 1667 words a day to meet your goal. I remember thinking that it sounded so unattainable (I’d been struggling to write a novel for almost a year at this point and had only written five chapters.) The idea of writing that amount EVERY DAY scared me. So I signed up precisely because it did. I never dreamed I’d actually do it. But I remember both years pulling words out almost one at a time and looking at that word count and thinking I had SO MUCH more work to do to get to that number. I’d write a little and check my word count. Only 55 words? Ugh, I still have 1279 to go!! But I’d update my wordcount on the NaNoWriMo so I could see the daily goal line go up infinitesimally. But with FastDraft, Candace asked us to make the number of pages we write a day our goal. I committed to 15 a day. And did it. That’s 3000-4000 words a day! And you know what? I found it easier to push myself to write another page (roughly equal to 250 words) and another, and see that hey, I just wrote 8 pages I only have 7 more to go. Seemed somehow more attainable. So for NaNoWriMo, make your daily page goal 8 pages double-spaced and then when you’ve written that, tally up the word count and you probably either made it or gone over! And going over is great, as you’ve now banked those words for when you might not be able to make your daily goal.

Tip #2 – Blanks are your friend

If I didn’t know something and couldn’t find the answer in two minutes of Google-Fu, I just typed in brackets things like [look up how they did this] or [describe this better] or even used _____ for place names or names of things I didn’t know yet, and kept typing. I also used the Document Notes in Scrivener for each scene and typed out things I’d need to look up in revision for that scene.

Tip #3 – Use Twitter’s #1k1hr

Seriously this hashtag on Twitter I owe a serious debt to. I made many new friends that way too. I think almost every hour I wrote I used this tag. It really helped me focus and cut down a ton on my compulsion to check out what’s happening on the web. I knew that when that hour was up, I had to say my word count, and I really wanted it to be over 1000 so it made me push. One time I wrote 1858 words in one hour, but typically I averaged around 1200-1500. So for NaNoWriMo, you could possibly make your goal with just ONE HOUR of writing! At the most, two.

Tip #4 – Choke Your Inner Editor

We covered this earlier in how to mentally prepare, but it’s worth repeating here because it WILL haunt you in the beginning. If you’re not making your goal, it’s because of your inner editor who is sitting on your shoulder telling you the words you’re typing are crap, that the plot is crap, that the characters are crap. Take it by the throat and say, “Yep, it is! Got a problem with that?!” and then mentally shut it up somehow. At the end of the month, when you go to reread, cringing with dread about what a big stinking pile of poo you created, you’ll actually be pleasantly surprised at how bad it wasn’t. You can fix ALL OF IT in revisions. That’s when you can invite your inner editor back. But at least you’ve got the bones of the story down and you can flesh it out and decorate it in revisions.

Tip #5 – Make Time

Don’t have a solid hour or two to make your goal? Do it in 15 minute increments. Get out your pad and pen while waiting at the doctor’s office. You can write in many more places than you think you can.

Tip #6 – Keep Going Forward

In FastDraft, Candace was way more strict than you need to be for NaNo. She didn’t allow you to reread or edit ANY previous day’s writing! However, when I was doing NaNo, I found that if I just went back to the previous day’s writing and quickly read it to put myself in scene again and flesh out sparse description, I could add 100-300 words easy. The trick is not to let your editor start rewriting sentences. DO NOT DELETE ANYTHING. If you can’t resist, and it’s just really bugging you that something is there, use your Strikethru button in Word so that it’s “deleted” but not really. Any words you write during NaNo on your story contribute to your word goal, so this way those “deleted” words still count. In December you can then delete them. Many who do NaNo as well as FastDraft recommend ending the day mid scene so it’s easy to pick up because you know what’s happening next. I was afraid I might forget some new idea, so I made sure to jot notes down at the end of my session so I wouldn’t forget the next day.

Tip #7 – Pair up with others

In this instance, peer pressure is great. Make it work for you. Get others you know to join you and cheer each other on.

Resources:

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? I’m not sure yet if I am, it all depends on what happens in the next week or so with my agent and what she wants me to do. Have you participated before? Do you have tips to share?

I got an agent!! No joke.

I can finally announce the news officially that I’ve been hinting about in posts.

I GOT AN AGENT!

The news became official while I was out of town for Georgia’s Moonlight & Magnolia Conference so I could only announce my good news on my social networks. For some reason it won’t feel really official until I can post it on my blog (apologies to those who’ve already heard the news).

My agent! Maura Kye-Casella with Don Congdon Assoc.

I actually ended up with three offers of representation, but ended up going with the fabulous Maura Kye-Casella with Don Congdon, Associates. For those fellow sci-fi nerds out there, their founder discovered Ray Bradbury, how cool is that? In romance land, she represents Sophie Jordan and Colleen Gleason! It still feels a little surreal and that I’m talking about this happening to someone else.

I thought I’d share a little about how it all happened for those of you still seeking representation, so you can see that it can happen to you. Like I said last week, I have patience and hard work to thank for this moment. All three agents commented about how “clean and polished” my manuscript was, and that they could send it out on submission right now. Squeee! So if you read last week’s post, that’s what I was hinting at, that all that polishing paid off!

Two of the agents who offered were the two I pitched to at RWA, so there’s several lessons to be had there. One, to tie into last week’s post (again), thank God I didn’t give in to my impatience and send them those partials right when I got back from RWA. This is NOT, however, an endorsement of pitching an incomplete manuscript! That is soooo different from the phase mine was in. Anyway, onward with my list. Two, pitches do work! Both said during our phone calls that they remembered the pitch and were intrigued from the start. Three, do your homework on whom to pitch to. It wasn’t random, I don’t think, that this all fell out for me this way. When I got that list from RWA, I researched every single agent on that two page list and narrowed down my choices to the ones I thought were my best chance. Actually, this segues into: Four, get ballsy. I thought Maura was out of my league when I pitched to her and couldn’t believe I had the nerve to do so.

Anyway, this all started happening one week after I began querying. One of the agents I pitched to made me giddy by asking to have my partial converted to a full. I felt like if nothing else happened, I’d at least made that milestone–that an agent had seen the goods and STILL wanted to keep reading. The next night, I got my first offer (from a different agent), which left me stunned! I alerted the other agents who were considering me, to let them know and gave them a time frame to respond. Monday, the second agent (the one I pitched to and who had converted the partial to a full) offered and now I was reeling. Thursday, Maura emailed to say she’d finished, said some very nice things about MUST LOVE BREECHES, and wanted to set up a call for Monday (this past Monday). Now I’m on pins and needles, not knowing if she’d offer. Obviously, she did, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! This doesn’t automatically mean it’ll find a home with a publisher, but I’m one step closer and feel like I have the best advocate for me! For those non-writer friends reading this, most traditional publishers will not look at unagented manuscripts so this is my only way to get into their hands and on your bookshelves.

So this is not only me sharing my awesome news, but also my way of encouraging you. Yes, it CAN happen. I thought this day would never come. I’d read and heard all the doom and gloom about how hard it is to land an agent. But don’t give up. Every time I got a rejection, I picked myself back up again and kept going, knowing that others would not, so I envisioned it as an opportunity to move into thinner ranks. Many fine writers give up after only 5 rejections. Don’t be one of those. I wouldn’t be in this position if I’d done that. Instead of giving up in the Spring when I faced rejection, I realized my manuscript wasn’t quite ready and did another Beta round and then did all the hard work of polishing that puppy up!

Are you querying? Do you have any specific questions about my path? Do you have good news to share too?

Ready to Query? The Importance of Patience

I had a fellow writer friend ask my advice about the right time to submit to agents. She had everything mapped out admirably in her calendar, including sending it off to a freelance editor. She was doing everything right, except for one thing. She wanted to know if she could slot the query process into the same place in her timeline as when her book is with her editor. She’d heard how long agents could take and so thought she could telescope that part of the process.

This was back in May and I had done a short burst of querying at this point, enough to know this was a bad idea. I had an agent request a full in less than 24 hours. So I advised her not to do that. Sure, some agents can take up to four months to get to your query, but that’s not always the case, and don’t you want to be ready for those agents that are quick?

I started my full-press querying in the middle of last month (so almost three weeks ago) and again the experience bore out my advice and my own personal decision to wait until I had every little thing ready. Most agents are quick now, and from what I could tell on forums, if they’re interested they actually act faster. I had several ask for fulls within the same day!

It’s so hard to be patient but it really does pay off. The other part of patience I had to practice was during the polishing phase. I had all my Beta feedback returned in June and had incorporated all the changes and revisions before the RWA conference. It was so tempting to send off my conference partial requests then because I SO wanted to get this manuscript into the queue and move on. But fortunately (though I cursed it several times during the process) I saw a blog post around that time from Janice Hardy called The Spit Shine: Things to Check Before You Submit. I used it as a jumping off point, creating a two page list of “flag” words from her post and others. So for several months I entered into a Polishing Phase. I did a search for every word on that list and evaluated its usage. I probably trimmed 3000 words that way! Or sometimes the words helped me see I’d lapsed out of Deep POV, so I rewrote that bit. Then I did one final read through scrutinizing each word, each phrase to decide whether I really needed it. Was it redundant? Did it have any relevance to the story plot? If not, I deleted them. It was exhausting and numbing and several times I really wondered if this effort was worth it. It was like pulling teeth making myself do this, because this isn’t the fun stage of revisions.

I actually did get a little impatient at the end and began querying a few who didn’t need to see any sample pages on a Wednesday, which pushed me to finish the rest that weekend. So as I got through the first 30 then 50, I sent off my partials and began querying the rest on my list. I pushed through my reading and was ready to send out full requests by that Monday (and I had some already)!

Whew!

Was it worth the extra time and patience?

Oh, yeah! More on that next week :)

The important thing is: don’t rush. You spent so much time on your manuscript, why short change it at the end of the process? Agents are not your Beta readers. Are you querying right now? What are you finding in response times? Did you also have to fight your impatience during this phase?

Housekeeping note: I will be at Georgia RWA’s Moonlight & Magnolia Conference this weekend! If you’re going too, drop me a line. But this means there will be no regularly scheduled posts until next week.

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Stormtrooper Hygiene

Song playing right now on my playlist: “Begin the Begin,” by R.E.M.

NEWS: I will have some awesome news to report next week about MUST LOVE BREECHES (re: status in Query Land) and STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY finaled in its first contest (and the first one it entered), The Golden Pen, ironically beating out MUST LOVE BREECHES by less than a point (.7)

Writing and the Writing Life:

Browncoats:

Ada Byron Lovelace

  • This recently came across Publisher’s Marketplace: “James Essinger’s ADA’S THINKING MACHINE, exploring two interwoven human stories – the story of a man, Charles Babbage (1791-1871) and that of a woman, twenty-four years his junior, Ada Lovelace (1815-1851) and their involvement in the Analytical Engine, to Gibson Square, for publication in July 2013 (world).” SQUEE!!! (that last part was me of course, not PM) Now if only publishers would be convinced that MUST LOVE BREECHES could tie in with this :)

In Geekdom:

Happy One Year Blogiversary To Me!

Actually it was this past Saturday that I posted my first blog post, but things have been PRETTY CRAZY this last week in Query Land (IN A FREAKING AWESOME WAY) and I can’t wait to be able to tell you.

Anyway, yeah, it’s been one year! I honestly didn’t know if I could last past two months blogging, but I’m so glad I faced my fear and ventured into this wacky world. I’ve met so many amazing people online (and then in person at conferences) that I shudder to think where I’d not be today if I hadn’t started blogging and tweeting. (Did that sentence make sense? Hey, it’s morning. You know what I mean.)

I was kind of surprised to read what I thought I’d be blogging about since I was just taking a stab in the dark: “writing tips, book reviews, musings, questions about my work in progress, the occasional rant.” I don’t think I’ve done a rant, but I was most surprised about the book reviews, because early on I decided not to do them at all as I didn’t want to delve into that quagmire. However, I surprised myself recently by doing a review of recent geeky romances and enjoyed that.

This milestone is a nice kick in the pants though, because lately I’ve been remiss in posting regularly. I had two conferences exactly a month apart and another next week (!) and then the craziness of querying in earnest, which started on 9/13. So this post is me recommitting to a regular schedule, which will be (except when away on vacation or at conferences):

  • Mondays: First Monday of the Month–Monday Hunk Who Reads, rest of them reader-focused posts.
  • Wednesdays: Writing Craft or Writer’s Life posts
  • Saturdays: Weekend Grab Bag
  • Sundays: Six Sentence Sunday

Here’s my blog stats:

  • 47,479 all time views
  • Highest views in one day: 648
  • 150 blog followers (115 via WP, 26 via email, 9 via feedburner)
  • The most popular page of all time? Monday Hunk Who Reads – Dan Stevens (3,283 views since it posted on 1/9/12)

So happy to be among you all and thank you so much for your support this past year! Do you blog? If so, are you happy you’re doing it? Did you think it would be difficult too?