Showing posts with label Submitting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Submitting. Show all posts

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Waiting Game is Afoot


I've never been all that good at waiting. When I was a kid, I'd make countdown calendars, painstakingly hand drawing every square and number, making fancy fonts for the month at the top. I'd start about September 1st and draw a big red X every night before bed until I made it through not just one, but TWO WHOLE MONTHS, and reached that glorious square marked MY BIRTHDAY!!!! Yes, I'm that annoying person who starts buying Christmas gifts in October. And my husband rarely gets his birthday or father's day gifts on the actual celebratory date in question because he knows it takes a minuscule amount of coaxing to convince me to hand them over early. (When it comes to Christmas I hold firm, but the rest of the year--once the postman delivers it, it's pretty much over).

But what I really hate is being forced to wait for some ambiguous point in the future which may or may not bring good tidings. Unfortunately, this is pretty much 45% of a writer's job description, right under the ability to survive on scant amounts of sleep and sanity. I've found that as a writer, waiting is one hundred thousand three million seven hundred and ninety-eight (to borrow a number from my six-year-old) times harder. At least I know that if I can just make it through the next 87 days (thank you, Siri), my patience will be rewarded with birthday cake--or in my case pie--mostly because I'll make it myself. It's so nice to be in control of things.

As a writer...no such luck.

You send your manuscript, finally complete after months and months of grueling labor, to a magazine/publisher/agent...and then you wait. But this time, there are no guarantees. Sure, you could be waiting for that hallelujah-angel-chorus moment of acceptance. But you could also end up with that heartbreaking, pass-the-tissues-and-the-Ben-&-Jerry's-please rejection. And since there's no saying when that reply will come, you can't even make a count-down calendar to help you cope. It's emotional Russian roulette. And if you're anything like me, the wait goes something like this:

I'm not going to get my hopes up.
Oh, please, oh, please, oh, please, oh, please...
They hate it. I'm doomed. It's never going to happen.
Maybe?


So, what to do? How do we make the waiting game not suck so much? In the wise words of Sherlock:


Really. In all honesty I'm just commiserating out loud here. Of course there are ways to try and distract yourself. A new writing project, a relaxing hobby, catching up on your Goodreads "To Read" list. Binge watching anything involving Benedict Cumberbatch that's available on Netflix. Now that I think about it, turning off the alert sound for new emails might not be a bad idea (nothing like a rush of adrenaline wasted on yet another 40% off sale at rue21). But, in the end, I suppose there's nothing to be done but...

Wait.

What about you? Patient, or impatient? What do you do to pass the time when you're forced to wait?




Friday, August 16, 2013

State Your Favorite - Boys' Quest



You can find my latest bit of published work in the August 2013 edition of Boys' Quest! This article about America's many unique state foods--from New York's apple muffin, to Oklahoma's ten-course meal--was the result of one of my assignments while I was enrolled with the Institute of Children's Literature. Even though I've had other stories published over the last couple of years, this one is near and dear to my heart because it was my very first piece accepted for publication. (Nothing like surviving ten rejections, finally getting your first "yes!" and then having to wait three years to see it in print!) After two rejections from agents regarding my book, it was nice to have this show up in the mail this week. A good reminder of what I've already accomplished, and how patience can pay off!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Oh Hello, Irony

There are times when the truth slaps you with a load of irony.

It goes something like this: First you're like, "whoa", and then there's this awkward moment when you realize you're going to have to admit you were wrong, and then you do and you feel SO much better.

At least, that's been my experience.

You may recall a post I wrote a couple weeks ago involving unicorns and writer's block. Well, the reason I was so desperate to overcome my creatively stuck position, was because something awesome was about to start and I had made a goal--a goal which I had shared with a major author and a couple thousand people.

Let's flashback a bit and this will make more sense...

Earlier this month, I responded to a blog post by Jon Acuff, in which he gave a Safety Not Guaranteed-esque call to those willing to go on an unspecified adventure. If you were willing to embark on said adventure, without knowing any details, you were to email him your name and mailing address. And in true clandestine fashion, the blog post was set to self-destruct in 24 hours.

Thus began the Start Experiment. A group of individuals from all over the world, taking a chance and ultimately being grouped together to encourage and assist one another in the pursuit of a dream or a goal, punching fear in the face in the process. One of the first things we were asked was what we were each willing to risk--what would our goal (to be moved toward over the course of 24 days) be? I immediately knew what mine would be: To write the first draft of my second novel.

Hence the need to be able to actually write.

The entire foundation of Jon's experiment, and the theme of his latest book, START, is that fear needs to be overcome in order for you to move toward your goal. So I was going to overcome the fear of stalling out, the fear of not being able to write, the fear of running out of ideas. Fear was going down!

And then a funny thing happened on the way to the fear smack-down. After coming out of the first week of the experiment with a super lame word-count, I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized that my risk was actually driven by fear. 

Helloooo, Irony.

You see, I finished editing and polishing my first children's novel in May, and queried my first agent the beginning of June. And instead of taking time to celebrate my accomplishment and focus on getting an agent/getting published, I immediately put a huge bunch of pressure on myself to write a second book. I convinced myself that one book wasn't enough to make an agent feel I was worth his/her time, that I needed to at least have a second one started to prove I was a real author and not a one-hit wonder. 

And then I wondered why I felt stressed-out, overwhelmed, uninspired and generally unhappy with my writing.

And so, after a jolly good laugh, irony and I parted ways and I took a new path. Now my risk is pursuing my dream of getting published by focusing on my finished book and preparing more queries to send out in the next couple of weeks. I've created a neatly ordered list of agents that I would love to have represent me, and I'm going to start tailoring my individual queries next week. I'm also continuing to write by working on some picture book ideas that I've been cultivating. This has been much less stressful and--hallelujah!--FUN. And come November, I will happily don my novel writing hat once more and leap into the literary abandon of my fifth NaNoWriMo. Until then, I will pour my heart and soul into a project fueled by hopes and dreams, not fear.

So, in case that was a lot to follow, here's a quick recap:

Fear 0 - Ashley 1


Thursday, June 6, 2013

On Milestones and Hope

I reached a new milestone in my writing career this week--I sent out my very first book query! *SQUEEE!* My book has officially left the nest to try and find its place in the world. It was a lot more nerve-wracking than I anticipated and I definitely felt some nervous jitters as I hit send. But that was nothing compared to the excitement I felt when the confirmation email popped up in my inbox.

My first ten pages are sitting in an agent's inbox right now. Whoa.

Now comes 6-8 weeks of waiting. For me, this is one of the hardest parts of being a writer. Not because I have a hard time being patient, but because I have a really hard time being optimistic. I'm much more of a realist when it comes to things like this. Part of me wants to believe my manuscript can and will be accepted by my number-one agency/agent pick on my first try. But the other part of me thinks, if it took sixty queries for a book like The Help to find success, who am I to think I'll find success right off the bat? Plus, there's this feeling that--besides it being statistically unlikely--it wouldn't be fair. After all, so many amazing authors have had to work incredibly hard to land an agent. Who am I to hope I could nail it on a first try? And isn't it better not to hope for too much, so I won't be disappointed if things don't work out?

But despite all of that, I hope. This time, optimism seems to have taken hold of me. I really, truly hope that this particular agent will choose to represent me. Sure, it might not happen. And that's cool. I'll find another potential agent, send another query, and hope some more. Because I realized something as I waffled between optimism and my perception of reality. Even though it may seem like I'm hoping for too much, what point is there in trying if you don't hope for--and even anticipate--success? If all you hope for and expect is failure, your dream is going to have a super sad existence. And dreams aren't meant to be super sad, pessimistic creatures. It goes against their very nature.

So...make your dream happy. Feed it some hope.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Why Is The Ink Always Gone?

This is why I don't complain when magazines and publishers only accept email submissions.


Friday, May 10, 2013

The Crazy Train

There's nothing like preparing to query an agent to make you question everything you thought you knew.

Grammar, punctuation, genres: suddenly every time you look at your manuscript, it feels like that moment when you write a word and you say to yourself, "Is that how that's spelled? It looks weird." And then you google it and it turns out it was right all along, but you still can't shake that feeling that it's totally wrong.

This is why there are so many jokes about all writers being slightly insane.

So I'm spending every spare moment editing and polishing and triple checking every punctuation rule and trying to find an official statement on the difference between a chapter book and a novel, and suddenly I realize tomorrow is Friday and I should publish a blog post. And then I feel guilty for not having something amazing prepared because after all, you've got to have a platform. How else will you reach your potential readers? And then I think about the average number of readers my posts get, and I start think, "Who are you fooling? What readers?" And then I tell myself to shut up.

See what I mean about being crazy?

My emotions are a constant seesaw of I-can-do-this to I'm-not-good-enough. Everything I read about publishing is filled with encouraging words that upon closer inspection sound more like code for "prepare yourself for rejection." And if I can't remember when to use a semi-colon instead of a comma, can I really call myself a writer?

Where am I going with all this?

I don't know.

The fact is, I could turn this into a disgustingly positive, ultra inspirational post that goes on and on about how you've got to just go for it, the learning never stops, battle the monsters of fear and doubt...etc, etc, etc. And those posts are great. Sometimes we need those posts. But sometimes, we need to hear about someone else's struggles so we can say OH MY GOSH, I'VE SO BEEN THERE. It's instant relief to know it's not just you and maybe you're not as crazy as you thought. And for the whole twenty people who will read this post, I hope that's what it will be.

Did I just end my sentence with a preposition?

Danggit.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Scrivener (Or How to Make Your Life Easier)

This week I completed the final (for now) draft of my first children's novel and sent it off to some beta-readers for feedback. Though the idea and inspiration for this book came to me over three years ago, it was only six months ago that I actually sat down and began writing it. I was able to get a first draft finished in only 30 days, thanks to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - which I will wax eloquent about later in the year as November draws closer. For now, click the link to learn more). But one of the biggest things that has made my writing and editing life so much easier, and helped me to keep up the pace without getting burned out and frustrated with the 50,000+ words sitting in front of me, is this amazing writing software called Scrivener, by the folks over at Literature and Latte.

I'm not kidding. It's amazing. It's phenomenal. I ask every single writer I come into contact with what software they use, and if they're not using Scrivener, I tell them all about how amazing and phenomenal it is.

If I were to detail all the great things you can do in Scrivener, the sheer size of this post would have you discreetly backing away without making eye contact. So I'll do my best to keep it short and sweet and focus on the top reasons why I love it, and how it has changed the way I write.

3 Things I love about Scrivener: Index Cards, Folders and Pages.

You see that? There on the left sidebar? Those are all the things you can get to IN ONE SCREEN. Gone are the days of having a million windows open in order to look at all your research photos, character profiles, chapters, scenes, and all the other stuff you have to constantly refer to as you're writing.

The Index Cards: There is a handy little index card attached to each folder. I used these to jot down the plot points I wanted to hit in each chapter. Not only can you add text to these, but you can label them (Idea, Character Notes, Chapter, etc.) and mark their status (First Draft, Revised Draft, Final Draft, or a custom status for those who need to note they're on the Eleventy-First Draft). If you're like me and need an outline in order to make sensible progress, but hate having to create said outline, these provide the perfect middle ground between pantsing and planning.

Folders & Pages: Each folder is a chapter. Contained in those folders are your pages for that chapter. Why is this awesome? You can keep multiple drafts of one chapter--on their own separate pages--inside the folder. You can keep your scenes separate--especially nice when you're changing POV's. But the best part about this: No more scrolling through a manuscript that is page after page after page of text! I want to edit chapter 16? Click on chapter 16's folder. BAM! (Let me tell you, it is so much easier to edit when your manuscript is cut up into nice bite-sized chunks and you can face 2,000 words at a time instead of having the whole 50,000 in your face, laughing maniacally over how long it's going to take you to fix everything you did wrong in the first draft.)

These are just the top three things I love about Scrivener. I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the wonders contained therein. There's the compiling settings, which make it super easy to make your manuscript submission ready. The trash can, which removes the files and folders you select for deletion, but keeps them in the little can in case you realize, in a moment of panic, that what you thought was rubbish was actually brilliant. And oh, the wonders of full-screen mode.

And you don't have to be a novel writer to love this program. It has templates for scripts, research papers, short stories--you name it, if it needs to be written, it can be done in Scrivener.

At $40 for the Windows version and $45 for the Mac, this software will make your life easier without being hard on your wallet. You can even download a free trial before you commit. So pry yourself away from my totally awesome blog and go here to check it out.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rejection, Persevere, Win, Repeat

My latest published work, "Muddy Water" in the February 2013 issue of Sparkle

There's nothing quite like seeing the words "Written by [insert your name here]." For me, it's more than just reassurance that I really can write, it's a reminder of what I can accomplish when I persevere. Last year I sent out eleven manuscripts (fiction and non-fiction) to several children's magazines. Of those, nine came back with the words, "Thank you for your submission but..."

There are times when the rejections get frustrating. As a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom with a graphic design business, I definitely don't write as often as I'd like to. And after weeks of propping my eyelids open til midnight in an effort to send off a handful of manuscripts, those "no thank you" replies can sting. (Especially when rejection letters from magazines who don't publish theme lists come back marked "did not fit our current editorial needs." Then tell me what you want from me!).

But every acceptance I receive is made sweeter by the rejections I've had to endure to get there. Since 2009 when I began submitting, I've racked up 27 rejections and 5 acceptances. My first year submitting manuscripts I didn't sell a single one. And when I did finally get my first yes, my excitement was tempered a bit by the news it would be published in a future issue--three years in the future, to be exact. (I finally get to see it in print this August).

No matter how many you receive (I've been told you never reach a point where you're above them) it's important to remember this: Rejections aren't the end of the world. It may mean you need to be humble, accept some constructive criticism and make some changes to improve your manuscript. Or it may simply mean you haven't found the right home for it. Just because it gets turned down, doesn't mean that your story (or you) is worthless.

After all, Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times before someone was smart enough to say yes.

Have you had a victory born from perseverance? Share your wins in the comments below. I'd love to share a virtual high five!