Tag Archives: personal

Writing: What Your Writing Teacher Never Told You About Querying

Alright, buckle in folks, time to pour some tea and make a salt circle that is probably going to get me in loads of trouble later. But there’s some things that current professors don’t know about the querying process, because most of them have had agents for at least the last five to ten years, and thus aren’t aware of some of the new quirks. Let me tell you the myth as I heard it. Be prepared for lots of rejections, insert Stephen King story about the railroad spike here. Feel lucky to get even one agent’s attention, and then you can shop later once you have proven your books sell. Your relationship with your agent should be like finding a spouse, so feel free to be a little choosey and patience.

Let’s tackle this bit by bit. Let’s start with the rejections. I am going to say 60 to 75% of the time, you aren’t going to get a response at all. The silence is meant to be a rejection, but for those with outrageously long wait times, that can be painful as all get out. Sometimes, you’ll at least get an auto-response saying that your query was received and here’s how long you’ll have to wait, but don’t bet on it being accurate. The only part that is accurate is expect lots of either returned or ignored type rejections. There’s even more agents now than ever, so you’ll have a huge field to go through. You definitely need to verify every agent that you run across–there are a lot of predators out there taking advantage of the high numbers of agents.

As for lucky getting an agent… Okay, here’s a weird trend I noticed. Very rarely did anyone I hear squealing on Twitter or QueryTracker say they got one agent. Because the next step after one positive reaction…is tell everyone else that you got an offer. It became clear to me that agents rushed to anything anyone smelled at being decent. All it took was one offer, and you could end up with nine or ten offers because one person took the time to decide your book was worth something. It’s a lot like the pitch events on Twitter, with all the agents flocking to whatever someone else liked. It seems like a lot less investment in one person and a lot more following the pack. But because of this, and publishers only putting out a few new books a year and trusting too much in their best sellers and putting all their money in one basket, it’s a lot harder for good books to get read at all.

As for being choosey and patient, well, I agree with the patient part. I was perhaps overly patient. But choosey? That depends. As part of getting your query letter, synopsis, and first fifty pages prepped, you definitely also need to really boil down what you need from an agent. In my case, I had to have someone who enjoyed some element of fantasy. Everything else, I was a lot more flexible on, but I was aware of the “tags” in case it was on someone’s no list: LGBTA+ friendly, romance could go either way, female protagonist, young adult. Know what an agent absolutely has to have an interest in, and then be aware of the other aspects of your book in case it will turn an agent off. I would also look at other writers’ critique of querying an agent on Twitter or QueryTracker. Writers will usually post warnings, such as people never getting back to you even after you give them a full, or warnings of stuff going on in agent’s personal life so have extra patience. But after that? Keep the field as broad as you can. Once you are out of agents, you are out.

Back to me being too patient. I figured out in my process where my line in the sand was, and that was communication. I would wait and wait and wait, as long as the agent kept in touch with me and told me that they weren’t going to meet the deadline they gave me, but here was the updated one. I would wait for months if not a year if you kept in contact with me. Why? Because I understand that life happens. I’ve had the flu twice this year already, and I lost every pet but one last year. I know it dearly. As long as you are talking to me, I will give you the time you need. But ignoring me when I ask for updates after you’ve missed the deadline is now my newest pet peeve ever. I highly recommend that you figure out where your line is, so you can approach queries without it being a frustrating process. As soon as your line is crossed, withdraw your submission and move on.

I’m not really bitter about the querying process. Do I think it’s antiquated? Yes. Do I think it could be a lot better managed? Yes. Will I do it again for White Dragon, Black Lark? …Eh. It’s going to depend on if it is long enough to actually be considered by agents as a book, since most don’t represent novellas. It stands a better chance than Ten, which is the stepping stone of a series and it appears that agents aren’t playing with series anymore. But I will definitely be approaching querying from a different stand point, now that I know how things have changed. I’ll probably do the pitch events first for an initial interest, and then start combing Query Tracker.

Look, getting published is hard. It’s a constantly evolving game. I’m not mad at my professors for not preparing me–they are out of that game, and have been for a while. They all have agents, and can even play against them if they need to because they have the experience and contacts to do so. But someone starting out in this business doesn’t have that, and everywhere you go digging, you’ll find people looking to charge you hundreds of dollars to prep your book for agents, and that’s just crap. Unless your grammar or plot structure is just awful, it isn’t going to do anything except slap a coat of paint over a barn that your agent (if you do get one) will ask you to rebuild anyway.

So just go in with open eyes, and try to see what is trending or starting to trend for agents. I’m not saying write to trend, that’s near impossible. But it will at least let you know if you need to sit on a manuscript until series are big again (or give up and go self-published with that bit), or if fantasy has gone down a weird path you can’t follow and you need to wait for it to swing around your way again…or maybe the weird path is your way and you need to hurry and finish! Keeping your thumb on how the query game is changing is the biggest piece of advice I can give you. Otherwise, you are going to come in confused from the start like I did.

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Review: Criminal Minds Season 13 Episode 17

I have discovered something, the past couple years. Namely, that I am incapable of watching and keeping up with a show for an entire season. So that leaves me with limited options. Either I binge the season once it’s over, which is a waste of a weekend if I have a full weekend to spare, or I find a show that doesn’t require me to see every single episode of what’s going on, without getting completely episodic. Criminal Minds is a perfect example of the latter.

That being said, they made a grave mistake. The episode last week was in my home town. This is going to get ugly.

(Note: This is not a serious review of the show as a whole, it’s too long and much like Law and Order: SVU, I have mixed feelings on later seasons. I might do it as a series or something at some point, but not right now.)

So I didn’t even make it three minutes in. The first victim pulled up to his house, and I was like, “Okay, I might buy there being a house like that on the north side of Guymon. Maybe. But where do you think we have that many trees?” Fun fact: the Panhandle has SOME trees, but it’s mostly in residential areas, and between the drought and ice storms, a lot of those were dead and chopped down by the city.

…The clown under the bed did scare the crap out of me, not gonna lie.

I’m curious where the BAU flew INTO. There isn’t an airport in Guymon, the closest they could get is either Liberal (doubtful) or Amarillo (more likely), and either way, you are in the car for at least another 45 minutes or two hours. But we skip that, “who doesn’t have an airport, pbbbth…”

We see an overview shot of Guymon, and it’s this neatly spaced out grid, small town, fancy admin-type building, and I’m like, “Uh, no.” I based Imyl off of Guymon, okay, and it is STILL too neatly laid out, I am not even joking. Guymon is an illogical sprawl of a place, and Main Street is very tightly packed in terms of space…sort of. (Okay, the big municipal building is on a block by itself, but it is SOLID BRICK, none of this fancy molding.) What boggled me the most though, was the literal street. Guymon is famous (or infamous) for Main Street being brick. Not pavement, not any type of concrete. Brick.

It’s becoming painfully obvious that no one has done their research, here.

The inside of the police station and the hospital got a pass, I’ve never been in one and the other was close enough. But then we get the second victims. Another nice house. More trees. I’m sorry, maybe I’m biased because I (literally) grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Guymon, but come on! We are not that well off!

Finally, it’s winding down. They are getting enough clues, we are seeing bits of our villains–yes, clowns, circus life fell apart. Okay, fine. I’m even going in my head, “I can think of a couple of fairs, they could maybe get work there?” But nope. We go…rodeo? I’m sorry, someone actually thinks rodeo clowns are actually clowns? Oh honey, no. No, no, no. Trust me, they are not the same thing at all, and being a good clown in no way preps you for what a rodeo clown does. Rodeo clowns are, predominantly, bull wranglers on the ground. Just bad, bad, bad, bad. Someone is going to get hurt.

But we’re going to a rodeo! Guymon has one of the largest outdoor rodeo arenas in the country, Pioneer Days literally is a HUGE DEAL in Guymon (we haven’t seen hide or hair of it, but I will give them leeway), and it goes on for a full week if not longer depending on slack, surely this will be right.

We go to this piddly little arena that I swear could barely host my play-days. Just, just, what is this, I don’t even! And underground rodeo, whaaa? I’ve never heard of this. People hosting roping events for some cash or running play-days, sure, but no one pretends these are rodeos. There’s no point when there’s a huge friggin’ rodeo every year! Color me boggled. (Ginny, btw, was laughing at me by this point.)

At this point, I was very obviously done. Did the ending make me sniffle? Of course it did. But I didn’t see anything really tying it to Guymon, and they definitely didn’t do their research beyond some cursory scans for stuff they could use in the show.

If nothing else, this really disenchanted me with the newer seasons. I swear, the older ones weren’t this dumb. Or at least I hope they weren’t.


AN EPILOGUE AND TEN IS DONE!

…or rather, the first complete draft of the book is done, I have I think three or four partials where I realized my plot was wrong for whatever reason and had to restart. Now I’m putting it away for a month, focusing on other projects that need my attention in some manner or other and take my mind off of it.

Then begins the wonderous process of going back and doing ANOTHER draft to fix problems I find in scenes (my plot feels solid?). Then I submit myself to Ginny for punishment and hope she doesn’t find any giant logic gaps/plot holes/ boring spots, because sometimes you can’t see the forest through the trees and there are a lot of details, a.k.a. trees, for me to keep in my head. (Yes, she’s reading mostly for entertainment value check, but she’s the kind of reader that if you have massive plot problems, it kills her enjoyment. She’s HANDY like that.) Then I fix any problems she DOES find, so there’s another draft.

Then I print the WHOLE THING out, go through and check the stimulus/response order, the reaction-order (it should go feeling, thought, action, dialogue. And if it can’t and still make sense, your stimulus/response order is wrong), fix all of THAT…. then print it off AGAIN and do a grammar/typo check.

I don’t expect my s/r or r-o to be perfect, I just want it to be at a level that Deborah Chester, my grad school committee head, won’t read it and bow her head in shame.

And with all that work… Still should be writing query letters by the end of January. (I hope.)


News: *blows off dust*

Whew. It’s been a crazy few weeks.

So, I guess this counts as a personal life update…? I don’t advertise too much on here about that, but I kinda wanted to blog about this, so… Sorry if you came for a review, come back sometime between now and Friday?

For one thing, I’m back in my college town of Norman. I decided I am not a major city person. I’ll travel there for work, sure, but not ideally and I am not living up there again. Nope. So back I went. I’m in a great place, so I think I’ll be staying here until I get enough saved for a real house. I’m a creature of habit, so having my safe place back is nice. (Now just comes the unpacking, lovely…)

On a much more serious note, my health has taken some bad turns the last year. I’ve been diagnosed with PCOS and possible Vitamin D deficiency, which is why my energy levels have been almost non-existent. All of that should be wrapped up this upcoming week or early next, with me on all my lovely new medications and while some will take up to a year for me to see their affects, others should give me an immediate boost. Then things got scary. The doctor has discovered some growths on my thyroid that are large enough to require a biopsy, just to be safe. That’s in a couple weeks, and trust me, I’m scared on multiple levels. It’s more than likely benign and just genetics being…genetics, since my mother has had similar issues recently (and in my brother’s and my words when I told him, I don’t have to do everything Mom does, it just happens!). I’ll try to keep you all updated at least on that score.

I didn’t find out about my PCOS as early as I could have. Really, I could have been diagnosed with this back when I was still in undergrad, and my health wouldn’t have been as badly compromised. (I almost was diagnosed with it back in high school when it first started, but we never followed up on it, soooo….) So I have this public service announcement for my followers.

Girls, find out if you can get a yearly physical via your parents’ health insurance, your own (if you are grown and off on your own), or via a clinic. And actually go. Talk to your doctor about what’s going on with your body, and be honest. Find out what’s considered normal and what’s concerning. This is going to be hard to talk about, especially if you are like me. I get extremely uncomfortable and just want to disappear into the floor, and this is better than it was when I was younger! But even as a teenager, you need to let your voice be heard instead of just letting your parents handle it. It’ll make it that much easier.

Parents, for the love of God, do not jump to bad conclusions about some of these symptoms or pick on them about them, even under the guise of wanting to help. This disease is hard enough, we need support in the form of reassurance that it doesn’t make us ugly or that everyone notices the physical flaws we’ve got. Trust me, I prefer it if the thick hair growth is not commented on if at all possible, even by my mother. I know it’s there, there’s nothing I can do about it, please do not break my mental bubble where I pretend it isn’t that noticeable. Just being there does worlds of good.

There, I’m done. Stepping off the soap box now.

Now, what the goobly gook does this mean for the blog? Well, I have a little alert now on my phone, so if you don’t follow me on twitter, you should. I’m going to start tweeting at least once a day, not sure what about yet… Probably just random thoughts I have on fantasy or scifi genre tropes, writing, RPGs, movies, books, Star Stable…anything I would normally blog about, but is just too small to require a post. Some of these things will no doubt be inspired by Ginny and I both, since we share a brain and rarely go a day without talking for at least an hour or two if not more. I’m still going to aim for a review or post a week, we’ll see what I can pull off until the meds kick in.

As for the book, well, obviously we know why my Act II is being particular difficult. Writing is work and energy, and I’m using up a limited supply too quickly with this deficiency. It doesn’t help that I’ve realized I need to go back and fix the first third or so of it, which makes going forward that much trickier. I thought I’d be able to at least get to my midpoint, but I’m about at the point where I go, “Nope, not working, back track and fix first so the brain will quit stalling.” Finding your own way of writing is always difficult, mine is just being worse because what worked for me as a student isn’t working for me as a professional.

Thanks everyone for being so patient with me through all of this.