Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Road To Publication: Are You A Time-Waster?

In Writer’s Digest’s July/August issue, Jane Friedman listed five time wasters for those of us hoping to walk that road to publication. Here’s my take on her list.
Time-Waster 1: Submitting manuscripts that aren’t your best work
There is this certain surge of euphoria that takes over after the completion of a novel. The months spent wandering through the muck with our imaginary creations is emotional and intense. We conquered something many haven’t. That means something, right? A special spot on the NY Times Best Seller’s list for sure. We gotta hurry, beat out the other schmuck writers. Run baby, run.
I’m not sure why many of us are so eager to query before we’ve had the opportunity to let things simmer.
I’m guilty of this too. I finished my first manuscript and after my first revision, I went right to the query. I thought it was good. But just like Jane Friedman says, “It can’t be good. ‘Good’ gets rejected. Your work has to be the best.” And rejected it was. Thank you, baby Jesus. It’s embarrassing to imagine agents reading my first few pages. Sure, I have readers who said they loved it. I placed in contests, but it still isn’t great.
I see this same thing on my group blog Ready, Aim, Hook Me. We’ve received a ton of submissions, but many of them are not ready. The trouble is the writer ran out and self-pubbed prematurely.
Time-Waster 2: Self-Publishing when no one is listening
Yes, it is a great time to be a writer in terms of easy access and affordability of self-publishing. But just because that’s true, should we? Unless you have an audience already in place, who’s going to buy it?
In 2009, more than 760,000 titles were published “non-traditionally”. Can you imagine how big that number is in 2011? We have a lot of competition. What are you doing prior to clicking “publish” to ensure your novel’s success? A blog with two hundred faces? How many of those faces are invested in your work?
Time-Waster 3: Publishing your work digitally when your audience wants print
E-books are on fire. We love new gadgets and it seems like every other month a new eReader or Tablet comes out to taunt us with its fabulousness. Not only that, creating books in eformat is easy and cheap. That’s all fine and dandy if your audience is made up of mostly eReaders. Don’t forget that there are still many people devoted to print.
For those of you considering self-publishing, do you know your audience? What do they prefer?
The same goes for print.
Time-Waster 4: Looking for major publication of regional or niche work
This has to do with writing something that may not have national appeal. It’s easy to feel the wind in your hair when self-publishing. We have freedom from restrictions, but we also need to remember the business aspect of this.
Time-Waster 5: Focusing on publishing when you should be writing
I love this. So many of us bounce from blog to blog. We read tips and strategies for producing the best query; we register on QueryTracker; stalk the Query Shark; #FF agents and publishers. This is important, I suppose, but remember Jane’s first time-waster. Unless we have “great”, there is no point in running to publication. Spend some time on blogs, twitter, etc. but use the majority of the time writing and perfecting.
So with all that being said, how do you know when it’s really time?
Jane has several questions she asks during her critique sessions with writers. How long have you been working on the current manuscript, and who has seen it? Is this the first manuscript you’ve ever completed? And: How long have you been actively writing?
Here’s her reasoning:
Most first manuscripts aren’t publishable, even after revision. They are important in our growth, but that doesn’t mean they are great. Also, a writer who has worked on one project for years and years without writing anything else may not be motivated. We need to write a lot in order to get to our best work. Writers who actively write on more than one project and are involved in a critiquing process are more positioned to publication, she says. They know their strengths and weaknesses and have their own structured revision process. For those of us in this spot, good news, we may only need a bit o’ luck on our side.
Is there a point when we need to veer off course?
Ask yourself these questions: Is your work commercially viable? Are readers responding to something you didn’t expect? (i.e. you’re passionate about your fiction, but you have a large audience on your humor blog) And, Are you getting bitter?
I think the last one is important. In order for you to write good fiction, you have to love it. If you’re writing simply for the glory, the money, whatevs—stop right now. If you’re one of those people who started writing simply for the love of it, but have found yourself tempted by the allure of the “best seller” I suggest regrouping. It doesn’t mean you won’t achieve that goal, but you can’t let it rule you. Love what you do first and foremost. The rest is gravy, baby.
Now quit reading my drivel and go write already! After you shoot me a comment, of course.

Monday, July 18, 2011

To Self-Pub Or Not To Self-Pub?

After I thought my first novel was as crisp as it could be, I started querying agents. My cheeks are heating as I’m typing this. What the hell was I thinking? I wasn’t ready, but more importantly my novel wasn’t ready. I queried about fifteen to twenty agents, getting a partial and two full requests but no takers. So I put my novel in the drawer to start my next project.
Once that one was finished, I queried twenty more agents, getting the same rejections. I thought my second one was better but I didn’t get any interest at all. I’d heard all the hype about the market and resigned myself to waiting awhile longer.
So here I am with my third nearly completed ’script and I’m wondering what to do. The thought of writing a query letter again makes my eyes cross. I hate it. And will I ever really land an agent? What are my chances?
A good friend of mine just lost her agent, who decided to pack it up and get out of the publishing business. She said it was dead. I’d heard the rumors but dead? You can’t come back from dead, unless you’re a cat or Elvis.
What’s a dreamer to do?
Self-publishing is on fire with the ebook craziness. I’m leery of it. For one, there is the self-published author stigma and two, I’ve read a few self-pubbed books and I’m sorry but I thought they were unpolished. That’s not to say that traditional works are perfect; I’ve read my fair share of crap. There's been a lot of crap that makes a whole lotta money though. So unless I'm one of the lucky crap writers, I'm not sure what to do.
I have a friend who went with a smaller publisher and her debut novel is set for release in a few months. Another has her book ready to roll through Createspace, with another set for a few months after. She hired a cover artist and sent it out for reviews. 
It's never been easier. Point and click. That seems like all it takes. So I want to know where you’re at. Are you still holding out for an agent or traditional publisher, or are you running to self-publishing like everyone else?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Power Is In The Diet Coke

I hung out with one of “beasties” (inside joke) the other day. I call her my sunshine and roses friend because she is just one of those people who like to look on the bright side of life. She’s so happy and upbeat that sometimes it catches people off guard. It isn’t that she’s just beaming on the inside, but she buys into that whole give a smile get a smile business. She searches for the positive even when things are as crappy as they can be.
Anyway, my friend and I were sipping on some Diet Coke and chatting about what unmotivated writers we are and started talking about our stalled projects. I’ve been a doom and gloom girl, but talking about my w.i.p. spurred interest in my overburdened mind. I actually went home and started reading it. Pretty soon, I got a text from my friend: “I started writing a new book. Excited.”
Wow, I always knew how powerful Diet Coke was but the kind with cherry added must be something special to get both our creative juices rolling. I continued to read and edit my stuff a bit. Soon, I started feeling excitement of my own, when another text buzzed my hip. “Over one thousand words. I’m inspired.”
Inspired, huh? Tweaking a few sentences and adding a few hundred words wasn’t so inspiring on my end. It was a start, but the pinge of writing juice surging through me fizzled out and I had to stop before my frustration got to me. At least my friend was on a high.
Or maybe not.
About an hour later, she texted me and said: “Waste of time. I just killed my MC at the end of chapter one.”
Back to the wall we go.
So what gets your creative energy going? Have found something that will keep you going long past chapter one?