Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hurry Up! ...and Wait.

The title of this blog post comes from a conversation with one of my agents. During our dinner meeting she mentioned how the publishing industry is very much a hurry-up-and-wait process.

horse copstop

As authors, we hurry up and write and revise our manuscripts until they shine and then send them out to agents or editors and... wait. Sometimes for months to hear anything back from them. Waiting is the hardest part of the writing process for me. Although I try to keep control of my expectations, sometimes I feel like I'm left out on a limb... hoping someone will come by with a nice publishing contract to act like a safety net.

Agents also go through a lot of hurrying up and waiting. If we are lucky enough to have agents, they hurry up and put together submission packets based on our manuscripts and then... wait. I'm sure they also have similar anxieties about the stories they send out, but multiplied by however many clients they have. They might not get as nervous as an individual author over their particular work, but I'm sure the compounded feelings of shepherding so many stories through this hurry-up-and-wait process is one that us authors are probably happy to avoid.

Of course editors are also hurrying up and waiting, too. They might have particular stories they want to champion, but each publishing house has their own process, which can include editorial meetings and acquisition meetings. These poor editors not only have to wade through tons of manuscripts each month, but also need to defend their favorite titles until they are finally (and hopefully) approved for acquisition.

So, what are some ways authors can fend off the anxieties of the hurry-up-and-wait process?

First, and probably best, we can write our next manuscript. The best way to keep from feeling anxious about a particular story that is out of our hands and in the hands of others is to focus on our next book.

Second, do something fun! Read the books you've been putting off. Enjoy a hobby or two. Go outside and garden, run, or see a baseball game. Whatever gives you joy and happiness.

Third, blog about hurrying up and waiting.


What do you do to survive the hurry-up-and-wait publishing process?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Revision Robots vs. Angelic Editors: The Difference Between Literal and Figurative Revision

Recently, one of my agents, Jennifer Wills happened to be in town for a writer's conference and we were lucky enough to meet up with each other for dinner afterward.


First, it was a great meeting and we talked about all sorts for stuff from the personal (what we like/don't like to eat... no raw tomatoes for me!) to the professional (projects, process, etc.). One of the topics in the later category that came up over our dinner and discourse was revision.

I enjoy the process of revision a lot. It might be frustrating at times, but I've learned to embrace the pain because editing a manuscript almost always leads to a better result, especially with feedback from others.

However, one thing about feedback is that as authors we can take feedback too literally. Sometimes as writers, we can become robotic in our revisions based off other people's critiques. We take their comments and suggestions too literally and become confused Revision Robots, especially when there are conflicting feedback from our critique partners.

I know I'm occasionally guilty of this in my revisions... but one thing I've become better at over the years is asking the question, "What does this person really mean when they make this comment?"

Jennifer mentioned she uses me as an example for her other clients about how not to take her feedback literally. She likes that I look past her specific comments and address the underlying concerns in ways that surprise her (and me, too).

For example, Jennifer expressed concern about a dangling plot thread in a story and made some suggestions, but I didn't follow her input word for word. Instead, I thought about the source of her concern and in a moment of angelic epiphany, I realized how I could resolve the plot thread and make the whole story much better.

During our dinner conversation, Jennifer brought up a Neil Gaiman's quote:

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

What a great way to sum up the difference between robotic and angelic revision.

So, the next time you receive feedback on one of your stories try to remember to ponder the deeper meaning behind the comments. Don't just be a Revision Robot, but try to spread your wings and become an Angelic Editor.

(Please don't take this image literally. Ignore the wand and imagine this is an angel ;)

You might just be surprised by what you find when you do.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Back to the Future: Revisiting Past Works with Fresh Eyes

If you're anything like me, you probably have a folder on your computer filled with old rough drafts in various states of un-readiness. Some files are merely ideas, others are half-baked and unfinished, but there are a few that keep calling you back to them in hopes you'll figure out the answer to "How can I make this work?"

They're the works that shout out for attention even if you are at a loss for how to proceed.

 Pick Me!

And so, from time to time, I revisit these past works and see if you can puzzle out how to fix them. The time away from these works often grants me the ability to see the work with fresh eyes and come up with some answers to the old questions my critique partners and beta readers asked that I could answer properly before I put the work away.

That's what I've been doing for the past couple months. Revisiting old works to see if any of them have finally come to fruition.


One of the stories I revisited was something I felt had a great premise and a lot of promise, but was missing something when I finally decided to put it aside a couple years ago. I had revisited it a few times before, but no fix jumped out at me and so I put it away again and again. Sometimes these failures felt a lot like beating a dead horse.

But late last year, I hit on a way to fix the story and sent it to my agents, Nicole and Jenn. When they read it, they said it was the best thing they've read from me (even better than the story that led Nicole to offer me representation). They made a few comments on what still needed improving to make the story "perfect" and after a month of bashing my head against the last stanza, I finally figured out how to fix it and wrap up the ending in a way that felt satisfying, fun, and pulled off the right feel. Needless to say, I've been running around showing off the finished story to everyone because even I know this is the best story I've written.


But it almost didn't get written. I could have forgotten about it after so many failed attempts, but in this case persistence paid off. Now, the story is out in Publishing Land and it is up to editors to decide if they want to bring this story into the world. Hopefully someone will take that chance, until then, I'll keep writing new stories and revisiting old ones because you never know when going back in time can make all the difference in the world.

Question: Do you ever return to old works and try to breath new life into them? Any success stories to share?

Monday, January 23, 2017

New Year, New Goals, and the ScottyFactor

Hello All and...
Happy New Year

Right before the New Year, my agent Nicole Resciniti, sent out a message to her clients asking them to think about their goals for the New Year and get ready for a "goal chat."

This prompted me to really think about what I wanted to do and also what was realistic. Knowing myself, I'm a slow writer.

Because of that, I knew I should keep my goals modest. In the end, this is the list I came up with:

1) Finish the middle-grade historical novel I've been working on.
2) Finish at least three more picture book manuscripts.
3) Start a new middle grade or YA novel.
4) Get a publishing deal for one of my projects.
5) Go to a writer's conference/retreat.

I've been working on the middle-grade novel in earnest since last February. Originally, I thought I could bang it out by the Fall, but boy was that daydreamy deadline run over like this poor banana.


You see, I have an optimistic nature so I tend to think I can finish projects faster than I actually can. So this year, I'm tapping down my expectations and taking the ScottyFactor (from Star Trek) approach... which is to say be much more conservative in my deadlines.

As for my other goals, I normally write more than three picture books every year, but again, I don't want to over promise and under perform and so I choose three to make sure I didn't feel overly pressured this year.

Starting a new novel isn't hard to do either. I didn't fall into the trap of promising to finish a second novel this year. Nope. Just starting one is enough.

The last two goals will be a bit out of my hands, but they are hopeful thoughts and personal treats. They are sort of the carrots to keep me going throughout the year.


Anyway, now that I've put these goals out onto the Internet... no backies!

I will make every attempt to attain all five goals this year.

So, what are your writing-related goals for this year?