One Step Forward

Howdy, howdy!  Yesterday, after numerous rejections from agents (all of which were form rejections or close to it), I received my first full manuscript request.  I won’t say from where or who, because I understand that this is by no means an offer of representation, but it’s one step closer and that makes me super excited.  Even if I end up with a rejection at the end of this, at least I can say someone who is a complete stranger to me was interested in my work, which is a huge deal since I always wonder if people are only supportive of me because I’m cripple (it’s happened before).  Anyway, I’m getting off track.  Today, I want to talk about how the little steps are just as exciting and deserving of celebration as the ultimate goal you’re working towards.

Kitty has the right idea.  One step at a time.

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I honestly needed a reminder of it myself: the little successes are still successes.  I admit that I’ve been down lately with all of the rejections.  I let the feelings of being a failure and an imposter get to me.  It’s made writing hard and submitting things less than appealing.  I forgot that submitting things and writing words were little steps on the writing journey in their own right, whether they end well or not.   With all of the rejection writers (and artists of all kinds) face on a daily basis, we have to remember to celebrate the little things as well as the endgame.

Did you finish that short story or chapter today?  Treat yourself!  Is that your tenth (or hundredth) form rejection?  Take pride in the fact that you submitted that many times.  Did you get a lovely personal rejection?  That deserves a toast!  Without all of these little steps, some of which feel more like stumbles, we wouldn’t be moving forward.  And as long as we’re pushing on, we’re trying, and that’s all that matters.

This applies to life way more than it should.

Sometimes, we go so far down the rabbit hole of imposter syndrome that we need a hand getting back to a point where we can see the little steps.  This boost could come as a surprise acceptance or a request for more, but more often than not, it comes from the support of people in the same situation.  We aren’t alone in these feelings.  If you can’t celebrate your own steps forward, help someone else to celebrate theirs.  Most of the time, it’s easier to notice other people’s achievements, so you’ll cheer them on and tell them that rejection is just one step closer to an acceptance, then eventually you’ll realize these are the things you should also be celebrating for yourself.  Help each other and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.  Celebrate your successes together!

Support each other like these puppies support this baby!

So yeah, even though it’s easy to get distracted by the big endgame, don’t forget the little things that get you there.  It might take longer than you want, but if you stop trying, you’ll definitely never get to where you want to end up.  Keep moving forward.  Keep supporting each other.  But most importantly, keep celebrating all the little steps as well as the leaps and bounds.

The Agent Search

Howdy, howdy!  How’s everyone’s spring (or autumn, depending on your hemisphere) going so far?  I’ve been wrapping up my winter by searching for agents and researching how to write queries and synopses.  In graduate school, they told us things like “make sure you have a finished, polished product (for fiction at least) before you query agents” and a few signs of questionable agents (ones who charge reading fees or want more than 15ish%, 20% at the most, etc.).  But nobody really explains how to find reputable agents or how to go about querying them.

When I first opened my browser to begin the research.

Google searches proved to be overwhelming at first.  They provided a plethora of information and no indication of where to begin, so I admit I panicked and sent a few emails out pleading for help.  That would be my first bit of advice: don’t be afraid to ask more experienced people for help.  Even if they can’t help you personally, chances are they know people who can.  While I waited for responses, I read through SFWA’s literary agents advice page, which is wonderful at telling you how to recognize questionable agents (it’s far more detailed than anything I learned in school).  I realize it’s a science fiction and fantasy group, but a lot of the advice here probably applies across the literary agent spectrum.  They also have pages about editors and publishers and other things that are super useful.

There are a number of publications (Writer’s Market comes to mind most readily) you can buy (some even come as Kindle books) or check out at the library that offer lists of current agents and agencies if you prefer more traditional research methods.  I didn’t want to spend money or visit the library this early in my searches, so I started at the Association of Authors’ Representatives website.  My only problem with this website is that it doesn’t group agents by agency, so it’s difficult to keep track of who works where which is really important since most agencies don’t want you to query more than one of their agents at a time (some agencies even say that a no from one of their agents is a no from all of them).  Then, someone sent me this post which groups science fiction and fantasy agents by agencies, and it gave me a solid starting point for my search (it was a life saver).  It’s a little old, though, so be sure to check out the agency websites and do your research as to who’s accepting what.

There’s no magical way around the research.

That’s my second bit of advice: do your due diligence.  This is my baby that I’m about to shop around.  I’m going to make sure, to the best of my ability, that I’m not getting mixed up with someone who’s trying to take advantage of me and my work.  If you’re not sure how legit someone is, ask around.  Also, I’m making sure the agents are a good fit for me.  Don’t just randomly submit to people and hope it works out.  Go through their bios and websites to make sure they represent what you write and if they’re actually open to new clients.  And always check out the submission guidelines.  I look at it this way, if I’m wasting their time by submitting something they don’t represent or not following their guidelines, I’m wasting my time.

Be wary!  We all have gut feelings.  Trust them if they say something is off.

Anyway, I’ve compiled a list of agents (I still have many more to look into).  I didn’t stop looking just because I found one who sounds like a perfect fit (she might not be interested in my story after all).  I will keep looking at different agents until I get ready to send out the first batch of queries (simultaneous submissions to different agencies are expected), then I’ll look for a new batch in case no one bites.  That’s all we can do.

Moving Forward and Looking Back

Howdy, again!  It’s May 12th, as I’m writing this.  According to Facebook’s “On This Day” thing, I graduated from Southern Methodist University exactly three years ago.  I never really put much thought into this supposedly momentous occasion.  I had my issues with SMU (some of which I will probably complain about here), but it was always just a necessary stepping stone to me.  It wasn’t a big deal for me or anything.  It’s funny how time changes your perspective on things like this.

The obligatory fountain picture, again.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that SMU held a lot of firsts for me.  It was my first major unpleasant experience with lack of accessibility issues.  It’s a major university with millions and billions of dollars being sunk into its sports programs and stadiums, so of course I assumed it would be entirely accessible.  But you know what they say about people who assume things!  Yeah, I learned my lesson.  (Major eye-twitch inducing moment for me.)

It was the first place where some of the classes actually challenged me.  That was an impressive experience.  My first C+ on a test, however, was not as impressive.  And yeah, I know that sounds cocky, but it’s true.  School was always a place where I excelled.  The real world, not so much.

It was also the first place where my graduation day was uneventful (like no broken bones and no family squabbles).  Yeah, I had serious bad luck with my previous two graduations.  I really didn’t want to go through another, but I did, and it wasn’t bad.

Dallas Hall… I could get in the basement, but couldn’t fit in the elevator. Good job, SMU! Also, the date is wrong. This was some time in April of 2012.

Anyway, it’s three years later, and I’m still in touch with a number of the faculty (I fully admit SMU had an awesome faculty and staff, despite my other issues with it).  I didn’t come away with many friends (one who I keep in regular touch with, and two I fall in and out of touch with every now and then), but I wasn’t looking to make friends at that point, so I’m okay with that.  For someone who was in “get in, get degree, get out” mode, I’m impressed by the connections I did manage to make. 

Now, I’ve got a Master’s degree, which I wouldn’t have gotten without my SMU adviser’s advice, and letters of recommendation from others at SMU.  I’ve made a number of connections during my time in my Master’s program, some of which actually tie in with my SMU connections.  I’m in the process of cleaning up a novel that started as a short story in one of my SMU fiction classes.  I learned very quickly what kind of critiques to take to heart, and which to brush off thanks to my writing classes at SMU, which made my time at Stonecoast that much easier.  So yeah, I guess SMU was more than a stepping stone after all.

SMU Mustangs. Pretty sure this was the day or so before graduation.

Why am I rambling on about all of this?  Honestly, because I couldn’t think of anything productive to write about.  But sometimes it’s good to take a look back, especially at things you took for granted.  It often gives you a new perspective to move forward with.  And moving forward is all we can really do, right?