Be A Writer They Said…

Hello, hello! Welcome to September. I suppose Thanksgiving and Christmas are some time next week with how fast time is moving. Before you know it, this year will be over and we’ll get to see what 2021 decides to throw at us. My hopes aren’t very high. But I’ve been in a blah mood anyway, so maybe I’m wrong and next year will be great. I’m in one of my burned out periods again. I haven’t worked on the novel in a while, so that’s not getting done this month. Oh well. I just pushed myself too hard too fast. Anyway, being a writer is exhausting. I thought I’d take this post as a chance to whine a bit. Sorry in advance.

Maybe, but maybe not.

And it’s true. Being a writer can be fun. Telling stories and reading and gathering with fellow writers to discuss writerly things can be amazing. But no one ever tells you that being a writer is so much more than writing. It’s the one thing I was disappointed about when it came to my MFA program: they glossed over everything included in being a professional writer that wasn’t writing or editing. I get it, it’s a writing program, but it would’ve been nice to be a little prepared for everything else. That one lecture on contracts and being told in our graduation semester that we needed to make a website didn’t quite cut it. I’m slowly figuring things out, though.

That website they randomly told me I had to make for my graduation semester? I had to design it myself because what beginning writer can afford a web designer? It has to be maintained and updated. And in order to make a website, you have to have content. Like a blog that you update weekly. And contact information. You can’t be a new anything nowadays without a social media presence. Those social media profiles need attention and updates just about every day if you want to keep your followers. It’s not exactly hard work, but all of this stuff takes up time. And if you’re popular and have tons of comments and emails to respond to, it could potentially get overwhelming. Sure, there are people you can hire for all that, but it costs money.

Yes, it can.

That’s not all. You also have to be an editor to your own work, a critic who can pull apart everyone else’s work and see what’s working and what isn’t, and a diligent student constantly improving their craft. After that, you have to sell your work and yourself to agents and publishers and readers alike. People have to like you to want to work with you, right? This usually entails submitting and querying lots of people who each have slightly different guidelines that you have to adhere to and getting told no by most of them. Then, if you’re lucky enough to make a deal, you have to pull on your lawyer pants and review every aspect of the contract to make sure everyone involved is getting a fair deal. It’s terrifying and exhausting and no one seems to want to talk about it all.

I know.

And to top it all off, there’s always someone pointing out that you should be actually writing, like everything else involved in being a writer doesn’t count as work. It’s enough to put anyone off writing for a while. But then you get the rare acceptance or encouraging note from a complete stranger or something like that and it’s all worth it again. So yeah, being a writer is exhausting and sometimes it’s fun, but it’s so much more than just writing. Be warned, then become a writer. It’ll be fun.

As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or questions or comments here or on my social media pages!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Irrational Fears

Hello, hello!  Happy New Year!  Is it everything you were hoping for thus far?  Mine’s been pretty peaceful, which is why I’m not entirely sure why I’m being plagued by irrational fears.  You know, when you get that weight right in the center of your chest?  That trembly feeling that invades every waking moment?  At least until the cause passes, then you’re fine?  Yeah, it’s been like that for the past few days.  I just don’t know the reason this time.

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Seems legit.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of odd fears, but I usually know what triggers them.  I’m not fond of things suspended in the air (bridges, elevators, and the like).  That’s probably because of recurring nightmares of driving off a bridge into the river below.  I also fear being around grabby people (I blame doctors and nurses who don’t ask before they attempt to move my arms and legs, which results in pain or worse).  Needles.  Large dogs (another recurring nightmare).  Storms.  The doorbell or someone knocking on the door (no idea why on this one).  The list goes on.

I even get a minor case of the terrors when we’re going somewhere where I’m not familiar with the roads.  Bumpy roads are a pain (literally), so of course my mind fills with visions of potholes and speed bumps and unkempt dirt roads the whole way to our destination (and that’s not including the surprise jolts of adrenalin brought about by Texas drivers).  That’s just the way my mind works.  Thankfully, however, Google street view has helped with this particular fear a lot.

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I guess “drive friendly” means try your damnedest to get your car to kiss another one in the most violent way possible.

 

But none of that explains the weight and trembles I’ve felt the last few days.  The only things I can think of in the near future are a trip to the DMV (I’ve already looked at the roads), my birthday (they’ve never bothered me before), and an event at a hospital (I’ve been there before).  Who knows?  Maybe I’m just freaking out because I’m feeling a little lost.  Maybe it’s something I’m just not thinking of.  Maybe I’ll never know what it is and it’ll fade away as mysteriously as it came on.  Fear can be a funny beast that way.

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Still haven’t seen this, but he seemed appropriate.

 

Anyway, this has been a glimpse into my paranoid mind.  I suppose it’s good practice, looking at some of the minor fears that can weigh on people.  They’re potential character traits.  Someone who faints every time the doorbell rings?  I could write that.  How about you?  Any fears that you feel silly for having?  What about the ones that terrify you?  Feel free to share some here or on Facebook or Twitter or G+.

I’m not sure what to post about next week, so feel free to send me some ideas or questions.  Have a wonderful week!