Listen. Think. Speak. Write.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Submission Process: Part II


More Waiting.

Then an offer!  Whoo hoo, the waiting is over!

Just kidding. 

I had heard stories over the years about how things move slowly in the publishing world, but I'm not sure I ever really understood that. 

It took about two months to go from the offer to a signed contract/announcement of the deal.  What was the delay?  First, we had to give time for other potential publishers to respond, just like in the query process.  In that time frame, I was able to have a conversion with my editor and get a feel for her vision, which was great. But what really took the most time? The contract itself.

This is the part where I say I am so glad I had an agent. 
I know that lots of people do this without an agent, but I would have had no clue how to read that document nor what was the most important aspect of negotiation, particularly in relationship to rights.

One of the things that became very clear is that it wasn't just having an agent, but having someone you trusted had your best interests in mind, someone who could explain why something was important.

I probably would have signed the first draft because I just wanted to be published so badly. 

And this was a small deal with a smaller publisher on what I perceive is a quiet book.  I can't imagine how complicated it gets with bigger books and bigger deals.

I've said this before in my blogging process, but it's a life lesson that I keep learning over and over.  You need to surround yourself with the right people, the right support and then let them support you.

I'm self-confessed control freak, pretty independent overall, but there's not a stage of the writing and publishing process that hasn't been improved by trusting other people to help me. 
It kind of makes me wonder if I'll ever remember that in other aspects of my life, too. 

How easy is it for you to let go of control?  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Submission Process Part 1: Dante and the waiting game

Previously, I talked about the process of finding an agent (it was long and I made many mistakes). I also wanted to share my experience taking a manuscript to publishers.  I know this will be more valuable for the writers out there, but this process has taught me many lessons about patience and accepting the unexpected.  It's also shaped new ideas about how to measure success.  Perhaps, those will be useful to you. For this post, then, I'll give more of a brief background and move into the lessons next time around. 

When I was querying, it seemed as if  finding an agent was the holy grail.  If I could just land an agent, my path to publication would look like this:

Straight, narrow, and with the perfect final destination. 

Ah, if only.  It probably looks a little more like this:

Rocky, difficult, and with unknown destination.

My agent and I worked for a couple of months to get the manuscript in tip top shape before she sent it off to editors. It was finally official.  I was "on submission," and I was equal parts excited and nervous.  

On the absolutewrite forums, they refer to being on submission as the next circle of hell, and while I wouldn't say it's quite that bad, it's definitely true that being becoming agented is a step toward publication.  Much like writing itself or querying, for some folks, a sale is practically instant.  Others may have to move on to another project. Obviously, an agent won't take you on if they don't think they will be successful, but they can't predict everything either. 

I admit I was relieved to be on submission probably more than anything.  After such a long query process where I had to actively monitor everything, I could just sit back and wait.  And I had to wait a long time. It took us about six months before we got any feedback.  My agent had prepared me for potentially slow responses, but that certainly put a damper on my dreams.  Still, life was busy, and I managed to forget to worry about it for months at a time.  Then my agent and I would touch bases with new rejections (all maddeningly positive, as Jen said).  After a year, though, I pretty much assumed it was time to let it go.  I started talking to Jen about which manuscript to prepare next.  

Like that proverbial watched pot that doesn't boil, the minute I started thinking more about other projects, I got the amazing news about an offer.  

As joyful as it was to get the news, I think all the waiting and the fear made it difficult to fully embrace and accept that it's real.  

Plus, the waiting isn't over.

Stay tuned for Submission Process Part Two: Serious business (and more waiting).  I'll post that next week as part of the Insecure Writer's Group for the first Wednesday of the month. 

In the meantime, does waiting build your anticipation? Are you able to avoid negative thoughts when waiting for news?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The positive side of insecurity

Most folks in my social circle have already heard the good news.  My debut novel will be published in Fall of 2016 by Sky Pony Press.  I am obviously over-the-moon.  It's the big one, right?  Dream come true, bucket list kind of stuff.  It's the end goal of this whole thing, so by definition, it should mean I'm no longer insecure, right?  Well, not exactly.

First of all, despite seeing the announcement in print and even seeing that it's already got a goodreads page, I'm not sure it feels real just yet.  I could say that'll come when there's a cover, but I'm guessing I'll need to see the book in print before reality sets in.  Even then, who knows? 

More than that though, I've been thinking about the very concept of insecurity.  There's the definition most of us use: "An uncertain or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence" which is what we're all dealing with in these monthly posts and support for each other.  It's rooted in a deep sense of not feeling good enough. 

On the other hand, we can twist this a bit.  Another definition of insecurity is "the state of being open to danger or threat; lack of protection." That's scary, sure, but it implies risk and the potential for reward.  It's about action and putting ourselves out there. 

After I got my agent, I did a series of posts about that process and some lessons learned.  I'm going to do something similar now in describing the submission process and beyond.  I've found that throughout this whole journey, the more I knew about what to expect, the less my insecurity crippled me.  The more I felt okay with being open to danger, so to speak.  

For now I say, embrace your insecurity.  

Keep trying to do things that you may not feel confident doing, that involve risk.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Words are such amazing things—tricky, too.  The very fact that we've used these arbitrary symbols to create such a complex system of communication is fascinating.  Language seems so simple now, right?

And wonderful.  How do you feel when someone utters three easy words, "I love you?"
Except think of the trouble words get us into.  The misunderstanding, the confusion, the anger. 
One of the first things people do when trying to belittle someone is to call them names—to attempt to re-define the other person. A key strategy in controlling others is to manage their language and how they are defined.

Any way we label a person, place, situation, thing, idea, etc. limits how others will view it.  That's true even if it's labels we give ourselves.  How many words do you use to define yourself?  My "twitter" definitions says I am a "wife, mom, college professor, travel planner-extraordinaire, and wanna-be-middle-grade writer." 

What would it mean to move from wanna-be to "writer?"  When is it okay to define yourself as a writer?  Obviously, this isn't a question limited to writing, but as it's the first Wednesday and the month, it seemed like an appropriate topic for the Insecure Writer's Group.

In this case, I think I equate using the label as a definition with being successful at it, not just the act of doing the writing.  That's not something we do with everything right?  I'm a mom even if I'm not a very good one (and I think I'm okay there). 

This is a little nudge to us all that as upset as we can get at the labels others put on us, the ones use on ourselves can be just as problematic. 

Writers, when are you willing to call yourself one? 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


The first Wednesday of the month brings another Insecure Writer's Support Group Post.

I just finished a book I loved from start to finish.  I've read around eight books this summer, and I liked several quite a bit, but this was the first one that I did not want to end but couldn't stop reading at the same time.

It wasn't a terribly complicated story—a very standard contemporary YA (my favorite genre to read though I’m still struggling to write it) with family drama, personal growth, and a little love.  I don't even know if I can explain why it was so much better than the others I've read this summer.  Words, characters, plot.  That's all it is right?  So, why these words, why this plot, why these characters?  

When I finish a book like that, I tend to get a bit contemplative.  First, gosh, I love books.  There is nothing quite like falling into a world someone else created and connecting with everyone in it.  

But then I think, "I could never write that so why bother?"  (Have I said that before?  Seems like it's a common theme in my mind) Or I try to figure out how to adapt my writing to be LIKE that writing which is sometimes like trying to bakery bagel into a toaster.  It's a close fit, but you're bound to burn or break some part in the process.  I just want to figure it out thought so I can give readers the same experience.  

I know I talked about variety last month, and how being authentic is important, and this is along the same vein, but it's more about that magic.  I think that for anything in life to move us the a good book moves me, we have to let go; we have to fall in.  One of the reasons NaNoWriMo has always worked for me is that forces me to stop analyzing and just write.  It puts me into the story more like a reader than a writer.  Of course, that means much editing down the road.

It's not just a writing thing.  My husband is a perfectionist, and he obsesses in advance of every project, so worried that he's going to get it wrong.  He'll tell you that delays the process and gets him so worked up that he sometimes misses the forest for the trees as a result. Then, he's too frustrated with the things that don't go according to plan to enjoy a finished product.  Even when everyone else sees the beauty. 

In the end, passion doesn't lie in thinking about how to do something.  It's in doing it.  

In letting go.  In falling.  

Does reading inspire you or cripple you?  Do you over think process?  If there are non-writers reading, are there ways in which you get tripped up in the process of doing something about which you're passionate?  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Repetition versus repetitive

I've been binge reading the words of a popular author recently.  Obviously, I generally enjoy the books or I would have stopped after the first one.  However, now that I'm like 5 in, I'm seeing patterns that have begun to annoy me as a reader—for example, a very controlling mother and a very fast resolution (too quick to resolve big issues, IMHO) among others.  Readers, viewers, listeners generally like repetition.  People enjoy the familiar and appreciate knowing what to expect.  It's why formula works so well in TV and movies. 

However, it's a fine line, though from repetition to repetitive.  Once that line is crossed though, we move from expectation to boredom.

Doesn't that sound a little like the workplace?  It's nice to know what you're supposed to do from day to day.  It's great when you can feel like you've mastered things, but there's got to be a little zing in there or it becomes so mind-numbingly boring that you spend your days dreaming up extravagant ways to quit.  Or at least watching YouTube videos of people who really did it with flare.  This woman is most certainly, "Gone," for example.  

Or how about your exercise routine?  Why do you think I have umpteen million different work out DVD's in my house AND a gym membership? I bore way too easily.

I'm not saying that life has to be all glitz and glory all the time.  One of the most important lessons I'm constantly telling my kids is that you have to go through some of the boring to get to the good stuff.  Routine ballet class with its focus on skill and repetition must precede winning at dance competitions. 

For that reason, I expect some repetition when reading and writing and even living.  I know there are boring parts to everything we do.  

But as soon as repetition feels too repetitive, the audience is probably lost.  

What are you ruts?  If you write, what are your repetitive habits?  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Variety and the imperfect perfection

I used to be a part of a monthly blog hop called the "Insecure Writer's Group" but I'd been letting that slide.  I valued that experience so I'm "hopping" back in. One of the things I've found most valuable over the years is the way in which my writing lessons have connected to life lessons.  Learning a new skill has given me so much perspective on everything else I've already learned, and I'll carry on that perspective today.

Aspiring writers are told to be voracious readers.  Agents, editors, and fellow writers insist that reading improves writing—makes sense, right?  It gives authors an understanding of market and genre, helps them notice concepts of voice and story development which may either subtly or directly influence one's own writing.

Potentially, reading also changes perspective about your own writing. One of the things that happens when you read a lot is that you don't like every book.  You might even hate some.  It's possible you'll even despite a book that everyone in the world things is the best thing ever written.  You might really enjoy a book or an author who "serious" critics say is too formulaic or sophomoric (or YA or fanfic or "trashy" novels). 

The point is, we all have different expectations and different preferences, right?  As a writer, it lets me off the hook a bit.  Perfection is relative ... to what?  Good is relative to what?  Now, that doesn't mean I advocate writing crap, but it's a good reminder.

As a public speaking teacher, I constantly tell my students that good speaking isn't one-size-fits-all.  It's about being an authentic communicator, about your ethos.  You need to be the best YOU possible even if you have some delivery flubs and or your voice is high-pitched.  It may be what audiences most like about you.

The same goes for writing, it goes for your job and your relationships and your art and your music and your bathroom remodel and everything else under the sun.  The more variety you experience, the more you're able to find yourself in the process. 

Your imperfections are an important part of your voice.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Stitch in time

I had exceptionally high hopes for my run on Saturday. Weather was optimal—a little over 60 degrees, not too sunny, but bright and cheery. I anticipated I'd have a nice 5-6 mile run. Things were going well—nice pace, enjoying the sights and scents of late spring. Then, not even half way though, I got a stitch in my right side. Ouch. I'll just keep going a bit, I thought. 

Sometimes it goes away. It didn't. 

I didn't want to stop and walk because I was coming up to a spot on my path where folks could see me, and I didn't want to admit defeat. Embarrassment can be such a powerful motivator. 

The pain was not subsiding. I decided to walk for a bit. Then the worst happened, the stitch multiplied. I got a second one on my right side. Then, another on my left. With each step, my abs crunched and my whole body tensed. I wasn't sure how I was going to make it home if walking hurt that much. 

 The pain subsided just enough that I started run again—I told the stitch it didn't own me. Now, pissed off, the stitches game back. Of course, at that point, I was in the middle of a bike path. If I called someone to pick me up, I'd still have to make it at least a mile. 

So, I keep going. I ran some. I walked some. I stopped and did some tricep dips. I ran some more. Etc. Eventually, I made it home. No stellar time. Probably more like 4 miles total. But I tried. And again, I made it home. 

There are always going to be stitches. They'll make you change goals and re-assess your vision. Sometimes, for the better, sometimes not. It's okay to go slower or to change direction to work around those challenges. Whether you're writing book, teaching a class, learning a language, baking a cake, building a deck, or fighting for your dream, sometimes, you'll have to start over. 

Sometimes, you'll have to add more flour or delete a whole chapter. 

Eventually, you get where you need to be, if you keep going.