When you start querying one manuscript, start writing a new one.

I remember reading on websites, forums, and social media that once I started querying a manuscript, I should focus on writing a new one. The advice was that unless I was getting multiple rejections on fulls, or multiple rejections with similar feedback, I should just leave the manuscript alone.

The first three times I queried, I mostly disregarded this advice. I worked on something new for a little, but was constantly going back to the thing I was querying and editing and revising.

This got confusing very quickly.

Which version of the first chapter did I just get a request on? How many other agents did I send that one too?

There were a lot of times I thought things like, “if only I waited longer to query this or that agent!” or “Why didn’t I just keep the opening how it was?”

One of the few benefits was that sometimes, if agents who had already rejected my query requested a query because of a twitter pitch, they were willing to take another look once they realized I had revised. Unfortunately, all of these second chance queries ended in rejection. In the end, it wasn’t much of a benefit.

Not wanting to go through all that stress again, I took a different approach to querying my fourth manuscript. As soon as my first batch of queries was out, I decided to focus on other projects. I started writing a sequel for Power Surge, but I wasn’t ready yet. I wrote prequel novella, Life Minus Me, which will be published this winter. I worked on revising a space opera, but got bogged down in the revisions and put it aside. Then I went back to the sequel, finished it, and worked on short stories while I let it rest between drafts. I wrote the first draft of a middle grade novel and started revising.

I have to say, this was the least stressful bout of querying I’ve had so far. I did make some changes to my opening chapters after a slew of rejections, but I haven’t read through the entire manuscript since I sent out my first full.

I was more productive in the past year than I was in the year or two I queried my first three books, and spent a lot less time stressing and obsessing over my query.

If I look at this in terms of success? The answer isn’t as clear cut. I am still unagented.

Queries from both batches resulted in offers from small publishers.


Power Surge, the second novel I finished and the first I queried, ended up with two offers from small publishers, and ultimately, I signed with NineStar Press. It was published last year. The prequel novella and sequel are both under contract with NineStar and scheduled to be released Dec 2019 and Feb 2020.

Song of the Forest, the first book I finished and second I queried, did get an offer, which I turned down because the contract was bad. I did not get any other offers and shelved this book. Honestly? I’m glad it didn’t get published. It has some potentially problematic content that would need to be revised and then looked at by a sensitivity reader and revised again. However, back when I wrote it and started querying it, I hadn’t really looked far enough outside my white, privileged bubble to realize. I know better now. I hope.

I have open R & Rs on this from small publishers. One day I might try to fix the problematic content I think is there, and the world building issues mentioned in several rejections. But right now? It’s low on my priority list.

The third one I queried, Like Birds Under the City Sky, got no offers. It was a strange little book where I experimented with form, and ultimately, it just didn’t work. Its currently shelved.

My fourth book, Earth Reclaimed, was the one I left alone while querying, and in 2021, it will be published by Aurelia Leo.

Revising while querying versus leaving the manuscript alone didn’t have an impact on how successful the query was, but the level of stress and anxiety was much lower when I focused on writing new things.

The new projects not only distracted me from worrying about the querying, but they assured me that even if this round of querying failed, there would most definitely be a next time, another chance at getting an agent or a contract from a small publisher.

My recommendation is to be working on a new book while your querying.

However, I understand that what works for me might not work for someone else, and in the end, it is important for writers to do what is best for themselves.

IWSG Day: Rebellious Character Surprises!

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

The first Wednesday of every month, the IWSG posts an optional question, encouraging members to read and comment on each other’s blogs.

August’s Question is:

Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you’d forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

For me, writing is full of surprises, mostly because my characters tend to take on a life of their own.

For example, with my current WIP, I told myself the mc was a girl because that story would be easier to sell than one with a non-binary main character. However, before I realized what I was doing, the character was telling someone that they use “they/them/their” as pronouns and thinking about being neither boy nor girl.

I thought I could control the gender of my main character, but that character decided they were non-binary (like me) whether I liked it or not.

The idea of characters I’m creating doing unexpected things always seems odd to me, even though it is something many writers have experienced. 

I often find myself wondering why things like this happen. Why do my creations surprise me? Am I really surprising myself? How come I feel like I am not in control of these characters as I create them and make them do things? Shouldn’t I be more deliberate? What is the point of craft advice if my characters are just running around doing their own things with me putting zero thought into how that affects the story on some technical level?

I can maybe  answer one of those questions.

Craft advice is for revision, not first drafts. At least, that is how it is for me. Other writers might be able to think about plot and scene and characterization while they draft. I can’t. I can only think of the characters as living entities and the story as something unfolding as it happens. If I outline, it’s because the story is unfolding in my head much faster than I can really write, and even then, when I start writing, I don’t usually stick to exactly what I outlined.

I think I get surprised because a lot of what I’m doing is not happening on a conscious level. It’s like dreaming. When I draft, my subconscious does the heavy lifting, so it feels like my creations have more agency in the creation of the story than I do.

When I was younger, part of me wanted to believe there was something supernatural about writing. I don’t think that now, but I do love writing about supernatural things.

I always surprise my self when I’m drafting.

My revisions, on the other hand, are far more deliberate and conscious. The biggest surprises there are how patient I am. In real life, I’m not known for my patience.

What kind of surprises do you find when writing?

 

Photo Credit: The back ground photo on the header was taken from Simone Scarano on Unsplash. 

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Book Review: The Bone Garden

The middle-grade reading spree continues with The Bone Garden. I got a free ARC of this creepy but cute little book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I didn’t think necromancy could be the cute, but alas, it was. In spite of its cuteness, I wasn’t as engaged with The Bone Garden as I hoped to be, but I still enjoyed it.

The main character, Irréelle, was adorable even though she was essentially made of dead people’s bones. For a creature most would label as a “monster” she was kind and often put others before herself. Early in the book, I got very annoyed at how she loved her creator even though the woman was cruel and abusive, but towards the end, I was very happy when Irréelle learned to stand up for herself. 

However, the side characters were flat and didn’t have much of an arc. They were good friends for Irréelle, but they didn’t change or grow like she did. Even though I loved seeing Irréelle’s friendship with them bloom, I got a little bored watching them stay the same while she developed. 

The antagonist, Miss Vesper, was too cliche for me. 

The story and plot were a little more complex than I expected, and there were a couple times where I was actually surprised. There were some scary moments, but for the most part, the book was just morbid in a cute way. There was necromancy and bones were the morbid part, but the character and her friendships were the cute. 

The prose were accessible but not bland. 

The Bone Garden would be a great story for a kid who likes things like bones, worms, and dirt, but doesn’t want to be too scared by what he/she/they are reading.