Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Survival Tip #12 - Get It Right and Sleep at Night

When you're querying, you will be anxious.  You will go over that damn query a hundred... errr... a thousand times, and you will think you have it right. 

Unfortunately, in your anxiety and haste, you will inevitably get something wrong.  And for days... errr... months afterwards you will lie awake at night remembering that one little thing that jumped out at you AFTER you sent the query.

For instance, you will hit send and notice that for some reason you forgot to put your name in the signature.  (I choose to believe that at least some of the people Janet Reid references in that post simply forgot to put their name at the end of their query.) 

Maybe you sent the query out thinking that you had everything right - until some agent responds telling you that you got something wrong.  In my case, I misspelled a culturally significant name and a certain agent let me know it in the rejection she sent.  (I still mull that one over every time I see her name.  D'oh!)

Perhaps you hit send and realized you forgot to change the salutation from 'Dear Mr. Jones' to 'Dear Ms. Murgatroid'.  Which is particularly irritating considering you did remember to change the personalization part of the query.  But in your haste to get it right, grit your teeth and send your query out into the world, you missed that one key part.

Now I've heard agents say they won't let one little thing like that kill a perfectly good query.  You know, if everything else is perfect...  But those little errors sure can't help.

So... and yeah, you've all heard this before... check and recheck those little things before you hit send.  In my experience, the best way to do this is to slow down.  Let yourself relax.  Take a day.  Sleep on it before you hit send. 

Trust me on this.  You'll sleep better the other 364 days knowing you didn't make those niggling little mistakes.

And if you do make them, let them go.  Easier said than done, I know - especially considering I'm still wringing my hands over mistakes I made in 2004.

What mistakes have you made that keep you up at night?  Or are you someone who can let those things go?  Any suggestions on making sure you have it all correct before you hit send?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Check This Out

This morning, Silver James has an awesome post on checking all the threads in your plot to make sure they hold: Tugging on Superman's Cape.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Awesome Blog

If you haven't been following Elizabeth Spann Craig (aka Riley Adams) blog - Mystery Writing is Murder - then might I suggest you put her on your blogroll.

This morning's post was particularly good: Focusing on the Writing First

But all her posts are good.

Of course, so are her books.  I've only read a few of the Riley Adams authored mysteries, but they were awesome.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Monday, March 18, 2013

Guest Post: The Writer's Daughter



I asked my daughter to write a post about what it's like to be the daughter of a writer.  Here's what she had to say...

Writing about being a writer’s daughter is surprisingly hard.

Am I the only person that finds that ironic?

It really does involve a certain amount of “be quiet while mommy’s writing” mixed in with a lot of “tell me what you think of this.” My life is long bouts of silence with intermittent talking. It means that I am one of the remarkably few people who actually knows what beta reading is. (I have it on my resume and you would not believe the questions sometimes)

It also means that people who defile books into book “art” should be shot, grammatical and/or spelling errors are an offense worthy of creative and prolonged torture (there are just…so…MANY), and there’s this overwhelming urge to correct people when they use words wrong.

Or maybe that’s just me.

And that’s part of the problem. Because I don’t know how much of it is being “a writer’s daughter” and how much of it is me. Writing and all the stuff associated with it have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, as natural as breathing. I can’t help but edit everything I read (and I mean everything: menus, signs, Facebook posts :shudder:), can’t help but love the smell of old books. It’s like it’s in my DNA.

That might, in fact, be why I also write (fanfiction). It never occurred to me not to. (Seriously, dude, it’s fanfiction, not the next great novel)(Shut up)(I would like to point out, for the record, that I inherited the voices in my head from my mom. Just look at some of her posts.)

I look at everyday situations and think of how it could be a story. That guy in the airport, who’s he waiting for? Women in dark suits and sunglasses walk down the street and in my head it’s Matrix 4. It’s not just that I’m crazy or easily distracted (shiny objects are my friends. Oooooh), it’s that I have this disease, writeritis, that I inherited from her. Like my hair or my nose (thanks, mom).

So that’s what being a writer’s daughter is for me, I think. Alternately, that’s just one big, nonsensical jumble, in which case, feel free to ignore me. But if any of this makes any sense to you, please let me and everyone else who sees this know. ‘Cause it would be nice to know that being the child of someone who takes the random stuff in their head and puts it out there for the world to see doesn’t make you as weird as you think. 

(…It doesn't, does it?)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Survival Tip #11: Ditch the Guilt

Life is crazy for me right now.  Life is crazy all over.  I had a guest poster lined up for Monday and we both forgot about it until last night.  Derp.  Maybe she'll get me a post by next Monday.  Maybe not.

I know she feels guilty about it.  I'm definite I feel guilty about it.  Just one more thing thrown on the pre-bonfire pile of things I can light to keep myself warm at night.

I feel really guilty about the fact that I haven't written since before I left on my trip to Michigan.  I did type up my hand-written pages from before, and I did some thinking about the story (because I hit a wall and didn't know where to go next).  But it's not where I want my career goals to head.

Still, the guilt isn't doing me any good.  Guilt usually doesn't do anyone any good. 

So, from here on out - until my life balances and I'm not crazy-busy - I'm going to ditch the guilt.  I'll write what I can when I can, and when I can get back on track, I will set a writing schedule and stick to it.

Because sometimes the other things in life have to take precedence.  Now, if I was a published writer, or at least under contract, I might have to adjust that view.  For now, though, I am an Unpub.  I have the luxury of letting life overwhelm me, and allowing for my writing to slip a little*.

Ditch the guilt.  Yeah.  That sounds like sound advice.  Plus, it makes a great survival tip.  If you're drowning in guilt, your creative process is taking a hit, too.  Don't let that happen or this guilt could snowball into months of not writing.  (Been there, done that.) 

What's some guilt you can ditch today?


*Only a little.  I will get back to writing as soon as this other stuff settles down.  Promise.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Check This Out

Caught this link on Facebook this morning: 

29 Ways NOT to Submit to An Agent by Carole Blake

Pretty good and basic advice, I think.  Still, I remember making a couple of those mistakes.  Specifically, #10, #21.

Never again.

Have you made any of those mistakes?  (I think all of us have done #10 at least once.)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Survival Tip #10: Write What Makes You Happy

Today I'm bouncing off something I kinda, sorta half saw on the net.  I didn't read enough of it to see what it was about, so I'm not linking to it.  It just made me think of something I think is crucial to survival in this business.

You see, a person start off a question to a popular agent blog by referencing the crime novel they were shopping and the fantasy novel they were getting ready to write.  Whatever their question was, I could immediately see where it might be leading - and what the answer generally is in these situations.

So here's my made-up scenario:

A writer finishes a novel with a realistic crime-centered story.  What to write next?  Their heart is leaning toward a fantasy novel next, but everything we've been told points to writing another crime novel.  "Build a following" they say.  Kinda hard to build a following when you're unpublished, but I do get the sentiment.  If they love the first book and want to sign a contract to be your forever agent, they're going to want to see more of the same.

All well and good if more of the same is what's blowing your skirt up.

Personally, I write what makes me happy.  And I think that's what has kept me sane after 9 years of doing this.  My first couple books were in the same vein.  My next book was totally different.  And the next.  Then I tried my hand at something else.

Looking back, it might not have been the best way to approach my career, but I love my books.  I also love my writing.  Slogging through book after book the same old way without getting any gratification would've killed that.

And, by the way, if writing the same genre again is what makes you happy, do that, too.  I've heard the other side say that if one genre isn't working, try another.  If you don't want to try another, then don't.

As I've said before, there are a ton of opinions out there and you can only do what's right for you.  So, feel free to stretch your wings or not - whatever feels right.

What about you?  Do you always write the same type of books or do you spread yourself over several genres?  We can all probably point to plenty examples of both who succeeded in their own ways.  Who are some success stories you know of?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Guest Post: 'Staying Power' by Jennifer Lyon



Thank you B.E. for having me today! 

B.E. kindly pointed out that I’ve been around for a while now. I got “the call” in 2000, and my first book in the Samantha Shaw Mystery Series, DATING CAN BE MURDER, came out in 2002. I’ve written that series, some romances, several novellas, a paranormal romance series and this year I have two new series coming out.

So what does it take to have staying power? Okay, here is my first and most important tip—if I can do it, so you can you! I truly mean that. The longer I’ve been around in the business, the more I realize it’s about these three things; stubbornness, drive and adaptability. I’ll explain:

STUBBORNNESS:

I don’t mean stubbornly refusing to listen to sage advice, but the pure refusing-to-give-up kind of stubborn. It took me eight years to publish, and in that time I got a few nasty rejections. They hurt right down to my bones, and for a few hours, or days, they had the ability to paralyze me.

But my natural stubbornness always rose, and I was determined to prove them wrong. I learned to shrug off ugly rejections as they had no value for me (or you!). But to succeed I had to get better at my craft so I strove to learn from the rejections that had constructive criticism. 

Those lessons served me well when I published. I refused to give up when my series were canceled, editors were fired, the economy tanked…it all happened. I might have had to step back and take a breath, give myself a little time to get over the situation, but I always ended up going back to work on a new project. Because I’m stubborn. 

DRIVE:

We may think we have the drive to write, but when it comes to the daily grind, the reality can be tougher than we believe. First, we must have the ability to complete a story to The End. It’s easy to get derailed at some point in the book; I know I do. But my drive to finish that book becomes a compulsion and I keep at it until I do it. 

And then the revisions arrive. For me, that process looks like this: First I scan the revision letter. My stomach cramps and a voice in my head, one that sounds a lot like a two-year-old, screams, “She just doesn’t get it!” Then I shut the document and go away to sulk with my best friend Chocolate. But after a little time, light switches start flipping on in my brain and ideas take over. Soon I begin ripping the book apart with vigor, ready to attack the revisions. Because deep down, I love writing and I am driven to make that book the very best that I possibly can. 

And I do it all over again with copy edits and page proofs to get that book as clean and perfect as I can.

That’s the drive to write. After a book is finally finished, I’m so drained I think I’ll never do it again. But I always end up doing it all over again because that drive is there. 

ADAPTABILITY:

It’s always been important to be adaptable. Readers’ tastes change and the market changes to accommodate them. Believe it or not, there was a time when no one in New York would buy a vampire story. And then WHAM, vampires took a huge bite out of the market (sorry, couldn’t resist!) Change is a fact of life and we must adjust.
When paranormal was hot, I looked at the market and then created a paranormal world that I loved about Wing Slayer Hunters and Witches. Readers responded well to that. But the economy crashed and my editor was laid off. Eventually my series was dropped and I had to figure out what to do next. I’m too stubborn, and love writing too much, to give up.

The market is changing drastically again with the rise of digital (e-books) publishing. I’ve created two new series, selling one to the hot new digital publisher, Entangled. 

The other one I refused to show to any publisher, choosing to self publish The Plus One Chronicles myself. There are many reasons, but a strong one is that I want to write it to the newer trend of serial type novels. These are shorter connected books that end on a hook leaving the reader (hopefully) anxious for the next one. A second strong reason is that I can control the price, and in the market we’re in today, price is key. It’s been a whole new experience to be in control of the covers, marketing, hiring a great editor and so on. But it’s all a part of adapting to the changes in the market and staying in the game. 

Stubbornness, drive and adaptability are my tips for getting published and staying published for the long haul. But my number one tip is that you can do it too, you just have to be willing to hang in there and keep writing. 

BIO:

Award-winning author Jennifer Lyon has several new releases coming out this year. THE PROPOSITION, the first book in her new Plus One Chronicles was just released on February 24 and following later in the year will be Book Two: POSSESSION - Coming 5/28/13 and Book Three: OBSESSION - Coming 9/24/13.

Writing under Jennifer Apodaca she will be releasing the first book in her Once A Marine series, titled THE BABY BARGAIN which will be out in March 2013 from Entangled Publishing in their Indulgence line.

Find Jen at: