Craft, Editor, Fiction, Novel, Poetry, Publish, Query, Short story, Writing

The long and short of it

Yesterday, I spent hours—again—researching literary magazines. My goal is to have at least two stories and maybe a poem in submission by October. I’m not sure I have a talent for writing short stories. I feel more confident in my novel writing ability.

I give story writing a good shot every so often, but somehow, the voice I have when novel writing weakens in my stories. Some feel if you truly have the skills for writing fiction, you should be able to write it long and short. But I know other novelists who either stumble at writing short fiction or refuse to even try.

Story writing is a challenge to me. For some reason, I feel obligated to succeed at it, at least once. I feel the same about poetry—even though that definitely requires a different skill set than fiction writing. Maybe I’m just a bit masochistic.

I have a couple stories I think are worth submitting. But, like querying a novel to the right agent, it’s important to find the right magazine for your story. The few literary magazines I’m subscribed to now, are far beyond my level. Only in my dreams would they accept my work.

It takes an enormous amount of time to read online journals, looking for a good match. And I’ll confess that, like agents, a few mags I thought would be perfect, did not agree with my assessment. A rejection yesterday, came so soon after submission, it seems they didn’t even need to read the whole story. That’s a real confidence shaker. Or maybe that editor’s a speed reader. Yeah, let’s go with that.

Now, your turn. Do you write both short and long fiction? Do you write them equally well? Do you also write poetry?

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Agent, Humor, Marketing, Novel, Query, Rejection, Writing

Come on, let me in!

Sometimes—usually after receiving a rejection letter—I think about writing for the market. The problem is, the novel trend today is not necessarily what will be hot next publishing season. No, make that at least two seasons from the time you polish up your manuscript.

So I want to know: how are all these other writers clued in? I understand the YA (young adult) craze—it started after J. K. Rowling’s success, but how is it so many writers typed out vampire books at the same time? And now it seems they all knew to write Amish novels.

Do agents get together, decide the next trend, and then spread the word to their clients? Or is it the writers themselves who’ve banded together? Do they have a secret handshake, telling blog icon, Facebook status code word, exclusive Twitter hashtag?

Come on, let me in on it. Please. Pretty please. I, too, want to make an agent see dollar signs when s/he reads my query letter.

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Feedback, Fiction, Novel, Query, Rejection, Writing

Really? You have nothing to say?

Yeah, so I’ve been querying my novel. In March, my effort was rewarded with a request for a partial, which I sent immediately. This request was from an agent, with thirty years experience, who “takes great pleasure in finding new authors” and from her entry on QueryTracker, it appeared she had about a .05% request rate. Needless to say, I was excited to have her request the first three chapters. Skip ahead three months—well, more like turtle walk through three long months waiting. Finally, a couple days ago, the SASE arrived and within I found … a photocopied to-whom-it-may-concern form rejection letter. That’s it? Geez!

I’ve learned to take query rejections in stride, but a rejection on a partial is a different animal. The less than helpful—demeaning, actually—nature of this rejection on a partial got to me. I was left to wonder if the agent even bothered to read my pages, or if she just ordered an assistant to clear out some of the slush pile by firing off form rejects. Then again, if the agent did read my pages, what does it mean that she didn’t take a minute to offer even one teeny bit of personalization to her rejection—some indication of the real reason she was passing? I was frustrated. So, my subconscious (Muse) dialogued with me in dream.

It was night, but I was standing outside at a long row of tables loaded with objects people were buying, like at a yard sale. I heard someone singing and looked to the end of the row where I saw a little girl sitting on the ground. None of the other customers appeared to be aware of her. She faced away from me. I walked closer and listened to her sing for a minute, then stepped around where I could see her face. She was crying. When she realized I was there, she stopped singing and said, “I’m sorry.” Then she stood and started to walk away. I said, “Wait, don’t stop! Your voice is beautiful.” Still crying, she turned and ran back to hug me. She said, “Thank you, but if my voice is beautiful, why doesn’t anyone listen to me?” I had no answer.

Pretty straightforward, right? I am both the little girl and the woman who encourages her. The girl represents my novel. But which is correct in their assessment of the girl’s voice? Is it truly good, as the woman says, or am I ignoring the obvious reason no one is listening? This is how form rejections mess with my mind. I accept their necessity in query response—in fact, I welcome them over no response means no—but I think they should be outlawed on partials and fulls.

Anyhoo … pressing on. My son is still here, so I’m not fully back, but things have quieted a little so I’ll be trying to catch up on reading your blog posts in the next couple days.

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Agent, Critique, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Novel, Opinion, Query, Reader, Revision, Writing

Agent query honesty and an ego-stroke!

This is probably the most honest post you’ll ever read on this blog. It’s also the most ego-stroking. And it’s my longest. Wow, a real record-breaker!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am in the query stage for my novel The Brevity of Roses. Yes, I know we’re admonished to be careful what we say publicly about agent rejections, but if any agent reads this, maybe they’ll also be curious about the second part of this post. For the record, I would like to make a statement on this agent search process: Querying sucks!

I know, I know, I’ve read all the same pep talk you have … but I’ve concluded that’s mostly bull!

  • “Don’t take rejection personally.” Yes, of course, the agent is not rejecting me as a person … (s)he is only rejecting the writing I’ve slaved over for two years, which was the whole point of the query, thank you very much!
  • “The market is very tight right now.” Granted, but books are still being published—by debut as well as established authors. And some of them aren’t exactly mind-blowing stories … or even that well-written!
  • “Whether or not it sells, be proud that you’ve completed a novel. Congratulations!” Uh … yeah. Look, writing is my full-time job … and I work a lot of overtime. So a conservative estimate of hours put into this novel is 6,240—six thousand two hundred and forty hours. But you think I should be satisfied with proudly telling people: “I’ve written a novel and if you’d like to read it … I can pull it up on my computer.” Really?!

However, one consolation I will accept: “If an agent doesn’t love your book, isn’t excited about pitching it to editors, that’s not the best agent for you.” That makes sense … and so the search continues.

Now, for the ego-stroking part of this post. I’ve mentioned before that I had submitted my novel for critique again. This would be the first time anyone read the entire new-and-improved version … yes, the one I believed was ready to query. That didn’t mean I couldn’t make it better. So, when Kayla Olson volunteered, I took her up on it.

Since the first round of agents I queried weren’t clamoring for the right to represent this novel, discouragement had raised its poisonous head. Then Kayla started reading and sending me multi-page notes on what she read. As it turns out, my novel is mostly polished, which is a relief—but a personal benefit has been in reading statements like these:

“Linda, the true beauty and depth of your writing is made so much from all the intricately woven detail – I think that’s one reason I’m totally eating this thing up. I am a detail girl, a subtlety-lover, a theme-devourer, and connection-maker. You give me much food.”

“The Brevity of Roses is the perfect title for this novel: every chapter, the rose opens up a little more, where not only can I see that there are more layers of petals than I ever imagined, but I can see deep inside to where the petals are attached. Depth and fragile beauty, gradually opening.”

Please understand, I don’t appreciate her critique just because she praises my writing. She’s also pointed out where it would be stronger if I moved a scene from one chapter to another, and where I needed to add a short scene, and here’s what she said about my twelfth chapter:

“After reading eleven chapters before this one, I KNOW you have the ability to choose words and arrange them in a way that haunts me and resonates in my head during parts of the day when I’m doing ordinary things. This one – while far from anything bad, in my opinion – seemed to lack that special spark.

You’re great at communicating tone and emotion through actions, and through the details of sight/smell/touch/noise/silence/subtle allusion.  Here, for example, I don’t get as much of that – it just feels too ordinary.”

How’s that for softening the blow? 🙂 Needless to say, I took her seriously, reread that chapter closely, and it’s now under revision. Kayla has the three last chapters of my novel left to read. Of course, I hope she’ll enjoy it to the end, but even if she doesn’t, I have faith that she will give me plenty of great suggestions to consider in her notes.

I’ve received so much excellent feedback from my critique partners throughout the writing of this novel … and some of them gave me praise very like Kayla’s. Their support kept me going to finish the writing and then through the revision and rounds of editing. I in no way mean to diminish their input. But I am thankful that I accepted Kayla’s offer for one last critique because it’s come just when I needed it most.

Somehow, I had forgotten earlier compliments on my writing, and even though I professed (even on this blog) that my novel was a good one, I secretly doubted and began to think it might indeed be worthy of nothing more than moldering on my hard drive.

Now, I truly believe it’s publication worthy … which, unfortunately, brings me back to the teeth-grinding, hair-ripping, nail-biting process of agent querying. Oh, the agony!

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