Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Patience, Young Padawan: Or, Why It Pays for This Writer to Hold Her Horses

Everything doesn’t have to happen “right now.” I try to remind myself of that, and it’s especially important to remember when hoping to break into the publishing industry where everything moves at someone else’s speed. But, dagnabit! Instant gratification is just so… well, INSTANTLY GRATIFYING! Also, it’s hard to fight against the mentality of the times. We’re living in an age where technology brings everything to you at the speed of, “Hey, you wanna watch an episode of that awesome late-80’s sitcom that most of the world has forgotten about? BAM! Here is!”

(Yeah, this show is even more amazing than I remembered!)

But here’s the thing. Sometimes, waiting is a good idea. As I write this, my must-have-now brain is imploding while crying, “Does not compute! Does not compute!” but I have some solid examples of instances when not rushing into things would have fallen into the category of good idea:

I finished my first manuscript at around 5am on Sept. 8, 2009. I sent out my first query letter at about 7am on Sept. 8, 2009. ‘Nuff said, I think.

At the time that I reached out to that first agent, I’d done what I know now was only preliminary research on writing the all important query. If I’d waited until I was (at least) a month or two further along in my research, I could have avoided including some just plain awful mistakes. Hell, if I’d waiting until I'd gotten a few hours of sleep, I could have avoided this jewel alone: “Besides all that, writing fiction is about the only thing I’m good for and yet the student loan people still expect me to pay that huge amount I promised to repay when I graduated. So no pressure or anything, but do I ever need an agent, and soon!” (from actual first query). Time would have allowed me to sit back, consider that sentence, and say, “Hmm. Maybe a query letter isn’t the best place for my bad humor.”

In the year since I initially submitted my second manuscript (which I completed a month after I finished my first), I’ve drafted about – I don’t know – a million or so rewrites of that particular novel. Any of which would have made for better sample pages than what actually went out. Especially considering that the subsequent drafts cut the word count from 126,000 to little over 100,000.

Which brings me to November 2010, when I must ask myself, “Considering your history with rushing into things, why are you in such a hurry to fall into the same trap?

The dilemma: After a year of revisions, I’m very eager to get my query out into the waiting hands of soon-to-be-adoring agents (Hey! Don’t rain on my fantasy! I needs it!). The problem is I’ve come across the advice more than once that submitting to agents during the holidays is generally not the best idea. There are varying opinions on the matter, as highlighted in this Guide to Literary Agents Article, but my instincts are to err on the side of caution. To quote writer Nancy Parish who quotes agent Janet Reid “You can query too soon. You can never query too late.”

I was hoping to get my queries out by the beginning of November while crossing my fingers that I was wasn’t cutting it too close to Thanksgiving. I managed to send out three. (Received two insta-rejects and one no-word-from-as-of-yet). Then I had a stroke of inspiration and re-wrote my query with the hopes of getting it out no later than mid-November.

Oops! Wait! There’s that paying gig that will occupy a significant chunk of my free time. Oh well, gives me another chance to consider my query and make some worthwhile changes.

Oh, snap! My query is freakin’ awesome now! But dagnabit! How’d it get to be the Tuesday before Thanksgiving (which for many is a time of ditching work early in the week in favor of traveling plans)?

But that’s still two whole days before Thanksgiving! What do I do? What do I do!?! WHAT. DO. I. DOOOOO!?!

When in doubt, make a list.

The Pros of Waiting Until After the Holidays:

- Gives me more than a month to research agents so I can choose the absolute best for matches me and better personalize each of their letters.

- More time to polish my query, synopsis and sample pages

- I wouldn’t have to compete with the holidays (and their nasty habit of bringing families together) for agents’ attention.

- I do have some writing to catch up on.

- My query will be less likely to get lost in the initial deluge of submissions from trigger-happy (hey, I've been there, man. I understand) NaWriMo participants. Apparently, this is something agents are inundated with after November. So this is more of a specific case for not submitting in December.

The Cons of Waiting Until After the Holidays:

- January 2nd is like FOREVER away from now.

- Will agents be backed up-slash-playing catch up when they come back from their holiday vacations in January?

- Does that mean I have to wait even longer?

- But the middle-to-end-of-January-slash-beginning-of-February is even FURTHER away from now.

I’ve decided to go with that “You can query too soon. You can never query too late” thing. (Thanks, Ms. Reid. That really is a good one.) I’m sure my synopsis can use some work because I haven’t looked at that thing in a while, and wasn’t especially impressed by it the last time I did. Why rush to submit subpar work?

I’m not happy about having to wait. As a matter of fact, I growled in anger and shook my fist at the heavens several times when I came to the decision that I wasn’t going to do any more querying before January (Grrrrrr!! *shaking fist*) See! Just thinking about it makes me fist-shaking angry!

But the good news is that if I can do it, so can you! If there is something that is better off not being rushed into, hold off on the rushing. Chances are, in the end you’ll be happier for it –if for no other reason than it gives you a chance to get your ish together.

*Sigh* At least I have this upcoming challenge to distract me whilst I get my wait on.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Not that I'm Lazy, But...

I'm going display some slightly lazy blogger behavior and link to this other blog a friend and I have up. Really, it's just a preview for a web comic we're going to be launching soon. You can take a look at a very cool comic we put up, but also we'll be checking in with updates and posting sneak peaks from time to time. I'm extremely excited about our project and hoping it's something that you can look forward to as well. Hop on over to InkInTheGutter.blogspot.com and check us out!

An example of what you'll find there:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Overbooked: A Hedonistic Tale of Excess

Okay, so there were other reasons (other than a record-breaking mess taking roost on my desk) that I haven’t been posting like I know I’m supposed to. Something came up.

I had to read a book.

Or, well, like a few books. Keeping up a healthy book habit can be hard when you have a bunch of life getting in the way. You know. Working, eating, sleeping, scribbling down a sentence or two of the most brilliant story to ever be about-to-be written, pretending to be a social creature for the benefit of friends and family...

This seems like as good an intro to talking about my little problem as anything.

My name is Cacy, and I’m a bookaholic.

Which is probably not an especially big surprise considering I’m a writer, but it is a problem when I get nothing done for a full day because I HAVE to get to the end of whatever book I’m reading. And I have to get there NOW. That’s why sometimes it’s just better that I don’t pick up of book if I know there’s something important I should be doing (say, pen a best-selling novel) because I know exactly how that’s going end (with my poor, cold, shiny new computer crying from neglect).

Then there’s the issue that apparently I’m stockpiling for when we become a dictatorship and all the books, bookstores and libraries are burned. Numerous among the piles of books that keep growing and growing are novels I have yet to read. But I HAVE to have them. Because I WILL read them. Someday. These past few months have once again demonstrated to me how bad this problem is.

It started with me getting my ish together and re-arranging my room so that all my books are on shelves and not scattered about all willy-nilly.

My two bookcases and I were up to the challenge.

I even organized them according to type of book and intended age group.

I was very proud of me, but at the end of the day I looked at my shelves and thought to myself. “Boy, if I buy one more book, I won’t have any place to put it.

So what do I do?

I acquire ten more in a matter of weeks. But I can’t help it! For one thing, there was a 50% off coupon for select titles.

And then, well, there was a 40% off coupon and you know I have to show Meg Cabot my love and support, and then there’s that other book I’ve been meaning to get as I slowly read through Octavia Butler's catalog.

And then that website told me (one of) my writing style(s) is similar to that one author’s and I’m like, “Who’s Cory Doctorow? …Hmm, sounds kinda interesting.” And then it was, “Oh my? Seriously? Those books are only a dollar? Hardcover too?”

Next, I was going out of town, and well, one needs reading material when going on a trip. So that explains the three books that I was able to narrow my purchase down to.

(Way of the Shadows missing because I’ve lent it out. Also, I feel like there’s a fourth I’m forgetting…)

But then there’s the fact that I work at a bookstore (but of course) where on top of discounts, booksellers are often rewarded for a job well done with Advanced Reader Copies. I often do my job well, so often have a lot of “This ticket is redeemable for 1 promo item” slips piled up. And that’s how I walked out of the bookstore that day with four (or was it six?) more books than I anticipated.

(Hunger Games paperback missing because I’ve lent it out. And sigh, yes, I also have Hunger Game in hardcover, but I was able to get the paperback for free so I figured I could lend the paperback out and keep the hardcover safe at home with me always. Naturally, the hardcover is also lent out at the moment.)

Who can say no to a free book? I can’t even say no to a cheap book, which is why I always find something among the $0.25-to-$1.00 books my local library (yep, I frequent that place too – when I don’t have a huge fine accrued – even though I currently work at a bookstore) has for sale out in the front.

As if it weren’t bad enough that I went on vacation with four books in my carry on (No check-in baggage for me. Who has $25 to spare with all this constant book buying?), when I get to the land of my forefathers (or at least, the town my parents are from) my relatives are all, “Oh, you like to read? Let me take you to a used bookstore or three.” Besides the hippy-run used book warehouse and the Half-Priced Bookstore, underneath the downtown library was a huge used bookstore where, I swear, nothing was over $2. I tried to pace myself, but still, this happened:

And it all had to fit in my carry-on and personal item.

So then I’m home, settling back into the daily grind, and swearing, no more new (or used) books for a good while. Then I start to clean out the family garage. And what do I find? Books.

And more books.

And a hellavalot more after that.

Even when I’m like “Phew, this box is full of clothes. What a relief!” I dig past those outfits I really did think was cute freshman year of college and discover– you guessed it. Even more books.

Books I was assigned to read for class but didn’t but swear I’m going to. Someday. Books I bought twice because I couldn’t find the first one I bought but really needed again. Books I found somewhere for a really good price and snatched up, without realizing I already owned a copy. Books from when I was going to be all smart and stuff and read poetry and really old obscure writing and stuff. Books from that time I was (and still am!) going to write a novel set in ancient Egypt and so I needed to do a lot of research, including how to read hieroglyphics. Books I borrowed, but maybe never returned (shifty eyes).

And something tells me that there’s at least one more box of books waiting to be discovered.

So for real now, I’m going to cool it on the book getting.

Okay, that decree only ever lasts about a day. Here’s the most recent books I’ve acquired, mostly in a month-and-some-change-long period:

(Blameless, Shadow’s Edge and Beyond the Shadows missing because I’ve lent them out.)

And I have a question for you? Where exactly are they going to go?

I’m doing good now though. I only bought one book in these past few weeks.

I swear.