Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hit and Run Queries

When I first began querying, I made a fairly big production of it.  I had all my books of agents and publishers laid out, with the ones I'd chosen to query first highlighted.  I wrote the letters carefully, agonizing over each word and phrase.  My husband kindly made me address labels so that the envelopes looked professional.

I wasn't too disappointed when I received the first few rejections.  I knew that was pretty standard.  And some of the letters have actually been a little encouraging.

Lately, I've been less formal about the queries.  With the understanding that the more queries out there, the more likely one is to find the right agent, I've been working on getting letters out via email whenever I have a little bit of time.  I call them my hit and run queries.

I've stopped being quite so worried about everything being perfect, because I realize that when my letter reaches that right agent, perfection won't be necessarily required.  (I learned that from Query Shark.)

Probably the most discouraging part of my recent querying has been lack of response.  I know I'm not alone, since so many writers have shared this frustration.  Agents are being so inundated with queries that they simply don't respond to those they don't intend to pursue.  It's exasperating, but it's the way it is.

So I'll keep up my hit and runs, and keep the faith that pretty soon, one of them will hit pay dirt.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Routine Writing

One of the most frequent questions established (read: published) writers are asked involves their writing routine.  I think it's mostly because the general public sees writing as a very unstructured occupation that can be accomplished at any hour of the day or night; maybe it's the fact that popular culture portrays authors up all night toiling next to a single candle in a dark room.

Most writers answer that question by claiming to have a pretty strict regimen. I myself love Janet Evanovich's reply (as found on her website):

I drag myself out of bed around six, shove myself into the clothes laying on the floor and plod down the road after the dog. I eat a boring breakfast of skim milk, orange juice and healthy cereal because when I wake up I always think I'm Christie Brinkley and it seems like something Christie would do. Then I shuffle into the office I share with a really rude parrot. The dog follows after me and flops onto his bed to take a nap. (Next time around I want to be my dog.) I stare at the computer screen for about four hours, sometimes actually typing some sentences. I chew gum and drink green tea to keep myself from falling out of my chair in a catatonic stupor. At noon I'm suddenly filled with energy and rush to the refrigerator, hoping a pineapple upside-down cake with lots of whipped cream has mysteriously appeared. Finding none, I make a tuna or peanut butter and olive sandwich. I go back to my office and visualize myself getting exercise. I play an amazing game of mental tennis. In my mind's eye I look great in the little tennis dress. Very athletic. When I'm done playing tennis I stare at the computer screen some more. When nothing appears on the screen I drive down to the local store and buy a bag of Cheez Doodles. I eat the Cheez Doodles and manage to actually write several pages. When I'm done with the Doodles and pages I wander out of my office looking for someone to whine at because I just made myself fat. (I'm only Christie Brinkley in the morning. In the afternoon I'm Roseanne.) I alternate typing and whining for the rest of the afternoon until about five when I emerge from my office, once again hoping for the pineapple cake.

Of course, Janet has the benefit of many years of successful authorhood.  And her kids are grown, so she's got that freedom, too.  But she does set a good example for all of us who just starting out or who are still struggling to find that rhythm of writing. 

This is on my mind right now because we're about to begin our new school year.  Homeschooling is a full time job.  I plan the curriculum, set up our schedules and keep the kids on track.  As I'm planning our daily routines this year, I'm working to build some Mommy writing time into our days.  It's not easy, but I need to make it happen--I get antsy when I have to go too long without doing some serious writing.

I'm realizing more and more that it's a matter of priorities.  For now, educating my children has to be my focus, but writing comes next--and I'm wiling to do what I need to in order to make that happen.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Another step on the road

I did something today I've been considering for quite a long time.  I registered for a writers' conference.

I know this is something that many websites and books advise writers to do, but until now, I haven't felt it was the right time or the right conference.  There have been several meetings in Florida, but most of them are skewed to local writers or to a specific genre that doesn't match my own.

Last month, I realized that Romance Writers of America had its big annual conference right here in Orlando.  I'm not a member of RWA, since what I write isn't strictly speaking romance, but the more I read, the more I realized it might have been a good move to attend that meeting.  It would have been so close to home!  It was too late to register by the time I heard about it, but this was a wake-up call to me:  it's time to make this move.

I began researching conferences, conventions and meetings.  One of them really stood out:  the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar, in New York City in November.  What really struck me was that this seminar doesn't have the typical author-agent pitch sessions, where the author tries desperately to sell her manuscript; instead, Backspace offers mixers and workshops where the authors can get to know the agents and vice verse.  The idea is that authors will have a better grip on which agents they should query, and agents will potentially meet new authors.

This impresses me, and it's also a better fit for my own personality.  What clinched it was seeing the list of agents involved:  there were many familiar names on the list, agents I hope to query or have seen on Twitter or in other blogs.

So I've screwed up my courage and registered, and it appears that I'll be flying to NYC in November.