Follow Your Passion: Write What You Love

I write fantasy romance novels because that is what I love. Magic, knights, necromancers, and dragons. A hero and heroine who will fight through everything thrown at them and then live happily ever. It’s not a popular area of writing, not like Regency, nor is it the “next up and coming thing”.

But I both love to read it, and I love to write it. (When I can find the kind of work I like to read, anyway. If you know any Stephanie Laurens meets Tolkien authors, let me know!

When I am working in my world, and it frequently is work, it’s a place I want to be with characters I love or love to hate.

FantasyWoman

This is the TED talk I watched while on maternity leave and is what inspired me to write again: https://www.ted.com/talks/larry_smith_why_you_will_fail_to_have_a_great_career?language=en

Putting it succinctly, Larry Smith tells you to follow your passion. To do what you would do even if you weren’t paid for it.

It really put into context a lot of things for me.

Or maybe it spurred a midlife crisis.

Either way, it got me to write again.

After subscribing to the Writer’s Digest to get electronic access to agents and publishers, I have also been put on their “send me tons of advertising” list.

I’m amazed at how many solicitations I’ve received. I’m starting to think there are more people making a living on “helping” people become writers than there are people making a living writing.

But I digress. One of the classes that stood out to me was the one showing me how to make a career out of writing. The ad was something like:  “The Top 9 Most Lucrative Writing Opportunities.”  It’s selling point was that it wasn’t novel writing or anything like it.

Which wasn’t a selling point to me. The whole ad felt so much like a scam that I was reminded of those signs on the side of the road –  “Make $2,000 a week from home!”.

Whether it was a scam or not, if you already have a day job that pays the bills, why would you want to do this? Why would you want to trade your current career for a writing gig you don’t actually want to do?

Even if it isn’t a scam, that’s not following your passion.

I say write what you love. Bring your passion. Love your characters. Love how they change through the crucible of your plot.

Your readers will see this, and they will love right along with you.

And it will make the hours of work worth it to you because you are doing what you love.

I’ve never heard of a single “mega-author” admitting that they wrote something they didn’t love. Or that they wrote it because it was “trending” or “made money”. Some authors single-handedly made new genres by writing what they loved (Tolkien comes to mind).

If you’re going to spend the hours writing it, make it something you love. Something you’re proud of. Your passion.

3 Things I Learned From My Query Letter

Let me preface this post with the fact that I have received rejections on 4 of the 5 query letters I sent out. I expected the rejections to take longer. Agents are either much faster than their purported deadlines, or my query letter sucks.

I am betting the latter.

I read a bunch more “how to” articles on query letters, and none of them agreed with each other. My take away was that maybe my query letter would be better served if it read more like the back of a book blurb. This may be common sense to some of you more experienced writers, but this is not what the first three articles I read on querying had said.

I spent over an hour recrafting the query letter to sound like the back of a book.

It was junk.

I spent another hour reading through the blurbs for books on Amazon to better familiarize myself with them.

I spent the rest of the evening trying to write a blurb for the back of my manuscript. It was still awful.

tree-trunk-569275_1280
Some idiom about forests and trees . . .

After watching me spend most of a night wrestling with this, and being a good sport and taking on extra kid duties so I could keep at it, DH tried his hand at it.

It was way better than anything I had down on the page. I scrapped everything I had and worked with DH’s.

I learned a lot from this process, and it is leading to another round of revisions. With the way it helped me really focus on the story and characters, I’m thinking about writing the query for my current work in process early in the revision stage to see what comes from it.

 

3 Things I Learned From My Query Letter

  1. If you’re having trouble crafting the query, there may be something missing from the story. In my case, I was lacking a bit of character motivation for the one character. That’s pretty easy to fix. For the other character, the query process revealed that maybe I didn’t put enough thought into her backstory. The fact that she grew up as a serf in a city ruled by undead would have left more of a scar. Yeah, I know, I know. But I was so focused on telling their story, on the plot and character development in the present. . .Okay, truth is, maybe I didn’t want her to be all angsty and scarred. I can still have that, but I have to earn it. And so does she.

 

  1. There is no one right query. It is difficult for me to accept this, but my research suggests that there may be as many “right” queries as there are agents and authors. There are guidelines that need to be followed, but beyond that, I was unable to find a solid consensus on what a query “should” be.

 

  1. Sometimes, it’s okay to ask for help. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent writing queries. The one DH helped me with is the best by far. And this probably isn’t the last version of the query, but it’s a helluva lot better. I was too bogged down in the minutiae of the story. I had created every word on the page and put it through a dozen or so revisions. DH was able to help me see the forest through the trees, and help identify a need for another rewrite. Which, I will need to do before I query again. Time will tell if the new query helps me get the much desired request for a full manuscript, but I feel like it’s a step in the right direction.

 

Doubt: The Tyrannosaurus Demon

The niggle of doubt when I first sent out my work has grown into a full blown Tyrannosaurus demon, devouring any creativity I had and leaving me snarling and snapping.

Demon
Doubt. You remember him.

I got another rejection letter. Four of the five letters I send out have already been rejected.

Like a good little wannabe published writer, I went back to the Writer’s Market and read through a list of agents. I ticked off several that felt like a good fit, but found one that looked like an amazing fit. Visited their website, yes, the one agent in the publishing house looked like she was after exactly what I was writing. I read through their submissions guidelines, and recrafted my query letter to meet those exact guidelines.

And received an instant rejection as the agent was no longer accepting queries.  I promise nowhere on the webpage or the Writer’s Market did it indicate this was the case. I had read the submissions guidelines on the webpage thoroughly. Multiple times.

So, the entire time I had to write last night ended up being a complete waste of time.

And I’m still struggling with the query letter.

Maybe that means I don’t have enough conflict. Or not the right conflict.

Or, I’ve been reading too much on how to query in genres outside of mine.

No idea, but either way, I see why so many people quit. I see why the doubt can build up and you wonder what’s the point.

I made myself finish off the night by repacking it and sending it to yet another agent.

I’m getting to that point, but I’m not there yet.

My First Submission

I did it.

I stopped reworking my query.

I quit poking at my synopsis.

I stopped staring at the Writer’s Market book.

I sent out my first query . . . And it got rejected in less than 5 minutes. I’m assuming this was some sort of software that reviewed the document for keywords and rejected it accordingly.  Interestingly, it doesn’t bother me all that much. I guess because I am all but certain no human ever saw the query.

So, I sent it out somewhere else. Took most of my writing time to go through the Writer’s Guide and put together my submission package. Butterflies kept trying to escape my stomach the whole time. Even remembering JK Rowling’s scathing rejection letter, I just . . . Ugh.

 

Demon
I call him Doubt.

I hate this part of writing. Putting myself out there and waiting for someone to tear apart all the hard work I put into it, and really, tear at a little bit of me. Most writers put so much of themselves in their work that it’s hard to compartmentalize the rejections. Practice will make me better at it, I’m sure, but what an unpleasant thing to practice.

I slept poorly all night, although that may have had as much to do with the little one being up all night with a cold as my nerves.

Now the waiting game begins. Three to six weeks and I should get my first rejection from a person rather than a machine.

 

No Simultaneous Submissions

As I have started to look up agents to submit my work to, I am noticing something I had heard about before but hadn’t fully realized what it meant.

No Simultaneous Submissions.

If you query most agents, you are not allowed to query anyone else while they consider your work. Many take 4-6 weeks to consider your submission package and decide if they want more.

That means you’re looking at 8-9 rejections per year because that’s the total of potential agents or publishers you can query. In a year.

Understand, I am an outsider looking in, but this strikes me as odd. At no point in my career was I only allowed to interview with one potential employer, much less only allowed to send my résumé To one.

It was expected, particularly when I had no work, that I would be sending my résumé out to multiple companies. I would interview with multiple companies. I would go to second and third interviews with multiple companies. Human Resources at prospective employers often asked me if I had any other offers or where I was in the process. They knew and understood I was looking for work.

Kind of like I am looking to get my work published.

While a query letter is not a résumé, it functions much like one to get an agent or publisher to want to “ask you for more” or, in the case of a résumé, to get that first interview. I cannot imagine sending my résumé to one company and waiting 4-6 weeks to hear if they were interested before sending it to another.

I understand rejection in publishing is quite high. What I don’t understand is why the industry would function like this.

I can only assume it’s supply and demand. Lots of people want to be published authors and there are far fewer slots for them. These agents must be getting tens of thousands of queries. Which makes me wonder all the more why no simultaneous submissions. If they have such choice, then from a business standpoint, one particular author matters a great deal less.

I am sure there are reasons for it, and I am curious what they are.   Off to Google!!

And my Google results were . . . disappointing. And disheartening. Common consensus Bullywas an author’s chance of being accepted were about 1 in 7,000. Probably true. But the only real explanation I could find as to why simultaneous submissions were not allowed was that an agent or publisher didn’t want to spend the time looking at a piece of work only to discover that it had already been sold.  I get that. Who does? But it still seems quite limiting to an author whose chance of being accepted is 1 in 7,000.

Glad it didn’t work this way for my day job.

 

Next Up – Synopsis

After slogging through a query letter (thanks to my two beta readers who really helped me with it!), now I am supposed to write a synopsis.

There is far more information out there on query letters than on a synopsis, so I dropped a question in the inbox of a freelance editor’s blog I follow. He was kind enough to answer with more detail, and industry experience, than what I’ve seen out there.

Still, it’s “ugh”. I don’t want to write a synopsis. I want to work on my current project.

Know what? It’s still a hobby to me. I have published nothing. My day job pays the bills. I am going to run with the glory and joy of a new project until the words stop coming like rain on the 4th of July. (Maybe that’s just my 4th of July, but whatever).

I will write the synopsis. And revise it 17-18 times if my query is any measure, but I will do it when it doesn’t suck the joy out of the project I am currently working on.

No, not very professional of me. But I’m not a professional writer. Yet. Maybe not ever. I’m not published, and I may never be. But inspiration is so fleeting, and my muse loves to hide for long stretches at a time. That seems like a better time to take on the job aspects of writing a synopsis  rather than when my muse is screaming in my ear and I can’t find the time to listen or type fast enough when I do have some time !

Query

So, I have finally finished the query to both of my beta readers’ satisfaction!  I now have to start work on a synopsis. I have looked for some guidance on how to write one of these, and I will start that when inspiration wanes for my current manuscript. It is going so well right now, I just don’t want to rock the boat!

Here is the query letter after about 40 revisions. I am only slightly exaggerating . . .

 

Dear Person’s Name From the Writer’s Digest,

Discovering that her master plans to sacrifice her in a dark ritual, Brelynn flees and arranges to trade her secrets of sorcery to Aerius’s king in return for asylum in the holy city. Her master wants her back and unleashes his undead armies to retrieve her.  Brelynn’s only chance to reach Aerius is the famed lich slayer Sir Marcus Valerian, a devout Paladin that suspects her of darker intentions. But Marcus swore to obey his king, and he fights beside her as they journey to Aerius.

As they travel together, they feel things neither expected. Brelynn tries to harden her heart, believing Marcus could never love a former servant of darkness. Marcus struggles to reconcile the teachings of his order with his feelings for her.

Determined to capture her and complete the ritual, Brelynn’s master launches a devastating assault that threatens to destroy Marcus and Brelynn’s love and devour their souls.

KNIGHT OF VALOR is a 76,000 word paranormal romance about love, self-realization and sacrifice.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

My Name

My E-Mail Address

https://betheredragons.wordpress.com/

Creative Rejuvenation

Writing a query letter is hard. Much harder than I expected, and it further tapped my drying well of creativity.

After slogging through issues with a character and his story, writing a query was one of the worst things I could have done for my creative rejuvenation. I don’t have a lot of time to spend writing between my day career, kids, and spouse. The time I do have, I would like to be enjoyable, or at least not a drain.

The flash fiction challenge I participated in almost made things worse. I “rolled” a combination to write about that I just couldn’t do. Then I remembered I am not in school. I am not being graded on this. I can decide not to do it and there are absolutely no repercussions.

I rerolled and wrote something else entirely.

I am not yet ready to tackle my difficult project, but I do think I am ready to try something new.

Time to Try

So, I wrote that query.

Three times.

And scrapped all of them.  I’ve started again, and I am hoping that practice makes perfect. Or at least pretty good.

I’ve never been good at sales, and I couldn’t give away food to a starving man.  So trying to write a sales pitch that feels authentic is hard.

I ordered the deluxe version of the 2016 Writer’s Guide because in 2016, I want to be able to filter, sort and index publishers and agents. I want to be able to save them down to Excel to track who I am querying and Outlook so it can notify me when the 6-8 weeks has passed for a response. And, of course, the financial outlay helps motivate me to at least try.

I tell myself that even if I get 50 rejections, I am really no worse off than I am now. Not really.

Now, back to writing that query!

Risk

After a couple of weeks (maybe months) of soul searching, I am still trying to decide whether or not to query my finished manuscript.

I poured man weeks of time into this work and a great deal of love. That word sounds funny (especially coming from me), but it’s true. You don’t put that much of yourself into something unless you love it. And I would like to share that with other people, maybe convince them to love these characters as much as I do.

Even if I am extremely lucky and am able to get the manuscript published, I am putting a lot of myself on the line. Any rejection feels like a personal rejection because you have put so much of yourself into it.

 

What is others don’t like it?

What will the publisher make me change?

What if I don’t like the changes required to get it published?

What if no one buys it?

 

I’m sure I can come up with a dozen more things, but I’m not going to try. I’m already worried enough.

I think this is the doubt writers and other creative types are plagued with. Why put yourself on the line like this?

That’s the real question, isn’t it? Is it worth putting yourself out there? Opening yourself to the nameless, faceless criticism that comes with creating something?

I don’t have an answer. Not yet.