By Annie Cronin Romano
If you’ve trudged through the trenches of querying your book, you may have picked up on that miniscule yet significant detail that it’s ONE DAMN TRYING PROCESS! Yes, querying has been known to take down many an aspiring Austen or Dr. Seuss or J.K. Rowling. Querying, be it to agents or editors, is not a task for the feeble. So, if you don’t get an agent or editor after a few rounds of queries, you should simply find another passion to fill your heart with joy, right? No. No. NO!
As you may have heard before, and as I heard repeated several times at this past weekend’s outstanding NESCBWI Spring Conference, most writers swim against the current through waves of “no” to reach that one “yes.” Of course, there are always those I-landed-a-book-deal-with-my- first-submission stories (Gag! I mean...I’m so happy for you), but for most writers, querying requires persistence and patience, that same persistence and patience you tap into when crafting your stories. And if you’ve polished that story until it sparkles, done your research, followed the guidelines, and can tread water through the rejections, the yes will come.
This past March while reading picture book after picture book for ReFoReMo (Reading for Research Month), it became quite clear to me that there were far more books I didn’t love than books I did love. That is not to say the books I didn’t love were poorly written. Many were extremely good, but they didn’t strike a chord with me. It comes down to personal taste. And the ones that did strike a chord? It’s like hearing your favorite song performed live for the first time, and you’re in the front row! You’re in awe. Blown away. You want to hear that song again and again.
I finally got it. That’s how the agents feel. That’s how the editors feel. A “no” on a query (or even a full submission) does not mean your book is bad. But people in publishing get hundreds of queries a month. Your story must strike awe in their literary hearts. It must blow them away. They must want to read it again and again (and they’ll have to if they take you on). And they all have their own personal tastes. Of those books I read during ReFoReMo, there were only a smidgen that struck that chord in me. I liked many of the books, but I only loved a select few of them. If I were an agent, there were only a few for which I’d be willing to swim against the current to reach that magical bookshelf at the end of the publishing rainbow. I finally got it.
Querying is tough. The rejections are even tougher. But when that “yes” finally comes, you’ll have an ally who truly loves and has faith in your story. And you’ll only get there if you have faith in yourself, if you stay strong and don’t give up.
Write. Rewrite. Research. Query. Again and again and again until that “YES.” Your reward will be a passionate advocate for your story. And you’ll discover you’re stronger than you realized.
Got a querying success story? Please share it with us!
by Kelly Carey
When you are reviewing your monthly goals and bemoaning the targets you failed to hit (or even shoot at), don’t forget to congratulate yourself on the bulls-eyes and the good shots!
We seem to do an excellent job of recalling our failings but we downplay or forget our successes. Don’t fall into this trap. I have sat at monthly meetings with my 24 Carrot Writing teammates and heard us say, “I didn’t really do much this month.” This is usually followed by a checklist of things that we all know our writing friend did accomplish.
It’s fine to recognize that you missed your goal to add 3000 words to your MG novel, but don’t discount the fact that you added 1000 words. You may have hoped to rewrite three manuscripts in a month, and found that only one got done. Don’t hang your head in despair; instead rejoice that you rewrote one manuscript. In an industry that is ripe with rejection and criticism, don’t miss the opportunity to applaud your victories.
As you stridently work to set goals, use them to motivate not to castigate. They are there to inspire and encourage but never as ammunition for those ridiculous voices in your head to make you feel less. Did you take even one step toward one goal this month? Then celebrate and get on with next month.
In an April 2015 interview in Children’s Book Insider, author Anne Tews Schwab said, “It's ultimately much easier, psychologically speaking, to write than it is to berate myself for not writing.” She is right.
Quiet the goal police in your head. You will not hit every goal you set each month. I would argue that if you did then you need to set tougher goals. And when you don’t quite hit each goal, there is no detention, no ticket and no go directly to writing jail and feel crummy about yourself spot on the monopoly board of writing. And if your writing game board has that spot, throw it out and get a better game.
by Francine Puckly
This blog is late for a number of reasons, but the most notable cause is burnout. I began 2015 convinced that I had only a few short weeks of revision remaining for my current YA manuscript. I dashed off on a three-week sprint to finish the story.
Those three weeks came and went while I slogged through the quagmire of subplot placement and character development.
“That’s okay,” I told myself. “I know I can finish in another two weeks.”
I pounced on the manuscript with almost the same enthusiasm. Almost. But my commitment to this draft was soon smothered with life—fundraising for a non-profit I support, events planning for another, a family medical emergency, band concerts, budget meetings, and snowstorms.
“It’s okay,” I still told myself. “If I cut my sleep a little bit more, I know I’ll finish in two weeks!”
And it was okay.
Until it wasn’t.
A medical trip to my parents’ home for four days forced a reevaluation of my writing process. Despite missing my self-imposed deadlines repeatedly, I had become a workaholic. I didn’t reduce other commitments. Instead, I took from myself. I gave up the good things in life that could have, and should have, sustained me. It was only after stepping away from this destructive routine that I could see I had to stop the madness.
But old habits die hard, and I posted my April goals, telling myself (and the world!) I would complete my manuscript (again)! You’d think I’d learn.
I went in tonight and changed my goals. I don’t know if I can finish the manuscript this month without hurting all that’s good in my life. A more realistic goal is taking time for four two-hour sessions each week over and above my 20 minutes a day. Not word count. Not page numbers. Not completion.
What will I do instead? I’m taking steps to regain my physical fitness, treating my son to dinner after shoe shopping, and reading books outside in the first moderate temperatures we've had in months. And I just might go see "Cinderella."
And the manuscript? Oh, I suppose I’ll finish it.
After a good night’s sleep and a long walk.
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