Advice to New Writers: First, You Have To Finish It

keep-calm-and-finish-it-5In my interview with Prism Book Alliance, I was asked to give new and aspiring writers a piece of advice. The advice I gave was this:

Finish things. When you’re starting to write, it’s really easy to get insecure and to hate your writing and to psych yourself out. It’s really easy to start things but not finish things. But you have to finish things. If you don’t finish the things you start, then you won’t learn how to craft a narrative. You won’t learn how to push through that crappy first draft and turn off that critical editor voice until the second draft. Remember, you can’t publish something that isn’t finished. You have to learn to finish things.

I thought I’d take today’s post to expand on this advice. The funny thing about the way I got into writing fiction is that I started writing to help someone else finish what they started. Basically everything set in the universe of Aerdh–from “The Other Side of Town” to Ariah–can be traced back to that. My partner, Jon, was dabbling in fiction, and I liked what he was writing, but he wasn’t finishing it. So I stepped in to help. I became the finisher. And over time, I ended up doing all the writing.

Not finishing what you start is a form of self-rejection. It’s a way of letting your fear that you’r not a good writer prevent you from doing the work that will actually make you a good writer. The truth of the matter is that when you’re just starting out it probably isn’t good. And that’s ok. The trick is to finish it anyway. You won’t ever get better unless you keep at it. It’s a matter of practice, of building skills. And one of the main skills you need to build is learning to craft a complete story: a beginning, a middle, and an end. But if you never finish anything, how will you learn to craft an ending?

Many of my friends who have dabbled in fiction but who have not really made a go of it suffer from starting-but-not-finishing syndrome. Either they start a handful of things when inspiration strikes and bail on the stories at the first sign of trouble, or they have been fastidiously tinkering with the same novel year in and year out.

In the first case, this won’t lead to growth as a writer because there’s no diligence. Writing is a craft, and should be treated as such. It’s a set of skills, and if you really want to grow as a writer, you should approach it as a set of tools you want to sharpen and hone. The myth of the muse dropping into your lap, hypnotizing you into feverishly churning out an opus is just that: a myth. This is a way of trying to avoid that there’s the actual work of writing in being a writer. Forcing yourself to finish things, even when it’s a slog, will give you the grit needed to get the work done.

In the second case, you’re not growing as a writer because you’re trying to write and edit at the same time. Do one, then the other. Stop trying to fine tune your first draft before you’ve finished writing it. But that can be hard to do when you’ve tinkered with it for years! By then, you’ve invested so much time and energy that finishing it feels huge and overwhelming. Take the finishing part in pieces. Maybe write the ending and work backwards. But finish it first, then start tweaking it again. Otherwise, you’re just stalling, which is another form of self-rejection. Better yet, finish it, send it to a beta reader, then tweak it per the beta reader’s feedback. But finishing it is key.

On Finishing THE INCOMING TIDE

TheIncomingTide_wordle

According to my meticulously kept daily writing records, I started planning out The Incoming Tide last October two days after finishing Extraction. The records show fairly steady work on it, interrupted now and again for a burst of short stories or focused edits on other projects further down the publishing pipeline. Still, I didn’t finish the first draft of The Incoming Tide until May 22nd. It clocked in at 70k words, which is on the slim side for a novel. It took me seven months to crank out 70k words. Maybe that’s not slow, but it certainly felt slow to me—Ariah is a hefty 128k words and I wrote it in a little under three months. Ariah is nearly twice as long and took half the time, so what gives?

The Incoming Tide was an altogether different beast. Ariah was a second draft. It was a substantively rewritten second draft, but still it was a second draft. I knew the characters. I knew the shape and color of the narrative. I knew, in short, what I was writing. So there’s that: first drafts feel different, and for me, they often take a little more time to get out. And, actually, referring once again to my copious records, The Incoming Tide is the only first draft of a novel I’ve written since I started trying to get my work out there. Everything else had been rewrites. Extraction, the volume preceding Tide in the Tale of Rebellion series, is on its fourth draft.

But it was more than that. Tide felt sometimes hard to write. I felt a weird pressure while living in that book. Drafting and redrafting and redrafting Extraction meant that I could never quite move past it. Tide was like a light at the end of that tunnel. Tide was the promised land. It’s strange, you know, getting finally to that blinding light. It takes awhile for your eyes to adjust. It took me some time to find the rhythm of Tide, to find the style and voice of it.

Of course as soon as I finished Tide I started planning the follow-up book, The King and His Makers. Of course I did. But I’ve taken a couple of weeks off from it to queue up blog posts, to work on edits for Ariah, to ponder life. A little bit of space, I think, will take the edge off and make the first draft of King a little less scary.

Stuck in Rewrite Mode

It’s hard to write the second half of a story when you’ve only ever written the first half. Extraction is done, and I’m working on its sequel, which I’ve tentatively titled The Incoming Tide. Drafting The Incoming Tide is a completely different experience than rewriting Extraction—as I mentioned in this post , Extraction brewed for years and was the fourth completely overhauled draft of the book. Extraction was a matter of writing the same story over and over; I knew what its themes were, and I knew where it needed to go before I ever sat down at the keyboard this time around.

The thing about The Incoming Tide is that it’s only ever existed as sketched-out worldbuilding notes. Because I’ve written past this moment in Aerdh’s history (notably in Ariah and sections of Sound and Song) I know how the story ends. And I have a fairly detailed outline worked out already. I know what I’m writing, but writing it the first time and writing it the fourth time are different experiences.

Since The Incoming Tide is yet in its infancy, it’s a strangely reflective process. According to my writing log*, I started The Incoming Tide on Halloween, which means I’ve been working on it for about three weeks. And I’ve made progress:

ATOR_IncomingTide_01

16k words in three weeks is not bad at all. Three chapters in as many weeks is nothing to smirk at. So, the writing is clipping right along. The thing about it is that I’m trying to work how how to write the story right along with what the story actually is. This two-headed discovery process characterizes first drafts for me, and sometimes it’s thrilling and sometimes it’s unnerving. This time, for whatever reason, it’s unnerving. I’m second-guessing everything—are these the right viewpoint characters? Is the pacing alright? I think I have to many plot threads going already and need to scale back; Extraction really crystallized as a book when I pared it down. Right now, the draft has two storylines working in parallel, and I think they could feasibly be split into separate books. But I like writing the characters in both! Argh.

The solution is simple, but it’s not all that easy: just keep writing. Just write it all and sort it out in the rewrite. Just write and write and write some more and get some fresh eyes on it to get it where it needs to be. Something about moving from a final iterative draft of Extraction to this completely new initial draft of The Incoming Tide has me doing something I haven’t done in years—it’s got me trying to approach a first draft like it’s the final draft. 16k words in and I’m still struggling to change my internal frame of reference.

*Spreadsheets for everything! It even has aggregation formulae and shit embedded in it!

More Processing on the Writing Process

I submitted RESISTANCE to the press last Sunday, and now I’m in the waiting-for-feedback limbo. I’m still very much in the process headspace, and I just finished re-reading all the Harry Potter books and having all the resulting Harry Potter feelings, so it was time to grab something new to read off the shelf. I grabbed this:

really this should be titled WATCH STEINBECK WRITE LIKE A BOSS

I didn’t really think too much about it, just shoved it in my backpack. And then I marveled at the fact that my backpack was at least 5 pounds lighter than it had been in two months since I was no longer hauling around a Harry Potter tome, but that’s neither here nor there. I grabbed it, and then I cracked it open on a bus and realized I was reading, largely in real time, a (much greater) author’s own process-y headspace while he wrote EAST OF EDEN. Apparently I am still very much in dialogue with myself about the writing process, and now I am in a one-sided dialogue with John Steinbeck, too. This volume is a collection of letters he wrote but did not send to his editor, Pascal Covici, while he wrote the first draft of EAST OF EDEN. The letter served as a warm-up exercise for him, something to get him in the groove of the day’s authorial work, and as such they flit from the gritty mundanities of smudged graphite to his ultimate sweeping purpose for his novel from paragraph to paragraph. The style is casual and unguarded, which makes sense given that he never expected anyone to read these letters, and it serves as a friendly work diary.

There are weird familiarities in terms of process as I read Steinbeck’s work diary. He talks of his book “having pups” and getting longer and longer, breeding side-stories and subplots. And, man, do I ever know that feeling. My books are all so interconnected that I sometimes feeling like I’m writing fanfiction about my own stuff. RESISTANCE, or rather its base story, “Proof”, came about because one of the leads was mentioned in “Blue Flowers” and the other lead down the line has certain interactions with some characters in THE LONG ROAD. This whole project began, essentially, as a way of filling in some backstory for other projects. Every minor character is a hero in her own story, and I have a very strong tendency to let every minor character take center stage at some point.

Steinbeck is also a much more deliberate writer than I am in terms of structure. This could be simply an individual difference, but it could also be that EAST OF EDEN was written late in Steinbeck’s career, written when he had done most of his learning and stumbling, while I’m still just crawling through. He had very particular ideas of what a chapter is or should be. He had very particular ideas about how chapters should relate to and balance each other. He came into the book very much knowing how he wanted it to be read–not necessarily what he wanted to say, but how he wanted the reader to feel, what the experience of reading it should be like. He spends much more time in his unsent letters discussing pace, discussing the need to keep himself relaxed in order to keep the text itself relaxed, than he does on plot or character development. Again, maybe this is a sign of my youth as a writer, but I haven’t yet started a project with an intent to readership experience like that. I don’t know that I can just yet.

Now, I really like RESISTANCE. I think it’s awesome. It’s no EAST of EDEN, though; that shit was a masterpiece. The biggest, strangest and most obvious revelation I’ve had reading his letters is that the work one writer is the work of all writers. Steinbeck wrote long hand with pencils–he was very, very particular about his pencils, actually and spends much time outlining his pencil preferences in these unsent letters to his editor–and I wrote RESISTANCE on a laptop. He wrote EAST OF EDEN at home at a very particular writing desk of his own design, which he fiddled with and perfected over the course of the novel, and I wrote RESISTANCE mostly on buses and airplanes. The methods are different, but his process and mine and probably everyone else’s is essentially the same: you just…write it. You just write a chunk (mostly) every day until the beast is done. Or, in Mr. Steinbeck’s own words right as he began:

I don’t suppose writing consists in anything more than doing it.

And so we do it. And sometimes we finish what we start, and sometimes we edit it, and sometimes it sees the light of day. And sometimes–so very rarely, but sometimes–someone writes and finishes and edits something that turns out to be something like EAST OF fucking EDEN.

Writing RESISTANCE: A Post-Mortem of the First Draft

replace this image of someone furiously running with my fingers furiously typing and you get the picture (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

replace this image of someone furiously running with my fingers furiously typing and you get the picture
(image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

RESISTANCE is still not done: it’s currently out to a host of wonderful and voracious beta readers, and then the first draft needs a final pass before I send it to Inkstained Succubus. Then, the editors will read it (and hopefully like it!), there will be a developmental edit, rewrites, line-editing, etc. So RESISTANCE is not done. But, the first draft is done! And getting out that first draft means I’ve jumped a pretty huge hurdle already.

Writing the first draft of RESISTANCE was a different process than writing anything else I’ve ever written. Not the content–after all, RESISTANCE is an expansion of my short story “Proof” and is set in fantasy universe I’ve written in many times before. What was different about RESISTANCE is that this was the first piece of fiction I’ve ever written on someone else’s timeline. And it is the first piece of fiction I’ve written with an explicit idea of getting it published. The combination was a doozy, let me tell you.

I confess I had a touch of panic. I had a few moments of imposter syndrome-induced neurosis. Nathan Bransford described J. K. Rowling as a clutch writer. While I was writing this draft of RESISTANCE I felt like anything but a clutch writer. I had a weird blindness: I would write and reread what I’d written and I could not tell if what I’d written was good. It seemed good? Maybe? BUT THIS IS FOR REAL IS THIS REALLY GOOD?? The self-doubt just crept up and lingered around the edges of my brain. Added to this that I rarely write a plot so meticulously planned, which gave me a feeling of being slightly out of my comfort zone, and I very much had no idea if what I was doing was going to fly.

I went with it anyway. I have, more or less, two secret superpowers: 1) I am a fearless public speaker and (more relevant) 2) I am really, really good at buckling down and barreling through a heinous amount of work. The meticulous planning was, in retrospect, a good move on my part–I had no moments of writer’s block. I sprinted to the finish line in a mad dash, because the faster I wrote the more time I’d have to polish this manuscript before sending it to the editors. And now it’s done, and I’ve read it and a couple of other folks have read it, and the early feedback is promising. I am still anxious, definitely I’m still anxious, but the draft is tangible now. At the very least I like it and that’s something. Whether the editors will agree is still an open question, but I like it and that feels pretty great.

I had thought in the planning and the sprinting that the actual writing process itself would be more…stale. I had thought that by planning everything out and writing so fast that I would effectively be choking out that exploratory part of the writing. Turns out I was wrong. Mapping out the plot served to make this a smoother, faster process, to be sure, but the book still evolved organically. Themes fell into place that worked with the plot but which I didn’t see coming. The story twisted and turned in ways that surprised me even though I followed my 14 page outline virtually to the letter. In retrospect, it’s a tiny bit silly that I thought writing RESISTANCE would be a perfunctory thing; the rewrites of ARIAH were no less meticulously planned out and no less surprising to me as I drafted them anyway. I’ve been mired in a lot of first drafts lately, and it could be that I’d forgotten how fresh and exhilarating a from-scratch second draft is.

I am marking this as a success, which means I’ve just edged a little bit further out of my comfort zone as an emerging writer. And really, when you’re a writer at any level, is there anything better than coming out of a project and feeling like you grew in the process?

ETA: Hey this is my 100th blog post! What a cool little coincidence.

PROOF Expansion ready for beta readers!

bigger and better than ever

bigger and better than ever

Holy shit, you guys, I finished expanding “Proof” into a novel! I have tentatively retitled it Resistance as adding 45k words does tend to change the scope and focus of the work a little bit. I’m planning on writing up my process and experience working on a deadline, but for now, I’ll just throw out a call for beta readers!

Resistance has many faces, and one of them is Shandolin’s. When she finds her friend brutally murdered, Shandolin knows that her life as an elf living in the City of Mages under the heel of the Qin is going to get a whole lot harder. Though the Qin have her in their sights and put an assassin on her trail, Shandolin decides to fight instead of run–but her only hope of survival is a takeover of the City government.

Shandolin draws everyone she loves into the fray with her: her assassin lover, Rivna, who would prefer a quiet life; her mentor, Moshel, whose history with the Qin leaves him paralyzed and frightened; and her best friend, Kel, who has too many mouths to feed to play a losing game of politics. Apart, they are weak, but together Shandolin and her friends, lovers and fellows may be just strong enough to save their skins and the skins of the other elves in the City.

Set in the unique and finely realized fantasy universe of Aerdh, RESISTANCE is a completed fantasy novel 52,000 words in length. RESISTANCE is about the big and small ways hunted people fight back, and what it may cost them if they win the fight.

Interested? Let me know!

PROOF Expansion Update

I did not mean to neglect this blog so long, but as you are about to see, I have been hella busy. the expansion of “Proof” into a novel is going really well! I am actually ahead of schedule already. Good job, me. Anyway, I thought I would write up a post that walks you through my process for this blitz writing project step by step, because if there’s one thing the aspiring author blogosphere needs it’s another writing process post!

Step 1: Make a plan of attack

Evernote is awesome because you can stick in to do check boxes, and there's nothing sweeter than checking off a box. I'M DONE, BRO you say to Evernote. And then Evernote buys you flowers.

Evernote is awesome because you can stick in to do check boxes, and there’s nothing sweeter than checking off a box. I’M DONE, BRO you say to Evernote. And then Evernote buys you flowers.

I have a hard deadline for this project–August 1st–so it made sense to me to map backward from the hard deadline to see what needed to be done by when. I know my writing process well enough now to know I would need time for worldbuilding/brainstorming, obviously writing time, and then a little cushion at the end for copyediting. Because, you guys, I am a shit typist, and I don’t catch the terrible typing as I’m writing. Since this is my first project I’m doing ~for realsies!~ like with a really good shot at seeing it published I am kind of nervous. Instead of getting stuck in the self-doubting seventh circle of hell, I’ve built in even more cushion time to get a couple of my very fastest beta readers to look through the manuscript before I send it off (though if they’re like WOW B THIS SUCKS MONKEY BALLS I’m not sure there is functionally enough time to really do anything about that; this is mostly a peace-of-mind thing).

I gave myself a week of worlbuilding/planning time at the start, then two weeks at the end for edits. The time in between is writing time, and I worked out how much I would need to write everyday all of those days in order to hit 60k words by the point at which I need to start editing.

Step 2: The outline to end all outlines
You see the highlighting? The highlighting means I'm taking this seriously.

You see the highlighting? The highlighting means I’m taking this seriously.

I mentioned before that I’m not much of a plotter, but for this project plotting makes sense logistically. I’m pretty sure that was exactly the right call to make, so I wrote up a very extensive outline of what is essentially the original short story but with many more complications and a handful of new characters thrown in for flavor.

The thing is, when I say I don’t plot or plan much for most of my work, I mean that pretty much wholesale. I don’t structure the plot ahead of time, and I certainly don’t pay much attention to the structure of the book itself (chapters, sections, etc). But I did this time. I figured give or take 6k words was about the right length for a chapter which in a 60k draft would mean give or take ten chapters, so I printed out the Massive Outline and broke up the action by chapter, and within chapters broke it into scenes.

Step 3: Structuring the draft in Scrivener

Oh, corkboard feature. What a fool I was to think I'd never use you.

Oh, corkboard feature. What a fool I was to think I’d never use you.

Each scene got its own notecard with the following: a chapter designation, a scene number, a quick and dirty summary of the action this scene pushes forward, and keywords describing the characters present, major plot points, and setting.

The fact that you can mouse over the card in the binder and it displays the summary is super useful while writing–essentially, it lets me write to the next scene so I can keep any foreshadowy bits in mind as I go along.

Step 4: Get your write on

This is the fun part.

This is the fun part.

I’ve set this hard goal of 2200 words per day every day until the book is done. Now, I work 40+ hours a week and parent a toddler and have, like, a life and shit, so 2200 was, I thought, a reach goal. But it’s working.

I write on the bus, basically exclusively on the bus. I have a 40 minute block in the morning where I’m getting out about 1200 words, and I have another 40 minute block on my way home in the afternoon where I usually match or surpass the amount written that morning. The fact that I know the story so well and have hammered out all the actual stuff that happens makes this a bit easier, but by a week in honestly I think the rhythm of writing in two focused blocks helps me get all those words out.

This is not to say there haven’t been surprises along the way. The chapter structure has shifted a little. Characters I definitely did not expect to show up came into the story. Characters I thought I knew quite well showed me a whole different side to them. Despite all that meticulous planning and the rigidity of my writing schedule, the actual writing part of this project still feels very organic, which I think is a good sign.

Step 5: Progress monitoring is key

And we're back to my dear old friend Excel which you may have noticed I use for basically everything.

And we’re back to my dear old friend Excel which you may have noticed I use for basically everything.

I keep a spreadsheet where I track daily writing, log whether it’s writing or planning or blogging or what, and where I track my queries. I also keep a list of books I’ve read in here. Look, I just like lists, ok? That’s not a crime.

Usually I just have this log because I like data, but for this project it’s vital to track and monitor how closely I’m following that week-by-week project plan I’ve got over in Evernote. Doing this showed me that this weekend HOLY SHIT I was actually far enough ahead of schedule that I could take a break from writing. Which was good because I had Proper Adult Things to do this weekend like cook Father’s Day brunch for my partner and organize the hellhole which was once my closet and play with my kid and install a new saddle on my bike. Also somehow I drank an entire jug of orange juice in a single day. That was super important, and frankly, I feel rather accomplished.

This spreadsheet is actually kind of awesome because I have it where it auto-sums the number of words written within the year to date and also it sums the total number of words in a month and takes the average written daily for the month. WHAT I LIKE DATA.

Step 6: Make sure your ducks are in a row

compiling sounds so productive, doesn't it? "Oh, what did you do today?" "I compiled an entire book!" "Wow, look at you go!"

Compiling sounds so productive, doesn’t it? “Oh, what did you do today?” “I compiled an entire book!” “Wow, look at you go!”

I am writing the book according to the specs I’ve set the Scrivener editor to for my own particular preference (12 pt Palatino Linotype, 1.5 spacing in case you’re interested), but lo! The press for whom I’m writing the book has preferences of their own. The mysteries of the human mind. Anyway, they send me a pre-edit checklist and formatting document, and I spent an hour or so tinkering around in Scrivener’s compile settings to work out how best to get Scrivener to export exactly the kind of document they want. I periodically compile a chapter here or there to make sure everything fits their requirements, and then I can just write the damn book without having to scramble at the end to make the formatting work.

So, that’s where I am and what I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks! It’s clipping along at a great place, the nerves about this REALLY BEING A REAL THING are manageable, and I’ve been able to keep my head above water in the other domains of my life. Basically, I feel like this guy:

Well, I feel like this guy if he was, like, wearing clothes.

Well, I feel like this guy if he was, like, wearing clothes.
(image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

When and Where I Write

spoiler: it's on the bus (image courtesy of RTD; click through for source)

spoiler: it’s on the bus
(image courtesy of RTD; click through for source)

I am pretty prolific writer, the kind that finishes multiple novel-length projects per year, but I can only write under certain conditions. Mostly, I just need to focus. I have an extraordinary ability to focus–it doesn’t need to be quiet, I don’t need an empty room, I just need people not to be actively demanding my attention. That’s it. And that’s pretty simple, but the thing is, it’s basically impossible for me to write at home.

I have an hour long commute into and out of work, and I work all day at my day job. I love my family, and I want to see them. They’re my family! They’re great. And they want my attention the second I walk through the door, and I want to give it to them. I’ve tried to write at home, but it’s just not going to happen when my two year old pats the back of my laptop and says, “close it, close it!” She’s only going to be two once; I can’t spend her childhood trapped behind a screen.

I was writing at work, but work has been hectic lately. It’s been like a sprint to quitting time every day the last month or so, which means there hasn’t been any extra downtime to write. Now, I don’t go out much. I don’t do much aside from a) hang with the family, b) go to work and then do work there or c) travel to and from work. My commute to work involves a 45 minute bus ride each way, which means:

I have been writing mostly on the bus. I write hunched up in uncomfortable seats with my too-big government issue work laptop. I write in the stop-start-stop-start lurch that makes a bus ride a bus ride, and I type away while tired, dusty construction workers glance at what I’m working on from the corner of his eye. The bus ride is a twice-daily period where I am crammed in close proximity to 50 strangers, and it’s also paradoxically the twice-daily period that counts as my alone time. It is loud, and it is hot, and it is smelly and I have no elbow room, but the bus is where I get my writing done. I am able to tune the bus and the people on it out and hack away at my fiction. When you’ve got a day job and two partners and a toddler, 45 solid minutes with only the most minimal obligations to those around you is a gift.

Shifting Gears

we pause our regularly scheduled shit for an exciting new project now on an exciting new deadline

we pause our regularly scheduled shit for an exciting new project now on an exciting new deadline
(image courtesy of wikimedia commons; click through for source)

I had a Back to the Drawing Board post all half-written, but it’s going to have to wait. Not that I haven’t made progress on The Long Road rewrites, because I have*, but because it can be put on hold and something else has to get done by August 1st.

I submitted “Proof” to an open call for an anthology, and it caught the interest of the editors! Alas, it doesn’t look like the anthology is happening, but they have expressed interest in me expanding “Proof” into a short novel! They want the daft by August 1st, and I have full confidence I’ll make that deadline.

*Actually, I made quite a bit of progress The Long Road. I started drafting the rewrite! I am about 5k words in. Yep, the second I finished with all that prewriting and worldbarfing and timelining I have to put the project on hold.

Submissions Update: A Bouquet of Near Misses

Image

Well, Ariah made it to the ABNA 2013 semi-finals and no further. I wish this year’s finalist the best of luck! In any case, this seemed as good a time as any to write up an update on my submissions process thus far.

I’ve been writing with discipline and with hard-earned skill for about four years now. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve let anyone besides my partners Jon and Sam read any of my writing. Just sending stuff to friends was incredibly scary, and I think I started doing that around last April. And it wasn’t until last October that I sent anything to publishers or agents–that is, it wasn’t until eight months ago that I actually decided I wanted to try getting published.

Eight months later, I still have no published fiction (though I do have some academic and personal experience pieces published), but I feel really good about my prospects! From what I can tell of the publishing world as an outsider looking in, these things take time. Eight months is for most a blink of an eye on the road to publishing. And, the thing is, though I am new at this and my query letters are most definitely rough around the edges, I have been making it pretty far in my pursuits. It’s been all misses as of yet, but they have been near misses, and that’s pretty  awesome.

Case in point: ABNA 2013. I may have only made it to the semi-finals, but HOLY SHIT that’s still pretty amazing! I thought I’d be cut in the first round…and instead my manuscript was in the top 25 of 10,000 entrants! And I have absolutely glowing external reviews of my manuscript which I can use to beef up my query letter for Ariah (and, incidentally, it’s never been queried–I finished it just in time to submit it to ABNA). So, that’s pretty heartening. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been awesome to snag a publishing deal with a $15k advance, but, hell, I got really, really far.

Way back in October, Harper Voyager opened up a digital submissions process. I submitted a couple of manuscripts, and one of them, Sound and Song, was only rejected last week. Last week! I mean, sure, I would have preferred for them to accept it, but being under consideration so long is certainly a good sign. Sound and Song has also resulted in requests for partials and fulls from agents. A couple of weeks ago it was rejected by an agent, but rejected in a very flattering way:

Even in the first few pages you establish yourself as a writer keenly aware of both characterization and world building.

I sent the agent a heartfelt thank you letter, because she most certainly did not have to go out of her way to say that in her rejection. So, this is yet another near miss.

Near misses I can take. I actually handle rejection extremely well (it’s sort of a secret superpower). I might not have gotten any hard bites yet, but near misses signal that I might get one a lot sooner than a bunch of first round rejections would. Again, the very best of luck to all the ABNA finalists this year, and anyone Harper Voyager picks up through its open submissions, and to any clients that lovely agent ends up representing. I feel good about where I am, and how far I’ve gotten at this point.

EDITED TO ADD – Just now, literally two days after I wrote up this post, I got a firm bite on one of my short stories. So one of these near misses is now blooming into a palpable hit, y’all!