Monday, May 28, 2007

Like a Hole in the Head

I have a head cold, my hubby gave it to me, coz you know, when you're married, you just have to share everything. Luckily its not too bad, just a bit of a sore throat and lots of tissues needed. But still, it's enough to make me feel achy and miserable.
Meanwhile, I've written a whole 12 pages on that novella I decided to write for that competition. If I keep going at this rate, I'll never make the deadline. I have no idea what's going on with me at the moment. Usually when I decide to start a new project, I get all excited and whip out 50 or so pages in no time. I could have it half finished by now. Instead, the couch is calling me, so that's where I'm headed. Maybe when I get rid of this annoying cold, I'll really get into it.
I'm distracted, I know I am. Writing is apparently not the most forgiving endeavour in the world.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Obsessed or Vigilant?

I haven't managed to move much further on since the last post. I've still been keeping an eye on the query letter critiques they're doing over at the BookEnds Blog, but luckily I seemingly haven't made any of the other mistakes the agent has been pointing out in other people's letters. As for my own prospects, I'm beginning to get into "I'm not sure how to proceed" territory. I have several proposals out at the moment, and there's one agent in particular I've been waiting to hear back from. I might have talked about this before. I was told that if I hadn't heard in 12 - 16 weeks, to email and find out what was going on with it. Well, I emailed at 12 weeks, just to check in, but didn't receive a reply. Now its reached 16 weeks and I suppose I should email again to once again ask how my proposal's going. But, when does a querying writer go from politely enquiring to being a pest in an agent's eyes? I'm aware that they're most likely very busy, and my proposal is way down there on their list of priorities, but I'd just really like to know what's going on. I suppose emailing at this point wouldn't be considered pestering, since that was the instructions, but what do I then do if I still don't get a reply? I guess I'll get the answer when they're good and ready to, but I hate waiting more than anything, and would just like to get things wrapped up so I can continue moving forward. Since I sincerely think that this agent may not take my paranormal (not because there's anything truly wrong with it [I hope!] but because of what I talked about a couple of entries ago, with the whole market-saturation of paranormal romance), and if that's the case, I'd really like to offer them my action/suspense, since I'm in love with that at the moment and think it has good potential. So I guess I will email them, and see what happens. I can only do so much!
Speaking of doing so much, I've decided to enter this competition at Wild Rose Press, so I have 20,000 words to write and polish to publishing standard by the 30th of August. But I've already done lots of research and written 2000 words today, so I've made a good start. And I get to write a historical time travel romance, which I've always wanted to do. My problem is going to be containing it within 20,000 words, since once I get a story going, I tend to keep going and have no trouble (usually) writing a 100,000 word manuscript. Anyway, I'd better write this email before I lose my nerve and then get back to writing my new ms. 2000 down, 18,000 to go!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dammit!

There are a few agent blogs that I like to read, they're interesting and they give you lots of hints on how to approach agents and the way you should go about putting together your proposal package.
Today I was reading Bookends Blog in which one of the agents offered to critique people's query letters to give us an idea of what works and what doesn't.
Well, apparently I'm already waaay on the wrong track. In the first example, the opening paragraph of the letter thanked the agent for the opportunity, etc etc, to which the agent responded:

Don’t thank me. I didn’t give you an opportunity and it sounds sniveling. Be strong right up front. There’s no need to thank me, because your story is so good I should be thanking you for giving me the chance.

And when the closing paragraph thanked her for her time once again, she also wrote:

And don’t thank an agent for her time. Your time is just as valuable as mine. Simply let me know that you look forward to hearing from me. Stay strong. Think car salesman.

My query letter?

Thank you for inviting me to send you this proposal package for my paranormal romance manuscript, The Last Shadow. Also, thank you for replying to my query email so quickly, I sincerely appreciated it.

And the last paragraph?

Thank you for the time you are spending to read over this proposal, I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Dammit!
But I don't have time to be upset about it, since I have to rush off to work now. Maybe I'll have a moment of despair over it later this afternoon.
PS... I was just trying to be polite!
Oh, and by the way, yesterday I wrote a total of 4663 words for BIAW.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

BIAW So Far

Well, it's Tuesday and I've been participating in BIAW for 2 days now, how utterly exciting!
Yesterday I wrote 2907 words, which I thought was a good start since I've been so seriously slack lately. Today so far I've written 2396 words, though I do plan to continue, to try and get myself over the 3000 word mark, leaving me 9000 words or so to write between tomorrow and Sunday. Since I'm working for the rest of the week, I thought it might be a good idea to get out as many as I could early on.
But enough about that, as fascinating as I'm sure it is.
BIAW has actually been a little tough for me so far. Not the actual writing part, just because I have to totally admit I'm going through a "woe-is-me" stage at the moment. Maybe that's why I just haven't been able to bring myself to write these past weeks.
Fine. I'll admit it. All of the rejections I've gotten off agents the past months are not rolling off me like water on a duck, as I may have previously led you to believe. Don't get the wrong idea, my resolve to be published is still kicking, alive and well. But I guess you can only get so many rejections before the negative thoughts start creeping in. It's not all bad, as I may have been making it sound. I have had some requests for partials (though no requests for a full ms, but that could have something to do with the fact that I'm actually yet to finish the damn thing), though quite obviously the rejects outweigh those.
So, what negative thoughts am I having, you may wonder? Unfortunately its the usual round of "why am I bothering with this? Obviously it's not good enough to be published, my writing isn't strong enough, my characters aren't working, the story isn't interesting enough blah blah blah."
Most of these doubts I just push aside and forge on, ignoring that evil little voice in my head.
However, in all honesty, I'm beginning to think I missed the Paranormal Romance Train. Here's an interesting little story:
When I began writing, I wanted to write Historical Romance, and I did. Three complete manuscripts. Actually, I banged out the first one really quickly, then the other two I slowly wrote over the past couple of years, because despite whatever else I happen to be writing, I love my historicals the most, and hope to go back, fix them up (because believe me, they need fixing, the first one especially) and get them published. At the time when I started writing, six years ago, Regency Historicals were huge. They were all the rage. Authors like Julia Quinn, Suzanne Enoch, Karen Hawkins, Gaelen Foley, Sabrina Jefferies and Elizabeth Boyle were dominating the market. They were the benchmark. Everyone wanted their books, everyone wanted to write like them.
With the absolute saturation of historicals on the market, I soon realized that it was very hard for a debut author to have anything historical published, when one: there was that saturation happening, and two: they were going up against the authors as mentioned above.
So I put my dreams of publishing historicals aside and decided I was going to write something else. I came up with an idea. I loved Buffy, the whole Vampire/paranormal thing was something I'd enjoyed, though at that stage I'd only read one or two of Christine Feehan's Carpathian series. There were a few paranormals about at that time, but not many, and the idea I had was original. I wanted a male character who thought he was the last vampire, and I was going to put him up against the very people who slaughtered his own, a race of Immortals.
So I wrote and wrote and wrote. Admittedly it took me a good year or more to write the manuscript. I was studying and working at the same time, so my personal time for writing was limited. But in 2005, I had a manuscript ready to go. I sent it out, and of course got rejections and some more rejections, but a proposal that went out in September of that year stayed out, a certain publisher kept it. They didn't send it back. In fact, they kept it for a year. In that time, paranormals started coming out like they were a new brand of Coca Cola. Sherrilyn Kenyon was making a killing (no pun intended) with her Dark Hunter series, and other paranormal authors were seeing success left right and centre.
I was worried about my proposal. I still loved the idea, but the story I'd written and characters I'd used just didn't seem right, and it had taken me a while to see it. So I experimentally started again, aiming to have a darker, more intense story than the first. It had new characters, so of course a totally different feel to the first.
That certain publisher finally sent it back, and to my excitement, the editor herself had written to me, no form rejection for me this time!. She said that while she was intrigued by the idea, she didn't like the characters or story, so wouldn't pursue that particular work. Maybe I read the letter a thousand times (or more) and totally over analyzed it, but I felt by her wording that the subject was not entirely closed should I wish to pursue it. Since I had several chapters of the new/same story sitting there, I edited the hell out of them and sent them back, only to find out a scant few weeks later that this particular editor had moved on from that certain publishing house, much to my disappointment. So, as of now, my proposal has sat at that certain publishing house for a good eight months. But at least they haven't sent it back, which is the far better alternative, though obviously not as good as just agreeing to publish the stupid thing.
I do have a point to this long story, and that is I feel Paranormal Romance has reached a point where Historical Romance was a few years ago. There is such a saturation of Paranormal Romance on the market at the moment that it's not funny. I love paranormal, but it's starting to ruin it for me. You see, there are great authors, like JR Ward and Sherrilyn Kenyon to name two, and then there's the saturation. Seriously. Some of the paranormals I've read, or attempted to read lately, have been a real disappointment.
IMHO, these books are getting published on the uniqueness of their idea alone, and because paranormal is such a big hit at the moment. It is quite obvious that with some of these authors, their ability to write was not the first thing that caught the editor's attention. Some of them are debut authors (which is great for them, having achieved success!) and I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, that their writing will improve with age and experience (says me... who might as well be a spring chicken). Perhaps I shouldn't be too critical, since you find this phenomenon with any genre in any corner of the market. There's the authors who weave stories so successfully that the book is over before you know it, and then there's the authors who are so clumsy they can barely keep two paragraphs together. Until recently, there'd only been one instance in my reading history where I'd been so frustrated with the writing that I literally threw the book across the room. But unfortunately, this occurrence has been happening more and more often, which is also starting to make me wary of buying books which are by authors I've never read before. But, what goes around comes around, and since Karma is a clever woman, I hate to think what some critiques might say about my books, should I ever get them published!
So what I'm saying is that I've missed the Paranormal Romance Train. Despite having worked on this idea for a good four years now, despite the fact that paranormals were barely a dent in readership statistics when I started, I missed the ban-wagon (or is it band-wagon? I don't actually know, which is why I should probably avoid using such cliches. And cliches are like a death knell anyway. If an editor was reading this, they'd probably say 'she's managed to fit 50 cliches into this one post, I'd hate to see what her manuscripts look like.' For the record, I do avoid the old cliches in my manuscripts, but for informal writing, they are such fun!), and now I'm quite sure that editors and agents alike are quite sick of seeing "I've written a paranormal romance about vampires and I'd like you to consider representing me/publishing my book," whenever they happen to open a letter.
So I'm giving myself until the end of June. I'll finish the manuscript (after all, I only have about 20,000 words left to write) and I might send out a few more query letters here and there, but when June 30 comes around, that'll be it. The paranormal will be going away. You might think it a waste to put away a project I've been working on for four years or whatever, but to be quite frank, I'm sick of paranormal myself. Besides, I've got an action/suspense romance half written that I started last year. It's been calling me back, the characters trying to distract me away from Vampires and Immortals. So, for the second half of this year, I'll be sending out queries for the action/suspense romance. There's not so many of those about at the moment. A few, I'll grant, but we're not drowning in them like the damn paranormals. Lets hope I can actually get somewhere with this manuscript, and not get bulldozed over by the Romantic Suspense Train, if indeed it happens to be on the way. You can never tell in this market. I have heard said that Westerns are going to come back big time. All I have to say is: AHHHH!!! I've never liked Westerns, so I don't think I'll ever find myself reading any of those. And I'm not writing what I think will get published, contrary to the evidence of it. I'm writing the stories that are clamouring for attention in my head. It might mean that I never get published, but at least if I write them down, the characters won't be running around in my head any longer, shoving each other out of the way in order to get my attention.
But like I said before, what goes around comes around. Maybe by the time I'm 50, paranormals will have been and gone, and come back again, and my story will be shared with the world then. In the meantime, I pray that I might be able to eventually get my historicals published. I don't know why, but I love them so!
Sorry this was The Longest Entry in the History Of JessAnastasi.blogsopt.com, but it had to be said. Wish me well, as I take on yet another new path.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Concerned

I didn't want to be. Concerned, that is. I'd like to go on pretending that everything is dandy, and that June is not looming like a large semi-trailer on the horizon, ready to plow me down in my little car of obliviousness, as I'm putting along on the freeway of publishing.
I was all set to take on 2007. I had a slogan, I had a plan, I was determined. Now June and the halfway point of the year is just around the corner, and what do I have to show for it but a new pile of rejections. Don't get me wrong, I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I'm not writing this entry in self pity, my resolve is not wavering. But did I think I'd have an agent or publishing contract by now? Possibly not. But did I think I would feel closer to achieving that goal? Definitely yes! Am I becoming more obsessed with the idea as time wears on... reading my last few entries will give you that answer!
Of course for all the rejections I've gotten, there are still a handful of proposals out there that I'm hinging my hopes on, one in particular. But the way the year is flashing by is definitely scaring me. You see, when I decided to become a writer, I set a very specific goal for myself.
I would be published by my 26th birthday. Why, you ask? Well, it's very simple.
One of the authors who inspired me to become a writer myself was Julia Quinn. Ms Quinn had her first book published when she was 25. This was going to be my bench mark. Thus, by the time I turned 26, I would have one of my very own books sitting on my bookcase. Almost six years ago now, when I was 19, this age and subsequent goal seemed like a very long way away. I had ages to get there. I wasn't worried. Sure, the publishing industry was not a very friendly place at times, it would be a huge challenge, but I knew I could do it. I had no doubts whatsoever.
But then I spent four of those years studying. I got engaged and then married, I went on numerous holidays to the tropics, we contemplated children, and then low and behold, I find myself a scant few months away from my 25th birthday.
So you can probably see why I vowed to make 2007 my year. The fact that it's now almost half over has my brain scattering about, re-examining my strategies to this point, trying to decide if I should try another tact, come at it from a different angle. But I know deep down, whatever I come up with probably won't make a difference.
As much as writers probably don't want to admit it, a whole chunk of this industry comes down to two very basic things. Persistence and luck. Persistence to keep sending out proposals even though you think you may have been rejected by every person possible in the industry, and luck that one day your manuscript will just happen to land on the right desk at the right time and your break will happen instantly, as if you haven't just spent the last decade tearing your hair out, trying everything to get the attention of agents and editors.
So what will I do if yet another year goes by, my 26th birthday comes and goes without a publishing contract in sight? Well, I may have a moment (or several) of despair, I may sit in a corner for a while, rocking back and forth as I try to find my sanity, which obviously fled me when I decided writing was a good career choice. But in the end, I'll gather my (likely tattered) resolve, pick up the pieces of my ideas and continue on. I might not get published until I'm 50 (and wouldn't my husband be horrified at that idea? I keep him silent about my lack of paying work and lack of house work in favour of writing on the promise that I'll get my "break" soon and then at least I'll have a dribble of income coming in. Little does he know that I don't care about the money, I just want to share my stories). But I know one thing for certain, I definitely won't get published if I give up, and luckily I don't have the capacity for giving up within me. Once I've decided to do something, I just keep going until I get where I want to be. I guess I've just never taken on something so big that has eclipsed so many years before.
With all that said, I still pray to the fates every night that someone, somewhere, soon will give me that chance I've been waiting for.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

New & Exciting!

It's Saturday morning here in Oz, and absolutely nothing exciting is going on. I still haven't managed to stick myself in front of my computer long enough to get any real writing done, I'm telling myself that I'm saving it all up for BIAW. In reality, I'm enjoying my holiday in Procrastination Land (according to some esteemed RWAus members!) waaaaay to much, and no doubt I'll catch the very last train I can out and arrive for BIAW just in time to stress myself into writer's block. Actually, I've never had writer's block, so let's pray that I don't start now, coz that would be a serious disaster! I'm so close to finishing my WIP it's not funny. I don't know why I just don't sit down and do it already!
Anyhoo, as entertaining as my lack of writing apparently is, I actually came here to post a short (obviously) message about this great new forum that's started up on the internets lately.

The Best Forum in the World

Many intelligent, witty, entertaining people stop by and discuss the staple of human existence, aka TV. Ok, since I'm a writer, I quite clearly could be shot for saying that TV is the staple of human existence. But come on, people. I truly think (as a genre writer, I would) that TV is quite good for our imagination. But that's me. You see, I don't just watch TV, I analyse the story, I'm thinking about the script, the words that have been used and what sort of impact they create. TV shows and movies are like living books to me, and I do so love my fiction. Of course, I am very picky, I won't just watch anything and I certainly won't watch reality TV (blah!). I want to be challenged, I want to be inspired, which is why I always find it so sad when the most original show ideas are cancelled prematurely -- don't get me started on Firefly again! Meanwhile, coincidentally, Nathan Fillon's new show, Drive, was cancelled by Fox after only 4 eps or something, and now they're calling the poor man The Show Killer.
In my opinion, NF is a brilliant actor, Joss Whedon's idea for Firefly was brilliant, and it's sad that in this shallow, consumerist environment, if a show isn't immediately meeting some ridiculous ratings quota, they're cancelled in favour of cheaper reality shows, just so that the studios that are already making a bazillion dollars a month can then make a bazillion and one dollars a month. Perhaps I'm getting too cynical in my old age, but if I see one more brainless reality TV show (and yes, Big Brother has just started again here in Oz, and it's driving me crazy) or another generic cop/lawyer/detective/whatever show, then I might possibly rip the cable right out of the wall and forsake it all for DVDs.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Not So Scary Now

This is only going to be a quick entry since I'm actually supposed to be having a shower and getting ready for work (yes, I like to write at the most inopportune moments), but I just wanted to say something.
As you know, I'm desperately -- ahem, I mean determinedly, trying to find myself an agent and subsequently a publishing contract this year. It's been six long years since I decided that I was going to be an author, six years of writing and rejections and... well, you know how it goes.
When writers decide they're going to send their work out, this is no small thing. It means people are going to be critically looking over your work, looking for flaws, looking for reasons not to publish it. For many writers, this experience is very harrowing. For myself, I was prepared. This is my career, so I treat it like a job. Sure, rejections aren't fun, but I always keep in mind that whoever has rejected me is not actually rejecting me personally, it's just that in a business and dollars sense, they felt that my work would not be a beneficial business transaction. So I shrug my shoulders, learn what I can and move onto to the next candidate.
But I'm getting off topic. Even scarier than sending letters to publishers is sending letters to agents. For some reason, us writers (especially the newbies) are terrified of agents. Why? I don't know now. You see, since I've been querying agents, starting at the end of last year, I've found them to be nothing but straightforward, friendly and very helpful. They're not the scary people we seem to think they are at all. They want to be able to help you get published, but it's up to us to do our best, write the best query letter, synopsis and manuscript that we can, all to make their job easier.
So, all I really wanted to do was thank all the agents who have been so nice and helpful to me, yes, even the ones who rejected me. I have no doubt that somewhere out there, one of you is meant to be mine.