Minor Spillage

My first blog post was called spilling my guts. Now, many months later, I have to confess. I am losing ground, I have spent the last few weeks researching. I need to keep at it, I know that, but I am getting frustrated, hence the title.

I have read that the best works never get published, I am not even sure if I fall into that category — regrettably. The research I have been doing is putting a different light on all my projects, when I go through them I may have a more rounded idea of events that I have written about.

One lesson I learned is that the publishers are looking for niche work, that is currently selling. If my story lines ever fall into that category I would be successful. Right now, they are not. I get feedback that my stories have potential, but it’s not for them. I have sent out three separate queries for three separate novels to different agents.

Recently, I have received replies in a timely fashion. Six days for one reply, which was a negative, but the turnaround was greatly appreciated, I sent out another query immediately. Another query received no response, until I sent a message to the agent, after waiting three months I inquired after seeing a tweet that suggested following up on queries, “don’t assume that the answer is no, it may have been misplaced or lost.” Five days later I received a not interested response, not sure if the follow up prompted a search and second review or if there was a poster on the wall with darts in it.

All of the responses I have received, no matter which book was queried was encouraging, while the general message was “not for us, but don’t get discouraged” I am starting to find out how discouraging it actually is.

There are many ways to spend lots of money as well. I have tried to stay away from doing that, however I did go to a conference and invested a bit, now I am contemplating paying someone to read my stories which will cost more money. In the meantime, my “real job” is taking a hit while I spend hours working my second business — writing, and trying to get published.

My first novel Woven in Time, is now two books 70,000 words each. Most of the comments on the query replies were “good story, too long, don’t give up” so I am working to make sure there are two sound stories there (it’s torture), my third novel Curious Allure has received replies saying similar things “not for us, but keep trying, you’ll find an agent who is interested.” My forth novel The Tea Room has received a similar response.

My fifth novel, is a short story that has been submitted into a contest, however I expanded it to 25,000 words and plan to add to it, there is so much more to say. I have to wait until the first of the year to actively promote it. There it stands, they all fit into a Fantasy Fiction, Women’s Fiction with historical elements genre.

After not blogging for over a week, I had to clean all the barbeque grill and humidifier spam from my comments folder. I did however, find some positive comments amongst the trash. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

Seeing what sticks

I have been keeping busy lately working on my five books. I have finished my third book and sent out one query. I have cleaned up and sent out two more queries on my second book and I am getting ready to enter it in a contest. That reminds me I better keep up with that idea.

I have been reading up on Beta readers. It is difficult to get opinions on a book that is not ready to be published, it is also a daunting task to ask of anyone. I fortunately have found a non family member who read the book and gave a critique on five chapters, I have yet to pick up the MS so I am not sure of the gravity of the suggestions. She was a mystery, thriller genre reader and wasn’t ‘into’ my epic family saga but I appreciate the feedback.

I am considering hiring a freelance editor to read a portion of my first book. It can be very expensive, but reading is very time-consuming and the craft is well appreciated. My father was an English Teacher and I have the DNA but still, it is very daunting. I am still finding errors even after the fifth go around. Another problem is that hovering over the MS is not a good idea you can find words to change up until the publisher shuts you off.

This is a tough business, I don’t mind saying that it can be daunting. I do get plenty of support and encouragement to continue but it does weigh heavy on the mind. One peeve I have recently is the spam coming into my blog. I don’t mind it in a pan with onions and baked beans on the side, but not in my inbox. It is a constant reminder to the volumes of people who use the internet for every purpose. I am amongst them, just another pebble in the sand of life.

I am still reading as often as I can, in between writing and trying to perfect my craft. I am reading Winter King by Bernard Cromwell, I enjoy his stories and have kept up with his writing, I am looking forward to his next story.

In closing, I would like to thank those that have commented to the blog specifically and I would like to invite you to follow me on Twitter. @SNomakeo

A temporary plan

I have finished the book I have been blogging about the Guide to BOOK to Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, by Jeff Herman. It certainly has given me some valuable information. It is suggested to hire a freelance editor before sending the submission to an agent who is only interested in a “finished” product these days. A good thought but very expensive. I have decided to try one more time to send out a submission on my third book and see what happens. My theory is that if my writing is the problem, perhaps the third time is a charm, I may be getting better — one can only hope.

I have spent the last two days, constructing the query, synopsis and going over the first three chapters according to the submission guidelines. One last thing to do, read it out loud to myself if it passes the test I will send the submission out tomorrow. Another reason to forge ahead with this book is that it does qualify in the women’s fiction genre. It is a story of five women placed in a terem in Moscow in the early Eighteenth Century.

Traditionally a terem is a place for women where they are not seen or heard. Starting with the Royals they are held to the strictest of this tradition. High nobility Muscovite women remain in the terem until a marriage can be arranged, the seclusion assures a good price for the match.

My fourth book is about the latter scenario, it is a short story I have submitted to a contest. Two books with similar stories may be too close in subject but this story is seldom told and it relates to the subjugation of women even in our own time. Both stories qualify as women’s fiction, one is more historical the other is a romance with historical elements.

Summer Palace my fourth book is on hold until I hear from the contest but I did add quite a bit more, there was so much more story  to tell than the 4,000 words allowed.

These two books take place in Moscow while Summer Palace extends into the Ottoman Empire.

The Tea Room spans thirteen years from the time of the death of Tsar Alexis I in 1676 to the ousting of Sofia as Regent in 1689.

Summer Palace spans six years  1675 to the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish war in 1681.

My fifth book might come from the fact that I have started to edit my first book Woven In Time. It is now called Woven in Two (For my own benefit) I have begun to experience the hard task of being ruthless and seeing if it can stand alone as two separate books. I may have to pull some chapters out, this is the process I have been trying to avoid.

I did rip my second book apart, if you’ve been reading my blogs I talked about the experience. It wasn’t complete at the time, but even with all that effort I received three rejections out of three submissions. I know, that is not much but I was so sure of it — someone please read my books!

Okay I am better now. Tomorrow I hurry up and wait again. I will continue my assault on Woven In Two and see where that leads.

Say Anything

I have read through the Guide t,o BOOK publishers, Editors & Literary Agents by Jeff Herman, what’s left is looking through all the lists of Publishers, Agents and Editors. It was a good aside while laboring over what steps to take next. I’m thinking it might be a good idea to get some cash saved up and hire an editor. The BOOK has a nice listing of suggested editors.

I have been spending the last few days reviewing the Dark Ages I am not sure if that is where my next story will come from, but I am intrigued and interested in that time period maybe because my recent negative responses have put me in my own dark age.

I am re-reading some of my audiobooks in the meantime, if you can call it reading. My eyesight is not that great and it relieves a lot of wear and tear on my eyes as I am writing and blogging so often, it’s a nice break and I can even read while driving, I drive my daughter to school everyday about 15 minutes one way.

It is a different experience, however, there is a middle man — the narrator. He/she can make or break the story, and some stories cannot be read by anyone other than the reader. There is limited availability as well, although I have been pleasantly surprised as to what is available. Another contrast is the fact that while reading before going to bed and nodding off you may lose your page but with an audiobook it keeps on playing until you wake up and shut it off, it’s recommended you keep track of the chapter you are on so you can easily go back and continue where you left off.

SAY ANYTHING the tile of this post. It’s the mantra of the writer, keep writing for practice, to stay in the habit and write daily to hone your skill. My most recent short story Summer Palace has been submitted in a fiction contest, my sister assures me it is my best writing yet. It was like filling a glass with water, as opposed to leaving the hose in the pool overnight. It forced me to be concise and I still ended up having to lose about one hundred words because of the word count limit. At this point I am anxious to have someone read something I have written, I still have a lot to learn about the business and I have lost some of the confidence I had this summer.

I realize, as I have mentioned in an earlier blog that reading is so personal and requires all of your attention. I have my MS out to several people who volunteered to read it, but I am not getting much feedback, only excuses why they cannot get to it right now. I am finally getting the message that perhaps a re-write is in order.

One of my first mistakes was sending out a first draft to friends to read, thinking that the obvious mistakes could be overlooked, we were looking for content after all. The truth is; readability is severely inhibited when sentence fragments and punctuation is not correct. No one is in your head and endless explanations, although believable, isn’t probable — you will not be sitting next to everyone reading your story.

When I sat down to write tonight I had no idea what I was going to say, hence the title, but look at the word count (559) and increasing with every word. Several times while blogging I would check the WC and found I was approaching (1500 words) and wasn’t aware I had written that much.

As I am starting to understand that is the fun part of writing the free flowing finger moving — spiritual writing, the business end, however, is not so easy and involves so much more than your brain and the keyboard.

Remember: if you write 900 words a day for three months you will have a novel on your hands.

Please feel free to leave comments I can also be found on Twitter @snomakeo.

What do I hope to get out of this?

I am struggling, not with writing — but with the purpose. I have lost nothing except time —  perhaps. I have thoroughly enjoyed the stories I wrote and the experience of writing them. I have stated time and time again since I started blogging, that my opinions aren’t any more important than the next guy and sometimes I think not as important. However, you have to be able to sing your own praise and feel that you are important in this business, precisely and succinctly in order to grab the attention of the person you are pitching your idea to.  Meaning; you have to come out of yourself, believe, and reach for what you truly want.

Getting back to the purpose I started off talking about, will my stories ever get read? Why do I want this so badly, is it my ego or some idea of a legacy at the heart of this? At this point I am really not sure, all I know is that I am not alone, there are thousands of people who have written wonderful stories and submitted manuscripts that will never be read on a massive scale.

If you play the lottery, there is a slight chance that the manuscript you submitted three years ago, that has been existing in the slush pile on the hard drive at a publishing company, was picked up by a bored employee who finds the hidden gem and revives it back to the life of the living. There is certain to be great stories lurking there, that would make for a great story.

I have a strong desire to forge ahead, whatever the reason — it is not usually something I would strive for. It would be a thrill to see my story in print and to have the knowledge that I wrote something that people enjoy and care about.

I am constantly reading, watching documentaries and listening to audiobooks among all the other responsibilities I have  as a business partner, wife and mother.

I am planning on going to a book club meeting this Saturday. I say planning because my daughter has a soccer game and my son drives the second car, the meeting is 40 minutes away. I have to make sure everyone can get where they are going before I take off with the car. I have a very supportive family and I am sure it will all work out. Joining a book club is one more of the suggestions to improve my writing savvy and network. It will be good to connect with other writers who are in the same situation.

There is also another conference coming up in November in Connecticut which I am planning to attend — again the logistics come into play. It’s a smaller venue and perhaps there will be something in it for me to increase my chances to succeed in this endeavor.

Feel free to comment as you have in the past I’d like to hear from you.

Shirley