Look what I made!
Now I can relive the trip whenever I am on my treadmill (yes, I hung it on the wall next to the computer monitor).
Look what I made!
Now I can relive the trip whenever I am on my treadmill (yes, I hung it on the wall next to the computer monitor).
So, now that I’ve walked more than fifteen miles and burned more than 2,100 calories on my treadmill desk (and yes, that is a two-week total), I thought I’d tell you I am a permanently converted “treadhead.”
However, the glories of the treadmill desk are not the focus of tonight’s post. No, tonight I am going to tell you I have a secret.
*leans in close and whispers*
I’d tell you what it is, but it’s a… secret.
I’m working on a new project, and (all you author types will totally get this) I am in love. I LOVE my main character, I love the problems I’ve set up, and I love how the story is unfolding.
I’m a little more than 6,500 words in, and I haven’t told anyone about it – not even my agent. Well, actually Becky knows I’m working on something, but has no idea what it is. It could be a “How To Build Your Own Treadmill Desk” bible, a trashy romance a la “Fifty Shades,” or something not, you know, those things.
I have to admit though, it was hard to start something new. I’m still feeling the effects of the self-doubt that nearly overwhelmed me this spring, so while it’s getting easier, I’m not at my usual levels in terms of production.
June’s Camp NaNo helped – A LOT. I didn’t hit 50,000 words. Heck, I didn’t even make my personal goal of 30,000. What I did do though, was sit down and write EVERY night. I chose a topic totally unrelated to anything I’ve published (or tried to publish), and I wrote for myself; for the love of writing.
I shared my story with my dear cheerleader and one other close friend because they are awesome and said lovely things about my writing, and I really needed to hear those words as I tried to pull my writing-self together.
*hugs writer friends*
As I reached the end of that particular tale, I started to get that tiny niggling at the back of my mind. You know the one that says it’s time to start a new project? Yeah, that niggling.
Self-doubt said I couldn’t do it. But self-doubt doesn’t know what it’s talking about. In fact, I doubt self-doubt could find its way out of a paper bag without explicit instructions and a DVD.
So, with trembling fingers (and a fancy schmancy treadmill desk) I opened a new Word doc and put a few tremulous words to screen. I was so nervous I tried to fool myself into thinking this wasn’t a new book that would get sent out to editors by refusing to format the document correctly. I left the crappy font, weird spacing, and widow/orphan controls on. In fact, I refused to put anything in the header, not even page numbers!
Fortunately (for me and my agent), I have since adjusted things to a more acceptable industry standard.
Part of me wants to tell you what I’m writing about, but another part of me is mean and evil, and wants to make you wait and wonder. I think I will let the mean and evil part of me win – for now.
Maybe after the next 6,500 words I’ll feel differently.
(0.70 mi walked and 95 calories consumed in the creation of this blog post)
Guess where I was on the weekend…
Come on, give it a shot.
I’ll give you a hint: I was in FREAKIN’ Texas, baby. TEXAS!
Yup, you read that correctly. I hopped on a plane Thursday morning and spent the weekend at the Dallas Fort Worth Writers’ Conference (http://dfwwritersconference.org/) in Hurst, Texas.
“Why’d you go all the way to Texas when there’s a perfectly good conference twenty minutes from where you live?” you might ask. Well, the answer is two-fold: I thought it would be really cool to travel somewhere I’d never been, and I wanted to meet my agent.
“But why not New York?” Have you seen the price of anything in New York? I didn’t win the lottery here, people. I still need to feed and clothe my family as well as keep a roof over their heads.
Besides, Texas was awesome. Seriously awesome.
Oh, and did I mention I got to meet my agent?
I know many writers never meet their agents in person in this increasingly digital age, but I guess I’m a little old-fashioned. If I’m going to have a relationship with someone (albeit a long distance business one), I kinda want to meet them. I don’t mean I went with the intent of “interviewing” her to make sure we were a good fit – we figured that out during our first phone call – but to confirm all those positive vibes I’ve been getting from our correspondences.
And let’s face it, being able to say, “Oh, I had lunch/drinks/went to the world’s largest Honky Tonk with my agent,” is a pretty good conversation stopper at work the following week. I may have added “New York” and/or “literary” in front of agent, or not. Okay, maybe. Seriously, it’s a cool thing to be able to say, right?
Don’t worry, I did more than network, drink, and attend workshops while in the Lonestar State. In fact, I looked upon my trip as sort of a cultural expedition. Texas is about as different from Vancouver as you can get while still remaining on the same continent, so I figured I’d be on the lookout for, and appreciate, some of those differences.
Here’s what I learned in Texas:
I’m sure I learned a few other things (like how to launch a successful social media campaign, and the latest scoop on the changing face of publishing), but the bulleted list contains the things that really stand out for me. Especially that last one.
I want to thank the organizers and volunteers of DFWCon for putting on such a great conference. I also want to thank every Texan I met for being so open and caring toward the crazy Canadian wandering in their midst.
Oh, and Becky? You’re the best.
It seems like forever since I’ve written a writing-related post (and it probably has, but I am too scared to check the archives to see just how long it’s been). Needless to say, it’s about time I posted something new.
I’ve been working on revisions on my latest manuscript, Into Darkness Peering, for a couple of months in preparation for Becky taking it out on submission. One of our goals was to bring the word count closer to 80,000 as it was sitting way too close to 90,000 for comfort. For every scene I cut or deleted, it seemed another one begged to be written, so we worked in tandem to get the structure shaped properly.
Another goal was to tweak the ending as neither Becky nor I felt it adequately wrapped up the story. (This is where the title of the blog post comes in…) When I first got the idea for the book, it was the final scene that vividly played in my mind. I created a spreadsheet to plan out the book, and by the time I got to the end, the rest of the plan seemed to call for a slightly different ending, so I plotted it instead.
After I wrote the book, we realised the plotted ending didn’t quite work, so we tweaked it. Then we realized the tweaked ending still didn’t work. It’s kind of funny because Becky and I decided to brainstorm a new ending over the phone, and the night before she called I had a dream where she suggested a certain ending, and then, when she called the next morning pretty much the first thing she said was the ending I’d dreamed.
I figured if I was dreaming it, and she was thinking it, it had to be the right ending to the book.
I wrote it and sent it to her, but despite the kismet going for it, my gut told me it just didn’t feel right and I asked her to hold off doing anything with it until I could write another ending.
So, I worked on ending #5 (staying up way too late on Sunday) and as the words hit the screen I knew it was the way the story was meant to end. I fired off a quick email saying I was still open to ending #4, but I wanted her to take a look at #5 before we went any further with line edits and whatnot.
She replied the next day (Becky is amazingly fast at everything she does, btw), and agreed with me – the last ending was the one. The irony, and the reason I am saying trust your gut, is the fifth ending is the scene I had in my mind when I first started playing around with the idea for the book more than six months ago.
Sometimes it pays to be flexible and to deviate from the original vision, but sometimes that first idea really is the gem. For me, the key was being patient enough with the revisions to really let the story sink in – without the deep connection, I wouldn’t have felt how ‘off’ those other endings were, nor would I have realised just how right the last one was.
From now on I am going to listen to my gut earlier in the process. While writing five different endings to the novel was a great learning experience, it’s not a terribly efficient use of time unless I’m writing a “choose your own adventure” book.
We’ve left the Year of the Rabbit and entered the Year of the Dragon. It’s time for me to document some of what happened in late 2011 that led to the mysterious silence around here.
I can’t remember if I’ve talked much about INTO DARKNESS PEERING. I started working on the manuscript to pass the time while UNBONDED was out on submission. I figured it was a fun back-up project to help keep me sane while we tried to see if any editors would bite on wanting to make UNBONDED into a trilogy.
I didn’t start on the sequel in case we only sold it as a standalone, and this turned out to be precisely the correct thing to do because not only didn’t UNBONDED sell as a trilogy, I ended up asking to have it pulled from consideration because some trends in the feedback made me want to re-write it.
I got 12,000 words into the re-write when my former agent told me she was going to be leaving the publishing industry and I would need to seek new representation because no one at MTM was able/willing to take me on. It’s kind of funny, as I was struggling with the re-write–something in my sub-conscious was screaming at me that what I was doing was wrong–every sentence felt like I’d squeezed it from a stone. It turns out my ‘radar’ was spot on because not only was losing my agent personally stressful, it also pretty much signalled the death of UNBONDED as a saleable manuscript (it can be very tricky for a new agent to take on a ms that’s already been shopped around and rejected), so my re-write (had I continued) would have been for naught.
Thankfully I’d completed an initial draft of INTO DARKNESS. If I was going to find a new agent, I needed a new project.
I sent out some queries and started getting requests. A lot of requests. I should have felt buoyed by this, but I couldn’t get past the disappointment of being in the query trenches again. I knew the idea for INTO DARKNESS was awesome, but I think in the self-doubt that came with having to find new representation, I allowed myself to believe I hadn’t done it justice.
Self-doubt can be killer. It’s insidious and almost impossible to escape.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t write a word during the entire month of December because that evil little voice had me questioning whether or not I could handle writing professionally. It didn’t matter how many little accomplishments I had indicating that yes, I really can write, the fact I’d been knocked off-stride by losing my agent negated every. single. one.
Thankfully I’m too stubborn to quit. I decided I would only query my top choices for agents and agencies. If I didn’t receive an offer of representation from anyone in my top ten (plus half a dozen referrals to agents my former agent thought might be a good fit) I would stop querying until I had a different project to query. There was no way I was going to feel like I was begging for a new agent, knocking on doors hat in hand, and waiting to be lifted from the gutter of obscurity.
I decided self-doubt and I had to part ways. If I was going to keep playing this writing game, it was going to be on my terms. I wanted the best damn agent in the industry, and I was determined to write a novel capable of netting me such an agent.
Losing my agent really hurt, but I found an inner strength that reminded me I started on this journey because I love to tell stories. This journey is about me, not about my agent, or about editors, or about Amazon, or anything else. It forced me to re-evaluate my priorities and my motivations, and truly clarify what I wanted to accomplish with my writing career.
I know where I stand and nothing, not self-doubt, criticism, or anything else the world of writers or readers can throw at me, is going to shift me from this point. My goals are crystal clear, and the strength I’ve found means I’m not going to compromise or settle for less than where I see myself going. If I’m not ready to reach a certain milestone yet, I’m not going to give up or search for a closer goal post; I’m going to draw on that inner steel and work my butt off until I reach the goal that rings true.
This is my game.
If you’re a writer hoping to one day be published and you’ve never checked out the Query Tracker website, I strongly encourage you to visit it forthwith because it is an excellent resource for anyone going through the querying process.
While you’re there, you might want to check out my success story.
It’s posted here: http://querytracker.net/success/cheryl_angst.php
Hopefully it answers a few of the questions you’ve been asking yourself about what was up with me over the past few months. I’m going to devote a full (and likely long, so be prepared) post to explaining my radio silence, but it’s taking me some time to prepare (I’m not so comfortable with sharing, you know, feelings and such).
Until then, I hope you enjoy my QT Success Story and I hope to see yours up there soon as well!
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the whole, “New Year, new resolutions/plans/goals/dreams” thing. I don’t think people should limit themselves to a certain time of year for setting goals – it just doesn’t make sense.
I believe you should set a goal whenever the time is right and you’re prepared to follow through (April 14th, 2011 worked really well for me AND my waistline).
That being said, a lot of people stand by the whole, “New Year, fresh start” thing and I’ve got to admit, my life seems to want to fit this mould in 2012. (I really hope the Mayans were wrong, as this is shaping up to be an awesome year…)
Here’s what’s up with me so far:
New house – we bought a fabulous home that’s absolutely perfect for our family (or, at least it will be once the renos are done)
New book – I finished my second YA novel, tentatively titled INTO DARKNESS PEERING late last year, which means taking it out on submission this year
New website (and updated blog) – I know I posted about it earlier, but I just gave the blog a facelift so it’s like everything is new again, dahling
(Drum roll, please.)
Yup, you read that right. I have a new agent. I signed the contract today to make it all official-like, so I can finally announce I am now represented by Becky Vinter at FinePrint Literary Management.
Seriously, this is a super *squee* moment. Every time I think about it, my mouth splits into this ridiculous grin and my stomach does this fluttery thing that makes me wonder if I’m perhaps a little drunk. (I’m not.)
I don’t know about you, but I happen to think FinePrint is an absolutely stupendous agency, and I’ve got to say, Becky is one amazing agent! I know you think I’m biased because she said nice things about my book (which is very true, flattery will get you everywhere with me), but this wasn’t my first foray into the agent-hunting waters and I had some very specific agents/agencies in mind when I queried this time around.
Gee, Cheryl, could that last announcement really have come more out of the blue?
I suspect some of you are wondering how my writing blog went from, “OMG, we’re taking Nikko out on submission soon!” to, “ZOMG, I have a new agent and I’m all totally in lurve with the writing world again!” with a lovely interlude of chirping crickets, social events, and family baking.
Let’s just say stuff happened and leave it at that for now. I tried many times over the past couple of months to write a post explaining what was going on – this is my blog about my writing journey and I plan on staying true to that purpose – but each time I deleted it. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell you how I was feeling (and struggling with those feelings) while still in the middle of everything.
My journey isn’t over, not by a long shot.
Once I come down from my giggly, omg-i-have-an-agent high I’ll make another attempt at posting some of what I’ve been keeping in the dark. Please don’t come by expecting dirt or a rant. Nothing I have to say is unusual or unexpected in publishing, and I have no ill will toward anyone I’ve met or worked with so far; in fact, it’s just the opposite. The writing and publishing community is hugely wonderful and I’m so glad I stepped onto this path in 2009.
So, what happened is basically…
Sometimes we aren’t expecting those changes.
We keep on keepin’ on and eventually new things happen.
Sometimes those new things are amazing.
Wow, it’s been a bit since I last posted. I’ve been busy writing – I’m 45,000 words into my latest WIPs, and enjoying every session.
However, I had planned on talking about all six authors I met in Seattle, so here’s my next lovely guest: Cat Patrick.
Cat’s debut novel, Forgotten, came out earlier this summer and sounds really interesting. What I found most engaging about her participation in the panel was her debut perspective. So many aspiring authors think eack milestone is “the one.” “If I could only sign with an agent…” “If only an editor would pick up my manuscript…”
Cat did a great job of talking about how having your first book published isn’t the final step – and it certainly doesn’t solve all your problems or make your worries melt away.
I will say, having an agent is a huge milestone though. I would never downplay that part of my journey. However, I went into the query-trenches knowing it was only one more step on the road. I love the new stresses/worries/challenges I’m facing now – and they’re more exciting simply because I was expecting them.
If you think getting a book published is “the end,” I recommend talking with a few debut (or even multi-published) authors to hear their thoughts on the matter. It’ll be highly informative.
Rather than spend my summer lazing about poolside, I am using my copious amounts of free time (ha, ha, ha – did I mention I have small children?) to start work on another project.
The textbook people are planning on getting in touch with me shortly, so my freedom is about to be cut perilously short. I must use the hours that remain to their maximum capacity because I don’t know how many (or how few) are left.
Now I’m plotting.
You know what’s really cool? Having an agent to bounce ideas off, that’s what’s cool.
I wrote out these character sketches and a short pitch outlining a book I’d like to write and then I sent it to Brianne. I had some specific questions, but was mostly concerned with, “Should I write this, or is the idea so atrocious no one will ever want to pick it up?” And you know what was really awesome? She wrote back! (I was not surprised by this, as she is very good at communicating with me, but the whole novelty of having someone in the publishing field who will answer my newbie/weird questions still floors me sometimes.)
I would ask you to guess what her answer was, but I kind of spoiled it for you at the top of the post, so we’ll just move on as though we’re all squeeing together at the discovery that my agent likes my new idea. Ready? *SQUEE!*
Being me, I couldn’t just jump into writing (I am SOOOOO not a pantser) – no, I had to whip out a spreadsheet and map the whole thing out. And, ZOMG, I had so much fun! I would post a pic of my spreadsheet, but I don’t want to give away the surprise…
Aw, who am I kidding? Look what I made!
Don’t be too upset if you can’t decipher what’s written. For one, it’s all set-up and nothing exciting happens. Two, I just wanted to show off my pretty little columns and rows. This isn’t a full chapter-by-chapter outline, more like an event-to-event one. There are key elements that must happen in the story for it to play out the way I want, and I need to get them in order before I start writing.
I did something very similar with Nikko, but I used index cards (and then stupidly recycled them so I had nothing to refer to when I wanted to create this spreadsheet). Seeing as Nikko landed me an agent, I figure the system must not be too horribly flawed.
I still have a few boxes to fill in, but I should be able to do that this afternoon, which means… Da-da-daaaaa! Tonight I will be writing!
A new book!
A brand new, shiny book!
*happy dance* (Well, happy dance until such time as the textbook people come calling…)