Chapter 2: Master of Time or Victim of Patience?

Today I’ve been thinking over the biggest misconception of becoming an author: the post-writing stage.  There’s probably two possible reactions to hearing those words: (1) You’re confused.  You weren’t aware that there was much work to be done once the novel’s finished.   (2)  Your skin’s crawling, and you just completely lost your appetite.  Yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I think it’s safe to say every author’s pet peeve is someone trying to read your first draft.  As my writing’s developed, my first drafts have gotten better relative to one another, but they’re still complete trash when compared to the final product.  Most of creating a book is actually rewriting.  Some aspiring authors come in with the misconception that they’ll write their book in one go and it’ll come out a masterpiece.

Personally, I go through at least four drafts before I even let my beta readers take a look.  (Quick side note: if you don’t have any beta readers to give you a fresh set of eyes, find one or more ASAP.)  I have three, so there adds even more drafts.  Then, I take a step back for a bit before delving into the story one last time.  The first novel I completed took roughly nine months to complete – appropriate since I considered it my baby.

Once you’re completely happy with your novel, you’re still far from the end of the road.  This is the part that all authors dread.  In the story of our lives, it’s the chapter we wish we could skip, but is sadly so terribly crucial.

I would always suggest to aspiring authors to first try the traditional route of publishing.  First and foremost, agents are a blessing.  Get one.  (I have to add in a disclaimer that you should check their legitimacy.  A good rule of thumb is that if they charge you money for submission, it’s a scam.)  You want someone who not only has shown strong success in the past, but also who shares the same vision.  Having an agent isn’t a guarantee of publishing, but it’s definitely a hugely beneficial asset to have.

Now the elephant in the room: how do you get an agent?  Here’s the word that’ll send dread to your very core: querying.  Writing a query is possibly the most annoying but important step when marketing your book.  I’ll go more into tips and suggestions in a later blog, but right now I just want to emphasize: don’t summarize your book.  That’s a rejection waiting to happen.  Think of the themes and emotions in your story, and use that to drive the query.

The final step that I’ve found myself at is the waiting period.  Agents already have clients and have a lot on their plate in addition to looking for new authors.  What does that mean for us?  We’re at the back of the list.  We have no “author resume,” so we have to prove ourselves entirely on quality of work.  I always waited about one hundred days, with some exceptions.

If you’re like me, you’re going to be checking your email on your phone every five minutes for the first couple weeks.  In order to not torture myself, I started putting a reminder in my phone around the time that the agent is known to respond on average.  Querytracker.net is an excellent source to plan out how you’re going to go about it.  I personally liked to send my queries out in clumps of 4 or 5 agents at a time.

Right now, though, here’s the message I want to really hit home.  I was heavily guilty of ranting in this post, and you know why?  Because, it’s a lengthy process.  Each step becomes its own monster on your To-Do List.  A lot of it involves sitting around with the jitters, impatiently waiting to hear back so that you know what you can do next.

So, here’s my advice: don’t rush.  Word count goals are fine; a common one is 2,000 words a day.  For me, that doesn’t work, but that’s not to say I don’t think it’s a good idea.  I have to schedule my oh-so-very-busy schedule around it, but you do have to make the time.  “Free time” is a nice idea, but so rarely exists in reality.  You have to account for it in your planner.   Don’t be afraid for your draft count to go into the double digits.  This might seem silly, but let the novel fully mature into the masterpiece that it has the potential to become.  Take time with your query; you want it to provoke emotion and curiosity when the agent reads it.  Finally, patience is a virtue you need to work on developing.  And, the best way to wait for a reply?  Write some more.

Cure for Writer’s Block

 

What’s better than working on your latest novel or reading a good book?  Doing it OUTSIDE.  This weekend I encourage you to find a park or even a coffee shop with outdoor seating.  You’d be surprised how it can get your creative juices flowing.

Chapter 1: Author vs. Finals

There’s a theory the human race invented called time, and it’s safe to say I don’t have enough of it.  I feel like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, always fretting about being late and never doing what I need to on time.   I’m always racing the clock trying to scramble things together.  The simple answer is to organize and schedule, but my brain is far too chaotic for that to be made a reality.

Take my current situation, for example.  Every college student’s greatest enemy sits at my doorstep: finals.  I just finished my first one (Cost Accounting… ew) and have one more on Thursday.  Luckily, I’m finishing out my minor in Education this semester, so my remaining classes only have projects/papers instead of exams.

So, what should a good student be doing at this time?  Studying.  What am I doing?  Writing this blog.

I imagine, even after college, part-time authors generally have a non-related full- time job.  For me, it’ll be financial consulting with an amazing company.  That’s not bad in itself, but it dictates the job that pays the bills to keep a roof over my head as more important than my literary passion.  And, there’s the little bump in the road that no one tells you: life gets in the way.

Whether it be family problems, finals week, an upcoming deadline, busy season, or anything  really – those things don’t halt just because you have a sudden burst of inspiration.  Reality bites with no guilt, and works on its own time.  Perhaps that’s why we like to write; we can escape its cruel ways, if even for a little while.

I was a freshman in college when I first learned the beauty of a daily planner.  They even had one for students specifically designed to start in August.  At the beginning of every semester, I sit down and write in my planner all of the homework assignments and tests that I have to get done by when.  For the first few weeks, I always put notes on each day reminding myself to get ahead on some big paper or whatnot.  It never lasts.

Instead I find myself in a position like the one I’m currently in.  I’m now up to my nose in responsibilities, and haven’t the slightest of clue when they even reached my ankles.  It seems like they just all flew at me out of nowhere – a surprise attack, if you will.

My parents raised me so that it’s ingrained into who I am that my grades will reflect my best efforts.  That’s never changed.  So, I’ll be that student slaving away in the library until the last possible moment.  For the most part, I’ve kept up very well in all my classes, and don’t have anything less than a B.  The fact that I’ve only written 55,000 words for the novel I’m working on since January can attest to that.

School always takes priority, and when I have a full-time job, that’ll claim the spotlight.  It’s the way life works for me, at the moment.  And, I’m okay with that.  I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to attend college, and was even luckier the moment my company extended the job offer (albeit it’s only an internship for now).  That provides me with a financially stable life, where I can still afford to take time out of my day to do what I love.   (Have I mentioned the people I’m going to work with are amazing?  The head of my office is an alum from my school, and is the most down-to-earth man I’ve met who’s been in such a high position.)

So, my lovely readers, don’t let life discourage you.  It’s okay if it slows you down – unavoidable even – but don’t let it be what stops you.  The cure might be as simple as setting a reminder on your phone for a Saturday afternoon reminding you to take time to write, or maybe you can wake up 30 minutes early dedicated solely to the art.  Do whatever you have to.  The world deserves to hear your story.