Queries and Submissions… Oh, my!

It’s a no-brainer: writers love to write. Find a plot or an interesting character lurking in the brain’s back room and away we go, plotting (or not) and happily unravelling story complexities for hours, days, probably weeks… to the exclusion of all sorts of potential distractions. Housework? It can wait. Family? They’ll understand. Grocery shopping? Mmm, maybe a quick trip to stock up on essentials like chocolate and chai tea and Diet Coke.

When the initial writing is done we’re willing to delve right back into it, editing, revising and even rewriting. It’s what writers do, right?  Pick away at it from every angle until we get it ‘just so’.

Jay 2

When it’s finally ready, we steel ourselves to send it out into the world — to critique partners first, then to beta readers. Finally the day comes when we can’t stall any longer. The story is as good as it’s going to get under our hand. It’s time to find an agent or editor to mentor us through the next stage, time to send the manuscript out on submission. Ackkk!

That’s what sends me into a flap.

Jay 1

I end up all a-flutter, suddenly convinced that it’s premature… surely another revision is necessary. If it’s not the best I can make it, sending it out now could be a mistake. I begin to re-read. It’s total crap! I’m sure it is. At least, the whisperings of that nasty Inner Critic sitting on my shoulder are telling me it is.

What’s the solution? Do we re-work and polish manuscripts until the life is sucked out of them, then shelve them in favour of starting something new? Do we close our eyes to the possible shortcomings and throw them into the public eye, hoping the recipients will be kind and limit laughter and jeering to the confines of their own office before sending out the rejection letter? Or… dare I suggest it? Do we stand tall, pull up our big-girl britches and recognize when we’ve done the best we can for now — ‘for now’ meaning we accept the reality that there will undoubtedly be recommended edits forthcoming — and take the next step?

Jay 3

There’s nothing more nerve-wracking in my world than hovering my finger over the ‘send’ key. Despite what others suggest, it never gets easier for me. Over the years I’ve read plenty of books on the craft of writing, studied agents’ and editors’ blogs to glean helpful information and listened carefully to the experiences of other more seasoned writers. I’m developing a fat resource file, but nothing nourishes the seed of confidence that will tell me, “Yes, DO it now. You’re ready.”

Earlier this week I printed out another item to add to my file from the Books & Such Literary Agency blog: “Minimize the obstacles to publication“, a post written by agent Rachelle Gardner. Her very first point is, “Not working on your book and your writing craft long enough.” ::sigh:: See what I mean?

I just might have to peck out a bit more on this revision. I’m aiming to make it public soon, but… not today.

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What convinces you that your work is ready for public scrutiny? How do you block out the negative Inner Critic’s evil whisperings?

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Surrounded by Changes

Changes are happening. We expect them at this time of year — leaves turning colour and drifting to the ground, blossom heads crumpling and wild grasses flattening into gold and brown. Despite the exceptional sunshine and continuing daytime warmth, we’re beginning to turn up thermostats against the chill of evenings and hunt our favourite sweaters from the back of closets.

Even as changes herald the death of a season, unique beauty lingers. With its ending also comes hope — seed pods and reminders of what will come again. Hope stands out against a fading backdrop, holding up its promise. It has me pondering a comparison with my writing.

Voice is what makes one person’s writing stand out from another’s. There is a distinctive ‘something’ that identifies us with our words. My unique voice is stronger in my non-fiction than in my fiction, and yet it’s the writing of fiction that brings me so much satisfaction. I love creating characters, plopping them into difficult situations and helping them slog through to find solutions. But if there is nothing exceptional about the stories, should I be wasting my time on them? Wouldn’t my energy be better spent writing in the zone where my ability appears to be stronger? Do I need a shove to get moving in another direction?

Or am I simply reflecting the decline around me… perhaps in need of a time of dormancy, to sit out this cycle and rebuild strength for a fresh approach?

I’ll get over this mood, but I’m sure the questions will remain. How do you know when you are where you’re meant to be?

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“Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living.
Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope.
And out of hope, progress.”

Bruce Barton

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“For as long as Earth lasts,
planting and harvest, cold and heat,
Summer and winter, day and night
will never stop.”

Genesis 8:22 (The Message)

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