Wednesday, December 7, 2011

IWSG: What Gives?



It’s the first Wednesday of the month, time for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  I’ve been participating in this group since its inception, and have written of my many frustrations and insecurities.  After last month’s post, I asked myself, “Do I complain too much?”  I thought I probably did and planned on writing about that today, but once again, I found myself discouraged by events, or the lack thereof.  So if you’ll be so kind as to indulge me, I’d like to get something off my chest.

As a writer with a novel ready to go, I’ve been busy polishing my query.  It’s been a while since I actually queried any agents, but that’s because I still have a few requests pending.  But even though I’ve emailed the agents who are currently reading my novel, I haven’t heard back.  And that’s discouraging.


I figure it’s because my story is not quite ready yet, not quite there.  If it was, wouldn’t they have called me by now?  So, since sending out those requests, I’ve further revised my manuscript based on feedback from other agents.  I feel pretty confident now, because I’ve been busy reading and studying books on craft.  The most recent two, The Fire in Fiction and Writing the Breakout Novel, were written by literary agent Donald Maass.  After reading them, I noted all the important factors that make a novel great, and I can honestly say, I’ve included most of those, at least the ones appropriate for my genre.  But even though I’ve made some important revisions, those factors were already in there, before my last round of requests.  So what’s the problem then?

I have a premise and plot that are plausible with inherent conflict and gut emotional appeal, and with my unusual twist, it’s pretty original.  It has high personal stakes that continually escalate, and I believe the reader can sympathize with the strong protagonist, who while is sometimes dark, he also has inner conflict, self-regard, and strong relationships with the other characters.  The voice is authoritative, clearly articulating a personal belief system through dialogue that snaps with tension and immediacy, and the setting is linked with emotional details.  And most importantly, from the word go, it’s filled with constant tension.

So what gives?  I can only surmise it’s the writing, though I’ve been told by my critique partners that it’s pretty darn good.  But is that enough?  Hmm, I wonder.  Maybe it’s just the timing and the fact that adult thrillers aren’t selling like they used to.  I keep thinking, if I just had more agents reading it, someone is bound to love it as much as I do, as much as my beloved and talented critique partner, Lisa Regan does. 

But to do that, I have to have a kickass query.  After Matthew MacNish critiqued my query last week, I worked every day to fine tune those points he and his followers commented on.  I feel I clarified those key questions and am now ready to go.  Of course, now it the holiday season, so I’d be crazy to start querying before New Year’s.  It’s just one more thing to frustrate me.  But I suppose, if I’ve learned one thing in the last twenty months, it’s patience. 


What about you?  What frustrates you about writing, querying, and publishing?  And what have you learned from your frustrations?                

34 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You've stared at it for too long and now you doubt!
Someone else posted about sending out queries around the holidays and asked why not? Since so many don't query in December, maybe it's a good time to get noticed.

M.J. Fifield said...

It's been a while since I've queried anyone but I know how brutal that wait is. Here's hoping you get some good news soon!

Kittie Howard said...

I'd send the query. Opportunity doesn't knock on the door these days unless the sidewalk's clear. And I wouldn't get discouraged. Half of life is showing up. I know a gal who submitted a MS that ended up on a huge pile in the agent's office. The agent came in from lunch, bumped the piled high desk, picked up the MS that had fallen and decided that's what she'd read. My friend got a contract.

JeffO said...

I agree on sending the query, unless the agent specifically states 'closed to queries for the holidays.' My understanding is agents are pretty much always reading queries, even if they're not necessarily in the office. If you think about it, there's always a reason to not send a query. After the holidays, they'll be too busy catching up with all the queries they got during the holidays. Then, there are conventions. Spring break. Summer holidays. When does it end?

Eva Gallant said...

I've never queried an agent. I don't think I'm good enough for that. I am going to publish on Kindle, however, and hope for the best.

Laila Knight said...

Ugh...the whole query thing is exhausting. The first time I queried it was right before the end of the year and it took agents forever to get back to me. Granted, I've made so many changes to my manuscript since then it was probably crap. I've never read your book, but from how you describe it, it sounds pretty awesome. All you can really do is hang in there and perfect that query...you should post that btw. I'd love to see what the finished product looks like. Good luck, Nancy! :)

KarenG said...

Nancy, Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog so I could follow you here! If you don't mind, I have a suggestion. My ears perked up when you said your genre was adult thriller novel.

It could be excellent and you'd still have a tough time finding an agent right now for this genre. I suggest researching small publishers (and you might have already done this, I don't know as I'm new to your blog). Small presses tend to get excited about the very genres that agents can't sell right now, like adult thrillers from debut writers. I'm not saying you won't find that agent or that said agent won't be able to sell your book to your dream publisher, but while you're waiting for that to happen, why not query some small publishers direct and see what happens.

Good luck!

*opinionated and bossy new follower*

KarenG

Joylene said...

I hate being the bearer of bad news. The frustration never ends. It's like having a 13 year old who turns 14, then 15, then 16 then...

You get the idea.

That diminish the feelings, I know.

You're not alone, Nancy. You, me and a few hundred thousand others.

Lisa L. Regan said...

It's not you, it's them. BELIEVE ME. Seriously. I also think it's the industry in general. I get the report of Publisher's Marketplace deals to my email daily and lately there isn't even a section listed for Mystery/Crime or Thriller. I think sales in our genre(s) are down. Also unfortunately a lot of it has to do with subjectivity (yes, the word that makes prepublished writers want to vomit). Even if an agent likes it and clearly sees that it is good, saleable and has merit, they may STILL decline to offer you a contract because they don't love it. I ran into a lot of that. A lot of elements have to come together at the right time for the whole thing to happen. IT IS NOT YOU!!!!!!! One day your book will be on the shelves. It will. I believe in you and your work!

Lynda R Young said...

The thing that frustrates me the most is how slow everything goes and how long the query process is--especially when we receive no response at all.

Heather M. Gardner said...

It sounds like you are doing everything right. Don't give up. Every author that I have ever read personal interviews from has said don't sit and wait ... sit and write.
Wishing you the best of luck.
HMG

Jacqueline Howett said...

Where did worry ever get anyone.

Don't let that doubt stuff creep in, that neg only wants to spoil your joy.


Stay positive! Keep believing in the writing you love and have worked so hard on, and just know in your heart that it will all work out in the end-regardless.

Send out queries any time, I say!

Wishing you the very best of the Xmas season!

M Pax said...

The frustration is that we can be great, fantastic even, and still struggle to find our spot in the sun.

Keep querying, Nancy. I think it's all a matter of landing on the right desk on the right day.

The Desert Rocks said...

That is too much of a loaded question. What frustrates me about publishing nowadays? Can I blame my parents? Call a lifeline? Beg out? :)

L.G.Smith said...

Seeking publication is one long frustrating process. I always wonder what it is that makes some stories get snapped up right away and others linger in agents's slush piles. It isn't always about quality. Some really good novels get rejected dozens of times before finding a champion. *shrugs*

All you can do is keep trying like Lisa did.

Carrie Butler said...

The Q-word makes me shudder, just reading it. I admire you for getting such a handle on it, Nancy. Good luck! :)

kmckendry said...

The query process is my biggest frustration and The waiting game drives me crazy!

Deniz Bevan said...

Oh, we're going to start querying at the same time! I hope that'll give us both extra luck :-)

Donna Hole said...

Writing the query is the most frustrating part for me. My first novel - the one that’s query ready - doesn’t have a lot of action to focus on. Hard to make a more literary novel sound exciting . .

Like you Nancy, I’ve polished and revised and the only thing I can do now is query and hope. But I haven’t queried it in a long while. Perhaps the market will change someday, and my nice little project will be ready to go.

Perhaps your “problem” with the novel isn’t the writing at all; the market just isn’t buying now. Keep your chin up; I’m sure it will find a home soon.

………dhole

Jaye Robin Brown said...

The waiting game is definitely the most difficult part, at any step of the process.

Joanne said...

I've sometimes thought that since so many writers don't query now, that maybe it's a good time to query? It can stand out now?

Best wishes, hoping you get many requests for material :)

Joanne said...

I've sometimes thought that since so many writers don't query now, that maybe it's a good time to query? It can stand out now?

Best wishes, hoping you get many requests for material :)

Patricia Lynne said...

Oh man, I don't think I could do the querying after self pubbing myself. The waiting, the wondering, and not hearing anything would drive me bonkers. I have a ton of respect for authors who can do that.

Good luck and I hope you grab an agents attention soon.

Al Penwasser said...

I'm curious about something. You send a manuscript to a potential publisher. She rejects it. You look at it and revise it a little more. Would you resend it, in the hopes that NOW it will pass muster? Or do you think a publisher will see it in the mail, think, "I've already TOLD Penwasser that his book is a piece of crap." I'm wondering that about the first book I've written and haven't been able to get published.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

A little care is all right. Too many send off long before they are ready.
What frustrates me is genre classifications. My series was lumped into YA, although half my fan base is adult. Now there is 'Young Adult' which would suit it better - except that the series is finished now. Bummer.

The Golden Eagle said...

I've never written a query, as I don't have anything to query at this point. There's plenty about writing itself that frustrates me, though; I guess one thing I've learned is that there is always more to learn about the craft. :P

Good luck!

Lydia Kang said...

Querying is so frustrating. You're throwing yourself against a huge wall and falling in moat as they dump hot oil on you...or something like that. I feel your pain!

LynNerdKelley said...

I get frustrated because there's never enough time or energy, and there's always some life event that has to come first. I heard that Donald Maass' books are great, but I haven't read them yet. I find that talking to writer friends and blogging with my writer buds helps get me through the rough times when I doubt myself.

Melodie said...

I'm in the trenches with you, Nancy! And Lisa IS an awesome critter, isn't she? Sooo helpful.
I guess the best thing to do is unplug our query box and enjoy the holidays. *gulps cookie* I mean, there are worse things to do while waiting, right? *swigs eggnog*

Jennifer Hillier said...

I actually think this might be a good time to send out a query because things are quiet. A good query is a good query!

I'm amazed at how sane you've managed to stay throughout this whole querying process. When I was querying, you couldn't even talk to me. It was so stressful.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I'm getting ready to start the query process, as you know (Matt's doing mine next week--ugh). One thing I've learned is that just because an agent doesn't take a book doesn't mean the book isn't good. Could be the timing isn't right or any other reasons. One thing I've learned is this whole business is incredibly subjective. Keep going!

Lora R. Rivera said...

Hi Nancy!

I'm in the same boat regarding having something ready to send out but now having to sit on it for a month...or two!

But maybe I'm not quite ready because my synopsis isn't ready. After writing that blog post on the synopsis (thanks for your comments, btw!), I still fell flat on my face in the attempt. Yeah, writing can sometimes be frustrating. Even when you know all the answers, execution is just so tough.

Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

Ciara said...

Querying is SO frustrating. I feel for you. All writers have to suffer through this, but you keep the faith and keep trying. I like Lydia's explanation best. :)

Madeleine said...

I didn't get a response back for my MS for 6 months and while they didn't take the novel they sent some favourable feedback, which made me appreciate why they didn't take it.
I get the impression it takes a long while to hear back and having to wait when you've given birth to your creative baby to see its smiling face and hold it in your arms is one of the hardest parts of being a writer: waiting to have your MS accepted /published.
Good luck!