How will I know whether it’s time to send the Manuscript out? And what will I do once it is?

Since I started querying my novel last week, I’ve had a couple of conversations with friends on twitter and everywhere else too about the querying process, when you should send out you book, how many people should you query at a time, how long might it take, how will you feel, and how will you know if this is the final edit, the final agent, etc … it’s left me with the feeling Whitney Houston sings about in her famous song:  How Will I Know?

I found a blog post on The Debutante Ball this morning by Martine Founier Watson, debut author of 2019, who tells us of her own experience of getting an agent, including within the post all those intangibles (not how to write a query, but how to get the fortitude to send one out, for example) that you and I need to know to keep querying and keep revising.  I heartily recommend this blog post.  I have read a lot of blogs about writing and this one really delivers the goods. 

Thank you Martine!

Submissions challenge: I hit the wall about how many simultaneous subs you can make with one manuscript

Submission Tracker 2I have gotten 11 submissions done so far this month, entered three contests, and I can’t seem to decide what to do next.  My novel is almost ready to submit, I could just start sending query letters to agents, but if I did, I would have to really rush through its final read-through if it got requested.  And if it’s not ready to go out, why would I start submitting just to fly into a panicked editing rush if someone wants to see it?

Then there’s my short submissions.  I can’t seem to simultaneously submit them without feeling this strange anxiety.  I know that this is what lots of successful writers do.  So why can’t I just do it?

Meanwhile, the ‘full’ of my memoir is still out with an agent in New York.  It’s time for a response but I am afraid to write and ask about it, because I know that the answer is overwhelmingly likely to be “yeah, sorry, but we’re going to pass.”

I wonder if this happens to anyone else, unable to move forward because they’re unable to check on a manuscript?

So I have just the short fiction and memoir pieces.  I read somewhere that you should not do simultaneous submissions that are not evenly matched — where if the less exclusive magazine accepts, you’ll be disappointed to take the manuscript out from the more-prestigious.

Meanwhile, yeah, that image is my submission tracker.  The colors stand for such things as completed/not complete ms., submitted (green) accepted, rejected, rejected with note, and suggested submission that I haven’t done yet (that’s yellow).


The query challenge, the yoga challenge, and the rewriting my memoir challenge

The yoga challenge?  I’m on Day 26.  I have to make two workouts in one day on one of the next three days, because we’re leaving Tuesday morning.  So I’m wondering how to handle that.

The 30 day query challenge — I’m on day 13 and I’ve only sent 7 queries.  That said, one of those was an agent query that resulted in a request for my memoir manuscript and now I’m working rereading it before sending it off.  I’d call that a success.  Although it’s slowed down the querying process even more.

Working on the memoir has been bringing up issues.  Like this one:  If it actually were published, would certain people who appear in it ever speak to me again?

When I was at DFW Writer’s Conference in early June, memoir teacher and author of Shimmering Images Lisa Dale Norton encouraged us to find our own truth through the memoir process.  That’s good as far as it goes, but  I’ve already had experiences with my truth not matching other people’s truths in the family.

“You have a right to your truth,” Norton told us. That’s true, but the people I’ve told the truth about have the right to never speak to me again.  I’ve got my pen name ready.  But it seems risky to trust a pen name to protect you from a possible mob of angry friends and family.

I tried to double back and re-focus on my own truth.  I read part of what I’d rewritten to Leo.  I went to yoga and thought about where I was going … I realized I completely skipped over my feelings in this part of the story.  How can you have memoir without your feelings?  Feelings are half the point.  So, tomorrow, I will continue with the rewriting process.  And put in my feelings.  Tonight I’ll be thinking about what they are.

Should a writer join a writer’s workshop? Blog? Rely on their own genius?

pexels-photo-933964.jpegAround the start of the year, I joined a writer’s group that meets on a weeknight at a local coffee shop.  The result of this has been the reworking of the beginning of my novel, but it has also been the slowing down of the blogging and social media I used to do.  I’m assuming that this is a good thing — after all, blogs are digital and transitory, and novels are permanent (provided they get published). And if you go to a writer’s workshop, that gives you something to write on queries, right?

So I shouldn’t quit writer’s workshop.  Anyway, does a writer really need to blog?  My writing group colleagues don’t do it. At the Mayborn conference last year, a speaker got an ovation for telling the audience social media is a waste of time.  But I’ve read on more than one agent websites that you need to have a web presence.  I guess if you have Total Genius you might get away without a website and social media followers.  But these days I’m not sure I am a genius anymore.

Or, to put it a different way, genius seems to me more and more motivation and hard work and less and less a gift of the immortal gods.  I still like to blog, just not so often. I still think it gives me ideas that are valuable.  Writing inspiration seems to me to be more a mountain you can climb than a lightning bolt that hits you. I guess in answer to my title question, a writer needs to try all the different strategies he or she can and has time for.  Writing, like much else in this life, is a journey, not a destination.

Let’s Get Creative: Free Writing

pen-writing-notes-studying.jpgThis: Let’s Get Creative: Free Writing.  is from Sarah in la-la land. This freewriting is another way of  naming Morning Pages, a technique from The Artists Way where Julia Cameron has you write 3 pages of text about whatever comes to mind every morning. I do this, somewhat.  I journal most days and if I don’t go to work that day I try to make three pages.

Sara’s musing does link with something I have been wondering about with my journals. My journals are what I think of as “one use writing.” Because I only sometimes re-read the entries. Does my writing have any use if I never look at it again? This is like asking if a tree falls in a forest does it make a sound. It makes a sound, but does it make a difference?

Of course I know the answer. All that journaling is practice for The Real Thing. As in my novel, my essays, my blog posts, the dreaded query, whatever I have as a WIP.  Ask a basketball star if he can afford to skip practice. As Stephen King once wrote in his essay Everything You Need to know About Writing, “only God gets it right the first time.” The rest of us have to practice.

Submitting to journals: the Jo Bell method

So you need to improve, speed up, refine, reorganize or survive the emotions of your querying process?

Me too.  I reblogged this post because it gives a lot of useful reflections, including

1. Set one day a month for making submissions to your markets.
2. Nothing is ever really “done.” When your work is submission ready, however, send it off.
3. Editors are busy and don’t respond quickly most of the time. They may still want your work months later but not have gotten around to letting you know. This reminds me of Agatha Christie, whose first novel was accepted two years after it was submitted to a publisher, with no intervening communication.
4. The submission organizing file system itself is simple but ingenious. I’ve been writing for a while, but something resembling this system simply never has occurred to me.
5. Be nice to editors/don’t burn bridges/no snarky emails/be patient. That one especially.

The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog


[This article is now taught as part of the Open University’s Creative Writing MA, and I’ve had many many messages to tell me that people have increased their publication record, sometimes by 200% in a year. It’s also included in our new book How to Be a Poet]

I’ve spent some time lately with poetry journal editors – and also with the poor beggars who, like me, send off work to them. It’s struck me anew that many people, especially those at the beginning of their writing career, don’t have much idea of how submission works and what time span is realistic for an editor to consider a poem. Also, they’re wondering how to keep tabs on the seventeen different pieces that they’ve sent out, in order to avoid the no-no of simultaneous submission.

What follows is the Jo Bell Method; the method of an immensely, award-winningly disorganised poet who nonetheless has…

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