Thursday, October 3, 2013

And So, On To The Hard Part

"Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you -- as if you haven't been told a million times already -- that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching." - Harlan Ellison

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." - Ernest Hemingway

"Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil - but there is no way around them." - Isaac Asimov

You'd think, reading my fellow author's, or even my own, Facebook comments about writing, that the writing is the excruciating part.  Oh, no, we say, we must make our word counts.  Oh no, we say, this or that isn't working.  Oh no, we say, I wish I could afford a better Scotch.

Okay, that last bit is just me.

I think it's a matter of perspective and memory, though.  If we're serious about writing, we do it every night, or at least four or five times each week.  Anything we do that frequently will stand out in stark relief when we're considering the overall experiences of the craft. 

But no.  The writing isn't the hardest part.  The hardest part, instead, is something we only do when we finish writing, and rewriting, and revising, and reading, and re-reading, and revising yet again, and so on.  It's, maybe, what?  Once or twice a year?  If that? 

The finishing is the hard part.  No, not the actual finishing, though to be honest that can be challenging as well.  You never really know, as I mentioned in a previous post, whether you're really done or not.  Sure, with experience you can get a better feeling for how the pace is (or isn't) working, and thus you come to a conclusion earlier on.  Still challenging, then, but not The Hard Part.

The Hard Part is what happens after the finish.  It's the "okay, so what do I do now?" part, followed by the efforts that the decision leads to. 

Obviously, if you're writing for the cash flow of it, the next part is figuring out whether you'll go Indie or traditional publishing.  The former involves lining up editorial, formatting, and graphic design plans.  If you haven't done it before, it involves figuring out how to use the KDP (Amazon) web site or the Smashwords web site.  It involves all sorts of technical things, and then all sorts of marketing things, all sorts of which I've already discussed on the blog in all sorts of places.

If you decide to go traditional, though, now you're thrust back into sales mode where you, not your novel, happen to be the chicken nugget under the sales spotlight.  It's time to find a publisher, which for the most part (though there are exceptions) means finding an agent.  This is the process known as querying, which basically involves ripping your own heart out through your chest and holding it up for the literary gods to decide whether to squish it, to accept it for dinner, or to just ignore it. 

That, I should add, is where I am.  The heart-examining part, specifically. 

And yes, I jest.  There really isn't any pulling out of your heart required in the act of querying.  That would probably actually be simpler than the real process.  What querying really consists of is research, research, and more research, to begin with.  There are a baziggaton of agents out there, ninety-nine percent of whom despise the genre in which you write and will press the Delete button a few scant milliseconds after receiving your e-mail.  The rest of the agents like the genre you're in, but ninety-nine percent of those either aren't accepting new queries, aren't accepting new authors, or don't like the voice you write in.


There are ways of finding agents, incidentally.  One way is to purchase a book that describes the marketplace and contains some already-outdated information, but that's pretty much The Stupid Way.  Smart authors use the web instead.

A couple of years ago, I started out with the authors I like and looked online to find out who their agents are.  Most of those folks are already too busy and thus aren't accepting queries, but they usually work for agencies where there's at least one person who's hungry.  So you look up the agency and then you comb through the list of its agents, stalking each till you find the right one.

Oh, and make a database, by the way.  A year or two from now you'll be doing the exact same thing, and you'll be oh, so happy that you took the time to list what you found in Excel.  Two years ago I made a file that lists the agent's name in one column and the agency's name in the next one, and it includes how I found them, the query method (email or mail or web form), the address, the query requirements, and so on.  This time, then, I at least had a starting point, and I only had to worry about which agents had retired or stopped taking queries--which, um, adds up to a surprisingly large number.

The query requirements is an interesting part, because agents like what they like.  Some just say to send them a query letter (which, incidentally, follows a standard format).  Some want a query letter and a synopsis.  Others want a query letter and the first X pages.  Some want all three.  Some want you to submit a query letter, a synopsis, the first three letters of their pet's name, the minimum number of words their favorite publisher requires for a work to be considered a novel, and the birthdate of their favorite author, all ciphered in the Davinci Code.

Okay, that last was an exaggeration.  Just a little one, though.

Oh, and you need to write marketing material.  No, I'm not kidding.  You need a blurb to go in the query letter, which may or may not be the same blurb you'd put on the back cover of the book.  You also need to write a synopsis.  Neither sounds all that difficult till you realize that it's you, the person who's just convinced something near a hundred thousand words to all fall in line and make sense together, who's trying to condense all that into a single paragraph or a single page.


So anyway, with Dragon Queen I'm going to see once again how the traditional path works, now that I'm older, wiser, betterer at writinger, and actually have a bit of a resume to speak of.  Why not, eh?  Worst that can happen is my heart gets squished another thirty times and ignored another fifty, right? 

So, here goes.  Wish me luck, okay?


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