Friday, March 4, 2011

Pick Up the Pace!

Yep, I'm still kickin' down the cobblestones.... stone by stone on this writerly path. It's a bizarre state of existence, isn't it??  I'm just so eternally grateful to have y'all on board with me and keeping me motivated. If writing and publication is the cake, all of you are certainly the icing.


Go on and treat yourself to a slice of lemon cake. It's %100 calorie free. See there! Do I love ya or what??

I mentioned before that I'm on the query roller coaster. Well, I'm thinking of hopping off for a bit. Just so I can immerse myself into my new project. I did receive some partial requests and even a full, which meant the agents liked my story idea and my query (huge plus!) but once they had the actual story, didn't connect with it.

Which tells me I still have work to do. Of course, each agent has their own taste and another agent may feel differently... yada, yada, yada .... we know the drill. The key factor to me, is that the stories just didn't sparkle as they should. And that's okay, because I'm still writing and I've learned something from each story I've written.

For example;

My first novel length story I ever wrote, Through the Fern Glade, was just me learning how to tell a story through the written word. Was it or is it publishable? Uh, that would be a big fat NEGATIVE. But still, I love, love, love that story because it was part of my growth.

The Mistake was my second story and it was much better (and shorter) but I hadn't fully understood the craft of writing. I could tell a story, but the writing was amateur. That story taught me I could crank out a story fast and let the words flow.

The 49th Parallel taught me how to plot. I still believe in this story and plan to go back and rewrite it some day. I learned that plot is important, and a good one is fantastic. But you still need strong characters for the reader to invest in. That's where I fell short in this story. I kicked butt with the action, suspense, and plot, but my characters were weak. I wasn't spending enough time with them.

Then I wrote Float. And in writing Float I focused on really developing my characters. I think I pulled it off too... well, for the most part I did, considering it was my first character-driven tale. And yes I queried this one because I fell in love with the characters, and I really believed in the story. I had a few requests and apparently none of the agents fell in love with it the way I did. So it's taught me I still have work to do.

Starsong I full on poured myself into for NaNoWriMo. I had a tale to tell and I was ready. I got that first draft down in a month's time and spent the next few months revising--even won a few critiques from published authors and an agent. From this story I learned that I can write. That's good. One less thing to worry about, right? But after many queries sent and only one request so far which was rejected based on overall story pacing, I realize I ain't there yet.

There's always work to do. Writers never stop learning, always honing our craft. But where I'm at right now tells me I've come a loooong way, and I need to get back to work. So far, no one has fallen in love with my work. So I haven't found that IT factor yet. In short, here's what I've learned:

*  Figure out a kick-arse, tight plot
*  Develop your characters so that you fall head over heels for them
*  Pick up the pace. Just keep throwing conflict at your characters and keep the story moving (trim the fat)
*  YA contemporary is a very tough sell 

After realizing just how tough a sell it is, I'm calling it a day with that genre. It was an important genre for me to experiment with along my path because it taught me how to develop my characters. But my true passion is in fantasy, and it seems like those are the kinds of stories readers want anyway. Heck, it's the kind of stories I want. I'm really going to focus on writing a story that I'd like to read.

Which I'm doing now. I've been world building since the year began and I'm ready to dive in and start writing my first draft. I may still query Starsong as the year goes by. I'm not giving up, just refocusing.

What about you? How has your path come along? Some of you are published and some not. Are there any lessons you've learned that you'd like to share? Enlighten us, please....

23 comments:

Rogue Mutt said...

I think everything is a tough sell these days. And yup, you got to do a lot of bad stories to maybe do one good one.

T C Mckee said...

I'm so proud of you. You should be having real lemon cake. I was jumping up and down when an agents assistant sent me a personalized reply and copy and pasted the paragraph that had put the nail in my coffin. My husband thought I was crazy. But she took the time to let me know where I'd gone wrong. That was something to celebrate as far as I was concerned. If I know whats wrong, I can fix it or hire someone who can. You got a few requests. Heck yeah. Go baby!!!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I enjoyed your post,that lemon cake sounded delicious as I have not eaten cake fro a while trying to lose the pounds,

Yvonne.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL I switched from YA paranormal to YA contemp because agents were getting flooding with YA paranormals and YA contemps were selling. I don't regret the switch. But my novels tend to more like (but not quite) YA romantic suspenses.

I'm also querying, but have stepped back a bit. I have a lot of partials and fulls out, but I'm immersed in my new project, so I can't be bothered so send out more queries.

I'm with TC Mckee. On my last novel, I received helpful feedback that told me what my weaknesses were, which I worked hard to overcome.

E.J. Wesley said...

PK, what you've already accomplished is amazing, and I'm not even talking about the writing aspect (although, finishing stories and querying is an incredible task of will alone). It's your attitude that wins.

Writing can be so--I don't know how to put it--mind screwing! You work, work, work with very little outside provocation or acknowledgment (we call that external motivation in the business). Then, once you've already done mountains of work/bloodletting, you try to get that external support for your efforts. A very subversive and backward business, if you ask me. :-)

Anywho, sometimes the only measure of our writerly intentions and ability is the desire to keep doing it. I think you've got that in spades. I'm trying to do something similar by simply continuing to evolve my writing curiosity and interests via writing other genres, styles, etc. I've moved away from YA (for the time being, and not FAR away), started working on short stories, etc.

Success is such an overused and nebulous term in the writing arena, but by measure I think you've already been very successful. And I'd bet my house that if you stick with it that success will only multiply.

Meredith said...

Good luck with the refocusing! It sounds like you've grown a lot in your writing--isn't that a great feeling?

Angela Ackerman said...

Some novels we go the distance to get them exactly right and eventually go to submit, and others we reach the point where it's too much work and we know it's time to move on. Each book is a stepping stone, and it's important to think of them that way--no book is ever a failure.

Me, I have lots of stepping stones. :)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Lisa Gail Green said...

Sometimes it takes a hundred queries. If you love the book, don't give up on it, especially since you've already been through that many times over and have really learned from each go round. And write what you would want to read. Period. Don't write to the market. So, if you love fantasy, great! But let me tell you, they are ALL hard sells right now. I think it's the writing, the story and characters, that shine through.

Kathryn said...

Keep it up and believe in Starsong! You're right - it's subjective sometimes! :)

I'm currently writing my fourth novel and loving it sooo much. And then I'll be reworking TT and hopefully making it a helluva lot better! :)

Melissa said...

I've only written one novel... This summer I plan to start the next!

The Golden Eagle said...

I've written one novel which I divided up into a trilogy--but that's all I've done. I do have other projects in the works, though, and hopefully they'll help me improve the way I write.

Erin said...

Congrats on getting those requests from agents. I know it's still frustrating when they don't see what they wanted to see in your work, but even a requeset is a big accomplishment!

Reading about your path was interesting. Thank you for sharing! Your tips are great, although the one about YA contemporary makes me sad because that's what I'm trying to sell. I do have an agent though, so maybe I'll have some luck?

Enjoy working on a fresh, new project!

Erin @ Quitting My Day Job

Norma Beishir said...

PK, stay with it.

I went the traditional route. I had a really good agent who got me multi-book contracts with six-figure advances.

But I still prefer self-publishing.

Oddyoddyo13 said...

One of my teachers (my science teacher, oddly enough) told me that she learned writing was NEVER perfect. Ever. But it sounds like you're getting there-just keep a-chuggin'!

Julie Musil said...

I hope you don't give up on those stories! It's true we should write something we'd like to read, though. What I write and read isn't the same for other writers, and that's such a great thing. We never stop learning, and nothing is wasted. Good luck with your next project!

erica and christy said...

Wow, that's one long internship, huh? Thanks so much for sharing your story!
erica

Gina Blechman said...

Thank you for posting your journey, it's always great to see all the steps that people have gone through, since I have gone through so many as well. I haven't even started querying and I'm already learning so much. (Pretty much along the lines of everything you said.) I keep cutting down my novel and making sure the action flows and the characters transition perfectly from beginning to end. Good luck with your writing and editing. Hopefully it'll all work out for you.

<3 Gina Blechman

Michael Di Gesu said...

PK,

It's great that you have written so much and learned from each writing experience.

My first novel was/is my best learning experience. I am still editing, but after two years I finally did get some awesome feedback from an editor. I now know I can write, and what I need to do for my final edit.

MY second novel is in ABNA. I have had several crits on it and know how to tighten that ms.

As you say it is all a learning process and we learn something new every day as long as we are OPEN to the experience.

Congrats on your progress. I will be entering the query arena soon and I hope to have the success of a partial or full request. That in itself is an amazing thing.

Michael

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Hi there is an award for you at my blog called Friends for the journey.

Yvonne.

Tony Benson said...

Hi there. I just put a cherry on top of the next slice, and that one's for you. Your journey in writing is fascinating, and I admire your tenacity. That's what it takes.

I've seen it said that a person can't become a seasoned author until they've written at least half a million words. Of course it varies from author to author, and it doesn't necessarily take that. Nonetheless, the truth is that we all get better with practise, getting good feedback, taking good advice, reading about writing and all the other ways we try to improve our craft.

What seems to be true, however, is that the best way to get good at writing is to write.

Thanks for an interesting insight into your journey. I wish you joy and success in your writing.

Catherine Stine said...

Your hard work will pay off. Tenacity is a big part of getting published. That's what I learned. And to keep writing no matter what.

Florence said...

I was "out" of it all last week. Now I'm back to say ...

"you can't always get what you want. you can't always get what you want. but if you try sometime you find ... you get what you need ..."

Go for the fantistical of it all and have fun :)

Nathalie Schiltz said...

Whatever you write, you know I'll want to read. I feel privileged to have been able to read 2 of your manuscripts and I know that whatever genre you go for, you'll get published :)