Post-Gen Con 2016: Reexamining Writing Goals

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My Gen Con 2016 badge and Writer’s Symposium program.

The Gen Con Writer’s Symposium was amazing. I walked away completely refreshed and with a bumper crop of information and ideas. I cannot recommend enough finding and attending similar events to get the latest information about what is going on in the publishing industry or just to get inspired to take your craft to the next level. The Gen Con Writer’s Symposium stretched from Thursday through Sunday (Aug. 4-7) and offered more than 200 hours of programming and events. There was also a Writer’s Avenue in the main vendor hall; however, since my day was packed with seminars, I missed the opportunity to visit and mingle with fellow writers in addition to agents and editors from some of the main publishing house. Next year I will be better prepared and make sure I leave plenty of time to visit that avenue because valuable connections can be made doing that as was pointed out during one of the seminars I attended.

Writers wait to begin their next seminars at the Westin in Indy during Gen Con 2016.

Writers wait to begin their next seminars at the Westin in Indy during Gen Con 2016.

In all I attended eight and a half hours worth of seminars on Saturday, Aug. 6. I say half because I was allowed into Eric Flint’s “Business of Writing: Understanding the Publishing Industry” half way through its start. The bulk of the seminars I attended were Business of Writing related since that is where I currently am in my own creative writing career. I did– for which I’m extremely grateful for–work in a couple Writer’s Craft sessions and one Writer’s Life seminar, which was invaluable.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of the highlights from the Gen Con seminars I attended. The first, which I hope to have up this Friday, will be from “Writer’s Life: Structuring Life to Support Creativity.” I have been struggling with balancing life, energy, and my need to be creative, so this one was a session I truly needed. I know many other writers also struggle with carving out time to write, so hopefully, they too will be able to glean something from the session’s highlights.

Since attending “Structuring Life,” I have been steadily been making progress on Heritage Lost‘s sequel, and I feel in a better place in my creative life, even if I still need to continue training my brain, but all in good time!

Perhaps my greatest take away is I’m halting my agent hunt, except for one particular agent that I have in mind. Instead, I will do yet another read-through of Heritage Lost before directly querying publishing houses that allow unsolicited manuscripts. All of the panelists (and they included writers, editors from publishing houses, and an agent) over several seminars agreed new writers were more likely to be published through the slush pile than through an agent. It is important to note they all stressed there is no one way to publishing; however, directly approaching publishing houses had been my original path. I diverted from it when I kept getting advice that I needed to get an agent first, so I caved.

Additionally, in a month or two, I will probably have exciting news about another venture that I’m hoping to see launch in October, but I want to make sure all of my ducks are in a row before I share anymore on that. Until then, I’m excited to share some of what I learned at Gen Con!

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Staying Uplifted While Querying

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The querying process is one of the hardest steps for a writer to face — even more so than the daunting editing process. A finished manuscript, after all, is our baby, and it’s hard to kick your baby out into the cold cruel world. And trust me, it can be a cruel world.

I’ve been in the midst of querying since February, with a few breaks in between when I’ve been overly busy. And I have been met with rejection after rejection, in some cases where my name couldn’t even be copied and pasted — I have a new appreciation of “Dear John” letters, ha!

However, I keep plodding along in hopes that my book will eventually find the right agent who will click with it and be as passionate about the project as I am (which is extremely important in your agent). Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to keep going, especially when you continue to receive form letters without any feedback — no idea if your pitch is failing; if it’s something to do with your book or your writing; or if the market is just over-saturated in the genre.

Still, no matter how disheartening, a writer must press on if they are to have any hope of finding an agent or publisher. Here are some of the things that have kept me going during the process. Continue reading

So Begins The Jump

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The query letter is the writer’s rite of passage.

To borrow a phrase from Nick Fury (and countless other people over the years): “This isn’t my first rodeo.” I’ve queried before, often to no luck. Rejection happens more often than not: The publishing industry is a hard nut to crack. You just have to dust yourself off, get back up, and continue to submit, potentially with a new project. Doing just that was a tough decision for me. I put so much effort and time into Passage–its characters, its plot, its worldbuilding. However, as my SciFi novel grew and took shape, I had to acknowledge it had the best shot in the current market, so I put all my effort into bringing it to fruition.

Now Heritage Lost is wrapped up, and I’m putting together query letters and a synopsis while also toying with the idea of participating in #PitMad, which is Feb. 11. My ultimate goal is to begin querying agents throughout February, hopefully tantalizing one to bite. Continue reading

And it begins all over again

Back to the grind, though I usually don't go back to it as happy as this kitty.

Back to the grind, though I usually don’t go back to it as happy as this kitty. (wifflegif.com)

Whew, made it through a full week of work post-vacation! Though I got to say, it was painful getting up at 6 a.m. again. But, I need money to feed myself and the kitties, so back to the grind it is. As is the norm, I come back to assignments that didn’t belong to me, but surprise! They are mine now. At least, it’s job security, even though it’s going to be challenging to get them done on top of my regular assignments and copy editing schedule… and we haven’t even received our special tab assignments yet.

I do have to say getting up getting up at 6 a.m. and reintegrating into the office was very inspiring, because it really made me want to get my creative writing out to hopefully earn enough money that I could at least go part time, which a couple of my coworkers have done recently for varying reasons. They have just made the whole part-time route look like so much fun!

During my vacation, I did start considering strategies to achieve such a feat, by looking at what I have. I have one completed novel, “Passage,” which I haven’t queried since my move, other books in its series in varying states of completion, several short stories lying around and a SciFi Novel halfway done, not to mention odd bits and pieces of writing projects. This is too much writing sitting around and not doing anything!

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Can completely appreciate Snoopy’s struggles.

Now that I am largely stationary in my home (still got stuff at my dad’s house though), I cannot justify having so much writing not moving as it were. I started to pick up the momentum during vacation and submitted another short story to a literary magazine for speculative fiction … it got rejected, which seems to be a reoccurring theme no matter what I’m peddling. But I’m not allowing it to get me down; I intend to submit it to another similar magazine that takes shorts of the same genre and who knows maybe they will be the right fit.

If anything, the experience is making me angry, only angry in a good way. It’s building a fire that is intent to break through the doors of the publishing world. The experience is also further highlighting knowledge that I have stuffed in the back corners of my mind: It is hard for a first-time writer to get anything published, even their short stories.

But that is alright, because I’m intent to make it happen; however, I’m doing a bit of a game change, especially the more I learn about the approaches other writers have taken and observe the changes that are happening in the publishing industry.

When I began the querying process for “Passage,” I started by querying agents. However, when I resume querying, it won’t be to agents. I’ve decided to take another route: I will do my own homework and, hopefully yet this month, start querying a few of the larger publishing companies that still take unsolicited manuscripts. I will also begin looking at smaller presses that might make a good fit for my book.

Self-publishing is also emerging as a strong possibility. It’s no longer the dirty word of the publishing industry and has a real strong movement of indie writers publishing their own works. I do admit there is something very appealing about having complete control of my works. So while I’m putting together packets for publishers and presses, I’m also beginning to put my manuscript together in preparation of self-publishing it. I’m quite fortunate to have skill sets that will save me money when it comes to self-publishing, such as having the graphic design skills and programs necessary to make a professional cover. In fact, I’ve already begun piecing it together, and so far, I think it looks swell.

On top of getting “Passage” moving again, I’m going to work on building up my resume, which means getting short stories out and, hopefully, picked up by various literary magazines. It’s a tall order, but it’s something I have to do to get where I want to go. I will also be tackling the remaining books in The Mortal Wars series in case I do go the self-publishing route with “Passage,” because I will want sequels out every year or every year and a half. The SciFi Novel is also going to get a lot of effort put into it because I can see it being particularly marketable at this time to agents and publishers, but then again, I could be wrong on that front, lol.

I’m certain I will receive several more rejection notifications, but hopefully they will only serve to kindle the fire. In meantime, I’m going to take inspiration from Larry Correia’s experiences selling his book, which was rejected numerous times but, through cunning marketing practices, was picked up by a major publisher after he self-published it.

Cheers everyone and hoping your own writing projects are also going swimmingly.

Stay calm and query on — Wrapping up September

Is September really almost over? It’s hard to believe that October is just around the corner, especially since for me it feels like September just got started. I have to say this month has been wonderful for my writing. Not only have I begun to query “Passage” (which is quite stressful!) to various agents, but I’ve managed to complete a short story I’ve been working on for quite sometime and get work done on a SciFi novel I’ve also been trying to complete.

Perhaps, my greatest rallying cry this month came in the form of a blog post that my brother emailed to me, entitled How to be a Professional Writer by Correia45 (plus its predecessor). Being a writer is my job, but after reading these blog posts, I realized I was treating my fictional work more as a hobby. I would go in spurts where I would write, followed by prolonged periods of procrastination; I had lost the drive and good practices that burned in me throughout high school and college, and had allowed external factors to hamper me. But now, I see the errors of my ways, and since reading those blog posts, I have been working on my writing or others every night, minus one day off, treating it like it should be: like job.

One of my writing friends had made a really good point when I met her at a coffee shop: I can dedicate so much time to writing during NaNoWriMo, so I should be able to do that during the rest of year. And she is right. Dedication to the craft should spread out throughout the year — writers should dedicate the same amount of time to writing as they do during NaNoWriMo; at least, if they are dedicated writers, who seriously want to make a career out of writing. And I have to face it: NaNoWriMos are not helping me.

I have not felt the NaNoWriMo drive for quite some time — not since that first event and the following JulNoWriMo. Nowadays, more often than not, I find NaNoWriMo time disheartening and frustrating, though this year might be different since I now know people who NaNo locally, and we can get together. It is always nice to belong to something and surround oneself with fellows who are striving to achieve the same goal. But largely, for the rest of the year and into 2014 and beyond, I’m going to focus on the larger pictures, not on a monthly binge; no, it will be a year-round binge.

And oh, what a year-round binge it will be! Short stories, novels, novellas and so on — they will all fill out my year, along with the writing that is sent to me for proofing, which I’ve been getting quite a bit of lately to my pleasure. And as I get others work, I am pressured toward biting the bullet and finally purchasing the Chicago Manual of Style (though it is so expensive!) because sometimes I just need “the source,” especially as AP Style conflicts in my head with other styles.

All and all, October is set up to be a promising month. Just have to keep up the momentum, keep time open for writing or editing and continue to view my writing projects as a job.

*** In other news, September added to my list of things I never expect when I came to work at the local paper. All on the same day, I got into a pasture with a full-grown bull and then got to see a calf born. Pretty awesome day, all in all. ***