The querying process: trust your instincts

As I submerge myself in this world of querying agents and receiving rejections, I started to take it as part of the common writing process. I no longer feel bad for the rejections coming from literary agent’s, in fact, I think they are making me stronger and more resilient.

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In the meantime, I’ve also started to experiment with different query letters, manuscript summaries, and even decided to change my first chapter. I feel happy on the latter. I was never happy with having a prologue. For some reason, I thought my story really needed that prologue. However, once I decided to challenge this idea, I put my hands on re-writing the first chapter, integrating in it the prologue. It worked so well that I couldn’t believe it! I regretted sending queries to agents that had to go through my prologue (when they requested the first chapters or pages in the query letter). But well…sigh… one learns from these mistakes. It is not like I’m an expert or a published author.

I also took on revamping my query letter and summary – for those that request it. From the beginning, I knew they weren’t the best possible and I attributed this to my story being so complex that I couldn’t describe it in a couple of paragraphs, but I later discovered they were totally improvable and I twitched them a bit until I felt prouder of them.

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I’m still going through my list of agents I want to query to. I’m not doing them all at once, neither one by one. But if the rejection trend is here to stay, then I’ll start pondering about self-publishing, which is not that bad according to what I heard. My only worry is that traditional publishing helps you get inside bookshops which is what I always wanted. It is not that I don’t trust the digital channels, and don’t see the potential in it, but there is a sweet spot in my heart where I want to see my book in a shelf in a bookshop. Who knows how things turn around. I’ve witnessed quite amazing events happening in my life.

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In the meantime, if anybody is out there in the process of querying, writing query letters, preparing summaries, trust your instincts and make sure you are really proud of them.

From writing to doing my first 5K challenge

I’ve always wanted to participate of the wwwp5K Movement challenge with great 3 charities to support, but each year, there was always something going on the day people were supposed to do it. This year, the challenge extended to the whole month, so I told myself there were no more excuses.

Now as a background, I’m no experienced jogger/runner. I jog from time to time, maybe a couple of times per week the most, and probably only for 20 minutes. Time was one of the main constraints, and this year, the footing track where I go has become busier than ever. Since jogging with a mask is hard (and some people still manage to do it), I try to go on a time of the day when there is not many people around. That usually happens around 9:30 am in the morning. If you go earlier, there is actually too much “running traffic”.

On this side of the world, it is summer, so most of the days are hot, meaning that 9:30 am is probably one of the last latest times of the day that you will see runners around, until the second batch of the day which starts around 5 pm. The traffic in the evening is even wilder with people running until 10:00 pm or more. That might sound as an excuse, but I take it as safety measure. However, when I go at 9:30 am, I don’t have much time to stay since I have to start working around 10:00 am. 🙂

But Saturday I didn’t have to work and a biking appointment was suspended at last minute. Therefore, I knew there were no more excuses. I already knew I wouldn’t be able to complete the whole 5K running; I get totally exhausted after 15 or 20 mins, but the challenge is about completing it either running, walking, or however you can. But having no time pressures and the footing track emptier than usual made things easier. I thought I was going to probably walk at least 50% of it, but I think it was at least 80% of the time running and the remaining walking, so that is a great victory to me. I never felt so happy and proud about a physical challenge.

And although this is a writing blog, writers also need some physical challenges to improve and stimulate our creativity. So I gave it a chance.

What happens after the manuscript is done?

There comes a point in time when you realize that the manuscript is ready to go out there. Or at least you want to believe that. My fantasy manuscript is ready and I’ve already started seeing publishing options (I’ll check first the traditional options and if not, self-publishing). The process is long, so what happens in the meantime?

I could have waited and concentrated my energy for the fantasy manuscript to reach its end-result: the published book. But for some reason, I decided that while I wait for replies on query letters, I could start working on a new project. Therefore, I’ve started a new manuscript on a new different story, based on an idea has been nagging me for some time and I didn’t want to wait anymore.

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I realized that as I get more into this writing process, the better I feel. I spent a lot of time on my first original thriller manuscript (which was left incomplete several years ago – it is still lying there, dormant), but the story had too many plot holes, and the characters were too simple. Perhaps, I’ll come back to it some day, with a refreshed and more interesting approach- or a complete revamp. In the meantime, if you count that original manuscript, the recently finished fantasy one, then this would be the third time starting the whole process of writing a new story. And I feel it gets better with time. I’ve also realized I’m definitely not a plotter, not a pantser, but a mix of the two.

When I started my fantasy manuscript, I found an interesting technique that I’m considering this time too. I started writing as a pantser, wanting to know where the characters and story led me to. But then I realized that if you keep as a pantser, you face the risk of entering an endless journey with no direction. So I stopped, and came back to analyze the story and characters. This process worked very well during the fantasy manuscript. Characters were one of my best improvements and I feel very proud of how they developed in my fantasy manuscript. Still, the story plot became too complex at some point, and there were some editing rounds where I had to “patch” some massive story plot holes.

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In the new manuscript, let’s call it the “dystopian” one, which is more or less the genre of this one, I feel more confident about “sketching” characters, letting them being, and experimenting changes. I think I got a better hold on that process. Now, I want to improve the process for developing my storyline. I’m planning on introducing a bit more “plotting” on this manuscript to not lose as much track of it as it happened on the fantasy one. However, I’m definitely not planning on becoming a rigid plotter, killing my creativity and adaptability to change.

I’ve already written the first 45 pages of the dystopian manuscript .They were mostly done in a pantser “state”. Then I stopped. Now I’m going through these 45 pages to give it more structure. I want to still be able to fly with the story, let my writing spirit be free, but with a bit more of structure. It is working rather well until now.

In addition, I’m starting to do deeper editing from the start. I want this first manuscript draft to be in a more decent readable state than my previous manuscripts where the first draft was barely readable. I hope this approach works better so that future editing rounds are not as hard and time consuming than previous ones. Also, I’ll start searching for beta readers in an earlier stage. Feedback is important. It is tough on writers, but we need it. Let’s see how my new writing approach works now.

And you, do you feel your writing process improves with each project?

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Resiliency at Covid-19 times

I know this is a writing blog, but it is hard to be a writer without acknowledgment of what is going around us. These past days have been hard. It is no longer other people dying of Covid19 but people that you already know 😦 and happening to closest people, the cousin of my closest friend, the uncle of another friend, a friend of my mom and so on 😦

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Never in my life, I’ve been trying to do all this meditation, self-help, and motivation routines. The truth is that without them, I would be going into a depressing mode most certainly. It is very hard to find the energy and the will to keep on going without thinking about all deaths and struggles that surround you. It is no longer happening to other people but to people around you 😦 and you begin to understand the nature of this pandemic. We can’t escape it.

I mostly exaggerate when washing hands, wearing masks, and all that stuff, but did I wash all the tiny corners of that package or that surface that probably was in contact with somebody that was sick? Are the people around me taking the same measures? If not, how much can I avoid it on my own? Will any of my beloved ones get sick? Will they survive? My Mom is at high risk. She is 70 years old, still going to her office from time to time, has high blood pressure and she is an all-life smoker. What will happen if she gets sick? These are the many questions that I do myself every single day. I’m on work vacation at the time of writing this post and had too many personal projects to work on, but keeping my spirit up during these days has been though. Life will never be the same, neither vacations.

Writing after editing/copywriting

I decided to give it a go to professional editing of my manuscript. After getting a good hunch on a video from this editor, I paid for it and waited an external/unknown person to finally take a look at my manuscript. I wasn’t expecting much as I knew I had picked a considerable affordable service. I thought it would be mostly about grammar, spelling, punctuation, verb tenses, sentence structure, word choices etc. The type of editing that I worried most about since English is not my first language. But I was surprised to get a very detailed feedback about the story itself.

The feedback included very good points about plot holes that I hadn’t thought about. Twists in the story that didn’t make much sense or that could be better explained. I absolutely loved that part. My fantasy story has many characters in it, so having someone deeply connecting all characters’ reasons and subplots was great. She was able to find small details of parts of the story I had completely forgot or contradicted. I loved this copywriting part more than the editing one. I came to understand that this is actually called developmental editing which involves checking story inconsistencies, discrepancies, factual errors, etc.

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I got great feedback from character development which actually surprised me. In a previous attempt with a first manuscript of a different story, my weakest point was character development. That story is on standby as it needs lots of rewriting. But most of the feedback that I got from the few beta readers, back in those days, was that characters didn’t feel multidimensional and there was no evolvement in their personalities, no growth. That really caught my attention, and when I started writing this new manuscript, I focused on writing good characters. It paid off, and I’m truly happy for it. It made the whole process feel that it had potential.

I still have to work fixing some parts of the story but it doesn’t feel like an impossible job right now. It feels very tangible and I’m already in one-fourth of the total manuscript length of this new round of revision, and it is only been a week since I started. I feel encouraged but mostly proud of my fictional characters.

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