Want to see what STRAY will look like when it hits the stores on October 7th? Here’s a look at the beautiful hardcover AND the opening paragraph. Enjoy!
Today’s Tea: Earl Grey
You should know this about me: I love spreadsheets. It’s probably the reason I enjoyed animation production, which is 50% organization and 50% bossing people around (I’m pretty good at that too).
I finished my first draft of STRAY in 2011, but didn’t start querying until the following year, a good eight drafts later. Again, make sure that you love your story, because oh my god, you will be so sick of your manuscript at this point. This is an excellent stage to seek out some really great critique partners (CPs). Some people like to have the same select few read each draft of their manuscript, but I personally found it very helpful to have different people reading it at each step of the way. Having completely fresh eyes on each revision gave me a really good idea of what needed work.
There’s no real way to know if its time to start querying, but when you think you’re ready (after you’ve revised a few times), I recommend putting aside your manuscript for at least a month. If you read it again and still feel that you’re ready then it’s time to give it a go.
I used that month to research agents and the querying process and I was thrilled to realize the most efficient way to keep track of agents would be to create a super awesome, seven-column, overly involved spreadsheet*. I loved that spreadsheet. It was insanely detailed.
Then I turned to my query letter.
Query letters are hard. They are hard like first drafts are hard, except they are a totally new beast. Books let you spread out over pages and chapters, with queries you have to fit everything into two or three paragraphs. Oy.
Like my manuscript’s first draft, my first attempt at a query letter was terrible, horrible, no good, very bad and was sent out to the overwhelming response of crickets. Nothing. Nada. No interest. So I scrapped it (notice a trend?) and started over.
The internet is an incredible resource for querying authors. There’s a list of my favorite publishing websites on my EXTRAS page, but if you’re at the querying stage, go immediately to Query Shark and read the entire site. Seriously. The entire site.
After more research and more query rewrites, interest started trickling in (as I obsessively kept refreshing my email inbox). A first chapter request here, the opening fifty pages request there and then finally, a full manuscript request!
I tried not to get my hopes up. I had already gotten rejections from agents requesting partials, so I sent out the most recent draft of STRAY and did my best not to think about it.
A lot of authors will talk about “the call”, when an agent calls you to offer representation. I got “the email” to set up “the call” and let me tell you, it was awesome. I also had to get a root canal that day, but the call was WAY better.
*For those who don’t possess my deep, unwavering love for creating spreadsheets, you will be happy to realize that if you use querytracker (an EXCELLENT website for those looking for an agent) it will build a spreadsheet of agents for you. It’s brilliant.
Today’s Tea: Vanilla Rooibos
Like most things, it started with a pretty simple idea. During my senior year in college, I was re-watching SLEEPING BEAUTY and CINDERELLA (for research*) and had the thought: what if there was a school for fairy godmothers?
That was the idea. So I scribbled out some scenes, a few brief character studies and proceeded to do absolutely nothing about it. I graduated, moved back to Los Angeles, got a job in animation production and started working very long hours.
I would think about the idea sometimes, mostly when I was driving to or from work, but for the most part I didn’t do much about it except complain to myself that I was wasn’t doing much about it.
It took a really long time for me to focus enough to turn that idea into a story. And that story into a manuscript. And when that manuscript was done, I read it and realized it was awful. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad book.
So it got scrapped. And I started over.
The next manuscript was better. It didn’t share a lot in common with the first manuscript. The characters had all been renamed, the tone had completely changed and somehow what had started out as a standalone novel became a series with six outlined books. But the original idea stayed the same.
I ended up writing that new first draft in about two months. Pretty speedy, huh? Yeah, except for those five years of preparation that came before it.
Friends, it has been said that you should write a story that you would like to read. I strongly believe this, because you will be rewriting that manuscript for years. YEARS! I finished that first draft in 2011 and just now, three years later, am I reaching the end of revising that puppy. Publishing is a long process and you’ll need two things to make it through: patience and a love of your story, because both of those will be tested throughout the publishing process.
Thank goodness I really, really, really like fairy tales.
*No really. My thesis was about the representation of women in animated films and yes, I am a nerd.