Friday, September 3, 2010

Happy Writers' Society...no, CLAN. Coven, maybe?

I've noticed a wealth of angst lately among writers. This business is hard to break into, and it's easy to get down on yourself, on your writing. And it doesn't seem to end even after the book deal. I haven't met a writer who didn't at one point feel a little stressed and frustrated and pressured. Or a lot.

Obviously I've been going through an intense bout of writer angst this year as well, and I gotta admit I'm sick of it. I'm sick of the knots in my stomach when I write, the worry that I'm messing up my book, the wondering and "agony" of waiting.

I hereby declare war on writers' angst. WAR, I tell you.

And I'd like to recruit you, too.

I'm forming a club, except anyone can join so it's not that kind of club. I'm calling it the Happy Writers' Society. It will probably be as ridiculous as Haruhi Suzumiya's SOS Brigade, so be prepared for ridiculousness and smiling. LOTS of smiling.

Because writers should be happy! We are creative, imaginative, hard working people who claim to love what we do! Shouldn't we show it a little more? Do we have to be so tortured? I don't think so. I'm so over "tortured writer."

So welcome to the Happy Writers' Society!

Mission: To spread writerly cheer, celebrate the journey, and otherwise purge writers of angst.

Every Friday (along with my occasional sketches), I will be posting something for Happy Writers' Society (HWS). But that's not all—I want "members" to share their stories too! So if you want to join my little club/clan/society/coven thing, please do. And if you want to share, send your stories (500 words max, please) to natalie (at) nataliewhipple (dot) com. Now to kick this off with a BANG.

Celebrating Failure
Disney put out a movie called Meet The Robinsons a few years ago. I don't know if it really took off, but it's one of my favorites just because it reminds me to "Keep Moving Forward."

It's about a boy inventor, struggling to get his mojo back after his most-loved invention fails disastrously. (Um, can you see the parallels already?) He wants to give up inventing—he's ashamed that he can't get anything right ever.

At one point, the Robinson family convinces him to try tinkering again, so he attempts to fix this machine. And guess what happens? No, he doesn't succeed—the thing blows up in his face and the boy is utterly devastated.

And then the Robinsons cheer.

They cheer for his failure! They throw confetti and tell him how awesome his failure was, how horrible it went, laugh at how everyone's covered in goo. It's totally cheesy, but it sticks with me every time.

You see, the Robinsons believe failure is great—they believe it's learning, growing, and part of the process to finding what DOES work. It's nothing to get upset about, nothing to give up over. And as cheesy as that is, I've decided I'd rather be cheesy than depressed all the time.

So today I shall celebrate my failures by posting my VERY FIRST QUERY LETTER EVER. Oh, yes, it's a doozy. It's embarrassing. And I'm totally gonna celebrate the beautiful newbness of it. Just so you know, my very own agent received this query almost three years ago. It was promptly rejected in five minutes—making it my very first rejection! Are you ready, guys?

When Sevene’s hair turns blue on her sixteenth birthday she thinks the world is ending; and she’s exactly right. In Sevene: The Keepers, a 74,500-word novel, the timid yet creative Sevene Keys finds herself with incredible new powers and daunting responsibility when she discovers she is from a distant world. As aliens invade Earth to kill her, she must not only avoid her own death, but stop the vicious creatures from destroying Los Angeles.

Hooked to writing since I could read, I have been avidly conjuring stories and dreaming of new worlds since kindergarten. I worked as a writer for BYU’s Eagle’s Eye Magazine
for four years, writing over 30 articles for 10 issues while also managing layout and editing responsibilities. A hard-working perfectionist, I believe that revision is the heart of good writing and embrace criticism as a means to improvement. I am not afraid to rework my materials and seek out people who will help me grow as a writer and help my stories flourish into novels.

In reading your blog, I felt that my manuscript would be a good addition to your list. Thank you for considering my complete manuscript, which also has an option of becoming a series.
Awesome, right? I mean, take a look at the bio paragraph! For reals? Please imagine me laughing, because I am. It's funny how there's this little shred of potential there (I'm totally digging the tagline!), and yet, wow, what a disaster. That bio paragraph is basically a "see how insecure I am but please like me anyway?" speech. And it's totally vague in general.

But, I learned a lot from this first query. First, I learned I had no clue what I was doing. I wrote this without any help—I had no writer friends to help! This experience propelled me to seek out knowledge and friends, which profoundly affected my life.

Second, I learned that I had the guts to query, even if I wasn't ready. That was a big deal, since I'd spent my life up until then too afraid to even try. I learned I could put myself out there, get rejected, and survive. Luckily I only queried five poor souls with this thing and then decided I needed more practice.

Third, I learned my book wasn't ready—I wasn't ready. I really had no idea how much work it took, but writing this first query taught me things about storytelling. There's nothing like a summary to test your plot, to show whether or not the story actually holds up. After writing this query, I realized my book didn't. Sure, I still didn't know how to fix it, but at least I knew!

So there you go, a disastrous failure that led to many good things! Sure, it's a little embarrassing, but I don't think I'd be the writer I am now without it. In the end, I owe a lot to this silly query, and thus I will celebrate it.

This concludes today's Happy Writers' Society meeting. Please feel free to celebrate failure with me in comments! I would love to hear your misteps-turned-positive!

Also, I should probably make a badge or something...a crest? A flag? Oooo, a THEME SONG.

59 comments:

  1. Ooh...I vote for pins or something we can accessorize with! I'm on board! I love spreading happiness and dwelling on things that make me happy!

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  2. Love this idea! Thanks for sharing, Natalie!

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  3. Count me in too. Four books sold and I still feel like a total loser some days. Hey, I think I know our theme song!
    "I will survive"

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  4. I love this idea too! Count me in, I'm all over spreading happiness and joy and fighting angst.

    If we're voting, I'd vote for a crest...because I love crests.

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  5. Natalie, you're wonderful!

    You're so helpful and you don't try and make yourself look good all the time (which I have to tell you it would be amazingly easy to do!)

    I'm starting with short stories and I've only had a few rejections yet. My first story was less ready to go out than your query letter but I'm not as brave as you to show it to everyone.

    So thanks for your courage and encouragement!

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  6. Loved your post and am going to try to have an angst-free weekend :) Also enjoyed your query. I'm going to go hunting for my first query letter and take another look. Maybe I'll share it on my blog. In all honestly, the query that got me my agent was pretty straightforward and not all that arty in my opinion. Which leads to your key point: the MOST important thing is to have a ms that is ready to sell! Have a lovely weekend. - Stasia

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  7. I seriously love this idea. I would hug it if I could. :)

    I laugh when I look back at earlier drafts of my WiP. The beginning is especially funny. So overdramatic yet...not. It failed miserably. But it's nice to see how I've improved since then, although I still have a lot of work to do before it's even close to being ready.

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  8. This was actually very helpful! And hey, look where you are now! You have an agent! THAT agent!

    I can't wait for your books to come out!

    Queries are tough! I'm terrible at them! :)

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  9. Excellent idea! HWS sounds fantastic, and I totally vote in favor of a theme song. :)

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  10. This is a great idea. I don't the think the summary part of your query is too bad. I'd read it. The bio part is sweet.

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  11. Sent ya email with my (hopefully) inspiring news! ;-)

    And you are sooo right, writers should be happy!

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  12. I thought the first story I wrote was brilliant. Need I say more? Yay for HWS! Writing is an adventure and adventures make life exciting! Who wouldn't want that?

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  13. Love the idea of a Happy Writers Society! It can be a depressing business. My first book was terrible. No plot. Luckily I only bothered one agent with a query before the epiphany.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  14. What a great idea! HWS! I'm all about the overuse of exclamation points, effusive optimism, and all-around cheer when it comes to the profession of writing. Count me in!

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  15. LOVE this idea...and yep, writer's should be happy!

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  16. Can we get t-shirts? :D

    Sounds cool though...I mean, as writers, we should be boasting and loving what we do...because we get to just sit back in a chair and make-up stuff for a living. How could that ever be bad?

    Sounds sweet! I shall stay tuned.

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  17. The SOS Brigade was always awesome (until season two then it just got so weird).

    A badge for blogs for sure, maybe secret handshake but a song...it'd be so badass to have a theme song too.

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  18. My first query was worse ;)
    Love the idea - kickass theme song is a no brainer ;)

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  19. Count me in too!!!
    I love this idea.

    I had some fun in photoshop and created a crest for the HWS. Feel free to share this image wherever. It's on my blog at www.emergencymetaphortechnician.blogspot.com

    Also, you don't have to use it. It was just fun to make.
    Thanks for the positivity!

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  20. Love it!! Happy writers unite!!

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  21. Happy Writers Society?! I don't know what to say except... yes, yes, yes! I couldn't agree more and I'm so grateful to hear somebody bring up the issue. The whole 'tortured' stigma has had its run--time to celebrate the art we love and be known as 'happy' writers instead!

    ... And if/when people don't believe us, we'll have the tshirts/theme song to prove it. Perfect plan. :)

    Thanks for sharing!

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  22. I'm *so* in, and I think a crest AND theme song would be great! (Just don't ask me to help write it. *hangs head*)

    The idea of laughing at my first query never entered my mind. Please excuse me while I go laugh my head off.

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  23. Oh my god I LOVE Meet the Robinsons!! That slogan needs to be engraved everywhere, all the time. Keep Moving Forward.

    And if you make a crest for the Happy Writers Society, I will get it tattooed. Promise.

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  24. Reesha, love the crest! How fun! Teehee.

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  25. I say coven. Because, really, we're all far too cool to be a simple clan.

    A theme song would be nice.

    *off to ponder*

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  26. (Awesome movie)
    Great idea! For some reason HWS makes me think Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...(HogWarts School)
    When I can think of something, I'll totally e-mail you.

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  27. I'm for a Happy Writer's Society. Pins, Blog Badges, Crests...anything;s good. Count me in.

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  28. You won me over when you described it as a writers' version of the SOS Brigade.

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  29. Sign me up...

    I was actually kinda fond of Meet the Robinsons...

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  30. Were can I sign up? Awesome idea- hey we could have membership cards! Badges! Notebooks! Stationary! Woot!

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  31. Such an awesome idea. Count me in.

    I've gone from this frantic desire to succeed today, yesterday, last year, to just enjoying the ride. I'm on target to finish MS number 8 today, but I'm not letting the number get me down. So what if it took me 6 ms before I wrote something that was half-decent? So what if the road has been hard and long? I'll get there eventually.

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  32. Great idea and now I feel weird because I had a similar brainwave this morning and started a Friday feature on my blog called "Little Victories". Anything we can do to get some more positivity in our lives is awesome!

    Your query reminded me of my first drawing from an art class I took. It was terrible, but I thought it was good. Now I think it is hilarious! But I got better!

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  33. Ha! I'm in. Here's my first query. The synopsis part is forever on my blog. The rest (which I'd forgotten) I found in my e-mail:

    TRAVELERS combines hard science with elements of the fantastic, without resorting to rational explanations for everything, nor is the fantastic inserted just for novelty's sake, rather the story is about how people of various beliefs deal with what they cannot explain.

    TRAVELERS is my first novel, and it is complete at around 84,000 words. Before my wife and I moved to Thailand, I lived in San Diego, California and worked for Science Applications Int'l Corp. I've included a few sample pages below for you to look at, and I would be happy to send you a complete or partial copy of the manuscript for your review, if you would like. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


    I got my first rejection within 10 hours. Reason: the agent didn't represent sci-fi/fantasy *headdesk*.

    KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

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  34. You are so right! We get to (hopefully - knock on wood) make our living by daydreaming and talking to our imaginary friends. We *should* be happy about it. Sign me up!

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  35. LOVE this idea! YAY FAILURE! :D No, really!

    Also, your first query is NOT that bad, hahahah. Okay, yes, the bio paragraph is a little giggle-inducing. But I LOVE the story idea!!

    You're so brilliant, Natalie. I think I will celebrate that, while I think of story ideas to contribute to the coven. :)

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  36. Like Suzumiya Haruhi??? Can we have an alien, an ESPer and a time traveller too? Although Kon was definitely the hottest, with his this is ridiculously ridiculous outlook on everything.

    Dang, I fall for the humans every time.

    I don't know I'll be able to post so muchy, since I've already got a Friday commitment, but I'd love to be a part of the Happy Writer's Club. After all, when I'm not being angsty, I'm being deliriously happy. Often with disastrous results.

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  37. Your query wasn't all that terrible. I'm impressed, actually. You should see my first. UGH!

    I've been having a hard time of it too (understatement). What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? RIGHT?!

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  38. Hi,
    The idea is just great. Love it. Thanks for sharing.

    Custom Essay Writing

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  39. At my college graduation the guest speaker, novelist Chris Abani, encouraged all of us to strive toward becoming a "spectacular failure." He told us to take chances and celebrate our failures because failure is what makes us learn and grow. This post reminded me of that.

    Also, I'm well up for the HWS. What a great idea :)

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  40. I had a similar situation, in that my first query experience was with a book I'd written with no help. I thought it was great, sent out probably 25 queries, and got form rejections on each one. But I look on that experience positively because it taught me that I had a lot to learn before I was ready to actually sell a book.

    Now, almost two years later, I feel I'm at the point to start querying again. Not with the same book, though. That first craptastic book is buried deep in a computer file, never again to see the light of day.

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  41. I'm up for this.

    It's too easy to become an apologist for your own existence when writing these things (or worse, to overcompensate by coming over like a megalomaniac), and until you get a hit, every last one of these babies is a failure.

    So, yes, let's have some optimism about the place.

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  42. What a great idea!! And I LOVE that you shared your query! Maybe someday I'll be brave enough to share my first query... or maybe not. Ha ha! ;)

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  43. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

    "If you're going to fail, fail spectacularly."

    I try to keep this in mind when writing (well, when trying anything.)

    It's always better to go out having tried your hardest, with a funny story to tell. Great post! We should definitely be happy!

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  44. I've saved all of my rejection letters! Hurray for rejection! Hurray for failure!

    Better to try and fail than not try (and fail).

    I am SOOO coming to every Happy Writers' Society meeting!

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  45. Happy and writer in one sentence? Isn't that an oxymoron? Boy, do we need this. Count me in. What's funny/sad about your first query is I've seen far worse.

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  46. Aw that wasn't bad for a first query. My first was only two lines long and I didn't even have a summary.

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  47. Yay for no tortured writers! When I start thinking that way, it's mostly just an excuse to be lazy.

    Looking forward to more Friday posts. Count me in!

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  48. Is the reference to Haruhi meant to imply that if we don't join your club you might potentially destroy the world as we know it?

    If that's the case, I'm in! I'll even do the dance to 'Hare Hare Yukai.'

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  49. So what do I have to do to join in ?

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  50. That sounds like a great idea!

    Thanks for posting your first query! Maybe soon you can post the query that got you your agent?? I would love to see what finally worked for you!

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  51. Great post! I've noticed a bit of angst, too. I'm so glad you're going to try and cheer every one up!

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  52. I love Meet the Robinsons!

    And I think this is a fantastic idea. Can't wait to see what each week brings!

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  53. Great idea for a club. I want to join. I think we all have those clueless beginnings. I finally feel like I'm starting to have a clue after about 2 years. I know I still have a long way to go, but at least I know the way to get there. Hopefully, I can do it.

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  54. "Most people accept temporary defeat as permanent failure. But defeat is never failure. Nothing is ever failure until it is accepted by the individual as such." - Napoleon Hill

    "Ninety-nine percent of those who fail are not actually defeated. They simply quit." - T.S. Eliot

    I think we might be led to believe these guys knew what they were talking about. Our history is filled with people who pursued their bliss for years before finally landing their dream.

    And I think if we're really in tune with reality, we realize that the journey is what it's all about. Not the destination.

    Good thoughts here.

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  55. Angst? I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm as cool as a cucumber.

    (Snort.)

    What an AWESOME idea!!! Thank you!

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  56. Thanks for being awesome and sharing your first query letter. I just sent my first one out and have yet to (and don't expect to) get a reply.

    Oh, wait. I'm supposed to be happy here, not angsty, right? OK, silver lining, silver lining....

    I sent a query letter! That means I've finished a novel! Seriously, that feels pretty cool. And hopefully one day Query Letter #1 stellar though I'm sure it's not) will be a marker for how far I've come.

    And I definitely want to join the club. :)

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  57. This is awesome! I want to play! I completely agree with you. Too many of us are spending way too much time feeling _bad_ about our work? It makes me feel bad to sit at a writer's meeting and watch us burn so much time and energy guilt-tripping over stuff not being polished enough, not writing enough, not doing enough. I raise my hand in salute, friend, and say, "Let's be happy, gosh darn it!" And remember, writing a difficult scene about space ninjas and the like is infinitely funner work than, say, writing legal motions for a contract case. Yay for fiction!
    I'm gonna tell all my friends to join.

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  58. THANK YOU for thinking this up and making it a reality. I'M JOINING because I'm tired of being my own biggest meanie! I want to love writing again and just jump into it without feeling stupid for even THINKING I could entertain others with my silly thoughts.

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