Tuesday, June 14, 2011

All Day Q&A

Hi! It's about that time again. If you have a question, I will happily answer it in comments. It can be about whatever—doesn't even have to be about writing. Answers will appear as quickly as I can type them.

And...go!

*Waits*

*Waits more*

*Taps pencil*

Questions? Anyone?

38 comments:

  1. How did you find your critique partners?

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  2. How do you deal with rejection? Ice cream or chocolate? [Or whatever?]

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  3. Melanie, I've known my dear crit partners for quite awhile now! I met them all online through blogging. Kiersten White and Renee Collins were the first two people I ever really connected with online—in early 2008 we started exchanging manuscripts.

    We were all so green back then. None of us had agents. We were working on our first or second books. And that little followers button didn't even exist.

    Through out the years, I've just kept meeting people I connect with. And we've grown together as writers and friends. Now? Most of my once-green friends have agents, many are published or soon-to be. It's amazing, and I never would have guessed we'd be here three years later.

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  4. Akila, short answer? Not. Well.

    I've never done well with rejection. That's probably the major reason I chickened out on writing for as long as I did, but it's just part of the process. One you have to learn to deal with.

    The thing is, it never gets easier. And it NEVER goes away. Even published writers have to go back out on sub when they want to sell that next book or series. Even agented writers can have manuscripts rejected by their agent. Rejection. It's a publishing staple.

    For me, I try to remember that it truly isn't personal. The business is extremely subjective—that is the plain truth. I also remember that I always have room to grow, and getting rejections is only a sign that I still need to refine my work. There's nothing wrong with that. It doesn't mean you don't have talent. It only means that your skills aren't quite sharp enough.

    You can ALWAYS sharpen your skills. Every one of us can.

    When I get really down, I do let myself have a pity party. I just make sure that pity party has a time limit and a goal attached to it. Example: Today I'll mope and veg, but tomorrow I have to write that new scene or send that next query or edit that book I've been avoiding. The key is moving on. Not giving up.

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  5. How many rejections did you receive prior to getting an agent?
    Were you offer representation through an e-mail or phone call?

    Thanks,

    Maribeth

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  6. Natalie, Thanks for this. I'm going through some rejections right now --- my first round of queries --- and that's exactly what I did. I threw a huge pity party on Friday, and today, I'm rewriting my query and sending out more.

    I never thought about the more important point that you made: that rejection doesn't mean you don't have talent. I'm going to tuck this piece of advice in my back pocket and hold on to it.

    Thanks again for answering my question! As a newbie to the publishing world, I really appreciate all the advice I can get.

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  7. Oh, Maribeth, is that a long story! I will try to be concise.

    My query total before getting an agent was approaching 200 by the time I got an agent. Yes, 200. Over 4 different books (that were pretty horrible, honestly).

    When I did finally get the attention of an agent, it wasn't exactly in the traditional way. I won Nathan Bransford's first paragraph contest at the end of 2008, and with that came the chance to send him a partial for crit. Well, he requested the full, but then quickly sent it back with a Revise & Resend.

    And I did. A lot. After about three months of extensive revision, cutting nearly 15k, I sent it back.

    Nathan called me, but it wasn't The Call, per se. He was impressed with my revisions, but thought the book needed more work. He wanted to work with me exclusively. So for the next several months we worked. And worked. Nine months after the initial submission, he called to offer representation.

    And, yes, we did even more revisions AFTER that, before the book went on sub (and didn't sell).

    So yeah, not the traditional road, but it worked for me and I learned a lot through the process. I firmly believe I wouldn't be the writer I am now without all my rocky path.

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  8. It's cool to hear your "finding crit partners" story. That's kind of what I did with mine. I wanted to publish in the LDS market because I thought it needed something fun and lighthearted and not message driven. So I found some fun people to work with. And I got published (#2-4 coming out soon) with the publisher of my choice. But the next idea to come to me was a national market YA contemporary.

    Um. THAT was left field.

    So. Now I'm starting that process of trying to figure out who I want to work with toward that goal and it's good to hear you had good luck through the blogging route. That's pretty awesome. I love the relationships I've developed there and I'm hopeful I'll find great people to work with, too. I've learned that I can't overstate the value of finding that critique partner with the really great ear. Eye. Whatever!

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  9. Melanie, good luck! My crit partners have helped me so much. I can't imagine doing this without them. Hope you find people to connect with:)

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  10. Are you going to Ally Carter's signing in Provo or Salt Lake?

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  11. Ha! Emily, I am probably going up to Salt Lake, since it'll be easier to grab a babysitter (aka: Hubby is home.). I was also reading on the site that the Provo Library is only giving tickets to Provo Library Card holders and residents? So maybe not living in Provo means I won't get in? I don't know, their events tend to confuse me with their rules.

    But either way, I am SO EXCITED. I love Ally Carter. Her books are so fun, some of my absolute favorite.

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  13. what's your best advice for someone trying to build a blog following?

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  14. Chelsey, if you have more than one question you can ask:) Noticed you deleted the first one.

    As for blog followings, I would say my "best" advice is not to try at all, if that makes any sense.

    I know I have a lot of followers—far more than I ever imagined I would when I started this blog—but I have never sat down at my computer to blog and thought, "Okay, how can I get more popular? What can I write to make people follow me? What contest can I hold to get more comments/followers/twitter mentions?"

    My blog is approaching its FOURTH anniversary this October, which is kind of crazy to me, thinking I've done this for so long. When I first started, as you can read if you want, I was green and naive and this blog was all around BORING.

    I was blogging before followers even existed. Did you know that follower button is fairly new? I didn't even put it up for a while, because it kind of makes this whole thing feel like a popularity contest and that's just not why I blog.

    I blog to connect with others. I blog to let people know they aren't alone on this writing road. I blog to share what I've learned along this winding path.

    I am so humbled that people have connected with that, and I am grateful that people take the time to read my ramblings. I didn't really do anything to earn it, but I try to help people and be kind. I try to give and connect, which is what social networking should be about.

    And, well, it took almost four years to convince my current 1,449 to click that button. Obviously it's not an overnight thing. Patience, and it'll come.

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  15. I really like that.

    My original question was about your advice for people querying. I'm sure you get sick of that question. I know keep writing, obviously, but what else to keep from obsessing about the inbox or sending out too many queries at once before getting feedback?

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  16. How do you handle that "I can't write, what was I thinking" feeling that comes mid-edit?

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  17. Chelsey, I actually don't get asked that question much. For reasons unknown, I ALWAYS get asked about my crit partners. Wait, I know why, because they're SO MUCH COOLER THAN ME, hehe.

    My advice for the querier is probably a little different than others. First, I would say don't be afraid to STOP querying a project. My cardinal mistake in querying was going out with an MS too freaking soon. It wasn't ready, and the rejections showed that. But I kept querying, thinking maybe I'd get lucky, when I should have taken the time to revise.

    I think when we get into that querying mindset, we start to feel like our time is running out. Like if we don't get an agent with THIS project in THIS amount of time it's all over.

    But that's not true. I queried for almost two years. With 4 different projects. Nathan Bransford received a query for every one of those projects, rejected three of them. You never have to give up. I know it can feel like failure—oh, have I felt like that often—but it's not. It's learning and growing and that is worth more than I can say.

    Okay, so now the the never give up speech is out of the way, the obsession. The obsession. I don't have great advice because I definitely fell prey to that inbox-staring disease. It's very hard not to, because you want it so bad. And those requests are like a drug hit. A validation. A reason to keep going. And when you don't get them you get shaky and stressed and seek out anything to make you feel like you ARE a writer and you're good and it will happen.

    There's really only one remedy—to believe in yourself. To not seek validation for outside sources, but to find that peace within yourself. This sounds so zen and cheesy; it's the truth. The road to that peace is not an easy one, either. For me it's a constant struggle. But you can't connect your self worth with an unpredictable outside force like querying, or publishing in general. Those obsessions will go away when you and your writing come first, and publishing, networking, and all that other jazz comes second.

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  18. How did you decide what major to focus on in college? (I think you've said you studied linguistics?) Do you have any thoughts on college you'd like to pass on to those of us just getting there?

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  19. I was wondering what your favorite book you've written is. The one you poured your heart and soul into, with characters that you loved so much it hurt. There is always that one book that means everything to you. Just curious which one that is.:)
    I'm also curious which of your books was the most fun and least stressful to work on.
    Thanks! You're awesome! :)

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  20. Jelly beans or Jelly Bellies? (What? You expected something serious from me?)

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  21. Sarah, only mid-edit? I have that feeling the ENTIRE TIME I'm editing, lol. You're lucky.

    So here's the thing. I have anxiety. That means that my brain has this bad habit of lying to me about just how serious a situation is. It over-exaggerates situations that other people think are no big deal. I panic, obsess, freak out, etc. It's not fun.

    But working through my anxiety has taught me something important—our feelings can be lies.

    Our instinct is to believe what we feel, to follow those gut emotions as truth. Well, sometimes they aren't true. If I followed my emotions, I would be a wreck of a person. Hell, I WAS a wreck of a person this time last year, deeply entrenched in the worst anxiety/depression episode of my life.

    Even though I had an agent, and great friends, and even editors saying I was a talented writer, I did not believe it. My brain told me everyday that those people were lying. It told me they just felt sorry for me, that they didn't want to hurt my feelings by telling me the truth: I was a horrible writer.

    That is what I truly believed last year. That is all I could see, because I believed that my feelings of inadequacy and stupidity and all around smallness meant that I WAS inadequate and stupid and small.

    It was a dark time, Sarah. The ultimate manifestation of that "What am I thinking?" feeling. I honestly considered, most of last year, whether or not I should quit.

    Well, I got help. And I learned that the things we tell ourselves can be lies, and if we believe the lies we can destroy ourselves from the inside out.

    So when I begin to feel that way now, I stop. I stop the lie before it can burrow into my psyche again. It's not always easy, and there are days when I still want to believe I'm a horrible writer and I will never really succeed.

    But, well, it's not true. Just because I feel it doesn't make it true.

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  22. Karli, hi! What a fun question. I don't think anyone has ever asked me that before.

    So I started college thinking I'd be an English Teacher. Yeah...my first semester I realized I am not the teaching type. At least not like that. Grades? Homework? Forever? Gag.

    Luckily, I signed up for Intro To The English Language, which was the beginning course that looked at English as a language—not literature and the like. Well, I LOVED that class. I loved every single thing about it, and when my professor announced that English Language would officially be a major the next year.

    I signed up the second it was approved.

    I loved every second of it. That major was perfect for me, someone who loved language but not necessarily literary analysis. And I think that's the key—to find something that you love. I picked up a minor in editing for that whole "job" part, but college for me was about loving to learn.

    I would also say don't stress about rushing through college. I had a bunch of AP credit from high school, so I finished a year early. I kind of regret that. I wish I had taken more extracurricular classes. I wish I had let myself have more fun. College WAS fun, but it was only after I finished that I wished I'd let myself enjoy it even more, instead of stressing out about grades and finishing.

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  23. Chantele, that's a hard question! You're talking to a girl who has written A LOT of books.

    For me, it's a toss up between TRANSPARENT and SIDEKICK. The first I have re-written completely, and I obviously had to care about it enough to start all over. I love that world and those characters to pieces, and I really hope it shows. The second is very personal to me. I put a lot of myself into that book, and I love the characters deeply. It'll always have a special place in my heart.

    And for the "funnest" book. That's always changing because my funnest book is ALWAYS the one I'm drafting. The one with no pressure on it. Once it gets to editing...not so much, hehe.

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  24. Riv Re, yay! I will have a hard time turning your answer into an essay.

    Jelly Belly, juicy pear in particular. Though I rarely eat them.

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  25. I know you've said (on many occasions!) that self-publishing isn't for you. I was wondering, though, whether you might ever consider making available one of your completed-but-shelved novels for your myriad fans to read. :) Like, take your favourite one that you had to reluctantly set aside when it didn't sell and do a weekly installment here on the blog or something. We've read several excerpts of your writing and while I perhaps don't speak for everyone I'm sure I speak for many of us when I say we'd love to read more! It seems a shame for such a labour of love to never see daylight /somewhere/, especially when you've clearly got such talent.

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  26. Seabrooke, first, I want to hug you for asking such a flattering question! Totally made me smile.

    It's a little sticky once you have an agent. While, yes, that book (Relax, I'm A Ninja) did not sell, it doesn't mean it's completely over. Releasing my work isn't entirely my own decision anymore, you know? While I have thought of self-publishing here and there, that would have to be a mutual decision thoroughly discussed with my agent.

    But I can't tell you how happy I am to know that you WANT to read more of my writing. Sometimes I wonder, you know? Of course you know. And it might not be soon, but I promise someday my writing will be out there. Because I'm not stopping until it is.

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  27. Thanks for doing this, Natalie :)

    Here's one on a bit of a different tangent: how do you cope with a profession that requires you to have your bum in a chair for hours a day? I find I get so umcomfortable/feel so restless, even in a good chair. I can feel my muscles wasting, lol. Do you have any tricks that perk you up/a certain way of managing yourself?

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  28. Lucy! I laughed at your question. Maybe I'm just lazier than you are, because I'm okay sitting around, mostly. But I've never really had a desk. I have a laptop, and I definitely change scenery. Sometimes I write in bed, or type up something while standing in the kitchen. I sit on the couch, or take it with me to a cafe.

    That said, I do exercise as well. I try to run three times a week, and I do weights at least twice. I think it's important to stay active, and it often gets my brain going when I do sit down to work.

    I also don't work in long stretches. I'll write for 30 mins to an hour, then take a break to garden or walk or play with my kids. Then go back for another little session. I've never been the "write for six hours straight" person.

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  29. I hadn't thought of that, Natalie! Well, I can't tell you how much I hope you sell something soon, from a purely selfish standpoint, then. ;) Also, you totally deserve it. Someone as nice as you and who's put in as much work as you have and who obviously has more skill than many books I've read recently has really earned that success, imho. Look forward to eventually hearing the good news!

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  30. Natalie, have you thought about becoming an agent yourself?

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  31. Michelle, HA. I would be the worst agent ever. No, seriously. That is not at all my skill set. I picture agents as the ultimate networker plus being a fantastic salesman. I suck at that whole selling thing. And I have a serious phone phobia. I would never have the guts to try and sell books!

    I truly admire the gumption agents have, and I'm so grateful for my own. But I am also perfectly happy to stay a writer forever, hehe.

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  32. Where did you get the gaw-geous red shoes in your picture? I look at them every time I read your blog. Which is often. Perhaps unhealthily so.

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  33. Nicole, I got them at DWS! They're actually Jessica Simpson, which I kind of cringe at every time I put them on. But I HAD to have them, because they were, well, perfect. Most red heels I see either have a pointed toe, which I hate. Or they look a little, uh, hookerish.

    These babies fit my rather particular taste:) Sometimes I will be on the look out for a particular kind of shoe for months. Years, even. I'm still looking for the perfect knee-high boot, actually. Maybe someday.

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  34. Truth be known... I fight the "what was I thinking" battle a lot. I'm just IN the middle of editing. I'm glad you didn't listen to those voices -- that you still don't. You have great talent and shouldn't quit.

    AND great shoes. I, too, have been admiring the red shoes.

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  35. Natalie--you only sit down for an hour for writing? I must stop all my procrastinating on Twitter--er, I mean, deep and complex pondering on the role of the serial comma...

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  36. Lucy, I actually don't write a lot time-wise! Maybe 1-2 hours a day, sometimes more if I'm lucky. What's important is maximizing that time. When I do sit down to write, I block out all distractions, for sure. I know I only have so much time before my kids come find me:)

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  37. I just had to pop in to tell you that juicy pear jelly bellys are my fave too! And I love Jessica Simpsons shoes. Don't love her, but her shoes are awesome. Some of the comfiest heels I've ever found and they are hot! ;) Love yours.

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  38. Thank you SO MUCH for your response about querying. I'm working on finding that zen.

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