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As someone who uses the Internet for EVERYTHING, I'm always excited to find new resources. As a writer who is looking for an agent, I'm usually skeptical about those new resources. Recently, while reading the blog of an agent I submitted a query to, I came across such a resource. It's called WEbook (http://www.webook.com/). I'm still unsure exactly what you can do on the site, but they have a section that links writers to perspective agents. You fill out a form, put in your "hook" (I was a little upset with this section because you can only put in 1 or 2 sentences. That's not really your hook, but I guess that's what the query letter is for), tell them what genre your book is in, then they match you with agents who deal in that genre. You decide which ones you want to send a query to, the site opens an email for your query, and off it goes. Well, not directly. Apparently, someone at WEbook checks over your query to make sure it's all right, then off it goes. I decided to try it with my zombie novel. I'm still waiting for it to be OK'd by WEbook, but if it works, it will be another source for contacting agents. Or another source for rejections. It all depends on how you look at it!
When does the querying process become an act of desperation? For me I think it's five minutes after I finish my project. I get all panicky and freak out about writing a letter and synopsis that I break out into a sweat. It isn't until I get my first rejection that I calm down (sort of). Even then, I still find myself getting frustrated and depressed because I feel like no one will ever pick up my work and that I'm not good enough as a writer. It's at this stage that I become most vulnerable to scams and less-than-reputable agents/publishers. Luckily, I've never sent any money to any of these agencies or actually had them look at my manuscript, but it's bothersome that I fall into their trap. Is it really that important that I get my book published? Recently, I've come to the conclusion that no, it's not that important. I'm still young, I have plenty of time on my hands, and eventually someone somewhere will like my work. Some days are easier than others living with my new-found optimism, but I just try and keep myself busy.

By the way, I received two rejections in two days.
I enjoy it when people post comments on my blog, but I do NOT enjoy when they use it as an avenue for porn sites. So not cool.

On another note, I was thinking this weekend about how cool it would be to have a writer's group. Publishers and agents are always telling new writers (though old ones can benefit from them to) to join a writer's group so that they can get feedback on their work. I did some groups as an undergraduate and graduate, and really enjoyed the feedback from other writers. Although, there are some inherent problems with these groups. First of all, every writer writes differently, and they tend to bring their own style to a critique. This usually manifests itself in how one writer would word a certain scene, and how another would word the same scene differently. I'm not saying that this is bad, but it could possibly change the voice of the original author. The second issue is that you can't please everyone all the time. For one person, they might love a particular scene, but another person might find that it slows the story down. You get a big enough group, and every person will have a different perspective on every aspect of your work. If the writer is new enough, it might be hard for them to filter the criticism. After all, this is their audience and what they want in a book is what the author should write. Of course, on the other hand, the author might feel like their work doesn't need any improvement and that their peers just don't get what they're trying to do. While writer's groups can be beneficial, the author needs to know what criticism to keep and what to ignore.

As I mentioned earlier, I would love to be in a writer's group, but I'm lacking the one thing that is essential to critiques: time. I work a full time job, have two kids under the age of 5, am a freelance writer for two publications, and am trying to write novels and short stories. While I would love to read other people's work and have them read mine, I wouldn't be able to devote my full attention to a project. It makes me sad. Perhaps when I finally get my big break and become a full-time novelist, then I'll have a chance to be in a writer's group!
A couple of blogs ago I talked about rejection and listening to criticism. I thought I would share some of the things I've done to make my book more appealing to agents/publishers. When I send out queries, I tend to send them out in batches. If the first set of queries doesn't get much of a response, I change the query. The part of the query that I change is the paragraph about the book. From what I understand, it is supposed to read like the blurb on the back--it is supposed to get the reader interested in reading the book. Sooo, if my initial query doesn't get anyone interested, I change it to make the book sound more interesting. So far, I've had a bit more interest, but things seem to fall flat once they read the requested material. After a few rejections, I decided to send my manuscript to a technical editor (thanks, Tamara!). She went through the entire book, but concentrated most of her efforts on the first 40 pages since that is what most agents/publishers focus on. Her critique was extremely helpful. She found some point-of-view slips and gave suggestions on how the flesh out my story. She also found grammatical errors. I went through and polished my chapters, and hopefully they will garner a different response.

"Those are things you should have done before you sent it out," I can hear you saying. Don't get me wrong, I had people go through my book before sending it off, and I went through it with a fine-toothed comb also. The people who read it before looked at it for content, and I tried to catch every mistake, but I'm too close to catch everything. Plus, I'm human. It's possible that I should have had a technical edit done before I sent it out, but I'm sure that if it gets accepted somewhere, another editor will find other things that need to be corrected. If it goes through this round with more rejections, I'll probably have to rewrite the entire thing (then it will have to sit for a year because there are a limited number of agents who accept horror and I can't query them again in just a few months!). That's the thing about submissions, rejections, and edits: they are never done. But if you're serious about your craft and you really want to get published, you will do what you have to do.

I do realize, of course, that it may be all about timing!
Things seem to be getting a little better as the month closes out. I received two rejections last week, but I also got a request for a partial. I'm still waiting to hear from the editor on my nonfiction book, but he can take a bit longer if he wants. I've taken the last week off from writing about slasher films, and it has been very freeing! Don't get me wrong, I enjoy writing about it (most of the time), but it is very tedious and burns me out very quickly. I'm sure I'll pick it back up next week.

Other than that, I've been trying to get caught up on my other writing. I've been working on an article for the serial killer magazine I work for, and I always have articles to do for the agricultural magazine I write for. I'm gearing up to do another short story, so I have enough to keep me busy for a while!
I've been thinking a lot about rejection lately 1) because I got one yesterday and 2) because I've been watching American Idol (unfortunately, not religiously, just snipits here and there). There was one particular contestant that made me furrow my brow in amazement. She told America that she had been on hundreds of auditions and hadn't landed a gig. I wondered: how many auditions do you have to go on before you realize you can't sing?

I think the music industry is a lot like writing: it is a very subjective field, and it only takes one person to say yes for you to get in the door. I'm no stranger to rejection, and I know a lot of times the person rejecting you won't tell you why. But you have to get to a point where you say: maybe this isn't good enough. For the girl on American Idol, I would think that after 10 rejections she would tell herself, "I need to do something different." I know I would. Then, I would change what I was doing, go on 10 more auditions, and if it still wasn't working, change again. It's not easy to be told "no," especially "no" with no reason behind it, but you have to learn from it and move on. The arts are difficult to break into, and you have to be flexible. I'm not saying you have to compromise, but you have to be able to go with the flow. And you have to be able to take criticism from people in the business who know what they're talking about.

For both singing and writing, you can always get better with practice. But you can't get better if you don't have honest feedback. Your friends and family are usually always going to tell you you're good. But that's not the type of feedback you need. You need honest opinions from objective people, which is why publishers tell you to join critique groups. I don't know about singing, but I'm sure they tell you the equivalent. Criticism can be harsh, and it can be hard to hear, but if you want to improve, you have to listen. Most of the time, publishers or record producers aren't criticizing you to be mean (although it can seem like it at the time), they're telling you what you need to do to improve. It just blows my mind to watch these people on the show get rejected and cry about how the judges ruined their dream. If it's really your dream, you will take their advice to heart and go out and improve.

It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of a judge and sing or to send your work out to be published. But it takes a lot more to listen to the advice of the professionals and figure out how to incorporate that into your work. I imagine many of those people on the show go home, sit in a pool of self pity, and never sing again. I know because I've been there with my writing. Rejection wears on you after a while, and many times I've wanted to throw in the towel, but I didn't. And, I learned a lot in the process.

So to end my wonderful day yesterday, my one year old took a header off our bed...while I was standing right next to him! Fortunately, he was fine, but it was just the perfect ending to a messed up day!
It's been one of those weeks so far and it's only Monday. It started yesterday, when I was supposed to do a blog talk radio show, but there were some technical difficulties and no one could call into the station. Today, I'm extremely exhausted and nothing is going my way. I received a rejection, although that in and of itself is not that big of a deal, it's just that on top of everything else. I wish I could go back to bed and start the week over...
OK. I took a couple of deep breaths and spent a few hours working on my book. I feel a little better about what I'm doing, but there is still a long road ahead. I had to quit because I couldn't think straight anymore, so it should be interesting to read what I wrote!
I am about to tear my hair out! For some ungodly reason, I thought it would be fun to turn my thesis into a full-length book. I enjoyed writing it for my Masters, so why wouldn't I enjoy writing it for the world? I'll tell you why, because it's a damn lot of work! Normally I don't mind putting in so much work, but there is a huge difference between writing fiction and nonfiction. I don't mean to imply that one is better than the other, but there is a very different style and mindset when it comes to writing either/or. For fiction, you have a set line. Your characters have to get from point A to point B. They can go on numerous adventures in that time, but they generally pull you through to the end with their own story. In nonfiction, there is still a point A and a point B, but they are achieved in different ways. There isn't a set way to end your book, and even though chapter 1 might relate to chapter 2, they don't have to be connected. Plus, you don't have any characters to pull you through.

Right now I'm feeling extremely overwhelmed because I haven't had block time to work on my book. I work on it when I can; in snipits here and there. I'm sure that if I have a chance to just sit down and work on it for a while, I won't feel so anxious. I don't have a deadline of when it needs to be done, but I've been putting it off for a long time, and I just want to finish it.

Everything will be just fine, I'm sure of it, and I'll let you know how it goes!
I saw Avatar this weekend. It's official: Hollywood has NO new stories.