Well, boys and girls, we’ve made it to another year. 20-freaking-20, and let me tell you, time really flies when you’re a single thirty-something-year-old trying to realize her dreams.
I have to admit, my traditional publication dreams took a real back seat in 2019. I didn’t put a creative pen to paper for the vast majority of the year, aside from one joint project with potential. But no short stories, no harrowing YA tales or heroes journeys, and no excuses other than to say, inspiration simply wasn’t striking me. All my muses seemed to be avoiding me like the plague – maybe they were all on vacation, in Greece, drinking wine with the other muses and having a good laugh.
But, rest assured, dear readers, my WIP-shelving does not mean I have given up, just that I was taking a break. And I’m happy to say, 2020 has brought the muses back to work. Since the beginning of the year, I’m already about halfway through a shiny new novel, one that I hope to start shopping around to agents within the next couple months.
To keep the inspiration going, I dug through my “Literary Submissions” email folder – subtitle, “Rejections Pile”. I scrolled back through query after query, synopsis after synopsis, auto-reply after auto-reply. (Side note to self – plan future blog post regarding writing a perfect synopsis because I still haven’t quite mastered those slippery buggers mmm’kay).
But as I waded through years of rejections, I realized that past me had, thankfully, the foresight to star anything containing positive and constructive writing feedback. Rereading these little hope glimmers gave me a confidence boost, and reminded me that I do have the talent, but just need to craft the right story.
There was also one more hidden gem buried amongst the submissions, this one from a favorite writer. None other than Pierce Brown, author of the wildy popular RED RISING series. (P.S. if you’re a fan of science fiction and haven’t read the series yet, I highly recommend). I’d sent a short fan email laden with compliments back in 2014, right when the first of his series had just come out, and the advice he’d offered in return stuck with me. Since Mr. Brown was so kind as to respond, I figured I’d pay it forward by sharing the helpful advice bequeathed upon me.
First piece of advice (paraphrased): Keep your word count low, depending on genre. But if your YA book is over 120,000, [chances are] you’re not getting it published.
Okay, I can do that. Not only are all my novels typically 80-95k, but the thought of writing anything longer, frankly, exhausts me. (More power to you if you can go the Stephen King circa The Stand/It route. I, however, can not).
Second piece of advice: Go bold and big in your query letters and make your first sentence as interesting as your first book sentence.
Forgive me, but I have to direct-quote this next bit, because it’s gold:
It’s about grabbing the attention of a bleary eyed new yorker as she wades through a stack of submissions after doing hours of edits and real work for her/his real clients.”
This makes complete sense. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by writing the perfect query letter. *Raises both hands to the ceiling*
This here, straight from the mouth of a NY times best-selling author. There was a third piece of advice as well, but that one I’ll keep in my back pocket, because it might not resonate with everyone. But as a whole, I’d be crazy not to at least keep these things in mind during the querying process.
In my view, publication is a complicated animal, and talent only comprises about 50 percent of what it takes to get published. The other fifty is divided among equal parts having the drive, sending the right idea at the right time to the right person, having a bomb-ass query, and also a dose of good, old-fashioned luck.
Will luck be on my side in 2020? There’s no way to know, but I can hope, and I can dream, and I can keep on writing.
Until next time,
2 thoughts on “Back to Work in 2020”
Amazing advice you’ve shared here! I’ve been in media production for years, and it’s 100% true that our clients tend to be extremely busy people who have already been grinding through an endless to-do list, before they take a look at whatever we’ve sent them. Even though I’m not trying to go trad with my new book, I know it will take a lot of time and patience to make good things happen. Good luck to us all in 2020!
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Hi Darius, thanks for stopping by. Best of luck to you in 2020!