Nancy: May Recap – Books of My Heart

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It’s that time again! Time for my monthly (if belated) keepin’-it-real post about my writing progress. This time, we turn our attention to May, in which the writer does lots of career/publishing research-type things. I also had some important story/series breakthroughs and made solid progress on the writing front.

Marketing My Girls. Back in April, as I recalibrated my writing schedule and started pulling myself out of the writing doldrums to which I’d fallen prey during the first bleak months of 2015, I also knew it was time to start marketing My Girls. In April, I researched agents and ranked them based on those I thought would be the best fit for me and for my work. In May, I took the next step, submitting queries and partial manuscripts to the first several agents on my list. Nothing to report yet, positive or negative, but if I start to get rejections, I’ll move onto the next set of agents/agencies on my list. And I’ll have to do it, since it’s all on my marketing spreadsheet, and we all know the spreadsheet rules!

Drinking From the Fire Hose That Is Self-Publishing Information. As (I think) I’ve mentioned previously somewhere on the blog, I’m seriously considering the self-publishing route for my in-progress historical romance series. This would not be after trying the traditional route, it would be instead of it. If I do this (and as with all things I discuss doing on this blog, I reserve the right to change my mind), there is SO MUCH to learn. I don’t even…I can’t…Where the hell do I even start!?! If you have any self-publishing resources you find useful and easy to understand, please share! Thus far, I’ve joined a few self-publishing loops, have begun following some self-published writer blogs, and have been tapping the hive mind of my successfully self-publishing friends.

This research has already yielded useful results for me. If you’ve researched self-publishing, you’ve probably heard that getting out multiple books per year to keep your name in front of readers and engage them in series is an important way to get traction. While that might still be the case, I’ve learned that due to Amazon’s ever-changing and ever-elusive algorithm system, rapid-release publishing (putting out a new book in a series every 30 to 60 days), is no longer necessarily advantageous.

That changes a lot in my plans, in a very good way. I don’t have to have all 5 books (leading up to number 6, which I hope will be a novella) completed, critiqued, and revised by the end of 2015, as I’d previously planned (and have long since abandoned). The new plan is to have the first two completed, critiqued, revised, and off to a professional editor by the end of the year, and a first draft completed on the third. It’s called breathing room, people, and sometimes we have to give ourselves a bit of it.

Writing the Books of My Heart. If I had to pick one word to sum up my writing progress for May, I’d have to choose self-awareness (a hyphenated word counts as one, right?). When I came to the conclusion that I could relax my ridiculous deadlines (which of course I could have done all along because they were my ridiculous deadlines), I knew I could spend the time I wanted and needed to spend with each book to fully enjoy the writing experience. For me, that enjoyment doesn’t mean loving writing every day, or even most days. But it does mean feeling eager and excited to reveal and resolve the unique puzzles each book presents. It means challenging my skills and finding ways to improve my writing craft with each new story. And it means spending enough time in each story world and with each character in that world to fall in love with them.

Years ago, when I was new to this fiction-writing game, I chose each ‘next story’ by what I thought I needed to do at that time. ‘I will write x because it will teach me y, and at this point, I really need to learn y’. Or, to a considerably lesser extent, ‘I will write this because I have an idea I like that fits a trend in publishing and if I get it out fast enough, I can still catch that train’. Now I’ve reached a point in my writing process where those considerations don’t even cross my mind.

There will be something to learn and improve with each and every book. If a book is especially challenging, I’ll pull up my big-girl pants and rise to the occasion. And as far as catching the latest trends, that rarely worked, even in the olden days of trad-only publishing. The advent of e- and self- and consortium-publishing has meant readers and writers who’ve never followed a trend in their lives can now find each other. More than ever before, I choose each story because I love it, and every book I written for the past few years has felt like ‘the book of my heart’. My goal for the rest of my writing life is to always feel my WIP is the next book of my heart. If there’s any wisdom to come with the unavoidable aging process, maybe this is it.

So how was May (and the first half of June) for your writing? What progress did you make? What lessons did you learn?

12 thoughts on “Nancy: May Recap – Books of My Heart

  1. I’m pretty much where you are on the marketing front–working through the list of possible agents. I have gotten some rejections back. The good news is, one of them included an explanation of why she wasn’t interested–lack of sexual chemistry. So then I had to figure ou if I wanted to change this story to include more sexual chemistry or was I happy with it the way it is? After mulling for a couple of days, I decided I wanted it to have more of a romance/less of a women’s fiction feel, which means ratcheting up the sexual tension. So now I’m analyzing Bet Me, by Jenny Crusie, possibly her best book for sexual chemistry, to see how she did it. And then I’ll attempt to edit some of that into Demon’s Wager. And then I’ll return to the spreadsheet.

    • That’s a great point, Jeanne, about needing to mull over feedback to determine whether it resonates. I think upping the sexual chemistry is usually a good thing :-), so I look forward to seeing what you do with it in Demonโ€™s Wager.

      The only actionable feedback I got from an agent’s rejection was that she wasn’t very interested in Maddie, one of the secondary but very important characters. I mulled over that one for a while as well, and picked the brains of a few of my critique partners who’d read the story. In the end, I made some minor tweaks in some of Maddie’s scenes in the hopes that more of her character depth shows so she’s more interesting (which is SO subjective), but there wasn’t a whole lot I could do with it.

  2. I gave myself a break after finishing all my courses. Now I have to get back in the writing saddle. The hard part about taking a break from writing for me is that I get stuff done around the house. Now, I know that when I start writing again, the stuff around the house won’t get done. Although, my back is killing me from planting 100 seedlings yesterday so butt in the writing chair could be a good thing.

    • 100 seedlings! Yikes! Just be sure to stretch your aching back before and after sitting for any period of time. I recommend some slow sun salutations followed by a nice long child’s pose. I’m excited you’ll be able to get back to Antigone Rising! I’m looking forward to reading the completed mss :-).

  3. Sounds like you had a good May Nancy. Mine was fairly productive, writing-wise. Perhaps the most important achievement in May was finally figuring out a writing time/method that works for me and that I can stick with. Turns out, late in the evening, when it’s dark and quiet, is the time I’m most creative. So now, instead of trying to force my writing in the early mornings or when I get home from work, I’m sleeping in the morning, relaxing when I get home, and having a very productive writing hour late at night just before I get to sleep. So far it’s working very well for me and everything feels much less forced.

    • I’m glad it’s working for you! You are a night owl, so I’m not surprised that dark and quiet are your ideal writing environment :-). If I write too close to bedtime, it tends to disrupt my sleep because my brain goes into overdrive.

  4. I decided to blow off book 2 for now and write a novella. Is it finished? No. Do I like it? I’m not sure. It’s largely epistolary! Who does that anymore? And it feels like something we’d have done for class. Still, I’m eating bon bons and having fun with it.

    • I LOVE a book of letters! Letters of Note was a very cool website that collected great letters, and I also enjoyed Pat Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecelia: Or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot. And let’s not forget the texting mini-stories that pop up all over the place these days — the one from the dog springs to mind.

      Letters are great, because they contain the IMPORTANT stuff, and they can also be so meta . . . .

  5. I’ve had a lousy writing summer so far. My dayjob has been packed full (May is always full of first visits, and can be a very uncertain time), and that has sent tendrils of stress into my everyday life. I come home exhausted, and don’t want to sit down for 45 minutes to write. Then, I decide to treat myself to “just one YouTube”. Can you see how this story is going to end? I can tell you WHEN. At 2 in the morning, that’s when, and I’m crap for the next day.

    I’ve been getting to bed earlier the last few days, and that’s helped. (-: I also have to say, I binged on the fabulous Amy Schumer, and THERE’S a girl who follows her own muse. So, May and June haven’t been a total loss. So, I’m going to figure out some “treats” that don’t turn addictive, and leave me refreshed and ready to work. Maybe a trip to the hot springs after work today.

    • Oh, wow, hot springs, Micki! So jealous. I wish we had those in the UK (preferably without the volcanoes). The very idea of it says holidays to me, and relaxation, and refreshment, body and soul. Much better for your stress levels than Youtube ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • (-: They are PEAT onsens, too, so technically, we don’t need earthquakes or volcanoes to power them (-:. (Although, we got those, too.) I love a summer hot spring, and since I’m a resident in the town, I get a discount. For about the same price as a cup of Starbucks goodness, I can enjoy sitting in the outdoor pool (cool enough for lingering, warm enough for lingering, too), and watching the summer trees sway in the breeze.

        Which I did do, yesterday. Didn’t help with the creativity yesterday, but I do feel better. It always feels like cheating to sneak away to the hot springs after work (-:.

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