This past March 7, I participated in #PitMad, a Twitter event in which writers pitch finished novels to agents. While I didn’t get a bite, I did join #WritingCommunity and followed a number of different writers.
Living where I do—rural Kansas—I don’t get to interact with many writers. We have a local writers’ group, but it’s sparsely attended. So meeting other writers online has been a real treat for me.
One question I see asked frequently is “how do I write every day?” And I’m amazed that some folks write at all. What with the day-job, the kids, and other various commitments, I can’t imagine finding time to sit in a quiet place with yellow legal pad or laptop.
At my last job, all I did was write. Business proposals, grants, web articles, email tips, the CEO’s blog, internal and external newsletters … you get the picture. I’d stop at the local coffee shop on my way into the office. When arriving, I’d sit down at my desk, take that fortifying first sip of joe, and write. I’d leave the office after eight (or ten or twelve) hours of writing, and drive home, only to repeat the next day. Because I wrote to short deadlines, it wasn’t unusual for me to write all day, every day. And no time, usually, for editing.
My writing—getting the stories in my head into words on a page—was impossible. After that writing-heavy workday, I’d had a surfeit of writing.
Once I left that job, though, I found I’d developed the habit of daily writing. Getting words on paper—my words now—was an imperative. Like brushing teeth or exercise or bedtime, writing had become an essential of everyday life. My theory is that if a person wants to write every day, it can be done through habit formation.
There are tons of books written about developing habits. My personal favorite comes from Prochaska and Norcross, Changing for Good.
Once a person moves into a state of readiness for change, it’s a matter of toughing out the ninety days or so that it takes to develop a positive habit.
Warning: if a person is already overextended like I was, maybe the first step is to let go of other commitments. Just saying…
And now for my finding an agent update. Five queries have gone out the door for The Last Summer Queen. Another goes out tomorrow. Wish me luck.
It’s been raining, which makes wanting to get out in the garden more difficult than if it were sunny. But the daffodils and tulips wait for no woman, and so the weeding has begun.
The potatoes are in as are the beets, the sugar snap peas, and the romaine lettuce seeds. Green lettuce plants are on the deck, hardening off. The asparagus has been fertilized and now we wait for the first luscious shoots.
Toward the end of April, I’ll see how my basement-planted Ophelia eggplant and tomatoes are doing, and think about setting them outdoors.
I’ve always been fascinated with the life of Emily Dickinson. A virtual recluse, she wrote almost 2,000 poems, and published only about a dozen during her lifetime. The rest ended up in folios, and she left instructions for her family to burn them when she died.
Instead of a trunk, I have flash drives for my short stories and novels. While I’ve been tempted to have my work destroyed when I’m gone, I began submitting for publication last year. And had unexpected success thanks to a lot of support from Write Stories that Sell and Anna Yeatts.
Last month, I finished what I’m going to call my first novel. It’s probably closer to my fifth, but it’s the first one I think is publishable. Followed by the decision point. Look into indie publishing? Find an agent? Go the vanity publishing route?
I’d already had a year of rejections under my belt from sending out short stories, so why not query a few agents? All I had to do was overcome my Dickinson-like reluctance to put myself out there. And I’d already done that once.
So how did I do it? Here’s what worked for me.
Stern with myself, I refused to wallow in prediction. I banned any question or self-talk that started with “what if,” including the positives.
Example: what if the very first agent I queried picked up the book and sold it right off? Banned.
Also banned was the more likely scenario. What if I received a zero-day rejection?
Querying is nothing like writing. It’s more like proposal writing, and to my advantage, I wrote proposals for two decades.
I already had honed the skills of careful reading and adherence to the instructions. And I already knew how much effort and attention it takes.
For me, the question was how many times each day did I want to devote to sending out a proposal? Answer: I’d send out three queries a week, one a day on Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
I like to believe I’m not much of a procrastinator. Twenty plus years of writing to deadlines cured me of that. But I tend to do what I like and leave the rest for later. So no kidding myself—that’s procrastination.
To surmount it, I use trigger activities and a bargaining brand of self-talk.
Just turn on the computer.
Just look up one agent.
Just bullet point the query letter.
Just brainstorm the synopsis
Once I get started, I usually keep going until I’m into the next activity. Finding one agent’s name includes reading the submission guidelines. Bullet pointing the query letter means filling in the sentences.
You get the picture.
Results So Far
Today is Thursday. This week, I’ve sent out two queries.
I received my first zero-day rejection. I lived.
Tomorrow I’ll send out a third query, Monday a fourth, and so on.
It’s starting to look and feel like spring. We’ve lived through the cyclone bomb–the photo was taken right after the storm. Thankfully, we didn’t have much damage here. Wish I could say the same for friends and family in Nebraska and Colorado.
But I’m taking advantage of good weather to start spring garden clean-up. My potatoes and snow peas are ready to go in the ground. Tomato and eggplant seedlings are doing fine in the basement along with a variety of green-leaf lettuces. Happy to be gardening again.
And, I’ve finished my paranormal romance and will start looking for representation next week. I’ll post how it goes.
Rain and wind yesterday, moderated today with temps in the 40’s (Fahrenheit). But still overcast and chilly. Not a nice weather day yet. But there are robins on my lawn, so spring is coming.
And here is Fat Boy, stretched out on his bed, but ignoring his blanket. Guess he’s decided he’s too good for a $12-on-sale flannel blanket and would prefer to sleep on chenille. He picks out the little white threads, too, so eventually, I’ll have to replace the bedspread.