Updates: pain, writing, pitching, querying

Keeping you all up to date on the things that I’m doing.

Pain

I’m continuing to experiment with vaping CBD oil for pain management. I’ve had two problems. The disposable vape pen I was using started to leak and I’ve had a major pain flare up.

Fortunately CBDlife* dealt with my complaint in a speedy fashion. I was going to buy a reusable vape pen anyway and they offered me a free oil cartridge as a replacement for the leaking pen and delivered the order the next day.

The pain flare up is a semi-regular thing where I get a muscle spasm in my upper back or neck that spreads to my arm (usually the left one). It’s horrifically painful and requires several days of painkillers, exercise and not using my arm for anything other than the special exercises. The CBD oil does seem to be helping with the pain so that’s something.

Writing

I’ve been working on one of the sequels to the novel I’ve been querying. I’ve now finished draft 1.5 and I’m going back and writing the extra scenes that I’ve realised I need. I reckon I have maybe 20,000 words of extra scenes plus one entirely new character that needs to be added.

Pitching

My friend,Vanessa Robertson, has persuaded me to enter the pitch perfect competition at Bloody Scotland. I’ve been working on a 100 word pitch for the ‘finished’** novel. There’s a part of me that thinks it’s a bad idea because I can’t stick to a single genre and Bloody Scotland is for crime writing. She pointed out that I have nothing to lose and that my novel does have crime in it.

Querying

Querying has stalled because most agents are on holiday. However I do have my sights on two agents that I intend to query in the autumn. Both are as a result of personal recommendations.

I also recently got some idea of how steep the mountain ahead of me is. Vanessa was recently offered representation by an agent and she told me what the numbers are like. In a single year her agent will receive thousands but take on only a handful of new clients.

Can someone remind me why I ever thought writing was a good idea?

 

*If you use that link to buy stuff I will get a percentage back as store credit. 

**I’ve decided to start calling the novel ‘finished’ because it can’t really be finished until it’s ready to be published. It’s currently as finished as I can get it without help from someone who knows more about editing than me.

Change of plans

I have decided that maybe it’s time to give my completed novel a rest for a bit. Maybe it’s the wrong work to query? Maybe I was thinking too big, too long, or too crazy?

I’m going to concentrate on another story. As it stands it’s a complete first draft of a novella but I think it could be more. I think it could be a short novel. It’s smaller in scope than the novel I was querying though I think it will get a bit bigger as I expand it. Maybe it’s more what agents are looking for as a first novel? I know that the setting will be easier to pitch to Scottish publishers and easier for them to sell to readers.

Of course it’s probably displacement activity. It’s easier to write another novel than it is to query the finished one. The novel has to be finished before someone can reject it and, by extension, me. Writing is the bit that I know I’m good at. Well, think I’m good at. Most of the time.

It’s something a bit different for me. The narrator character is disabled. Writing stuff that’s too close to home is something I usually shy away from. It feels like cheating somehow. But I keep seeing agents and publishers asking for diverse storytelling and diverse characters. Maybe they actually mean it. And if they don’t I’ve got this other story I can whip out when they tell me that they can’t sell a locked room mystery set in Aberdeen where the central character is an unglamorous disabled woman.

Why Querying sucks

I had a conversation on Facebook during which I expressed the opinion that the process of querying agents and publishers sucks balls. The person that I expressed this opinion to asked for more information. I was going to tell him more via an IM but then I realised that if I just tell him then the next time someone asks I’ll have to say it all again.

Talking about querying is almost as depressing as querying. Fuck that noise. I’d rather put down a definitive answer here and then refer people back to here. So here they are my top fifteen reasons why querying sucks balls (in my personal experience).

  1. There’s no universal agreement on the name of the genre I’m querying.
  2. But it does appear to be regarded as the red-headed step child of genres.
  3. It’s hard to find Agents who like the sort of thing that I’m querying.
  4. When I do find them they tend to be representing things too similar to the thing I’m querying.
  5. Agents usually want a synopsis. The shorter the better. If I could tell the story in 500 words it wouldn’t be over 100,000 words long.
  6. Often you need to pitch before you can query. In 140 characters or less. See above reason.
  7. When they want an extract from the novel it can be as little as 5 pages. It’s over 600 pages long but only the first 5 count.
  8. You need to write a query letter.
  9. “Please read my novel. I worked really hard on it.” doesn’t count as a query letter.
  10. Some agents want a CV. How do I write a writing CV? What’s going to be on it? I write lots and I once got an article published?
  11. Agents are too busy to explain why they didn’t like the novel. So if there’s something obviously wrong with it I can’t fix it because I don’t know what it is.
  12. When someone does like your novel you have to do a background check to make sure they’re not a scammer or a crazy person.
  13. I did a pitch event where my pitch was very well received. There were two people from traditional publishers and one from a digital only. The two from the trad publishers said, “We like it but we have no idea how to sell it.”
  14. The guy from the digital only asked for a full manuscript when he got back from his summer holiday. I sent it on the appointed day and he got back to me half an hour later to say the publisher had decided they were now only interested in crime fiction and romance fiction.
  15. Every time I send in a pitch or a query or a submission it costs me a lot. I have to fight my fear of failure, my fear of success and my terrifying self esteem issues every step of the way. And then nothing happens. Sometimes you never hear back. Sometimes you get a one line rejection. Sometimes they ask for more but so far that’s just been life setting me up for another kick in the teeth.

And there you have it. None of these are the fault of agents or publishers. They’re not being unreasonable. It’s just how things are. It seems like a terribly inefficient system but we’re all stuck with it unless we’re going to forget it entirely and self publish.

News of the Pitch.

I’ve written several posts on the subject of the pitch. I submitted work to a competition of sorts. If they liked your submission you’d get the chance to pitch to publishers and agents at an event called Xponorth in Inverness.

I only did it because I wanted to get used to rejection. I did my absolute best with the submission but didn’t expect them to like my it because they asked for a headshot and I am a fat, potato-faced middle aged woman and my novel doesn’t fit into any established genre.

Much to my surprise they liked the submission and asked me to pitch. I assumed they must be short of applicants. I was wrong. In fact there were over 200 applications and only 25 people were invited to pitch. That was my first shock of the day.

I was pitching last, which turned out to be a good thing as I’ll explain later, so I had to sit through the other pitches getting increasingly stiff from sitting on a hard chair and worrying that we might run out of time before I got the chance to pitch.

Listening to the other pitches was fascinating. We were a fairly diverse bunch in terms of ages, accents, genders and novels. The youngest writer looked to be in his early 20s and the oldest two seemed to belong to the same generation as my mother (i.e. born during or just after WWII). There were several novels that I sincerely hope get published because I am desperate to read them. The pitching style varied very widely too. Some were formal, some were polished, some were nervous but enthusiastic, some were personal and one was so lyrical it was almost a poem.

During my preparation I’d timed my own pitch and knew that it was consistently 3 minutes 29 seconds. Since I had 5 minutes that meant that I had time to allow for stumbling over my words, dramatic pauses and for adding additional information based on the other pitches. That meant that with every pitch I heard my pitch got better. Fair compensation for the fact that by the time it was my turn my legs had gone numb and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to stand.

As I made my way to the podium I got my second shock. I pulled out my index cards with the pitch written on and then I looked up at the audience and started speaking and suddenly it was like I was flying. I was actually enjoying it. It felt good. Not only was I able to deliver the pitch easily but I could add the additional material that I’d come up with while listening to the other pitches.

So I finished my pitch and I got my third shock. People liked it. I mean I know I’m persuasive but I was not prepared for how much people liked it. The panel had actually read my submission. And they’d liked it. One of them was so taken by the first page of it that he asked if I had it with me so I could read it out.

Let me remind you that this was an exercise in getting used to rejection. I went all the way to Inverness at my own expense to get rejected and I failed. What I got was a request for the full manuscript to be delivered in August. My only hope of rejection is that either the rest of the novel doesn’t live up to the first 50 pages, which I’m going to do my level best to avoid, or it turns out to be too similar to one they’re already publishing.

Does this mean that I can succeed at something but only if I’m simultaneously failing at something else?

The good news and the bad news.

I’ve written several times about a pitch event that I applied for and how I was only doing it to get used to rejection because I was sure that they didn’t want me. Only things didn’t go according to plan. The deadline was extended after I submitted my work and that meant I had to wait much, much longer for my rejection.

In the end I got so sick of waiting that I contacted them. I told them that since I’m disabled (true) I have to plan my travel in advance (true) and I was running out of time to do that (also true) and could they please let me know if they wanted me to pitch. They got back to me the next day to tell me that I’m pitching my novel at 12:50 pm on Wednesday 8th June.

Shit. I was totally not expecting that. Now I actually have to write a pitch. Now I actually have to speak to people face-to-face. I have to sell my novel and myself. I also have to get myself to Inverness on a tight budget.

It might seem strange, given my obvious self esteem issues, but I’m actually pretty good at speaking to people. I’m just shitty at selling myself or anything I’ve made. I’ve worked in sales and if you have a product I believe in I can absolutely sell it for you. I’ve represented organisations I love and I’ve done it well. But when it comes to speaking up on my own behalf I really suck.

It doesn’t help that I’ve spent so much time staring at the novel in question that it’s ceased to have any meaning. I couldn’t tell you for sure if it’s in English never mind if it’s well written.

Wish me luck?