The Business of Writing

Well, it's that time of the year again.  It's time for me to do more with my writing than simply getting drunk in front of my computer.

To be fair, it's not an annual thing, this whole trying to do something with the work I've created.  It's an ongoing process, particularly with regards to my short stories.  But I'm not just dealing with short stories right now, I'm dealing with my YA book, "Master of the House."

I've talked about MotH a decent amount on this blog.  I wrote the original draft a little over 3 years ago.  About six months ago I sent a query letter out to a few agents and got a few nibbles, but nothing worked out.  I realized that was in part because the book wasn't ready.  Specifically, the first few chapters weren't ready (actually, the first few chapters weren't the first few chapters, as the real first few chapters hadn't been written yet).

I spent a lot of time adding chapters, cleaning up the book, even getting professional editing done.  I think MotH is ready.

I even updated my query letter based upon yet another professional critique.  And I finished the painful process of writing a one page synopsis.

I spent most of the last two days researching agents.  I remember back in the day when I would make a list of agents that consisted of anyone who was still accepting unsolicited query letters.  Over the years I've learned that it makes more sense to target specific agents for specific reasons.  I mean, I'm sending a query letter to an agent who says in her bio that she's looking for YA books about haunted mansions.  That's pretty money right there (please see the description for "Master of the House" for why).

The whole process is ultimately a crap shoot.  I would imagine the average agent receives dozens of query letters every day, and the whole point of a query letter is to make it easier to disregard a writer and his or her work.  It's not meant to be mean, of course, just realistic.  I can't imagine what it must be like to be buried under piles of aspiring writers.

The process has become simpler as more agents and literary journals take advantage of the internet.  But even then, I find myself asking ridiculous questions, like "which day of the week is the best day to send this?"  People are generally grumpy on Mondays, right?  So is a Tuesday better?  Are Thursday and Friday too late
in the week, meaning my query/short story will sit in their inbox, getting buried by e-mails until the following Friday?  It never ends.

I just have to hope that my single page of information gets through to one of them.

It's actually worse for short stories.  There's no buffer for literary journals.  The person reading your short story is the same person who will decide to publish it.  With agents, at least, there's a step in between.  Even if an agent decides to take on your project, he or she will then need to sell it to a publisher.  An agent is probably less quick to dismiss your work.

But here I go, once more unto the breach.  Here I go, putting my fragile ego out there for destruction.  It's a tedious process that usually ends in heart break, but those few successes make it worth it.

Fortunately, I'm buoyed by the fact that I've done this before.  I bypassed the agent and went directly to a publisher for "I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At."  My short story, "Young Zombies in Love" made the short list for Best New Writing's Eric Hoffer Award.

I have momentum.