Should I self-publish or should I seek traditional publishing ? (esta indecisión me molesta!)

The story is entering last licks–I am now hunting for those last stray commas, periods, and misspellings in a final (final, final!) pass.

Part of the deep revision I have been involved in required dialing in on age range (that boundary between MG and YA is thin and grey, but I have found others who feel, as I do, that the age range between them is unnecessarily glossed over by publishers—which I may circle back to in a post on that very interesting topic), as well as editing down to an appropriate word count for the target audience to be sufficiently palatable to an agent (and thus a publisher). These details have been wrangled, and as I look toward composing new query letters, I suddenly find myself rethinking my options…

When I first embarked on this project, I had planned for the book to be self-published so that I could have fun with one of my favorite crafts, which is to lay out a book. But after the book grew into a full scale novel, I became interested in the pluses that come along with working with an agent and via traditional publishing. I began my quest to learn all I could about that (wonderful, enticing) avenue, through writers’ conferences, online seminars, an international writer’s society to which I belong, as well as books on the topic, and good ol’ searches on the web. It seemed right, and I changed courses with those new goals in mind.

But as I near the finish line, ready to compose new query letters and reaching out to agents, the desire to have fun with the process of creating a book (creating the marketing materials, the social media postings to connect to an interested audience, the artwork, the book cover, the book interior and putting all those pieces together) is beginning to call again like a loud and lovely siren. I suspect deep down that I don’t want to let go of all that potential fun.

And, now that we have been under shelter in place orders for a decent amount of time, I have had ample opportunity to ponder which direction I will take, which is placing me at a new crossroad.

To allow myself more time to weigh the pros and cons of each path, I have decided the most enjoyable thing to do would be to put steps in place for both. Writing that book summary, writing those queries, and yet also drawing up a Kickstarter campaign plan, dreaming up Kickstarter perk items to go along with it (I can hear my screen printing equipment calling!), planning future posts for this website since I would be much more feee to share content here (passages from the story, plot lines, themes, characters etc). So today was spent mapping out the to do lists for both options so that when I am finished with my final pass, I can make that oh-so-critical (exciting) decision and already have a plan in place.

Take that, indecision!


Revision* is not an ugly word

* And very often stretches the brain!

It’s been a while since my last post, but in that time I have been working daily, sometimes for hours, sometimes for only a moment, reworking the story. Mind in overdrive!

The feedback received from the agent I submitted to several months back proved to be a gift, and was very focused and succinct, enabling me to refine the story even further.

One of my biggest struggles, which seems to be a very common issue, at least for us greener novelists, is how to write a story that accommodates the rules of genre (YA? MG? In-betweener (INB), which, yes, I have come across and is a thing), the little detail of word count…that golden number that can help, or hinder, a new author right out the gate, while still allowing the story to flow freely from the mind’s eye.

After sitting on these parameters for awhile I decided to try flipping protagonist duties from the younger, fearless younger sister to the older, overly cautious sister grappling with anxiety and fears. Immediately the story came into sharper focus. From there, I returned to the beginning, revising what I had written to be reflected through her eyes, her feelings and experiences. At the same time I followed along my already forged trail of words, working on trimming the word count. This was all a big win for me in all regards, as it resulted in a story that now feels more immediate and much more emotional. What I hold in my hands now falls more clearly within the upper MG novel tier and most aligns with the genre of magical realism and I am very excited by this clarity of vision.

Moving forward my next steps, which I hope to have completed by early New Year, include:

  • Letting the story simmer and sit a moment (once more for freshness of eye!)
  • Re-reading from the beginning, with any eye on weeding out any lingering typos and pulling out any remaining unnecessary words
  • Revising my synopsis
  • Revising my query letters
  • Finding two more agents (in addition to two that I have already researched, and seem potentially a good fit)
  • Resubmitting the manuscript

That will keep me busy! Expect another update to follow. Until then, roll on 2020!


Milestone Celebration

I would like to announce that I have hit a major milestone and am celebrating my first rejection!

Sounds ridiculous, right?

Not so! “Celebrate every single milestone, including that first rejection!” That was singularly one of the best pieces of advice that came from the Cleveland writer’s conference I attended this past summer.

And it’s true. In order to be rejected, you have to have made it to the point of being able to submit to an agent in the first place. That’s a big step. At that moment, your manuscript transforms from a private piece of writing into something for others to read, to ponder, inviting others to interact with your own creation. It puts it out into the world in a big way, taking it to a whole new level. An audience, feedback, new knowledge. Level up!

My rejection letter was a wonderful letter from an incredibly intelligent, knowledgeable agent/author/authority on copyright law. I was thrilled that I even had a chance to pitch my story and was invited to share my pages with her. Her feedback was invaluable, and has made me step back a moment to reassess the way in which I want to tell my story. I was encouraged to think about a few technical issues (word count and age range of the audience in relation to the age of the protagonist, issues which cannot be stressed how important they are if one wishes to be published traditionally) as I embarked on my next revision.

After a few weeks have passed and I let these suggestions settle into my bones, I have begun to rework the story, at once tightening up the writing even further for clarity, while also reducing the word count (the intersection of craft and market focused issues, as the agent eloquently suggested).

Now, armed with some powerful information I have continued forward in my writing quest, eager to learn as I go, welcoming productive feedback (as an art major I learned long ago the process and the high value of critique and embrace it for all that it means).

Already the changes I have made feel very satisfying. Clearer writing not only has shortened the length but has also created more of a sense of urgency with action and dialogue. I am continuing on, refining the focus of the protagonist, switching from the younger, sassier, more daring sibling, to the older, more anxious and cautious sibling, and working through her own personal obstacles as the two work together to achieve what they set out to do in the course of the story. It feels more compelling and real to be addressing such matters as what holds a person back from doing all they are capable of doing.

I have also been able to fine tune the genre even further and I am moving forward with my revisions for an upper middle grade magical realism adventure (magical realism is described as a literary or artistic genre in which realistic narrative and naturalistic technique are combined with surreal elements of dream or fantasy). My goal is 325 pages / 85,000 words to tell this tale, the first in a series of two books.

Yesterday I set my feet into a rushing waterfall, one that is part inspiration to one of the settings of the story. It refreshed me and cleared my mind more than I had even counted on. Now it’s time to look toward another celebration, which will be the completion of this next revision!


Moving forward, pausing to refresh

Just peeking out for a second to come up for air. Today was a rather exciting day, mostly spent putting the finishing touches on my first query, getting down to the nitty gritty refining the first 30 pages, and getting it all ready to go! I had help, cheers of support, and the good advice from loved ones to step back and breathe a moment before sending the story and query into the wild world, which is currently being heeded. Once refreshed, I’ll be taking the biggest step yet. Query 1 here we go!