May 20, 2011

try, try again

I sent my first query letter to a literary agent yesterday. I received my first rejection, today.

Given my recent state of mind, you would think I would be completely devastated, but I am not. Instead, I am taking it as a learning experience and a reminder that nothing comes easy.

Was I seriously going to get a literary agent on my first try? Absolutely not.

As optimistic as I was by contacting the agency — whose agents I believed would do an excellent job selling my novel — I knew that chances were I would be rejected. I didn't believe this because I am pessimistic, but because I am realistic. I am an unknown author with an unknown novel. In their eyes, I am probably not a sure bet.

After I opened the e-mail response, which given the 24-hour turn-around I expected to be a rejection, I took a moment to be disappointed that this first firm did not wish to represent me. Then, I went back to the list of agents I have and picked my second choice. I opened up another e-mail, adjusted my query letter and sent it.

I believe in my novel, and I know that somewhere there is an agent who will love it as much as I do and who will take it under his or her wing. Every rejection I receive is just a sign that I haven't found the right home for it yet.

I won't be disappointed until I have contacted every agent in the U.S. and received a rejection. What would be the point?

May 18, 2011

second guess

Lately, when I tell people I finished writing my first novel, their reactions are typically the same: interested, complimentary and supportive.

In response, I find myself using this same phrase: "Thanks, but it's not very good."

I have not even submitted my novel to anyone in the publishing world — it's still out with a few friends who are reviewing it — nor received negative feedback, and I am already tearing my work down.

This is a big change from how I acted while I was writing it and in the days after I finished the first draft. I was excited and confident my story would find an audience.

Then, the more I thought about it and started revising it, the more I doubted my work. I became critical and negative. I questioned the characters, cut 11,000 words and the bulk of two chapters. I lost my confidence.

But why?

As a professional writer, I am no stranger to having my work read and critiqued by others. Ranging from a team of editors to the audience, criticism can come from a lot of places. Most of it is positive, but the negative is what always sticks with me.

After five years as a professional writer, you would think I would have a thicker skin when it comes to feedback, but I don't. I let the negative comments bother me and I obsess about it until I've reached the point I am at now. I'm the one giving myself the criticism, and not in a positive way. It's hardly constructive.

How do I become a more confident writer?

I posed that question to Google and found a series of blog posts and articles. My favorite is from "The Copywriter's Crucible," a blog by Matt Ambrose, a freelance copywriter. To gain more confidence and take pleasure in writing, he offered these tips:

1. Read a variety of genres and formats. Expand readership outside of your area of expertise.

2. Write a lot. It will help you relax if you do it more frequently.

3. Overcome your fear of criticism from others who read your work. (It's like stage fright and just as debilitating.)

4. Remember why you became a writer.

5. If you are a professional writer, appreciate what it took to get you to now. Savor the success.

6. Accept criticism as feedback. A fresh pair of eyes can help you identify areas for improvement.

7. Learn to accept praise.

8. Approach every project with maximum effort and treat it like it is a long-term business relationship.

9. Don't worry too much about being perfect. Aspire for perfection, but know you probably won't get it on your first try.

10. Appreciate that occasional doubt in your writing is part of the creative process and keeps you reaching for higher standards.

Reading the last two tips made me feel better about myself. I understand that some doubt is good and that perfection is a goal, but not the immediate reality. I should continue to strive for perfection, and understand that I will always have some doubt, but I can't let it rule my life.

I also need to remember that feeling of accomplishment after I finished the first draft of this first novel. It wasn't perfect, and it still isn't now, but I am still proud of it. Finishing it taught me that I could do it, and I need to keep that in mind.

May 5, 2011

life by numbers

I'm doing preliminary work for an upcoming project (not necessarily my next one, but a book I will write someday) and I dug into my traveling background since I started my job.

The results were kind of fun and made me realize how much traveling I've done since Aug. 11, 2008. I thought it might be fun to post what I found in the interest of showing some of my semi-creative process.

Flights since starting my job:
• Sept. 2-4, 2008: (OMA to IAH; IAH to LBB; LBB to IAH; IAH to OMA)
• Sept. 15-19, 2008: (OMA to ORD; ORD to BUF; BUF to ORD; ORD to OMA)
• Oct. 16-19, 2008: (LNK to DEN; DEN to LAX; LAX to DEN; DEN to LNK)
• Oct. 27-31, 2008: (OMA to ORD; ORD to BDL; BDL to ORD; ORD to OMA)
• Nov. 4-5, 2008: (OMA to DEN; DEN to IAH; IAH to DEN; DEN to OMA)
• Nov. 30-Dec. 5, 2008: (OMA to IAH; IAH to OMA)
• Jan. 6-9, 2009: (OMA to ORD; ORD to BDL; BDL to ORD; ORD to OMA)
• Feb. 2-5, 2009: (OMA to IAH; IAH to OMA)
• Feb. 23-27, 2009: (OMA to EWR; EWR to BUF; BUF to EWR; EWR to OMA)
• March 22-27, 2009: (OMA to DFW; DFW to MSY; MSY to DFW; DFW to OMA)
• April 21-24, 2009: (OMA to MDW; MDW to ALB; ALB to MDW; MDW to OMA)
• May 5-8, 2009: (OMA to DEN; DEN to HOU; HOU to MDW; MDW to OMA)
• June 17-23, 2009: (OMA to IAH; IAH to OMA)
• July 6-9, 2009: (OMA to MSP; MSP to BDL; BDL to ATL; ATL to OMA)
• Aug. 25-29, 2009: (IAH to PHL; PHL to BOS; BOS to EWR; EWR to IAH)
• Oct. 19-22, 2009: (IAH to EWR; EWR to BDL; BDL to PHL; PHL to IAH)
• Jan. 5-7, 2010: (IAH to ATL; ATL to ALB; ALB to CLT; CLT to IAH)
• Feb. 23-26, 2010: (IAH to CLT; CLT to ALB; ALB to BOS; BOS to IAH)
• May 15-22, 2010: (IAH to ORD; ORD to OMA; OMA to DEN; DEN to IAH) - personal
• Aug. 1-2, 2010: (IAH to DEN; DEN to IAH) - personal
• Sept. 20-23, 2010: (OMA to IAH; IAH to OMA)
• Oct. 3-9, 2010: (OMA to ATL; ATL to IAH; IAH to DEN; DEN to OMA)
• Oct. 18-20, 2010: (MCI to ATL; ATL to HOU; HOU to ATL; ATL to MCI)
• Nov. 2-3, 2010: (OMA to DEN; DEN to IAH; IAH to DEN; DEN to OMA)
• Nov. 9-12, 2010: (OMA to DFW; DFW to SAT; SAT to DFW; DFW to OMA)
• Dec. 7-11, 2010: (OMA to STL; STL to HOU; HOU to DEN; DEN to OMA)
• Jan. 10-14, 2011: (OMA to IAH; DFW to IAH; IAH to OMA)
• March 28-31, 2011: (OMA to MEM; MEM to IAH; IAH to MSP; MSP to OMA)


I have:
• Taken 28 trips that involved flight.
• Rented 50 cars (one for personal reasons).
• Rented two UHaul trucks (both for personal reasons).
• Two of those were personal
• This included 101 different flights
• One had original departure from Lincoln, once from Kansas City, six from Houston, 20 from Omaha.
• Flew in and out of 25 airports.
• Top five airports by departure are:
1. OMA
2. IAH
3. DEN
4. ORD

Airports (by departure)
1. OMA - 21
2. IAH - 17
3. DEN - 11
4. ORD - 7
5. ATL - 5
5. DFW - 5
7. BDL - 4
7. EWR - 4
9. ALB - 3
9. HOU - 3
9. MDW - 3
12. BUF - 2
12. BOS - 2
12. CLT - 2
12. MSP - 2
12. PHL - 2
17. LAX - 1
17. LBB - 1
17. LNK - 1
17. MCI - 1
17. MEM - 1
17. MSY -1
17. SAT - 1
17. STL - 1

Right now it doesn't mean a lot to anyone, except me, but eventually it could help me write a book.