Everything they say about finding the right agent for your work is true, so
The thing about coming out of the query trenches, is you quickly realize, if you've made the right match, that everything your writing peers tell you is true. While you're sending off your query, balancing your heart between hopeful and blind optimism, you think people are just offering platitudes. You've heard them: 'it only takes one', 'you're better off with no agent than the wrong agent', 'it'll happen'. Every request for a partial or full sets you up to believe all of the good and every rejection knocks your feet out from under you.
Those authors who have not found their agent soul mate might find it hard to believe that someone who is agented "gets it". But they do. They really, really do. Because they're at a different stage but it's very much a similar journey. Going on submission is much like querying, only you have someone at your side through the process. I'm not going to lie, that part is nicer. It's nice to have that fallback of, okay, I got a rejection but this person believed enough in me to sign me. It takes some of the sting out. Every writer who has achieved success (and that measure is different for everyone) has been where you are right now-- wherever that is.
But what everyone tells you is true: it does only take one, it is better to find the right one, and it WILL happen.
I've gone about learning this the long way. My querying journey has been a bit...unique. I have experienced having an agent I was not properly matched with and the disappointment of parting ways-- even when I knew it was the right move. This journey isn't an easy one: it can be hell on your self-esteem. That's why the people you surround yourself with (IRL and online) matter so much. You need people that will build you up, help you up when you fall, and keep pushing you. You need to do the same for them because whether they're unagented, agented, self publishing or on submission to big publishing houses, they will have their moments of teetering on the edge too.
We're all on that ledge, repeatedly, wondering whether to keep going or give up. But only one of those options can possibly lead to success and I can't tell you how happy I am that I kept going, kept writing, kept pushing down the feeling that I might not be good enough. Because what makes you good enough is your willingness to keep going.
Want some stats as proof? For the book that finally got me an agent (one I'd wanted for quite some time-- which could be another post in itself, titled: establish and maintain connections and relationships because they matter-- okay, maybe that title is too long) I actually tracked the process this time:
47 queries sent = free
4 partial requests = optimism
8 full requests = nail biting
34 Nos or no responses = grumpiness
1 agent (the RIGHT one) = PRICELESS
When it finally happens? You'll be like: Yup,
inside UNDER THE LIGHTS
Under the Lights (Daylight Falls #2)
by Dahlia Adler
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Release Date: June 30th 2015
Genre: GLBT, Young Adult/New Adult, Contemporary
Rate: 4 stars
Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents' wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls...opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he's trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he's in the spotlight—on everyone's terms but his own—Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.
Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents' disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she's painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van's life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she'll have to choose between the one thing she's always loved...and the person she never imagined she could.
It's not going to surprise anyone who follows her on Twitter or has read her other two books that Dahlia Adler can write. She has, in all three of the books I've read now, the perfect blend of humor and heartache to connect readers to the characters. I always think the sign of a truly talented writer is their ability to make you care for a character you strongly dislike. Even more impressive, is an author's ability to have the character (Josh) retain many of the qualities that annoy you, even while clearly showing growth. Dahlia Adler understands what it means for a character to evolve and be transformed without having to become someone entirely new.
Perhaps this is a life lesson in addition to good writing. We grow, we change, we become different versions of who we are. The people who matter, the people who truly care, accept those changes even when we're not entirely sure which version of ourselves is the truth. Sometimes the truth gets buried behind fear of how people will react. In alternating chapters, both main characters face this realization.
Vanessa and Josh are both at a crossroads in their lives, as most 18-20 year old people should be. Though they both have different reasons, they are on a similar journey-- a journey we're all familiar with-- the quest for happiness and fulfillment. I'm not sure which character was more surprised by the realization of what would lead to said happiness, but it was fun to watch them get there.
Under the Lights is an honest and blunt look at how hard it can be to make decisions that you know will forever alter the next stage of your life. What I loved most about the relationship between Vanessa and Bri was how Dahlia showed regardless of the gender dynamics: boy-girl, girl-girl....it doesn't matter-- love feels like love. It's scary and exciting and sometimes a bit traumatizing, but with the right person, it's worth the risk.
One of my favorite parts of Josh's relationship with Vanessa was when he realized he could care for a girl without sleeping with her-- other than Ally. When we love someone, we want the best for them and seeing Josh want that for Vanessa was the biggest proof of his character's growth.
Readers who loved Ally and Liam (like me) will be pleased to see them in Under the Lights. Another authentic story arc: how we can love our friends and envy them a little at the same time. Because we're human. And that's what makes readers love Adler's characters-- they're human. They're real and flawed, just like us and it makes us think if they can find their "Hollywood ending", so can we. Sometimes the happily ever after is a surprise, even to the person searching for it.
It's difficult for a writer to put out a sequel to a well-loved book because it ups the pressure of not 'letting readers down'. I can assure you, because I was lucky enough to read it early, this won't be the case with Under the Lights.
Who would I cast in the movie production of under the lights?
want some music with that?
The songs playing in my mind during scenes of this book do not have a specific order but they have some common themes: standing up for yourself, trusting yourself, relationships, reaching for something new, and the angsty-uncertainty that comes with love and life decisions.
Follow the Under The Lights by Dahlia Adler Blog Tour and don't miss anything! Click on the banner to see the tour schedule.
I'm an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and I blog at The Daily Dahlia, YA Misfits, and the Barnes & Noble book blog. I also write contemporary YA (The Daylight Falls duology) and NA (The Radleigh University series). Rec-ing books is approximately my favorite thing in the universe, with macarons being a close second. Come say hi on Twitter, where I'm @MissDahlELama!
Writing isn't the hard part
Surprisingly, the hardest part of writing, is not writing. In Amy Poehler's Yes Please, she titles her preface "Writing is Hard". But even as she talks about this, she says she can write a scene or skit in record time. Because putting the words down on the page is not always the most challenging part. It's everything that comes with it, after it, that can be soul-sucking hard. But if you want it, like really want to hold your book in your hands (and yes, e-books count), you have to accept that no matter how easily the words come, there is so much more to writing a story than getting words on a page.
Not gonna lie: EDITING IS HARD. It feels like putting together a 1000 piece puzzle, knocking it over, and starting again. But not being allowed to put the pieces back in the same order you did last time. And maybe not using all of the same pieces. And maybe not even using the same puzzle. Sometimes it's like scrapping the first puzzle, except for the corner pieces, and going with a brand new one. You're not even sure it's possible to do that. Because IT'S HARD. But it's satisfying to see something that you love, a piece of you, become something more, something bigger. Something that elicits all of the feelings in your readers that you meant to. And, rarely can you do that the first time around.
Making connections without being annoying
I'm still working on this one. I've made so many amazing and wonderful connections and I don't use those words lightly. The people I've met since I started writing are so supportive- offering advice and feedback and direction. I've developed what I know will be lifelong friendships with many people and there are many that I truly hope to meet in real life. However, I often feel like the tag along, the third wheel, the annoying girl who asks a deliberately complicated question in class when the professor says you can go early if there's no more questions. NO ONE HAS MADE ME FEEL THIS WAY. Which reminds me that my biggest problem is that I find myself annoying. I can't get out of my brain and it would likely be awkward if I did. So I annoy myself and then read into every little thing that means nothing and end up annoying myself more. Make connections. Be yourself. Chances are good, most people will like us just fine. Trust them. They're cool people that you admire and they don't have to help you. Most people engage and connect because they want to. And if you're genuine, open, and considerate, there's really no reason that they would find you a nuisance. Unless you're being annoying.
Listening to feedback AND ACTUALLY USING IT
This is a funny one because I didn't think I was bad at listening to or using feedback. When someone would say that I might want to change something or rethink it, I'd simply tell them why that's not what worked in my story. I listened. I heard. And they were wrong. I have improved in this area. Mostly. It is hard to take feedback and even harder to change things in a story that matters to you. But those people above, that you trust and admire? If they're willing to give you their opinion, listen. If your best friend is an insatiable reader and gets stuck on your plot line and wants you to succeed so therefore mentions it, LISTEN. You don't have to take all the advice or everyone's advice. But you have to be open about accepting constructive criticism if you really intend to grow and actually want to sell your work. If you believe the support group you have wants the best for you, then trust them. But trust yourself too. Ultimately, the story is yours. But if you plan to share it, you have to see it from other points of view.
I write notes to my daughters on their bathroom mirror every week. Sometimes I use erasable marker, sticky notes, or scraps of paper. Words matter. I love them. So I share them with my girls in this way and many others. This week I wrote, "If you tell yourself you can't do something, you won't. So tell yourself you can." That sounds all poetic and inspiring (and hopefully they're not someone else's words-- if they are, thank you for the quote) but if you were to check my iMessages, Facebook messages, or Twitter direct messages from this week, you would see the irony in ME writing that quote. Because in the last couple weeks, I've told myself repeatedly that I can't. Amy Poehler has a chapter about the plain girl versus the demon. The demon is the voice we all have that makes us feel negative about ourselves. (BTW: this is such an awesome chapter of writing. You should read it.) The thing about that voice is, you have to make them be quiet. They won't all the time, but you at least have to try to talk over it. One thing I realized is that I was measuring my success in the wrong way. Instead of letting all of the things that are happening sink in, instead of truly celebrating, my mean voice keeps telling me all of the things I have not yet achieved. I have a book coming out in April with my co-writer, Kara Leigh Miller. We have a second one coming out later in the year (if she'd just focus-- don't worry, that wasn't mean. She will laugh). And I have a picture book coming out in January 2016. My mean voice shouldn't get to talk for a few months at least. But it interrupts me constantly. We have to not let it.
There are thousands of quotes online about failure making you stronger, about great people before you who did not succeed the first several times they tried. Those stories are there for a reason. Instead of getting caught up in the fact that you got rejected, it's time to start asking why. I'm looking back now at a story that I love and was very personal to me. It got lots of attention and several full requests. But it ultimately got rejected. There is absolutely no point in focusing on this detail. Instead, I have to look at WHY and change it. So I'm going to go do that and if it still gets rejected, I have to decide if I want to shelve it for a while. I didn't think I could handle rejection well. But I'm doing okay. It really doesn't break you. If you want it badly enough, rejection will make you fight harder. Except on the days that it just completely sucks and you can't stay positive. Then you turn to those people that have all been there, the ones who will support you and pull you back up. Not too long ago I messaged a lovely writer friend and I didn't even say I was going to flat out quit. I was just being miserable and sad. And her message said: STEP AWAY FROM THE LEDGE. It made me laugh and I thought, not only does she get it (because that's exactly what it felt like) but she's right there. Be that person for someone else. I feel so lucky to have those people that help me face it and move on to be better. And, they make you laugh. That fixes a lot of things.
Other than actually putting the words on the page, what is the hardest part for you?
The Writing Process...tag; I'm it.
Thanks Jamie Rae for tagging me in the Writing Process Blog Tour.
Jamie is one of those cool people who does a little bit of everything and does all of it well. She's a great writer and her book, Call Sign, Karma will be released in 2015. I am lucky enough to call her my critique partner and friend. She's got incredible insight into what makes a story work, which is why her writing is so strong. You can find Jamie on
Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and also the following websites:
Jamie Rae Writes
Okay. Onto my own process...if you can call it that.
1. What are you working on?
Currently, I am outlining another novel connected to Angel's Lake, Minnesota, the fictional town I created for Forever Christmas, A Not so Lonely Christmas, and Falling for Home. Also, I just finished developmental edits on a medical romance titled, Dangerous Love, that I co-authored. Soon I'll be working on the next round of edits for that. It comes out in March 2015.
2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?
Hmm. I think my work is a combination of styles. It's not just romance, it's not just happily ever after-- it's a look at how hard it is sometimes to get to happily ever after and how, when you get there, it's not always what you envisioned, but somehow it's exactly what you want.
3. Why do I write what I write?
Because I'm addicted to happily ever after and "awww" moments. I re read all my favourite parts in books constantly. It's what I enjoy reading and it's what comes to mind when I start to write.
4. How does my individual writing process work?
The word process suggests something with organization. I'm not sure that I have an actual process. I read a lot. I get ideas. I then text the ideas to my BFF who tells me if the idea is ridiculous, overdone, has potential, or could go somewhere. I message with my friend and CP who is constantly supportive of everything, but also helpful and good at guiding me. Then I write. I write exceptionally fast when I have the ideas in my head. On average, it takes me a couple of months to write a book that I know where it's going. It's a bit longer if I'm struggling on the plot. I'm getting better at planning, though I do this more when I'm stuck on whether an idea actually has enough ability to grow into a novel. In writing, there's two labels: plotter and pantser. I am both. This reflects my personality as I find it hard to make decisions and am frequently on the fence about many things. When I'm writing, or awake, I have diet Pepsi close by. On average, during a writing session, I answer 3, 234 questions from my children who will suddenly need my attention when my computer is open. I always have Twitter and Facebook open, which is why I don't get more done. And I do most of my writing at the kitchen table. That's it. Not really a process, but that's how I roll.
Now...onto the others. First, I am tagging my co-author Kara Leigh Miller
Kara Leigh Miller is an author, an editor, and, to me, a great sounding board. I met her when she ran a contest through her website. The winner would co-author a book with her, a medical drama, and that book would be published by Anaiah Press, where she is a Managing Editor. Yes, I won. This is how I know, first hand, that she is a great writer, a patient co-author, and a very funny person. She's also a mentor in this years PitchWars! You can find Kara on Facebook, Twitter, and on her website. She has not yet succumbed to Pinterest but, eventually, she will fall prey to that as well. You can find out more about Kara's books on her website: Kick Start Your Heart Romance.
Up second is the lovely Joanne Macgregor.
Joanne is a both an adult and young adult author. I connected with her some time ago and found that she is so easy to talk to, so sweet, and charming, that it's impossible not to want to be friends with her. Recently, she's been promoting her psychological thriller, Dark Whispers. She has five young adult books out, including one titled: Harry on the Couch: A psychologist's reading of Harry Potter. You can find Joanne on Facebook, Twitter, and on her website.
For my third tag, a connection made through PitchWars, Jodie Andrefski
I chose to tag Jodie for several reasons (after I asked her, which probably seemed a little weird to her since I'd just "met" her): we have the same name (spelled differently), she loves dessert (that's my main food group), and she's a SPN fan (which I'm trying to not be too much of a scaredy cat to watch). The main reason, though, was because I'd connected with her through PitchWars and it reminded me how great the Twitter writing community is. She put up one of her #firstlines on Twitter and it was awesome. I commented and thus the mutual following began. Twitter is a great place to connect with others who share your interests, goals, and obsessions. Jodie is a Young Adult writer, as well as an intern at Entangled Publishing. You can find her on her website-- awesomely named 2000 Words, and on Twitter.
Some of the best books you'll read are not out yet, written by authors you don't yet know, but one day will. Now it's their turn. Thank you for participating ladies.
Not going to lie...some days it's really hard to stay positive. There are some days that it is much harder to remind yourself of the good, pick yourself back up, tell yourself that everything will be okay. It doesn't matter what you do for a living, what you hope to achieve, the path is not always easy and some days, it seems entirely too rough. On those days, I'm inclined to stay in my bed, re-read the best parts of my favorite books, and have my children bring me diet Pepsi in bed. And waffles. Fortunately, along with the waffles and pop, my children provide perspective. While checking Pinterest today, I found the above three quotes, sent from my oldest daughter, with a note that said, "Don't give up, you'll get there. I know it." So. There's that. And for today, that's enough to hold onto.
sub·jec·tiv·i·ty [suhb-jek-tiv-i-tee] noun, plural sub·jec·tiv·i·ties for 2. 1. the state or quality of being subjective; subjectiveness. 2. a subjective thought or idea. 3. intentness on internal thoughts. 4. internal reality.
I never know how much to say about anything because sometimes you learn lessons too late, after you've already made mistakes and I don't like the idea of wrecking something for myself before it even happens. Every rejection letter that you get probably has some variation of the phrase "please continue to send your work out as my opinion is subjective". You try really hard to believe that; to tell yourself, it's just not right for that agent. Sometimes though, it's hard to keep going when that subjective opinion seems to be shared by more than a couple. It's important during the times that you feel like this to reach out to the people that will push you forward. Also, to remind yourself why you write. You also have to keep telling yourself that it really, really, truly, absolutely IS subjective. Even though I let myself believe otherwise last week, here's a look at my week to show you how I was reminded.
Monday: a kind letter from an agent saying that I write well but she didn't connect. Okay, I can handle that. I can focus on the "you write well".
Tuesday: a "your work isn't right for us" letter. Okay. Fine. Played on Facebook, connected with writer friends to remind myself that this industry is subjective. Was asked to do a review by someone I respect immensely. Okay. Because I can write. Right?
Wednesday morning: a "thank you for submitting to us but your work isn't what we're looking for" response to an email I sent YESTERDAY. Wow. Okay. Um. Maybe I need a new hobby? Or I can just read. All the time.
Wednesday evening: letter in the mail (like in an envelope and everything) from Blue Mountain Cards. The letter told me that one of the poems I had written had been chosen ("among hundreds") to move onto the next stage.
Moral? It really is a subjective industry. Overwhelmingly so. What can you do? If it matters to you, keep going. Keep writing. Connect with other writers because they have the same stories that you do. If you want it bad enough, you have to keep pushing ahead. Remind yourself of what you have done. Write it down and look at it so that the next time you wonder if you don't understand the meaning of subjective, you can read over this list of achievements and feel good. Because regardless of anything else, if you're writing, if you're connecting with other writers and improving, learning to be better, becoming better, then you are succeeding. And eventually, that persistence is going to serve you well.
Y'all ready for this?
Tuesday is release day. Unless I mess it up somehow, which is entirely possible. This morning and last night I was instant messaging with my critique partners about writing, confidence, and audience. Basically, we decided that it shouldn't matter what others think if you've written a book you can be proud of, that told the story you wanted to, and that you're happy with. I feel that way about Forever Christmas and the people that I care about, that matter, really love the book. So, why does the thought of pressing "Save & Publish" make my stomach feel like I 've eaten too many advent chocolates? As one critique partner said, WE'VE WRITTEN BOOKS! Not everyone can say that. They can say they want to, they're going to, and they have the best idea ever but how many people sit down and actually write 40,000-80,000 words that mesh together to create a story? As it turns out, A LOT! Maybe not a lot in my circle of friends, but when you join the online writing community via social media, you realize how many books are being written, how many people are 'authors'.
So what makes an author? Surprisingly, there's nothing in the definition of the word author that says 'one who is published'. I think that when you're surrounding yourself with writers, agents and contests, you lose sight of what matters. It's not just about being published. It's not just about the praise of random strangers. It's about starting something AND finishing it. It's about feeling good that you've created something, whether one person or a million read it. The other day my daughter said something to me and I responded with a partial quote (cause our house is like that: we spout quotes and break into song at any given moment). She was worrying about someone recognizing her for something. The quote I shared with her is below and I meant it when I said it. It's not about what you're recognized for, but that feels at odds with doing something that you know begs recognition. I guess that's why we told our critique partner this morning that it has to be for ourselves. We have to make decisions based on what we want for ourselves and not for how others will see us. We need to put our best selves out there if we're going to do it, but in the end, it's not about the applause. So while I hope that many people will enjoy Forever Christmas, I need to remember, even if only my closest friends read it, that it wasn't about sales or praise. It's about sharing something that I'm proud of; something that reminds me, and maybe you, of the point of this season and this life: having people in your life that love and support you no matter what. And if all else fails, I'll just try to remember that: I WROTE A BOOK!
When it rains...
Technically, it rains a lot in BC. But that's not really what this is about. This is about me waiting for things to happen and realizing that so much IS happening. I have some publishing news that I want to share but I haven't received my confirmation email so I'm cautiously waiting but promise I'll tell as soon as I can. But here's what's up in October:
October 9th.................................So You Think You Can Write
Top 50 entries chosen
October 15th................................Gold Rose Competition
Finalists are notified
October 18th.................................WE Day Vancouver
I will take 20 kids to see amazing and motivating
speakers & be reminded of what really matters in life.
October 24th................................Dinner with REAL authors
I was invited last year, by a friend, to spend an
evening w/writers like Diana Gabaldon, Sam Sykes,
Jack Whyte, and Michael Slade. Last year I was too
nervous to speak. This year I will talk to someone!
October 25th.................................Surrey International Writers Conference
Keynote speakers, workshops, authors AND
I will get to meet/talk to Michelle Johnson,
Carolyn Forde, and Pam Van Hylckama Vlieg
All the while, I'll be waiting to hear back from agents who are reading Damaged, my newest contemporary romantic suspense manuscript. Busy. And let's not forget what this month is really all about, according to my ten year old and seven year old (because writing is great and being published would be lovely but does not hold a candle in their world to:) HALLOWEEN
The difference a year makes
This time last year, we were just returning from California. We visited Disneyland and had the best trip...EVER. While there, we met up with friends and I told them that I was attending a writer's conference in October. I said that I was getting to sit down with an agent and an author to share some of my work. They said to let them know how that all worked out. September came and went in a blur, much like this one will, and in October, I attended that conference. If you've read my blog before, you know I ended up signing with an agent for my picture book: The Princess and the Please. Signing with an agent was like a catalyst for me. I had always been "a writer". But after a professional said, "I like your work enough to sign you", ideas and words exploded. Since that time, I've written 3 more picture books, a young adult novel, 2 full length novels, and a novella. That wouldn't have happened, at least not at this point in my life I don't think, if I hadn't gone to the conference last year.
Since then, I've also amicably parted ways with the agent, met a wide network of absolutely lovely, helpful people that I wish I knew in real life, not just on Twitter. I've grown stronger as a writer, listening to and accepting feedback. I've learned how to write a proper query letter, a synopsis, and what a chore editing can be. I've learned to pitch my work in 35 words, I've had requests for pages, partials, and fulls. I've received multiple rejections and learned to take the advice in them (if they had any). I learned what CP (critique partner) means and I have one. I'm even hosting a give away for the re-release of Jessa Russo's book EVER. I've become a part of an amazing writing community and learned that it's okay that I'm not yet published or still agented. I always say I started in the middle and got put back at the starting line.
In October, I'm attending a writing conference. This time, I'll have a better idea of what I'm doing so there'll be no flukes or luck. When I sit down with an agent this time, I'll know what I want and be offering them my best writing. In the last year, I've also learned that my heart lies in contemporary romance, though picture books are great fun. It'll be very interesting to see what this year brings.
While you were waiting...
This has been an interesting week for querying my contemporary romance manuscript. I've received 1 "No thanks, not for me, best of luck" rejection and 1 "The writing was clichéd and I did not connect to your main character" rejection (OUCH...that one hurt). However, in the good news column, after entering the pitch contest on Brenda Drake's website, I received three requests: one followed up by requesting the full manuscript the day after I submitted two chapters. It is quite the paradox to have two people tell you they don't want your writing while trying to convince yourself that one of three will. So I'm distracting myself in the best ways I can and thought I'd share some ways to wait because, let's face it, waiting patiently and forgetting that my manuscript is in the hands of three people that showed interest, is not going to happen.
Ten Ways to Wait
What did I miss? What do you do to keep from going crazy? There's a great line in The Search (by Nora Roberts) that I love: "[We] worked on keeping each other from going crazy." Find someone or something to help you channel the crazy that inevitably comes along with waiting. Now, taking my own advice, I'm going to go read Jill Mansel's Staying at Daisy's.