Second Book Success: better writing or business savvy?

Many debut writers find success through a second book.

On my first book still, this is a premature post.

Adding the finishing touches to my first project, I’m not saddened by the prospect of this wrapped-up chapter of my writing journey, more frightened by the next.

I thought about why that is. I’ve been researching MSWLs and submission guidelines, dos, don’ts and don’t you dares.

And I wondered, how much success can we account to our writing improvements and how much is down to our awareness?

Quick example. You write a paranormal romance, inspired by Twilight.

On a side note here . . .It has been said that many writers and readers are inspired by this series. But if you said your book was to sit next to it on a bookshelf? Well, then your agent/publisher may not be the Edward to your Bella. Generalisation or reality?

So, you write a paranormal romance.

You research agents.

And when you do, you might find it’s a difficult sell.

After another 100 to 200 queries, would you write another paranormal romance? No vamps or werewolves wanted here . . . would this be your next MS??

Maybe you study what is selling, the dreaded ‘writing to a trend.’ Or maybe you stick to what you love and the love bleeds through, eventually bleeding all over an agent to the point they say, er, let’s clean this up and sell it!

But in the end, we become more ‘business intelligent’ as writers. It may be hard to separate that knowledge from improving as a writer. . . but in the scheme of things, when publishing is a tight corner to turn, is it bad to be business savvy?

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Writers, we are all at different stages of our journey.

So I love to know how other writers are chugging along. And let’s be honest, we love to know we feel normal. It’s okay, you can agree. There is nothing wrong with relating to others.

We are such a supportive community, but I just want to say this:

We are all at different stages of our journey. To me, a full request would be like: WTF did you READ my sample? You just said FR without an exclamation mark? Are you not dancing?

Of course you are dancing!

It’s just where I am in my journey. It’s all good. Because I’m the sort of person who if you asked, are you okay? I’d respond with, I’m fine . . .  I’d need to add the ellipses. If I didn’t, I’d worry I’m just being terse. That’s just me. Where I am.

I watch querytracker. Stalk, whatever. But I think about the sample of people who enter their data. As a psychology major, I think about samples. Look. Requests are great. Partials, fulls, some feedback. All of these outcomes are great.Give me the great!!

But just consider your journey. Everyone feels insecure.

And hard work will be rewarded.

 

 

 

When you can’t wait any longer to query. . .

Have you ever looked back on a decision and thought, ‘Geez, I should have waited before doing that,’ but at the same time thought, ‘If I don’t do this now, I’m going to make everyone regret it?’ You heard me, everyone…Family, critique partners. They know when you’re getting that itch because you become so darn demanding. And the justifications? I love the justifications. They just keep coming until you wear everyone down and they too agree. Because then you become less annoying . . . All jokes aside, I love my family and my critique partners, and without my own ‘raid’ team, I don’t think I’d be able to even write this blog, let alone rewrite my MS…

I’m going to introduce you to Leeroy. If you have a minute, please watch this video and you may draw comparisons to your querying journey. While this raid team is planning, crunching numbers and eliminating risks, Leeroy says, ‘I am done with the planning and the calculations and the predictions, and I just want to get amongst this and get something done!’ And yeah, Leeroy kills the whole team and is, to quote one gamer, ‘as stupid as hell,’ but he makes me laugh and reminds me of myself.

So have you ever ‘Leeroyed’ throughout your publishing journey?  And is flailing, and dying horribly, against a horde of somethings better than feeling nothing?

 

 

When should you move on from your first MS: two writing camps

I love this camp-flavoured direction. I might even make it a once-a-week thing. No more pretty pictures and borrowed gifs ( just once a week anyway, we all like nice things every now and again). Let’s just pick a camp, sit down, and start eating! Because we can all spend three hours making a meal, but at the end of the day, it takes five minutes to eat, regardless, and we are still full.

So upon thinking about my inspiration for writing camps, the first thing that came to mind is this: dumping your first MS baby vs moving onto something else.

And I came up with a relevant analogy that doesn’t bode well for us baby-MS hoarders, but I found it thought provoking all the same.

Imagine two camps, two physical camps. It’s cold and it’s wet.

Camp one refuses to move on from their first MS. Stubborn and determined, they find the wet stick in the rain that is their original MS, and they try to light it. Even though it doesn’t burn, they try time and time again but are still cold.

Camp two finds this same wet stick. It’s the same wet stick they know won’t burn, but they try a few times, because, well, because you never know. And that’s a great stick. And after a few attempts, they put this wet stick in a dry area and go looking for a useful one. This new, dry stick burns. Not as bright, but it warms all the same.

Camp one has had enough of this wet stick!.It refuses to burn, even when they will it to, so they throw it away, into the wet. They are cold. They wake up in the morning and can’t find the stick. It’s gone, and disheartened, they give up and go home and don’t care. They never want to camp again.

Camp two awakens, warm to a beautiful day. They find that wet stick. And although this stick was not useful the night before, it will have a use that upcoming night. They will be warm two nights, and will never fear camping again.

So I’m in Camp one at the moment. Anyone else?

 

 

 

Write when you can vs Write when you must.

 

It’s been a while. I’ve been stressed, building the new start to my MS that will wow the world.

Writing is hard, and the more I learn to plot more than pants, the more I realise that writing is HARD. And no longer can I write 2K a day aimlessly, getting lost in banter-flavoured exchanges and plot-irrelevant quirkiness.

The time I write is a time of concentration. I can’t even listen to music while I kill my darlings; yes, their screams are so loud, I hear nothing anyway. So writing while my kids are in the vicinity is a challenge, and it’s one I accepted with ugly consequences.

I’ve thought about a few writing ‘camps’lately, but the one  I’m thinking of now is the ‘I’ll write when I must’ camp vs the ‘I’ll write when I can’ camp.’ Hand on my heart, massive respect to anyone who has a non-writing parttime/fulltime job and THEN comes home to write or writes before breakfast. I’m not sure I could do this and stay sane. Although my style does have a mental edge. . .

Does that mean I shouldn’t write? I don’t know. Maybe it’s more about finding the right time to write, for me, for my family – like when the kids are in bed for example.

After all, they are the reason I write like I do, and an ogre glaring at them is not the fairy-tale life children are looking for.

 

I’m taking off my pants because I’ve lost the plot

After almost a year of resistance, and a number of years pantsing, I decided to look into this plotting business. Why have I resisted for so long? You’ve probably heard the word organic when it comes to pantsing. I like to let the ideas flow naturally from page one and see where my characters take me, rather than suffer a structure. And hand on my heart, I was worried anything to the contrary would come across as contrived. It’s a harsh word and one that has plagued me. I’m a fairly stubborn person, and I guess I’ve stuck to these thoughts as a way of protecting myself from the truth: my MS needs a revamp, and it’s going to take some plotting research to do this.

I think if I were more experienced, I’d know how to wear my pants well and keep them on. If I’d read plotting books, looked into character development, or  had already written a book or two, I’d be well armed starting page one. All the critical elements would be top of mind as I forge on.

But I’m a green writer, whose pants need some readjusting. Starting from page one is not hard, but knowing where to take that plot is another story altogether – a story that may be a much harder sell.

So my green-writer status became obvious while thinking about how to change the start of my MS. If my MS is not being requested based on my query and  first few pages, then I assume both are letting me down. But to know where to start, I need to think about the plot. After reading some plotting material online and also Save the Cat by Blake Snyder ( and now First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke), I found that that my MS lacks depth. And to fix or analyse my plot, I need to know where my character begins on their journey, where they end up on their journey and how the plot will take them there.

For me, it’s helped to look at my story like this. MC is at point A and wants X. To get X, they must move to point B and the inciting incident helps them get there.

From here, I can write a query blurb and this should (hopefully) show that my book has conflict and growth. And I’m not going to write my new beginning until I can do just that!

Even armed with just those elements, I could have saved myself years. I was so scared of plot outlines because I thought I would have to write down every scene. But I haven’t beaten myself up too badly about this late revelation. After all, all of this makes sense because I have written my book and spent months and months researching querying. It would have been like picking up a book that helps you translate another language from English – when you don’t know English….

So this is where I am at: looking at my character and where they start their journey – what is the one thing they need to change to help them achieve their goals. It’s a tough one but a good question to ask, and a great place to start 🙂

Personalising Queries

So I’ve been hounding my CP’s lately about personalising queries. I spend a fair amount of time researching agents to see if they are a good fit for my MS. Sometimes, I find agent interviews that help me understand what they are after and can mention these at the start of my query. But often, when I look at successful queries online, they get straight to the point.

And then when I do find a compelling reason, like they are after a strong female protagonist, I worry that I’m sounding too arrogant. Oh, really, Lorelle? Well we will be the judge of that…So should we be limiting our opening sentence to include books they currently represent? But even then, we have to be careful that we aren’t insinuating that ours will compare.

So there is a fine line between gaining the edge and falling over it, and I’d love to know what writers think about personalising a slush-pile query.

Do you have success without it? Do you find you have a template that is successful and adaptable to most agents for that first sentence?

I don’t have a problem diving straight in, but you do hear that agents are wary of a query that looks like it has been sent to 50 agents at once.

Of course, I use the agent’s name in the salutation, but is that, as well as meeting submission guidelines with sample pages etc, enough? Or in this day and age of quick and accessible communication, is brevity beauty rather than beast?