In the Mean Time -or- While My Novel Gently Waits.

I’m in the throes of the agent search for my novel RADIO, a historical urban fantasy set in 1928 Paris. It’s full of gods, telepathy, jazz, and mind control. A little telepathy would be real nice right about now.

For the uninitiated, the query process is a state of being in which you desperately try to distill your novel into the smallest, most interesting (the query letter), and most boring (the synopsis) forms in which it can exist. You send these documents out into the world and hope they work. Most of the time they don’t and you receive a rejection letter. Mostly these letters are form letters letting you know that they’re not interested but including nothing to tell you why. Every once in a while, you get a rejection like the one I got today that not only detailed what wasn’t working for them, but also included some tips on fixing it and sprinkled in some market info to boot. Don’t expect this, but know that it does happen from time to time.

Speaking of time, the query process is long. Eight weeks seem to be the industry standard. I’ve had response times from 60+ days and counting to three hours. No matter how you shake it. The theme of the query game is waiting. So, what does one do while they wait?

The first instinct usually involves stress, hand-wringing and obsessive email checking. Once you realize it’s futile, your mind starts looking for other projects to occupy your time. Short stories are an obvious choice, not only for the practice but for the potential addition of writing credits. You’ve got more than enough emotional fuel for some wicked sweet emo poetry but it’s not necessarily the healthiest choice. There’s also the option of diving into another novel. I’m in that boat. Aside from short stories, I’m trying to decide which project is the right project to start or restart as the case may be.

RADIO is a historical urban fantasy. I’ve got an idea for another in the same genre but to even call the idea embryonic would be a stretch. I only have a faint hint of what it could become. I’ve got a much more fleshed out concept for a modern urban fantasy. I like the idea but I’m not totally invested just yet. Starting into a new manuscript with a plan but no passion is a recipe for disaster.

I’ve got past projects too. My political sci-fi adventure novel THE STABLE was put on hiatus at 40,000 words. I’ve since decided to shift the narrative to become a trilogy rather than one self-contained story. That’s plenty of material to dive into but it’s in a very different genre than RADIO. It’s still under the SFF umbrella but, I’m not sure it’s the right way to follow-up a historical urban fantasy.

I could also return to the world of my first novel THE COALS. That book will be split in two with both parts expanded. In total, there will be four books about that world. It’s post apocalyptic which is yet another genre under the SFF umbrella but fairly distant from RADIO. So, would this be the right path?

The answer is… I don’t know. At least that’s my current answer. So, while I keep on pondering genre, I’ve got short stories to fill the gaps and query letters to write. RADIO is getting published one way or another. In the mean time, I’ve just got to get my waiting game straight.

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The Struggles of Writing Cross-Genre Fiction

After placing second in The Woolf’s short story competition, I was given the opportunity to write an article for the publication’s next edition. I chose to focus on cross-genre fiction because most of my stories are, to some degree, cross-genre and I wanted to speak to other authors about the process and struggle of getting their work out to an audience despite the difficulty inherent in shelving and marketing such work. You can read what these writers had to say here. Hopefully it’s helpful.

What if Your Book is the Child of Two Genres?

Reading: An Immodest Treatment for Imposter Syndrome

Reading.

Writers need to be readers.

For writers, reading is the most prescribed “cure for what ails ya.” From writer’s block, to vocabulary, to style and voice, reading is always the cure. There’s reason for this. It’s excellent at sharpening and focusing your mind for writing and for jump starting inspiration.

However, I think there’s an overlooked benefit of reading for writers. A benefit that’s hard to discuss without sounding like an ass but an ass I shall be to make this point! Reading is an excellent treatment for imposter syndrome. Specifically, reading average books. Why, because frankly, you can write something better.

So many writers feel inadequate in their skills. We feel that what we produce can’t live up to the kind of work we’re aspiring to or even any other “real” books. By that, I mean published, industry validated books. We focus on these books and judge ourselves based on their perceived excellence. We feel like imposters if we can’t somehow produce something that matches them and of course we never feel that our current manuscript can match their greatness.

The world is full of tens of thousands of books. That’s probably a conservative estimate. Of those, there are a lot that are at the pinnacle of the craft. There are even more that are of amazing quality and surpass your current ability as a writer. However, the vast majority of books out there fall somewhere between decent and awful. These are the stories you want to turn to when imposter syndrome strikes.

I’m not advocating that one scrape the bottom of the barrel simply to make themselves feel better. That’s just self-mollycoddling. This exercise is also not about shaming other writers. It’s about putting your skills in perspective.

When the existential dread of imposter syndrome hits, pick up a mediocre book and start reading. Look at how it’s crafted. Think about the plot, prose and characters. See all those rough edges and missteps? All of them are on display in a professionally published work right there in your hands. A book you, and presumably others, paid for.

What you have before you is a reality check. An industry validated piece of evidence showing what actually gets published. You can at least create that. You can do better. You know you can.

Keep your goals lofty. Never stop trying to best your favorites. Just remember most books don’t and that your’s doesn’t have to in order to be a success. Believe in yourself.