On Being Unplugged

So for Reasons, I decided to spend this last weekend unplugged. The rules were no cell, and no cheating by using my computer or iPad to check email, Twitter, texts, Instagram, etc. Netflix and Spotify were allowed (I’m not that strong).  From Friday night to Sunday evening, I would live off the grid, ala the 2000s and early 2010s.

Friday night was fine. I was ready to go to bed when I turned my phone over. It wasn’t too bed. But Saturday; well, Saturday taught me somethings.

I woke up Saturday, hot and tired. I had no idea what time it was and no idea what the temperature in my room was. Should I get up? I had no idea. Was it 7:30, 9. or 12? I decided to get up. Normally, I scroll through my social media first thing in the morning. But without a phone, I just got up.

But without social media distracting me first thing, I managed to start reading and got about 4 solid, uninterrupted hours in. So the first lesson of being unplugged: productivity goes up. Which I knew. But there it is.

After lunch it was time to run the weekend errands. And that was when I learned my second lesson: I spend a lot of time doing things I find boring. While we were at Lowe’s and Home Depot, I kept looking down for my phone. You don’t realize how often you do boring things until you have to pay attention.

By the end of Saturday, I was kind of cranky. While I had enjoyed my morning, I felt bored most of the afternoon. And I wasn’t a super fan of interacting with people without my phone to escape to. And I was still tired.

So I wasn’t too optimistic that Sunday would be that great as I went to bed Saturday night. I took a PM pain med and conked out.

But Sunday! Sunday!

I woke Sunday, feeling refreshed. Again, no cell so no idea about time or temp, but this time, I knew what to expect. I came out, had a nice breakfast, and then set up to read a fun book.

We had the usual quiet morning, had lunch, read, and then went swimming. But this is when I noticed the third lesson of the unplugged weekend: when you aren’t constantly checking your phone and seeing the time, you don’t feel anxious to get everything in.

I normally feel upset that I didn’t do every thing on my to-do list. I’ll get alot done, but still feel unproductive. But when you aren’t checking it constantly, you can focus more on what your doing and enjoy the activity more, instead of looking a head to the next to-do item.

By Sunday night,  I was kind of sad that being unplugged was over. And when I first turned my phone, the stress came rushing back. I had so many notifications! I’m an impatient person so I feel the need to check everything as they come in. But this unplugged weekend showed me that I need to step away more often to enjoy life.

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Feeling Like It’s Not Going to Happen? Here’s Some Pick-Me Ups.

Just in case you ever need a few motivational pick-me ups, here is a list of yours truly go to favorites.

  1. 40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 minutes. If you need a pep talk.
  2. Happy Little Clouds. If you need some writing reminders.
  3. Evolve. For when you need to remind yourself that “you gotta evolve”
  4. Garden of You Mind. If you need inspiration.
  5. Keep on Cooking. For when you need reminding that you are writing for yourself first and foremost. “Freshness makes all the difference.”

And just for fun:

  1. Pop! Goes My Heart. Because it is Hilarious.
  2. Jolene. Because Dolly and Miley.

And that does it! Remember, we have all been there.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Interacting with an Agent on Social Media, or in general

Another week, another post! This week, let’s talk about some general rules of thumbs with engaging with agents (or editors) on social media. In general, it is always a good idea to remember that this is BUSINESS. I personally use Twitter, and Instagram, as my professional social media avenues, so it is an extension of my professional work.

Now for the Dos and Don’ts.

  • Do remember that there is a person on the other end. One thing that drives me nuts about social media is that we have a tendency to forget there is a real person on the other end. This person has feelings, and a life separate from the digital world. So always be kind and professional when engaging with them. And I have a tendency to remember the names of the people who are always friendly on Twitter with me, as well as the ones who start becoming an issue.
  • Don’t try to shame/guilt an agent or editor about a decision. This circulates back to point one and and to the general rule: this is a business and there is a person on the other end. Agents and editors do this for the love of books. And let me tell you, I was rather unprepared for the sheer volume of reading that arrived when I became an agent. Once a decision is made, I can’t be second-guessing myself. I’d never get anything done. I have to move forward. As an author, you have to remember that passes are not personal judgement and respect the decision the agent came to. You don’t have to like it (hell, I’ve been there, too), but don’t try to make me feel bad about it.
  • Do remember that social media is a window. Remember that song “Anything you can do, I can do better”? Well think of it as “Anything you can see, I can see also.” If you handle yourself unprofessionally or are too personal, I can see it. Maybe this is just me being super private, but if you use a particular social media platform to engage with agents, consider what you are showing the world. They have the ability to see the “face” you are showing. This point will come into play in another DO comment.
  • Don’t take it personally when an agent (or editor) doesn’t respond on certain platforms. So I know  several people in the business who use different social media platforms differently. For me, Twitter is my professional platform. If you look through my tweets, you might have an understanding of who I am, but it is a cultivated image. Not to say it’s not accurate, but like a diamond, I am multifaceted (because I’m human). Instagram is my personal/professional hybrid social media. You’ll get more of glimpse into my life, but again, cultivated. Facebook is private. I keep it around to follow my international family, but it is not meant for professional interaction. So if I don’t respond on it, or delete a friend request, don’t take it personal and don’t push the issue. Follow one of my other platforms.
  • Do remember that 140 characters is not enough to have a meaningful conversation, but is enough to be misunderstood. Remember that point of social media being a window? Well this point plays into that. 140 characters or really any social platform only gives you a glimpse into someone’s thoughts/ideas/life. It is a great way to be misunderstood. Hence, you won’t find me (though I can’t say for sure if I ever have) talking politics or religion or other sensitive subjects that I feel are better for person-to-person discussions. Things can be easily misunderstood (hey, we are all different so it only makes sense) when you only have a short snap shot.
  • Do use me as a resource, but Don’t use me as a crutch to avoid doing the necessary work. I love when people want to pick my brain about publishing, or what I like. I’m a person (see the theme?). But don’t use my knowledge as an excuse to avoid doing the necessary research. There are certain things that only an agent or an editor can tell you, but there are also things that you can find out by going to a bookstore or knowing your market, or talking to other writers. Know when to ask and when to investigate.
  • Don’t call me “sweetie/honey/babe”, etc. I’m a professional and calling me by any of these names is an automatic rejection. Period. It shows a lack of respect and why would I want to work with someone like that? This extends to any communication, be it social media or email.

Whew, that ended up being a whole lot longer than I thought. A good rule of thumb is to remember: be professional, and remember there is a person on the other end. I love being on Twitter and Instagram; they’re fun! But they can also be mishandled so it never hurts to have a refresher.

You Queried Me, Now What?

Welcome again to another post about me, your favorite literary agent (jk.). This week I’d like to talk about my process of evaluation. This might end up being a long post so sit back and strap in. I’m going to go the route of a “pick your own adventure” workflow.

So you sent me a query. And now I’m looking at it. What am I looking for? Well, I am looking for writing and hook in that first sample. Does the writing grab me? Is the world building already apparent? Can I position this story in a sentence already? Do I want to know more?

These questions are why it is soooooooo important that the first 50 pages of your manuscript be the BEST you can make them. This is also where that all important fit first rears its head.

Side note: I tell any and all potential clients that you should think of me as your publishing best friend. That means I need to be the person who has your back and is your best advocate, even if we might not agree at times. So fit is a big deal to me. I can’t be the best advocate for you if I’m not chomping to call you on the phone early on.

So this it point, one of two things happens: I will either pass or I’ll request more. It is important to note (because I think a lot of people miss this) that a pass is not a permanent no on all your work. It is a pass on THIS  project. Keep querying and keep trying. However, think about what the correspondence said and my tastes. Check on my anti-MSWL if it helps. Don’t be discouraged, but don’t just blindly continue on.

So say, I requested more. And you followed the upload instructions. Now, I’m reading your full manuscript. What might be running through my brain? At this point, I start to look closer. How is the pacing coming about? What character development is there and what work needs to be done? Is the plot engaging enough? If you are writing outside of your culture, what have you done to be authentic? A host of things are running through my brain.

And now comes to the hardest part: do I have the time for this? Sometimes, when I read a manuscript, I have to weigh the editorial needs against that of my schedule. If I love something 50-75% , but it needs an overhaul, is it worth it to ask for a revision before I offer a contract? Or do I offer a contract and hope the author can pull off all the editorial changes? The other thing to consider is that I don’t want to sign too many projects up right away. I need to pace myself and my acquiring, however much I may want to gorge on all the manuscripts.

At this point, I will either pass, ask for a revision and resubmit (R&R for short-hand), or I’ll set up a time to speak with you.

If I pass, again I point you back to the fact that it is not a permanent pass on all your work. But I may think that I might be a future reader, not the right one to take it to the next level. Or I might not connect with that particular manuscript, but I liked something else about it and I’m hoping to see more samples.

If I ask for an R&R, it means I like what I am seeing, but there is something holding me back. Sometimes, the story needs more work. Sometimes the writing needs more work. And, for me at least, this is also a test. I want to see what your revision process is like. It will tell me a lot. Whatever the reason, make sure you think about what I am asking for.

If I schedule a call, good news! The end of this process is almost in sight. Bad news! It means a ton of work is coming your way. The phone call is ALL about fit and resolving any questions I have. I want to know that we will work well together. And if I offer a contract, just know: you don’t have to take it. If our visions are different or you don’t think we will be a good fit, it is perfectly okay not to take it. You wouldn’t agree to date the first man to ask you on the street, now would you?

So say at this point, you decided you want to work with me and I send you the contract. After that bad boy is signed, we get to work. And that is when the real fun (and work) begins. Because I’m going to have Thoughts and they need to be addressed before I can go out with your project on submission.

And that, my dears, is my process in a condensed nutshell. Please don’t judge me.

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#Anti-MSWL

So if you are like me, you love to follow #MSWL and see what everyone is looking for. But sometimes, it can be hard to know what an editor or agent DOESN’T like or what they might be pickier on.  With that in mind, below are a few of the things I tend to be pickier about. This not a hard and fast rule, but more of a helpful “behind the curtain” glimpse of why I might not have connected with your manuscript.

So without further ado, I give you:

A GENERAL GUIDELINE LIST OF THINGS I AM PICKY ABOUT WHEN EVALUATING A MANUSCRIPT.

  1. Alternating POV. I do enjoy a good alternating or multiple POV novel. But I see a lot of authors doing this, and sometimes it is to their detriment. Think about WHY you are choosing this style. Does the reader really need more than one POV and if so, are the characters on their own arc with their own unique voice? If the answer to any of that is “no”, stop and think before you query.
  2. Boy narrators. I love Harry Potter, and I love A Stranger to Command. Boy narrators have their place. But I find that I’m not drawn to them often. This comes down to authentic voice for me.
  3. Verse novels and poetry. Not for me. I’ll enjoy it as a reader, but if you are looking for editorial agent, I’m not your gal for this.
  4. Dark, heavy content. I like dark content, but for me, it can’t be too graphic or rely so heavily on it. I like voice driven, tangentially dark content. Like My Life With the LiarsTell Me Something Real, and The Way I Used to Be. If you have graphic depictions of abuse or rape or violence, just know I’m much pickier about this.

Again, this is just a generic list and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t query me. But if I don’t connect or feel I’m the right agent, don’t take it as a judgement. I mean it at face value.

So good luck and may the odds be ever in…wait, let’s just leave it at good luck. 🙂

Slight Change Coming to This Blog

Hi, everyone!

With my recent change in job comes a change to the blog. While I still **plan** on doing reviews and industry observations when I can, I will be adding an agent section. I intend for this to be a place where you can find my thoughts on agenting, and more about my professional tastes.

Look for a blog post to kick that off soon!