Wednesday, November 14, 2007

November Writing - Progress Report

Back on October 15th I wrote a post detailing, or rather ranting about my stagnation as a writer. I vowed to set goals and make actual progress... Egads, I promised in print which makes it much harder to back down.

So I thought making it a monthly progress report, posted for all to see would keep me even more honest... and focused. You’ll see, in this months’ post, I fell short in a few areas but overall made some real progress. I’m hoping, keeping in mind I’ll owe you all another report in December, that I’ll hit every goal this time.

Okay, in the last post (or in the comments somewhere) I mentioned that I wanted to submit at least four times a month and work on my wip for a minimum of an hour a day.

I sent out three submission – so one shy, but more than I did last month and two of them took a good amount of time to write and edit, so I’m fairly proud of myself... still I’m hoping to improve.

I sent out one short story, one greeting card submission (though for three different cards), and one essay. I learned, by the way, that cover letters are far less nerve racking for me than queries... I’m not exactly sure why, but I was thrilled with how virtually painless it was.

My Novel – I did not get in as much work as I wanted to and I’m being a little hard on myself over it. Time wise, I did okay. I’d skip some days but then manage to eek in three or five hours on it later so I think I stuck pretty well to that hour a day mark, if I didn’t surpass it...

I got stuck on the first two chapters, I think I also posted about that somewhere, but the voice really threw me and it kind of stalled my progress for a bit there, even though I was putting in the time the work was not where I needed it to be... I did, however, flesh out some themes that I didn’t even know were there (God I love that about writing fiction).

What did I learn or devote time to this month that had to do with writing but not really with my listed goals?

First, I worked on my pitch at BookEnds. It wasn’t on my agenda because I’m not ready to query, but I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to have a great agent critique my pitch, so I wrote one especially for her post. (It’s due up in the next round of crits and I’m a little queasy about it).

Inspired by the agent posts about pitch, JJ Debenedictis hosted her own, called Goblin’s Crucible – which was invaluable... and took up the better part of my writing time for two days... Thank you for the very intricate critique, and thank you to Josephine Damian who also gave me some invaluable advice. If you read the comments there, you’ll see I revised my pitch an awful lot... another reason I’m nervous about Jessica at BookEnds critting the first one, the new one’s much better and I’m still not quite there.

I also took some time to research perspective agents – some allotted time, and some agents I stumbled upon here and there and then took the time to check out a little more thoroughly... my list is now two pages long and I’m noting the really interesting ones with little stars... so when I’m query ready I can look back at them first.... Researching agents for me also means tracking down some of their books in or around my genre and either, checking if they’re a style that’s comfortable or comparable (I say checking because you’d be surprised how often I have copies or have read them) – or putting them on my to read list for the next time I’m in a bookstore.

Okay, I’d like to thank all of the bloggers who took the time to check in with me, or caught me in comments and asked how the writing was going. Most especially Ello and Mary Witzl, because they checked in often and were a great reminder when I was goofing off in cyber space... Thanks for the extra support, I actually find it dead useful and would be more than happy to add anyone to my ‘are you writing?’ list if they’d like the kick in the pants.

My goals for next month:

I’m changing my novel goal. Making it a set amount of time is not working for me. I don’t feel like I’m making enough progress that way, so instead I’m making it an amount in chapters.... The first two chapters will be redone by the next check in... that’s actually a lot right there, but I’m going to add two chapters on top of those... I’m hoping to push it up past that, so I hope I’ll be able to give you all a glowing account of how I doubled my own goals.

My goal for submissions will stay at four. Hopefully I’ll make it this time.

For those of you who didn’t know, I’m hosting a book club blog on Patricia Wood’s Lottery. Please visit the post and see if you might like to participate. I’m really excited as Patricia’s offered to participate in the discussion and it’s really wonderful to have the author on hand to discuss a novel with...Hope to see you all there.


Josephine Damian said...

Merry, thanks for the mention.

Great idea to not just look at agents but t look at their clients' books as well - I think that's one of the most important aspects of agent search, and it's almost always overlooked.

Another great idea is versatility as a writer - you never know when one of those smaller projects will hit - credits matter.

Have you considered outlining your first novel? It could keep you on track while writing, keep you from following crazy sublots down the rabbit hole (as I did in my first novel), and keep you from wasting time wondering "what happens next" as you sit there with the cursor blinking...

It'l be interesting to see what Jessica says about the pitch. I keep deleting mine and posting a new version at the end of the list - it'll be years until she gets to mine. lol

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Josephine,

I actually did go back and outline this novel after the first draft, and that honestly was dead helpful in showing me where I left loose ends and what needed to be fleshed out or cut completely. This is the second novel I've written - I wrote, edited, re-edited, and queried on a women's fiction about five years ago... It was terrible, and now I'm thankful it didn't get published in that condition - but I did actually get a few good feedback letters from agents and a few requests for more material, so at least it was a good learning experience.

I didn't outline ahead of time with that or with this one, I'm reticent to try it because I really like that aspect of the writing process - I'm just as surprised as the reader about where the story goes when I'm creating the rough draft. But I have decided to try the outline method on my next project (I think I mentioned it briefly in comments at your place, it's a lot of research so I want to be completely prepared before starting) The plot for that one is more intricate, too... a tagline might be: Count of Monte Cristo meets Cheers.

I have been talking with other writers back and forth about submissions and the common thought is that you should start with the lower paying or less prestigious markets and work your way up... I'm starting at the top and working my way down, because I figure you never know until you try and because it doesn't help me in query to have publishing credits with less reputable markets. I'd rather have one or two great credits than a list of publications that the agent will not recognize or care much about. If I was working solely on building a short work career with articles and essays, I might go the other route, but for me the objective is novel writing.

The other end of that is the fact that my novel is middle grade, but my short stories tend to be literary or commercial adult - I'm working on a few ideas for children's stories, too, but if I use adult credits I want to make sure they're at least impressive as it's already out of the genre I'm querying and I don't want an agent to get the impression that I'm not focused enough.

I'm both nervous and excited to hear Jessica's feedback, though I like the last revision on my pitch a lot better than the first and I'm still tweaking. Hopefully, it'll give me some good ideas on where to go with it anyway.

Thanks for stopping in, and you're welcome for the link love - thanks for all the time and thoughts on my pitch.

Angela WD said...

Hey Merry, you are great inspiration to me to get my butt in gear and work on that novel of mine. Glad you had some people holding you accountable!

If you're not too busy with other writing, I’ve tagged you for a meme for sharing 8 little or unknown things about yourself. Someone tagged me at and I am passing along the joy to someone I like to read about. If you’re not interested, no problem but if you are interested, you just list your 8 things and then pass it along to 8 others. My post for this is up now. Take care!

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Angela,

I am finding the blogging circle wonderful for keeping me motivated... I'd be happy to pester you about what you're writing if you'd like ;-)

I already did the Crazy Eights meme, but I'll stop by to read yours. Thanks for thinking of me.

Jaye Wells said...

Good luck on the Bookends critique. You're a braver soul than I.

Colleen_Katana said...

How in the world do I send you a private message through this website?? I'm confused....
Anyway, I suppose I have your email too, but this seems like such a community I wanted to use it first. Oh well....
Good for you for even making goals. I always kind of start to make them, but they're so vague, it's pointless. My goals are like: Today I will try to maybe read a sentence and if I feel so compelled I will revise said sentence. Or I will watch another Gilmore Girls rerun...

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Jaye,

Thanks - I'm feeling a bit queasy still, but I figure she doesn't represent my genre so even if it completely sucks it's not like a burnt a prospective agent bridge ;-)

Hi Colleen,

There's not private message feature that I'm aware of on blogger and I don't include my contact info on my blog, but you have my email if you ever want to get in touch outside of comments.

I'm getting better at setting goals more out of necessity than organizational skills - if I don't push myself it will never be done, I don't have a deadline and there's no paycheck unless it gets published, so I have to find ways to be my own boss on the writing front... I'm also finding the idea of answering for my progress on the blog to be helpful.

Gilmore Girls I never really got into, though for some reason I've watched like every episode of Charmed... now ask me about Grey's Anatomy and I can go on for hours....

Colleen_Katana said...

OMG, Grey's Anatomy!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love. It.
Gilmore Girls is fun, but definitely not suited for's a bit juvenile at times.

Thanks for clarifying the private messaging thing--I was so very confused. I was just curious if you (or anyone) knew of any workshops or forums for working on manuscripts, etc.

Merry Jelinek said...

Hey Colleen,

There are a fair number of good ones online - what genre are you writing in?

I highly recommend the agent blogs and there are some really good author blogs, too, because they do posts on all different aspects of publishing, from the craft of writing all the way through submissions and print... It's really great, too, because some things are changing ever so slightly with technology, so I've gotten tips that weren't generally taught even ten years ago.

In my blogroll you'll find, BookEnds, Nathan Bransford, and Pubrants - all agents that do really regular blogs with a lot of author participation.

I'm going to guess humorous women's fiction - am I close? I'd definitely recommend getting into a writer's group or critique group, usually you want a group that's also working in and around your genre, but it's not mandatory... You can get into an online crit group, and there are certainly some great writers in my blogroll who have been very generous about critting for each other and me... which reminds me, I'd be happy to be a beta reader for you if you need an extra set of eyes...

I'd say, though, you might really enjoy an in person writer's group, or a fiction writing class that meets regularly - if there's a decent college near you, that might be the best place to start looking - an art college with a good writing program will also host guest speakers and professionals in the publishing industry, which would be an excellent way to both network and learn.

Ello said...

Very cool update! You are definitely being so organized - I'm impressed! And always happy to stop by and poke you about the writing! (poke)

So I wanted to check out your link but it didn't work. Can you link again?

Merry Jelinek said...

Hello Ello,

Which link didn't work? One in the post? I thought I had all the bugs worked out of the linking thing, I had problems on the last post but this one seems to be working on this end.

Thanks for the encouragement - I'm just hoping I can keep up the pace with the holidays fast approaching... and my kids will be off of school most of next week, oy.

How about you? How's the writing coming along?