Lost Trail, Jaxon Stevens

Now that I’ve lost my way

I’m not writing (much of anything). I don’t even want to. Both the idea of revising my latest novel and starting something new makes my stomach twist. It makes me lightheaded and weary. The very thought causes my palms to sweat and my head to ache. The sight of a blank page, paper or computer screen, turns me off. Stringing even these words together is ten times more difficult than it has ever been for me before.

I could go on and on about what writing means to me, about how people tell me that being a writer doesn’t mean being published, that some writers never get published, that I ought to just write for fun, that I should – I should – I should love writing for writing’s sake.

I don’t. I want to be published. I want a book on the library shelf and the bookstore shelf. I could do that. I have the skill set to self publish. I wouldn’t make any money but it would look good. I could probably even market it a little bit, get a few people to buy it, to read it. But I don’t want to do that.

I want validation. And I’m not talking about from friends and family. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to connect with an agent, then an editor, then a sales team, then a marketing team – to have a group of people I don’t know rally behind my writing. It’s not unreasonable because there are thousands of people who have that happen to them all the time. I’m just not one of them.

I wish I could say that I was okay with that. I wish I could say that I just love writing so much that it doesn’t matter if people ever read it. That it doesn’t matter if all my stories and novels remain on my hard drive for the rest of my life. I envy people who write for themselves. If I could change that about myself, I would. But I can’t.

And the very fact that it’s out of my control (and don’t tell me that “it’ll happen next time” or “just keep writing” or “you just need to write another novel”) is maddening. It has sucked all the joy I have ever felt at writing right out of me.

Mountain Silhouette, by Jordan Hile

I don’t want to want to write

And it bothers me.

I’ve been writing Young Adult fiction for years and, of late, growing more and more frustrated with it and the genre as a whole. I know my frustration stems more from a frustration with myself, with being stuck as an unpublished writer, but it’s not only that. It’s also the fact that I read a lot of YA fiction. Honestly, I read a lot of bad YA fiction. It just to make me feel better, that if these books were published, it would only be a matter of time before mine were too. The problem is that now it’s less likely to make me feel better and more likely to make me angry. I’ve moved on to, if these books were published, then why isn’t mine?!

With that in mind and also the fact that querying and getting no after no completely squashes any desire for me to write, I’ve started to wonder just what it is I should write next.

A long time ago, I didn’t write YA fiction. I used to write short fiction, dabble in (bad) poetry. I wrote literary fiction in college. I completed a Regency romance for my first NaNoWRiMo attempt. I used to love writing for the story, and the story would just come to me. I didn’t think about if what I was writing was sellable or ready for the market or even something that would fit into the YA world. I just wrote.

So now I’m done with my latest YA novel. I’m querying it to absolutely zero success. I’m frustrated and I’m angry and I feel like I don’t even want to bother with it anymore. And by ‘it’ I mean writing. I hate that but it’s the truth.

I don’t want to want to write. Yes, you read that correctly. I want to write, but I wish I didn’t. I wish I didn’t because I don’t know what to write.
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Shooting Star, Pawel Kadysz

How to write a query letter

I’m usually pretty good at writing query letters. I have a fairly good track record with them, meaning that I have a decent enough percentage of getting full manuscript requests from a query letter. The last two novels that I queried had a 35% and a 27% manuscript request rate, which I consider pretty dang good. None of those full requests have translated into an offer of representation, however.

So I felt pretty good when I finally sat down to write the query letter for my most recently completed novel. But then I ran into a block. This query letter was harder than previous ones. Which then made me question what that means.

And then a whole host of other questions came to mind …
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Writing, by Lukasz Kowalewski

What happens after you finish writing a novel

1. Finish your novel.
2. Revise your novel.
3. Re-read your novel.
4. Decide your novel is awful and should never see the light of day again.
5. Revise your novel again.
6. Form a love/hate relationship with your novel. One day you love it; the next day you hate it.
7. Show it to some people you trust.
8. Cringe and cry at their feedback.
9. Revise your novel again
10. Think your novel is the best thing ever and everyone wants to read it.
11. Write a query letter.
12. Send your query letter out to agents.
13. Get a rejection.
14. Get another rejection.
15. Hate your novel more than ever.
16. Send out more queries.
17. Get rejected again.
18. Decide this one just clearly isn’t going to be your big break.
19. Send out a few more queries – just in case.
20. Start another novel.

JK Rowling - Deathly Hallows Ending

The right ending

The final chapter or scene in any novel is incredibly important because if a writer messes it up, that’s what the reader will remember forever.

I can think of several times when the final moments in a book have colored my opinion of an entire book negatively. In Veronica Roth’s Divergent (read my entire review at goodreads), I thought that the ending happened too suddenly, out of nowhere, and getting to the climax lacked transition. When I’m reading something as intense as that, something with a new world that sits in dystopia or whatever, I expect a satisfying punch at the end, and what I got frustrated me and marred my view of the book entirely.

Whereas I gave Divergent 4 stars overall yet didn’t ever continue with the series, the better example would be Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, which had such a rage-inducing ending that I literally threw the book across the room (no, seriously, as my BFF Becky, who was witness to it). Seriously. Deus ex machina has no place in contemporary realistic fiction, and yet that’s exactly what Picoult pulled. I’m told that most of her novels pull those type of shock and awe endings, and it does nothing for me. In fact, what it does for me is tell me I can’t trust the writer for any reason at all. Books with those kind of endings aren’t worth my time.

To no one’s surprise, Gone Girl toed the line in this area, too. I mean, it wasn’t that the ending was wrong — because it wasn’t. It also wasn’t that the ending made me unhappy or dissatisfied either. What it did was take me on a roller coaster of emotion and make me question everything I knew about the book and, more importantly, life in general. In Flynn’s case here, she has the potential to divide her audience into people who loved the ending and who hated it, but in my opinion, it didn’t negatively cloud the rest of the book the way other endings have.

And then there are some novels that are just unsatisfying when it comes to the ending. These novels I can’t really even pick out of a crowd because they are the 3 and 4 starred novels that I can’t say explicitly now what I didn’t like. It may have been the writing or the plot but more than likely it was the ending, because if it’s bad writing or uninteresting plot, I’m at the point in my life where I finally just close and discard the book. So chances are good that if I finish a novel feeling eh or unsatisfied, it’s because the ending didn’t do anything for me.

All this to say that writing endings is hard. Like, really, really hard. Very few people get it right. People get close enough to right that it works, but the perfect ending? I don’t think it’s possible to achieve.
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