j’s Journey: Perspective

By Judy Clement Wall

On April 5th, my journey began.

I was hoping to come back here and tell you that the series was over because, in two weeks, I’d found an agent, sold the book at auction for a gazillion dollars, and would subsequently be writing posts about puppies and rainbows.

Instead, my first report from the trenches includes an unexpected trip to Humboldt, where I hiked every single day, through marshes, over dunes, along windy shorelines and through the most beautiful forests I’ve ever seen. I came home to find out a friend had been hospitalized with a ruptured brain tumor (from which she is recovering at a miraculous rate, yay!), and a stack of 50 manuscripts submitted to Cal State East Bay’s annual short fiction contest (for which I am a first judge). I hosted a wine tasting, hiked a new trail, finished a short story and drove to San Diego to watch my nephew get married.

I know what you’re thinking: That’s all great, j. But where’s the part about getting your novel published?

The truth is, I did look for an agent too. Here’s how that part of my two weeks went, presented in a helpful “How (NOT) To” list…

  1. Decide which is the better tool, AgentQuery or QueryTracker (and, just for kicks, allow someone to toss Agent Search into the mix at the last minute).
  2. Get frustrated long before you finish anything that could be considered an actual analysis. Decide to switch gears. Start by drafting your awesome query letter.
  3. At around sentence two, in order to ward off a creeping panic, jump back onto AgentQuery and tell yourself it’s a bold, decisive move.
  4. Query “literary fiction.” Get a dizzying number of agents. Choose the first one and read the agency’s About Us, Staff, Blog, Clients/Recent Sales and Submission pages. Thirty minutes later, write the agent’s name on your “Maybe” list.
  5. Repeat step four for the next agent on the list. At about the 20-minute mark, notice this agency requires a synopsis.
  6. Stop everything. Focus on your breathing. It’s way too early in the journey for hyperventilating.
  7. Put away your work, walk the dogs, return to your computer and look up recipes for veggie lasagna. Drool over what you find, but make something else because you have nothing but the noodles.

Not a stellar start, I admit, but… I did start. And I did hike, and taste wine, and finish a story I love, and blow bubbles at a wedding… it’s hard to feel too terrible about that.

What have you filled your April with?


JUDY CLEMENT WALL is a Course Presenter for the Fear of Writing Online Course and co-manages the FoW blog with Milli. She has just finished her first novel, Beautiful Lives, and here, at FoW, she is chronicling her quest to find a publisher. You can read more of her work at Zebra Sounds.

25 Responses to j’s Journey: Perspective
  1. Julia
    Twitter: wordsxo
    April 26, 2011 | 2:44 PM

    Sounds like an eventful two weeks with lots going on — including looking for an agent, which seems like a lot of work! I’ve had a busy April too, with unexpected trips and figuring out how to be more productive…. and making veggie lasagna, for which I had everything BUT the noodles! πŸ™‚

    • j
      April 26, 2011 | 5:13 PM

      Ha! Between to the two of us, veggie lasagna is close at hand! πŸ˜‰

  2. Kate
    April 26, 2011 | 3:08 PM

    What a refreshing post full of life’s truths rather than just another blog about how to find the right agent- which I’m sure you will by the way.

    • j
      April 26, 2011 | 5:14 PM

      Oh, Kate, I officially adore you! I was complaining to my friend (sort of) about my lack of progress, and she said, you were busy living. A writer has to live life in order to write about it.

  3. Patrick Ross
    Twitter: patrickrwrites
    April 26, 2011 | 3:42 PM

    Ugh. The all-important but tedious and intimidating research phase. Just spent most of today doing that for freelance writing submissions. Doesn’t feel very creative, does it?

    Hang in there, and thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more.

    • j
      April 26, 2011 | 5:16 PM

      No, it doesn’t. That must be why we have trails… so we can revive that part of ourselves that dies a little during the research the phase.

  4. Marvin
    April 26, 2011 | 6:52 PM

    I’m thrilled you say it as it is. Made my day. lol!

    • j
      April 26, 2011 | 9:18 PM

      Well, thank you. I promise to at least be entertaining. πŸ˜‰

  5. kenneth hopkins
    April 27, 2011 | 12:29 AM

    I’m thinking you could almost call this post “and yet”… with all that you accomplished, you still started the process! So inspirational. Can’t wait to see who the lucky agent is, cuz they will be lucky to choose you.:-)

    • j
      April 27, 2011 | 1:25 PM

      That made me smile. Thank you, K. <3

  6. Lois
    April 27, 2011 | 8:42 AM

    My April’s been filled with ScriptFrenzy, character journaling, and crazy storms. Thanks for asking! πŸ˜€

    I can’t wait until I have something ready to submit. It will be a nervewracking, yet awesome day. πŸ™‚

    • j
      April 27, 2011 | 1:26 PM

      Yay! You’re doing ScriptFrenzy! I actually considered that. And then I remembered that it would be insane to try to do that too. Are you going to make it – a full script by the end of the week? GOOD LUCK!

      • Lois
        April 27, 2011 | 2:29 PM

        LOL! I finished on the 14th with 101 pages plus a title page. πŸ˜›

        Lately, I’ve been finishing Nanowrimo early, too. It helps me to go full steam ahead at the beginning, then take the rest of the month off to work on other things. I get so many ideas that I have a hard time working on one thing for too long. I need to finish it, then move on! πŸ™‚

        • j
          April 28, 2011 | 11:19 AM

          Wow! I’m impressed. I finished Nano by the skin of my teeth! πŸ˜‰

          • Lois
            April 28, 2011 | 12:18 PM

            Hahaha! Outlining has become my friend. As long as I can line everything out somewhat quickly, then Nano is a breeze. Although, I pantsed my first two nano’s, winning both times. Go figure! πŸ˜›

            Screenwriting is very different, though. Last year, my screenplay ended at around 130 pages, ten pages longer than I wanted. This year, I was right on track. πŸ˜€

            I’ll start revising last year’s screenplay this coming month. πŸ™‚

  7. Tricia
    Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
    April 27, 2011 | 12:08 PM

    Hmmm, this would probably be a bad time to throw in QueryTracker in the mix. But hey, I didn’t know about the 3 you mentioned above.

    I know what you mean about time-sucking research for just the right agent, which explains why I’ve only sent 12 queries in 2 years. That’s 6 queries a year, that’s not very ambitious, if you ask me. (In my defense, I held back purposely, knowing I have more to do, but not knowing what it is. I’m still wondering.)

    • j
      April 27, 2011 | 1:32 PM

      Oops. I just checked. I meant Query Tracker. I wrote my draft of this post on the way home from San Diego. Writing while driving = bad. Sorry, and thank you for catching it. I’ll go fix it…

      What I honestly feel is that I’m making it harder than it needs to be. Stressing more than I should about what to put in, what to leave out, what to do first (ID agents, write query, write synopsis)… Seriously. I just need to leap. (By my next post. Ahhh, the power of public humiliation.)

    • Tricia
      Twitter: Tricia_Sutton
      April 27, 2011 | 2:34 PM

      Oh, yeah, the dreaded synopsis. Of the 12 I queried, none asked for a synopsis, which is one criteria I use for selection. Maybe that’s their way of weeding too: If you can do a synopsis then you passed their initiation. (I’d rather they spank me with a rubber hose.)

      • j
        April 28, 2011 | 11:18 AM

        Actually, I was wishing that AgentQuery had more search terms for filtering… like no synopsis. I’ll check the other sites. It would be nice to avoid that… A lot of agents just ask for the first 25 pages or whatever. I’d rather do that: a) it’s written already, b) at least I know they’re responding to book, and not to my inability to decipher all the conflicting advice about what goes into a synopsis.

  8. Patti Stafford
    Twitter: pattistafford
    April 27, 2011 | 12:26 PM

    As the crow flies, I live about an hour NNE of Lois. The past week we’ve been bombarded with rain and storms. April was going good until then. But after a week of gloomy weather, I can do the only thing that solves all of life’s problems for me, 8 minutes of pure primal metal bliss! “Dance of Death” by Iron Maiden.

    Besides, the word “agent” always brings up that old song, “secret….agent man,” and I had to get that out of my head. LOL. Now you’ll have it stuck in your head. πŸ˜‰ Better go crank up some Maiden….quick! πŸ™‚

    You had an awesome April and should be very proud of it. πŸ™‚

    • j
      April 27, 2011 | 1:48 PM

      Ha! Johnny Rivers and Iron Maiden. You are putting together a pretty crazy playlist for me, Patti! πŸ˜‰

  9. Milliver's Travels
    April 27, 2011 | 12:54 PM

    I enjoyed reading about your process and all the messy, wonderful life that surrounded it. If I haven’t got my wires crossed, one of your goals for this series was to show the human side of the journey. You’ve certainly done that here, in ways both entertaining and easy to relate to.

    All the (mostly) fascinating and adventurous stuff that happened for you in April is definitely fodder for the writing life.

  10. j
    April 27, 2011 | 1:50 PM

    Yes. I suspect I’ll have the human side well covered! (Go see your doodle, Milli!)

  11. Estrella Azul
    April 28, 2011 | 1:37 PM

    That’s a funnily educating list of ‘How (Not) To’s, but still, look at how much you have achieved even if maybe not as much as you would’ve expected from yourself πŸ™‚
    It’s so true that we are our own most exigent judges.

  12. j
    April 28, 2011 | 10:29 PM

    That is true… but someone needs to keep me in line. πŸ˜‰

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