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a new start

my writing desk

I was working on another YA fantasy novel, my third. I like it a lot. I like the characters, I like the setting, I like the plot. It’s fun. But I got an itch to try something else, something different, because I was having a tough time actually getting words out.

Then I saw the #1000wordsofsummer hashtag on Twitter and was like, hey, why not? So I have dumped out a thousand terrible words every day this week, bringing my new project to 6000 words so far.

It’s literary fiction. I’m writing in first person present tense. It has A Structure and A Theme. This is so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t see my comfort zone with a telescope. I like to write plot-driven third person past tense teenager books. I have no idea if this one will be better or worse or worth pursuing or what, but it’s neat that it’s going somewhere.

It’s also interesting that when I have a goal that is even a little bit external, I am far, far better at achieving it. 1000 words a day is my usual style, but now that there’s an official challenge, I am pulling a Nike and Just Doing It. Butt in chair, water bottle/teacup full, study music on, words out. I am writing in uncharted waters so I don’t care if it flows, if it’s good, if it’s readable, if it makes sense. I’m just dumping words. My plan is to double my intended word count for the first chapter so that hopefully I can pull out a few paragraphs to actually get this novel underway, that’s how bad I think it is right now. But I’m writing. And that’s the point.

1000 words of summer, you’re the best.

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querying

Me, working on my query letter: “Titles Are Stupid,” a 66,000 word novel, is about a girl who loves the winter even though it tries to kill her.— Annemarie Plenert (@amtastical) January 15, 2019

I’m doing it. I’m prepping my finished novel for the querying process.

Querying is exciting and awful; there’s so much waiting, so much rejection, so much hope. People have written so much about how, why, what it feels like, all of that, so I’m just adding to the noise, but I still want to write about what it’s like for me.

I queried my last novel for about six months before the constant rejections overwhelmed me, and my nagging suspicions that despite two years of hard work, it just wasn’t a good enough novel to publish. I stand by that choice. There’s a chance I’ll one day salvage my characters and some of the neat plot pieces, and I do love the sentient house I developed, but that book is over. I got a couple of requests for chapters, and that was enough to encourage me not to give up, so I put all my energy into this book.

This one is much better, but I still worry it isn’t good enough. Writing a novel is a difficult job; I have to keep all the threads in my mind so I can bring them all together, I have to make sure the characters are themselves, I have to make the plot believable but intense enough to keep the reader interested, I want it to be relevant but I worry that I’m writing from a white cis woman’s perspective that doesn’t have the toolbox to write the types of stories I want. It’s a mess of mentally exhausting, emotionally wringing, ego-driven yet self-flagellating work wrapped up into, in my case, a sixty-six thousand word novel about a seventeen-year-old who just really wants to spend her whole life playing in the snow.

Writing the actual query letter is simple, in terms of the instructions: introduce your novel by title, genre, word count, and one line summary. Then expand that summary into a couple of paragraphs that mimic the style of the jacket description, so make it interesting but don’t give it away. The last paragraph is an introduction of you, the author. Easy peasy! Except that in my description I used the exact same words in the exact same sentence structure three times. I can’t figure out how to introduce characters without monstrous sentences containing fifteen commas. I don’t know which plot points are the ones I should use to sell the book and which ones I should keep for the synopsis and actual text, assuming an agent asks me for them.

That is about how it’s going. But in spite of all of it, as I keep saying over and over, I can’t give up. I love my book and I want to see if other people love it, too. So rejection process: here I come!