So You’ve Written a Manuscript . . . Now What?

Manuscript babyDespite my lack of words when it comes to blogging and/or new work over the past couple of months, I have slowly but steadily been working on editing the manuscript of my YA/NA novel that I finished a full draft of last December. Along with that draft I had written a sample Agent Query , a sample Submission Cover Page, and a summary. I sent that (along with a revised chapter) to my Instructor for the course I was taking, all before my father passed.

To tell you the truth, the day after my father passed away, I completed a major edit of  the full document because I needed to focus on something other than my sadness. That may seem weird but it was what I needed to do.

As I waited for a response from my instructor, I sent the draft to some readers, and then did another revision based on their feedback. I finished that completely last week (or maybe two weeks ago, I don’t remember). The response from my instructor came about a month ago, followed quickly with my “diploma” for having completed the course. His comments and suggestions made me feel like I had a solid submission packet ready to go, with a few minor corrections/changes.

Still, it took me a long time to face the process. I kept finding excuses, such as I was waiting for updates on publishers or didn’t have time to find agents, or my office was too much of a mess to work in, or I forgot to bring the notes I needed to make the edits, no matter how minor, or . . .

The real problem, beyond my personal struggle and sadness, is my fear of rejection. If I send it out there and get nothing but rejection, will I ever have the courage to publish it anyway? Or will it lie gathering dust in my pile of discarded dreams, along with the manuscript of Giving Up the Ghosts that I gave up on long ago?

Here’s the reality that we all must face as writers. There are, of course, those of us who write purely for the pleasure of putting words on the page, with no intention of sharing those words. (I have journals and journals of those kinds of writing). However, if you have even the tiniest desire to have someone else read what you write, then  you must do something to put it out there, to have people read it. It does no good sitting in your computer or printed out in a pile of manuscript pages where it does nothing but gather dust.

An unread piece of fiction is nothing more than words without a home.

So what do we do with these manuscript babies?  In our world we now have several options:

  • Find an agent (which means being prepared for many rejections or simply non-responses)
  • Try to submit to traditional publishers on our own (which is hard as so many publishers want agented submissions only, and it also means being prepared for many rejections)
  • Self-publish

I’m not against the self-publishing option, and may end up going that route. However, over the past year or so I’ve read a lot of self-published books. Some of them have been excellent. Many of them could have been excellent if they had a once over from an editor or an outside-eye. It’s difficult to edit our own work, especially for beginning authors. Add to that the pressures of doing layout, creating covers, and promoting our own works and sometimes the work seems to suffer.

I don’t want that to happen to my work.

So, I’ve decided to try the traditional route first. I’m looking for agents. I may submit the full manuscript to one or two publishing houses that accept unagented works. While I wait, I intend to look into formatting the manuscript for a professional looking self-publishing approach and decide on the best platform if that ends up being my path.

All of this, of course, requires a plan and action on my part. Something which I find challenging at the moment, except in brief bursts of focused energy. Yesterday I finally got over my excuses, brought the notes, fixed the edits and prepared the material to submit to the one agent I had already selected. Now I need to buy some ink, and send it off. Once I had done all that, I began to search for other possible agents. I found a couple who looked interesting, who only accepted submissions on-line. The ink excuse no longer worked. So, I cut and paste and submitted. (I also had to write a one page summary which has now been added to the materials I am ready to submit.)

Today I signed up for a writer’s conference this May (I wasn’t really procrastinating on this one, there was a big mess-up with my pay this month so I had to wait until I had some money). I plan on submitting the first chapters for a feedback session at the conference.

Excuses are no longer acceptable.  The book is written, now it needs a home.

In Defense of Letters

Poor, much maligned, “F.” So many people turned to my post yesterday thinking that it would about a much different “F” kind of day, only to find fun, fairies, and frolicking.

What did F ever do to deserve such a reputation? Is it because the lowest letter grade we can get is an F? or because, by simply attaching “-word” to follow a letter that letter becomes politicized at the very least and often turns into something negative? Our poor letters are taking a trampling in recent times.

  • The F-word or the F-bomb: Self-explanatory, but has definitely led to the corruption of poor innocent F
  • The L-word: a fabulous show, a shocking revelation, a word people are afraid to say to one another (love, silly–not lesbian). Neither of those words (love or lesbian) should be that terrifying or sinister, but . . .
  • The N-word: Now, granted, I don’t think this word should or needs to be said out loud, but I shared in a serious post in the past about how complex that word really is, because of its historical context as well as the way it is used at present.
  • Recently T-words and H-words have been trampled upon completely. I see you all scratching your head and thinking, what is she talking about? But, you have to admit that TRUTH has become twisted and HONESTY  has entered the realm of fantasy.
  • A poor little M-word has become a political hot-potato. As has an R-word, especially for women and G-words. (Translation: Marriage, Rights, and Gays)
  • The most recent attack on letters has, of course, been made on PBS, Oh, the humanity! (Or would that be Muppetity!)

I’m begging you people, stand up for the rights of letters to be well-rounded and represent all of their possible meanings rather than be defined by only one facet of their personalities. Let them embrace their multiple personalities and stand for the true power and variety of language.

Let F Stand for Freedom!

Learning the Power of Words: Words and Power

I just read a post called “Why Are Women Letting Men Wage a War Against Them? Cut Them Off, Ladies!” after Good Ole’ Woody linked my post from yesterday to his. In it, he too mentions the “deny sex” option. That made me laugh.

However, as I was reading, I suddenly became very aware of the dangerous power of language and our choice of words. I felt that power surge through me yesterday, as I tried to craft a piece of writing I could be proud of that truly spoke from my heart.  I am, indeed, proud of that post.It seems I always write my best posts on Fridays, when fewer people read. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

In the above post, Good Ole’ Woody wrote:

“Men, women are smarter than you. Let them control their bodies. Let them be involved federal conversations about laws which affect them.  Let women have the leading voices.  Experts agree: We would be a better country if women ran it. We, men, cannot look with pride on what we have done to America. Yes?”

Now, while I agree with the sentiment of this statement, I found myself stumbling over the choice of words. “Let them . . . Let them . . . Let them . . . ” When we let someone do something, it implies that we have the power to stop them, and we give over that power. Women are indeed, and have been for a long time, letting men control the reins. However, men shouldn’t have to “let us” take control over issues that concern not only our bodies and our freedoms but the very future of our country.

This is by no means a criticism of Good Ole’ Woody’s post. I admire and am wowed by the men who recognize that women are their equals if not their betters, and that this whole situation is ludicrous. I only use this as an example of the dangerous power of words, and the danger of using words for power. Like it or not, our language guides our perceptions. In languages like Japanese, the power dynamics of male vs. female become more evident, when even the characters show dominance and power.   For example the Kanji for man combines the characters for rice field and power:

The kanji for “wife” in Japanese (Kanai), combines two kanji 家内. The first represents house, the second inside. The symbol for “husband” 主人 is even more demeaning to women, combining the symbol for “lord, chief, and master” with “person.”

I am not trying to teach a Japanese language lesson, but using what little I know of the language and its construction to show how deeply language can affect perception in any culture. English is no different. The words we choose to use can unintentionally establish dominance or weakness.

I have begun to find my voice in writing, as I keep returning to writing things about and for women, justice and equality. Sometimes I fear I come off as a man-hater, although I never intentionally lump all men in one lump. Sometimes it seems like I cannot avoid making sweeping statements about groups of people, when I know that individuals within certain groups do not represent the whole. I am limited however, by words. It can become utterly unwieldy to try to write in completely non-judgmental, non-gendered language.

The limitations of language can be frustrating, especially for someone who loves to write.

I won’t let it stop me though. I will just be much more conscious as I craft my words, so that I can be heard and understood.

Today I Dislike Words

Yes. Me. The person who manages to post despite having no regular access to internet (STILL). The person who sometimes posts multiple times in one day. The person who loves language and plays with prose whenever she can.

I HATE words.

Not all words, just certain ones that torture me by their existence, by their meaning, or by their elusiveness. I dislike words that seem determined to defy expectations and deny me their use.

What kinds of words do I mean? Here is a sampling of the words I currently despise:

I dislike all words that describe people’s abilities on a resume, because I do not know how to use them properly. Am I a manager? Am I a teacher? What makes me an excellent communicator or a creative thinker? How to I explain the multiple roles I have played in my life, and the skills that each of those roles require? How do I keep it all down to one or two pages, showing the qualities that make me a viable candidate for projects of all kinds.

I no longer understand the meaning of those words.

I want to change the meaning of words. I refuse to discuss progress any more, but rather talk in terms of movement. I am moving, in many directions, to get to the next step in my journey, not to achieve a specific goal. Success and failure cannot define me, as they are relative to the eyes of the beholder. But what words can I use to replace them?

Today I feel defeated by the limitations of language. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever wish words meant something different? 

Perhaps today I need to express myself in something other than words, to help me move from this:

to this:

Perhaps it’s not the words that are the problem, but my inner critics  (this link is to a Hub Post about them) who seem to be screaming loudly in my brain at the moment.


Billions and Trillions of Words

Did you ever stop to think about how may words you have been writing or reading since you started blogging? Or the exact number of pages?

Somehow, because of the way blogs get posted, I thought they were short. I mean, I know I have some long posts, but it never really registered how long they were.

Let’s break it down to numbers. On average, recently my posts have been about 1000 words. That is about 3 1/2 pages of text if double spaced and printed in Times New Roman.

Since I’ve started this blog I have written 243 posts. That is roughly 243,000 words or 69, 428 pages.

Think about that. That is approximately how many pages I have written on this blog alone in the past year. I write other places as well.

Now, think about the reading. I try to read some blogs daily. I read e-mails. I read student work. I read news articles or other things that catch my eye. I read plays. I read letters. I read Facebook. I read books. According to Shelfari.com I’ve read 20 books so far in 2011.

That’s a lot of words.

Of course, we can’t forget the comments. More words written and read.

So my book project is going to have to scale down a lot. Whatever shape it takes should be interesting though.

Words, words, words. It’s a good thing I love words, otherwise the numbers would be suffocating.

Screen Shot from savethewords.org

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