Archive for the ‘The Grind…’ Category

Jun
3

A hiatus science-fictional in nature

Hello dear Friends, Readers, and quiet, lurking Enemies!

This Sunday, I embark on my summer adventure–the Clarion Speculative Writers’ Workshop–so this is potentially the last post you’ll read from me for a while!  The workshop will last 6 weeks, and I imagine that I’ll have little to no time to do much writing on the novel-in-progress or blogging during that time.

As I mark the last few things off the ol’ to-do list, I am reminded that I have very little time left in San Diego. The workshop lasts for 6 weeks, and then Mary and I will be leaving for Davis three weeks later. Where did the time go?

Alas, now is not a time for sadness. A great adventure awaits! 6 weeks of nothing but writing, reading, networking, and occasionally getting a bit of rest. 3 square meals a day. A beautiful campus where myself and the 17 other excited attendees will put in the work and take those steps that will bring us ever closer to the dream of becoming a successful writer.

For those interested, here’s a brief glimpse into what my days will consist of while at the workshop:

8:00am – 9:00am Breakfast
9:00am – 1:00pm Class (typically 3-4 stories are discussed)
1:00pm – 2:00pm Lunch
3:00pm – 5:00pm Individual Instructor/Author conferences (about 30min each)
6:00pm Dead line to distribute following day stories
6:00pm – 7:00pm Dinner
Evening: Reading and critiquing following day’s stories / writing / additional activities organized by Instructors or Students

It might not seem glamorous, but I won’t lie–I’m pretty damn excited about it.

It’s going to be 6 very challenging and rewarding weeks, and I want to thank all of my well-wishers and supporters (my darling wife, most of all!).

Expect me to occasionally tweet while I’m away, as I’ll want to keep people updated about our visiting instructors’ readings, etc. You might also see a new chapter or two of All the Night pop up as well.

On the subject of my serial novel, you’ll find a new section that I posted yesterday. The rest of the book is really coming together, and I’m very excited to continue sharing as the plot unfolds. I’ll do my best to not make you wait 6 whole weeks.

So, adios and adieu, dear friends. You’ll hear from me again at length when I resurface…or perhaps when I land. Yes, that sounds a bit more sci-fi.

Excelsior!

-A

May
6

A Year in Review (or, a year of positive thinking!)

The beginning of May marks approximately one year since I began querying for representation for my first novel. This has been a year of minor successes, major blows, self-doubt, supreme egoism, and even a few heartening successes.

I thought a few of my readers might find some interest in my querying process and the agent hunt process in general.


First, here are my stats (for my manuscript only) for the year:

  • Number of queries sent out to agents (and in one case, an editor): 70
  • Number of no-replies (rejections): 13
  • Number of rejections: 46
  • Number of partials requested by agents: 5
  • Number of full manuscripts requested by agents: 5

(I still have several queries, two fulls, and one partial I’m waiting to hear back about.)


Some reading this might think wow, that’s a shitload of rejections! Eh, not really. Even a year in, I haven’t exhausted the list of agents and agencies. This is purposeful and leads me to my first bit of advice in regards to hunting for an agent for your amazing wonderful fantastic manuscript.

First: For those who want to begin querying for an agent, don’t blow your wad all at once and send out a form query letter to all 80-100 agents that fit your genre on AgentQuery (www.agentquery.com is an indispensable tool). At one point I was sending out about 3 or so query letters a week. That has slacked off over the past few months since I do still have a number of partials and fulls I’m waiting to hear back about. My general rule is one rejection in, two queries immediately out. This method has served me well. However, the primary reason why I’ve dragged out the querying so long is that both my manuscript and my query letter have gotten better over the last year.

Just to give you an idea of the evolution of my manuscript, I wrote the majority of it in an MFA creative writing program. This means it was workshopped carefully by some very talented readers and writers. After graduation I added another 20,000 words or so, and then workshopped that. A polished manuscript meant I was golden, right?

Nyet.

I was lucky enough to have some early (albeit brief) feedback from agents in the form of rejections, but I was shown where some of the weak points were in the novel. Getting actual feedback from agents is rare these days, and I took advantage of the opportunity and improved my novel.  The same goes for my query letter. After months of carefully reading and re-reading, I was shocked at how much I was still tweaking and correcting, making it ultimately tighter and more effective. Simply put, it took several months to polish all of these elements, and I was sure happy that I still had a healthy list of agents to submit to. Keep this in mind, especially if this if your first novel.

My second piece of advice comes more in the form of a reality check. You need to know what you’re up against. Let’s look at some numbers: (This is based on information I’ve gathered from agency websites, from agent twitter feeds, and agent blogs. These numbers are raw, but will give you some idea of volume and scale.)

Roughly speaking, your typical agent at a New York agency will normally receive about 200-300 query letters a week. As one reputable agent put it, he requests about 1 partial manuscript out of about 150 queries. He requests 1 full manuscript out of about 50-100 partials. He offers representation to about 1 out of every 50 full manuscripts he requests.  Another notable sci-fi agent posted that she requested 41 full/partial manuscripts out of a whopping 7,835 queries last year. She signed only 1 new author.

My point here is that you have to take your wins when, and however, you can. In my case, I’ve battled some pretty good odds and have had 10 partial/full requests this year. Nothing to shake a stick at. It also means that my manuscript is getting through. It just hasn’t knocked someone’s socks off yet. For this reason, I don’t plan on trunking the novel anytime soon. There are still a number of agents out there, and I’ll continue to submit. Also, the industry is constantly changing. New agents are always being brought in. Agents change houses, etc. There are always a number of options. Sometimes you just have to wait a month or two.

My third piece of advice: Simply put, learn to be more patient. You may think that you’re a patient person. I thought I was. And then I waited 7 months to hear back from an agent on a full submission. Turns out I still had a lot to learn about patience. I still do, for that matter.

Fourth, and the most important piece of advice I can give: Keep writing new material while you query. I’m getting relatively close to finishing a new novel. I’ve also knocked out a number of short stories, which I am also sending out for publication (this is the subject of a later post). The best way to ease the anxiety of the constant, hellish waiting that is required in this profession is to keep your fingers on the keyboard.

I have not begun to touch on all the different tips, pointers, and forms of advice I could give on the topic here. Mainly, I just wanted to share what I found to be most interesting. Also, I wanted to celebrate a year of hard lessons and hard work.  Let all the things you love be challenging and rewarding at the same time.

Happy writing!

Andy

Apr
3

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Hi, All

Been a while since I’ve written a real post (although I do hope you are enjoying the serializing of my novel-in-progress), and boy-oh-boy have things changed around the Stewart household.

First off, let me extend my deepest congratulations to my darling and brilliant wife, Mary. She applied to PhD programs this year, and was accepted by 3 of them (Santa Barbara, Davis, and Louisville)! After much painful deliberation, she has made her decision, and thank Schwarzenegger we are staying in California. We’ll be headed for Davis at the end of the summer.


I first moved to San Diego in the summer of 2007 to attend the MFA program at San Diego State University, never having stepped foot in California previously. As you can imagine, it didn’t take long to fall in love with this city and state. Although Texas is a wonderful and diverse place, the weather is often erratic and horrendous in comparison. Also, there’s something to be said for a culture with a more liberal bent.

That first year, my future wife was abroad, studying at Durham University in England for her MA in Literature. I was in a new city and state for the first time in my life. It was a time filled with new experiences and friends. It was also a very sad time, to which those who have endured a long-distance relationship can attest. That following summer, I proposed to Mary during a whirlwind tour of France, Switzerland, and Italy. She said yes in Venice. The following fall she met me here in San Diego, and we planned our wedding in a tiny one bedroom apartment. We were married in June of 2009. The following year, I graduated with my MFA and also finished my first novel.

In this our last year in San Diego we live in a lovely two bedroom apartment that overlooks a quiet, picturesque canyon. Mary is a copywriter at a great company. I’m working on a new novel and new short stories. We have a collection of wonderful friends who live nearby. We go to the beach for a walk (a swim, weather permitting) every Sunday.

Mary and I have some of our happiest memories in this city. I have had all of my first major successes and accomplishments here.  Simply put, it’s going to be very sad to leave.

But, then, one can’t really turn down the promise of new adventures, especially when those adventures will be in the Bay area. We’ll be coming to peace with all of this slowly, and, thankfully, we have a proper amount of time to do all of our favorite things before we go.

In other important, life-altering news, I have recently found out that I’ve been accepted into the Clarion 2011 Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop that will take place this summer at the UCSD campus in La Jolla (most of you who read this blog have probably already heard this via Twitter and Facebook, but I’m including a brief discussion here just for posterity).  In the wake of a year’s worth of rejection letters and slammed doors, this opportunity is a real ‘win.’ Granted, it’s an expensive win. But worth it. 6 weeks devoted to writing and craft-centered workshop and discussion is a writer’s dream. Not to mention the high numbers of alumni who have gone on to become some of the biggest names in the genre (I.E.: Bruce Sterling, Cory Doctorow, Jeff Vandermeer, etc.).

I’m also excited about this year’s instructors, many of whom have won a Nebula or two. I’m sure that I’ll discuss more about these authors and their writings as I continue to edify myself of their writing.

  • In other news, expect some fun changes to the website in the coming month. First, I’ll be including a chapter index on the homepage, which I hope will make the reading of my novel-in-progress a bit easier. Also, I hope to be including some original artwork inspired by each chapter very soon.
  • Be sure to check in on Thursday of this week for the exciting conclusion of Part 1 of  All the Night a Song
  • Please feel free to drop a line and let me know what you think of the novel so far. Any recommendations? General thoughts and impressions?

Wish Mary and myself luck as we begin our planning for the big changes coming on the horizon!

Happy Writing!

-Andy