Writerly Wednesdays–An Update

I know–I know–it seems like I’ve been writing less and less about the Affair of the Diamond Necklace. There is a good reasons: I’ve moved on in my focus. I’ve completed an entirely new project, a novel set in the Antebellum (US) South. I’m pretty invested in that, and while I am still dedicated to this blog, I’m finding it harder to carve out time to work on the French history side of it. Even if new blog about the Affair are less frequent, I believe what I already have here is a great resource. I’m creating new content by adding writing-related and American history-related entries.

Today, I want to take a quick tangent into modern history. Twelve years ago today, our world was rocked by the unprovoked attacks in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. I myself was a new high school student. I recall sitting in “computer keyboarding” class and continuing with my work with the TV on in the background, showing the news of a plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York City. At that time, I thought it was an accident. On my way from class to class, I saw a friend walk by. I started to say hi, but she looked as if she’d been told a loved one was dead. I won’t forget the look on her face that morning. I asked what was wrong, and she just shook her head. Shortly after I got to my next class, the principal came over the intercom to tell us all to stop what we were doing and turn on the TV. Not long after that, we were all sent home. Remember those who were lost, and “Let us have faith that right makes might.”

On a very different, but lighter note, I’ve been working assiduously at the thankless task of querying literary agents for my most recent literary project. For now, I’m afraid, Grove of Venus, about the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, is on hold. I’ve moved on. Grove of Venus may have to wait until another project snags me an agent. With my foot in the door, Grove of Venus will definitely a high priority.

For those who don’t know, querying is how writers get an agent; and writers do not generally go directly to publishers. Publishers don’t want to drown in a sea of submissions. Hence, literary agents have become the first line of defense and arbiters of taste. It is extremely difficult to clear this first hurdle. Writing a query–a one-page pitch–requires an entirely different set of skills from writing a full-length novel. And there are so many queries sent to agents–dozens a day–that 75% of the battle is pure dumb luck. Maybe the agent has just seen ten queries in a row and doesn’t look at yours closely enough. Maybe he or she has an assistant who can’t be bothered or doesn’t know what he/she is doing. It’s very, very difficult to even get a hearing. Sure, if your query stinks or the premise is ridiculous, you don’t stand a chance in the first place. But even a solid idea, great writing, and a professional pitch don’t guarantee much. Luck is a big factor.

That’s where perseverance comes in.

I’m not complaining. As someone who works at a scientific journal, I’m at the other end of the rejections–I mean the sending end. I know that even good stuff gets rejected sometimes. It’s not always the fault of the journal (or agent). It’s just the way the chips fall.

So, after receiving four requests for the full manuscript of Grove of Venus (a very important first step towards getting representation from an agent), and getting four rejections, I have shelved that project. I have a shiny new project, named Channing. I started querying it about two months ago. Thus far, the results aren’t promising, though it’s very early in the process yet. Many literary agents have a bad habit of responding very slowly or not at all.¬† I’ve racked up three form rejections and have eight outstanding queries. This isn’t bad, but I was hoping to pique a lot of interest. I am, after all, a veteran of this war, and have had some encouraging results in the past. Plus, I have a pretty damn great project to sell, if I do say so myself.

I’m also taking part in “Pitch Madness” over on Twitter tomorrow. Anyone who wants to participate can tweet a 140-word pitch with the hashtag #pitmad. A slew of agents will be trawling the pitches, looking for anything of interest. I’ll be pitching both Grove of Venus and Channing.

And should I ever have the supreme good luck of getting published, the fine people of this blog will know . . . well, second. My mom’s hearing about it first. And whoever is within a two-mile radius will hear my squeals of joy.

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