Monday, September 11, 2017

What are odds on getting an offer post R&R?

For the purposes of torturing myself, I'd love to know the odds of representation post R&R. You know, for when writer's block hits and I need something to do.

These are the kinds of questions you ask when you're trying to make sense of things that have no pattern, no discernible method, and wildly unpredictable results.

It's a very human thing trying to find patterns in the chaos.
We've been doing it since we started seeing patterns in the stars and assigning stories to mountains.
Unfortunately though, there is no One True Answer.

What I can tell you is I do not ask for revisions on manuscripts I have no intention of taking on. I don't suggest revisions and resubmissions unless I think the manuscript and the author have promise.

In fact I often ask for revisions before making an offer of representation so I can see how the author does with editorial suggestions.

But the bottom line here is that what happens with another writer has ZERO impact on your revision and your manuscript. If I said no after 99 revisions, that does not mean the chances of me saying no to you are high.  Every manuscript rises and falls on its own merits.

Thus: worry about the ONE thing you control, and the ONE thing that will be important if you get an R&R request, and that of course is your book. Make it the best novel you've ever written, then let it sit, and revise it till it's better.

None of this is going to help you when you get writer's block.

I don't have any experience with writer's block since I work on a daily 7am deadline and it's post or you guyz sending flying monkeys to find out if I'm alive.

So, if you're having writer's block I suggest writing anything. Write out a poem from a book of poems you love.

Find writing prompts and use those.

Run your own private flash fiction contest and write 100 words using: block, writer, sesame, shark and monkey in the story.

Our own John Davis Frain has been writing daily blog posts for a while now. You might ask him how he deals with lack of enthusiasm or motivation.

My client Jeff Somers has written one short story every month since he was 19. Sometimes they're good. Sometimes not. But he writes.  Jeff is one of the most disciplined writers I've ever seen.

I think writers block is brought on largely by wanting to write well, and fearing you're not.

You don't have to write well, you have to revise well.

Revision is where the novel takes shape.


Susan Bonifant said...

On the subject of writer's block, it can be the worry we attach to it that drags it out. I've always seen it as a form of fatigue, a signal to take a complete break. I now respect that the mind needs to play as much as rest, and writer's block is the only it has to let you know.

Maybe write something short and intentionally terrible for fun and step out of "outcome" mode for a while.

And, good luck on the R & R!!

kathy joyce said...

Writers' block isn't one thing. Is it a creativity block, or a motivation block, or a time block? It doesn't really matter. The solution is the same. Write. Gee, that was easy to *say*. Good luck, OP.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

For someone on a deadline for years, let me add that you have to accept that what you write, because you have to, may not be perfect, may not be the best ever and go with it. Some of the columns I’ve turned in which I believed were crap ended up getting the most positive comments. Others, I thought shone like a beacon in the wilderness of writer’s mediocrity, bombed.

Having said that...for me, writer’s block on long projects is dangerous so I step away because I know if I continue dancing when my feet throb, I’m going to hurt myself. I still keep the beat but I sit down and tap my foot only.
Stay in the dance

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Great advice for conquering writer's block. I often come here. Start with a comment. Probably not the intended purpose of this blog,

I often write just to get rid of that horrid white blank page. Usually what I write is garbage. The good stuff for me, always comes during revision.

However, I have found some diamonds in the rough from the gibberish I have written on days I felt so blocked that getting the words onto the page felt akin to blood letting. Sometimes it is as little as a single sentence that leads to a whole new chapter, a brilliant plot twist or even a whole new book. Sometimes I write all day long and out of the 10,000 words I produce, all of them die in revision.

Lord of the Rings started with a single sentence scribbled in a notebook. In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. So there's that.

As for R&R's- do be careful. I was so determined to be published, I turned my last book something I no longer liked in a mad R&R. By time I finished, the agent was no longer representing fiction and my book was no longer adult fantasy and a couple of agents after were determined to sell it as YA if I would just cut x more words and add a romance and on and on. Not my thing. Ah well, be patient and keep at it, OP. You will get there.

AJ Blythe said...

"Writers block is brought on by wanting to write well and fearing you're not. You don't have to write well, you have to revise well."

I think this needs to be my daily mantra.

Colin Smith said...

To follow up on shark's writerly advice, even if your R&R flops like a dead monkey, consider it writing practice. In other words, don't think about whether it's worth doing the R&R because you’ll probably get a rejection anyway. Those same thoughts can kill your writing. Yes, it's worth doing the R&R if for no other reason than it curtails writer's block, and keeps you in a writing groove. And who knows, the revisions may inspire another project. I've used subjects here as inspiration for blog posts. Some comments have inspired stories. Just keep at it. It's all practice. :)

Steve Forti said...

“Those days are long gone, buddy. That show jumped the shark when they made you a bestselling writer.”
“You saying I’m not?”
“You scribble with crayons, dude. Face it, our glory days are over.”
Hmmph. Stupid Bert. Shows what he knows. I’m still Elmo from the block.
He sat, pulling and unpulling the shade, every time expecting Mr. Noodle to appear.
I still know my letters. I got my crayons. I can hum on key. So what if Abby left? I’ll replace her like I did with Dorothy every week.
I run Sesame Street. This is still Elmo’s World, bitches.

Steve Forti said...

Sorry, I couldn't resist...

christi said...

Revision is my favorite part of writing. I get the story laid out, but it's raw at best. Revision breathes life into my vision, adding depth and connection never achieved in the first draft.

Amy Johnson said...

OMGosh, Steve! That was amazing and fast and hilarious. The "Dorothy" part especially cracked me up. Does everyone know Dorothy was a goldfish? (And so was Dorothy II and Dorothy III and Dorothy IV...)

And I'm one of the people wanting to send out monkeys on the very rare occasions when we don't see a post by 7:00. Oh no, is our queen okay? We need our queen.

MA Hudson said...

Steve - that's brilliant!

As to writer's block, I find research always gets the creative cogs turning again.

As for R&R's, I'd love to do one. I'd love to be at that point in the journey. Go for it, OP. See it as the compliment that it is, and as Colin said - use it as writing practice.

Sherry Howard said...

Thank you Steve Forti! Until I got to your post I wondered why no one had done that! This group is so predictable--in a certain way.

I think writers need to understand that the mechanisms of ruminating, germinating, and regurgitating ARE writing. It's not only about getting words on paper or screen. What happens to the words in your brain before they get birthed is just as important, and part of the writing.

Sherry Howard said...

it's post or you guyz sending flying monkeys to find out if I'm alive.

This is SO true. Occasionally, when a post is late and my flying monkeys are on another assignment, I picture JR in a ditch in Idaho, abandoned and alone, needing our help desperately. And then the post appears!

Amy Johnson said...

Sherry: A big "Yes!" to what you said. I was delighted not long ago to see that someone here had mentioned something about her plan to go lie down and think about her story. I do the same thing sometimes. Or I sit, or I walk the dogs. Then I jump on the computer, and my typing fingers are supercharged.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Forti Dude! Whoa. I bow in awe.

And yes, flying monkeys all the way. I know our Queen can and should take time away from us now and again, but when her post is unexpectedly missing, yep off the flying monkeys go to make sure.

I can't help it. I'm a needy little rodent. And I even send the monkeys if folks like Colin fail to appear in the comments. I need all of you.

Laura Graefe said...

Hi guys! I'm the OP again (I was the last R&R post, as well).

As you can see, I have lots of R&R questions, mostly due to some of what Janet said (it's different for every writer, every agent, every book). As I near the end of this R&R, I find the questions popping up more and more.

That said, I wasn't expecting help on the writer's block, so that was a lovely bonus. I'm current writing the sequel to the R&R book (which is out with betas) and keep hitting snags where I have no motivation/ideas to move it forward. Maybe I'll step away from it a bit, as was suggested.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

OP Good luck with the R&R. It's a learning journey.

2Ns I hear ya. It's the same thing with writing weekly sermons. Sometimes the ones I think are horrible are the sermon that someone needed to hear that week. And when I served 2 churches, sometimes I'd get a laugh at a humorous story at one church and at the other church, a pin drops.

Forti What an amazing writer you are. Such a quick turnaround.

and I'm like christi. Revision is where I can add in layers that just don't make it into my first draft.

BJ Muntain said...

Many people base their lives on statistics. "More people get hit by lightning every year than win the lottery." So they never buy a ticket. But that person who just won a gazillion dollars sure looks happy.

Statistics aren't predictors. They can be used as a basis for a prediction, but statistics don't KNOW. Statistics don't take into account emotions like desperation or hope or pure, unadulterated stubbornness. Humans may like order in their life, but they are not orderly. Humans aren't perfect, the way numbers are.

Statistics are fine for science, predicting outcomes of experiments with known variables. But humans are ornery. When statistics involve humans - such as, does an R&R mean a 50% or 99.9999% chance of getting repped? - they mean nothing.

Proof? Look at recent votes, like the US election and Brexit vote. No one expected either vote to go the way it did. The stats didn't support either of those votes. Human emotions brought those votes to an unstatistical end. Because humans are messier than numbers.

(Sorry for the long post - I missed commenting this weekend. I'll do better now.)

Cheryl said...

On the subject of writer's block, I find that doing something creative in a different medium often helps. I paint (badly, but that's okay), I cook (and try not to let the onions burn when I stop to take story notes), I sew, I make a necklace, I draw up a new design for my flower garden.

I think it works because it's keeping that part of your brain going, but shifting the writing out of the conscious mind and into the background where it can be free.

BJ Muntain said...

Most causes of writer's block, from what I've seen and experienced, are types of stress. Perfectionism, anxiety, illness, time constraints, financial problems, sleep deprivation, family emergencies - all can hinder story flow, like narrowing of the arteries hinders blood flow. You still have to live through stress, and writing what you can through writers' block can keep you going.

When my creativity is blocked, I write comments on blog and Facebook posts. Sorry about that.

I wrote a post on writer's block years ago. It's still relevant.

Mary Robinette Kowal did, too.

Lynne Main said...

Steve, thanks to you, every time my youngest throws on an Elmo DVD, I'm going to laugh my butt off thinking about your insanely brilliant story!

For me, I don't suffer from the dreaded "blank page" when I write--I just get the words down. What I do suffer from is my attention span suddenly wavering when I'm revising...ooh look, squirrel!

When that happens, I take time off...without feeling guilty. Sometimes, my brain needs to do something less stressful than writing an emotional scene or an action sequence. Instead I do the dishes, the laundry, vacuuming, and my personal favorite, jotting down the grocery list (hey, I'm still writing!).

And Laura, I'd love to get as far as you in my journey to publication...good luck with that R&R.

kathy joyce said...

Kind of OT, except that when I'm feeling blocked, I write family memories or events. Anytime someone mentions a goldfish (thanks Steve), this story comes to mind:

The kids had just turned 5 when my dad died. Preparing them for the funeral home, I explained that Papa would look like himself, but his sprirt would be gone.

The next day, the friend watching our house while we were away called in a panic. She had changed the goldfish water and now they were dead. Did I think the kids would notice if she replaced them? I told her to flush the fish and put all the equipment under the kitchen sink. When the kids noticed that they were gone, we'd explain what happened.

A couple of days after we had explained the fish's demise, my son said, "Mom, you know what? When people die, God only takes their spirit. But when fish die, He takes the body, and the bowl, and the net, and everything!"

Claire AB. said...

As one suffering from writer's block today, thank you for the question, Laura, and the great response, Janet. I'll take it to my WIP.

And OMG, Steve Forti. Amazing!

Joseph Snoe said...

Since I've not reached the R and R stage, some contradictory observations on writers block.

I don’t really get writers block, he says not sure that's true.

My problem is starting. That first sentence is the hardest, plus I overthink things. Sometimes I’ll delay for hours or days. Often I spend several hours reading a novel. Sometimes that gets me inspired. Sometimes I keep reading the novel.

Karleen Koen at a conference suggested we start our day first thing writing something. I forget her label for it. I call it my “Morning Glories.” She says write, not a story, but anything you’re thinking of, complaining of, happy about, planning to do, random thoughts, etc. Doesn’t even have to tie together or make sense. Just write. It’s kind of like stretching before you exercise (or play tennis in my case). It’s a fun way to get your fingers and mind working. My problem is, just like exercising, I quit doing it after a while.

RachelErin said...

Naps are a great way to approach writer's block. Either you're sleep deprived and you need it, or great waves of brilliance will burst over you riiiiigggght before you fall asleep. And you can jump up and scribble them down without waking up spouses or other creatures that may sleep at night.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I didn't know (or I forgot, equally possible) that's how Jeff Somers did things! A couple of years ago, read in Zen and the Art of Writing that Ray Bradbury wrote a story a week and I thought "well, I could maybe do that, but let's try one a month!", and accomplished it through 2016 (11 shorts, 1 novella,1 novella rewrite, and 2 novels), and am more than on track for 2017, with 12 shorts written, 1 novel written, and 1 novel revised for an R&R.

Okay, the novel revision isn't "complete" because now I need to add to it after having trimmed liberally, but it's still fermenting.

Does it mean I never have writer's block? Well, sometimes I don't know what's supposed to come next in a particular story....but I have others started. So I work on them while gnawing at the other thing in the back of my mind.

Colin Smith said...

My goodness, you guys make me feel like a lazy amateur.

Wait-- I am a lazy amateur!!

Lennon Faris said...

Wait, no One True Answer? What about 42?

I can see why OP wants to know, though, if s/he has ever had an R&R. They seem like a lot of work. It would be so disheartening to think of going through all that, just to get another rejection.

I guess that's why you have to actually agree with the revisions - even if you get a rejection, you'll still have a better, stronger story.

Lynne, I do the same thing. Something totally different to cleanse the (writing) palate seems to help a lot.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh STEVE, stuff a sock in it :)
You're too good!

Steve Forti said...

@2Ns - A clean sock, at least?

Glad I could make some people smile this morning. Because writing these things IS my cure for writers block. Well, temporary, at least. It usually comes back once 100 words are complete :) But for real, it always helps to hear how others cope. I'm impressed with @Jennifer's productivity. Damn. I wish my toddlers left me enough mental energy to produce like that!

@BJ - I like that second link you posted. I can feel it sometimes.

Stacy said...

Gotham Writer's Workshop Writing Fiction is good for exercises. So is Barbara Baig's How to Be a Writer. She's got great advice for avoiding writer's block.

Lynne Main said...

Exactly Lennon. I have had ideas (and sometimes dialogue) pop into my head when I'm doing the dishes. When that happens, I dry my hands and grab the legal pad and pen. Of course, I have the world's worst handwriting, so then it takes me an hour to figure out what I jotted down.

I forgot to mention this before, but sometimes if I need a break, I'll play a game on my computer (love Plants vs. Zombies!). Not sure why, but it helps me clear my mind...maybe it's a right side vs. left side of the brain thing? Not sure about that. I just know it works, and I get to have fun too.

Craig F said...

Writer's bock: The current state of affairs in the world does not help the creative process. Stay away from the news as much as possible. Also meditate, exercise and eat right. Keep your body as healthy as you can.

R&R: Make it clear from the start that you are not going to quit querying during this process. I am personally unsure of how I would react to such a thing. I am in the early stages of querying, so I might find out.

OT Home front: Dodged destruction by a whisker. Ended up with power, water and sewer, so I feel lucky. No major trees down in my neighborhood, just a foot deep layer of small branches and such covering everything and a few decent sized branches down.

Currently something like 40% of the state is without electricity and quite a few cities have broken water supplies. One big problem is the gas shortage. Almost 50% of the gas stations are empty. Many others haven't the electricity to run the pumps. There are some six million people who evacuated, some to places that got it worse than their homes did. It will take months to years to get normal back.

9/11: That is today, so take a moment to reflect and don't ever let it fall into history.

Donnaeve said...

Craig Glad you're okay!

Steve Forti You make words dance the hoopdeedoop!

Writer's block for me is when I don't know what's supposed to happen in the story next, and I find myself sort of meandering along. Sometimes I can keep the stuff, other times...not. But I keep plowing ahead, b/c nine times out of ten, eventually something comes of it, and I figure out hey, this is the right direction!

Hi OP/Laura!

SIBA's in two days y'all!!! Can't wait!

Donnaeve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

We're allowed to send flying monkeys to check on you? *cracks knuckles* On it.

Laura, there are times (like right now, in fact) that I'd give a LOT for an R&R from someone experienced. Even if there were absolutely no chance of representation. So I'm feeling more envy than sympathy for you at the moment. But I will tell you, and I've heard this from countless other writers, that you can't judge yourself by what has happened to others. You can't apply objective measures to something as subjective as writing. There are no odds. You're on your own path. And even though that sounds really lonely, there are hundreds of us walking on a path right next to yours and calling out encouragement. Wishing you all the best with the next step.

As for writer's block, something I've found helpful is to never stop writing at the end of a scene. There are always a few random, sometimes ridiculous, thoughts about what comes next and I write them down before I stop for the day. It could be a sentence, a paragraph, even just a few notes. And I might decide later that isn't the direction I want to go next after all. But it provides a reminder of what I was thinking and a place to start. Also, naps. Naps are awesome. Sometimes they even help with the writing.

Steve, please don't ever stop entertaining us. Yeah, I know, how selfish of me. ;)

Donna, I'm delayed in saying so, but my thoughts are with you. I'm finding even more reasons to admire you as you take on this latest challenge. All the best.

Craig, I SO RELIEVED to hear you fared well in the storm. Hoping, in spite of experience to the contrary, that recovery in your state is accomplished quickly.

Now if Cynthia and Melanie would check in . . .

John Davis Frain said...

OMG, what a bad day to show up late for the party. I feel like I walked into a bar and everybody knew my name.

Thanks for the shout out, Janet. I don't do "daily" like you do, but I certainly write daily. Even after revision, some of it doesn't pass the bar to get to the blog.

We have castaways from Florida living with us and I'm exhausted or inebriated, whichever comes last. But it didn't take much energy to laugh with Forti. That was filarious.

Colin Smith said...

One of the best ideas I've read to help with writer's block comes from Jeff Somers (steal from the best, folks!): Leave Yourself Hanging. Seriously, read that. It won't take long. :)