Lately I have been experiencing a much-needed burst of energy in my life in general, but also in my writing. The ideas for the ending of my trilogy are still not quite there, but I have enough of an interesting fomentation of concepts that I am comfortable enough to continue blazing forward (hopefully into a sunset of glory that is a perfect ending to the trilogy).

Aside from my renewed motivation to work on Resistance, Capacitance has also sparked some interest in my mind again. I received an email from an agent who requested to see it at the WLT conference last June (yes, it sometimes takes them THAT long to respond). It was a very nice rejection email. Even though it was a rejection, the key statement I grabbed was, “I think this is a story with legs.” To me, after months of wallowing in the despair of the over-saturated dystopian lit market, this was music to my starving ears! This agent is looking for smart science fiction, and he sees potential in my story. He also saw my not-pub ready narration. If you are a first-time author reading this, I cannot stress this enough–DO NOT, DO NOT (SERIOUSLY DO NOT) SUBMIT YOUR WORK UNTIL YOU HAVE EDITED AND EDITED SOME MORE AND PROBABLY REWRITTEN IT!!! We all do it; we get into a frenzy thinking we are going to be the next Stephen King, our parents/grandparents/etc are telling us we ARE going to be the next Stephen King (actual thing my Grandpa said the other day. Sigh). This frenzy of foreseen fame inflates our egos and has us pressing send on a blind query email and attached sample work from a loosely edited first draft.

I’m being so scathing because I have been there. Despite reading several articles, blog posts, etc. which said the same thing I just vehemently exhorted above. For instance, this agent who just emailed me liked my story, but didn’t like my narration. If I had edited more carefully and spent some time curating a truly polished story would the outcome of that email have been different? Luckily with this agent, I had established a personal connection with him due to actually meeting him at the conference. He is a really nice guy who came off as a jerk when I asked him a question on day one of the conference. On the last day he came up, and apologized for his stand-offishness and asked me to send my work. So when I got his rejection email, I didn’t feel any qualms about sending him a follow up email. I kept it short (key to interaction with agents, by the way), told  him I now realized I had jumped the gun on submitting the story, then asked if he would be interested in seeing Capacitance again after a rewrite. The answer, which arrived a mere two days later–much better response time!–was “Sounds great Elise.” This may not amount to anything, but I am more energized to do a rewrite since I know this agent has an interest in my story and has agreed to have a look at it again upon rewrite (HUGE!!).

I put this out in the last blog post, and I will put the call out again. If any of my readers have free time or interest in reading Capacitance and providing me with critique that goes beyond just copy editing, but goes into the scope and feel of the story as a whole, please let me know! I have a few people (outside of my overly supportive nepotistic family) reading it right now and I have found that to be very helpful. After a couple months the sound of rewrite doesn’t sound so terrifying!

First Page Trepidation

I’ll be the first (and not the last *ahem, agents*) to say it, my first page and pretty much my first chapter of Capacitance blows. It really sucks. There is too much exposition, it lacks any immediate grip to draw the reader to turn the page, and it contains a confusing flashback.

I’m somewhat embarrassed that it is included here on this blog, bar the fact that I hope to one day post a marvelous revision that will showcase my growth and effort as a writer. Someday.

For now, all my attempts at re-writing my first pages have been second rate at best. At worst, they haven’t even happened and have resulted in me staring obstinately at the computer screen refusing to mutilate the first stirrings of life in the brain-child that is my book.

There is a huge mind block for me in revising my first pages. In fact, there is a block in writing them in general. Each of my three books (perhaps with the exception of Inductance) the beginning is very weak. The writing is insecure and it’s obvious that I am just trying to get past that blank page anxiety and get my words on paper. Fast forward to the middle of the book and the prose is clean and engaging, things are moving much more quickly.

However, even if I am in this great writing style flow, the moment I go back and try to write the first chapter in the same style, my brain freezes up. I wish this post could turn from the struggle to the solution, but as of yet I have not been successful in revamping my shoddy first chapters. Does anyone out there have tips?

First Chapter Musings + Some Exciting News!

Happy Friday! Sorry I have been absent from the blog most of the week. Summer comes along with its slow heat compelling one to be outside and not in front of the computer screen. I hope everyone enjoyed the first chapter I posted on Monday! Today I wanted to share some thoughts about that chapter, and how this story got started.

I got the idea for Capacitance shortly after I graduated from college. I wanted to tell a story involving college age characters on a university setting. While I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined I would be writing sci-fi, that is the direction the story took. I wanted my university students to be different than those of today. Hence, Mara’s consternation over her research–what she is doing is terribly important not only to her academic career, but also to society as a whole. Some people (mostly adults who have been jaded by the hedonistic existence of their own college age children) aren’t able to grasp this concept of university level students acting so mature and professional; however, it is this exact sort of bending of the norm which I wanted to portray. Blending the familiar with the new is a tactic I use quite a lot in this series of books–I want readers to feel a connection to the characters and their experiences so that they find the dystopian future world of Capacitance eerily relatable.

One particular aspect of college that definitely influenced my first chapter is a hatred for group projects. Throughout my career at KSU, these group projects would loom up on the syllabus landscape, causing dread throughout the ranks of students. I never met a fellow student who enjoyed group projects, and it was always a struggle to get a group of college students–all with very different schedules and levels of motivation!–together at a convenient time to work productively. In my experience, a group project always meant a collective sigh of frustration; thus, Mara’s reaction (although hyperbolic, given her situation) is definitely one any college student can relate to.

Sharing my first chapter of Capacitance not just here on the blog, but with agents as well, has led me to some exciting news! Last night I received my first request for the full manuscript from an amazing literary agent from a very reputable firm! I sent her my query letter and the first chapter of Capacitance a little over a month ago, and got a request for material last night. It is thrilling in and of itself, but also helps me feel more confident. I had been finding myself in a slump due to the rejections that were piling up, so to have an agent ask for the full manuscript feels great–even if nothing comes of it, at least I know I am doing something right. The first chapter I sent to this agent which lead to her request was not exactly the same as the one I posted on Monday; as you may remember from a previous post, I rewrote the first chapter recently. While I am slightly shocked that an agent was still interested even after all the exposition my unrevised chapter contained, I am mollified that the first chapter wasn’t as horrible as I thought. Many agents take upwards of two months to get through and decide on a full manuscript, so it could be a long wait, but I will definitely keep you all posted on this exciting development! In the meantime, I am going to keep writing, keep querying, keep persisting! As a celebration of this exciting news, I will be posting Chapter 2 on Monday! 🙂

Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference 2015

I had so much fun attending the Henderson Writers’ Group Conference in Las Vegas, that I just registered for another conference next month! I will be attending the Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference June 26-28 in Austin, Texas! Since I live in Kansas (and drive a fun little car) I am going to be road tripping down south–just me and the open road, mind clear, practicing my pitch. I can’t wait!

The pitch will be important as there are 19 literary agents from big name agencies such as Trident, Writers House, and Curtis Brown, to name a few! While pitch sessions with agents are paid add-ons to the conference fee and are limited to two agents (I won’t be table hopping my pitch to everyone like I did in Vegas, haha!), the number of agents at this conference makes it more likely that I will be able to approach them in a casual setting. This conference appears to include a lot of casual settings, like cocktail hours, that could be great opportunities to meet and network with the agents and editors. I am going for all three days of the conference rather than just one day like I did in Las Vegas, so I plan to take full advantage of the opportunities to meet new people.

Considering I already have one conference under my belt, here are some things I won’t be doing this time around.

1. Stressing about my outfit. The wardrobe choices I saw at the last conference were much more casual and varied than I expected. When it comes to conferences, stay true to your personal style and you’ll be fine–worry more about polishing your pitch.

2. Bringing my entire manuscript. This is absolutely unnecessary. I know I said otherwise last time, but my aching shoulder and the entire universe of common sense would argue otherwise–everything is done through email these days. What makes you think an agent is going to love your work so much that they would be just as eager and willing as you to lug around a 300 page boxed manuscript all day? Save your posture, leave it at home.

3. Attending only business related class sessions. In Las Vegas, I stuck to the business side of writing lectures. This led to immense boredom and repetition; I had read most of the advice on the Internet due to my extensive and slightly obsessive research on query writing, agents, etc. Of course, I still plan on attending some business aspect classes as I know I still have a lot to learn, but I want to experience some writing craft sessions as well this time around.

Leave me a comment below if you’re planning on attending the #WLT2015 ! Also, I don’t believe I have mentioned this on the blog just yet, but I will be posting the first chapter of Capacitance once my Facebook page hits 100 likes. If you want to speed this process up a bit 😉 please like my page at https://www.facebook.com/emhardenburger ! Can’t wait to start sharing my work with you all!

#QueryKombat

I have posted before about writing as a “pantser,” and now I am entering my first writing contest as a pantser. I heard about #QueryKombat at the writers conference in Las Vegas, and it sounded intriguing and a great way to gain a social media presence and, potentially, agent representation. However, querying quagmire and vacation came up and occupied most of my time, and before I knew it, the contest date had arrived. Thus, my “pantser” attitude towards it all. I was not going to enter, because I have not spent countless hours preparing. This fact still gives me pause, but I think I need to throw my hat in the ring, just as a learning experience.

The #QueryKombat contest opens today (right now, actually), and contestants submit their query and the first 250 words of their MS. 64 contestants are chosen and their queries go head to head until only one winner is left. There is a judge round and then an agent round. It all sounds very interesting and certainly beneficial to make it to the agent round! If you want to learn more about the contest, you can visit this link: http://michelle4laughs.blogspot.com/2015/04/query-kombat-2015.html

After an intensive day of polishing my query and first 250 words, I am going to enter. I won’t deny the fact that I am a little nervous about it, but as I have said every time doubts pop up, I have to be persistent and start somewhere. Never try, never know has been a useful motto in many areas of my life, not the least in my career as a writer.

Is anyone else entering #QueryKombat? Wish me luck, and I will keep you posted!

Social Media & Being an Author

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I was on a (much needed) vacation to California! The need for vacations to take a step back from your work is a topic for an entirely different post, but I can sum it up to this: sometimes it’s necessary to not think about your novel, to escape and have new experiences which will influence your writing, and to be in a more sublime environment so when an agent rejection pops up in your email, you take it in stride and order another wine sample! 😉

Today, I wanted to focus on a subject that has been giving me major headaches–the dichotomy between being an artist and thus trying to be a free spirit while at the same time being cognizant of the pressing need to create an online presence. This need for a writer’s platform necessitates the use of social media. Writers, as a rule, hate social media. We would rather be writing! However, our ultimate goal is to be read, and to be read and gain notice in today’s world means hashtagging and blogging our way to fame. Hopefully that prospect turns everyone’s stomachs as much as it does mine. It is a very imposing goal; in the millions of individuals out there on the internet, how do you make a difference?

It’s a question I, unfortunately, cannot answer in this post. But I do welcome good suggestions! The first step for me is simply, getting out there. One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was literally: “Tweet less.” Obviously, that is not going to fly. I have been trying to force myself to tweet more lately, and have gone to excessive use of hashtags. Today, I activated a Facebook account (under much mental stress), and a LinkedIn page. I am looking into #QueryKombat, which appears to be a great way to get some exposure as well as potentially awesome contacts with agents and editors! The Internet is a crazy, intimidating place, but I hope to do my research and find some success in it.

I want to get the word out soon because I am going to be doing something very exciting here on the blog. I am going to be posting sample chapters of Capacitance! I want the novel to get exposure and hopefully build momentum. Stay tuned on chapter one coming soon!

With that being said, follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@elisemarie52), and Facebook (Elise Hardenburger)! And comment below with any tips how you got your online following started. 🙂

Rejection–A Necessary Evil

Last week I started sending out query letters. Inevitably, I started receiving rejections. My biggest surprise upon receiving these rejection emails was that the agents had taken the time to actually hammer out a rejection;  usually it was only one line of text, but it was more than I expected after reading the horror stories on various blogs of sitting anxiously for months and months, never getting a response. Thus, a quick “Sorry, this isn’t for me.” was completely more shocking than the denial itself.

I was denied by three agents last week–plus, I had the bad luck of all three denying me on the same day! Rejection is always hard to take, but I was expecting it, so I didn’t take it as hard. I began my queries with some of the top agencies in the country, and it was asking a lot to ask my query to live up to their exacting standards. But it was worth a shot. It’s always worth a shot–you never know when that one special agent will read your words and fall in love with your novel. Many blogs and websites say that finding an agent is a lot like finding a romantic partner; you have to just get each other. I’m sure most people would agree that the search for love is not supposed to be easy, and you almost never get it right the first time. Just like we’ve all had a bad date, the querying process isn’t going to be love at first sight with every agent. But just because you’ve had a bad date, or the relationship you thought was sure to be “the one” didn’t work out doesn’t mean you stop dating. Thus, rejections shouldn’t mean it’s time to stop querying–yes they are frustrating, but who wants an agent who isn’t the right fit?

In the meantime, between these “bad dates,” I am making myself fall a bit less in love with Capacitance. If I sink my heart into it too much, rejection gets all the more difficult to handle. Now my challenge is to walk the thin line between confidence and blind adoration of my novel. It is not “my baby” anymore, it is a marketable product–while I can be confident in its qualities, I cannot be overly sensitive if it is not the right product for everyone.

Admittedly, I did take a few days off from querying. Maybe that is not weakness–maybe it’s for the best, since I have gotten rather off track in my work on Inductance. However, I will resume my efforts to find and agent and get published; I want my books to be read and I won’t stop until that effort is fulfilled.

Disconnected

Through all my adventures lately–both in attending the conference and querying–working on my second novel Inductance, has taken a backseat. This has been frustrating both because it is leading to a few errors in the work as well as because I don’t like days where I don’t write; unless it is a specified day off, I feel anxious and less accomplished than I do on those days where I have written a chapter. Don’t get me wrong, I usually take the weekends off, unless I am sitting at home with no plans (there have to be some days to recharge the mind and give the story a break!). However, especially with the conference, I did not have time to write for four days, and before that, preparing for the conference was time consuming as well. I started Inductance a little less than a month ago, and now I have 27,000 words done, so I am not doing awful at the whole thing, but I am definitely not as prolific as I was in my heaviest work phases of writing Capacitance.

I want this to change. This disconnected process that I have going right now is causing just that–disconnect–in my story. Once again, I am forever thankful to my Dad, the in-progress reader and editor, as he has caught some of these disconnects as he reads the new chapters of Inductance. For the most part, they have been relatively small, easy to correct errors. For example, today at lunch he caught a snag where the characters had planned to change their meeting place to different room, but then later on when the meeting actually occurs, I forgot to change its location to match the new plans. A minor detail, but one that readers WILL notice. I am glad it was caught, and I am actually excited to go back and change it because by connecting the details and having the characters meet at the new room, I think I can insert some really cool scenes into the story.

All that being said, I have decided to go back and read my work so far on Inductance–when I write, sometimes it is such an organic process that I literally don’t remember what I wrote after it’s done. This isn’t such a problem when I am writing a chapter each day and the flow remains fresh in my mind. I think that by going back and reading my manuscript thus far, I can refresh myself with the story and that will make it easier to keep on track with things, as well as possibly spark some new plot lines (the necessity for an action packed book is still daunting me!). It will also give me a chance to get some early edits!

Today I prepared and sent out five query letters, and hope to get a couple more done before the day is through. I think once I have all those sent out, then focus on Inductance will come much more easily.

Query Week!

Today marks the day I started sending out the first of the dreaded query letters to literary agencies! While rejection is to follow, I am sure, I am glad I have finally settled on a query letter format to go with for each individual email I send. I plan on querying 10 agencies this week, and perhaps 10 more next week. I have read conflicting views–some sites say to query around 10 at a time, while others say that 50 is better for the initial round. I am starting large and working my way down; for example, today I queried agents at Trident, Writer’s House, and Janklow & Nesbit. I also sent my synopsis and requested chapters to the agent from the LKG Agency who requested them at the conference.

The most time consuming part of querying–after you have your hook and mini-synopsis constructed–is researching the agents you’ve decided to query. It takes time to narrow down which agent in each agency will be right for you and find some little detail of evidence to support this which can be added to your query letter to give it a personal touch, but I am sure that showing you’ve done your homework makes your query stand out to the agent reading it.

Here is the query letter I finally settled on sending out (excluding the personalized opening paragraph); it is not perfect, but I think I could have done a million drafts and never felt fully confident!

Mara is a university student of genetic engineering who has just discovered a deadly DNA mutation in users of Meditrinum—a genetic enhancement drug used by the government, society’s elite, and Mara herself. Faced not only with her own impending death, but the potential destruction of society as a whole, Mara’s ultimate focus is to develop a cure for the mutation before time runs out.

 

However, things get more complicated when Mara meets Runey—a shrewdly personable design student with a hidden agenda. A member of an underground government resistance organization, Runey has been tasked with the mission to find out what Mara is working on through any means necessary—specifically, by making her fall in love with him.

Under increasingly threatening demands for results from the ruthless leader of his resistance group, Runey endeavors to reveal Mara’s secrets—while keeping a few of his own. Although Mara tries to remain focused on curing the impending mutation, she finds herself growing closer to Runey. Despite her internal struggle to keep her distance, Mara falls in love with Runey and tells him about the mutation—after this disclosure life is never the same for either one as both Mara and Runey realize the stakes are much higher than they ever expected and the distinction between right and wrong is not as clear as they once thought.

 CAPACITANCE is the first of a planned trilogy set in the dystopian future on a university—creating a setting which is a marriage of the unknown and the familiar. The manuscript is complete and full or partial submission is available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Elise M. Hardenburger

I googled “how to write a query letter” and found a lot of great examples; many of which were structured in short paragraphs such as above. I think this allows for points to be emphasized and clarified, allowing for a presentation with more impact. Hopefully, this is a correct assumption! Call me crazy, but I am looking forward to seeing how this all turns out–even a rejection imparts a lesson that I need to try a different tact. Stay tuned!

Conference Contemplations

This past weekend was a big step in my career as a writer–I attended my first writers’ conference! It was the Henderson Writers’ Group conference in Las Vegas; the crowd was small (limited to 150 people), the classes offered were a mix of business and craft, and the faculty was interspersed with interesting individuals. It was a good first conference, in my now slightly more qualified opinion; since it was relatively small, it was not too overwhelming, yet it still offered the opportunity to make some influential connections with agents!

I will start with the pros of the conference. The first and foremost bonus is getting to pitch to agents. Yes, it’s scary, and intimidating–but do it! When I arrived at the conference I didn’t know that formal pitches were an option, but quickly found myself signed up to pitch to two agents and two small press editors. Did I panic slightly? Of course. But I simply reminded myself that I know my book and am confident in my book, and it went just fine. In fact, all of the agents and editors requested either partial or full manuscript after my pitch! I had a good experience, but that is not solely why I advise authors to take the plunge and pitch at conference–you should do it because chances are relatively limited for you to run into agents during breaks and such. Before I attended the conference, I had read the opposite advice which told me it’s better to try and casually run into agents and spark conversation. However, after having been to the conference, I have to say that is leaving a lot to chance. If there is a chance to get your name down for a (no matter how small) amount of time to talk to an agent or publisher about your book–do it!

The next pro for me was that I met a potentially great friend/colleague; we met at the breakfast section of the day, and ended up being in the same class sessions, so we got a lot of chances to get to know one another and talk about each others’ books. Now we plan to email regularly and exchange critiques and editing advice. This isn’t to say that I just met one person and stuck to only talking to them all day–I talked to a lot of different people, and that in itself was a pro. Meeting fellow writers is always interesting.

Now, the cons. First and foremost, I was already knowledgeable on most of the information presented in the classes. Most of this information is accessible on great websites such as AgentQuery and Writers Digest. Due to my extensive research on querying and agents after I finished my novel, I had stumbled across most of, if not all, the information presented in the class sessions (I stuck to mostly the business/querying type of presentations, so I can’t speak as much to the craft sessions). Thus, for me the conference was a learning event, but not in the sense of the structured classes.

The second con I will list is the inaccessibility of the agents that were present at the conference. The only time I saw an agent outside of the pitch session room was when they were teaching their classes. This made it difficult to interact with them (which was most likely by design, at least in the case of one particular agent!), so had I stuck to my original plan which was to organically strike up conversation, I would have been sorely disappointed. Like I said above, the pitch sessions saved my weekend from being disappointing!

Now that I have attended my first conference, I have been getting asked whether or not I will attend another one. The answer is “probably.” I think I will be more selective in the conferences that I attend; I want them to be a bit more high profile. Now that I know more about agencies and agents I may want to target, I can look out for conferences they may be attending. I will be looking to see what kind of pitch opportunities will be available. There are a couple high profile events that I will consider–namely, the New York Pitch Conference and the San Francisco Writers Conference. However, right now, I am switching gears and will be exclusively focusing on my first round of querying agents; I sent out my first materials requested email today to an agent who requested a synopsis and partial, so I am very excited about that (excited, but also fully prepared to wait for a response or simply never get one). Aside from querying, I will, of course be diving back into my work on Inductance; I think getting back in the flow of writing might be a little tricky after my mini-vacation, but I am excited to ebb back into the story!