This isn’t a real post, since I’m still in England, but I was talking about this with my family at dinner and wanted to share the article with you as well. This isn’t, perhaps, the most comprehensive article, but it does reference several other studies that you can look up if you are so inclined.
So, judging by the title of this blog post, you might have guessed I ended up submitting to Impress Books. I decided to submit my first novel to them because they allow unsolicited submissions and have a fairly quick response time. If I don’t hear back from them within four weeks (which means a no), I may try a few more small, independent presses, or I may try New Leaf Literary. But this is a trial period, both to see how I handle it and a serious attempt to get my work published.
I’ll be heading off to England on Saturday, so I don’t know how much I’ll be posting. It’s a family trip, and we’re there primarily for a funeral. That being said, I created this blog to try and get back into the habit of writing often (if not daily, which I’m clearly not doing well at), so if I have time and motivation, I’ll do my best to put the effort in.
When I first started writing Majoring in Death, I was writing about the difficulties in my own life. The trials of college, my best friend changing into a stranger, and new people coming into my life when I wanted nothing more than for everything to remain as it was. I added a little magic, a little Other-worldliness, because those issues are somehow more palatable when we’re also dealing with something so unfamiliar.
But as I wrote, during those frantic thirty fall days, I realised that this had to become bigger than just me. I was writing about Death, and gods, and had plans for an Apocalypse—and I wanted to juxtapose that with the seemingly mundane issues of new adulthood. The Portents affect the entire universe; I had to make the story bigger.
So I started writing about the consequences these personal issues had on the world at large. My characters were at the centre of the universe, and it couldn’t be pleasant or gratifying the way so many fantasise it to be. An argument between Life and Death could very well rip this universe of mine apart. Everything they were, everything they did, reflected on the rest of humanity, the rest of the world, the rest of the universe. Everything had consequences.
As my characters fell to pieces, so the world followed. I created links to real political disasters, ecological horrors, the worst of humanity. It wasn’t to blame everything that had gone wrong on Celestial beings. On the contrary, these terrible things were often humanity’s doing. But I wanted to show, in simpler terms, that hatred and cruelty could fester if no one resisted. I just tried to give that struggle a form we could understand.
When Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, and the world watched with the kind of attention usually reserved for a natural disaster, I felt hopeless. I wasn’t a Celestial being. I didn’t have the divine power to change the course of events. We’ve seen how he conducts business, what he thinks of politics, what he thinks of humanity and our home.
The Paris Agreement was a beacon of hope for those who wanted to save the planet. Trump crushed that hope when he decided to pull America’s support away. He disrespected the planet, the country he is supposed to represent, and every other country who came together to sign that Agreement. He betrayed the people who trusted him, the people who had no choice but to follow him, and the people who could do nothing to oppose him.
As our world begins to spiral even further into the abyss, I’m outlining the sequel to Majoring in Death. I look at everything that is steadily worsening, the efforts that people make to push back, and I remember: Everything has consequences.
Sometimes they’re good. Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes you don’t realise what happened, sometimes it’s staring you right in the face. Sometimes it happens right away, and sometimes it takes forever. But everything has consequences.
When I write this sequel, and its sequel, I’ll remember why the story got bigger. I’ll remember that because this story needed to be big enough to encompass the whole world—the whole of humanity—it became more than just one book. That’s a small consequence (well, relatively speaking. It means a lot more work on my end). But I hope that this story has a larger consequence. I hope that when people read it, they see the story in the world around them, and find the power to change it.
That’s why I write. And there’s another consequence.
“MAJORING IN DEATH is a completed, 75,000 word New Adult paranormal novel in which eight college students are chosen to become Celestials—without their knowledge.
Alex Rush can’t imagine anything worse than becoming a socialite like her mother. That’s why she chose a college in a small town, with the friends she made on her own—she wants to escape the destiny laid out by her family. Luckily, the universe has other plans: Alex is chosen to become Death, one of the eight Collective Portents, and she’s not the only one. Juggling new supernatural powers and responsibilities with homework and new relationships is hard enough, but Alex’s best friend is changing more than any of them.
The Apocalypse is looming, and it can’t be stopped while Life and Death are at odds.
MAJORING IN DEATH can be read as a standalone, with great series potential.”
Okay, it has more than potential. I’m currently working on the sequel, outlining and such. But that little bit up there is the basic template for any query I put forth. Some of it is practice at writing summaries (since those things need to be brief enough to fit on a back cover or inside flap). Some of it was figuring out what the most important parts of the book are and boiling them down to the absolute essentials. Funnily enough, one of the biggest changes for my protagonist isn’t even mentioned—though I think that’s more to do with her own lack of perception than anything else. She doesn’t even notice what’s changed until the first part of the story is almost over…
But that would be telling.
So I’ve finished basic revisions, sent the manuscript to beta readers (both in my writing group and out), and I’m looking ahead to publishing options. I have a basic blurb and info about my book to build a query letter off of. Now, I have to make a decision.
An agent, or an independent press?
With an agent, there’s a greater likelihood of signing a contract with a traditional publishing house. Not a big one, mind, but bigger than if I tried to do it on my own. An agent would do a lot of the fighting for me, if I could get one interested, and I’d have advice on any contract I’d sign.
The usual 15% cut seems a small price to pay, when I examine my own talents (which definitely fall short of an agent’s).
Then again, independent presses have more freedom than traditional houses to begin with, they specialise in certain genres, and I’d gain more money in royalties. Plus, they prefer authors submit works themselves, as opposed to agent representation, so that 15% would be mine.
The New Leaf Literary Agency has a good reputation, especially among WriMos. They would be fair and honest with me, and I’d expect them to be very good at what they do.
Impress Books is one of the first independent presses I’ve looked at, and one I think would be a good test for my novel. I’ve no doubt they have excellent business, and the types of books they sell are varied.
So, my dilemma: submit to an independent press first, and hope that the lack of an agent doesn’t hurt my chances? Or secure an agent first, and never find out if I could have done it on my own?
Ever since I was little, I wanted to write. So I did. And there are stacks of journals and notebooks in my room, piles of flashdrives in drawers, and dozens upon dozens of folders on my computer. Some of them are empty–waiting. Some of them are filled with scribblings that will never be shown to another soul. But I kept writing.
Then I started writing longer things. First it was short stories, thought up on a whim, just to entertain myself. As I got older, so did my audience. I discovered Young Adult, and eventually New Adult, on top of the fantasy and sci-fi genres that accompanied me growing up. Everything I wrote was fiction.
In high school, I discovered National Novel Writing Month. A challenge to write 2,000 words a day, for an entire month, with friends and like-minded individuals? It was the best thing that could have happened to me.
My first attempts didn’t go so well. I only reached the 50,000 word goal once before I graduated, and the result wasn’t very heartening. The second time I “won” NaNoWriMo was a year later, and I managed to write 75k words within a month. Now, it’s being thoroughly edited and revised and prepared for publishing (somewhere along the line, I hope). Now, being an author is a real possibility, even more than my kindergarten dreams.
Of course, any author–no matter the proficiency of the marketing team–will have to do a little self-promotion. Have a minimum social media presence. And I realised I had a bigger problem.
I’ve tried to journal and blog and tweet and tumble many times. Somehow, none of the methods stuck, though I still have dusty Twitter and Tumblr accounts. But having a name on bookshelves means people will look it up. They’ll search to find you. And presumably, they’re looking for what you have to say.
All the things I have to say usually go into my novels and short stories. My opinions become that of a character’s; my frustrations become conflicts in their lives. Morals and life lessons are couched in magic and epic battles. And the resolutions might be messy and painful, but often they are resolutions that I never had.
All of this, of course, means I don’t know what to say in a simple blog post. I’m uncomfortable talking plainly about myself, because I’m not that interesting–not compared to my characters, to the stories I tell. I spend hours trying to write a one-paragraph bio. Who knows how a query letter will turn out.
But I’m going to try, because I think I need this. A way to talk with people frankly, without the riddles of alternate identities and manufactured crises. And I’d like to think that any readers I accumulate will need it too: a way to interact with the source of the tales that they–hopefully–will love.
I want to change lives, just through telling stories. I want to change the world, just by throwing out an idea.
Just writing words.