letters from the query wars 10/22/2010

It’s been some weeks since the last query wars post for various reasons. It seems to me that the days are not only growing shorter as we draw closer to winter, but literally losing time. Or perhaps it’s all perception. In any case, bringing it up to date….

# of queries responded to: 147
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: SF

# of queries responded to: 214
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: fantasy (1), thriller (1)

# of queries responded to: 187
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 1
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: urban fantasy

# of queries responded to: 290
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 0
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: n/a

oldest query pending: October 15th

And since time is on my mind of late, and this post from John Scalzi keeps popping into my mind, now and then, partially because of his comments regarding my client Jay Lake (who has been battling cancer for the last two years and has a dayjob, a family, and writing deadlines), but also as it’s applicable to so many things and not just writing (for instance, agenting, or er… blogging):

“Either you want to write or you don’t, and thinking that you want to write really doesn’t mean anything. There are lots of things I think I’d like to do, and yet if I don’t actually make the time and effort to do them, they don’t get done.” –John Scalzi

A few query letters have come my way recently from authors who have only written part of a novel, or have an idea but haven’t begun writing, or some variation on that theme. Most of them seem to want some kind of feedback or advice, but, of course, at this stage it’s far too early to be contacting an agent or publisher. A novelist with no prior publication history needs to have a complete manuscript to show. Invariably, they seem to mention they don’t have the time to write and/or finish the novel without some kind of assurance that it will be well-received.

Now, I certainly don’t know their particular situation, or what choice they’d be making to invest the time without whatever guarantee they’re seeking. Maybe it’s just not the right time for them. Maybe they aren’t in a position to make a sacrifice. But maybe they just don’t want to take the risk.

If you want to share: What have you chosen not to do in order to pursue your passion to write? What do you do to find a balance between having the time to write and the rest of your life?

32 responses to “letters from the query wars 10/22/2010

  1. *beth looks around*
    I think what I have chosen Not To Do is Clean The House. *sigh*

  2. Time to write
    This one hits me right where it hurts. I constantly battle with finding time to write, and the rest of life.
    What I do during the week, is write at lunch. On weekends I write for an hour or two in the morning, most of the time while making breakfast.
    What’s worse is that I have a full time consulting job. At the same time I am completing a business plan for a new high tech company I am trying to start. So yes, it’s a battle royale.
    But it seems to work for me. In the last five years, I have completed 4 novels.
    I wish I had more time to write, but at least when I do, I enjoy the heck out of it.

  3. Diana Gabaldon got up in the middle of the night to write her practice novel, OUTLANDER. She didn’t tell her friends,her husband, her children or her co-workers. She just wrote.
    I gave up a house I love and my son and I spent six years building, my horses, my security and my marriage.
    I spent fourteen hours straight laying tile in the kitchen and hallway and then sat down that night and decided to write for a few minutes before I went to bed. My husband came home. I told him not to walk on the new tile. He noticed I was writing and threw a fit. “Oh, yeah, Julie, you’re going to write a book and sell a million.”
    I decided I was tired of trying to sneak around to write or be afraid of getting caught writing and I packed my things.
    I have nothing now, but my guts aren’t in an uproar every time I hear a vehicle because I’m afraid of getting caught.
    This one may not sell, but one of them will and it doesn’t matter if it sells a million.

  4. I chose NOT to get a “day-job” when the last of my kids were in school full time. I, of course, was able to do this because my husband’s paycheck was enough to pay the bills, but there wasn’t enough for me to go back to school either, so I spent years learning all I could on my own. A lot of trial and error. Some frustration when I didn’t know who to turn to for more info. I learned. I wrote a LOT. A lot of…crap. But then it wasn’t so crappy anymore. And then it was pretty good. And then it was publishable. I sold my first book last March (soft launches at WFC next week!)

  5. I gave up my cushy full-time benefits from the Dayjob. Also, housecleaning.

  6. I’ve started guitar lessons twice over the last 10 years, and quit both times because I had books due and couldn’t spare the practice time. I intend to give it a third try, but I think I’ll have to wait until I leave the day job.
    I do the minimum amount of housecleaning, and this year I hired a lawncare company for the first time. I did have the vegetable garden, even though that took more time than I could reasonably spare. I couldn’t make myself give up the fresh tomatoes and herbs.

  7. What I’ve Given Up
    I love to write, and I’m so lucky to be married to an amazing man who says, “Babe, do what you love. The rest will fall into place.” So I do. See, at 37 I have a very serious, very rare health issue that has cost me my career, some friends and some of my life-expectancy. But writing was one thing no one could take from me.
    I write every day with a goal of 2,500 words. Sometimes I’m too ill to make it. Then there are the good days. My current record is 8,000 words. Of course, not all of them were keepable, but that’s not the point. :o) It was one of the happiest days I’ve had in the last three years.
    I have a manuscript out with several agents now and let me tell you, the day The Call comes, nothing is going to stop me from doing the happy dance!

  8. Sharing
    I am a 28-year-old unpublished writer. I am married and my husband works as a plumber, and I do not have a day job that I get paid for because I have dedicated my time to writing. My husband is very supportive of this, despite the fact that we struggle most of the time to pay our bills. But I am very lucky he believes in me, sometimes more than I believe in myself. I have a finished novel that I have been submitting to many agents, and so far I’ve had no luck. I write professional query letters and follow all the rules. I did not even begin to query agents until my manuscript was all the way finished (which took four exasperating drafts before I felt proud enough to send it out). As for not getting paid to be a writer and having no guarantee that I will ever be a published writer, I suppose in the end it doesn’t change my desire to write. I like to think of it as The Story Door. There is a Story Door in my mind bursting with characters and plots all bustling to get out onto the page. So everyday I wake up, eat breakfast, shower and then write for five to eight hours until the story has exhausted itself. Then I wake up the next day and do it all over again. I am working on my second novel now, and the thought that no one will ever read it does haunt me at times. The thought that I will write until I’m 90 with nothing to show for it is a downer to say the least, but if I don’t write, I feel empty. The balance I must find is continuing to write the story, despite the rejections. If I think about it too much, writing seems completely pointless, so I just have to push it from my mind and soldier onward. Because even though it would partly destroy me to be 90 and not have a single book published, it would destroy me even more to stop writing altogether. So investing time isn’t a problem for me. It is a financial sacrifice that my husband is okay with and sometimes a mental sacrifice of my sanity as well. But in the end I’m a writer, and that’s all I’ll ever know how to be.

  9. I usually write in the evening currently as long as I’m not too tired. Things are horribly hectic right now as my husband is being force-moved by his work one state down. I’ll be staying up here with the house and I expect I will spend a lot more time on writing soon. But since it is a moment of calm right now…I will probably do some in the next hour.

  10. I’m, erm–“lucky” is the wrong word, so let’s just say it’s helpful to my writing dreams that I don’t have kids. That leaves me with a luxury of time other writers don’t have.
    That said, I do my best work first thing in the morning, but I’m also required to go to work first thing in the morning. Thus, I sacrifice sleep to ensure my writing is “firster” in the morning.
    And I am not a morning person. Urk, no.

  11. I basically traded time for money. I considered law school, but the best end result of that was to have a lot of money and little time to enjoy it. I considered being a history professor, but in grad school got a look at the job market for academics and realized I’d be both over worked and poor. So I accepted the poverty of part time jobs while I sat down and wrote. I have to admit, if I’d known it would take this long I might have gone to law school, but at this point the ideas are pouring out of my head faster than I write them, so I guess it’s too late for me. I’ll either end up one of those writers with three pen names or the crazy old uncle of my brother’s kids.
    However, with that time, I also hung out with poets for five years and now each ESL abroad, and met a lot of interesting people along the way.

  12. I decided not to take a full-time job with benefits to save time to write (time that largely would have been eaten up by my commute) and am working from home grading for the educational testing company part-time right now so that I have time to write. I have to pay out the nose for insurance, but it’s been so completely worth it.
    Bonus is that I don’t have to deal with work clothes or office drama! 🙂

  13. I gave up TV. Easy sacrifice.

  14. After full-time job, I try to spend as much time on writing as possible. So going out is a big NO. Socialising (except online) is a NO as well. I know I have very limited time, but I also know that there are people in far worse and busier situations than me who manage to produce fantastic books. It’s what I want to do with my life, and so I have to invest time and effort, and I think it’s worth it. It’s much more satisfying to feel I’ve had a productive evening and accomplished something with my WIP than to go out for a drink.

  15. I take frequent and lengthy breaks from reading blogs. 😉
    Also, I pretty much don’t watch TV, and we pretty much don’t clean the house. 😮

  16. I gave up TV too, which opens up a lot of time. I also stopped pursuing music, since I realized I’d rather write prose than melodies. 🙂

  17. Everything but family and my day job…
    Hobbies have gone by the wayside. I still try to play the occasional card or video gave with the wife and kids, but it becomes a matter of scheduling. TV is something I do to spend time with the wife, and I often do it with my laptop if she lets me. Role playing games, once a staple of my entertainment hours, have become a pleasant memory and little more. Nowadays I spend my spare minutes at lunch or on the toilet polishing the book I hope to submit in the Query Wars one of these days, and getting ready for another NaNoWriMo November as an excuse to work on the next one.
    I can’t afford to give up my day job, and my family is the one thing I love more than writing, so it has to take a back seat to that, but they’re very supportive of my efforts. One of these days I’ll publish, and make enough to quit my day job and write full time.
    It’s just a matter of time and effort, of blood, sweat, and tears, and a liberal dose of elbow grease. As Edison said: 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.

  18. Sleep. I forgot about sleep.
    While I’m not sleeping, our writer’s critique group has recently been discussing the problem of passing around multiple copies of files, and we’re looking at Google Docs as a possible solution.
    It also occurred to me that agents might benefit from that as well. Since Google Docs is secure third party software, the agent never even needs to download the file at all. Writers willing to do so could simply grant access, and the agent could read as much or as little as she likes without any threat of viruses or other malware, or even using her personal disk space.
    Maybe Ms. Jackson will get a minute to look and evaluate it, and get on the cutting edge of safer methods that don’t run the risk of using a MicroSoft product. :op
    I’d even be happy to be a guinea pig, and will limit myself to something tiny that isn’t my novel. Really, lol….

  19. Definitely have chosen not to clean the house. But I wasn’t doing that anyway, so it’s no net gain on writing time.
    Hmmm. I have chosen not to try my hand at voice-over, at water aerobics (though that would be very good for me), or martial arts (also would be good for me).
    I make jewelry one night a week. People ask me if I think about starting a small business with it, but I point out that would require much more of a time-commitment, and I would rather commit that time to finishing another novel.
    I do a bit of freelance typesetting and design work. That’s steady, real cash, so I can’t turn that down. It’s little enough that it doesn’t suck up all the writing time.
    I have time for three things outside of work: writing, freelancing, and jewelry. Everything else is “I wish I could make time for that, but I have chosen other things instead.”

  20. Just write it and you’ll make time
    I stared writing my book in 1996, and I have just finished it. Mind you I had a gap of many years where I didn’t write for at all.
    Job, family and other committments stopped me from doing what I wanted to do. Two and a half years ago I started writing again and now I’m about to send it off to see if I can get it published.
    What changed? I just decided to start writing again, and this time nothing was going to stop me. So I get up at four in the morning, write until I have to go to work, write at lunch and then come home and write again into the wee hours of the morning until I fall asleep. But at least it’s finished. Hey! If it doesn’t get picked up by a publishing house I’ll self publish. But one way or another I’m going to get it published and I think thats the attitude we need to cultivate.
    Good luck to anyone doing the same thing. By the way I’ve started book two now 🙂

  21. I’ve cut hours at work, spent time away from my boyfriend and taken time away from studying and homework to write. I can’t remember what writer said it, I’ve scoured the internetz trying to find the interview I saw it in, but he said that the sacrifice for a new writer is that you’re stealing little bits of time away from everything in your life in order to make time for writing.
    Running a writers group, I frequently get people interested in the group who want to know the secret to being prolific, like I have some hidden jewel of wisdom that gave me the strength and determination to write my novel. I want to scream at them sometimes “Just do it! Quit making excuses!” and they usually say “Well I try!” Yoda said it best “Do or do not, there is no try.”

  22. I might not ever publish a book (time will tell), but for me I am a writer regardless. Yes, I may have more time than most, but I write regardless of how much time I have. I have been writing since I was young, and continue to write for my own personal pleasure. I believe you are either born a writer (not in the professional sense, but rather in the passionate sense), or you are not. If you’re writing only to make money, find an easier and surer line of work. Out of a thousand books sold, only two or three hit the big time. Everyone else is writing the stuff that many people may read, but which the media never talks about, for whatever reason. What makes you want to write? If it’s money alone, then you are probably not a writer.

  23. So far, I’ve given up sleeping at night (the only time my house is quiet) and writing fanfic. I’d love to still write both, but working on novels takes a lot of thought space, and since I’m still unpublished, the original work has to take priority. Novembers are devoted to NaNo.
    I’d get more family respect if I had a ‘regular’ job, but we don’t see each other often enough to make it a problem. I do feel pressure from my honey sometimes to bring in the bacon, too, but he’s finally gotten a lot more accepting that I’m serious about this.
    I’m probably light on the sacrifices, but there’s definitely been a lot of change since I chose full-time writing.

  24. Doing what you love
    I graduated from college in 2009 with a degree in Anthropology. Considering that the chances of me getting a “real” or “decent” job in this economy (especially with a humanities degree) was painfully low… I never had to make the decision between whether to pursue a career or my writing. In fact, even before we were married my husband was the one who insisted that it was silly of me do anything but what I really loved.
    Unfortunately my husband is a graduate student, so I have to work as many hours as I can get at my catering job at the University because grad students don’t exactly get paid top dollar. We’ve decided that once he graduates in the Spring and has a job that pays him enough, I’ll be able to stay home and write full time.
    For now, while I would actually LOVE to sacrifice going to work, my sacrifices are often mental in nature. I’ve sacrificed any ability to feel safe, because I know that the road ahead of me is a long and hard one. I’ve sacrificed most of the respect my family had for me, since many of them don’t understand why I would want to write in the first place. Even so, I still love my family so I just have to put up with the constant questions and doubts they have. I’ve sacrificed money, obviously, and although I genuinely don’t care about having nice things, it does become frustrating to look at your bank account, knowing you barely have enough to pay rent. It would be a lot harder to write if I lived in a cardboard box – they don’t tend to have anywhere to plug in my computer.
    So for now, I guess I have to embrace all of the fear I live with every day and just hope that it makes my writing better, not worse.

  25. Sacrifices
    *Looks around, shudders*. Definitely the laundry. It’s turned . . . homicidal. And the bedding, I feel certain, has laid in a an ambush.
    Actually, I feel humbled by some of the stories I’ve read here. I’ve been lucky, I have to admit. Yes, I work full time so hubby can work part time and go to school to follow his dream to work for NASA or one of their contractors. He’s admitted to me that he admires my fortitude in working so long and hard at something without guaranteed success as he’s much more into instant gratification (his creative endeavors lie in cooking). Thankfully my mom passed on a book to me about a writing and completing a novel in a year by writing on the weekends and it’s been marvelous. Hubby works graveyard on the weekends, so Saturday and Sunday are my main writing days, accomplished longhand while he’s asleep. When he gets up, I put it all in the computer. I’ve found I do my best work this way, and it leaves me time after work to relax and get other stuff done.
    Except, apparently, the laundry. *wields chair and whip* Back, BACK, foul fiends!

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