Category Archives: writing process

It’s That Time Again: Beta Begging Time


Hello, gentle viewers! I interrupt our month of Buffyversary posts for purely selfish reasons today. (But at least I’m honest about it, right? Right.)

I’m in the process of finishing the first round of edits on a new novel (working title: Storm in a Teacup), and I’d love to have some eyes on it. Since the last beta begging blog post worked so splendidly in August, I thought I’d try again.

Here’s some basics about the novel in question:

Genre: Adult urban fantasy
Length: 91,400 words (415 pages in MS Word)
Shorty Synopsis: In a world where killing monsters literally restores balance to the cosmos, demon hunter Ayala Storme is asked to investigate a rash of missing women. She instead discovers a new race of half-human hellspawn created by demons to tip the scales against humanity. Ayala banked on these creatures existing only for evil, but when one of them saves her life, she’s confronted with the one thing she never expected from demons: free will. Sworn to defend human life, Ayala faces censure and execution if she decides her vow includes protecting the creatures she’s been ordered to kill.
Squidgy Salutes: This book contains language, gore, violence, sexual situations, and the occasional fart joke. You’ve been warned.
My Style: If you were not one of my little circle of betas back in August, my style of urban fantasy tends to be rather dark, gritty, and quirky. I’m an adherent to Our Sensei Joss Whedon‘s admonition, “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” 

Here’s the nitty gritty on what YOU would do if interested:

  • Read the book.
  • Write a few paragraphs about your general impressions (and email them to me).
  • Answer no more than five follow-up questions.

That’s it. There is one little however, however. I’ve found that having both parties in accord for this sort of thing helps tremendously. Way back when, I used to send out my early work to whoever was like, “Sure, I’ll read it!” only to never hear from them again. (And, I’ll admit, I’ve done the same a couple of times.) That sort of process is just a teensy bit less than helpful. So here’s what I ask from my beta readers:

  • Respond within two weeks.

That’s all, really. I ask this for a couple reasons. First, I know that if I read a third of a book, put it down for two months, come back to it, read a few chapters, and put it down again, I won’t have a fresh idea of what my overall impressions were. Doing it within a set timeframe keeps those initial thoughts fresh and coherent. Second, I do eventually plan to, you know, incorporate the feedback into my next round of revisions. And to do that, I kind of have to have it.

I plan to have the draft ready to go to betas by Thursday night (that’s 4 April, in case you were wondering). So I would be asking folks to read and respond by 18 April so I can get a nice, polished draft to my agent by the first of May. Sound good?


There IS something for you in all this. If you beta for me, you get:

  • My undying love and devotion.
  • I’ll do a super-special Follow Friday Beta Edition on Twitter.
  • A superstar beta blog post in which I sing your praises, link mashup style.
  • You get an acknowledgement in the book if it sees the light of publication.
  • You get to be some of the first eyes to see this story, which had to wait four years in the back of my head to get on paper!

If you’re interested, send me an email: emmiemears [at] gmail [dot] com! You can express interest in the comments, of course, but please email, or I’ll forget.

PS: If you were one of my betas back in August and want to help me out again, you are more than welcome, for you are awesome. And I still love you. Because my love is undying.

UPDATE: Well, shucks. Y’all are quick. Very, very quick. Due to rather overwhelming response, I’ve somehow found myself swimming in beta readers. I might need to bake you some cookies. Thank you! If you are reading this update and gnashing your teeth because you missed the window, fear not. There shall be more books in the future.

A Very Emmie Story

Trench in Bieszczady cm01

Trench in Bieszczady cm01 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, gentle viewers, I have decided to crank up the periscope and give you a view into the query trenches, where I have spent the past five months. For those of you unfamiliar with the process of getting traditionally published, allow me to fill you in briefly on how it goes.

First of all, it’s not as simple as chucking your manuscript at a publishing house and seeing it on shelves next week.

The road goes something (complete with various scribbles) like this:

Write something awesome. Revise and edit the hell out of it. Compile a list of literary agents who represent your genre and similar projects (but not TOO similar). Draft a crappy query letter. Get someone else to look at it. Make crappy letter better. Email query letter (or go retro and snail mail it) to agents.


Wait some more.

Still waiting?

Wait more.


Lots of rejections.


Then more rejections.

What you’re hoping for is for some agent to read your work, be moved to laughter and/or tears that have nothing to do with the writing being craptastic, want you to be THEIR author, and ask you to move in with them.

Or something like that. Basically, if you want to see your book on a shelf, you have to get an agent. Agents are elusive creatures who know editors. There are ways to publish without them, but if you want to be published by one of the Big Five (formerly Big Six), they’re sort of vital people.

Anyway, you start out looking around at the agents of the world and sort of going like this:

But they’re busy and probably don’t see you, so you try to pretend you were minding your own business anyway.

Then you send out a few queries. And you get a few requests!

(Note: I did this dance when I got my first request. I woke up Spouse doing this through the bedroom.)

Then you send out a few more queries.

But then the rejections start flooding in.

And you feel more like this…

The weeks and months roll by, and you twiddle your thumbs and knit hats for schnauzers and/or iguanas, and when your inbox goes (1), you hyperventilate until you see it’s another rejection.

After a while, it’s this…


And you WANT to believe, so you try and tell yourself this:

And some of the feedback you’re getting from agents is great! It’s helpful and charming and lovely.

But some of it is also confusing. This person says you have a phenomenal voice. That person says she loved the premise but couldn’t connect to the voice.

In spite of the feedback and happy little notes, you still feel like all the agents are just sort of seeing your query and going:

Which makes you feel like this:

Here’s where this story goes from general to personal. Ready?

So after several months of living these GIFs on repeat, a couple weeks ago I got an odd sort of DM while I was at work. It was from a friend who interned for one of the agents who had had my full manuscript since September, and she started talking a bit too casually about sitting at home with her cat. A couple weeks earlier, she’d told me that she was quietly transitioning into agenthood herself, about which I went SQUEE for her, because she is awesome, and her boss (who had my manuscript) is awesome, and both of them deserve every good thing to come their way.

Anyway, back to my friend’s DM about sitting at home with her cat.

I was working and a little confused, so I wrote back, and she responded by asking if I was working late. I told her I’d be off in about an hour and wondered why she’d asked. Our conversations usually started with query woes or other random moments, and I did have a passing wonder-if she’d gotten into the wine. A few minutes later, as I was rolling silverware, she sent another message telling me that she would not take it personally if I didn’t go with her agency when I started getting ALL THE OFFERS.

I buahaha’d at that a bit and snortled (it’s hard to take ALL THE OFFERS seriously when your inbox looks like a sea of no), then felt abashed because I figured she’d probably felt nervous about saying that and just gotten up the courage to do so and I was very inconveniently not at home to discuss it.

When I got home, we started chatting a bit more, and she asked what my plans were for the evening. At that point, I started wondering what was happening. I told her I had no plans except to stare at my screen and veg out. To which she responded, “Well, then I better give you something to stare at.”

So I waited for the next message, unsure if I was about to get a funny YouTube video or something else.

Instead I got this:


So I checked my email, and I went like this:

And inside I was all:



Because not only did her email say she wanted to speak to me on the phone about representation, but several days before, I’d been tweeting about some of my goals and wrote this:




So the next evening, we talked for an hour. And I think at some point she said douche and I said ass or shit in this professional conversation, but hey. It’s totally okay, because we’re awesome like that.

I got off the phone feeling exhilarated and joyful and really, really, really excited.

Like this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

But I couldn’t squee to the world. Because I had to let other agents with my stuff know.

I sent all the emails the next day, and I started waiting.

And waiting.

Except I’m not as peaceful as a sloth.

I’m friends with the agent that offered. As soon as I talked to her, I KNEW I wanted her to be my agent. She had the same vision for my project as I did. She’d told me before (very vehemently) that SHRIKE DESERVED to be published, and when I told her about my new projects, she said she got goosebumps. The more I talked to her over the last couple weeks, the more I wanted to just do this:

And this:

But I couldn’t just pounce on her and fling signed contracts at her.

So I waited.


Through all the waiting, I got an offer of publication from an awesome small press that had requested my manuscript during a Twitter pitch contest, which was super amazing and flattering. I also had my manuscript with someone I was referred to by a friend of a friend, and I wanted to give her the chance to respond, because she is an awesome agent who has been super kind to look at my work. There were a few other agents I had to hear back from as well, so I just…twiddled my thumbs and knit woolly jumpers for my friend’s pet lizards.

But FINALLY after two weeks, I AM UTTERLY THRILLED to announce that I have signed with Jessica Negrón of Talcott-Notch Literary Services!

(Seriously. I was so excited when my deadline came up that I ran — literally ran — out and mailed the signed SAMPLE contract before realizing I was supposed to wait for an official one on letterhead.)


Jessica and I saw each other (?) at the Writer’s Digest Conference last year in New York, and we later formed a friendship on Twitter. She critiqued a short story for me over the summer, and when I queried her boss back in September, I had NO Idea she worked for Gina. It wasn’t until she requested my manuscript that I put it together and felt like an idiot. She was the first industry professional to fall in love with my book, and when she was given the go ahead to start taking on her own clients, she said she immediately wanted me to be her first client.

I am so excited to finally be able to say this — not only do I have an agent, but I have one who is completely smitten with my book and who loves the ideas of my other projects. I could not be more excited to start this new leg of the journey.

In closing, I wasn’t expecting things to happen this way. And as far as the rejections and the months of waiting went, every once in a while something just randomly falls into place.

Like this.

So look out. Jes and I are fixing to storm the publishing world together. Bring it on, 2013.

Oh, and for those of you who are stats-aholics, here you go:

  • Queries sent: 63
  • Requests: 9 (3 partials, 6 fulls. 2 fulls began as partials.)
  • Offers: 2 (one agent, one small press)
  • Contests entered: 2 (resulting in 2 requests)
  • Friends met: HEAPS
  • SHRIKE is my third completed manuscript (though it was only the second I queried, and the first I only sent 4 queries out)

UPDATE: The lovely Patrick MacDonald over at posted my success story! You can check it out here.

Tiiiiime, Why Do You Punish Me?

Fountain pen

Fountain pen (Photo credit: Sven Van Echelpoel)

Sunday is for writers round these parts! Welcome to today’s edition of Sunday, My Prints Will Come!

I was talking with a friend this week about things that get in the way of writing. Namely, procrastination.

I thought I’d share with you my own personal novel-writing timeline to get us started:

Novel #1: Epic fantasy. Begun 2001. Never finished.

Novel #2: Urban fantasy. Begun 2004. Finished fall 2008. (Four years.)

Novel #3: Urban fantasy. Begun fall 2008. Finished fall 2011. (Three years.)

Novel #4: Urban fantasy. Begun fall 2011. Half-finished. (Got to that point in about 2-3 weeks of writing.)

Novel #5: Urban fantasy. Begun May 2012. Finished June 2012. (Six weeks.)

Novel #6: Urban fantasy. Begun November 2012. Finished December 2012. (Eight weeks.)

Novel #7: Magical realism. Begun January 2013. Ongoing. (See progress meter in the right side bar!)

You’ll notice a very obvious fact if you read through all that.

I went from not completing novels to completing them over the course of several years to finishing books in a matter of weeks or a couple months. The obvious question to go with that obvious fact is: what changed?


Unfinished…? (Photo credit: Laser Burners)

The easy answer is that I just decided to write, plunked my ass down in the chair and did it.

But if it were truly that simple, many more people would have finished novels, and the publishing industry would be a lot more competitive than it already is. Which is very competitive.

For me, it boiled down to a few things that truncated years of procrastination:

1. NaNoWriMo

Even though I did NaNo rebel style my first time through in 2011, I finished something. I finished my second full novel and got almost halfway through the third. The real thing this lent to me was the knowledge that I could do it. That I could pound out 60,000 words in a month — or more. Once I knew that, the length of time it had previously taken me to write a novel seemed long, tedious, and rather silly.

2. Consistency

About a year and a half ago, I started blogging every day. Sure, I’ve missed days here and there, but it took me a looooong time to watch through all the fireworks WordPress created at the end of 2012 to celebrate my year of blogging. I write something every day. Even if it’s only a little bit. I do it every single day. This consistency has helped me become a much better writer.

3. Epiphany

Four years is a lot of time. In that time, I graduated from university, wrote a few hundred pages of term papers, wrote a heap of blog posts and journal entries, and wrote copy for real estate fliers and brochures for a year.

Do you see where I’m leading with this? The quality of the writing in my first novel was very uneven. I’d started it in 2004. I finished it in 2008 — after four years of writing other stuff prolifically and reading some great fiction. When you write a novel over the space of years, chances are the writing at the beginning will be drastically different than the writing at the end.

Last week I talked about rereading the second and unfinished third book of my trilogy. The first half of the second book I wrote in 2008 after coming off the high of finishing the first book. The second half of the second book (keeping up?) I wrote three years later in NaNoWriMo 2011. The difference in quality is almost staggering. I could literally see the evolution of my writing skills on the page.

There are benefits to writing quickly. I don’t mean everyone has to write a novel in a month, or even two or six. But there is a huge benefit to the consistency of quality when you are able to do it faster than years.

4. Motivation

This can be just about anything. For me it was a teaching job I couldn’t stand. Now I wait tables, which is fine, because it lets me sleep in, but my job is still a motivating factor for me. Knowing that I’m not yet making a living doing what I’m truly in love with and good at spurs me forward. It makes me put my ass in my chair every day even when I know I’ll be at work for eight hours afterward. Even when I come home from work and need to write the next day’s blog post.

So how do you beat procrastination?

You beat it by figuring out what you really want. You beat it by holding yourself accountable for the hours in the day. You beat it by making a choice. You can start small. You can build up to things. But ultimately, the only thing that’s stopping you from writing is you.

So get out of your way and go.

What clicked for you in your writing habits? When did you decide to do what you love no matter what? Do you still struggle with procrastination? How do you make yourself do what you need to do?

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