A book is a place where a storyteller can safely let all their chaos, shadows, darkness be revealed in full, and with glee.by Tania C.
I think most days you forget that with each action, reaction, decision, word, you make, take, utter, you are deciding who you are that day.
Most days you function in the automatic, being the same person you were yesterday and the same person people around you — based on the image you have created of yourself externally — expect you to be tomorrow.
In reality, every day, at every moment, you are deciding who you are to be. Every day I can decide, for example, if I will be a powerful storyteller, or if I’m a being amidst chaos at work.
Week after week, I’m choosing the storytelling path, and recently, I woke up inhabiting the same body, in the same bed I had gone to sleep, but with an idea so powerful, that it has been transforming my life since.
This idea is making my storytelling going verbal, oral I mean, like our forefathers. I have several projects cooking up, watch this space, (this is a keyword, more on that later) and I am preparing for it!
I wrote some truths today. Gut-wrenching truths, heart-to-knife truths. But in a good way.
Blood on the page is a good thing, turns into tint. It’s life, it’s emotion, courage, darkness exposed to light, even if it hurts, badly.
Artists are never safe from themselves.
In every day lurks a discovery that will shake the foundations of who they are and how they are to be from that very moment onwards.
There’s no permanence, no calm, no peace.
In finding the bleeding wounds from which authentic voices are brought forth, truths spring forth with no warning, revelations, connections, epiphanies and transformation.
[This is an extract of a novel I’m working on, something that is a mix of a memoir and a treaty on the creation of the artistic process]
The life of an artist is made of intensity of emotions. Nothing is felt in half measured pints.
When you feel you are in a rink and people are throwing punches of invalidation, disregard and bias at you, suddenly, there is someone in your corner, seeing you as the international best seller writer that’s lurching within, you feel like Rocky, and suddenly you are punching back!
An interesting tool available to writers “in construction” is to create the cover of your next novel, as it is going to be when it is published, adding all the desired seals of approval. It may be prizes, academic accolades, “international best seller” labels, it may be a seal of “notable book”. The trick is look for the adult you want your child-book to be, and follow its example. For me it would be Big Magic meets Bride Stripped Bare.
I created the cover of my next book about metaphors for the writing process, a sort of memoir of how I came to be writing it, chose the real title and the font for my name, put the real logo of the publishing house I would like to publish it, and the seals of best seller I would like it to have. I had one copy of it with me at work and showed it to one friend, the one day I went to the office this week. I also created the first page of that book, that black and white one that comes with a space where the authors sign their autographs.
I then imagined myself signing books for people including all the people who are not really paying attenting to my messages at the moment, all the ones that are invalidating me.
This friend asked me to make a copy and sign it for her, those pages of a novel that doesn’t exist in physical form yet, it’s but 82 thousand messy words in a messy file. I did it, I signed it, as I would, with a dedication and love, but a bit worried that the copy didn’t come out perfect.
Later that night the importance of that moment hit me. I was in the shower and I saw myself giving my first autograph. It hit me so strongly that I bent down crying, it surprised me, the power, it was a punch to the gut, I had no idea it was even there. Gratefulness washed over me.
Part of me knows life isn’t certain, I could die in the next moment, part of me isn’t sure of anything, of any achievements, of any deserving, and another part knows the future, knows that it is just a matter of time, and a lot of persistence, and that I take with coffee, every morning.
There is a quick way out of chaos, straight through despair and out the easy way.
Interestingly, the easy way, is the hardest one in the slightest longer run.
The ability to stand the uncomfortableness of an unstable situation, manage your own emotions, will allow you to wait for the harder, but more rewarding, opportunity, which will serve much better in the long run, that making a rushed decision just to get out of the storm wouldn’t.
Think from inside the pressure pot, analyse the situation, stand your ground, be sure of your own value… those are the things to remember not be swayed around by the winds and the storm.
I have recently been to Billabong Retreat and attended an inspiring workshop on the philosophy behind the Yoga Practice. They are called the Yamas and Niyamas and I realised that they can actually be applied to anything, broad or specific.
I’m thinking of them for me as a writer…
I vow to be kind to myself and others, and my characters, even when the evil or misguided ones, I understand their path. I enjoy the journey and do not pressure myself, remembering that pressure is different from commitment.
Honesty in thoughts, words and actions is always in my mind. I accept each of my days’ reality and surrender to my limits. I am authentic in my expression. Before talking I ask myself: Is it true, is it kind, is it necessary? Does it improve on Silence?
I respect possessions, time and energy; mine and others. I do not invade space or ideas, I don’t rob people of their peace or fulfilment. I don’t rob myself of the present time. I am present, I live the journey.
I am enough, I have enough, I do enough, I let all forms of energy draining thoughts go. I appreciate what I have, what I am. I let go of outcomes and expectations. And I remember that rejection is divine protection.
Brahmacharya (maintenance of vitality/previously seen as chastity)
I listen to my boundaries and desires, and preserve and respect mine and others’ energies.
Yoga Practices for the Niyamas
Tapas (purification through discipline)
I am disciplined and “I am stronger than myself” (Clarice Lispector).
I am incredibly grateful and peaceful.
I organise my writing space, I observe cleanliness of mind, body, energy and surroundings.
I understand, observe, respect upon and develop my writing.
Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion to a higher power)
I surrender and trust my creativity and the inspiration that comes from outside of me.
I am prone to listening to various sorts of… how do I put it, information? There is self-development, but not only that, also TED talks, philosophical books, books about creativity and writing, etc.
I figured, a while ago, that you can’t change your life without changing your thoughts.
I cannot read non-fiction, I get bored, but I love them in audio-books or programs. Recently there was a promotion of non-fiction audio-books and I ended up with nine of them in different subjects. I don’t listen to one, beginning to end, I listen to whatever my mood asks for.
I am listening to two books, one about how the brain works and the other about Aliens. The first tells me how the brain creates conspiracy theories by creating connections that do not exist, because the brain prefers to have a drunken pilot at the helm, a.k.a. shadowy government in control; than having no-one in control or a vessel without a pilot.
The Alien book shows all the proof that Aliens do exist and that there is, most definitely, a conspiracy.
Hard to choose what I really believe in, probably both and neither.
One of my new favourites is Liz Gilbert’s “Big Magic”. I agree with her that Artists create in spite of their hunted soul, not because of it.
One of my old favourites is Mike Dooley’s “Infinite Possibilities” that introduced me to a concept I now use all the time: ACT AS IF.
Today I’m acting as if I had full days of writing and have spent the day exactly as I would if I were a successful, highly paid best seller, and a full-time writer.
Part 3 – Getting the Material Ready
There is no consensus about anything, I’ve researched the details on how to format manuscripts, how to write book proposals, how to write query letter or a bio, etc. But in the end, there are just many different suggestions. You must do your own research and choose what resonates with you.
In the end if you make any decision and go with it, it is better than leaving your book in a drawer, virtual or real.
The important part is that you will need to research step by step, read on how to write each piece, how long it should be and decide on the voice and tone.
There are many articles about how to write a good query letter but I have here a few things that I think all query letters should include:
- In the subject, include the word “query”, the name of your project, and who it is in attention to (if you are sending to a generic email address).
- A bit about you, including where you are from or based at, whichever is relevant.
- How many words your manuscript has.
- The number of agents you are submitting in total.
- Note if the manuscript has been self-published before and how did it go.
- Make it adaptable as a submission letter if the agent wants to see a submission in the first instance.
- Make sure you address it to the right person and add something in the letter to make it personal for them.
- Add at least one paragraph for the specific agent mentioning something that either they have represented or their agency represents that is relevant to your project.
- Short overview
- Complete Synopsis
Prepare a few different sizes of summaries, I would recommend a one-page overview; one three-page synopsis, and a complete synopsis of about 5-7 pages. You will probably need them all.
- Format the full manuscript
- Save it in the different sample sizes requested (3 pages, 3 chapters, 50 pages, 30 consecutive pages, etc.)
- Prepare a full Book Proposal including:
- Author Bio
- Market (WHO will read the book)
- Promotion (HOW readers will learn about the book)
Put all the material together in an organised way and make sure you have it edited and proofread.
I use online freelancers to proofread and edit my material because it is what I can afford for now.
This is my checklist for the reviewing process:
- Prepare all material in a MS Word document
- Include an updated table of contents
- Write detailed add for freelancer online community
- Post the advert
- Shortlist the freelancers
- Chat with favourite freelancer and ask a few questions (it’s a good way to see how they actually write)
- Make a choice / Engage the freelancer and send material
- Once the material is back, go over track changes, change by change (never, ever click accept all)
- Format the final material into the pieces you need (for attachment, in pdf or word; or to add to body of email)
- EXCITING TIME: Ready to submit!
Only then you are really ready for submission. Reserve quality time, when you are not too tired, to make the submissions. The attention to detail —following each agents rules and double checking nothing has changed since you noted them — is essential to your success.
Part 2 – Listing the Content you Will Need to Prepare
Once you have your shortlist of agents (see how to build your list in part 1) you would like to submit to, you must create a list of what they ask for in the first and second instances.
First Instance – Query Letter
Most agents do not accept submissions, they accept queries. They state in large bold letters WE DO NOT ACCEPT UNSOLICITED MATERIAL, or something of the kind.
But even these, sometimes, accept queries. This means they allow you to ask them if they want you to send them your material. I know, it feels like a begging process where they have all the strength and you have none, but don’t get discouraged, it is what it is and it is important to follow their rules to give you a chance to get through.
As you have seen in Part 1, I am willing, with boundaries, I won’t send my work to aggressive and grudging people, for example. But for the rest, my project deserves the best of me and I am happy to do what is necessary to get it out there. That means queries.
Each agent states what they want in their queries or with their queries. Sometimes they only want the Query Letter, sometimes they ask for a short summary or a few chapters of your book. Make a list of everything all of your agents want from you.
Second instance – Book Submission
From my research I have realised that if the agent likes your query letter and wants to see more, they want it straight away and that is not a simple matter.
Some of the agents will tell you what you should have ready if they want to see your book submission, it can be the full manuscript or part of the manuscript, it usually includes an author bio but they might ask for other book-related aspects.
Again, make a detailed list of what they might ask following. It is important to note that agents and agencies may have different demands if your project is fiction or non-fiction, screenplay or illustrated book. Make sure you note the right demands for your type of material.
Create two lists:
1) List by Agency
- Note if they want to receive a query or a direct submission
- Email address or form-on-website address
- Specificities about the subject line (yes, they are this detailed)
- Note if the email is for a specific person/agent, if not, you need to add the agent name in the Subject Line
- Any specificity of what the letter should contain
- (e.g. a paragraph about the writer)
- Specific demands that you fulfil
- (e.g. that you are Australian for an agent that only represents Australian writers)
- If they want or refuse attachments and want you to put everything in the body of the email
- What you should have ready for the next stage, if they want to see a full submission
2) List by Material Needed
Separate what you need to have ready for the first and second instances. List everything all the agents are looking for and get to work.
See below an example of what my lists looked like.