THE DREADED REVISION PROCESS

I’ve been meaning to write a series of posts about my publishing journey with the hope that it might help someone who is in the querying trenches. My last post was a while ago after I’d just signed with my agent. Since then I got a book deal (dreams do come true!) and now in less than a year THE LOVE AND LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI will be out in the world. Some days I still have to pinch myself to believe that it’s actually happening.

So I thought it might be helpful if I write about what the process has been like for me so far.

Revising With My Agent

After signing with my agent in November of 2016, we got down to the business of revisions. My agent is highly editorial and very hands-on which is exactly what I wanted and needed. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have clear communication, especially during your initial conversations. It is so important to be on the same page as far as what you both expect from this relationship, because hopefully it will be a long-term one.

Now, obviously your agent offered to represent you because they already loved your writing. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of room for improvement. One of the things I learned during the revision process is that there is always a way to make your writing even better. Your agent can guide you through this. They are a sounding board, someone who is in your corner and wants the book to be amazing as much as you do. Remember this when you first get your edit letter and take a very deep breath. But then don’t forget to let it out.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind as you go through the edit letter:

-You may not agree with everything your agent says. And this is perfectly okay. It is your book after all and no one knows your story and your characters as well as you do. But an agent offers a different perspective, an experienced set of eyes which is something really invaluable. But again, it’s completely fine to disagree on things. What you don’t want to do is take it personally and react from that mindset. I think many of us wish/think that we’ve written this fabulous novel and an agent will read it and absolutely love it and not want to make any changes because of said fabulousness. I’m sure that happens for some people, but for most of us whipping a book into shape so that it’s ready for submission can be a grueling process during which we convince ourselves many times that what we write is utter garbage. Or maybe that was just me.

-Don’t rush the process. I admit that I’m definitely guilty of this. I am a very impatient person, so it took a lot of discipline for me to hold back and not rush through any revisions. Reminding myself that my agent was devoting her time and energy to give me thorough notes helped. I wanted to improve my manuscript with each revision. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t right away. You just have to keep going, stepping away when you need to, doing something unrelated to writing just so you can approach each revision with a clear mind.

When I look back at those few months I spent on revisions with my agent, I am so grateful that I had her excellent notes and open mind to guide me through it all. My book is so much better because of it.

Next up: Revising With My Editor

Celebrating the Little Things

The last few months have been trying ones for me and the amazing women who are my closest friends. We always try to tighten the circle when one of us needs the extra support. Recently we have been there for each other as we lost parents, worried about our aging ones and stressed about our teen and young adult children. It’s easy to forget about the many little things that bring us joy when we feel so overwhelmed by the big things that seem to come at us with a vengeance.

I don’t want us to lose sight of the little things as everything else engulfs us. I look at my friends and I am in awe of them. For taking back control of their lives, for not letting anyone diminish their accomplishments, for knowing when to be there for their families and when to stand up for themselves. I draw strength from them, knowing that they will remind me to pay attention to the little things too.

A few days ago I got an email saying that my book Realm of the Goddess  was selected as a First Place Category Award Winner in the 2015 Paranormal Awards for Supernatural Powers and Paranormal Fiction. I allowed myself a moment of feeling thrilled but then was immediately distracted by other big things going on in my day.

It wasn’t until later on in the middle of the night when I was staring at the ceiling that it hit me. My little self-published book had won something. And that reminded me that we need to acknowledge the small victories because they will give us the courage to go for the big ones.

 

Networking Events for Writers

Yesterday I attended a great event put on by the Surrey Public Library at the striking new City Centre branch. It was part of the Write Here, Read Now program and featured the inspiring Martin Crosbie, author of How I sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle, a self-publishing guidebook. In the 75 minutes that he had he did an outstanding job of presenting a plethora of useful steps to how aspiring authors can self-publish and not bankrupt themselves in the process. In the past, I have attended workshops and presentations on self-publishing and to be quite honest, mostly what I took away from them was how difficult it would be and how little success I should realistically expect. Add to that the fact that I am not great at the technical aspect of it. Martin Crosbie, on the other hand, makes it seem so achievable that it lit a fire in me once again. The best part of it is how encouraging he is to writers who are just beginning their journey. I also met the fabulous Lorna Suzuki, author of The Imago Chronicles. She was one of the writers in  Authors Among Us, an ongoing event at the library where you can listen to various writers give readings from their books and then ask questions and interact with them. I was able to spend some time with her afterwards and share some of my concerns. Ten minutes with her and once again I was on a motivational high. We’ve all been there, in that place of self doubt, of insecurity and frustration, when it feels that we’re stuck. Which brings me to my main point. I feel extremely fortunate to live in a city where the public library puts on multiple events that bring together successful authors of different genres and at various levels of success, so that aspiring writers can connect with them, learn from them and most of all be inspired by them. We all know that writing can be a somewhat lonely activity, but events like these make you realize that there is a community of writers nearby, where you can find guidance and encouragement and where hopefully, one day, you too can pay it forward.

Writers’ Conferences: Why Every Aspiring Writer Should Attend

Writing can be a lonely profession and networking is a writer’s best friend. Writers’ Conferences provide an excellent opportunity to meet experienced writers as well as others who are just starting out. We all need encouragement when we start the long, often arduous journey to being published. Spending a weekend in the company of veteran authors who have successfully traversed the great divide that exists between the budding author and the published one, can be an unparalleled experience.

I attended the Surrey International Writer’s Conference  in British Columbia, Canada for the past two years, and it has been  an invaluable learning experience for me. I thought I would share some of the details with my readers so here goes:

First of all let me say this – what you learn at a conference in three days is equivalent to taking several long running writing courses. You have your pick of workshops, everything from writing great dialogue to character building to publishing. Then there are contests, readings and book signings. You get to meet the most inspiring people, published and unpublished writers that just get the fire going. It can be a little overwhelming at times, but if you pace yourself, you will get so much out of it. Other than the obvious learning aspect, there is one more reason that a writers’ conference is such a great event. You spend three days in this bubble, where you can forget the outside world and just soak in everything related to writing. It’s great when you’re in the company of others that are excited about writing. You leave feeling rejuvenated and exhausted at the same time, but with a renewed energy to keep going and this to me is priceless.

The downside is that these conferences are pretty costly. At the SIWC about $600 will buy you the full access package which includes all the workshops, lunches, themed dinners and after dinner events which can be a hoot. It does not include travel or accomodation. Of course it helps if you live nearby or if you have a friend who is also attending, so that you can share these costs. If you are attending from out of town, the conference website will usually help you get in touch with others who are attending and are looking to share rides or rooms.You can also reduce the cost  if you choose only to attend the three days of workshops, but not the lunches and dinners. You still get to meet with authors and editors as that is usually built into the basic package. The first year I attended, I chose the full package as I did not want to miss anything. I hadn’t anticipated just how tiring  a full day of intense workshops can be. Although lunchtimes provide a great setting to meet new people, if you look at the cost versus benefit ratio, it’s fine to miss the lunches because you still get plenty of opportunity to chat up people  throughout the weekend.  But for first time attendees I really recommend the full package. I’m glad I got to do it all the first time around, so for the second time, I knew what to pick and what to leave out.

For me the best part is the pitch session, where you get to talk about your work to an agent or editor of your choice. Then there is the opportunity to show a piece of your work to an author who can give invaluable feedback.

So, if you have the opportunity to attend  even one Writers’ Conference you should do it. You will not regret it and who knows what wondrous opportunities might come your way.

The Abandoned Palace: Fatehpur Sikri

Painting of Akbar the Great with Jesuits at hi...
Painting of Akbar the Great with Jesuits at his court; Akbar’s vizier wrote a gazetteer on the Mughal realm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Imperial palace at Fathepur Sikri, near Agra, ...
Imperial palace at Fathepur Sikri, near Agra, India, built in 1580 Français : Palais impérial à Fatehpur-Sikrî, près d’Âgrâ en Inde, construit en 1580 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On our trip to India two years ago we visited Fatehpur Sikri. A lot of the action in my book takes place in old temples and palaces, so this was a perfect spot for some great inspiration.  The Mughal Emperor Akbar had this palace city built in the late 1570’s when he relocated the capital of his empire from Agra to Fatehpur. The architecture is a dazzling blend of Persian and Hindu styles. The design bears testament to the religious tolerance that Akbar was well known for. While the Mughals were devout Muslims, Akbar chose to educate himself on the tenets of Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism, as well as Christianity. In the palace he dedicated a large hall, called the Ibadat Khana or Room of Worship. There he invited scholars and leaders of other religions to meet and discuss their faith with the goal of enlightenment and brotherhood. Surprisingly forward thinking for his time, Akbar even invited women to join these weekly gatherings. But he didn’t just stop at gatherings and discussions. Akbar tried to create a new faith which was an amalgamation of all the faiths he had encountered. He called this faith Din-i-Ilahi, Faith of the Divine. Unfortunately for him, the ministers of his court were not quite so open-minded, and prejudices got in the way of his tolerance. Those closest to him began to worry that his open acceptance of the other faiths would pose a threat and political circumstances did not allow the new religion to gain popularity. Sadly, a few years later, Akbar’s court abandoned the palace at Fatehpur Sikri due to a water shortage.Today, the city still stands, nothing more than a ghost town of courtyards and surrounding pavilions. Walking around the complex you can almost hear the echoes of children playing in the gardens while the Emperor’s wives lounged by the pond. Inside the empty palace it is easy to feel the intensity and passion that must have filled the Ibadat Khana when Akbar led the scholarly discussions on the some of the world’s major religions.

As a writer there is nothing more inspiring than a place filled with so much  history and intrigue. Every room seems filled with secrets and stories just come alive as you walk in the footsteps of so many who made and changed the circumstances of their time.

Helicopter Parenting: How much is too much?

Week 36: Helicopter Parent
Week 36: Helicopter Parent (Photo credit: WilliamsProjects)

As parents we often have to tread carefully to avoid stepping on the fine line between good parenting and over parenting. How do we know when enough is enough? Is there a magic age when we can say that we have done all that we could for our children and that the time has come to step back?

I thought I was a helicopter parent. I hovered in preschool, in elementary school and would have continued to hover in high school if I had not walked into that invisible wall as my oldest daughter went off to her first day. It wasn’t an actual wall that stopped me…it was a look of sheer horror and embarrassment on my daughter’s face as she realized that I was stepping out of the car and following her. That look stopped me in my tracks. I realized that I had gone as far as I could. I stood outside her school like an abandoned child for a few minutes, before it hit me. This was it. No more greeting the teacher as the kids walked in and hanging around the classroom if they needed parent helpers. Apparently, once your kids hit high school, parent helpers are synonymous with the plague. I realized that I needed to get a life of my own, hence the desire to start a career as a writer. Also, I had some time to transition since I had another child and her teachers to harrass for a few more years.

Which brings me to the article  about helicopter parenting. Apparently it is a real affliction. It seems that there are parents out there who haven’t heard of the invisible wall I was talking about. And if they did, they may have just crashed through it anyway. I’m not judging because I know I’m just as guilty of hovering, but I do draw the line at calling my children’s prospective employers or future university profs. But extreme hovering tactics aside, when do we let go? Do we deprive our children the benefit of our experiences and failures and allow them room to make their own mistakes? Is it hyper-parenting to want to spare your child the disappoinments that you have faced and give them an edge? I don’t have the answers, but I do know that it is a daily struggle to decide when to step in or back off. After all, it is our children’s future that’s at stake.

Editing: Off To A Good Start

WAIITIN
WAIITIN (Photo credit: khalid Albaih)

My editor sent back the first twelve chapters of my manuscript and I must say that the feedback was very helpful. It’s as if we share a brain except he knows just how to organize the thoughts and I’m still all over the place. It was incredible reading his comments and realizing that he picked up on all the issues I was having and suggested ways to make them better. Am I lucky or what?

Now I am looking at massive rewrites, but that’s better than not knowing whether my concerns are valid or just the product of self-doubt. There was an interesting thing about his feedback when I received the second batch of chapters. I noticed that he gives compliment sandwiches. He’ll say something positive, then point out things he didn’t like and end on a positive note. Interesting…I wonder if that’s something all editors do or if my editor is just really nice.