Monday, March 2, 2009

First Novels in First Person? And Martha Moody

I've decided to leave Strachan's Attic in first person for the time being. As the 1940s secondary character is in third, it seems to alleviate confusion.

I went on the hunt for some good first novels in first person. One of my all-time favorites is "Best Friends" by Martha Moody. (Of course, you'll think of many others.) Incidentally, this was a first novel at over 125,000 words! I was so impressed with this (I didn't know the 90k-first-novel rule when I originally read it) that I emailed her to ask how difficult it was for her to find that first agent. I doubted I'd hear back, as I was sure Ms. Moody had better things to do with her time, including, probably, work on her fourth novel, but I had to ask the question. Well, writers are, on the whole, very generous people, who are comfortable enough to share; Ms Moody got back to me almost immediately, with her right shoulder recovering from surgery, writing with her left hand. That's dedication to the craft! Here's what she said (I corrected her poor lefthand typoes):
Wrote about 30 agents, 9 query letters. No one wanted to look at it. Eventually the wife of my poetry professor in college recommended me to an agent, who read the whole thing and took it. Use any connections. Be persistent. Length for me wasn’t a problem. I tried to make MS irresistable, otherwise it would be resisted and I got lucky.
So, to sum up, if you're a special talent, like Martha, and if the Gods are in a really good mood, you could bend the rules.

And, of course, if Hafan Deg were to sell first, Strachan will be a second novel. Problem solved.

As I've been posting at this blog, I've been moving through a sort of writing class. Not 101, because I was always pretty confident about the basic writing, but there have been so many other things that I've learned. Perhaps I could have Googled my questions and more or less satisfied myself, but getting feedback here for some of my frustrations has been invaluable. I felt, from the beginning, that this blog would be hugely helpful, and it has been, for me - and perhaps for you. The major thing was completing the work. Without your eyes out there, watching, checking that I'm on target, perhaps I wouldn't have finished Hafan Deg by now, nor would I have restarted Strachan's Attic. You are my conscience, my own little cheerleading squad, and I appreciate all of you.

I goofed off this weekend, in case you noticed the Stagnant Word Count. I returned to Real Life, with people who spoke almost entirely in the First Person, who used lots of adverbs, adjectives, and with dialogue that waffled on, with great swadges of back story tossed in - all quite unnecessary to the forward movement of the action. I absolutely loved it. Real life, hmm? I'll have to do it more often.

Since I last posted, I've received two more rejections, one of which was instant - barely time for someone to read the subject line. So here's how it stands in the Submission Stats Diary today: Submissions Pending 12, Rejections 5. Will take advice from you on this, meeting you all in the middle, and submit one query for every rejection, so that the Pendings will remain at twelve.

I found the following sweet farewell at Query Tracker yesterday. It's uplifting to see something like this, and I wanted to share it:

I’ve signed with an agent, and just wanted to say goodbye and share a few thoughts. Many of you have been on QueryTracker as long as I have. So here are my stats: 1 year, 34 queries (2 editors, 32 agents), 5 no responses, 21 rejections, 3 partials, and 5 fulls, to get 1 offer of representation. And the craziest thing is that this agent originally rejected this ms almost a year ago saying she loved it, but didn’t have time for a brand new author. So, timing, luck, and perseverance win again! Good luck to all of you. Never, never give up the dream!

4 comments:

Faith Bretherick said...

Fran, forgive the long delay. Technical ineptitude and too many distractions must take the blame (and me, obviously).

I have submitted my own fishy tale to two publishers last week and take a lack of instant rejection as being an encouragement of sorts.

I am now considering my next which, as a complete break from my style hitherto, will be 'first person' except the person isn't human. And I've achieved the first two paragraphs so far. Hmm, all good ideas have to start somewhere!

Fran said...

Great that you're going forward with Hake, Faith, and the new book!

Would love to take a look at first person non-human some time. Intriguing...

Faith Bretherick said...

When I've assembled at least a couple of pages, I'll send them to you and see what you think. English eccentric probably!

Lapillus said...

How nice of Ms. Moody to share. Don't you just love the writing community? And yes, there are always exceptions to the rule if you can manage to be remarkable in what you're doing. Now if only that were easy...

What a nice farewell message, too.

I think I need a bit more Real Life in my life. Hum. I'm glad you had a nice time with it.