Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ending the Year Without a Whimper...

I know it's been ages since I've blogged. For those of you who have followed me, it's been a rather long haul, listening to my general frustrations. I hope my basic optimism shone through, all the same. I'd hate to be accused of ending the year with a whimper.

On the agent front, I have nothing new to add. The manuscript for my first book, A Place of Dreams, was read in full by a wonderful, to-die-for New York agent, but eventually rejected as "too quiet". Isn't that sad? Sad for me, of course, but also for all those writers out there who still believe there is a place in literature for stories that contain nothing blood-curdling, gruesome, or violent. According to the agent, the writing is remarkable, characters well-formed, plot momentum excellent, but, in the end, not exciting enough. 

I still have a Full out there for one of my other books, which is in the supernatural genre so beloved by most, but I find it hard to feel much optimism about it. The truth is, as this year closes, I'm not thinking much about my writing at all. I've put everything on the figurative back burner of my brain. 

In the last week, I've produced six new paintings, and have more in my head ready to go for the New Year. They are amazingly therapeutic. I have no idea what other rejected writers do to heal their wounds (Chocolate? Shopping? Booze? Weed? Sex?), but I wish them nothing but the best for 2013, once the healing is complete.

My latest story, which is sitting at about the third chapter, will remain dormant for a while. I found I was thinking about how I could tart it up to make it less quiet, more violent, a little gruesome, and realized that this is a cop-out. I write what I feel, and I don't particularly like writing that other stuff. I certainly don't write what I think will be popular. It's my curse, I guess. 

In the meantime, let's keep on keeping on, all of us. Our eventual readers are waiting for us. (Such patience!) 

May you all have a wonderful Yuletide season and rewarding New Year. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The 'Dear John' I Sent to My Agent

I have ended the arrangement with my dear agent. The contract expired months ago, but we hung in there together, despite the fact that she was ill for most of last year and was so far behind with her work.

It was a very hard decision for me. She absolutely loved The Place of Dreams - which title she suggested rather than the original, somewhat cumbersome, Hafan Deg. So I will keep it. It's almost representational of all my writing - for when we write, doesn't it feel like a kind of dreaming?

And I continue to dream about what is possible for all my work, despite the setbacks.

Finding an agent who has fallen in love with your work is a very special thing. I clung to the idea that this was the one, this time we would get somewhere...but it wasn't to be. I didn't want to add more stress to her days with constant emails, didn't want to ask where the manuscript had been. I was so very, very patient, and I truly am not getting any younger.

But on Monday, sending off queries for my other books (which I mentioned I'd started doing in my last post), I suddenly saw how underhanded I was being. It felt a little treacherous, even though I had signed with her for only one book, over eighteen months ago. So I sent off my sad little message, suggesting it was time to find someone new. And it felt just like a 'Dear John' letter - really!

So The Place of Dreams is now out there in the agent-ozone, waiting to be opened, to be read, to get a nice "Interesting!" or "Do-able!" response. Or to join the other books on some kind of digital slush pile.

I'm sort of ok with it now, but I was a bit lost after I fired off that email on Monday. Trooper that she is, a true lady, she was friendly and understanding about my decision. She even agreed that we should remain in touch, shoot the breeze from time to time - my need more than hers, I suspect, as a writer does crave a certain amount of sympathy quite regularly.

And once again I'm back at QueryTracker and Publishers Marketplace, et al, every day, researching, researching, looking for that perfect agent who will fall in love with one of my manuscripts - well, let's be frank - who will fall in love with one of my queries.

Shakespeare wrote "The play's the thing!" as Hamlet tried to "...catch the conscience of the King." But the Query is the most important thing from where I'm sitting, as it tries to catch the eye of an agent. Of course, Shakespeare didn't have to look for an agent - in fact, some say he was the agent for the real playwright of all those works he claimed as his.

Boy, did I get off topic. It's been happening a lot, lately.

This querying business could damage one's mental health. Just saying...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Empathy for the Unpublished Writer

I know I've been very quiet, but I've been working hard. It seems irrelevant to put my word count up on my blog as I used to, because this is something that is meant to inspire me, but could irritate those who are in the doldrums with their own work. So nothing about the new book. Absolutely nothing.

My agent is due to check in with me any day. I am not feeling very optimistic right now, as it's been a long time since she sounded really gung-ho about my book's prospects. So, in the interim, pragmatist that I am, I've started querying agents about my other books, not the one that's presently spoken for. Figured that if I got an offer, I could then decide who I go with.

And what a wild ride it is. I'd completely forgotten the amount of work involved in querying.  At least now I have the luxury of deciding which book might suit which agent, and it's rather an enjoyable experience, despite the usual rejections.

Speaking of rejections, does it hurt for an agent to set up a nice, friendly, personal-looking form letter that almost uplifts us? I find the "Not for us, thanks." response totally degrading. Are we not worth just a little bit extra for all the research we do -- all those lovely letters we compose directed to their special preferences, the carefully submitted synopsis and chapters in the body of the email, or as attachments in Word, or submitted via their online forms, no synopsis because they're evil, letter query only, or five pages, ten pages, one chapter, fifty pages, whatever? I am going a little mad here, you'll see... And all of this AFTER we've written the best damned book we were capable of, perfectly proofed, edited again and again, and formatted within an inch of its life.

So (takes deep breath) I sympathize with all of you in this rocky boat. It takes huge courage to decide we are ready to put our work out there. It takes a massive amount of faith and belief in ourselves. I salute all of you for hanging in.

But when we rush to our computers every morning to see what the overnight mail has brought us, it would be so nice, assuming there is yet another rejection, for it to be worded kindly, with empathy. "Not for us, thanks." is like a slap in the face.

Good job we all have thick skin (don't we?) and know we are worthy of far, far more. It will come!

Love you.

Friday, June 22, 2012

88 Books That Shaped America

In case you missed it, The Library of Congress has just released its list of 88 Books 'That Shaped America'. This link is courtesy of USA Today.

I've been too busy lately (the writing fever is back) to even drop by my own blog, but I thought you'd want to see this.

It's reassuring to see some of my own very special favorites, especially "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (which convinced me to become a writer) and "To Kill a Mockingbird", and, of course, "The Catcher in the Rye", but nice that they didn't overlook "Silent Spring", which is as relevant today as it was when it was written almost fifty years ago.

I've read most of these books, devouring them during a steep learning curve in my twenties and thirties, but one I will never read is "In Cold Blood." There are some things I'd prefer not to think about.

Until next time, whenever that is, take care.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Place of Dreams" is On the Road

I heard back from my agent. She's sent Place of Dreams off to several editors over the past couple of months, and she included the names of a few of the publishers. I loved Googling them and imagining by manuscript waiting to be read by one of their best.

This aspect of the business is new to me. I dispensed with the services of my last agent because I received no feedback from him at all...and he refused to give me a list of people he'd approached. So hearing back from my agent, my new friend, who addresses me as "Dear, Dear Fran", is remarkable.

You're all sitting there thinking, "Well, what did she think an agent would do?" I'm saying I just don't know. These mysterious people are capable of all kinds of behaviors, according to everything I've heard. Some regularly speak to you (well, I'm a bit geographically awkward for regular chats), and others apparently check in by email every couple of weeks. And some never contact you and become cross if you take the initiative and timidly ask what the heck is going on.

I believe my agent is just about right. I don't need constant reassurance, just a note now and then to say that my book is out there on the digital road.

I've completed the chapter synopsis for my new book, in rough form, naturally, because this is the very early stage of setting up the structure. I think I have my ending, which is vital to me, and I've finished the draft of the first chapter. Still not quite sure about the title. Have one, but I'm tinkering with it.

Writing in my head a lot, during the day, and just before falling asleep. It's becoming so real, plot-wise, that I'm barely making notes, unless it's a particularly clever bit of dialogue. This is the slow time now, trying to get really caught up in the thing. I'm getting closer and closer every day to taking off with it, feeling the rush of words that can't be ignored.

All this painting lately, and I've really missed my writing...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Earning Something from Writing...Daydream of an Indomitable Writer

I had never missed a month in the years I've been posting this blog. Until now. I overlooked January 2012. Shame on me. I've been painting. No excuse at all.

I am quite poor, you know, mostly as a result of traveling too much (internationally relocating too often, to be precise) and following my two other major raisons-d'etre - writing and painting. I am able to augment my meagre income with the occasional sale of humble artworks, but there is absolutely no financial gain from my (less humble) fiction. To date. Which leads me to my little dream of 'what if?', which rarely presents itself, but when it does, I indulge it.

What if I do sell one of my novels...even all of them (four so far)? How would this change my life? Being very equitable in my attitude to money, I'm not expecting to reap huge rewards. Why should A earn so much, compared with B's earning so little, for the same standard of work? So my theoretical advance from a publisher would be suitably undramatic. A few grand, ten or even twenty. Wouldn't that be nice? No expectations of six figures, which I think is a fantasy some cling to.

To be earning something from my writing would have to be the greatest thing in the world, even if it barely covered a mortgage. I rent at present. It makes me miserable. I am only truly happy owning my own home, even if a lot of it is co-owned by a bank.

Selling a book - whatever the print run - would be heaven. And I've started thinking about that scenario again. Jaded and disillusioned as I sometimes get about the industry, there is still this microscopic - no -  nano-hint of hope in my brain.

You're probably aware (if you've read my snippets before) that I have an agent. She was quite ill in 2011, but is well into recovery now, and actively trying to seduce editors into looking at her undoubtedly fat list of manuscripts. One of them is mine. I daydream about her dialogue with one of said editors..."You must read this one first," she says. "This one will blow your socks off," she says. "Don't look at another submission until you've read this," she says. Oh, and I just love how warmly she says it, and how the editor's eyes widen with anticipation. This then, she thinks, is the one we've been waiting for, to put this company back in the limelight.

I love my daydreams. For a while, I believe. We writers have to be the most optimistic people on the face of the earth. But you knew that.

It's now one year since I completed my last book. Enough is enough. This painting has to stop. It's a substitute for my real work. I hope I have better news next time.

Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky