Monday, February 28, 2011

My Kingdom, my Vegas, my golden god......

Recently I took a vacation. To Las Vegas. I'm a whore for a good character. And let me tell you, Las Vegas is the place to go to meet some rich characters. Every dealer has a story. Every laughing, gambling couple. All the homeless on the streets. So much sad and luxury. So much kitsch and trend. My head buzzed, no... ached... with the cacophony of voices struggling to get free from closed mouths. Mouths with smiles pasted across lips even as their eyes betrayed them.

Poker chips and smoke. The smell of sour fruit embedded into carpets from spilled drinks. The desperate people standing beside the rich. Each roll of the dice meaning something different for each person.

Sometimes it hurts to be a writer. No. It hurts all the time.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Road to Publication: Ten Stages of Fear

1. I'll never finish this book.
2. I finished this book.
3. What do I do with this book?
4. Query Who? Query What?
5. OH! Agents. Okay. Hit send. Bite nails for a long time.
6. Count Rejections with bandaids on fingers.
7. Get offers. Who do I choose? (If you choose the wrong agent, go back to step one. I know. I did it.)
8. Revise for agent. (Ohmygod what if the agent reads it again and can't remember why he/she signed me?)
9.Go on submission to publishers. (What if I can't sell my book? I'm so close!)
10. Bargin bin book with a green neon sticker over my name. (Oh HELL no!)

I'm between stage 8 and 9 with an aching fear of 10.

where are you?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Peg Leg Suzy

Today I decided to put on my fashionably high boots. This was an exercise in patience because they are SO HARD to put on. I have to shove my leg in, then wiggle my foot around then tug then wriggle then tug. You know...

So in the middle of it, with one boot on and one boot almost on-- the phone rings. I get up and walk across the wooden floor to answer it. My heels click unevenly. One confident, one dragging.

My writing mind kicks in. This is what a peg leg sounds like.

So I don't answer the phone. I walk around the house until I know how to write down the feeling. I mean... I don't have any plans to write a book about pirates... but you never can be too sure, right?

Wow. It's crazy, this writers life. Hop on over to my other blog for a birthday tribute.. if you'd like.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Clouds in my Head

My youngest daughter, four year old Grace Louise, woke up yesterday morning and told me about her dreams.  She said Daddy had frenchfries in his arms and I had clouds in my head.

"Did I?"
"Yes, and in you ears and eyes and mouth too," she said.

Writing does that to me. Puts clouds in my head instead of realer things like orthodontist appointments, bed making, dish washing, work going. Etc.

I can't tell you the things I've said YES to without even knowing what's been asked. the keyboard gets in my way.  I enter a place where time and space don't exist.

So for me, it's not about writer's block. For some reason that doesn't happen (yet). For me it's the fact that if I can't get at least three hours to write, I might as well not start becaue I'll be under water the whole time and say YES to bad things. Like:

Frosting for breakfast
Bike rides on ice.

Oh Dear Writing Gods! Help me finish these revisions and keep my children safe at the same time!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On Rejection of the Literary Sort

NOTE: This is a repost. A heavily edited repost. Enjoy!

I finished my first novel in December 2008.

What I didn't know still amazes me. I didn't know you had to find a literary agent. I didn't know you couldn't just send your manuscript in a brown paper package and wait for a publisher to reject or publish your work. The business doesn't run that way anymore. The big houses require an agent submit your work, the indie houses are great, but they are very picky about what they represent, and the self pub route just isn't for me. And the really priceless part is that many of the great literary agents don't accept what they call "unsolicited queries" either. Huh? Shut UP...right?

So I did what any good American would do. I asked everyone I knew if they had an "in." And one did! Yeah! I was saved. But I did the unthinkable. I happily sent agent number 1 the wrong draft of my manuscript. Damn my disorganization, damn email, damn hitting send.

Agent number 1 was really nice to me. She told me my writing was "strong" which I know now is agent speak for "please don't kill yourself. I can't have your blood on my hands..." because that term "your writing is strong" pops up in almost every form rejection I've seen.

I didn't even know what a query letter was. I found out. And then I did unthinkable thing number two. I queried widely, to the most open and friendly of agents. To the agents who would really like my book. But I didn't research how to write a query letter first. Yes, I know. You don't have to say it. I'm still shaking my head. I filled those queries with boastful, typo'd comments and sent them out with names spelled wrong and with a vain, puffy bio. No joke. Some were nice enough to send out the automated rejections. Some weren't and I don't blame them.

I then wrote the good one. Really good! In fact I got a lot of response to my "good query letter." And the requests for partials flooded my inbox.

That's the process, for those who don't know it. You send the query and if the agent likes it they ask for a partial, if the agent likes that, they ask for the full, if the agent likes that you get an agent! Which still doesn't mean you get your book published, because after all that work, the agent has to do the same thing you just did with the actual publishing houses. Crazy right? Yep.

So I send those partials out and I proceed to do unthinkable thing number three. I know... high drama. Agents don't seem to like prologues. My manuscript started with one of those. Agents don't seem to like back story, my manuscript was full of it. (But I like a good back story, doesn't anyone want any description anymore? Sheesh.) And let's not even touch the typo issue. Needless to say as soon as I sent them out, the rejections on the partials began to pour right back in. Yuck. Oh sad and sorry day.

So here is my take on the whole adventure. I am a really lucky person. I have found what I love to do. This is rare. I can finish a book. That is rare. I learned the process the hard way... I don't think that is rare... maybe? I would like to think I am not the stupidest first time novelist on the face of the planet, but I guess I could be. Absolutely anything is possible.

Here are some of my favorite rejections from that first submission process:

"This is brilliantly written. A really sharp, vivid portrait.Unfortunately, this isn’t something we could represent ourselves. I wish you good luck elsewhere" This one made me very, very happy until I searched some writers forums and found out this person is usually very nice.

And then there was this one. I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants. It made me want to query him again with the next one. It made me want to sit with him and drink a beer. I am not kidding:

"'I am 38 years old and this will be my first published novel.'I can hear Annette Benning's American Beauty character saying that." My friend Sarah thought it was mean, but I think he was right. I can see Benning in that scene in the car, you remember..."I will sell this house."

UPDATE: When I finished my second novel I queried that agent again and he rejected me again. I sent him an email saying I loved him and he sent one back saying "I love you too." Unprofessional? YES. Really, really amusing? Absolutely!

And I have an agent now. I actually got one agent with my second novel and we parted ways. Now I have a much better fit for novel number three.

Would I do anything differently? Of course. The question is: Will you?  Will you avoid all those pitfalls?  Hopefully!

In the end, after all these words I only have a few more to say, and they are the most important: New writers. If you don't have leather skin and a sense of humor... run for the hills!