Writing

The First Cut

IMG_0099I remember back in my childhood, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Rod Stewart lamenting that ‘the first cut is the deepest‘. Over the weekend I sent out a whole slew of queries, partials, and some with my dreaded synopsis  for my book, Shadowed Castles all in hopes of landing that coveted agent.

Today I received my first rejection. It was polite but most definitely a form letter. I am not devastated as this was for a cold query to an agent at ICM Partners. It was a long shot. Also, this agent only judged my work from a very short query letter. Several agents have requested my work in part or full so this is not the end all, but perhaps the beginning of a long string of politely worded rejections. I sent out a lot of queries.

Thank you for thinking to query me with your project. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like a good fit for my list at this time. Again, thank you, and best of luck finding an agent.

While this is not something I was hoping for, it beats the latest industry trend of simply ignoring query letters from writers whom the agent is not interested in. I still have to send out the full requests, and for those and any other full requests I may receive, a rejection will hurt much more. The scary thing about these rejections, I am told, is that once an agent rejects your work, then that whole agency rejects your work and you may not submit to them again. They will just ignore you if you do. At least, that is what I am told.

In order to keep rejections down to a minimum when we get to the high stakes round, partial and full requests, I am going to put my whole manuscript, all 32 chapters through one last set of edits. I have had three people that I trust edit for me, but I still find the unbearable errors of sentence structure (should there have been a comma there?), tense, spelling (there instead of their– you know the kind of errors spell check doesn’t pick up), repetitive words (did I really just use the word huge in three sentences in a row?), out of control adverbs (I like adverbs rather a lot), and inconsistency in voice.

It will be less sleep for me as I do my 1500 words plus a chapter or two of edits each night, but it will be worth it. Because the truth is, the first cut is not the deepest. It’s the many cuts, the sting of rejection after rejection that mauls and tears at your spirit. I would rather not suffer those slings and arrows if there is a way to avoid it.

Writing

Courting Silence and Rejection

IMG_0144Well, there’s no more putting it off. It is time to send off all the partial and full requests I acquired at the Writer’s Digest Conference. Also, on much advice, it is time to send out a butt load of queries to agents who skipped this conference.  I feel somewhat better about my query ability thanks to Janet Ried (Janet Reid’s Amazing Blog for Writer’s) . However, I can’t help feel, despite my finely crafted query letter, painstakingly brilliant synopsis, and a fully edited manuscript that I am in for a world of silence and rejection.

In Janet’s blog post on Tuesday, August 19th, she enumerated my specific fears about the whole query process and what will become of me if I screw it up. True, she was answering some question about the difference between YA and Adult. Heck, Janet has never heard of me. But the list in that blog were my actual fears. She mentioned being exiled to Carkoon where I would have to dwell among kale plants forever. I have an irrational fear of kale, and I do believe that kale is a legitimate punishment agents will inflict on unworthy writers. She also mentioned this Super Secret Agent blacklist thing that sounds pretty legit to me. Well, then she claimed none of the horrible things she mentioned would happen. I really wish I believed her.

I do understand that rejection and silence is part of the process a writer must go through, but that doesn’t make this any easier. Even J.K. Rowling was rejected 16 times. Maybe it was 18. (And boy do those agents/publishers feel silly now). So it happens to even really terrific writers. I accept that, and I am going to share all my humbling rejection with those readers who accidentally stumble upon this blog and wonder how they got here.

If you are reading this and have never actually met me before, I don’t mean to alarm you, but the minions of Hell know who you are and are inflicting this blog on you as a preview to other torments they have devised. Wait until you get to the Monday morning, no coffee torment. It’s truly diabolical.

In this first round, the opportunities for rejection, silence, or positive response will come from:

  1. 4 unsolicited queries with no sample pages
  2. 8 unsolicited queries with synopsis and sample pages per submission guidelines
  3. 5 partial requests from conference

I will be doing this in a dozen or so queries (according to submission guidelines) at a time. In a place where demonic minions did not tread, eventually I will get an offer of representation, or many, and will have something useful to share with other aspiring writers. In the meantime, try not to laugh too hard at my plight. Now, it is past my bedtime and I must retreat from reality once more.

Writing

Battling the Monday Monster

IMG_0149After a weekend of conquering both query letters and a synopsis, writing an entry for a flash fiction contest (write a story in 100 words or less), and some productive editing, the real world returned as it does and kicked me in the ass. Yes, Monday and the dreaded day job came and mightily pooed on me.

I really should just get rid of my television. It does nothing to improve the state of being that is Monday. It’s impossible to tell the news from the shows. And when I get home from work, it’s all just the news. I feel a responsibility to be informed, but let me tell you, that will not happen watching the news, and it won’t matter which channel you are tuned to. It’s all garbage. Best to turn that television off until season six of Game of Thrones.

More often now I find myself feeling like some alien-invaded body. During the day when I’m stuck in traffic, sitting at my desk writing code, or in a meeting discussing solutions to this or that problem, I feel a sense of non-being, almost if I’ve become a damned to being one of Screwtape’s decimal points for all eternity  (You have read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, yes?)

My daughter moved back to college this weekend. It’s her senior year. She won’t be moving back in with me. That’s still nagging at me. Money is tight. It always is, always has been.  So it’s off to the day job, five days a week most of the time. That’s the reality of writing. It won’t often provide a living all on its own. It’s an art and for me it’s a need. As much as my life requires oxygen, it requires me to spin these tales.

The thing I look forward to the most all day long is retiring to my little office as the sun goes down, lighting candles, going under my headphones, and disappearing into worlds of my own making. There where all manner of frightful beasts stalk and reign, I disappear in a world more gloriously real than any Monday morning traffic jam, design meeting, or whatever the latest news story is being touted to distract us from the real horrors of this world. Here I confront those demons that taunt all of us.

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process one does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will stare back at you.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Once I emerge from my revelry of spinning words into tales, I take to my bed with a book in hand. This week I am reading Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaimon’s Good Omens, Hollow City (the latest in Ransom Rigg’s Peculiar Children), and Citizens of London by Lynne Olson which is a historical account of Americans living in London as World War II broke out.

In Good Omens, a book about an angel and demon trying to prevent the apocalypse, the demon, Crawley (he’s thinking of changing his name) says that demons don’t have nearly the imagination of man and so there really isn’t much for them to do. Humans think of far more horrible things to do to one another than a demon ever could.  He’s rather glum about it. I’m kind of with poor old demonic Crawley on that point. I doubt we have demons to blame for crappy Mondays. It’s like Simon said in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. “Maybe it’s just us.”  I would rather there were dragons to slay, magic rings to fling into fiery mountains, or swords to pull out of stones to awaken a savior king. So I write and I read so on Tuesday I can do that whole day job thing once more.

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While Waiting To Take a Bath

So I do not believIMG_0151e I have been banned from the publishing industry. In fact, I think that despite myself, that my trip to New York to attend the Writer’s Digest Conference was well worth the money, sleep deprivation, and steady attack of nerves. I won’t say my pitch was perfect but good enough to get a fair number of requests for pages and one full request from well-respected agencies I would not otherwise have access to. I am excited so now I am going to take a bath. I rarely take enough time to do the bath thing- it’s usually a shower in a hurry. Sometimes I forget to take off my clothes. I am still so surprised that they come off. But that’s another story.

So I guess the real work begins. I must now write a 2 page synopsis (gulp and I’d rather face a fire-breathing, garlic eating dragon), compose a much improved query letter (I hope), and do one last intense edit of my 487 page manuscript.  I would like to give a big thanks to Janet Reid (Janet Reid’s blog) and her wonderful seminar on the query letter at the Writer’s Digest Conference.  I really needed this. I can write a lovely 150,000 word manuscript, but that 100-200 word query letter…well, like I said in my last post, I was crap at. Let’s hope I am much improved. On we go…until next time

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There’s a Chance This Could Be Whiskey

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So I finished a 150,000 word book, finished it. It took seven years of late nights, long weekends, giving up sleep, drinking ridiculous amounts of coffee, and not nearly enough whiskey. It is the first of seven books in my series Idylls of Alleysiande. And I am not talking a first draft. I think this baby went through at least 106 revisions.

Anyhow, I finished writing a book. If you ever wrote a book, then you know what a huge thing this is – unless you happen to be James Patterson or Brad Thor and finish writing a book every week or so. Honestly, I don’t know how some authors do it. So I took a deep breath and formatted the manuscript carefully, made 10 copies neatly bound for carefully chosen beta readers (the greatest things ever). For the most part, I did not know these beta readers well at all. I wanted honest feedback, and I got it. Along with some very astute suggestions, and a few grammatical edits, I was rewarded with people who really enjoyed the story. So now, I feel ready to seek an agent, and thereby get this book published.

So I am off to New York City for the Writer’s Digest Conference. First of all, I am crap at writing a query so it will be handy to get some professional guidance in that regard. Secondly, I will get to pitch my book to as many agents as I can talk to in a one hour period. I make a great first impression…I think. Well, I will either get a couple of agents to look at my book or possibly get banned from the entire New York publishing scene in a single day. It will be interesting to see how this weekend goes. I am nervous and I keep reading blogs about pitching to agent, and they all tell me not to be nervous. So, yeah, there’s a chance there will be whiskey in my coffee cup this weekend.

To be continued…..

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Here There Be Monsters

Dragon“Fairy Tales don’t tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy Tales tell children that dragons can be killed”  Criminal Minds paraphrasing of GK Chesterton

I am not the biggest Criminal Minds fan nor do I read gobs of GK Chesterton but this quote has been sticking in my mind recently.I remember the first time I read Tolkien. Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit told Gandalf the wizard that he thought an attack by dragons might be good for his fellow hobbits. He did not mean it maliciously. He meant that it might wake them up, stir them into their better selves. I sometimes think the same thing when I turn on the news. I think, you know, an attack by dragons right now might be just the thing to pull our collective heads out of our backsides. But I don’t mean it anymore than Bilbo Baggins did when he said it. I write to defy my despair in hope that maybe, one day, the evil dragons can be killed or at least caged and kept away from us. In my stories, I can face the dragon.

Each day some new horror will raise its head and ask us to please “come and see”.  We look. We do nothing. Our humanity fades. Something tantamount to a demon army is marching across the Middle East beheading and defiling everyone who holds any slightly different view than the demon. You would think that would unite most of the world. You would think we could all agree that people who behead babies are not very nice people. In fact, shouldn’t we be well beyond the point of tolerating any beheading? Medieval terrorists with iPhones – it sounds like bad science fiction.

In the Dark Ages, when people wandered across the ruins that were once Rome, I wonder what they must have thought. Ignorance kept them from their history so they could not even envision the thriving civilization that preceded them. Too few were taught how Rome rose and fell in on itself.  Revisionists are doing their best to separate you and I from our history. Most of us don’t know to fear the Dark Ages, but it would not take as much as you think for those times to repeat. Imagine a sickly child happening upon the  remains of Notre Dame or Windsor Castle and only wondering if there were food or if shelter could be had in those ruins. Imagine a woman hiding by the shore and seeing the statue of liberty sinking in the harbor, its torch barely visible above the tide. Neither the child or the woman will know any of our names, not yours, mine, not any kings or presidents. They will be as in the Dark Ages a thousand years ago, hungry, ignorant, and afraid. They won’t know to blame us.

  Children are taught lies baked in half-truths, the media spins reality to suit a diabolical totalitarian mind-control ideology, and people believe the propaganda their favorite celebrities spew at them. They like it because it keeps them from seeing the world on fire as Nero once more plays his symphony and encases them in an invisible prison. They can comfortably argue that it is ok to rip a baby from its mother’s womb and tear its little body to pieces as long as it is for science. They may know the Nazis were bad, but they won’t hear you when you tell them the Nazis made that same argument. They may say that the cartoonist that was shot to death had it coming. He knew these people were violent. Why provoke them?   There is no marker on their life map that tells them “Here There Be Monsters”. So although they may walk right past those monsters every day, they never see them.  They are surrounded by forces pointing them away from the real monsters. Most of the time its the monsters themselves, those proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing pointing them away from the truth so they believe as long as they say the right things and don’t cause trouble, someone else will slay the dragon.

Perhaps this is why I write post-apocalyptic fantasy…in hopes it never comes to pass.

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The Dread Synopsis

Darkrider

I want to play video games. Or anything besides what I must do. I must write a 2-3 page synopsis of my 150,000 word manuscript. Apparently, this causes me to have that dark condition called writer’s block. I mean I can write this blog. None of my 5-6 readers are going to deny me representation based on my clumsy summarization of my life’s work. Do you suppose Stephen King has this much trouble writing a synopsis? I bet his publisher doesn’t make him do them anymore. If only I were so talented.So far I have written all of one sentence.

In the year of Twig Crisdean’s birth, almost all the infants born to the Muddy people were slaughtered. It is Twig’s thirteenth year and time for the hundred and forty-four Plague Year survivors to be initiated at the largest Muddy Gathering in history.

So this is a solid beginning. Perhaps by this weekend I will have an entire synopsis written. I mean, I do know what happens in my book. I did write the thing. It’s too late for coffee and a work night so whiskey is just a bad idea. Maybe I’ll read some Stephen King. That usually causes me to wake up about 4 AM and turn on all the lights in the house. I won’t be able to go back to sleep so I will have to write. Only I find this synopsis business more frightening than all the horrors that apparently populate the state of Maine. Oh well. One step at a time.