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.

Writing

Coffee and Candles

coffeecandles

On schedule, Brad Thor has another book out just in time for my yearly beach trip. I wonder how he does it, producing a fast-paced thriller every single year. For the past seven years, I have been writing the first book of my fantasy series. Shadowed Castles is finally complete, and I have begun the process of looking for an agent and a publisher.. Yes, my book is a bit longer than Thor’s wonderful thrillers, but it took me seven years of waking at 4 AM, drinking coffee by candlelight and wandering far away from this world into the nether reaches of my imagination. Now, it is a habit, but this process of sending the book into the world is alien to me. I suppose that is what all these early mornings are really about though. Why lose what amounts to years of sleep if not to share these tales with the world?

I don’t suppose I will ever be quite so prolific as Brad Thor although I do hope to outpace George RR Martin. As I have been researching agents, I have noticed that they all seem to be looking for the next [insert name of the hottest author in your genre here]. I worry this will be a terrible shortcoming for me. I am not the next anyone. I am the first me. On weekends, days where I don’t have to show up at the office, I will often transfer my butt from my little candlelit office to the neighborhood bookstore so that I will continue writing. Daylight distracts me but being surrounded by books inspires me. I read mounds of them. I love thumbing through the shelves, and of course, I can’t wait to find my book there.

I still look for my cousin’s books. Elizabeth Musser’s Swan House still does very well after more than a decade. She writes historical fiction for the Christian market. She’s eloquent and her style is so well-refined. She lives in France. I wonder if that helps? My father’s book Waldo Chicken Wakes the Dead is harder to find now. He published outside of the gigantic New York publishers, but he is often compared to Terry Pratchett. His book is better than its sales. He writes about a cartoonist who solves crimes with the help of his cartoon characters, a giant and pompous walrus named Waldo and the chicken that roosts on the walrus’s head. Yes, it is hilarious but thrilling. Check it out. You can still get copy on Amazon. It’s a really fun read. Both my father and my cousin, Elizabeth have warned me about the various land mines that is the publishing industry.

For all those like me, hoping to find you a spot on one of the shelves of bookstores all over the country and perhaps the world, it’s best just to write your book. Finish it. Make it the story you want it to be. Tell your story. Then worry about selling it. Last year, my cousin, Elizabeth, graciously introduced me to her agents, but my book, at the time, was not in its best possible state. First lesson, don’t try to sell your book until it is really finished. A lot of agents will do editing, but at that point, it should just be polishing to prepare you project for the appropriate publisher.

I suppose the best way to get an agent is to have your successful writer cousin introduce you to her agent, but I find that may not be the best fit. My cousin and I write in entirely different genres. Her agency, a very good one especially if you want to sell internationally, does not really do fantasy. So I began to search for someone that would be a good fit for me, knowing that I am a pretty tough match. Even for a writer, I am weird, and that’s about the nicest way anyone would say it.

The second best way to find an agent is to go to writer’s conferences. After that, The Writer’s Market is your friend and so is google. I made a list of agents, then I reviewed their submission policies, reviewed their client list, read some from the client lists, and I narrowed the list to a reasonable dozen or so. I then began to search for the agents of my favorite authors in the genres. None of them are not taking on new clients, sigh, and so I took to my list. I spent four weeks writing the perfect query letter for the first one. Personalize those queries. Do not spam out your query letters. This is a job application. I spent another two weeks brooding over it, and then two weeks ago, I sent out my first query letter, No word yet but this morning with my coffee and candlelight, I am preparing my second query and making a list of upcoming writer’s conferences. Maybe I’ll see you there.