Sunday, October 31, 2010

My 100th Blogpost

I waited until today so my 100th post would be on my favorite holiday, Halloween. or Samhain for some.

Okay, guys. NaNoWriMo. For some of you, it has already started. For me, it's not officially time for 3 1/2 hours. I haven't signed into my account (I know, I suck) to do my updates and connect with people because... okay, I could drone on about real life and whatnot, but the truth is: I'm a forgetful cow who is easily distracted by anything shiny.

Or with awesome special effects.

Trick-or-Treating etiquette is apparently a thing of the past. A group of six kids came to my door. Every single one of them grabbed heaping handfuls of candy out of my bowl and one little bugger grabbed THREE. He just kept coming back as long as I had the door open for the other kids in his group. HIS PARENTS SAID NOTHING.

At least I'm smart enough to just set my kids loose without me so I don't have to excuse their bad behavior or scold them in front of other people. Ah. Blissfully ignorant, me. My other awesome parenting tactic is to cover my ears and say 'lalalalalalalalala' a lot until they give up trying to tell me something I don't want to hear.

This doesn't work as well with bill collectors. Just saying.

On another note, I guess I spoke too soon. I got a partial request for Postmortal today. "PADDLES, STAT!" *beep* *beep* *beep* We'll see if she pulls through.

There's the doorbell again. I wonder if handsmacking is allowed in Trick-or-Treating etiquette...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Flatlined Again

So, I think I'm calling it: Postmortal has died. Which is ironic, considering its content. It's been several weeks since I sent out the last queries, and while I had requests for fulls and partials in the beginning, no one's asked for more in three months and I'm out of agents. My second MS has flatlined, and now joins Lesser Evils in the Abandoned Department.

I'm okay with that. Sure, it stings a bit, but I'll get over it. I've done it before. I've been working on a couple of other things, and maybe one of them will work out. I've definitely felt a severe dip in my gungho-ness, though. I enjoy what I'm working on, and that's all that matters. The love of writing will be there, even if the only people who ever read my work are my family and a few 'readers' I have that read my chapters as I go.

NaNoWriMo is something a lot of us are participating in soon. This will be my first time. I'm going to use it get my butt in gear to finish at least one of the ones I've started. I know this breaks the rules, but I'm not actually competing with anyone but myself. I'm the sort to slowly type up a chapter and edit as I go, with each paragraph and dialogue tag scrutinized before I move forward. I don't turn back until the entire thing is written, then read back through it to make sure the pacing is good and fix something here and there. Just sitting back and letting the words flow is going to be a whole new challenge for me.

So, who all is doing NaNo this year? Have you been outlining and making notes? Or do you just have an idea and are going to see how it goes?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

So, I'm a Goober

Today I'm a goober writer for Goober Writer's Anonymous over at Emily's Playhouse.

Who am I kidding? I'm a goober writer every day. Sometimes just a plain ol' goober. I make mistakes. I doubt myself. I feel like an idiot for pursuing a dream instead of being content with 'the day job.' I have some days when I'm excited about what I'm working on, then some days when it feels futile. Time consuming. I have this fear that twenty years from now I'll still be unpublished, and I'll look back at my life and regret I wasn't living it as I could have been.

But that's the risk we're all taking together, isn't it?

I hope everyone has a fabulous Thursday.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Immitating Others

I had a mild panic attack yesterday. I was talking to my thirteen-year-old about my MG I've started. I was explaining my main character and the world he discovers, and I was very excited (and a little proud) of how different it was than anything else I'd ever seen.

Up until she said, "Oh, that's just like *insert name of popular children's book*."

No, not Harry Potter. I'd never in a zillion years accidentally immitate Potterverse. I'm a well-versed Potterdork. But this series she compared mine to is also pretty popular. I knew it because I'd bought her each book as it came out. I've never read it. I've never even read the back to find out what it was about. I just knew she liked it. So, with her words I went from excited to incredibly depressed in 2.4 seconds.

She brought me the books for me to look over. I googled the series. Researched the characters, plot arc and motivations, and am relieved to say mine is still very different from that one. There *are* similarities, though. Unintentional ones. I know this is to do with the fact that *there are no new ideas.* Even that one is compared to another previous author's work.

So how, in this world of millions of books, can we possibly know *our* ideas are fresh and new? They probably aren't. Someone else has already written your book with different characters and motivation. And not necessarily in book form. I told my friend about one element and they said, "Oh, that's like a Dr. Who episode." Crap. I've read jacket copy of some books and said to myself, "That's a Buffy episode."

It sucks, but we have to soldier on and hope that our new take or twist is different enough to not be considered immitation hacks. I don't watch Dr. Who. I haven't read many of my daughter's books. There's the possibility (or inevitability) that if this book finds representation and is published, someone will think I've copied someone else. But none of us do that on purpose, do we? We don't *want* to be like others. We want to entertain with our newness, not disappoint with our similarity.

This might be a bad idea, but I hope an agent would help in this regard. If they are interested in the book, but think parts are too similar to something I've never heard of, they'd let me know so I can change it. Unless they discard mine from the get-go for being too similar. It's a frightening possibility.

Has this happened to any of you? Have you thought you had a new take or idea, only to discover it's been done?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just My Two Cents

There's been a lot of talk about the agent/potential client dynamic in regards to the query system. I think we can all agree the system is far from perfect. We, as writers and hopeful clients, feel great frustration when we receive form rejections or no response at all. Agents -trust me- feel that same frustration when they have to weed through a bunch of crazies to find something that is different enough to sell, but same enough to fit the market.

I would never want this job. Yes, most of them rave about how much they love their jobs, and I'm sure they do. It's just not for me. They are always working. If they are awake, they're working. If, gods forbid, the tweet about having dinner with a friend, some assume they are being 'too busy socializing' to read our queries. Personally, I think that's a scapegoat reaction: blaming someone else for our own shortcomings. Agents are humans, too. They have every right to eat, drink, catch some sleep, and mingle with other humans. One agent said she got over 1,200 queries in one month. If she spent only 2 minutes on each, that's about 45 hours of reading queries. That's more than a full week for most of us. And it's not even their job.

What really needs to be done, in my opinion, is for there to be a more streamlined approach to the whole thing. Agents have become the gatekeepers for the publishing houses that can no longer afford to pay people to read manuscripts. I'm old enough to remember when they did this. They would advertise "get paid to read books from home." Now the agent does it, and they do it for free.

Yes, there's their 15%. But let's take a look at that. The average debut author makes $5,000 - $10,000 on their first book. On the high end, that's $1,500. How many hours did the agent spend reading the book? Editing it? Reading it again? How many hours did it take them to draft their proposals? Pimp to editors? Work on the contract? Where do many of them live? New York. It's a pretty expensive place. That $1,500.00 is a pittance for the work they put in. In the meantime, they are reading our query letters for free, and if time permits, replying for free.

It's not their fault the system is what it is. Nor is it even the publishing houses. There's only so many slots and there's a whole bunch of us. We need to find a better way. Let's try to think of one.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Now For Something Completely Different...

I remembered something today that made me wonder why I'm pursuing publication: I wrote for fun. I wrote for the joy of making people laugh, making people worry, making people gasp in shock or squee with delight at something I made happen. My first attempts at writing fiction (in the last decade) started about five years ago. On an impulse to try something new, I began writing fanfic.

It was for my own amusement in the beginning. I was waiting for the next Harry Potter book to come out (Half Blood Prince) and had been directed to a fanfic website by I saw so many stories, and I wanted to see what I could come up with as well. It was great fun. I'd post a chapter, people would read it, they'd leave comments about their favorite parts or try to guess what was going to happen next. There was real interaction there, and I miss that.

I love to make people laugh. I would frantically write out long chapters in long hand during the day, then type them up and post them as fast as I could. Sometimes I wrote three chapters a week (which was about 20,000 words). I had such fire then, such a burning desire to entertain my readers and give them the next piece of the puzzle, the next clue, the next heartbreaking event.

I look back at that work now and I cringe. I've learned so much on my writing journey, I can hardly stand to look at the amateur gibberish I posted. But my readers loved it, weirdly. I miss them. I was led astray by their encouragement to write my own work, to try to get published.

And I realized today my attempt to be published has been selfishly motivated. It became about me and my desire to prove to myself I was 'worthy' or something. But I was happiest when I was writing my nutty stories and getting the joy of a reader's reaction immediately. I used to post a chapter then hover over my email for an hour, just waiting to see what the next comment would be.

Writing a novel isn't like that, is it? You work countless hours on a story and only friends, family, beta readers, alpha readers, or your critique group ever see it. If it's not worth publishing, it gets shelved. It seems like such a waste. You hold on to the hope that maybe someday, if everything goes right and works out, you might get an agent who will read it and maybe try to sub it as well as the work that interested them. Or they might tell you it's a lost cause and to move on to something new.

I don't know what I want, I guess. I would like to make money doing something I enjoy instead of something I hate. But more than that, I want to entertain people. It's what I do. I was never after fame and fortune. I'd be happy with a caricature of me on the back of my books, to be honest. I've seen authors say they dread book signings and being involved in publicity, but to me that'd be the most fun. I've been a vendor at fantasy and comic conventions and it's a hoot to interact with people.

I'm not giving up. Not by a long shot. But today I've been thinking long and hard about when I'm the happiest with my writing, and it's when I know immediately I've made other people smile or even laugh a little.

Not with this post, obviously. I'm sort of the Eeyore of blogging today.

What do you like most about writing? Think back to when you first started writing. What motivated you? What kept you going? What made it the most fun?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Answers

We want them. Who has them? As writers, we spend a lot of time on the internet, don’t we? We join forums, blog, tweet, and follow every link someone posts about articles written by ‘those in the know.’ We try to stay abreast of publishing, are wary of trends and following them, see what deals are (and are not) being made. We judge our work against others. We sometimes read a book and ask ourselves, “Why this book and not mine?”

We watch the e-book debates with furrowed brows. We read the agents’ posts about the unimaginable number of queries they get in a month, and sigh at the futility of it all. Who are we to think we’re special? That we are so much better than other writers out there? Are we kidding ourselves?

What do agents want? What do publishers want? What do they not want? What is too high a word count? Too low? What genres are selling? What aren’t? Who represents what, and who won’t touch YOUR genre with a ten foot pole? Why?

We have so many questions, don’t we? See? I asked two more. Sometimes it feels like our bitty brains are going to explode from all the questions rattling around like firecrackers in our heads. But take heart, my friends. I will tell you the biggest secret in the history of the universe (aside from the true role of cereal mascots). I know who knows the answers to all our questions.

You do.

Don’t believe me? That’s okay. Sit back and relax, grab something to drink, focus your thoughts into your biggest questions, and ask one of yourself. Instead of googling it, instead of scrolling through the thousands of blogs you’ve read, draw upon your memory for the answers. Not there? Try again. It might take time, but you already know the answers.

1. What do agents want? – Books they will fall in love with so they can sell them to the best of their ability. If you’re not in love with your own book, you know no one else will love it either. Would you recommend your book for others to read? Would you proudly proclaim ownership of your book with no apologies? If not, no agent will either. You know this. See? I’m not making this up.

2. Why this book and not mine? – Timing and patience. Your book was not done at the same time that one was. Your book was not submitted to that agent on that day when they had room on their list. Your book was not what that agent wanted. Your book was not ready. It needed more time. It needed more attention, more editing, more revising, more plot resolution. You know this. Publishing takes time and patience. There’s more answers to that question, and I promise you, you already know them.

3. Who are we to think we’re special? -- Rhetorical, you say? No, this is a valid question. And you already know the answer. Each book written is special. It takes us on a journey to new places where we meet new people, and maybe even discover new creatures or strange governments. Like snowflakes (or writer flakes if we’re truly honest), our books are special, as is our ability to tell our stories.

4. What do publishers want? – Books that will sell. It’s business, my friend. You know that. Simplicity at its finest.

5. Word counts, genres, prologues, POV, tense, omg, my head’s going to explode! – The answer to these are so easy it’s ridiculous. What is the right choice? Your way. As long as you’re good at what you do, as long as you’ve honed your craft and can tell a story, none of that matters. Don’t scoff. Don’t roll your eyes at me. It’s true. Go to a Best Sellers section at any bookstore. On those shelves you will see varying word counts, multiple genres, prologues (it’s TRUE!), all POV, varying tenses, and a multitude of ‘mistakes’ we worry about. Stop sweating it. All you need is number 2. No, not ‘number two,’ potty brain. Number 2, above: Time and patience. If you believe in yourself and your work, you WILL make it someday.

And you already knew that.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Staying Positive

It's hard, isn't it? It feels like the cards are stacked against us. There are so many highs and lows, and sometimes it feels like there's a whole lot more lows than there is highs.

I was doing okay. I won Honorable Mention in S.E. Slinkhorn's Mash-Up Contest last week, which definitely put a smile on my face. I got an email that I was a finalist in the Women on Writing's contest, so that perked me up a bit, too. I've been getting positive feedback from readers of my latest two projects, and that helped me feel like I was on the right track - that maybe I don't totally suck when I write more than a page of crazy rant stuff (e.i. my shorts).

Then it happened. I got my last partial request back with a rejection. I wanted to stay positive. I know it's subjective. But as I pondered agents in querytracker tonight, I got a huge dose of the why-am-I-even-bothering blues. I had 7 total requests out of 40 queries, and still have 23 queries waiting for a response. I expect many of those to never have a response at all.

To be positive, I try to think of that as 11% positive response. There was *something there* which interested agents, I just lacked *something else* which kept their attention. I'm trying to not think it's my writing. None of the 7 had a word of feedback for me, so I have nothing to go on. Just my own insecurities whispering in my ear. I'm wondering how old I will be when I finally get published. I'm wondering what the publishing landscape will look like by then. I'm wondering why no one who loves me hasn't won the lottery and rescued me from my day job.

Okay, that one I wonder at least twice an hour M-F, so it doesn't count right now.

So tell me, how do you guys stay positive? Supportive friends? Certainty of superiority? Alcohol? Prescription medication?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mash-Up Contest

This is for Steph Slinkhorn's Mash-Up.

Hazard a guess at the genres.


I’ve been here for years, but the internet has yet to make me famous.

As easily as air, I could slip into anyone’s home. From my house to any house to any place of employment that has a connection, I can be found lingering, just a few keystrokes away.

Even better are the portable units tucked into people’s bags or slung over their shoulders. I might even get to sit in a pretty girl’s lap in the park once in a while, when the signal is good. Sadly, I have no memory of any of this because no one ever pushes the right buttons to bring me to where they are.

I’m starting to take it personally.

People come and go. It’s like they aren’t even real. There is a body on the other side, isn’t there? A being that breathes, has hopes and dreams. So why do you vanish for days at a time then come back with a new icon? Do you do this in real life? I think your boss would fire you if you took ten days off without notification then came back with a facelift.

If it is the anonymity that attracts us to cyberspace, then why do people try so hard to make friends? More importantly (because I’m a priority over any of you), why do all of mine disappear?

Impatiently, I wait for the people I know to appear as little yellow circles on my screen. Each day there are fewer and fewer.

She blocked me on her one account, but she doesn’t know I know the other. I see her sign off and on. I know her new schedule now. It’d be safest to go to her apartment between noon and prime-time, since I think her roommate moved out and it’ll be empty. I just… miss the smell of her. Is that a crime?