Friday, May 15, 2009


Okay, so I wrote a book. I won't tell most of the people I know about it because, well, they might think that I think that makes me a writer. (Spoken in mysterious tone that self-identified writers use with pride and everyone else with skeptical humor.) My mom doesn't know. She might want to read it.

The trouble is, I like the book I wrote. I like it a lot. I don't think it's great literature or anything, but if someone else wrote it and I read it I would buy another one about the same characters or by the same author. I've passed various transmogrifications of it to enough people that the feedback makes me think I am not actually crazy. Other people might like it, too. In fact, other people do like it, and not just my best friend or my husband. Plus, they all think it would appeal to the same kind of reader I think would like it. They tell me this without me asking them, "Do you think Twilight readers would like this book? Despite the fact that there is not one damn vampire in it? Or werewolf, or any other creature of classic horror lore?" So far, my instincts aren't too far out in left field.

So what do I do next? The feedback I've gotten tells me that that the story needs fleshing out in one area in particular. Everyone has said basic versions of the same thing on what they like and what they want more of. So I added more of the "I'd like to see more of this..." and people like it better. Moving in the right direction.

This was the most fun thing I have ever done in my life. I have been the happiest, the most fulfilled, writing this book and starting the next one. Do I really want to wreck it by opening myself up to the brutal rejection of trying to get published? Everyone who writes a book thinks their book is good and other people would want to read it. We can't all be right. We can't all be writers.

I decided I would just putz around online and see what's involved. Crikey. A month later I found myself so paralyzed with fear I was ready to trash the entire harebrained scheme. I am definitely not a writer. Who knew that if you "tell me, don't show me" in the story that agents and editors will summarily reject you? Everything has to be somehow worked into action or dialogue? Seriously? But as I started thinking about it I found that maybe that would work. Chapter One is now on its fifth version. Oddly enough, it is way better than the first version. They might be on to something with that "show me, don't tell me" business.

Query letters. Oh. My. Gosh. I have to get someone to foam at the mouth over a debut novel by an unknown in 350 words or less. They won't care that I lived in Argentina since my story is set in South Carolina. Or that I had research experience funded by the National Science Foundation when I was just in college since the book has nothing to do with science. Or that I ran my own business for five years since the main character is in high school. All things that have fit neatly and impressively in cover letters for other jobs I applied for. I am completely unimpressive. My only option is to communicate the hook and "tone" of my book in one to two paragraphs. I was not a marketing major. This is not my forte.

It's much easier to read agent blogs and scheme than take action. Maybe I'll just do that for a while. It's more fun than editing, at any rate. The more I read the blogs the more I see just how ridiculous it is to think I might be one of the select few to get lifted from the slums into the elysian fields of published. Or even just agented. But I notice a trend among the blog followers. Most of them are unpublished, too. And a lot are kind of whiny about it. The prevailing theory common to unpublished authors is that agents suck and don't want anything that's new, untested, or challenging. They want cookie cutter books that will sell well to the unwashed masses. I conclude two things from this. One, people would rather blame someone else and then spend all their time yelling at the object of their frustration instead of getting better. (Reading and posting on blogs takes up an awful lot of time. If we were all offline and working on our books our lot might improve.) The other is that if they think so little of the reading public, people who actually spend money and buy books, they probably aren't writing books that the reading public wants to read. So maybe the agents are right. Maybe their books aren't really all that sellable. Maybe mine is. It might not be smarter than theirs, or as challenging, or high art, but at the end of the day I bet people might buy it. Maybe I will submit to a few agents. What's the worst that could happen?


  1. You have this life. Tell your fears to bug off! Go for it hugely and grandly. Proclaim your passion as a writer. And remember that great British guy's words: NEVER GIVE UP. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP.

    I think his name was Winston Churchill. He fought in a war or something.

  2. Thanks!! Glad you signed on. VERY overwhelming. It will be nice to have some moral support :)

  3. We're all in this together, sister. Here's my dream. You, Ashley, and I with our published books at the next high school reunion doing a booksigning. How's that for something to work toward? Let's see---umm. 25 then. 2014. Maybe I'll know about that one! Get busy submitting it. You can't win if you don't play, right?

  4. Nope. 2013. I was counting from 2009. It's pretty sad I can't remember the year I graduated.

  5. Jennifer,

    I have to write the damn query letter first. I cannot believe how hard that is. I'm still polishing a little, too. I have literally the worst luck of anyone ever so I could absolutely see sending out a query and getting some interest before MS is pristine.

    I also have a short list of people I'd like to query but whenever you look for a job in a new field they always say not to start with your dream job...sand the edges off your pitch with some of your fallback choices. But what if a fallback makes an offer and you haven't bothered with your first choice?

    Paralyzed, I tell you.

  6. Have you read any of Ashley's work? The one she's working on right now is great. I'm on pins and needles for the next installment.

  7. Before you query, post chapters on one of these sites. The feedback will be invaluable, IMO.

    Good luck.