Sunday, June 28, 2009

What I've learned (not) on the Internet

Summer vacation proceeds with crushing, time sucking, intellect devouring inexorability. My progeny demand childhood memories worthy of, well, childhood. Spending all my time writing and surfing blogs about writing seems to fall short of my own fond memories of summer so I did the responsible, motherly thing and took them to Gaga's house for a week at the beach and to Grandmore's house for another two weeks full of day camp, slip-and-slide, ice cream, and swimming lessons. It's killing me. I'm pretty sure it's killing the grandmothers, too. But the kids are having a good time and bear mosquito bites, bruises, and skinned knees to prove it.

My forced adventures in maternal obligation have left me bereft of internet connection and time to use it even if I had reliable access. I've been scanning blogs and catching as catch can on agent postings. In the two week sabbatical I'm shocked to discover that nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed in the world of publishing. Nathan Bransford was sick for about a week but he's feeling better and remains his kindhearted, good-natured self. Janet Reid continues to make me laugh out loud with acerbic observations about people who just don't know any better and perhaps don't actually know anything. Editorrents explores the change in mood by using the phrase "was gone" in lieu of "wasn't there." Writers who comment continue to lament the state of publishing today and the absurdity of trying to pick only books that will sell. All fun to read and prone to induce occasional moments of trepidation when I ask myself if I would ever do something so idiotic as whatever is the most recent transgression trend of newbie queriers the world over but nothing really new. And truth be told, I emphatically would not do any of the things these kind hearted educators of unpublished writers warn against. My biggest stumbling block remains producing a book (and query) good enough to capture an agent's interest.

What have I been doing with this unexpected windfall of free time? (Free time being defined as the hours between 9:00 PM and 8:00 AM when the fruit of my loins can reliably be expected to sleep.) I've engaged in an outright orgy of reading and writing. I haven't had this much fun since I decided THE BOOK was finished enough to start researching how to get it published. I think I might ride this restricted internet trend a little while longer...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Why Do I Want to Publish This Book?

Over and over I read cautionary tales posted by authors and agents about how long it takes to get published. The fifth book seems to be the magic formula for a lot of authors...that's the one they finally had success with because they kept writing and kept learning and finally got good enough to write something publishable. They look back on their earlier efforts with indulgent affection but they know that the agents who rejected them were right to do so.

Here's my problem. I love this book. I didn't include any overt references but it was inspired by some closely held personal beliefs that are dear to me. I truly don't believe I'll write a story I like better than the one I'm working on now. That doesn't mean I'm a one trick pony (maybe I am) but I've already written another book that was fun to write and I might go back to later but it really isn't as good or compelling as this book. The story is there, the characters are well developed, the length is right, and the writing is coming up to snuff with polishing. I want to get my baby prettied up enough that other people can love it, too.

It has not been my life long dream to be a professional writer and I can honestly say that this did not start out as a quest for publication. It was just a story that captured my imagination and turned out well enough for ambition to bite me. It's a good story. I'm terrified that since this story is the one that popped fully formed into my head like Aphrodite springing from the foam of the sea that I lack the technical skill to give it the chance it deserves.

I don't want to just get a book published. I want to get THIS book published.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fan Fiction and Other Things...

So now that I'm cyberstalking agents trying to figure out whom to query and how to tailor their letters I frequently stumble across frightening, distressing blogs and stories on the internet. A couple of my pie in the sky choices have agented some high profile authors and books (hey, shoot for the moon, right?) and are obviously being stalked by lots of other wannabes.

Like me, many of them blog.

I have an unofficial personal blog policy of not naming names. It could be distressing if the named ever read it and besides, once it's out there I can't take it back. So without naming names I feel free to say that there is some really bad stuff out there. And it's getting sent to agents I want to query. I know, objectively, (people who know me will tell you I'm pretty good at being objective, even if it means taking criticism) that what I write is better than much of what I'm reading. Not just grammatically. I found one today that actually posted fan fiction on characters I'd read. It was painful. Trite, cliched, and clearly intended to mimic the voice of the author but without success. I cringed, literally cringed, while reading it. The poster was obviously proud of the effort and has written a book they want to submit to my dream agent. Said dream agent must get a ton of really bad submissions.

This should be a comfort. But it is not. I'm doing the same thing a gazillion other wannabes are doing and we're flooding the market. If I were an agent trying to slog through fifty queries in between doing work for actual clients my eyes would bleed. How does it not all run together? What on earth could I put in my query letter to let them know that I am not one of those people? The answer: absolutely nothing. All I can do is make it clean, to the point, and not gushy. And hope something about my query attracts the reader's attention enough to prompt further investigation.

There is some really good stuff out there, too, don't get me wrong. It's just demoralizing to share ambition with people who obviously think their work is just as good as anybody's when it definitely isn't. The implication is obvious. What if, in truth, I AM one of those people? And if I'm not how will an agent ever know?

Too bad they don't grade on a curve.