Ernest Hemingway:

As Ernest Hemingway once said...
'All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.'

Monday, April 30, 2012

on the ups and downs

On March 15, 2012, I sent a query for version number four of my current work in progress to a publishing house.  It was probably the hundredth version of the query (not a joke), and I picked a handful of publishers to send it to after not having any luck with agents on a previous version.  I got a response back that day.  THAT DAY!  The editor who read women's fiction queries (still not sure about that category) loved the synopsis.  After a few questions about myself (a first!) she asked if she could share it with her partner.  Of course!  Share away!

Along with some kind words about my manuscript, she also forwarded me the terms of the contract they would surely offer.  THE CONTRACT!  A big-time first.  I shared it with a few writer friends, and they were off-the-wall.  If they talked about a contract, then surely, I was in.  Me.  A published writer.  Finally!

So, after a lot of jumping up and down and trying in vain to contain my squeals of glee in the bathroom at work, I did my research.  They were reputable.  The contract was fair, maybe even a bit more than fair.  In the car on the ride home, I couldn't stop smiling.  I cried tears of joy.  Finally, my moment.  My time to shine.  After years of work, my baby (one of three, mind you) had a life, had a home.  I thought, so this is what it feels like to be recognized, to be validated.  I was over the moon.  I.  Was.  On.  My.  Way.

In the next few weeks, I worked on a marketing plan, dreamed about how I would share the good news, fantasized about how it would surely get made into a movie.  It was a great couple of weeks.

And then they threw on the brakes.

The co-editor was not interested.  In a most professional and respectful rejection, I was allowed to see her notes.  I didn't get mad.  I didn't call her names for not liking it.  Calmly, I read them, took them in, and went back to work.

Because though I don't agree with most of the comments, the whole thing was my fault.  And an excellent learning opportunity, yet another in my journey.  Because my novel is not a good fit at their house.  Not at all.  Had I taken the time to get to know what they publish, I would have known that.

Duh, right?  I guess I was just so used to sending my query out blindly (well not totally, I do some research) and assuming if it wasn't a good fit it would get tossed.  Instead, I wasted their time. Very humbling.

And, I didn't wholly represent my novel in the synopsis.  Another big learning opportunity.  You are supposed to leave out small details, like ancillary characters.  But I've learned that when small details include a gay character, girls watching porn, drug and alcohol use, and casual sex, maybe it's best to hint about it.  I guess I take for granted that people are okay with these things.  I guess I live in a world where these things are (or can be) the norm.  I guess when writing a novel dealing with musicians and tattoo artists I assume people get what comes with that world.

I also live in a world where I categorized my novel as women's fiction.  Unfortunately, it was read within the confines of a romance novel.  I agree with the comments - if I read romance novels (which I don't), I wouldn't want my heroine watching porn to find out how to give blow jobs.  I wouldn't want my hero to do drugs and die of cancer.

So I get why it was rejected.  No doubt about it.  Lucky for me, one of the comments really struck a chord.  It dealt with an issue I'd been toying with anyway, and just drove it home.  It led to the fifth revision (now done!), and to making my novel even better.

If there's one thing I've learned, it's to make the most out of criticism.  No missed opportunity ever goes unnoticed.

On a related note, any idea who publishes edgy women's fiction?  I'm having a hard time with this one.  It doesn't seem to be edgy enough for most publishers that deal with that sort of thing, but it's too edgy for ones who don't.  Maybe this deserves it's own post.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

music and writing

One of the biggest influences on my writing is music. Number one, I’m a lyrics girl. I appreciate good music, of course. But great lyrics can make up for so-so music. When a singer/songwriter writes and sings with emotion and feeling, it comes through. On the flip side, if the music is incredible, but the lyrics are crap, I’m out. Sorry. Maybe this is a reflection of my tastes in general. I’m a realist. I like reading about real people, imperfect people, living in the real world. That’s not to say I don’t like vampires and the like on occasion, but only when done well. A la Anne Rice. And in all honesty, Steven King is one of my all-time favorite writers. But when a band starts singing about vampires, and I mean cheesy, Stephenie Meyer vampires, I’m out. Hands down.

Number two. When I fall in love with a band, I fall hard. I mean I’ll listen to it exclusively until I totally wear myself out on it. The length of time depends on the band. When I run across a perfect storm of fantastic lyrics and great music, watch out. I’m all in. Obsession is probably a good word. I’ve listened to albums so much that my daughter (three and a half) will start singing along. It’s that bad.

Anyway, point is, good music that’s dripping with emotion, pain, betrayal, well, it’s infectious. Sometimes I form my characters based on a song, base their actions around it, and when I hear a song that’s a perfect fit for what I’m writing, I note it in the margins. Because surely my novels will be made into movies. And one of the conditions is that I get to do the soundtrack. Because my taste in music is enviable. I know bands you’ve never heard of, obscure bands that will blow your mind. I’m that guy. Pardon me while I drag myself around back and kick my own ass.

And sometimes the flow of my writing is influenced by the tone and rhythm of an entire album. It influences my style. It crawls into my head and haunts me so much that it shows up in everything.

I guess everyone’s writing is influenced by something. Music is a big part of my life, always has been. It’s my source of comfort. So it’s inevitable, I suppose.

I’d love to hear about what influences other writers.

Monday, April 23, 2012

face lift

Well, after a considerable hiatus, I've decided to return to the ol' blog.  So much is going on with my writing right now, and I want a place to store my thoughts, as my head just can't hold on to it anymore.  I also want something my daughter can see when she's older, and maybe gain an understanding of what it is I do at the computer all the time (thus limiting her time to type her name and other choice words over and over again).

Writing is my passion.  I'm almost thirty-five.  I hate that it took me so long to figure it out, and in turn really figure out myself, but such is life.  However, it can take up a good part of my free time, depending on where I am in the process.  I try to be a good mom.  Most of the time it works.  Sometimes it doesn't.  But I want her to know what makes me passionate, and maybe find whatever it is that she loves a whole lot earlier than I did.

So more to come.  I'm horribly tired today from staying up too late writing, so chasing down my thoughts in a coherent manner isn't going to work.  So onto my fifth draft.  It's mostly finished.  A few chapters to write, a few things to add in and change, and then it's read/revision time.  Five drafts.  At least five years.  I've written other things too, but this novel just haunts me.  The drafts are kind of a timeline of my progress.  Most amazing is to compare draft one with draft five.  I've learned so much, matured so much, gained a better understanding of the craft of writing a novel.  This story, these characters, they're a part of me.  No matter what happens in the end, whether it gets shelved for good or published (because it'll be one or the other), it will always be a part of me.

Signing off to survey the wreckage of last night's late session.