January 30, 2003

Researching Publishers

Still chugging away at this. I have managed to find a few publishers that will accept unsolicited queries. And even one that will take unsolicited proposals. Insane, huh? I've also managed to find one agent that I really like (he reps two of my favorite writers), one agent that might be okay, and a third I'm still thinking about. I just hope my new and improved query gets a better response than the last one.

I wish I didn't care whether my books got published or not. This would make the whole writing thing much more enjoyable. Alas, I would like to see my books on the shelf at the local B&N; I would like people to actually read them.

January 29, 2003

Submission Blues

This is the part I hate, the part that drives me insane, the part that makes me question why the hell I ever decided I wanted to try making writing my career. It's the submission process. Since I have the time while I let the first draft of Reach of Shadows cool off a bit, I decided to dive back into submitting my query for my novel Crystal Past. Now, I've already sent queries to a trunk-load of agents, and not one of them wanted to even read the manuscript or a partial. I'm told, repeatedly, that publishers don't accept unsolicited submissions from unagented writers. I don't always believe what I'm told so I went and checked this out myself. After all, I remember a day when you could submit to some publishers, and I had. I even got a request to see my manuscript from a kind editor over at St. Martins--which led nowhere, I might add.

But as I'm flipping through the utterly useless Novel & Short Story Writer's Market 2002 (I know, time to waste money on an update...NOT!) I noticed that all the publishers have indeed decided not to accept submissions from the common, unagented folk like me. I've spent all morning flipping through the book, reading Publisher's Weekly on-line, and looking at publishers' websites, and have nothing to show for it. I don't know where to begin, or even if there is a place to begin. I guess I could go back to submitting to agents, but something tells me I'd just be buying a bunch of $0.74 form rejection letters (not including cost of envelopes and paper). Why would an agent even bother requesting to see the manuscript of an unproven talent that's likely to garnish him a mere fifteen percent of a $3000 advance? Not that I don't think my query is intriguing.

So, yeah. I hate this part. No matter what troubles I come up against in the actual writing of a book, I'm usually having fun. There is nothing fun about the submission process though. It is a depressing exercise in futility, and is the only time I ever seriously think I should give up this racket all together.

January 28, 2003

Here it Comes

This is why the title of my weblog is Rob's Writing Pains. Since finishing the first draft of the book this past Saturday, I've found myself obsessing over it as I often do over the things I write. I can't let it go. My mind skitters back and forth through the memories of writing this 513-page beast. I remember starting it, all the hope, the expectations, the certainty that I was writing something bigger, something powerful, something that might hurt to write, but when it was all done I'd know I'd pushed myself to the limit and created a damn good story. But I also remember the many, many days of writing and feeling nothing. I didn't particularly hate the work, but it wasn't blowing me away either. Now this is par for the course. You can’t spend four and a half months working on something and not have bland days. But what worries me isn't the trudge through the middle, but the last 100 pages or so where I remember pushing through, but not surprising myself, not exciting myself, and certainly not feeling the well of emotions I'd anticipated when I developed the premise for this novel. What am I getting at here? I guess I'm worried that I fell short of the mark, that what I've written isn't the extraordinary story I'd dreamed for it, but rather something bland, without emotion, stock--a lame imitation of the thrillers on the metal racks at the grocery store blazoned with authors' names you've never heard of before.

The whole point of this novel (started in Holly Lisle's Writing the Breakout Novel class) was to dig deeper, create a story that was more than just a good read. But I'm afraid when I typed "The End" I might have failed. I didn't feel the twist in my gut or the shiver of emotion I'd expected from finishing this novel. And the questions I had hoped to answer remain unanswered. Maybe this is just post-first draft blues. But I'm not so sure. My last novel took a lot of revising, but even after that first draft I knew I'd written something with heart--so to speak. There was even one scene that brought me near to tears. Can that kind of emotion be unearthed in a second draft? Or have I swung so far from the mark that what I have is unsalvageable? I don't know. I don't have enough experience to answer these questions. All I do know is that I'm not going to give up on it. I am going to revise this book; I am going to continue to dig deeper and raise the bar; I am going to see this through until the end. Then, if I still feel as though I've failed, at least I'll have gained the experience to take with me into the writing of the next book.

I am afraid I might have failed. But I’m not sure I can trust my memory either. Buried among the clutter of bad days I can recall days I believed in the work and realized I had things to say I had no conscious intention of saying in this book. I wonder if those memories will be waiting for me when I sit down and go back through the novel a second time?

I hope so.