Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Losing Hope . . .

I'm starting to wonder - in that way that's bad, in that way that just brings about the worst possible scenarios in the worst possible times but has the uncanny habit of growing like mold until it's infected all the foundation and there's little else you can do but move and condemn the damn thing - on whether I am ever going to make this happen.

I've bought the books and the first page is always congratulatory - "Good job! If you're reading this then you finished your hopelessly long work of fiction. Aces! You've done more than the tons of people who always say they want to write a novel; you've actually written it. The ability to put ass to chair and pen to paper earns you a gold star. Yeah you!"

I hate those paragraphs. For some reason they always lull me into a false sense of security. Yes, I did something - go me. But the hardest part of trying to get my book in a bookstore is not the writing of the book. Who knew it was the easy part?!

I thought before I did this that I knew myself, that I was realistic in the fact that not everyone was going to like it, that I would get rejected, that this would be hard. But I've said that so many times - to myself, to my friends, to even this blog - that the idea lost meaning completely. I said it, I thought I thought it, but turns out I'm not sure I ever really believed it.

Because there's this email that I've been afraid to open for more than a month now. And even though I knew from the beginning this person wouldn't like my stuff, even though I don't feel the advice she's given me is practical, even though I know a synopsis of facts is not my forte, I can't bring myself to see what the email says. I just can't take the criticism.

In my mind I guess I just believed that the criticism would come with a little bit of praise. I like my story, I like it a whole lot, I can't help but think that everyone else should find something redeeming too. I feel almost like that "The Best Show You're Not Watching." Not that I think I'm the best or anything but in my heart of hearts I truly believe that if I can get you to read the first three chapters of my book, you won't want to put it down.

There I go again, thinking people are going to give me a chance to convince them more than my 300 word query letter or 600 word synopsis. I'm not good at those things - concise and condensed and collapsible. I'm wordy. No more, no less, just is - wordy.

So this email, I had my roommate read the one before it (because I needed to know what it said and I was having a truly awful day) and it said that I should change the premise of my book because it's hard for first time writer's to sell. And it hits me again - how can this person be making value judgements on my book when she hasn't even read it?! Talking about judging a book my its cover - this is judging a book by its spine.

And there are two voices inside my head - one saying screw it, you can make it happen and the other saying she's right, no one is ever going to read it, its staying locked up in your bedroom forever. I want to believe in myself but its so hard when no one else does. That's not to say that no one does but most of the time I walk around bemused when people tell me that they're sure I'll make it. I always want to ask them the stupidest question: Why?

Why do they think I'll make it? They've never read anything I've written. Am I giving off some crazy writing vibe that means they have to agree with me as they back away slowly? Is being a successful writer written in my DNA and as easy to discern as someone who is good at math or public speaking? Or is it - as I fear - just a nice little thing people say and they don't believe it at all, just want to be encouraging. Them I want to scream at, they're getting my hopes up for no reason at all.

It's cliched and trite and probably a bit melodramatic and egotistical to say but I will anyway - I feel like I am supposed to be doing greater things than going to the office everyday and pushing paper around my desk and answering phones and crunching numbers. But who am I to say that? Who am I to think I deserve better than everyone else there?

And it kills me to think that what I have written, I have written for just me. And it kills me to think that if I do find someone to love it and help me they'll want to change it until its unrecognizable from the way it started out. And it kills me to think that I will spend my life replaying these same arguments, these same ideas, with myself - waffling back and forth between two options that I'll never choose.

I escape into characters and stories that do things I can't do for myself. How successful is that if they do nothing but sit in my bedroom as well?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Do I Overwrite??

So, I finally had the resolve to open up the synopsis response email and it wasn't nearly as tragic as I feared (which is good since I was fearing a massacre of Jurrasic proportions). She told me that my premise was saleable - once again not the genre I specified though - and suggested some changes that I can easily fix.

So, why am I not over the moon then? Well, she also told me that it seems like I overwrite and she thinks there's a good book in there but it took a scythe to get it. Now I did throw a few sentences in there that didn't tell what was happening with the plot to try and convey a sense of my style and if synopsis is all about word conservation then i get that.

But what if that's not just it? What if she's telling me that I overwrite all the time, that my book is a great big mess of a jungle that no one is ever going to hike through because it's just too much trouble? Now I understand that if I ever get this damn thing on a bookshelf it won't be what it is now but i think I'd rather never get it there if it means going for word economy and cutting out everything that's special about it. Maybe I just need to find the right agent, the right publisher to go take the chance but this doesn't seem like the path of great risktakers if everyone is only worried in what will sell right now.

So the question is - am I delusional? Do I overwrite? I know that I think the beautiful nature of the words is the most important thing but I don't think they're purple, not just there to take up space and ramble and complicate things. If that's how I want to evoke an image or a feeling, why can't I?

Man, if this is how much stress and second guessing I have now, imagine if this actually ever happens. I will become the biggest basketcase that ever lived or learn the get over what other people think. There's a lesson in there somewhere I think -it just might take a scythe to fine it.

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Some Things You Can't Take Back

I get it – I hear the words coming out of my mouth and I know they’re going to get me in trouble. I know they’re not right, that they’re not what anyone wants to hear. And yet, when it’s important, when it’s THIS important, how can I NOT say them?

I could have been more delicate. I could have been more calm and collected and poised. And I know that what I say isn’t going to make a lick of difference – that people are going to do what they’re going to do and they’re not going to listen to anything I have to say. And for someone whose goal in life is to make people stop and listen, that’s something it’s not easy for me to take but I do.

Maybe I’m a bitch, setting myself up to be the person who gets to say ‘I told you so’ down the line. Maybe I’ve just burnt a bridge and there’s nothing I can do to fix it, risked everything with one spark for a damn cigarette I didn’t really need. Maybe I’m just narcissistic and needy and need everything to be about me. Maybe I actually truly do care. None of these things matter, not my intentions or my goal or even the damn conversation. None of it.

But I’m not sorry for what I said – it was the truth. People always say the truth is good but only if you’re willing to hear it, sometimes not even if you’re ready to hear it. It was probably overkill, it was probably too much. I want to believe, I want to see it like she sees it, understand what she understands, but I don’t get to come in. I have to comment on the pretty drapes and the lovely tea cozies and just blow right over the point, tiptoeing around the elephant in the room that I’m dying to talk about. I’m not someone that easily avoids the point – I’m the one digging like crazy to get to it. I’m the person that comes up with funny names for the damn elephant.

Does she know that I want so badly to accept it and be done with it? Does she think I like being like this – always questioning, always worrying, always wondering? I want to be reassured – to ask all the questions and get all the answers and then believe that everything is going to be alright, even if it’s not, even if it’s never going to be. I wouldn’t even care if she lied and long as she doesn’t do it badly. Well that’s not true – and I guess that’s my problem. I want her to want to tell me. I want her to want to know what I think. I want her to want to include me in her life. I guess just like everything else, I want it so badly I just end up pushing it away. The time for wanting any of those things vanished with a slammed door.

Who cares if I happened to be right? Look at what the hell being right just cost me.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Anti-Climactic Because I Am An Idiot

Well, I did it. I finally got a query letter off my desk. And yeah, it's not really as great as I thought it was going to be because:

a) I worried so much about the query letter that I forgot about my unpolished synopsis sitting in the corner that's not ready to go out and, lo and behold, a lot of people are asking for both,

b) most agents I was looking at don't accept snail mail so my beautiful letterhead and paper was benched for this game and there really isn't anything quite like sealing an envelope and dropping it in a mailbox to feel monumentous,

c) the first two of three email queries I sent I did without any type of letterhead so if they like me I hope they don't want to call or mail me anything because I forgot my contact info (though, thank goodness my email they do have), and

d) my email editor means its impossible to double space anything so I have a sneaking suspicion that my three queries will arrive looking like a crazy, spaced out mess and no one will take me seriously.

So, in short, I am an idiot. I accept it but wow, how I wanted to NOT be an idiot this one time. And as I sit here, worrying over my synopsis and my new idea nagging in the back of my mind, wearing my "inspiration antennae" hoping to sap every bit of creativity and productivity out of me, I just can't get it out of my head. Idiot . . . .

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The House

Damn Daddy! He did it, he pulled me back in.

He was trying to be nice when I walked into the house today for dinner and handing me the listing of a cute little house that he thinks I should buy. Let's forget that there's no way I could qualify for a loan even if the payments would be about 2/3rds of what the rent is on my renter now or that it's kind of in an area I know my roommate doesn't want to live in or that I'm not even sure I want to make such a big purchase.

It makes me feel sad all the same. Because I hate that there are so many can'ts standing in front of me. I hate that I'm watching all of these people around me settle down and get married and buy houses and have kids and I'm . . . not, . . . just stuck in where I am. Not that where I am is bad or anything but . . . it just scores the fact that I'm still aimlessly alone.

My friends like to say that they're still single because they were focusing on their careers, they had other things that they wanted to do. That was never me. Maybe I suffered from a lack of a plan. Betsy wanted to be married before she was 27 and she's going to be. The only vague ideas I ever had never came true so I stopped having vague ideas and rejected having concrete ones.

Sometimes it just seems like I'm the only one not growing up. I'm aging, I'm getting older, but I'm not growing up - I'm still transient, I'm still untied, I'm still around. There is nothing to keep me in this place, in this moment, except for my undying hatred for change. I guess I just want a reason to stay, to be here, to belong.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Off To A Good Start

So, I did it. I made a decision, I made a plan, I made sure too many people knew about it to back down now. My deadline is July 31st. By August I will no longer be agonizing over my query letter - it will be in the mail and I'll just be awaiting rejections as I move on to the next project percolating on my desk.

And it feels good. It's only the second day of my new Plan Of Action (I picture an announcer saying that it in booming, echo-y voice that asserts how important that is - yes, yes, I DO come with sound effects) but so far I've accomplished all the things that I scheduled to do.

The next one's a big one. By Saturday my query letter is going to be done DONE. No more changing or rewriting or brooding - just a best effort, the best I can do.

But this is good for me. In ways I'm very much a planner. I have lists upon lists scrawled on pads of paper, post it notes, - even a book of only to-do lists! - across my desk at work. And they help me remember everything that I need to get done. I've never missed a deadline at work yet and the ones I've had to push back I've pushed weeks ahead of time because if I'm paying attention, I do budget my time well.

So, the key is to remember that just because this isn't the ivory tower with the crazy staircase and the cartoon bosses breathing down my neck and comical emails besieging me every ten minutes, it's still important and a deadline that can't be moved, that needs to be stuck to. If I commit to it, I should be fine.

But then, wrench thrown into the mix, while trying to get my dreams off the ground I'm also throwing a baby shower by my sister-in-law. Wouldn't be such a big deal if I wasn't also trying to finish making her surprise baby quilt that is SO not done and needs to be cause if its not, she ain't getting no present and that won't fly.

Plan, budget time, you'll be fine - that's my new mantra going through my head at all times. Plan, budget time, you'll be fine. Plan, budget time, you'll be fine. Plan . . .

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stuck Between Floors

I hate how I get to the point where I think I've got it all figured out, I know what I need to do next (just take the leap, jump off that cliff and go for it) and then . . . nothing. Anti-climactic much? (Oh, so that's NOT the edge of a cliff just a ledge you can't quite see from this vantage point. Interesting.)

I feel like I'm always on the verge of making a BIG decision and I get that I'm being too preoccupied and weird and just stalling because I'm either afraid that I won't make it or afraid that I will (must be afraid of one but I think I might be afraid of both which is just so useless it makes my ears bleed and then all I can think is how can I put this frustrating contradiction into some character passing by and get it to work - is it bad that I use fictional people as ad hoc therapy?) but then I realize that I'm avoiding making any decisions.

And its not what I want to do. It's not what I NEED to do. And yet, there I am, doing it anyway. Even though I kept saying I was going to start taking the stairs at work everyday it took getting trapped in the elevator (which was pretty much 100% my stupid fault anyway) to get me to actually start with that next step.

So maybe I have to hit the STOP button and get myself stuck in my metaphorical literary elevator. But what does that mean? And do I have the guts to do it - to commit and not turn back and damn all the consequences? If I can get myself to believe it, I know I can persevere and power through and do awesome things. (I've completed NaNoWriMo both times I've tried, I completed most of my senior thesis in 4 hour blocks over 3 weeks and still managed to pump out absuridsm at its best, I wrote a really good novel inspired by a box of fishsticks in the freezer.)

But it's getting myself to believe it that's the hard part. Am I ready to pick up the phone and call for help, no false alarm just a true literary emergency?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What a Differene A Week Makes

Wow - it's true. Time is good for a lot of things. It gives perspective and lets levelheads start to come through. Wow, what a week.

Besides the action packed stuff (Val was in an electrical storm, Val was trapped in an elevator, Val was almost in a drunken brawl at the airport), the thing that's changed everything the most is that I got that teeny, tiny bit of validation I was looking for.

I know, I know, we shouldn't pull our worth from other people and all that matters is your own opinion but, come on, I'm a writer, that can't ever be 100% true. And when I was feeling down I gave my book to someone to read and they loved it. As in couldn't put it down, stayed up all night reading it, sent me an email at 2am to tell me how much they enjoyed it loved it. As in sent me a really long explanation on thier opinion and quoted parts of my book back to me loved it. As in is making their husband read it loved it. Gotta say, that is just the best kind of loved it that you can get.

And that inspired me to reread my book a little bit and rediscover what I loved about (dude, I totally forgot I was kind of funny) and reaccess what my genre is (though I still have trouble calling it romance because it does not end that way but romanitc comedy I'll take). And, well, yeah - I have reread that email more times than I care to admit out loud. *guilty look*

Ahh, but what a difference a week makes . . .

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sleepless Nights

Wow, I must really be out of it - it took me 3 days to figure out what my insomnia meant. 3 DAYS!

I get intermittent bouts of insomnia when my life is off. Hasn't happened for awhile (which I guess is a good thing) so it totally didn't dawn on me that the fact that I can't sleep is all my fault.

Now I just have to figure out what it means - but that ain't too hard to do either. It's about my book. About how I'm not writing and too worried to get on with it. But realizing this is a good thing because this morning I took a shower, got back into bed, and tried a different approach to my query letter. Didn't finish and don't really know if its any better (I swear, this query letter thing is going to kill me if I let it) but it made me feel better.

So I've made two decisions - one, that I have to keep writing, something, anything everyday and not don't because I'm afraid it's bad because, well, first drafts are always bad, and two, that I am not going to make my arbitrary June 15th deadline. I wrote my story and I reread my story and I fixed things here and there but I didn't really edit my story like it should truly be. I have to spend more time with it, make some hard decisions, and then it'll be ready to go out. My new goal is before summer ends so once summer hours are over I should have everything good to go. And that's a deadline I'm going to make.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Critics and the Like

I think I'm in the middle of learning a lesson. I guess the question will be if I'm actually going to learn it.

I've been struggling for some time now (understatement of the century, right there!) with this whole beast of getting published. I wrote a novel - yes. I love that novel - God yes. And I am fully aware that everyone in the world is not going to, that literature is art and art is always subjective. I know that I'm going to get more nos than yeses but all I really need is one yes and I'm good to go.

But it suddenly dawned on me that I may not be ready for this, that I might be completely out of my league here. I'm not a research girl, I don't love to hunt for information, and I already wrote my novel so why do I need to look into what sells? But that's all stuff that you got to do if you're serious. I'm supposed to be serious, right?

I signed up for this "class" through the FWC which pretty much is me sending my query letter to an agent to read and critique - a little polishing if you will. But I'm finding that there seems to be a hell of a lot of coal left and I'm not even sure if there's a diamond inside that's worthy of this. I'm starting to think that this whole exercise is more like finding a husband than an agent and, well, this perpetually single 27 year old certainly has mastered that skill, hasn't she?

It's not like you just need to find someone that takes interest, you have to find someone that takes enough interest and sees enough potential to hunker down for the long haul. Trying to write a letter to communicate why you're awesome and worthy is like writing a dating profile (I tried that and failed miserably - there's a reason why I write novels and not vignettes or poems, okay) with everything worth knowing there. But there's a lot more worth knowing about my novel than the first summary line can tell you.

So anyway, I sent my query out and got it back with revisions. I tried my best making them but I was super confused - I followed the instructions in her book and checked all the samples and then she gives me advice that never popped up before. I agonize, I attempt, I send it back. When I get her response I find out that she hates my hook and doesn't think that it can sustain a whole book and that I can't claim the genre as "literary fiction" because that is an agent's decision and I wrote a romantic comedy.

What else did she say? Don't know - can't bring myself to read the rest. I stared at the unopened email for two days and then when I opened it I read two lines and closed it again. I went through the requisite feelings: denial (Screw you, I'm brill ant!), anger (How the hell can you tell me it's not literary fiction from four sentences in a letter about my book, not even my book itself, huh?), bargaining (Maybe it is a romantic comedy? I could change that for an agent.), depression (It's horrible! I can't write worth a damn! Why did I even try this again?), acceptance ( . . . . yeah, I'm still in depression, haven't really gotten here yet).

If this was like finding a husband, what would happen next? Well first I'd have to bump into some available agent at work and then, if Betsy has her way, obsessively myspace/ facebook stalk them until we can figure out if they really are an agent. Then I'd screw up the courage to write the query and I'd get back a response that says either um, they don't have time for any new books or should interested until they saw the length of my book and then blow me off. Hmm, this isn't sounding very good here either.

Because here's the deal - I can't not be a writer. It is, was, will always be, everything that I am. I can wear disguises for awhile (like the ones I'm sporting now of unaffected observer, obedient office drone, and content procrastinator) but it's never true. I have too many ideas floating around my head, too many words just dying to be written down that I can't NOT do it. But maybe I'm stuck to always be a writer, never an author, never with the title published.

I'm starting to worry that this is flute lessons all over again. I never thought I was great at the flute but I thought I was adequate and no one ever told me otherwise - years and YEARS down the road it came upon me one day that I truly sucked at playing the flute. I worked really hard at it and determination helped me power through but yeah, I was bad. Is that the same as this, just a few years away from looking back and realizing I'm living a kind of cruel delusion.

Lots of people showed interest in the beginning of my book and I think they liked it but I've handed it out to people like those guys in Vegas with the stripper fliers and only two people have finished it (one of them because she was reading it as I wrote it). Maybe it's too much to take in one sitting. Maybe it's not good.

Maybe my hook can't sustain a whole novel . . . but dear God, where the heck do I go from here?