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?

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