Monday, Monday

Do you think-write out your disappointments? I do. Here’s a therapeutic piece I wrote to get over something I experienced about a year ago. I wasn’t ready to admit to it at the time. I’m over it now, so it’s time to share. It’s entitled, Monday, Monday because that was the day I received the call.

"Restart Button" offered by U.S. Sec...
“Restart Button” offered by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Switzerland March 6, 2009. Department photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Sometimes I need a restart button. Not like the one Hillary Clinton gave to the Russian Foreign Minister in 2009–preferably something less “nuke the world”-ish. Just let me crawl under my desk and sob. I feel really worthless. I know I’m not, but rational thought isn’t prevailing at the moment.

“I received a call from a representative who wanted me to consider his publishing company for my book. Consider? Uh, yeah, I’ll consider! The question I asked was: “Well, what does that mean?” (Yeah, great question, amateur.)

“Let me backtrack just a tad. I did submit my book to this publisher, but not really of my own volition. It is, in fact, the only publishing company I’ve submitted anything to. You see, I was told I was being too much of a perfectionist in crafting my queries to specific agents I’d researched. But then I kind of sent my manuscript to show I was not being picky (which means, yes, I’m OCD and I just went the other extreme on a dare). I didn’t really expect anything to come of it. I am so, so naive.

“After the call from the publishing company, I phoned one of my best friends and had a meltdown over the phone. On the surface, I was so elated that it was positive feedback! Beneath that, I knew it was just an offer to vanity publish. (I’d read the fine print of this company’s procedures.) Then I messaged a self-pubbed writer. His was historical fiction, so I didn’t think his experience would really be the same as mine. He replied, “I was ‘taken by them too’.” *Cue the shoulder slump*

“I’m supposed to put this under my belt and continue on, right? I’m supposed to view this as a profitable learning experience. I just need a blanket I can hide under for a few decades. I think I’ll be okay by then.

“I know I’m overreacting. And I keep asking myself, Why am I letting this affect me? It’s not like a doled out the cash (which isn’t really a testament to my business savvy as much as the realization that I don’t have it to dole out). It’s not like I got burned. But it hurts, and I just need to acknowledge that.

“After collecting my shattered ego, I emailed the company, stating I wanted to look into other options. I’ve become calm about it, though I’m not over crying about it inside. And it’s a good thing that this happened. This is a clear indication I’m not ready on so many levels. I have a lot to learn.”

Have you ever had something like this happen to you–something that wasn’t bad, exactly, but disappointing all the same?

The One Where My Heart Bleeds When It’s Broken

I truly thought it was the real thing… not like last time. My heart went pitter-patter. I daydreamed of the conversations about the future we would have, the promises we would make once things progressed. I felt prepared this time. I felt like I’d really straightened up a lot of issues beforehand. I approached with confidence, but with a clear sense that I should be completely open to what might happen. I allowed myself to be vulnerable… and I was rejected.

I invested a chunk of time into that query letter!

(Sigh.)

Okay so, looking back, I made some mistakes.

It was a big mistake not to write my letter in the same style as my story. The query was proper and respectful… and rather infested with that childlike transparency that screams, “I’m an amateur!”

I had also decided not to rely on great hooks, which are part of my style, as well. Somewhere I got the impression agents and publishers want the black and white of the story, not the hype and talk up. It was painful, and my sentences came out haltingly. I smoothed them over to the best of my ability. Still, it wasn’t me. Why did I send the query out knowing that? I really thought that’s why query letters were so difficult to write.

“There’s vulnerability in sending a query letter.”

I remember reading something to that effect; and I certainly felt vulnerable, sending letters that seemed to be dressed in a dull brown interview suit with the lapels severely pressed just so.

In the midst of my morose state, I happened upon an article where an expressive agent included her description of a good query. And I realized… *gasp* Agents are people, too!

I know, I was shocked. You mean, when an agent is perusing a list of books and summaries, he/she wants the info to persuade him/her that the rest of the story is just as appealing? Wait; I do that, too!

You know that request some agents make to include, “where you are going with your story”? I think this is misleading. Think of the boy in Princess Bride, who stops the grandpa to ask, “Is this a kissing book?” Notice, the grandpa never answers. The boy doesn’t really want an answer. He’s just skeptical. He’s afraid he’ll be pulled in; he might actually like the story, kissing and all. We’re all cynics, callous to the age-old archetypes. With the myriad, dry bones queries an agent digs through, it has to be desensitizing. Poor things, those agents. It must be a merciless existence, day in and day out, looking for that one… or two… or two hundred. Now I will take a moment to sympathize. (Cue violin music.)

As you can tell, I’m working through the phases swiftly. The shock was short-lived. I’ve had a visit with denial and moved on to anger. You can see the “clouds in my coffee” dispersing as I make pathetic jabs at agent-kind with my quill.

Now what?

Well, I’ve scrapped my dull brown suit approach and written what I’ve wanted to say all along. It took a couple of minutes, as apposed* to the two months it took me to write that second query. It’s direct. It’s appealing. It’s alot like my story.

I also went back to my novel and scrutinized the beginning again. One thing that has haunted me is the pace of the prologue. It’s a brief series of journal entries. I wanted it to be meandering, like a journal usually is. Meandering is not the way to begin a story in the present fast-food fiction climate. I had a genius moment and chopped up the beginning to follow a new angle that is more concise and spirited. (Click here if you’d like to see the old version. I haven’t updated it to the new, improved version yet, so feel free to ‘tsk-tsk’ over it.)

Voila.

I think my heart has healed enough to search for my shining agent again.

 

*Btw, why is WP telling me this word is spelled incorrectly? The two months are not ‘opposing’ the couple of minutes, right?

The Charm of All Vortices

“You should publish your story.”

That’s a nice compliment. It is also a minefield, when you consider what it means to publish nowadays. The term ‘publish’ has taken on totally different facets of definition and expectation. The options for publishing a book, especially when considering self-publishing, are breeding faster than rabbits. I’ve discussed the whole “self-publish or go for the gold” with fellow writers. That’s really how writers look at it, isn’t it? Self-publishing isn’t the crowning moment for a writer. I’m being honest here.In reality, the writers who’ve self-published are far superior in thought and action. It takes moxie to put yourself and your work out there. It also takes money.

The ‘helpful advice for writers’ blogs I’ve been reading continue to discuss self-publishing, and I’ve found some of the suggestions suspect. While advertisements for self-publish-assisting services flash and glisten along the sides of the article, it benevolently advises writers to opt for these services to make one’s book look professional. Does anyone want to present his/her story with an unprofessional aspect? Obviously not. Nor do many writers enter this vortex with funds in hand. Isn’t it a writer’s object to take as much financial risk out of the equation as possible, so that he/she won’t end up a Starving Writer Wraith in the Land of Author Discontent?

I’m new at this, you know. I don’t know what I’m doing. I think that’s why self-publishing sounds more like a casino game to me at the moment. Whoever doles out the cash gets a spin around the e-book world. Here and there, someone claims, “Look at my book! It hit the jackpot!”

I’m beginning to wonder if anyone really has a grip on the current publishing frenzy. But that’s the charm of all vortices, eh?

The Query Beast & the Pitiless Synopsis

I grabbed a copy of Writer’s Market in diligent anticipation of something wonderful happening to my manuscript. I had the impression WM was more of an instruction manual for building a catapult that would launch my book into some bookmaker’s factory, where it would serendipitously deposit it for cloning, duplicating hardbound editions of my lovely child of script to reach millions of consumers, one delicious copy at a time. But no, Writer’s Market had the audacity to be realistic and list all these weird, freakish tasks for me to do. I feel like I’m applying for knighthood here or embarking, like Jason, on the maiden voyage to return with the Golden Contract, taking on the Query, the Summary and the formidable Synopsis in just the first leg of the quest.

Ship Garthsnaid, ca 1920s

Before now I’d only heard about the Synopsis, the Greek monster found near the churning Charybdis of Literary Works that Failed. Her ghastly, steely teeth take your beautiful creation and smash it down to 5-ish pages; her razor-sharp scales torture and twist it into 3 helpless sheets to the wind; and her five hundred lashing tails chop and mutilate it into 1 to 1 ½ pages of ground up chicken feed. She knows no mercy. She returns to finish the job, leaving you with a huddled, whimpering paragraph. That’s the Synopsis. Don’t be confused by her sister, Summary, who lures you in with her wily vices, telling you, “This is just a teaser.”

Yeah, I’m still trying to write a one-paragraph synopsis of my story. I return again and again and can’t seem to conquer it. Of course, I will be diplomatic when sending it to the literary agent. My query letter will say something like, “Oh, that was so much fun! You’re fabulous for wanting me to send you this synopsis! Can I grovel at your feet to read my manuscript? Thanks!”

And yes, you read correctly; the singular of ‘agents’ is ‘agent.’ I have only mustered the courage to send a query to one agent. I might as well drown in the aftermath of the Synopsis.