So it’s been a minute or three since I blogged last. Just life stuff mostly, but a few things on the writing front have developed, which leave me in a combined state of anxious, ecstatic, frustrated, and sprinkled amongst these is that little niggling “I suck” voice. Blargh.
QUERYING, SUBS, AND THE INDIE OPTION
I took part in #SonofaPitch as I’ve spoken about before. Nope, I didn’t move into one of the 20 coveted spots, and I was/still am okay with that. I did, however, take part in the Twitter Pitch Free-for-all, and that netted me some interesting results.
I grabbed the attention of a publisher, Curiosity Quills. I also got a like from two agents from Holloway Literary. Since I’ve previously subbed to Holloway this same manuscript, I wasn’t/am not sure about resubbing. Granted, I’ve made some significant changes to the first pages their submission guidelines request, and I have also changed the title of the novel. More about that in a minute.
Also, Diedre Knight of the Knight Agency put out a query sprint call over the last weekend. I got in on that since The Knight Agency is one of my top picks for a Literary Agency to sub to. She came back at me with a request for more pages.
HOWEVER…. though I’ve subbed my manuscript in the hopes of nabbing a traditional publishing deal, another part of me is going…uh, why?! Because I need validation of my worth as a writer and the quality of my novel from an assorted gang of random gatekeepers? REALLY?
Indie appeals hugely. I don’t like relinquishing control as anyone who knows me will tell you. I know my book is a tough sell. I know that 99.99% of submissions never make it through the gauntlet. I know even if I do, it’ll take forever, and that as a new author I’ll be responsible for marketing the book. Every publisher has their favorite child; y’know, the one that provides a shining example to the house, and who rakes in the bucks based on his/her name and existing brand. The rest of us are left swimming in the wake and trying to do what we can to become successful. So…why am I even bothering? I don’t fucking know. Few people who find my book, read the summary and ultimately buy will make that decision based upon who published it. I daresay NO ONE is going to give the most remote fuck whether it was Random House, KDP, or CreateSpace.
A friend and I had this conversation today. I mention him below…he’s a BRILLIANT writer, I can’t say enough about the wonderful memoir he wrote and self-published. He impressed upon me those very same principles, essentially asking if a group of strangers in a cube farm in NYC or wherever would take care of my book, my brand, and my career like I could. The answer is no, obviously. They’re in it for the bottom line, and I’m in it because it’s my life’s passion. So, once again, my eyes turn back to the wide open opportunities available in self-publishing. Glory hallelujah and thank you, Frank, for reminding me of what’s truly important.
A BETA READER! YAY/YIKES!
However, I needed a fresh set of eyes on my work. That’s where, out of the blue, a Twitter contact and fellow #sonofapitch’er stepped in. He offered to beta and I happily accepted. I did a quick two or three passes on my first three chapters and after a bit of trepidation, I hit send.
Now, the manuscript as is/was is in third person and I’ve made it my main focus to change it to first person POV. Oh, the pronouns. Lots n lots of pronouns. He to I, him to me, etc. I changed them all, or so I thought…I definitely missed a few, but one huge issue flew past me, something that my beta quickly spotted and didn’t hesitate to point out.
Writing 1st person POV requires a change beyond mere pronouns. My beta said I fell out of Jonah’s voice, especially in chapters 2 and 3. At first I wasn’t sure what he meant, but in reading it back with a critical eye and comparing it to the prologue (which btw must go or be at least truncated quite a bit), I sure did take a step back. I was in narrative voice, and nowhere near Jonah’s head. Oh, not consistently, but certainly enough to make my beta point it out. Therefore, I have a lot more work to do than him=me and he=I.
Plus I discovered a terrible, dark, shameful secret. I am an adverb-aholic. Oh, Stephen King, I am ashamed of myself. I’m indeed trotting down the well-paved “-ly” path to hell. *sigh* More work. Lots more work. On top of that, I am stacking adjectives. I admit I tend to do that. It is a part of my voice, and in certain cases it can be a cool tool to whip out of the writer’s box of tricks, but there is such a thing as moderation. So, more work.
But it wasn’t all red-lining. Beta liked a great deal of the sample. He likes the story as a whole. There were a few things he wasn’t entirely on board with, such as the initial conversation with Jonah and Dr. Simon. He’s not the first to point out that Dr. Simon comes off as a bit of a dick and unprofessional at the outset, so I know I need to change that. I was attempting to show that Dr. Simon is a bit on the defensive himself, and out of his depth having never had a celebrity patient, much less one with a history of arrogance and unwillingness to take part in much of his own treatment plan. So he was trying to impress upon Jonah that Jonah’s celebrity status meant nothing at Pine Serenity House, he was to be treated equally. No better, no worse. Well, I went a little overboard. So, there’s another revision.
In all of that, I could’ve walked away thinking “I SUCK”. Or that my beta is a big old meanie-head that doesn’t understand my voice or somesuch. This is why I had a near-panic attack at even taking on a beta….because it happened before, in a CP situation. That CP was a female, and I don’t know how much that played into our inability to get on the same page, as it were. She dished out critique like mad, and praise extremely sparingly if at all, and was incensed at my critique of her work. The parting was a little acrimonious.
This beta experience is nothing like that. My beta is HILARIOUS for one thing. I adore his witty remarks even when he’s beating the ever-loving shit out of a darling, and advocating the murder of even more of said darlings. For another, I can tell that he’s truly championing my work and wants to help make it better. I never got that vibe from the CP. So I read his set of notes, looked at the plethora of red splashed all over those 35 pages, and in between laughing at his commentary, his “ADVERB SLAYER” edicts, and suggestions, I was nodding along. He’s right. Right, right, right. And deciding to take my novel on the self-pub route in no way negates the fact that my book needs more polish before I present it to the world.
I “MET” FRANK
In other news this week, I bought a book. I know, that’s not very exciting. I’m a voracious reader, and most disposable income finds its way to a book outlet, be it Beagle and Wolf in town, or Amazon, or the thrift store/garage sale. Books, books, books. But this particular tome is something entirely different. I’m going to plug it because it’s probably the most raw, beautifully written, and heart-wrenching memoirs I’ve read. The name of it is DIRTY WHITE BOY, and the author is the (I swear, superhuman) Frank Ruhl Peterson. Addicted to heroin and on the streets at age 16, he somehow managed to become a physician, but was consumed repeatedly by drug dependency. He was the subject of an extremely skewered episode of 20/20 back in September of 1997, and he…well, I’ll let him tell you in his own words. Buy his book.
I’m telling you about Frank because the book has had an impact on me like few others have. I fired off a review on the Amazon page before I was even halfway through reading it and without a clue how it all turned out for Frank. In that review I told him about my novel-in-progress and that I’d originally purchased the book as a research tool into heroin addiction, but that his story grabbed me so deeply that I didn’t take a single note as I read.
Frank responded to my five-star review and invited me to communicate via email. I finished DIRTY WHITE BOY and sent the first of what I hope will be many correspondences. As much of an introvert as I am, this is something I just. don’t. do. But I really felt compelled to communicate with him. I guess maybe because via DIRTY WHITE BOY I got to know this guy on such a deep level, that I was thoroughly invested like he was a friend or relative I’d lost contact with and had been left hanging about whatever became of him? I don’t know, but it was something I couldn’t at the time define. I can now, because of how succinctly he responded, touching on a philosophy I have adhered to without ever really verbalizing it in any way, shape or form. It’s one that my character Jonah embodies at the end of my novel, in fact. But anyway….
Frank emailed back promptly, and amid telling me how his life is going today (I really did feel like I had a vested interest in knowing, like he is a personal friend or something), he offered his assistance with my book. Wow!!! I’m so happy to have made that connection on a professional as well as personal level. Frank Ruhl Peterson is a truly remarkable man, and my life is already enriched from having “met” him.
Back here on the homefront, well, I’m between jobs, money is extremely tight, and I’m resisting the primal urge to go back to work at my previous job. It left literally no time to devote to my book. But I still have to eat, keep the lights on, and my internet functional. I have a teenage son to support. I have those responsibilities weighing heavily on one side of the scale, while my book, begging to be finished and sent out into the world on the other. I had made a vow to be published in my mother’s lifetime. She’ll be 92 at the end of this month. I can’t waste a moment.
I attended a job fair in town yesterday in the hopes that I can find something that’ll strike more of a balance than I previously had. I am determined to get this book finished, but financial struggles will also prove to be an impediment. Tough to get in the head of a struggling character when the wolf is baying at my own damn door. Then again, perhaps it could be inspirational, if I could channel that stress into my written words.
A BRAND NEW NAME
OH! I almost forgot. Geez. So, FACES got itself a new name. I’ve been struggling with the perfect title for this manuscript since its inception. FACES came to mind during the first draft, very early into it, and it sort of stuck as a working title. During So You Think You Can Write, I knew I needed to give it a more Harlequin-esque title, and hit upon CATCH THE FALLEN STAR. <=== that’s about as Harlequin as they come!
Well, this week a new title finally slammed into my head from out of nowhere. I tried it on for size, had a few doubts, hesitated in saying anything, but on Twitter my beta asked what it was. So I held my nose and told him. He said it’s a good one and better gives us a look at the story and the MC. That title is, EXIT, STAGE NORTH.
So in the future, when I mention EXIT, STAGE NORTH, it’s the same book as FACES. Just so you know.
Back at it. I have all these edits from my Beta to go through so I can get these chapters solid.