Monday, October 29, 2007

To Erase or Not to Erase (or how much to cater to an agent)

On my journey to figuring out the age old question, "What next?" I find myself a little stumped in my query quest. I thought I'd try to get ahead of the game (or at least in the game) and seek the wise internet for exactly what an agent wants, only to find that not only do they not all want the same thing, what one wants may absolutely turn another against you, and not just in my novel writing, but even in just my query!

One site tells me the best way to "hook" a query reader is to ask the hypothetical question that will want them to read on, but blogging agent Nathan Bransford, one of my new favorites, has very strong sentiments against the hypothetical question. In the famous words of Nathan, "For the love of JustinBobby!" I certainly plan on customizing my queries to each agent, but unless I'm picked up by one of the first four (and I completely understand the astronomical odds against that!), I think I may die of old age before I could write a new and different query for each submission! It's taking me longer to get the query perfect than it took me to write the silly book!

And then, when five people read it and find five different things they would change to make it better, who to listen to? How does a writer go about figuring out what really needs to be adjusted and what is fine as it is? Do I follow my instincts? I have rewritten my first chapter fifty times trying to get it to that "I'd definitely want to read the rest of the book" stage. How much is too much?

I love that Nathan Bransford just let people submit their first paragraph for him to choose his favorites. No rose for me in that ceremony (or even a token carnation), but all the same I learned a ton. For instance, the other people independent of him that judged the entries for themselves picked entirely different favorites. Lesson learned? I need much thicker skin and a higher tolerance for rejection and failure, because there are a thousand people who will hate what one will love.

Maybe my husband is right: I should go into computers and math, because there is definitely a right and wrong answer in those fields. On the other hand, I remember using a lot of erasers in Calculus too...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dreaming with my stilettos on

A friend just came back from New York City, full of the energizing feeling of walking the streets and working on Broadway. I sometimes dream of that day when I will be walking the streets there, too. Specifically, wearing red stilettos and a strikingly red power suit, pulling open some great glass door to a magnificent highrise where my dream agent will be waiting for me with a glass of champagne and a contract.

Hey, if I'm going to dream big, I might as well dream in specifics. Some writers visualize the book cover, the signings, their name on the top of the best seller list. For me, it's all about the journey. I used to dream of sitting down each day, a cup of coffee next to me and my computer on my lap, and writing blissfully hour after hour. So this year, after tossing my youngest one out into the scary world of public education, I am living the dream. I'm all hopped up on caffeine, two letters have completely worn off my keyboard, and I am obsessing over rewrites and queries. It's time for a new dream. So stilettos, a power suit, and a New York agent are it.

It may be a long way off, and maybe it will never be anything but a dream, but still I allow myself to go there in my head every now and then, because seeing it so vividly gives me hope to keep writing, even when the journey seems hard.

And because, in the dreams, my legs look awesome in stilettos!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Writer's Block = Laundry Day

Today I am an aspiring writer. Somedays I am a writer, Somedays I am a writer because I write. Today I am aspiring, because I want to write, but I'm not.

My biggest challenge as a mom and writer is how much time do I devote to a job that doesn't promise a paycheck? I have spent two years trying to write a novel in between doing my main job: raising three kids. If I had birthday parties to plan, I didn't write. If I had loads of laundry that had to been done, I didn't write. When time seemed to close in on me, writing was the first task to go. As a result, two years after starting I was only 200 pages into a novel that should have taken a few months.

This year I pledged I would devote myself without reservation to writing, no matter the consequences. After all, all the working moms I know can't just say, "I'm not coming in today because I have no milk in the house." That, and my husband suggested that next year, when last child begins school full time, I find a job that pays. My time is running out.

So I have been writing, every day, two and a half hours at least, and what do you know? In less than six weeks I finished the thing! About 100,000 words, 300 pages, beginning, middle and end, with character and plot and resolution.

Now, I am rewriting. I thought this would be the easy part. I am not clinging to this project like it's a baby. It is fraught with problems, and trying to solve them, and make it marketable instead of just an accomplishment on my part, is turning into a full time job. It feels like my brain is squeezing into a tiny bubble that might pop at any minute.

I am struggling to find the right format, the right words, the right timeline. Meanwhile, laundry is piling up, company is coming, the fridge is bare and the rug under the kitchen table needs a serious moment with a vacuum. Do I sit down and wrestle again with words that won't come, and feel like I've wasted an entire afternoon, or do I attack the housework and fall further into the trap that I've been in for two years?

Maybe my main character can do laundry in the next chapter... in that case, can I consider my own housework research?