Monday, October 27, 2008

Is Anybody Waiting to Tell Their Story?? It's Awfully Quiet In There

Fall is in the air. The weather is cooling down, almost to freezing at night. Short sleeves and capris are being exchanged for sweaters and jeans. The leaves are changing colors and falling all over my yard and driveway so that walking through them is like wading through deep waters. It feels like change is on its way.

I like the seasons so much because I am restless by nature. If we aren't moving every year, I'm moving furniture around. I like clothes for about five months and then I'm ready to switch out to something different, even if it's the same different I wore the past three years. I like routine, but I like change, sometimes, too.

My life is following the seasons this year, and as the leaves are falling and life around me is shifting in the slightest, subtle ways, my writing is too. In September I shifted writing to querying, giving myself until the month of November to query like mad, and then begin the process of writing again. A new season, a new book. It sounded so easy.

But like any change, I can look forward to it, welcome it with open arms, and then, once it arrives balk like crazy at it! Because change is hard, and often uncomfortable. And I miss what I'm leaving behind, even if it did drive me nuts and I am getting tired of it.

So, this last week of October, I am staring change in the face. Another book. I've waited for inspiration this month to hit, but it's more like a slow moving tortoise. Bit by bit I am getting characters, a feel of setting and smidges of interactions. But no real plot. And no real conflict. And I'm waiting for these guys to start talking to me, but they're pretty darn quiet and it's driving me mad! Is it possible I'm going to have to start them off on the road before they'll pick up the journey as their own?

And then, the New Writer's Handbook lands with a plop on my front porch, my glowing query printed in black and white, a small footnote spelling out that the novel referred to is "under consideration" at the time of publication. Ouch! It's not anywhere near consideration. It's under my bed chatting with the dust bunnies ashamed to show its face. But as I read the query again, all that love I felt for it came back. It was a great plot, I think. It had some great characters, I remind myself. Why did I give it up? Because three agents read it and commented that it just started a bit too slowly for them. Because in trying to spiffen it up, I lost my voice. I tried to make it what others thought it should be, and not what I wanted it to be. And after only 16 queries, I gave up. I put it away as my "starter novel." The one I cut my teeth on.

But the publication of the query reminded me that I wasn't the only one who thought the idea sounded good. Three of sixteen agents thought it sounded good too.

So now I am wondering: Do I try to kickstart a story that has no plot and no driving need to be told yet? Or do I dig out the book I buried as dead and try to revive it, imbue it with the life I've learned by writing my last book? Do I take the first book and revise, or take the idea and start all over with it and write a new book based on the same plot with the same characters? Do I wait a little longer for another story to gnaw at me?

Because the last time I was in this place I threw myself into pirates. Oh yes. A YA pirate novel based on the life of Blackbeard, with elements of fantasy in it. And just as I got rolling, SOME KIND OF NORMAL came busting through the gates demanding to be told.

I'm waiting for the demanding, but it's awfully quiet in here!


  1. Sixteen queries is much too soon to give up! Esp if three saw something there. If it were me, I'd take that manuscript and revise the beginning, maybe come at it from a whole different angle, put a new spin on the opening and take it from there and query more. Keep trying!

  2. Thanks Joanne! I may do that. Now I can completely laugh at the ridiculousness of quitting at 16, but at the time I was new and unsure of my writing. And, it turns out, I needed distance. I was still so caught up in that one novel I couldn't see clearly what was working and what wasn't. Nine months away...I may go back and see if there isn't any potential in it.

    If I can pry it out of the jaws of those dust bunnies!

  3. Much too soon to give up on it. When I read your query - I can't wait to read it! I'd dust it off if you feel up to it. Amazing plot and 16 is too little to quit!

  4. Thanks Brit! I'm still goofin' around with it. I wish I knew HTML and could do a little more tinkering.. I don't like that it's bigger than my screen!

    We'll see... I may change it again. It's my cyber version of moving furniture when I get restless! :)

  5. I could never figure out why you left it after 16 queries! You really started out with a bang - 3 of those 16 wanted to read it!

    I think you've learned a lot writing the one you're sending out now. You can apply that knowledge to any book you choose to work on now.

    Or, should I say...


    I think you know what I mean.

  6. Heidi-

    At the time, those few outright rejections and the silence of the rest seemed huge. But mostly, I was trying to make the book "grab" more at the beginning, since that's what the three other agents said was wrong. And in trying to get it what they wanted, I lost my own voice and it became something that wasn't mine anymore. So I couldn't keep querying, because I didn't know which version to query, and I decided to put it away for a while and give it some breathing room.

    Then Babs showed up.

    I knew from the start that this was the stronger book. Maybe in a few months the silence of the rest of the 110 agents of SKON will make me look towards the hope of a new book that is even stronger. I hope I am getting better with each project.

    Of course, I hope this is it. And one of these aJents will call already!

    And I can move on to the next one...

  7. I totally hear you on the silence problem!

    I get it now, that you hit a roadblock with the first book. It makes sense.

    I have a first book too... I never did send it anywhere. It took me 7 years to write, including two massive rewrites. By that time, even though it had huge problems, I didn't want to look at it anymore. I'd had enough! I still care for it and want to fix it up someday but in the meantime other imaginary friends came along and you know how that goes!