Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Back and Forth, and Back again

I've avoided writing the blog because writing in general is not going well these days. I find myself going in circles, trying to figure out where my heart is calling me to write, and what I might actually be able to publish, and wondering if it's possible to find a place in between.

I started a story a few weeks ago. I outlined the characters and the plot, put work into it to make it a decent story. But my heart wasn't in it. I wrote, and it fell flat. I loved the characters, but the story itself bored me.

The months of querying and agent replies have started take their toll. The fact is, I have had a fantastic run. Some amazing replies to queries that resulted in tons of referrals and personal responses, glowing reviews like, "You have a tremendous talent," and "You have that Spark." I've had phone calls and full requests. But ultimately, I still have no agent.

I am, by nature, a problem solver. And so I look at the past months and think, if so many agents say I am talented, and can write, and have a great idea, why is it I'm not getting the offers?

I don't know what the answer is. But while the query front is dying down and the writing front is frustrating, my mind is spinning, trying to figure out how I get from where I am to where I want to be.

Numbers are fairly clear. The adult fiction market is slowing drastically. The kids' market is fairly strong. When I started writing, my initial idea was to write books like my kids are reading.

It didn't work that way. It turned out I didn't gravitate towards kids' fiction. I am an adult fiction writer. But when things get tough, I keep going back to it: to my list of ideas for middle grade books that have been piling up for years. If it sells more easily, why not revisit the idea?

So this week I did. One that's been bubbling for a while, and I started to get excited about it. Put away the adult book I couldn't get excited about and take up a new one.

And then a friend emailed with a recommendation for a definitely adult book... with an idea that immediately I dismissed as something entirely out of my realm. But it has hung around and grown on me. The more I dismiss it, the greater it screams in my head. And the bonus? It fits perfectly with the themes in Some Kind Of Normal. It would cement a branding and side-step that terrible genre-hopping.

But I'm not ready for it. It's a hard book. And I'm tired of jumping around and not committing (or committing for a week or two) to an idea. I don't like the waffling.

And, in short, it really comes down to the fact that I'm not ready to shelve Some Kind of Normal. Ocean Deep I put away and never looked back. But not SKoN. I love that book. I think it's good. I think it's important. I know I should look at all of these rejections as a sign to move on, but I can't let go.

To go the middle grade route would be to put away Some Kind of Normal for good. To go forward with the new idea is to put myself in a place I'm completely not comfortable, and to risk continuing to try to break into a genre that has no place for me.

I am stuck in the middle.


  1. Here's what I think- SKON isn't going to be forgotten. Try something new and completely different and see what happens in January. You still have some pendings and you've put in so much time and effort (seriously, you should get a medal or trophy), but you need some distance. So let that story bounce from brain to paper and see where it takes you. That's the pleasure of writing.

  2. sigh.

    I know.

    I'm getting not much of anything and I keep wondering what it is that's turning everybody off. Maybe it's not even the book... but what can I do to make it more appealing? Look at what you've done, and how excellent your book is, and still!!!!

    either one of should turn our backs now, I believe that. When I look forward, I imagine writing more slightly disturbing books, but not necessarily for kids/ youngsters. I don't want to be "branded" the wrong way.

    I think Kerri's right.

    You know, right now, I don't think we have to finish anything. Just write words, let them come out, even if nothing happens with them. I gotta take my own advice. I haven't written much this month.

  3. That sounds frustrating, Heidi.

    I'm with Kerri - SKON won't be forgotten. Relax and write. You could start writing about kids and it may spark something that takes on a life of its own. That's what happened with me. I set out to write a completely different book than what I'm writing. In the process, something clicks and then, BAM, I'm changing it. I've changed the ultimate story as I write, just this week, I made more changes where I'm headed. I think it is for the better. Start writing and see where it leads you.

    Bookends had some agencies that specialize in women's fiction, women's faith, etc. You may want to give them a try.

  4. I just hate the going back and forth... the starting one project and putting it down, and starting another and putting it down too.

    But now that I think about it, I did that before SKON too. So maybe another perfect book is lurking.

    Kerri, I'm taking you're advice and doing something completely different (that middle grade book)... just to see where it takes me. And leaving the option to dump it in December if I don't love it by then.

    Heidi - I'm with you. At some point, I just need to write. Something. Anything.

    And Brit - you too are right. Like SKON, the perfect book will show up again, when I'm not looking.

    The key is: KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

  5. How about in the meantime, as you clarify where you want to go with your writing, if you try submitting a few short pieces to literary journals? Maybe an acceptance or two from them will spark the focus in your writing? Plus it's always a credential you can add to your queries.