Worrying, Waiting, & Writing

This image is by the artist Kibbitzer (Kibbi) on Deviant Art

This image is by the artist Kibbitzer (Kibbi) on Deviant Art

The resubmission process is not as easy as I thought.

Last year, my agent submitted me to three presses. Each one of them saw something of value in it, and offered me some feedback about what aspects of the novel they had issues with. The idea being that if I fixed some of these things, they would review the revised manuscript which might lead to an offer for publication. 

I took a lot of time and care to substantially alter and rework my manuscript, and now that I’ve finished  I’m on “resubmission” with the three editors/presses who gave me feedback. What I have to do now is wait. When I was on submission the first time, I was nervous but also confident. After all, my manuscript had been good enough to get an agent, and I had glowing reviews from my critique partner and beta readers. The editors could have simply rejected my work, but thought it was good enough to give me feedback on. It felt like they wanted to publish my work, but it just wasn’t quite there.

So now that I’ve worked so hard to revise my manuscript, I’m surprised that I find being on resubmission a lot more difficult than the original submission period. I’ve tried hard to figure why this is, and ultimately it comes down to fear. Resubmission is my second & last chance for my novel to be acquired/published by these presses. I fear that they will read it and find my manuscript ultimately unworthy. This concept is scary not just because I truly want my manuscript to be published, but also because it makes me worry about who I am as a writer. I fear that I am somehow in a literary “uncanny valley” as a writer, meaning that my skills/stories are good enough for consideration, but ultimately unworthy of publication. This fear has made it much harder to write something new.

I’ve asked a lot of writers what they do to cope when on submission/resubmission, and the answer I see the most is:

“Work on something else and hope that it distracts you enough from the idea of waiting.”

So I set out to work on something else, but have been plagued by doubt. I know all writers struggle with this. I certainly did when writing my first novel, and even more so when revising/rewriting it. My process in writing a first draft generally requires me to accept that a first draft is about finding the bones of the story. This translates to accepting that the beginning will likely be completely rewritten (saving the plot points and nothing else) and the rest of it will be heavily rewritten. A lot of my first draft writing has me writing scenes that I need to write to get to know my characters better, but are ultimately cut because they are not necessary. A character could talk endlessly about being an outcast in high school, but you could simply reduce this to a single phrase in a conversation. Something like “Sorry, I’m just used to eating alone.” That tells you everything you need to know, and avoid long ambling exposition.

I used to hate this about my process, but I have learned over the past few years that it’s pointless to fight it. I’ve tried to be better about writing work that requires less editing, but ultimately it makes it much harder for me to complete a story. If I think of my novel as building a bridge, and I choose to build it slowly and steadily out of huge stones that once placed cannot be removed, then I run into big problems when I find myself  at a dead end. Whereas if my first draft is just the basic framework which can be altered easily, then I can make sure that those huge stones are in the right place when I edit/rewrite/ and revise.

This is definitely not the fastest way to write a good novel, but it’s what works for me. The issue I have now is, I worry whether the bridges I build are good enough for other people to walk/drive on. Whether they will be able to be used by the masses, or if I’m simply building them for myself. What if my bridges aren’t good enough? Should apply my craft to something else? A true artist is said to be compelled to make/compose whatever art calls to them even if no one else saw it. I perform and sing without an audience often, and I write stuff that no one sees (nor should). For me there is no difference, because they all focus on one thing: Telling a story. I can’t imagine a life where I didn’t tell stories. But stories require an audience, just like theatre.  While novels can certainly exist without anyone but the author reading it, that’s not why I write. My goal in writing is to not only craft and create an excellent story, but also to share it with the world. For that reason, publication means a lot to me, and that is the reason that idea of resubmission being my second & last chance is much more nerve wracking.

My hope is that by blogging about this, I’ll remember that publication is the final step for my first novel. It’s an important one, but I shouldn’t let that stop me from taking the first step with my second. I’ve got other stories that need to be told, and that should be my focus for now.

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Edited – IRL

So I decided to get around to re-reading what I wrote. I found the narrator talked a bit much, and some statements were just too dumb or just completely unrealistic. So I cut a lot. I’ve put my editing up for today:

Do you like it better?

EDITING:

IRL

I’ve been sitting at this café for over an hour, and he still hasn’t shown up. Why hasn’t he shown up? I told him to meet me here at exactly four o’clock. It’s past five now, and he still isn’t here. I gave him my cell phone number. He could call. I really am sick and tired of this always happening. I get to talking to a guy for a little while. Finally when it’s all going great, we decide to meet, and then, they never show. Am I cursed? Did some voice from the heavens cry out “Ryan shall only have great conversations on-line! He shall be plagued to wander forever in the electronic world, and forget all that he knows is real!” It’s like I’m living in the fucking Matrix!

“Are you sure I can’t get you anything?” I’ve had to send this waiter away seven times all ready. I’m going to have to order something if I ever plan on coming back to whatever this place is called again.

“No thanks, not yet. I’m really sorry, the person I’m meeting here is just late…well I think he’s late.” Why am I explaining myself to him?

“Oh really? What time was he supposed to be here?”

“We said we’d meet around four.” Just tattoo a big L on my forehead for loser.

“Four? Wow I’d say he’s pretty late.” Thanks for rubbing it in asshole. Oh great! And now he’s sitting in Jason’s chair! Jason’s gonna think that because he was late I started macking on the waiter because I’m so desperate.

“Yeah, I don’t know what could have happened.” Could this day possible get worse? I mean for starters today I weighed myself and found out I’ve gained 2 pounds since Tuesday. Tuesday! That was 4 days ago, how did I gain 2 pounds in four days? That’s where the nightmare begins. Then my mother called me, and told me she found this great guy she could fix me up with. I’m still getting those weird ass phone calls in the middle of the night with Nick heavily breathing into the receiver and then hanging up, four times a week. Nick was all my mother’s idea. She thought it’d be great if we dated. She forgot to mention that the reason she knew him was that they went to the same therapist. Then my professor gives me a C on my paper. I’d love to see her write a paper on comparing Fidelio, La Boheme, and RENT, discussing the social implications of the bourgeoisie of past cultures and how that applies to our capitalistic middle class society. The last thing I need is some cute waiter who’s two years younger than me and has a face like one of those models on the Calvin Klein commercials who always say something stupid like “I don’t want to be attractive…I just am.” To make matters worse, he still has a body like the boys who lived next door to me when I was younger; the one any girl would have given her best friend’s left knee cap just to get into bed.

“So, who is he?” I hate it when beautiful people want to try to get to know you. You can’t say no.

“He’s just a guy I’ve been talking to on-line.” I feel the L on my forehead burning again.

“On-line? That’s kind of sketchy,” and now he’s pulling the chair closer in. Looks like he’s gonna be here awhile.

“Well maybe, but more people are doing it today, and it’s not like we’re meeting in an alley way. There are lots of people here, so if he’s an axe murderer I can just leave once I’ve had my coffee.” It’s not sketchy at all; it’s one of the better ways to get to know someone. I mean its 2003: The age of technology is upon us. I know at least 5 other couples who are all very happy, and they met their partners on-line. I mean, where else can you get to know someone for who they are without all the awkwardness that comes from meeting someone you’ve never met before in real life. I definitely wouldn’t have the balls to talk to this pretty waiter at a bar. I’d assume he’s too far out of my league. However, if I met him on-line, I’d probably find out he’s got a bunch of the same problems I do. People probably think he’s too pretty to approach with anything more than offers of sexual fulfillment, so all he gets are offers for one-night-stands from old men with money or over confident twinks.

“I guess your right. So what’s he look like?” Even on-line this question comes up way too often. I used to not have a picture on my profile, but I got so tired of people asking me what I looked like I gave up and put it up there. One of my friends got sick and tired of me complaining that I wasn’t beautiful, took some photos of me, and doctored them with some software. Now I have a picture that makes me look like I spend my life walking down runways and flying to exotic locations for photo shoots. I mean I’m far from ugly, but it’s not like I’m some young sculpted Adonis. I’m 25 with a body like a 12 year old. My face is still young and full, and but my body never got that extra muscle mass that guys are supposed to get during puberty. All I got was a lower voice and chest hair that which I despise.

“Well, I don’t exactly know. He’s supposed to be around 5’11 and 140 pounds with bleach blonde hair and a tan.” In San Francisco that describes about one third of the men in the city.

“Well that should be easy to find.” Now he’s laughing. The L on my forehead is really starting to sizzle.

“Yeah I’ve found him about 17 times in the past hour. The problem is that none of them turned out to be him.” Did that even make sense to anyone but me?

“Well, how are you supposed to meet if you’ve never seen him?” Could he possibly be more nosey?

“He said he’d be wearing a white shirt and black pants and that he’d probably recognize me from my picture.” I am a loser. A L-O-S-E-R loser.

“Maybe he’s in traffic or something. There was a 5 car pile-up 6 blocks down on Powell street.” Well that’s comforting. Maybe he got into a wreck, and the one guy who I might actually have liked and had a chance with is laying on the operating table right now preparing to meet his maker.

“It’s possible, but I hope he didn’t get hurt. He’s the first guy I’ve had a chance to actually talk with in a long time.” Don’t go into the light Jason. Come back! Get one of those doctors to zap you with that heart thingy. Don’t leave me now!

“What do you mean? You don’t talk to people a lot or something?” Would you please just leave me alone? I hate it when cute waiters try to get to know you better to get a bigger tip. I used up over 1\2 my extra money allowance tipping this one cute guy that worked at the coffee shop in high school, and nothing ever came of it.

“I talk to people, but there is a difference between talking and having a conversation. Two people can talk to each other for years and never actually say anything.” I’ve seen it happen. Those pointless conversations you have with people on the street that you saw at a party, and you don’t want to ignore them because that would be rude, but you’re not really interested in anything they say.

“I see…well what did you and this guy talk about?” Now what I really want to do is tell him that we discussed something ridiculous like Malinowski’s anthropological theory on the functionalist approach which he discussed in his book Argonauts of the Western Pacific and how the book still applies to today in social theory, even though it was written in 1922 just so that he’ll look at me blankly and leave me alone.

“We talked about a lot of things. We both like the same artists, have similar taste in music, and have a lot in common. Like his mom is crazy and thinks basically he shouldn’t date anyone, and my mom thinks I should date these random guys she meets, only because she knows their gay and single. She forgets to mention that they’ve got as many mental problems as she does.” Now I’m talking about my mother. Should I be on a couch? Should I be paying this guy?

“That’s funny. I wish my mom tried to set me up occasionally, but no one is ever good enough for her ‘one and only’ if you know what I mean.” Wow! Information about him! Maybe we At last a change in topic! Can stop talking about me now?

“Oh, so you’re an only child? So is Jason. I’m the middle child.” I’m the Jan Brady of the family.

“Oh really? What was that like?” and we’re back to talking about me.

“What do you mean?” I don’t want to talk about me. I’m the guy who’s not even worth showing up on time for.

“I mean what was it like when you grew up?” WARNING! WARNING! FLOOD GATE OPENING!!!

“Well, it was rather horrible. I have one older brother and one younger sister. My older brother was idolized by my parents. My mother and father were both teachers, and my brother knew he wanted to be a teacher since he was like 12. Every Saturday instead of getting to watch cartoons my brother would walk up and down the hall ringing this really loud bell yelling “It’s time for school” as loud as he possibly could, and then he’d drag my sister and I into the garage where he had set up two small desks and one big desk. He’d use my mom’s old worksheets and make us do homework on Saturday morning, while all my friends were watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and having fun. I’d be sitting there, diligently doing my forced homework, and then my big brother would look up from his desk with the most wicked smile on his face. “Ryan stop talking!” he’d yell at me, and I’d look around with the most confused look on my face. “There isn’t anyone to talk to!” I’d yell back, and then he’d hit me with a yard stick “I told you no talking, and you are talking back to the teacher. You’re going to have to stay an extra hour.” And I’d end up doing homework for 4 hours every Saturday.

“Are you serious! That’s terrible!” You haven’t heard the end of it.

“Oh believe me, it gets better. When we’d all play together we’d combine all our old toys and make a city. My older brother got the cool things like a tree house, a hospital, and the school of course. My little sister got the nice house, a restaurant, and a nice little 4 person family with a Mom, Dad, brother, and sister. What did I get? I got the damn orphanage, and since my brother took all the other cool people, they gave me this weevil that my mom ran over with the lawn mower. It had a big gash in it, and it didn’t even wobble. They named it Ryan. My sister would bring her family to the orphanage to adopt little Ryan, but when they saw that he was broken, they wouldn’t adopt him.”

“Oh my God!” Yeah, you’re talking to someone who’s been broken ever since.

“What about you? What is growing up alone like?” It can’t be as bad as being the middle child.

“Well… It’s really boring. My parents have a really crappy marriage. They never talk. I ended up being the one that did all the talking or gave them something to talk about. It’s like when you’re a little kid, and you lie just to see if you can get away with it. I’d do things just to give my parents something to talk about. Since I came out to them though, they’ve had plenty to talk about. My dad was so sad. He’d always wanted a son, because he was the last one to carry on the family name. Now I’m the last one, and it’s going to die with me. That is unless I end up having kids, which I’m not seeing as very likely.” Wow, that’s not what I expected. This kid doesn’t look like he’s had a hard life at all. He looks more like he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and hasn’t let go of it yet.

“Well, you could adopt.” Now I feel bad about complaining.

“Yeah, I thought about that, but there are so many legal problems with gays being allowed to adopt kids nowadays. Even though there are countless studies that say having gay parents does not make someone gay, it’s still a problem. Besides, my dad was more interested in seeing his genes passed on to another generation than anything else. Since he found out I am gay, he’s not been as proud of his genes. He’s just kind of given up on a lot of things. My Mom is really tired of how melancholy he gets. He barely moves anymore, and it’s not like I can go get him. They live in Washington State, just outside of Seattle, and it’s just been a big mess.” I don’t know what to say now.

“Um…well…I see. I’m really sorry. I always assumed only children had it made. After all they get all the attention in the world. My parents barely remember to ask me to family holidays.” Jason never really talked about his family life. I wonder if being an only child is this hard for most kids.

“Well, it’s not all bad. I mean, I am really loved, though my parents don’t really like what I do. They still love me and tell me that. I think that kids will have it rough, no matter how many other siblings they have. That’s why I’m not too interested in raising any.” I don’t like kids cause their messy and noisy. Not because I think that childhood is pain. Who’d have thought there could be pain under such a beautiful face?

“Well, I’m about to get off my shift. Would you mind getting a cup of coffee that way I can at least look like I did some work here?” I’d buy more than a cup of coffee if I thought that’d fix it. This kid made me completely forget that Jason stood me up. I really owe him one.

“Yeah, umm give me whatever you drink.” I bet he’s got good taste in coffee too.

“All right. I’ll be back in a minute.” Man what an idiot I am. Poor kid, he talks to everyone just like his parents, he kept me talking forever. If Jason had shown up, I would never have guessed that he even knew what pain was. Amazing how easily the people we place on pedestals can come down the second they show they are human, and yet showing your human, without really making a big deal out of it makes me want to put him right back up on the pedestal.

“Here you go. I’m getting off work now. Would you want to grab a bite to eat later? I’m starving.” Like I’m gonna say no!

“Sure, I’d like that a lot actually. Where and when?” Please don’t stand me up, please don’t stand me up, please don’t stand me up.

“How about the Globe? It’s got great food if you don’t mind spending a little extra cash. Let’s say around nine-ish?” I’m a poor college student, but what’s one little splurge going to do? Not like I’m spending all my money on the java boy from high school anymore.

“I’ll be there at exactly nine o’clock.” Let’s pray you are there too.

“I’ll be there, and don’t worry. I won’t stand you up this time.” With a wink of his eye, and a small angelic smile I melt. I’m gonna see him again at nine o’clock. That’s like two dates in one day; I guess this day is shaping up to be better than I thought it would. I’m going out on a date with a beautiful boy who works at a nice place and has exquisite taste in coffee. I barely can taste the dark mocha its bitterness is covered up by the sweet sticky caramel. It was reasonably priced too from what I see on the receipt. Hey, he wrote something on it. I love it when waiters do that.

Hey,

Sorry, I had to work.

See you 9:00 sharp at the Globe

I promise.

Yours,

Jason