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.

With each morning comes a new chance

I think one thing about being a writer, or really a human, is that you begin to understand there is a special time of day that really speaks to you. For me it is not late at night, nor is it the early morning. It is blissful hour of 10:00 a.m. at That time, I’ve had my morning caffeine, I’ve read what happened while I was asleep, and I’ve generally had my brain working. At 10, something really magical happens, and I normally find myself working until 2 pm. Then I wonder why I’m starting to be crabby and slow down. The answer? I worked through lunch. I usually refuel, but that momentary break, seems to do something to me, and I can never quite get back in the zone.

I think knowing your body and knowing when you are likely to be in the best mood/zone to write/work is important. For me, I try and make 10:00 a.m. a priority. I make sure nothing is going to get in my way, and it is easy for me to do that, because well…I’ve got all morning to do it.

I was really touched that so many people commented on my last post, so I wanted to talk about something that people could weigh in on. I also figured loyal readers might want something where I don’t complain.

So anyone got some thoughts? Are there any night workers? I just have to ask…how do you do it?

Average time?

So something that has had me on edge lately, is that I never know if I am ahead or behind in time. When I was in the writing phase, I knew what a decent goal was. I knew most writers wrote 1,500 words a day, or at least attempted to. In editing/revising/rewriting it is much harder to quantify your progress. I’ve gone pages without changing a word, and then spent an hour on a paragraph. So it’s hard to deal with.

I was listening to a new podcast I found lately called “Dead Robots’ Society” It doesn’t sound like it would be, but it is, in fact, a writing podcast. I scrolled through the archives to see them talk about writing. The two hosts argued over the term “editing” is editing just cleaning up grammar? Or is it revising/rewriting? Or is revising/rewriting a part of editing as a whole? This made me curious. Do people think it is taking me months to check grammar when I claim to be “editing” a book? Should I be saying “revising” instead. I think editing includes grammar checking as well as revising/rewriting when needed.

I think when all you are doing is grammar checking, you are really just copy-editing.

Editing is something that tends to get ignored. I find tons of hints on how to write,  but not a lot on editing. I wonder why this is. Is it because it is assumed that once the story is written, editing is easy? If so…I must be doing it wrong.

Walking it Off

So in school I really hated the phrase “walk it off.” Mainly it was just something Coach’s said, and it was never something I liked, because the advice seemed insane. Taking a walk, alone, after just being brutally tortured is bad advice. However, walking to clear your head, an just get your body into some movement? Well…in addition to being good for your physical well being (I have done a lot of sitting since Saturday afternoon) it also helps in other ways.

As I said in my last post, I have a lot of stuff on my plate right now. All of it is good, but it certainly makes it harder to get work done. So…even though I’m certainly more tired at the end of the day now, I also need to find the energy to get some writing/editing done. This is especially daunting for me lately,because my day job basically involves writing and editing, but instead of fiction, it’s legal work. Now in comparison, even my rough fiction is more interesting that the best legal brief, but editing still uses the same part of my brain that has been working all day. So I needed to give my brain a break, and I’ve found walking works. So while “walking it off” isn’t good advice to a traumatized gay kid in high school, it might be good for that kid when he grows up to be a lawyer/writer.

Working

So this week, I’ve not been super productive on the book front. I’m still in the middle of editing chapter 12. Part of this is because I got some legal work, which is great. I really would ADORE a paycheck right now, as it is something I’ve not had in quite some time. Therefore, I can’t really complain. Especially since I’ve been really incredibly fortunate up until now, to have so much time to edit my book.  Since I am new to editing, I’m slow at it, and that is part of the reason it is not done. That is something I’ve had difficulty accepting. I mean technically I have had months to do this. Why couldn’t I just edit a chapter a day, or something like that? While I am certain I  could have done this, I’m also equally certain the product would be weaker as a result. Still…part of me thinks….I could at least be querying agents, who would read it, and probably get me a real editor, who would make this process easier and faster.

If my only goal was simply to get the thing done…that might have worked. However, I think my book is actually pretty good, and as such, it deserves the best shot I can give it, in order for it to become published. This makes me frustrated, because it is hard to go several days without looking at my manuscript, but after doing legal work all day (which is basically nothing but writing and editing) it is hard to do work on my manuscript. Especially since I don’t stop doing my legal work until I can’t do it anymore.

I realize I’ve basically said this over and over on this blog, but sometimes just writing about it is helpful.

Word Count: 92,548

Penny for your thoughts?

So I’m still working on my book, but some readers have expressed an interest in the current state of my work in progress. I have provided a preview of the current version of my first chapter. I’d be thrilled if people read it, and provided feedback.

http://therole.wordpress.com/sample-chapter/

Current Word Count: 92,483

Finding Hope in the Pages

So I have been editing more. My last few posts have been sad, because I’ve felt that way. I found myself reviewing my own work, trying to forget about editing what is to come, and instead reviewing on what I’ve already worked on. I found this useful, because I found that I actually enjoyed reading it. I talked to a friend yesterday, and got to talking about my woes. She pointed out to me that while it is amazing to have beta-readers, none of them are particularly interested in LGBT literature. I agreed, and she and I were both quick to point out that it is still unclear if that is the “genre” of my book. I used to worry I was writing something only for gay readers, but once I let that worry go, I was free to just tell the story I wanted to tell. Upon reading what I have most recently revised, I can now see that I’ve really crafted my manuscript to tell that story. I could feel the strange kid/adult in me from college, actually get excited about the book, because it was the story he always wanted to read.

So I found hope within my own pages, and while I’m not fully out of the funk, I’m definitely feeling better. I’m confident now that my main character is someone that people will relate to. Especially people like me.

Word Count: 91,892

Going back

It occurs to me that the idea of returning is layered over and over in what I want to discuss today. I’m having issues, on Sunday I fixed my 10th chapter, and am now poised to work on chapter 11 (of the book, not Bankruptcy). However, since Thursday of last week, I’ve had a hard time getting back into my former editing groove. Part of this was the wall I hit, part of it was the fear I felt and blogged about, but lately things have felt different. I was ecstatic over fixing chapter 10, but I don’t have anyone who truly shares that joy. Whenever I discuss my book, people are good, and humor me, but part of what got my jazzed about editing, was the faith I had in my manuscript.  I am sad to report, that faith has somehow been shaken.

I think one reason for this is that I had a few prospects of earning some money, which I want to do, so I’ve been distracted. But that shouldn’t make me believe my book is any worse. However, I’m wondering if I had put a lot of faith in my manuscript, because I had nothing else to put my faith in. The job market wasn’t exactly helping me, so I felt compelled to “do something” each day, and that meant hours of editing. Now that things are picking up a little in other aspects of my life (I’m also in a show at the moment) I’ve been distracted.

While these new pick-ups in my life are great, I’m finding it impossible to return to the mindset I was working with before. The one that was convinced that my book was not only excellent, but marketable. I think a big part of the issue is…no one really cares about the book except for me. There’s no reason anyone SHOULD care about a book that is technically written, but by no means finished.  I think this is why a lot of people love writing as a collaboration. It’s so much nicer to have someone to talk to.

Current word count: 91,857

Waiting while you work

This week started out so well. I was getting lots of editing done, and generally making progress. However, I hit a wall, one that I will figure out eventually, but instead of just being a typical annoyance, it’s hit me harder. Every day that passes me by, I wonder/worry that there is some sort of clock ticking away the time I have with this book. Hundreds of authors query agents each day, and the odds of someone pitching something similar to my story, has started to worry me. I realize this has been an issue before now, but now that I’m close…I worry about this so much more. It takes so much mental energy to constantly maintain the self-control I need to prevent myself from querying agents right now. After all, my book is technically done. But it’s not ready. It’s like I’ve assembled a cake, baked it for 1\3rd of the time it needs, and now I want to pull it out and serve it. Sure I’ve probably cooked enough so that the raw eggs and ingredients won’t kill you, but it won’t be nearly as good as if I had taken the time to let it cook all the way through.

I am lucky, I have time during the day to get a lot of work done, but I still feel the urge to master my query letter to the big name agents who seem to be in good spirits these days. I’ve noticed several agents I have on my list, have accepted people lately. I worry they will feel too overloaded by their new clients, to accept me too.