Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Never Give In. Never Give In. Never, Never, Never Never . . .

As any reader of this blog knows, I enjoy Miss Snark (www.misssnark.blogspot.com). I religiously read her blog on the world of publishing. Hers is often the funniest blog in town.

Last night, a Snarkling asked a plaintive question: "At what point do I say to myself, 'Self, you're pretty much a no-talent writer and you should give this all up. Your view of the world is not what everyone else's is. Your writing style sucks grapefruit without sugar; and you're too dang short'?"

MS responded with a wonderfully kind and generous answer in which she encouraged the writer to write for the experience of writing itself and to never give up.

The comments that followed her blog (62 at last count) bounced all over the map--from heartfelt gratitude to snarky cynicism.

One of the comments jumped out at me. The writer was Melanie Lynne Hauser, and she said: "I think the questions 'When do I give up writing?' and 'When do I stop querying?' are completely different. As Miss Snark said - 'Never' is the answer to the first. But to the second, well, that's quite different. There is a point where you have to stop querying for one project and move on to the next. A lot of authors spend many years (not to mention tears) trying to have the same manuscript published. But the vast majority of published authors I know were able to let go of a project and move on to the next, and the next, and the next...until all the stars were in alignment and they finally got that agent/publishing contract."

Melanie's comment validates what Miss Snark was saying. You never stop writing; you just need to learn when to stop flogging the same manuscript/query letter, over and over and over.

I've wanted to be a novelist most of my adult life. I found early on that I could sell short fiction and non-fiction articles, but my goal was to write a novel. That prize kept eluding me. I'd get a hundred or a hundred fifty or two hundred pages finished and run out of steam.

Fortunately, before I abandoned my dream altogether, I realized I needed a new game plan. In order to complete a full-length novel, I was going to have to write something I really loved and believed in--whether it was salable or not. With that in mind, I wrote my dream novel.

I adore mythology--especially Greek mythology. The book of my heart was a fantasy with the premise that the gods of ancient Greece were alive and operating in the modern world. I made it a sort of sexy mystery, and I had a wonderful time writing it. I churned out four hundred and thirty pages in less than three months. When it was complete, because I didn't yet know better, I sent a partial to only one publisher (without any critiques) and was crushed when it was rejected.

After I picked myself up, I sent out another half dozen query letters. I was heartened when I received requests for two partials and one full. Although the one agent and two publishers who requested the additional pages didn't accept the project, two of them were kind enough to give me comments and suggestions. Mary-Theresa Hussey of Luna will forever live in my heart for her kind letter together with the suggestion that I try her again with another project.

Even though that manuscript didn't sell, it got me over the HUMP of completing a novel. Having once done it, I now knew I could do it again. Since that manuscript, I have completed three other novels, and the third one is now in the hands of my agent. I still write short fiction to give myself a periodic break, but I am now officially a novelist. A novelist with an agent who believes in me.

Despite the fact that I thought those first three novels were good, when I look at them now, I can see huge mistakes. Dialogue and plotting were my strengths as they are today. Passive language, too much narrative and being too wordy were my weaknesses. They still are, but now I (or my critique partners) spot them.

Melanie's comment said it all: Never give in, but know when to move the battle to a different venue. Put away the manuscript you've been trying to sell unsuccessfully and write another. And find some critique partners. And take some workshops or classes. And network. All of these things will better prepare you for the day when an editor or agent says, "I love this book."

1 comment:

Jason Boog said...

I'm a struggling writer too, trying to balance a day job and a novel project. It's hardest for me to find my audience. Recently, I started speaking with some published authors about my problems, and I've found some new suggestions you might want to share with your readers too...

Check out this interview with the crazy successful writer M.J. Rose.

Jason Boog