Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye, 2009 - And Good Riddance

Yes, I completed my novel. And the kids remained healthy and happy. Other than that, 2009 goes down as the worst year since 1980, when my girlfriend was killed by a drunk driver, and 1983, when another girlfriend broke my heart into teensy-weensy tiny shards, stitched it back together, and broke it once again with piercing finality. TMI? Screw it, it's Thursday.

2009? A recession-wracked financial train wreck, Travener's life savings flitting out the door like so much laundry lint. A maddening search for an agent. Stress, worry, gloom.

So, 2009 -- fuck off and die.

2010's gonna be the year.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Free to Good Home: A First Line

Here's a great first line for a novel, for anyone who wants it:

I'm the guy who always gets the shopping cart with the gimpy wheel.

You can credit me in the acknowledgments. You're welcome.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Book Rocks

I finished editing the ms. on the computer (still have the printed-out red-inking to do) and made very few changes. Unbelievably enough, found one error ("somber" when I'd meant "sober").

More important, I like my novel, you know? I hadn't read it all the way through in four months and I found myself as I "turned" the pages wanting to know how it all comes together -- even though I know how it ends! I laughed at the jokes. I mean, maybe I'm completely delusional, but after all the self-doubt occasioned by so many rejections, it's nice to once again feel good about what I've written -- a solid, entertaining novel.

Take that, agents.


Monday, December 21, 2009

It's Four Freaking Months Already!

If nothing else, this search for an agent has given me a perspective on how slowly things sometimes move. And I used to work for the government! My ego, always fragile, has been ground beneath the hobnailed boots of the soulless agent wielding the form rejection. My sanity, to which I am tethered by a thin thread, has been tested by multiple attempts to craft the perfect, exactingly perfect, query letter. My hair has gotten a little thinner on top because I keep pulling it out as I try to divine the essential key to unlocking an agent's heart and mind.

Oh, well, what's to do except plunge on, right? It's The System, after all, and you can't beat The System. Sure, sometimes you can, but usually you wind up with something worse, viz., the Bolshevik and Iranian revolutions.

Inspired by some suggested edits by cyberpal Lt. Cccyxx, I took the red pen to chapter one, line by line. I didn't change all that much but did flick away an unnecessary phrase here and there, rearranged some sentences. Generally, "polished" the already beeswaxed verbiage. I'm halfway done with editing the ms. on the computer and will print it out for the, uhm, I don't know, thirteenth or fourteenth time and red-ink it chapter by chapter. That, and having the kids home, will keep me occupied for the next couple of weeks.

Then, the new year...and The Plan. (Cue eerie music.) More on that in a later post...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Cure for the Blahs -- Writing

Spent the morning revising chapter one. Didn't change much, but tweaked, polished, cut some excess. The whole week's been crap up to this point, but now I feel revivified. Hope to get the same effect as I go through the other 28 chapters. And just a few days ago I didn't want to think about the book anymore. Moral of the story: I'm a mass of contradictions.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Plan B...Or Is It Plan C?

K.M. had some interesting things to say about my query after I won a critique in a contest she had on her blog Moomurs. The dilemma being, as I see it, how much to give away in a query, how much to hold back to pep up the intrigue level. Anyway, in addition to Query Version 4.0 I now have Version 4.0B and come January I'll split my querying between the two versions and see what difference it makes, if any.

I've also decided that I need to really redo my synopsis in a narrative fashion to replace the sort of blow-by-blow type I've now got. That's my holiday writing task.

What most concerns me, though, is my first chapter. I like it. My beta readers liked it -- or at any rate, none of them told me it sucked. But is it turning off those agents who've had partials and fulls or the first few pages? Or is it something else? The elusive "voice"? Or ... or what? Without any feedback, I don't know.... I might rewrite the whole thing and only do myself damage. It's exceedingly frustrating, my dear friends.

I am going to go through the whole manuscript again over the holidays, in addition to doing another synopsis. One of my friends finally coughed up a list of errors/oddities he'd found, and though I'd been through the ms. at least a dozen times, I'd missed a couple of real dumb errors -- writing "surgical sutures" when I'd meant "surgical tubing" and saying someone had a "kung fu mustache" when I meant "Fu Manchu mustache."

I mean, that last one is pretty embarrassing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some Fucking Christmas Present, This...

Well, my full just got turned down. Excuse me while I mutter, "Fuck, fuck, fuck." While "you're a good writer" is included in the rejection, the rest is all boilerplate, so I think we can rest assured the "good writer" crap is just part of what is a form rejection. Once again, no way to know if the agent read one page or ten or the whole thing, or none of it, or even if it was just his assistant, an intern, or who the fuck knows, his next-door neighbor doing the reading. Seriously, I'd almost rather get something that said, "Listen, this is one fucked-up book. Do yourself a favor and take a course in computer programming or something."

On the "bright" side, this agent usually takes six months to get around to dealing with fulls, so at least I didn't have my hopes strung out.

Monday, December 14, 2009

How Can You Laugh...

Don't know why I have the blahs this morning. A couple rejections dribbled in over the weekend in the mail, but that's hardly novel. (Ha. A pun.)

Should be in a good mood: the house is all Christmasy now, with a nicely decorated Fraser fir and the usual mantelpiece stuff.

Can't explain it, but...blah. Blah. Down on the ground.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

If You Don't Hear Within 24 Hours...

Here's some interesting stats. From my admittedly small sample, it seems if you're going to get a positive response to your e-query, it's going to happen almost overnight. Of the five (count 'em! five!) positive responses to e-queries I received (2 partials, 2 fulls, 1 send-me-a-chapter), four were received within one day of sending the query; the fifth took 12 days. The overall median response time, positive and negative, was 4.5 days. About 70% of responses were received in a week or less. The longest took 43 days to dribble in to say fuck off. This is, of course, counting only those agents who bothered to respond.

Make of it what you will.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Query Vacation

I'm on query vacation till after the holidays. Feels weird not to be sending anything out.

In other, somewhat disturbing news, I seem to be losing interest in my book. It's not that I don't think it's good, not that I'm going to stop querying it, I just...well, I just don't like thinking about it much anymore.

Is this normal, you think?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tag, I'm It

OK, so Amber "tagged" me, which means I gotta answer the questions below. In turn, I'm gonna tag Jenn and Too Cute so now they gotta do the same. If they want.

What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?
Last thing: my novel. I still have an Ali Baba-type story I wrote in third grade lying around some place.
Write poetry?
Not since high school.
Angsty poetry?
See above.
Favorite genre of writing?
That I write (suspense, thriller) or that I read? I'm a very eclectic reader of commercial and literary fiction.
Most annoying character you've ever created?
All my characters are endearing. I'm the annoying one.
Best plot you've ever created?
The one in my novel. The latest one, I mean.
Coolest plot twist you've ever created?
The last two paragraphs of my novel. You don't see it coming.
How often do you get writer's block?
For years at a time.
Do you type or write by hand?
Type. I don't have the patience to write longhand.
Do you save everything you write?
Alas, yes.
Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abadoned it?
No. Once you're dead to me, you're dead to me.
What's your favorite thing you've ever written?
My novel. The latest one, I mean.
What's everyone else's favorite story that you've written?
I have no idea.
Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
What's you favorite setting for your characters?
How many writing projects are you working on right now?
One, sort of.
Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Only in my imagination.
What are your five favorite words?
"Lie back and enjoy this." (Heard only in my imagination.)
What character have you created that is most like yourself?
Many -- but not in anything I ever finished. Perhaps a lesson in that.
Where do you get ideas for your characters?
Life, movies, images in my head.
Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Other than my dream of getting published, no.
Do you favor happy endings?
Yes, but with some ambiguity.
Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
No. I have always been able to write well. Whether I can write fiction well is another question.
Does music help you write?
Quote something you've written. Whatever pops into your head.
"His touch was electric."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Meaning of Rejections

Editorial Anonymous has a very funny post on the "meaning" to be divined from form rejections. I give it four stars.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sex, Sex and More Sex

Ha, that got your attention, didn't it? Expressing my love of certain female attibutes over on Tinn Lynn's Sweet Niblets blog (it occurs to me as I write this that I was praising a certain sort of sweet niblets), I recalled the most recent Bad Sex Writing Award.

I will never win one, because, despite the potty mouth and being comfortable with sex itself, I feel uncomfortable writing about it. My sex scenes, such as they are, are tame. She takes off her bra and hurtles herself at him...and then the next thing you know it's over and they're resting in bed smoking cigarettes and talking forensic crap. That kind of thing. Just like in a PG-13 movie.

Dialogue I can do. Writing about sex I can't (Sierra -- I mean, "won't"). I figure if I ever have to have an honest-to-gods sex scene I will steal it from the one in Snow Falling on Cedars, which is both lovely and erotic.

What about you? Any hot sex scene in your MG novels? Any paranormal zombie/vampire sex?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Publishing Tortoise - An Advantage?

It has occurred to me that the fact the publishing industry moves with all the dispatch of a glacier made of molasses might be an advantage in the current economic environment (which is to say, the current fucked-up recession). By the time we get an agent to review our query, ask for a partial, get around to reading the partial, ask for a full, get around to reading the full, sign us, send us some revision ideas, wait for our revisions, review our revisions, come up with a submission plan, and finally get around to submitting our work to editors, the economy should have perked up considerably -- if the history of past recessions is any guide -- and publishing houses should be looking to increase their lists. (Actually, given their long lead times, if the publishing industry acted like any other, publishers should have been increasing their lists this year in anticipation of increased demand next year.)

Because frankly, if history betrays us and things actually get worse, we should drop all our current projects and start writing nothing but post-apocalyptic novels like The Road.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

OK, Now I'm Feeling...Full

TGIF (Thank God It's a Full)...request, that is. Two days from e-query to request. Long-term outlook still down in the dumps, for lots of reasons, short-term outlook definitely perkier: I no longer feel like the most untalented wretch around. Before anyone, especially me, gets too excited, this is an agent with a reputation for taking a long, long, long time to review manuscripts. Still, it definitely beats the continual drumbeat of "no" or worse, the dead silence...