Why do you have a tattoo of a lemon on your left butt cheek?

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This is an excellent question, and based on completely false information. I don’t have a tattoo of a lemon on my left butt-cheek, but I wanted to see how many people clicked through from such an absurd title. I’m a total stats nerd and so if more than one person took the bait, I’ll be analyzing every bit of information Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress can give me about who took it. Once I’ve done that, I won’t put that information to any other use.

The truth is that I haven’t posted a blog in about a month and it’s time. It’s not that I haven’t written one, because I’ve written several. All of them are whiny, stupid rants about not finding an agent or feeling sub-standard. And it’s true, that’s what’s going on and how I feel about it. But, having a pity-party for myself is a stupid asinine waste of time, even though I do it routinely –I just can’t help myself. In fact, today was one of those days where my ego fought itself relentlessly because my everlasting low opinion of myself may, in some instances, be a tad unfair. I didn’t receive another agent rejection, and that felt good, but I didn’t receive a partial or full MS request either. I didn’t really accomplish great things at work, but I did my best to get folks what they need and may have even made one person happy with the work I have done. I was contacted by someone with Google (the result of my playing of their foo.bar recruiting game over the winter -for those unfamiliar with Google, this alone was something of a feat), and I also got word that business cards for another effort have arrived – Maybe more on that later, still need to get things squared up with work before I can actually being working on the new thing.

All that being said, I’m still feeling down because the one thing I desperately want to succeed at doesn’t show the slightest shred of evidence that it’ll pan out for me. Perhaps that’s what really hard. I’m the sort of guy that will do shit once provoked. It’s vaguely like when you hit a hornets nest and those little bastards will chase you down and lay siege to your house until you starve to death. They just don’t quit. So, when I hit something where I no longer have the control to achieve success, it’s a painful blow.

Before jumping to conclusions about how it is I waste my time, I have not given up. I haven’t given up on the querying, even though it’s feeling like a Sisyphean task, and I haven’t given up on writing. It’s true, I’m not nearly as in love with my current projects as I was with Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, nor am I as committed to finishing any of them. In some ways, I’m still looking for the right story to work on. Book 2 of Wine bottles is where my heart is, but I don’t want to spend six months hammering out another book that is DoA. I’ve got three other book projects in the works, but only two have much of a plot-arc mapped out and the one of them has a YA feel, which I’m not 100% comfortable with just yet. Plus there are some short fiction projects, one of which I’m committed to finishing, but it’s more literary and I’m not equipped to tell the story that I want to tell.

And that’s my writing progress report. It’s not awesome or productive, nor does it cover anything at all relevant to tattoos of lemons on butt-cheeks, but it’s where I am. Maybe one of these days I’ll have something better to report.

Severe writer’s apathy

For the past couple of months, I’ve taken a few tentative dips into the boiling acid oceans of literary agent querying. If I’m being honest though, it’s really more the equivalent of French-kissing a dementor and may very well be the reason boxed wine was invented in the first place. Unfortunately for me and my enormous hydrogen-filled ego, I haven’t even gotten into the meat of it yet, querying agents is just the first bit. Apparently, it gets a hell of a lot harder – the book still has to be picked up by a publisher! In any case, even from this point, I’ve still managed to collect a few observations.

First off, over the past couple of months I’ve spent all of what would normally be my writing time on rewriting synopsis, query letters, and researching agents. The ‘best’ advice I’ve received on this process is keep at it, someone will eventually be interested. In the mean time, keep writing. – What? Keep writing? With what time am I going to do this?!

Second, don’t ever tell a writer this: ‘Even J.K. Rowling was rejected 3.75 million times before finally getting published.’ THIS is supposed to make me feel better? The one thing I know for a fact about my book is that it’s not the next Harry Potter. If it practically took an act of god to get Harry Potter into print, there really isn’t any hope for me.

When I started this process, I loved Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. I enjoyed the characters, the writing of it didn’t take much time at all (comparatively), and I was chomping at the bit to start a sequel. It’s literally been a couple months and I’m starting to really hate the book. Not because I suddenly think it sucks (which it probably does by the way. See fig A.). No, it’s more like having been savagely attacked and left for dead by a beloved pet. The reason for this is that for each hand-crafted form rejection that comes through within minutes of having sent out the query, I am forced to face the real possibility that what I’ve written falls into one of a few categories:

  • This work is brilliant and nobody can see it
  • This book sucks
  • Nobody will ever buy this book
  • There is not, nor will there ever be a market for this story
  • I’m a terrible writer and should spend more time playing video games and programming

On the whole, the last category might be the easiest for me to take because I like programming and playing video games. Perhaps not as much as writing, but I will never be querying an agent for how well I cleared that dungeon.

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Yet another observation is that many agents ask for a bio and past writing accomplishments. I don’t have any previous writing accomplishments. Loads of past writing, but nothing that could be called an accomplishment. As for the bio, someone very kindly informed me that the bio is more about you as a person, rather than your writing-specific experience. I tend to think this is, at best overly optimistic thinking, and at worst the equivalent of telling me that even J.K. Rowling was rejected so many times she had to be reincarnated before she could get published. Publishing is a business. What they want to know is: Will this book sell? and are you the sort of person to participate? My lovely bio is excellent for research or might be an asset if I were writing books about Alaska. I can not, however, bring myself to believe that it is helpful to point out that I have more hobbies than a craft-store and once seriously investigated cooperage as a hobby because it sounded interesting. As a hiring manager for a number of years, I didn’t care that much about someone’s history unless it told me something specific about how they were going to do the job. I’m (obviously) not an expert at publishing, but when it comes to business and making money, irrelevant skills are actually a huge distraction that tend to gloss over the fact that the applicant has no relevant skills. On the whole, I think my distinct lack of writing accomplishments seem to cover that ground pretty well. So, with all of that non-accomplishment burning a hole in my back pocket staring at an agent profile requesting a query letter, the first 7 ½ pages, a bio, and all past accomplishments along with the advisement that she only takes best-sellers, I’m really not super-motivated to continue.

So now, where does this leave me? We all know there’s a fine line between stupidity and stubbornness, though really it’s less of a line and more the phrase “well that didn’t go as expected” written in blood. As I haven’t discovered that point just yet (I think) and I haven’t yet spent half the life-age of the universe querying, I suppose I need to keep on it. Some folks say they get advice from agents, I have yet to get more than silence & form letters, but hey, even J.K. Rowling got published right?

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Thoughts on finding an agent

I finished another (not the final) read-though and revision of Wine Bottles and Broomsticks yesterday, so naturally, I’ve started the process of researching agents and agencies who might be interested in what I’ve got. My first reaction of this process is that it’s a soul-crushing experience.

I’ve only gotten as far as starting a list of agents to query once I’m ready. The best thing I can say about it thus far is that every agent is pretty clear about the stuff they’re interested in. The less awesome part is that I don’t see how my particular book is going to fit in. Not only that, I anticipate being involved in the process of research, querying, not hearing back (standard procedure), and fretting for a good long while.

The query letter also has me worried. As a hiring manager for a number of years, I know that the cover letter makes all the difference in hiring and even a well-written one can suck. Furthermore, I also know that a generic cover-letter doesn’t do anyone any favors. I expect query letters more or less work the same. After all, the query letter is only an application to have your work looked at. Writing an individualized query to speak to the specific stated interests of various agents could take two or three days each. To put a cherry on that sundae, I’ve got no more than a handful of sentences to sell the idea of the book, so they go on to read the sample (assuming they’ve requested one), and then hope that all of those things get mefrom ‘nope, boring’ to ‘go on…’

The bottom line is that even though I’ve got quite enough work left to on the manuscript, there’s a lot more work to be done in trying to get the thing sold. A lot of work. I don’t mind work, but I have no idea what to expect or how best to approach this, so the mountain looks a lot higher. On the bright side, I’ve got a day-job, so yay for that.