Monday, March 26, 2007

Don't judge me, especially not if you are me

Okay, okay. I couldn't think of a good, clever title for this one. Sue me.

So in thinking further about the ego, and how we simultaneously think our writing stinks and that we are the best writers ever, master storytellers whose work deserves to rocket to the top of the bestseller lists, and how that mix seems to run more strongly to the latter the worse a writer one actually is (unless you're a genius genius, which let's face it, if you are a genius genius you probably keep your mouth shut about it most of the time too. Even Mozart didn't run around screaming, "I'm a GENIUS!!!" through the streets of Vienna. He may have thought it, and expressed it privately, but I doubt that if the internet were available now he would be on message boards posting things like, "Los Angeles Philharmonic are TEH ASS, they sed NO 2 my opra te fuckerzzzzz111111111 They wuldnt no gud musc if it SHOT THEM wif my GAT" or something like that. Which is probably the lamest text speak ever, but give me a break. I hate texting, and when I am forced to do it I pride myself on still writing in actual, complete-sentence English.)

Anyway. So when do you know it's time to give up, and feel good about that decision? How do you objectively look at a manuscript and think, "You know what? I'm just not feeling the love for you anymore. I think you're good, but maybe just not good enough to keep flogging"?

I'm at this point with one of my ms. It's a good book; objectively I know it is. But is it good enough--and do I care?

It's made a few preliminary agent rounds. I think I sent out 16 queries all told. Got two partial requests, one full request, and one full request after a partial. One very nice personalized rejection to the query. Got no response at all to the others, but in all fairness they were e-queries sent to heavy, heavy hitters.

All rejections, although all but one were personalized. One asked for a second look if I decide to make suggested revisions.

But here's the thing. I don't know if I want to. I just don't know if it's worth the bother anymore.

Part of it is, I have a new idea I'm eager to start. The ms in question is now, in my head, Old News.

Part of it is, Old News is a pretty straightforward urban fantasy, and I'm starting to think either my work simply doesn't fit into that market as it stands (I don't write first-person "kick-ass" heroines and I'm really sick of reading them), or the market is simply starting to glut already. What's one more urban fantasy series in today's market? Yes, mine is clever and special. But does anybody even care anymore? Do I?

So Shiny New Idea stands before me, looking all...well...shiny, and Old News has the hang-dog look of a book I've lived with for too long. And I don't know what to do. because I know it's a good book, but I don't know how much of my belief in it is ego, or should I have more ego about it and not give up after a couple of rejections? But it isn't really the rejections that's doing it, it's my feeling that the rejections might mean something and I don't know if I want to bother...

I don't know. Sigh.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

I'm still waiting for a few links. Leave them in comments if your name is on the list below, please.

I had something else I was going to mention, and I've forgotten it. So I may come along later and pop it in.


bunnygirl said...

Off the top of my head, I don't know what to say other than that I think we've all been there. We spend so much time on our work that it's amazing we don't get bored any sooner than we do.

I was taking a workshop once where the instructor confessed to HATING her manuscript by the time her finally galley proofs came back for review. She was so tired of the stupid thing that she would've been happy to never see it again!

I say move on to your bright and shiny new thing, unless whether or not you make the rent/mortgage depends on selling this book.

Six months from now, you'll take a look at it in a moment of boredom and remember all over again why you loved it, and you'll be ready to give it the excited pitch it deserves.

Or not. And if it's not, well, then you'll be glad you didn't waste any further time and moved on to your next project.

Onward and upward, you know.

And BTW, if you have any outtakes you feel like posting, I'd love to read them! :-)

Anonymous said...

Does the agent represent the other genres you write? Even if that urban fantasy never gets picked up, it might be worth the revisions to have an agent in your pocket to shop the rest of your work.

I start out calling my work crap. My CP finally got used to me referring to my stuff as "the utter shit I wrote today". I find it easier to assume I'm an idiot spouting nonsense and I'll get picked up by sheer luck, than thinking I'm brilliant and wondering why every other idiot out there can't see it.

Erik Ivan James said...

I agree with what Bunnygirl said about putting it away for awhile. Let it sleep. Wake it up on another day, see then if you still want to play with it.

littlebirdblue said...

...first-person "kick-ass" heroines and I'm really sick of reading them

A-MEN. I don't know what happened there for awhile (but I'm looking at YOU, Anita Blake), but jeez-Louise...

I'm with the New/Shiny camp.

BernardL said...

Start on your new idea, D, and keep sending out your queries. Heck, you're doing great. I usually don't even get a partial request until I'm up to around twenty rejections. I always start writing a new manuscript while I'm editing the completed one. It helps as the rejection notices start arriving. :)

kis said...

I don't mind a kick-ass heroine, but I loathe them in first person. First person narration, especially with a strong, kick-ass character, makes me think they're misrepresenting themselves. I wasn't interested in listening to the captain of the cheerleading squad talk herself up in high school, and I'm not interested in reading Anita Blake do the same thing now. Bleh.

I don't have an answer for you regarding this problem, though. All I know is that abandoned projects sometimes find their way back into my heart after they've had some time to ferment. I actually had the first scene of the novella I'm just finishing (okay, as soon as I get done here, stop nagging) down on paper ten years ago. It was crap, sure, and deserved to be dropped like a newborn giraffe on the African plains, but it has now morphed (I hope) into something pretty good.

But with me there is always the danger that my life will become a tag-team match of unfinished work, and I'll have fifty things on the go and none of them will actually get done. I see this weakness in myself, and because I know it's there, I work hard to counter it. If you're like me and tend to leave projects unfinished, I'd recommend making the changes and resubbing. You've made a great start and your career is going places. You don't want to let yourself get into a pattern of dropping things when the luster wears off. Unless the changes are horrendously huge and require rewriting the whole damn book, that is.

Jenn has a point. If you can use this project to get an agent, that can only help your career. Especially if you have shiny new idea to present to them if old and shabby doesn't sell.

How many people have read the ms? Seems to me you have a bunch of agents telling you it doesn't suck. Maybe put it down for a bit, and get the first five chapters of shiny and new on virtual paper. By chapter 5, you said, the love usually starts to feel more like work anyway, and you probably won't mind so much taking time away from shiny to go and rework shabby. Just a thought.

Yet another long comment. I'm becoming an expert at work avoidance. ;)

December Quinn said...

Thanks, Bunnygirl, I just may do that. I actually re-read the book in question the other day (okay, skimmed) and still found it charming. I just don't know how behind it I am anymore; it's laziness, not so much loathing, that's making me wonder.

There are other agents at that agency who do, Seeley. But I kind of feel like I should hold off before doing anything, you know? Might be good to really think before I rush in.

Yeah, Erik, I think I'll finish what I have now on a different project, then I have a novella to work on, then I'll start Shiny New (I may do these out of order ;-) ) and see where I am when that's done.

December Quinn said...

Thanks, lbl, I'm glad I'm not the only one! Sometimes I wonder.

I'm way ahead of you, Bernard! My CP and I co-wrote another book in between me finishing Old News and editing it. :-) You're exactly right, though, that is the best thing to do, so thanks for reminding me it's viable here too!

December Quinn said...

True, kis, I should have made that distinction. Kick-ass heroines aren't my reference, but it is the first-person thing I find particularly irritating. It does start to feel like a long list of aren't-I-clevers after a while.

I am generally pretty good about finishing projects, but you're right. I have noticed a sort of flightiness about myself of late. Perhaps it's because I do feel like my career is finally starting to gather a little bit of momentum and I'm afraid of success? Or maybe I'm just a freaking lazy ass. But that's an excellent point to remember, indeed.

And a good idea, too. I love your long comments.

Anna J. Evans said...

You know how I feel about this!!

I've read the book in question and it was ONE OF MY FAVORITE READS THIS YEAR AND I'VE READ A SHITLOAD OF BOOKS!!! And I don't say that about all of your stuff, so you know I just don't love you so much that I'm blind to potential faults.

This book is so good, so interesting, sometimes creepy, has a great pace and you are CHEATING YOUR READERS!!! if you don't try to place this somewhere. I mean it. And I'm going to be pissed if you don't place it somewhere where it will eventually go to print because this is on my list of 'must be bought in print so I can reread in the bathtub' books.

Seriously D, don't flush this book. Get it out to a few publishers!! Please!!


Anonymous said...

I almost never actually give up on a story. But I do put them on pause. I was working on a sequel to a book and rewriting Moon Madness. I flipped back through the first book for a reference and realized that it is utter shite. Seriously. The characters are there. A few points I wanted were there. But the whole damn thing comes off like a whiny shopping novel and completely misses the mark on the emotion I wanted it to portray. It's very YA and I wanted it to be adult. I was so extremely irritated with it I stopped writing the sequel and I just had to go someplace completely new. I still wonder how I'm going to fix it, and after a year I have some ideas. But I don't feel that I've given up on it.

I'm facing a similar thing with Moon Madness too. It's up to wow, only 16 subs. Somehow I thought it was more. It's been completely rewritten once, and after writing Corpse blood I really want to go back and change a few things again. I stopped submitting it because I know I want to go back over it, but right now I have other things to do. Like finish second drafts and I did have a cowriting project. My other writer dropped out on me, but I already started on my story so I don't want to just stop while it's still going.
Don't give up.
And don't worry about market glut. Like you, not all readers dig the same thing so if there's a gut on dominating first persons someone is going to be glad to look at something outside of that. Obviously you're story is good if you're getting some full reads. You really shouldn't give up on that.
I think you just need to get a fresh perspective on it. So give it time, either just time, or time filled with another project. Even when I know sotries didn't come out how I wanted I don't give up, because you can always rewrite :)

Isabella Snow said...

Cant stand first person anything.

Apart from autobio, that is.

Bernita said...

Sheesh, I feel the same way with less than a dozen queries.
Think Bunny and Kis have good advice.
There's no question but you have the goods, Girl.

Ann(ie) said...

I don't advocate giving up on anything but do take a break from it. One's perspective can change with distance.

Scary Monster said...

Me not very modern monster.
In fact, me be quite anachronistic in many ways: me printer only prints in pencil, me only use lightbulbs that are flame shaped and me uses a straight razor to shave. The funny thing about a straight razor is that you must own two of them. When one gets dull, you just give it a good stropping and set it on the shelf. If ya leave it alone for a couple of months, the edge comes back brite and clean.


Robyn said...

I'm still trying to breathe after reading your text speak. I love you.

Stories you've put that much work into don't grow on trees. You might set it aside for a time until you get excited by it again. You never know, you might find a new hook when you least expect it.

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough on another blog I read an urban fanatasy writer wondered if she'd ever read a uf not in first person. I think that leaves plenty of room for something different.

December Quinn said...

I've never read one in third, Michele, except for mine. I'd sure like to see one.

McKoala said...

If it's the book I'm thinking about, then I'd say don't stop querying. 16 isn't that much, and with so many personal letters then there's something there for sure.

This is a good book! If you really can't bear it (and I too am familiar with that feeling!), then shove it in the bottom drawer for a few months and then reread with a fresh eye, refresh if you think it needs it and start sending again. But don't give up!

Oh number one son made it back from tennis early, you're not going to get all those posts I promised. This is the most important though.

Don't give up!

McKoala said...

If it's the book I'm thinking about, then I'd say don't stop querying. 16 isn't that much, and with so many personal letters then there's something there for sure.

This is a good book! If you really can't bear it (and I too am familiar with that feeling!), then shove it in the bottom drawer for a few months and then reread with a fresh eye, refresh if you think it needs it and start sending again. But don't give up!

Oh number one son made it back from tennis early, you're not going to get all those posts I promised. This is the most important though.

Don't give up!

McKoala said...

hey look I meant it so much that I posted it twice.


December Quinn said...

It is the book you're thinking about, Minnie. I think I'm going to write Shiny New and see how I feel. It's not that I don't like the book, it's that I want to decide which is better, you know?