A BLOG FOR READERS AND AUTHORS OF MTV BOOKS
Monday, June 28, 2010
2. Tell critique partner you need to get off the phone so you can go cry.
3. DO NOT CRY.
4. E-mail agent. Whine.
5. Text husband. Whine. Strangely, husband claims later that he never received this text, though he responded to the one you sent right after this about your son's friend insisting that you crawl onto the roof to retrieve his Nerf darts.
6. Run five miles.
7. Clean. Vacuum or mop every floor in your house. Dust furniture you didn't even know you had. While cleaning, think to yourself, "It's good that I get rejected every once in a while. Otherwise the baseboards would never get scrubbed." Also: "I am so glad I am a professional published author. If I'd gotten this rejection before I was published, it would have taken me months to get over it. But now...gosh, I hardly feel anything."
8. Eat your own weight in ice cream.
10. Wake up in the morning feeling refreshed, almost as if you were never rejected, and your beloved main characters were never shot execution-style and buried underneath your front lawn.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Would you believe I’ve never had a manuscript rejected? Of course you wouldn’t. Facing up to rejection is a huge part of being an author, and it doesn’t go away for writers who’ve had 5, 10, or even 30 books published. If you're going to stick your neck into the publishing world, you'd better learn to deal.
Rejection hangs around even after you’ve sold your manuscript. The publisher may reject your title—Fairest of Them All was originally Crowning Glory, your main character’s name or age—Ori grew from 14 to 15 in one stroke of an editor’s pen, your favorite subplot--Rhonda's secret past went down the drain, even your book’s ending.
I’m pretty flexible when it comes to changing names, ages, and book titles, and I’ve deleted some of my favorite passages with minimal pouting. I haven’t been asked to change an ending, yet. That could be tough. But it’s been my experience that editors know what they’re talking about, so I’d try to listen with an open mind.
Back to the big question. How do I deal with having a manuscript turned down by a publisher or two or seven? Before I wrote Fairest of Them All I collected enough rejections to earn my Masters Degree in Rejectionology. For a couple of years, I let being rejected get me down to the point where I stopped sending out manuscripts. And it took several swift kicks in the rear—and tons of encouragement--from my writing group to help me get my courage up and try again.
Now that the giving-up stage of my writing life is over—Oh, yes it is!—this is my new process for dealing with rejection:
1. Forward the offending email to my writing group. I’m guaranteed a “How could they?” response within the hour.
2. Print out the email and turn it face down on my desk for a day--two days if it's really harsh.
3. Turn the email over and try to objectively read the details. One of the many perks of having an agent is getting meaningful feedback from editors. The generic “It’s not right for our list” we writers get from the slush pile doesn’t give us anything to go on.
4. Take another look at my manuscript and see if the feedback makes sense.
5. Drink wine, eat chocolate, and do what needs to be done!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
To quote Jenny: "Not well."
I mean, come on, rejection sucks. You can prepare yourself for it. You can tell yourself over and over that this is a subjective business (true), that one man's (editor's) trash is another's treasure (also true), that all it takes is one person to love it (true), that they're making enormous mistakes and are going to kick themselves mightily like all the editors who passed on Harry Potter (okay, not likely, but a girl can dream, right?) but in the end, all you want to do is stomp your feet and shake your wee fists at the heavens and call everyone involved in saying "no" big ol' poopyheads (even if you know that's not in the slightest bit true-it's a business after all). Then you go eat lots of chocolate, drink wine, and watch Love Actually for the 483rd time. (That last one might just be me...)
And you know what? That's all okay. Up to a point. I've been told wallowing is good-- up to a point. I actually suck at it-- I have this mentality that demands I be all stoic and suck it up because I was well aware of what I was getting myself into when I signed up for this writing gig. And regardless of situation, I also have very little patience for extended wallowing-- actually, I have very little patience for wallowing period. But here's the thing-- sometimes, you just have to give yourself permission to wallow.
I never realized how important that could be until the most recent rejection, which came just a couple of weeks ago. I won't lie- it was spectacularly rough. You spend enough time in this industry, you'll hear every editor you come in contact with talk about how they're so tired of the status quo, how they want something different, unique, that gem that every editor wants to discover, the book that will really touch people. And if you have ambition and anything resembling an ego-- and yes, I do--you imagine that it's your book, the manuscript you love and have given your all to, that will be that book. And in this case, it's a book I have huge faith in, that I know is good, because despite all the rejections it's received, it's never been because the book wasn't good. It's because it was different. And editors don't know what to do with it. I think that's the hardest rejection to receive, in a lot of ways-- the one where you get the compliments on your craft and your storytelling and the fact that you've tackled an emotional, difficult subject with sensitivity and skill and made it work, but...
Oh, that "but..." is a bitch, isn't it?
And I knew it going in. I knew this book was difficult and it would take that one editor who loves it as much as I do and who has the power to push it through (because let's say it again, this is a business). Publishing is rough right now. And as much as editors might say that they want something beyond the status quo, so long as the status quo continues to sell, it's what's going to be bought. Yes, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule and yes, it stings that I couldn't be that exception (there's that ego thing again), but in the end, it is what it is. What am I going to do, quit?
So we come back to how I deal-
My writing group, the Tiaras, has a twenty-four hour rule. We're allowed to wallow in the muddy, boggy, chocolate-and-wine-soaked, romcom movie depths of disappointment for twenty-four hours. Then we haul ourselves out, shower, and sit our butts back down in the chair and get on with it, whatever form "it" takes. For some, it's the next project, for others, it's deciding where next to submit, for me, it's making a plan. Hello, Virgo here. I planned my midlife crisis fer heaven's sake! So it's a case of assessing where I'm at with everything, talking to my agent, deciding whether we're going to continue to submit or shelve the project for a while, and what the status is of my current projects. Even if nothing is set in stone, I feel better for having laid it all out with her-- it's just my particular quirk.
Oh, and more chocolate never hurts.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Rejection, I am all over you as long as there is hope! It’s par for the course and I’ve learned to pause and then quickly move on. I did not get published over night so I definitely had my fair share of rejection, which propelled me to hone my craft and keep on going.
However, if I never had hope, I think I would have quit a long time ago. That’s why it’s so important to surround yourself with positive people that respect what you’re doing. I am very happy to be part of a critique group that has definitely helped me grow and been there for me when I received those dreaded rejection letters. Also, my husband has always believed in me and supported me in my quest to be an author. To have him to lean on is awesome.
When I receive a rejection it definitely hits me but I quickly say, what next? If there is something to improve on I do and if not I just move on. Not everyone is going to like everything so I try not to take it personally. Besides, I have more important things to worry about. Like right now as I'm writing this blog, I'm also feeding the baby, cooking Boca burgers with the hopes that they'll pass as hamburgers, and playing referee in the fight over which one of my sons has a better secret passowrd!
I’ve heard rejection only makes you stronger and if you offer me chocolate I might agree with you, but I would be just fine without it! And on that note, I’m sending out good vibes to all on whatever type of rejection you’re fighting!
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The bark of the trees smelled like ashtrays and through the sparse tufts of grass there was a muddy path that lead to where they all sat in the sun staring at a statue dedicated to soldiers who fought in long gone wars that they didn’t remember, understand what was fought for, or feel what was lost or won.
Sirens and lights welcomed me back to the suburbs of Chicago after my four-and-a-half year absence. It seemed fitting. Symbolic, considering they had also heralded my exit. And it could not have happened anywhere else: only a Berwyn cop would pull Stacey over for rolling a stop sign, cash in on her total lack of insurance, but not notice the pot smoke lingering in Stacey’s long, auburn ponytail, my cropped, black hair, and beneath both of our winter coats.
Stacey had spent two hours on the phone convincing me to come back from California for winter break that year. I planned to spend the first three nights with her, her husband, Jason, and their four year old daughter, Lina—a situation I was still having trouble grasping at twenty. My mother didn’t even know I was back yet, nor did the only other high school friend I’d kept in touch with, Ava. Stacey was the one who needed me.
It’s the ballads I like best on movie soundtracks—hell, on any album. And I’m not talking about the kind of song where a diva hits her highest note while singing about love or a rock band tones it down a couple of notches for all the ladies out there (though Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” is a classic, by rights). I mean a true ballad, according to the dictionary definition: a song that tells a story in short stanzas and simple words, with repetition, refrain, etc. I’m talking about the punk rocker or the country crooner telling us the story of their life in three minutes, belting out that chorus a few times to remind us of the way they messed up love and success yet again. That’s the music I’ve gotta face, my own cycle of despair.
But my story is going to take a little longer than three minutes to tell even though the concept is pretty basic: the fallen girl child. Like Persephone from the book of Greek mythology I got for Christmas in second grade. Maybe I imagined myself to be Athena, but my tiny fingers traced the drawing of little Persephone, hands thrown to the air, mouth open in a scream as Hades took her away from the bright sunshine and flowery existence that she had known. Even though her mother would eventually save her, Persephone was doomed to relive her mistakes with every winter, with every chorus. And she probably never got to be the perfect, beautiful goddess she was supposed to be.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Even so, I was thrown for a loop last week when my editor asked for the first two chapters to show to the sales force. I had the first two chapters, but they were nowhere near polished, and one of them needed a lot of research that I hadn't planned to do until later.
I did complete the research, polish the chapters, and turn them in last Monday. And part of me feels a lot better about this book now that the beginning is set in stone, sort of. But I really would have preferred not to let anyone see my work, even the very beginning of it, until I was finished writing the entire novel. Normally I would go back and make huge changes to chapter 1 after writing chapter 20, because I'm not absolutely sure what goes on in chapter 1 until then.
I don't write in order. I write some of the beginning, some of the end, some of the middle, a conversation three-fourths of the way through, back to the beginning, a hilarious scene three chapters in... In other words, I write the whole book at once, not a chapter at a time. I realize most people don't do this, and I have tried writing a book in order, with disastrous results. This makes it really hard for me to sell on proposal--writing the first three chapters and a synopsis of a book, selling it, and then finishing it. In fact, the only book I've ever sold that way was ENDLESS SUMMER, but that's because it was a sequel, so I already had those characters' voices in my head.
I feel like this is a real handicap for me. But hey, writing a novel is difficult work, and if I have a quirk while doing it, well, I'm afraid I'm going to have to live with it.
What about you? Does this writing
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Several years ago I had Lasix surgery in Kansas City, and for the past few months my distance vision has gotten worse. So the Friday before Memorial Day, Mike and I drove down to KC for a check-up, which for me resulted in a procedure to “tweak” my correction.
I’m not a person who expects the worst-case scenario—although it’s happened to me enough times that I should. As a result, I wasn’t prepared for my vision to be so blurry that I couldn’t read, write, drive, watch TV, or even see my own face in the mirror for five long days. (Well, the mirror part wasn’t THAT bad!) About the only thing I could do was pull weeds in my garden and hope I was pulling more weeds than flowers.
While I was stumbling around in a haze, reassuring myself minute-by-minute that my vision would improve, I saw things from a different perspective. For instance, a person who has been sightless would be ecstatic to have even my blurry vision. Someone losing her sight would cling to each fuzzy image in case it was the last thing she ever saw. A woman training to be a pilot would freak out, try to hide her condition, or both. The person's reaction would depend upon her viewpoint.
When we write, we see the world through the eyes of characters that are often very different from ourselves. Yet we need to “know” what those beings feel and think, love and hate, want and fear. Since we’ve all lived though our teens, we can draw on those experiences when we craft our characters.
It’s not quite as easy—though still doable--to adopt a viewpoint further from our range of experience. Danielle Joseph and Jenny O’Connell have both written from the male p.o.v. R.A. Nelson uses the female first person quite effectively in two of his books. In THE HOST, Stephenie Meyer writes from the p.o.v. of a female alien symbiote. Hmm. Thinking back on some of my past relationships, maybe that's not too much of a stretch. But you get my point.
I feel pretty confident that I can switch sexes and ages and even become mythical creatures if my story calls for it. The one area where I don’t feel comfortable is in creating a viewpoint character from another culture. For example, I’ve been in Jamaica several times, and I’ve spoken with a number of the people, but I wouldn’t attempt to write a novel from a Jamaican’s point of view even if I immersed myself in their culture for years. In other words, I'd take a stab at being a male troll with wart issues, but I'd feel like a fraud writing as a teen living in a culture I don't understand inside out.
Do you think I'm a chicken? Are there any first person viewpoints you wouldn’t attempt? I’d love to hear your take on it.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
So, tonight, I'm going to my first Seattle-area concert. It's not in a little hole-in-the-wall club or at the Paramount or Key Arena. Nope, tonight we go outdoor, to the White River Amphitheatre where Sting will be performing his greatest hits (both from the Police era as well as solo works) with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.
I love going to concerts-- from dark jazz clubs to symphony halls to arenas to stadiums-- And they all have such unique memories attached. My first rock concert: Rick Springfield when I was fourteen years old. Hey, don't mock-- forget the pretty boy actor on General Hospital, this cat could rock out. It was a fantastic concert that even my sister, who grew up on seeing Cream and Led Zeppelin and The Who, loved. I had such a giggle when I spotted him at BEA in New York last week and kind of wanted to tell him he popped my concert cherry, but figured a) he might take a statement like that wrong and b) not like I could get all that close, what with the middle-aged ladies clamoring to take pictures. (Yeah, yeah... I know how old I am, but I don't clamor.)
My first week at college, my roommate and I bonded over an REO Speedwagon concert-- I still remember Kevin Cronin's impossibly curly hair and breaking the heel of my boot on the cracked sidewalks walking back to our dorm from the Tallahassee Civic Center (crummy acoustics, but best place to have a large concert in town). College gave me some great concert memories: The Moody Blues, Pat Metheny (oh my heavens, bliss!), the first time I saw YES, when it was such a magical, transcendent experience that if the entire stage had levitated and raised towards the heavens, I wouldn't have been surprised (and that was without smoking or ingesting anything-- I was a boring concert goer that way). College also brought me the first time I ever saw Sting-- on his Dream of the Blue Turtles tour, with Branford Marsalis as one of his band members. Best moment? Singing "Roxanne" with nothing but his guitar and Branford on his soprano sax as counterpoint. *le sigh*
Jimmy Buffett was... interesting. Good thing I was in college when I saw him. I think it's probably the best time to take a visit to Margaritaville.
Jazz trumpeter, Chris Botti is another concert favorite, mostly because I can see him in a multitude of different venues. The man is a touring beast. I've seen him at open-air jazz festivals, in arenas, at concert halls, and my favorite, at the Blue Note in NYC, with some guy named Sting, coming up to sing a song with him. (Chris got his start as a member of Sting's touring band-- the music world, she can be crazy-incestuous that way.) I've seen Josh Groban perform a couple of times (yeah, I know but seriously, he's a very, very good and naturally gifted musician), but while I love watching him perform, I do not love his die-hard fans. There's a pack of them who will follow him from concert to concert, sort of like Dead Heads, but without the mellow, herb-assisted goodwill. Nope, these ladies are aggressive and entitled and do their very best to ruin the concert experience for everyone around them because they won't stop talking, they shriek during the on-stage chatter because they already know the punchlines to the jokes, and they think they're being noticed from the stage. Got news for them-- I've been up on many a theatre stage. You can't see squat.
It's because of people like that, that my concert-going has become more selective I don't really love out-of-control screaming throngs, so a lot of rock concerts have gone by the wayside for me (it'll be interesting to note the makeup of the crowd tonight). However, there are some artists I'd make that exception for-- I'd love to see Jason Mraz, because I think he's an amazing musician as well. The Dave Matthews Band is renowned as a jam band and I love nothing more than to see musicians just go off and let the music take them where it will. There are tons more, but I could keep blathering until the cows come home and still keeping going.
Which brings me back to tonight and Sting. I mean, seriously, commence the squeeing and bouncing. At least, that's what I'm doing. Sting is absolutely one of my favorite musicians,and has been an artistic inspiration since I was probably ten years old. To me, he embodies everything I respect in an artist-- he's talented, but refuses to rest on his laurels, chafes at being contained in any one box, is always expanding his knowledge of world music and allowing it to inform his own work, and is always, always, expanding his horizons.
Kind of how I want my writing to be.
Any concerts you're looking forward to this summer?
ETA: BTW, my recap of the concert and how Sting reasserted himself as my total writing Yoda is up on my regular blog.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
I am in a book rut. I've started maybe four books in the past four weeks and only finished one. The thing is, all of the books are supposed to be "good." They got good reviews on Amazon, they're about topics I normally find engaging. They're my "type."
And all this has me worried. Because either 1) I have no taste in books and don't know what "good" is (not a good thing if you're a writer), or 2) there are no originally entertaining ideas left which means that my work in progress will be met with the same so-so reception by readers.
Or maybe I'm just in a pre-summer reading funk. I want a book I can't bear to put down, one that makes me laugh and keeps me captivated. I felt like that when reading John Green's AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES last summer. I felt like that reading Tara Altabrando's THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (a fellow MTV Books author).
I've decided to accept the blame. Like that age old reasoning, "It's not you, it's me." So I'll continue to buy books and try them out, and at least feel like, regardless of my reaction to the story, I'm supporting fellow writers - which is so important these days!!! What about you? Ever gone through a "dry spell" where you couldn't find any books that that hit the spot?