Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday's Stuff and Things

The crickets. They still reign.

As the mornings become darker and colder, it's harder for me to get out of bed. (I LOVE my snooze button.) Getting around to take my oldest to school is increasingly difficult, but we're making it happen. And I'm hopeful we'll fall into a better routine with several days' time.

I sit here at my computer, an iced mocha within reach. Seriously, it's one of the best parts of my day, that iced mocha; savoring the smell, the flavor, because it's something that in that moment is only mine. And something even as simple as a favored drink brings joy... thought... inspiration.

My youngest, who's decked out in her favorite dress and tiara, uses her wand to transform me into a princess every few moments. "Bibby bobby doo!" *sashays* Aren't I pretty?

But as for my writing... It's as though I'm sitting in the middle of a large triangle, and each of its three corners holds something I reach to grasp. In the first corner sits my novel, Bliss Lake. Having been my baby for almost two years now, from conception through writes, edits, rewrites, betas, queries, rejections, it's what feels most tangible. But I've put queries on hold. Why? Because I don't know what to do. I continue to (most days) have faith in myself, confidence in my work, but I don't want to fall just short of all I can do. Maybe my query letter needs reworked again? I've done a little brainstorming, made a few notes. But also, something I've always known but blazed on despite, my manuscript is short for its genre. My ms is 51,000 words, whereas many in contemporary or women's fiction are closer to 80k. That's a huge difference! But all this time I've stuck with my story as/is, knowing there are shorter works of fiction out there, and with belief that adding to its word count would only mean padding and filling. And I don't want to take away from the story. But now, as I stew over rejections, I wonder if it's hurting me. Though no single rejection, even personalized, has mentioned my word count, I don't want to continue querying if it's making things harder. So how do I know? The large part of me wants to believe that MY agent, MY moment is out there, regardless of those factors, because my story and my enthusiasm and my faith will stand alone. But how do I know?

The second corner holds the proposal for my narrative non-fiction. Being that non-fiction is most times easiest to find representation for and get published... which could then better facilitate novel publication... perhaps this one is the most tangible. My proposal rocks. And after what pushed me to write it up, I don't dare abandon it. But if I'm to focus on this, doesn't that mean putting Bliss Lake on the back burner? After all I've put forth for it, I'm not certain I'm ready to do that. But I don't know how to do both, either. I can't query one agent with both at the same time. But is it realistic to query them individually, simultaneously? Especially when I want an agent who'll represent both books - my whole career? And so then which do I query for an agent who seems perfect? The narrative non-fiction? Or the novel? BAH!

And the third corner, there in the dark, is my WIP. The story of Tate, whose wife turns his world upside-down by making poor, selfish choices, leading him down the path of severely tested faith. I know once I'm deeper into this story, I'll believe in it, too. I know I will. But I can't let myself go there yet, not with my questions over the other two projects.

So I sit here, stranded. In the middle of the triangle, unsure as to which corner I should proceed. I pray and I wait for signs, sometimes thinking I have it figured out. But then the uncertainty settles in again and I dare not step closer to any one corner, lest it be the wrong one.

What would you do?

And do you have a cricket problem?

12 comments:

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, I only have two corners but they're troubling me too. I had planned to start edits on my memoir today, but I can't get past opening word. I keep thinking that if I just start it'll go smoothly, but I don't wanna!

Instead, my novel is swirling in my head and I keep getting ideas on how to fill out different scenes and build up a secondary character. If this were anyone else I'd say follow the passion, so I guess I should do my novel.

I'll say the same for you. Follow whichever is tugging the hardest. :)

Angie Ledbetter said...

No crickets here, unless you count that literary Jimminy Cricket who sits on our shoulders, gently but persistently making us feel guilty about...whatever. ;)

Two things about your triangle: better that shape than an endless loop-dee-loop of a circle, inside of which, you never know where to turn or on what to concentrate.

Have you targeted your agent search to those who represent both genres? There may not be many who rep both fic/NF authors, but there are some. Find those and send combo queries, maybe?

Also, to give yourself confidence, you could always get a book editor to look it over and give suggestions. Some have really reasonable prices that I know of. The peace of mind might just be worth the investment. It would also shine the light on which corner of your triangle to focus. Practicin' what I'm preachin', my 80,000 word ms is right now with one of those trusted editors I mentioned. Soon I'll be ready to renew the hunt.

I'm pulling for you...for all us good writers!

Janet said...

Bliss Lake does sound awfully short. Adding does not have to be padding, you know, it can be deepening instead. Maybe you could have another look at the manuscript and see if any possibilities jump out at you. There was a thread on that just recently, probably still ongoing, at AW.

If nothing does, I'd say to continue submitting it without getting too emotionally invested. If it doesn't sell, put it aside for a while and take another look. Maybe then you'll have a different perspective on the possibilities. You can always resubmit it afterwards. A major reworking with a different title is essentially a new book.

So if you haven't got any inspiration for it right now, I'd get cracking on one of the other two.

Sorry, I know this isn't a big help, but maybe it's a little help.

aaroncrocco said...

Janna, I know how tough it can be. I've been trying to get my second book started for a while now and I'm still waiting to get all my beta feedback for my first book, which is not as long as I like. I think that sometimes we need to walk away from projects to work on something else, so that we get a fresh look later on. Perhaps your first book needs that?

Additionally, you can always go the self-published route or release the book into the wild for free / donations. That is a point of no return for the book, but if you really want it out there, then it is an option.

Deep breaths work wonders. Hang in there.

Janna Qualman said...

Thanks, everyone, for chiming in. I really appreciate your advice and support, now more than ever. Each of you has great points, and I'll consider it all as I move forward with a decision. Maybe I'm making it too hard on myself, when I need to simply step out in faith.
I'll keep you all posted.

Terri Tiffany said...

I'm so glad you shared where you are now. I am in a similar situation. I wanted to write a non-fiction but everything I've read says you need a really good platform to do it. Even people I know with agents can't get it published yet because they need to build that up.

My fiction book that I am trying to get an agent for was about your word count too. When I looked around, there are very few publishing houses that take that so I have increased the count-- but you know what? It isn't like padding it-- it actually improved it I think as I added richer detail. I'm still abit short for a full novel but then I'm not aiming this one for that but I've opened myself up for a few more places.

And, like you, I have a third book halfway done that I like best but have shelved it until I persue this agent search a bit more--then if nothing happens, I think I'll work on that.

You might also want to increase places where you are published as well:)

A whole lot to think about but I really can relate! I think God will open and shut the doors to our path so we just have to be ready and faithful.

Melissa Marsh said...

It's so hard to let go of a project when it keeps tugging you back. I kept querying my last novel until I had accumulated so many rejections that I wanted to cry: the overwhelming theme of the rejections was, "This time period doesn't sell well."

So, it's stuck on my hard-drive. I'm not sending out anymore queries. It's not the right time for some reason for this book to be out in the world.

RE: adding to your story...there have been many novels that are shorter than the typical 80K to 100K word counts, so I definitely wouldn't add anything to it.

If it were me, I would take another look at the query, maybe have a different set of eyes look at it, and see what they say. Then keep querying.

Janna Qualman said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Melissa. And I wish the the best with your projects. Maybe soon you can revisit the one on your hard drive!

Joshua said...

first off, snooze button...greatest invention ever! and second, you keep you head held high and keep thinking positive. Everything works out in the end and the end near....wait that sounds dark. Uhmm..great things come to those who are patient...and greater things come to those who find these agents and kick them in balls!

Michele said...

I hear the crickets as I type. ;-)

As for the book(s)... Why not self-publish your work? Is that so bad? Dare I say it?

Just a thought...

*smiles, hugs, and prayers*
Michele

Joshua said...

that is a great freaking wish! would be awesome to get away and still be able to know that everything at home and elsewere was fine. very cool J :)

Joanne said...

It's such a long process of fine-tuning everything. But don't give up! I agree with Terri and Janet that adding wordcount can give layers to your story. Maybe outline first, see what can be developed further, and shine the query letter. Did you get any requests for partials? If not, it might just be the query isn't hitting the mark. But keep at it! :)