Lunatic Mistress

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Filtering by Category: Writing

On Cutting My Losses

You may not know this, but my last project began as a simple Paranormal Fantasy.  After the first unsuccessful round of agent queries, I learned the art of letting go; I can’t speak for other writers, but that metaphor you hear re: finished projects being an artist’s “children”?  Completely true in my case, at least back then. Umpteenth rejections later, I was forced to consider the warts on my “child” and all its imperfections, and threw myself into an edit/revision bubble, during which this project morphed into a YA Paranormal Fantasy, this time with the assistance of a writers group. 

It stopped being a child at that point – I was a plastic surgeon, aiming for perfection.

Another round of submissions.

A brief flirtation with the concept of self-publishing, so brief I didn't even look into it.

Then two revise and resubmit offers, after which this project was turned down again.

Another round of edits.

Sometime in this endless death cycle I started developing an odd sense of detachment towards this project.  It was good – enough people who had no relation to me whatsoever had told me so, and I trusted them enough to believe—but it needed someone who loved it as much as I did to tell me what it needed, that extra, final push, to finally get sold.  I knew when people gave me advice on what to fix, what felt right, and what I’d brush off with a smile and a nod because it wouldn’t work.  I understand this is a gift from the Writing Gods, and trust me, I’m most grateful for it.  But would I find someone?  There were moments when I was consumed by the futility of it.  I’d tried to shelve the project before, but it always came roaring back, via a new connection, or a contest, or somesuch.

All the while my current WIP sat, waiting, not happy with the occasional 15-page chapter I’d write for it, but secure in its knowledge that I’d return.

At the beginning of this year I started submitting my previous project again, halfheartedly; it stemmed more with my general disillusionment of my life in general (I’m a person who needs to be doing something to improve my lot in life, and I get quite grumpy if I’m unable to do so.  Submitting seemed at the time to have the potential for faster results than finishing my WIP.).  And in February, lo and behold, a Full request!  Huzzah!

One by one the other agents I’d submitted to sent their regrets, until that one agent that requested the full was the only one in my Query Tracker that didn’t have a frowny face.  My One. Shining. Hope. And then, tragedy: abandoned by the head of her agency, neither she nor her clients had a home. 

While I have no doubt they’ll soon find one (Publishing, I swear, is as insular and adulterous as the Food industry I used to work in), I see this as a sign.  I cannot work on my WIP when I’m forever editing and submitting my previous project. 

That agent is the last person who will see my last project.

This blog post, then, is a written reminder to myself that I’m filing my previous project away, to devote my time to my WIP.  Maybe someday I’ll go back, but for now, the character voices of my WIP are becoming increasingly persistent. 

It’s time I gave them a bloody chance.

RIP, Family Demons.

On Character Personalities

In my early days of character creation, I had a simple litmus test.  I would write a scene in a place I knew (Usually a Denny's, one with a full bar, more on that later), with my problem characters and I sitting in a booth.  Denny's because they all look the same, so I didn't have to deal with setting overmuch.

You can figure out a lot about what makes a person tick by what they order at a Denny's, which is why the full bar is key.  Why do they order a drink at 1AM?  Why don't they?  Why do they steer clear of the Moons Over My Hammy?

These days the Denny's test supplements my character research using horoscopes, Western, Lunar, and Blood Type Theory, as well as finding a character's MBTI type.  That last isn't so simple, as I have to pre-select a type based on what I think would work, then cross-reference with the actual test.  And even with that, while one of the characters in my current project fit into her type rather easily, the other didn't like the ISFJ type I ended up with for him.  

And then the Denny's dialogue happened. And I've learned, when my characters "talk" to me (on paper, of course) there's usually a good reason - I'm going against their character.

"That's not right,"  he says. 

So I ask what's up. 

"I'm not a doormat.  ISFJ's are doormats. I don't get taken advantage of."  He's drinking bottled water, because Los Angeles water is gross (My view, not necessarily his.  He doesn't care one way or the other).  Sugary drinks aren't his thing, nor is hard liquor like the tequila I'm drinking across the booth from him.  He's usually on-call, so he doesn't like anything messing with his senses.

"Interesting that of all the traits in the profile you focused immediately on being taken advantage of."  I take a bite of my Lumberjack Slam (no toast). I DO love the crispy hash browns, and because this is fiction, I smear an extra helping of country sausage gravy over everything.  Fictional calories don't count!  Doesn't stop him from watching me ingest a heart attack on a plate and not comment.  He's a smart man.

"Don't psychoanalyze me.  I'm serious.  I love my job, I'm good at it, and I'm loyal, yada yada.  But the description even takes that and turns it negative--"

"You'd follow Margot to her grave if you had to."

"You're right, that's a negative."  He sighs, and he runs his hand through his hair.

"You think so?"  I take a small, tiny sip of my fictional tequila, because really, this is what I ordered it for.  Sometimes, my characters and I take shots if it gets real emotional.  

So this went on for about 7 pages, and at the end of it I got a pretty good sense of who he is, what he does on his off days, and why he'd follow Margot to the grave.

Over the years I've tried a while slew of exercises designed to help me know my characters (the sundry sites that force you through 100+ character questions still makes me twitch), but this is the method that's worked for me.

No method is the best, of course.  I'd love to read about what works for you!


On Baseball and Hope

I attribute my absence directly to the existence of March.  March, you see, is Spring Training, and the beginning of Baseball. I wasn't raised to be this way, though my dad and I voraciously watched Tokyo Giants games because it was on TV all the time, but when I lived in Japan, my relatives there sucked baseball up (if an IV was possible they'd probably have used that).  More importantly, being in Japan introduced me to the world of baseball, H2 and Cross Game are something else.

But I digress.  Baseball, for all its warts, is about hope.  Well, it's about a lot of things, but for the purpose of this blog, it's that you still have a chance to win as long as you have at least one out left.  

So the odds of a chasm-wide comeback victory in baseball are slim - 12 run deficits were only overcome in only a handful of games - but a "regular" comeback victory, those are much more common in baseball, especially since, again, it's theoretically possible to win until the last out is recorded.  Watching a 1-0 game is excruciatingly tense, and groan-inducing if your team comes out of that with a loss.

Here's where I segue into writing.  Of course, like many writers, I'd love to be published by one of the big five and make enough money to be able to to quit my day job (just so you know, working for an indie publisher does squat for your writing career unless you write what they're looking for, though it DOES give you insight into how the slush pile works...and you'd better have an amazing social media platform because they don't have the marketing budget to be able to support you as much as you'd like), but the odds are pretty slim.  Say what you will about needing to edit, and find beta-readers, and editing again to have a polished manuscript... after you've done all those things, you still have to find the right agent to send the right query letter to, at precisely the right time (ie not when s/he's tired at the end of the day, and you're at the end of the queue for the day) they've opened their email inbox.  And then, you have to resonate with said agent two more times: the partial (kudos to the agent that asks for up to 50 pages at the outset, it saves us both some time), and the full.  Sure, you can have a polished manuscript waiting for a home, but if it doesn't resonate you're going to get the "Thanks, but this isn't for me" letter.

It took me a LONG time to take those letters as a compliment.  You truly want someone who believes they can sell your work to represent it.  Someone who loves it but who can't think of a place they can sell it will not be able to help you (and these were, IMHO, the most heartbreaking rejection letters I've received - they genuinely liked my manuscript).

Back to baseball.

These days, I spend some time working on my current project, working my day job (I'm going to be real honest here and say I'm going to keep working a day job for as long as I can... I can't think of any other way I'd have enough social interaction on my own to be able to come up with new novel material), and sending out queries for my previous project.  The querying, especially, is a slog, there's no other word for it.  After my requisite time spent in front of my computer I turn on the TV and watch some baseball.  Because a come-from-behind victory tastes especially sweet after an hour of slogging through form emails; it reminds me to hope, and to Never. Stop. Writing.