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Jun 30, 2010

Fresh Look

I have loathed my wip. Last year, when I'd been working on it for a while, and agents had been rejecting it right and left, I revised and revised until the words just melted into one molten mass of Sucks Rocks. Every revision seemed to drag it further into the abyss of Suckiness.

Now, returning to it after ten months hiatus for a fresh look, I was mildly surprised upon reading it. I enjoyed reading it. Hey! My wip improved while I wasn't looking! How did that happen?

Were the revisions worth it? Yes and no.

In some ways, I think the original story as I conceived it -- all one book -- was solid. It was 180,000 words, however. Way too long to have a chance at publication. The excess might have been all fat, but I didn't (and still don't) think so. It had to be that long because of the number of characters, the amount of world building, and the number of plotlines. In early revisions, I cut it down to 140,000 words, and frankly, eviscerated it. There's a reason fantasy stories run in series.

On the other hand, when I turned the story into a series, I had to add characters and plotlines, or it would have been too thin. I've done that. The world is richer now. I've invested more in my characters. The first book is complete, and the other books in the series are substantially outlined. All have sequences of scenes already written. The end of the series is written.

I've spent ten years working on this series. True, that includes periods like the last ten months, where I did no work on the project. It also includes periods where I wrote steadily, four to fourteen hours a day, every day, for years in a row.

Maybe that was a mistake. One of the new agents I queried works at an agency I have queried before. I envisioned the experienced agent warning the new agent, "That old chestnut is still floating around? That loser needs to give it a rest. Write something new already, you no-hit-wonder." (This is a conceit, of course, since I doubt my query sparked any discussion or recognition whatsoever. I'm sure the new agent is perfectly capable of rejecting projects on her own!)

I do, in fact, have other projects and other ideas. So why don't I just put this wip in a drawer and stop harassing innocent agents with it? Why did I revise & query yet again?

I still like the story. I still love my characters. I still think their tale is worth telling. And frankly, there is so much world-building involved in a good fantasy epic, it's incredibly difficult to walk away from a world I know so intimately.

Oh, yeah, and I'm an obsessive lunatic who still imagines I can perfect this book.

Query Response Time

There are new agents in my genre since I last looked. Naturally, I had to pester them with queries on my Dindi novel. I read up on them, winnowed down my list to the ones who seemed awesome, and queried yesterday. One agent replied today! Reject, of course, but wow, that's fast turn-around. I know it's not good form to email a thank you, because agents have too much mail already, so I refrained.

On the unlikely chance that the agent in question, or any other agents, read this blog, I will simply offer my thanks here. You rock. Thanks for the quick and courteous reply.

Jun 29, 2010

Novelkeeping

I did the equivalent of housekeeping on my novel -- picked it up, dusted it off, removed a bit of grime and mildew, and then set it down again. Actually, my literal housekeeping is nothing like this. If I need a clean house, the easiest way is to move. Yes, that's how messy my house is. Ahem. Anyway. Hopefully my mss is not in the same shape as my desk.

I know I've said this before, but I don't want to re-write my mss again. Enough revisions, time to let it rest and move on to a new project. Yet, being obsessive, I couldn't refrain from re-reading it and making just a few little changes.

Jun 25, 2010

What I've Been Up To

I have more or less neglected this blog for ten months, so I ought to post an update. I've been in graduate school, which, unsurprisingly, consumed my time and my writing. If my program weren't so writing-intensive then I probably would be writing more genre fiction, but since the "writer" part of me is dominated by for-school projects, I have no juice left for other creative work. I have considered sharing some of my school work here, but, upon consideration, preferred to keep it separate.

I LOVE grad school. Though the work load is stressful, I find it immensely fulfilling. Regretfully, right at the end of the year, I had a dispute with my adviser about the future of my work. I will have to either find another advisor next year or leave the program. This depresses the hell out of me, both because I hate conflict and because the thought of having to transfer to a new school and essentially start over exhausts me.

Oh, and I had another baby. He's now three weeks old. That makes 3 boys for me!

Jun 24, 2010

Grace



I heard a story once, and I should caution that I don't know if it's true. If it were about a dream come true, I would have reason to doubt it, but it is rather about disappointment come true, so I find it believable.

A woman born in a Central American country in the midst of a civil war fled from the violence as a child. Her name, shall we say, was Grace. She was terrified that she would die, but one night she had a dream, in which an angelic figure, or maybe a woman who looked like her dead grandmother, or maybe the Virgin Mary -- I don't remember, and maybe she herself didn't either, by the time she shared the story -- told her, "You will not die, because you are going to achieve a Great Thing in your life, and God will keep you alive."

Grace was greatly cheered, not only by the knowledge that she was going to live, but that she would live with purpose, with an important destiny. As a child, she never told anyone her dream, but she cherished it in her heart, and thought back on it often. At first, the fact she and her family were able to make it into the United States seemed to confirm her dream, as did her excellent progress learning English, her good grades in highschool and then college.

Yet decades slipped by, and though she married satisfactorily, and bore children she loved, she could not help but notice the dreary ordinariness of her life, the extremely non-special destiny that now seemed her lot, with no great, heaven-blessed achievement in sight. She aged and fattened and grayed, and by the time she pressed fifty, she felt worn out, worn down, disillusioned and despairing.

It was at this point that Grace finally shared her dream with a group of women who met with a psychologist for depression.

The other women suggested to her that perhaps she had overlooked the obvious: perhaps God had kept her alive precisely to live and love, that in His eyes this was a Great Thing, maybe the Greatest thing. And if this were a story of a dream come true, or a Hallmark movie, Grace would have agreed and felt renewed gratitude and love for her family.

I warned you, however, that it was a story of a disappointment come true. The woman pretended to agree with the group, but in her heart, she was not comforted. She didn't want to be "special" in an ordinary way, treasured, like the sparrow, by God alone, she wanted to be special in the extrodinary way, recognized by thousands, or better still, hundreds of thousands of other human beings. She wanted to be famous, successful and important. That was how she had understood God's promise to her as a child, that was the dream that had sustained her. And though she recognized now, as an adult, that she had no right to expect to be important, certainly no right to demand it from destiny, still, she rebelled. She acknowledged, privately, the folly of her hubris, but this only deepened her bitterness.

God had lied to her.

When I heard this story, I was angry at the woman for her refusal to be comforted. Because, if she had been comforted by the women's interpretation of her dream, I felt, the story would have had a happy ending after all. She would have found grace where she least expected it. And yet, I was also aware that I was a hypocrite. Because, although I had never escaped a civil war, or been promised anything by an angel in a dream, nonetheless, as a child I had cherished the exact same hope, and as an adult, I awakened to the same disappointment.

Jun 21, 2010

Hot Kristeva Rap

Postmodern philosophers and novelists share an obsession with words-for-their-own-sake, and indeed, I would say that the philosophers take this to an extreme beyond that achieved by mere novelists. Philosophers, unlike novelists, are not tied down by the necessities of plot and comprehensibility.

I believe the quote at the beginning of this video illustrates my point. Her words are so beautiful I could bathe in them. But what does that mean, exactly?

http://markfullmer.com/film/kristeva-rap-video

Summer Fling

I've been too busy for this blog lately, but I may have a bit of time during the summer months for fiction, we'll see. I always tend to overestimate my available time and underestimate my work load, so no promises.