If you're a writer, and serious about your writing, it is important to find a critique group…
I plan to dedicate a blog about writing on Wednesdays from now on, as much as possible. If you've been following curlylarryandme, you know that I'm a writer with some success and lots of failures. I have written more about rejections than anything else, because I'm an expert on being rejected, as is nearly every other writer regardless of publishing credits, or not.
Usually, when I query a literary agent I think would be a good match for me, they explain on their website, that they are busybusybusy people, and a bit self-important, too. Most of them have a tone of condescension, too. They say they receive 5,342 queries every day of their busybusybusy lives, and because of their level of busy-ness, they may not be able to tell you that you stink for a month or two. Or not at all. The "or not at all" attitudes are especially annoying. In other words, they are so busybusybusy they don't have time for good manners, common decency, or simple professionalism.
So, when I sent off a query letter and a few sample pages to an agent who seemed to be a good match, I was a bit surprised to receive a polite, professional, and kind rejection email in, get this, 18 HOURS! Was my letter so terrible that the poor woman threw up and hit the REJECT AUTOMATIC REPLY that fast? I could not believe it. A first in decades of rejection letters. 18 HOURS!
When I told my astute Book Concierge, Rowe Carenen, she said not to worry, that the busybusybusy agent's "In Box" was probably full, triggering the response, and she probably never even saw the query letter and sample pages. That made sense. I tried again with another agent at the agency. That was a little over two weeks ago. No rejection. Yet. Maybe she's reading what I wrote. Maybe she'll be impressed. Maybe she won't. Might be too busybusybusy. I'll let you know when, and if, I hear from her.
In the meantime, keep writing!
In my previous offering, I wrote about what it's like, a little, as a full time writer. I also alluded to the fact that I was about to write the final chapter of my most recent novel, which would have been Chapter 35. Guess what? Well, I did finish the novel last night, but it was Chapter 37. Things happened that I didn't expect, including a blizzard and a puppy and a couple of scenes in a pub. If you're a writer, you know how that happens. If you're not, let me try to explain. People say, "How in the world can something can happen in a story you, the author, are writing, and how can you be surprised? Aren't you in charge? This doesn't make any sense!"
They're right and wrong. Yes, I am the writer and I am in charge, and responsible for, what I write. But no, I'm not surprised when something happens I didn't plan on happening. How does that happen? Well, if I'm writing regularly, and I'm talking about several pages or even a full chapter, then the story sort of writes itself, in a sense because the story is happening inside my head, and things can intrude - scenes, dialogue, action - that I didn't plan. I do not outline. I do not write the last chapter first. I don't even know how the novel is going to wind up when I start. In this case, I did know that there would be redemption at the end, but that was it. How was that going to happen? Don't ask me. I can't answer the question.
So, how does it feel to have finished? It's good and bad. It's good because I've accomplished what I set out to do. It's bad because it's over, the relationships I have with the characters and the story. What's next? I'll set it aside for a while, several weeks maybe (Stephen King sets his aside for three months), but I'll still be thinking what I'm going to do to make it better. I'll get ideas, I'll jot notes, I'll answer questions that should have been answered in the book (why does that guy bite people instead of say hello?) and so forth.
In the meantime, I am going back to Of Mists And Murders, #4 in the Thomas O'Shea series set in fictitious Rockbluff, Iowa, which is what I was working on when the idea for this other novel shoved its way into my schedule. In other words, when I finish writing something, I write something else. Grand, isn't it?
Soon I will be a full-time writer which, frankly, scares the crap out of me. As I phase out, over the next few months, my time as a professor, I will be face to face with what I always wanted to be, said I was going to be, and now must be; that is, a writer. Not a part-time dalliance, not a self-absorbed "hobby," not anything else but one of those odd people identified as - a "writer." No excuses. Time to produce. So be it.
Gordon B. Hinkley said, "All writers should be put in a box and thrown in the sea." He might be right, but I will not be thwarted. I will have to learn to say so long to procrastination, excuse-making, and most of my time on Facebook. I will have to produce. I will have to be a bit selfish with my time. I will have to be disciplined! A novel, then another. Maybe a short story. A new novel.
I have no expectations of best-sellers, movie contracts, interviews on TV, ever-aware of Flannery O'Connor's quote about expecting too much which produces a softness that can lead to bitterness. I will write, revise, edit, and send out my work. Then I'll start something new. How weird is that?
I will develop a thick skin.
I will be disciplined. I will put in the research. I will seek critique from honest people I respect.
But to be honest, I'm not sure I can avoid what the tremendous author, James Lee Burke, calls the "corrosive self-doubt" that afflicts all writers of all genres. That the ugly thing that can intimidate.
I'll keep you posted, dear reader, as I gradually ease into my new life as a writer. Shall I purchase a beret?
I was driving around the other day, not lost yet, and saw a business that announced "Industrial Gaskets" and I wondered, where did that idea come from? I mean, when asked as a child, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" imagine this, squeaky little voice and earnest facial expression: "I want to have an Industrial Gasket store!"
It set me to wondering what happens to lead people into different capacities as adults; I mean, do children want to grow up to be podiatrists, mattress salespeople, septic tank specialists?
I wanted to play professional baseball. For the Red Sox. Left field. I gave it up when, at the age of 15, I realized I couldn't see well enough to distinguish between the rotation of a curve ball and the spin of a fast ball. Two pitches that didn't break on two consecutive at-bats resulted in two beanings that drove the point home. But at least I got to first base, although they had to point me in the direction. Explains a lot, I think.
Then I wanted to be a writer, but why? Maybe it was the positive attention from my friends for writing grisly, warped-humor poems in high school. More likely, it was a creative writing teacher when I was a senior who encouraged me, and still does. Maybe it was the fun of making things up that people liked.
So that's what I am now - a writer. Pretty happy about that. I would've made a lousy industrial gasket guy.