A letter from my Muse

Listen up, Linda!

I’ve taken all I can take these last three weeks. Your emotional roller coaster is making me sick. Chill the heck out. You’re a writer. Writers write. And writers, if they’re smart, let trusted writers read their work and give them feedback. And if those writers are any help at all, they give you honest critique. Got it?

So they told you the book isn’t done. So they suggested more than a few little tweaks. Get over it. Stop this rush to worst case scenario. You are not a fake. You are not the worst writer in the world. You are not too stupid or too old to learn (though you just might be too stubborn). And you are not going to delete your blog, your Facebook page, and your Twitter account.

And, above all else, you are not going to throw this book out and start another one.

Get a grip. Quit your whining. Stop your bellyaching.  Walk out on the pity party and lock the door behind you.

GET TO WORK.

You have a good story, but we’re about to make it fantastic. Got it? Okay. Let’s go.

Signed, Your wise and patient Muse

Geez, the stuff a Muse has to put up with.

Down the Rabbit Hole

The first order of business today, in clarification of my last post, is to make it clear that no catastrophe has befallen me. I apologize for causing you concern. I sincerely appreciate your kindness, and I’m sorry I caused a ruckus. I wrote that post on the anniversary of my father’s death and it was meant only as a reflection on letting go and moving on. That does, however, relate to today’s post.

I seem to be blogging a lot of confessions lately, and here’s another. An accumulation of Real Life stresses finally wiped me out. Since this blog focuses on my writer’s journey, I’ll share how my lowered defenses affected that.

Despite knowing that quitting only assures you never succeed, I came perilously close to doing that very thing this month. After all the cheerleading (preaching?) I’ve done on this blog—and probably yours—I hang my head in shame. Here’s the tale … once removed.

◊ ◊ ◊

You let the querying process clobber you. Your inner critic grows crueler by the day. You dog-paddle furiously just to keep your head above water. Your heart and your head are in constant battle. Tears are shed. Fists are clenched. (Egads! Passive construction.) And, yes, you hide behind humor.

The result? You make the decision to abandon your dream of publication, and then you question whether you should write at all.

More tears. More anger. Debilitating embarrassment.

You come this close to closing down your blog and deleting your Twitter account. How dare you call yourself a writer! You know good writing. You recognize those writers who deserve publication. You are clearly not one of them.

But, for some reason, you don’t quit blogging. You do quit writing anything else. You lie about it. You keep up the pretense of being a writer. Your tweets claim #amwriting, but that refers only to blog posts. You email a couple stories to friends asking for feedback, but they are stories written months ago.

Sooner or later, the freefall ends. You hit bottom. You crack wide open. If you’re lucky, you have friends there to give you a little help. And if you’re very lucky, you open up a file you haven’t read in months and read a line or two that amazes you. You don’t remember them, but these are lines you wrote. You wrote! You, the writer.

You stand up, brush yourself off, deal with the cuts and bruises. You move onward and upward. What choice do you have? A writer writes.

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Agent query honesty and an ego-stroke!

This is probably the most honest post you’ll ever read on this blog. It’s also the most ego-stroking. And it’s my longest. Wow, a real record-breaker!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am in the query stage for my novel The Brevity of Roses. Yes, I know we’re admonished to be careful what we say publicly about agent rejections, but if any agent reads this, maybe they’ll also be curious about the second part of this post. For the record, I would like to make a statement on this agent search process: Querying sucks!

I know, I know, I’ve read all the same pep talk you have … but I’ve concluded that’s mostly bull!

  • “Don’t take rejection personally.” Yes, of course, the agent is not rejecting me as a person … (s)he is only rejecting the writing I’ve slaved over for two years, which was the whole point of the query, thank you very much!
  • “The market is very tight right now.” Granted, but books are still being published—by debut as well as established authors. And some of them aren’t exactly mind-blowing stories … or even that well-written!
  • “Whether or not it sells, be proud that you’ve completed a novel. Congratulations!” Uh … yeah. Look, writing is my full-time job … and I work a lot of overtime. So a conservative estimate of hours put into this novel is 6,240—six thousand two hundred and forty hours. But you think I should be satisfied with proudly telling people: “I’ve written a novel and if you’d like to read it … I can pull it up on my computer.” Really?!

However, one consolation I will accept: “If an agent doesn’t love your book, isn’t excited about pitching it to editors, that’s not the best agent for you.” That makes sense … and so the search continues.

Now, for the ego-stroking part of this post. I’ve mentioned before that I had submitted my novel for critique again. This would be the first time anyone read the entire new-and-improved version … yes, the one I believed was ready to query. That didn’t mean I couldn’t make it better. So, when Kayla Olson volunteered, I took her up on it.

Since the first round of agents I queried weren’t clamoring for the right to represent this novel, discouragement had raised its poisonous head. Then Kayla started reading and sending me multi-page notes on what she read. As it turns out, my novel is mostly polished, which is a relief—but a personal benefit has been in reading statements like these:

“Linda, the true beauty and depth of your writing is made so much from all the intricately woven detail – I think that’s one reason I’m totally eating this thing up. I am a detail girl, a subtlety-lover, a theme-devourer, and connection-maker. You give me much food.”

“The Brevity of Roses is the perfect title for this novel: every chapter, the rose opens up a little more, where not only can I see that there are more layers of petals than I ever imagined, but I can see deep inside to where the petals are attached. Depth and fragile beauty, gradually opening.”

Please understand, I don’t appreciate her critique just because she praises my writing. She’s also pointed out where it would be stronger if I moved a scene from one chapter to another, and where I needed to add a short scene, and here’s what she said about my twelfth chapter:

“After reading eleven chapters before this one, I KNOW you have the ability to choose words and arrange them in a way that haunts me and resonates in my head during parts of the day when I’m doing ordinary things. This one – while far from anything bad, in my opinion – seemed to lack that special spark.

You’re great at communicating tone and emotion through actions, and through the details of sight/smell/touch/noise/silence/subtle allusion.  Here, for example, I don’t get as much of that – it just feels too ordinary.”

How’s that for softening the blow? 🙂 Needless to say, I took her seriously, reread that chapter closely, and it’s now under revision. Kayla has the three last chapters of my novel left to read. Of course, I hope she’ll enjoy it to the end, but even if she doesn’t, I have faith that she will give me plenty of great suggestions to consider in her notes.

I’ve received so much excellent feedback from my critique partners throughout the writing of this novel … and some of them gave me praise very like Kayla’s. Their support kept me going to finish the writing and then through the revision and rounds of editing. I in no way mean to diminish their input. But I am thankful that I accepted Kayla’s offer for one last critique because it’s come just when I needed it most.

Somehow, I had forgotten earlier compliments on my writing, and even though I professed (even on this blog) that my novel was a good one, I secretly doubted and began to think it might indeed be worthy of nothing more than moldering on my hard drive.

Now, I truly believe it’s publication worthy … which, unfortunately, brings me back to the teeth-grinding, hair-ripping, nail-biting process of agent querying. Oh, the agony!

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Warrior Woman

What a difference a week makes. This time last week, I had sunk the lowest I ever have in discouragement over my writing. Then a river of encouragement lifted me up and carried me away from that dark place. Since I blogged about that, I feel an update is in order.

Victorious!

So, yeah … I fought back against that Blue Muse. How? During this last week, I wrote a new synopsis, a new query letter, a new first paragraph, a one-paragraph pitch for a contest at agent Nephele Tempest’s blog, audio recorded and edited two novel chapters, and entered the Sandy Writing Contest.  I also attempted to dissect Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” which wasn’t easy, considering I have very little practice.

I think that’s what you call a blitz attack. And it worked!


A blue, blah, blogging day

sadfaceToday is not a good writing day for me. I don’t want to write. I don’t even want to think about writing. I can’t even turn to comfort food because I’m dieting. So, I’ve decided to laugh and I invite you to laugh along with me.

Below, I’ve given links to some blogs I visit whose posts are usually humorous. If those bloggers are also having a blue day, look at some past posts. If you don’t laugh … well, I guess your sense of humor is different than mine.

If you have any other humorous blogs, websites, or YouTube videos to share, please leave a link in the comments section. Maybe I can laugh all day.

Tricia’s Blog
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Miscellaneous Yammering
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