Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Farewell, sweet manuscript...

It's done. I'm done. What a glorious day, no? I just shipped my query off to four agents. Added to the two I already sent (one rejection, one I haven't heard from yet), that's six total. I know some people send to as many as 20 or 30, but I max out at six-- at least for this manuscript.

Not that I don't have confidence that the story is good-- it is. I love the characters, love the story. But it is also my first attempt, and I've learned a TON. It's time to start from scratch on something new. I can't wait. I already have the story idea and the first line.

So... Goodbye YA and hello Middle Reader. Hope we become great friends...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Won't They Be Sorry When I'm Rich & Famous #2

So let's give this post another try.
Getting published is like losing weight. Everyone suddenly loves you, all your problems go away, and if weighloss ads on TV are to be believed, your house will always be clean, your children obedient, and your taste in clothes both expensive and impeccable. That's just the way it works for skinny people and published authors.

I don't know if anyone reading this is like me (except if I'm the only one reading, then yes, I'm very much like me), but sometimes I get delusions of grandeur about the publishing process. Certainly, published authors live stress-free lives, right? They don't face criticism or feel insecure about their work... right? Right?

Okay, so maybe not, but it's fun to pretend. It's fun to believe that everyone I ever knew will rush to get my book as soon as it's in stores. Fun to think that they will, of course, all love it and think it's the best thing they ever read. My family will brag, old boyfriends will kick themselves for losing me, my son's Little League coach will let him pitch just because he's my son. Yes, the moment my books hit the shelves all my problems will virtually shrink to nothing like Crocks in the Arizona sun (true story-- nothing like July in AZ).

In all my daydreaming, it never occurred to me that somebody who knows me, someone I respect or think highly of, would actually NOT want to bask in the glory that will be my first published book.

Lat week I ran into an old friend who I haven't seen in over ten years. We were always great friends-- he was kind, intelligent, super supportive. When I told him I was writing a book he got excited. Without even knowing what it was about, he instantly started comparing my to incomparable authors. Authors it would take a lifetime to emulate-- if emulation is even possible. Then, he proceeded to list some books that he didn't like. The kind of books that, according to him, I would never waste my time writing.


When he asked what my book was about, I was deliberately vague. How could I tell him my book was exactly like the books he was criticizing? That not only had I wasted my time, but I had spent almost the last two years of my life working on "that kind" of book?

For the first time, instead of imagining a city parade thrown in my honor, I actually entertained the idea that people might be disappointed. They may not only dislike it, but feel the need to tell me about it. Ouch.

From this I have learned one thing: nothing is always as glorious as it appears on the surface. And no matter how skinny I am, I will still have dirty dishes to clean and occasionally disobedient children.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Won't They Be Sorry When I'm Rich & Famous

I've written this post four times, and deleted it three. Can't get my words to say the same thing as my thoughts, which is kind of a problem if I'm aspiring to be a writer. But, I'm leaving it up so that I'll remember to write about it later. For now, I'm going to bed.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm So SICK of this manuscript!

For any of you that have the misfortune of finding this blog, let me just tell you that the whole reason I'm writing it is to track my own progress through the writing/publishing process. I am very aware that it will hold little interest for anybody else, but there's just something about writing to the unknown masses that appeals to me (which should seem obvious since I'm aspiring to be a writer)-- even if the masses are comprised of a grand total of three or four people... ever. AND I free associate, ramble, and misspell things a little bit. So if you keep reading, you've been warned.
I wrote my manuscript in about eight months, but I have worked for over a YEAR on revisions. Does it show? Hmmmm, that's debatable. My protagonist is a college freshman. I just learned that Young Adult books are NOT about college aged kids (my last post, perhaps a bit of an overreaction but still true, was my response). But I feel that my story is most definitely intended for YA. What does that mean? Yep, another revision.
But I had no sooner moved my protagonist into high school than I get word that a well known New York editor is looking for literature aimed at the young 20ish crowd. What?! Of course, I still have my old version (NEVER make huge changes to your manuscript without saving the original-- I learned that by sad experience). The only unfortunate thing is that I really like some of the changes I made to the second version. Changes that I could also go back and make to the original (that have nothing to do with whether the character is in college or high school). But do I really want to have two versions of the same manuscript to edit? What a pain! Especially considering that neither one may ever get published (I don't have an agent yet-- so that well known New York editor will most likely never get my manuscript, whether it's perfect for him or not).
I'm just done. I'm ready to write a new story and be done with this one. I think I will read it through one last time, make whatever revisions I see fit, and then send it off to agents and bid it farewell for now. So far I have a grand total of TWO people that I've sent it to, with one rejection already under my belt (haven't heard from the other one yet). My list is 10. 10 agents and I'm done with this book, even if all I get is rejections.
Now, I'm off to write the next story. What will it be? I honestly have no idea. I come up with about ten new ideas a day, but none of them sound at all interesting after a good night's sleep. I did have one or two that lasted as long as 48 hours, so maybe I'll pick one of those and see where it goes. Sometimes I really wish I had one of those dreams or light bulb moments that I've heard certain other authors describe (curse you Meyer and Rowling).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Young Adult?

What is a young adult anyway? Is it, as the name would logically imply, a person who is past 18 (adult) but no older than 25 (young)? Not in the publishing world. In fact, even a 17 or 18 year old is questionable. In book terms, YA means somebody between the ages of 12 and 16. And according to theory, kids generally will only read about protagonists that are within two years of themselves. So if your book is about a 10-year-old it's not YA but Middle Reader. And if your protagonist is 18? Well, it'll pass as long as the main character is still in high school, otherwise that lands you in adult literature. Which poses a few questions:

First, what ever happened to the "teen" category? Has the word "adolescent" become so politically incorrect that it can't be used anymore, even to describe a book? Are we letting our kids grow up so fast that we refuse to acknowledge or label that stage of transition and growth-- now they have to jump straight from childhood to young adulthood?

Second, what about that island of people who are actually young adults? Do we account for them? Or is it just assumed that all adults, whether 18 or 80, have the exact same needs, desires, and wants?

I see two huge problems with this way of categorizing things. First, it's totally unfair to teenagers. YA has become a catch all for any book that might have an appeal for teenagers, regardless of the content. Anything goes. Adult issues, dealt with by very adult acting teenagers, are flooding the YA bookshelves. But the truth is, though we can call them young adults all we want, they are NOT adults. The way the world is today, I recognize that they must deal with adult issues, but they usually deal with them in a very adolescent way. We need books that reflect that. Books that explain actions and consequences. I don't mean preachy or moralistic, but realistic.

The second problem is that we are completely ignoring the 18-25 year old group. In the past, it's been traditionally assumed that college-aged adults will not read recently published literature because they are too consumed by school work, their social lives, etc. That may have been true for my generation, but I think things are changing. While it was virtually unheard of for a book to insert itself into pop culture during my formative years, we are now in the post-Harry Potter, post-Twilight era. This generation hails from the world of the mega-novel, and I believe their thirst for relevant, timely books will continue.

I hope we give them what they want. To keep this generation of readers excited about literature can only be a good thing. It can stimulate the economy (and not just in the book world-- how many movies lately have come from YA books?), it can inspire future writers, and it can influence the generation behind them to make good literature a part of their lives.

I'm excited to see what happens in the next few years. I hope that great, well-written books that are also age-appropriate will be published for teens. I also hope we see more books written for the real "young adults" out there. Although, with the YA label taken, I'm not sure what they'll be called.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cliff Hangers

Okay, the craziest thing happened this weekend. I never play the lottery-- I lose enough things in life (my keys, my memory, my temper), no way am I going to pay MONEY to risk losing even more. But I'm at the store (making a quick run for milk and bananas) and I just can't help myself. I pay cash for my groceries and have some cash left over, so I fold. Why not, I think. I hate carrying around a lot of change in my wallet anyway.

So I buy a ticket and... I win. Yep, $8,000! Can you believe it? Neither can I. Which is probably why I start screaming and jumping up and down in the store... AND why I trip over a cart and land head first into a display of stewed tomatoes. Besides a few dents, the cans are fine. My wrist, however, is not so lucky.

I can't get a hold of my husband or my sister, so the cashier insists (and I mean insists) on calling an ambulance. I try to ask her, "So are you going to pay the ambulance fee?" but what comes out is, "Swryg pamblfee OUCH!" Apparently, that is injured talk for," Go ahead, call the ambulance. I can afford it, I just won the lottery!"

So $250 dollars in ambulance and emergency room fees later, and I am sitting on a cold, sterile hospital bed, waiting for the doctor to knock me out so they can reset the bone.

But when the doctor walks in, I immediately know something is wrong. "Is there a problem with my wrist?" I ask, suddenly remembering that I hate hospitals as I feel my stomach tie up in knots. Or maybe it's just a reaction to the medicine.

Anyway, the doctor just shakes his head. "It's not your wrist."

I look down at my swollen and misshaped appendage, which now looks identical to Harry Potter's in the movie where he accidentally has all the bones removed from his arm, and give the doctor a confused look. "Are you saying it isn't broken?"

"Oh, it's broken," he replies.

For the first time, I notice that neither he nor any of the nurses are standing within five feet of me. I look back up at the doctor, but he averts his gaze.

"We're a little concerned about the blood test results." He clears his throat. "I'm afraid, we're going to have to put you in quarantine."

The End

By the way, did you know that each chapter of your manuscript should end with a cliff hanger, so that people will want to keep reading?
I just learned that too.

(And if you haven't figured it out already, the above post is a total lie. I've never played the lottery, broken my wrist, or run to the store just to pick up milk and bananas. I hate bananas.)