Bum dum DA DA dum BUM– MYYYYY Neuroses!

Neurosis the first: 

Lately I’ve been wondering if perhaps I am not analytical enough of fiction.  I am more concerned with the question “Is this a good story?” than I am any other.

And I wonder if that might be hurting me.

It’s not that I think I’m a terrible writer, or anything.  I can write, and I can write well. Unless my friends are lying to me, which is possible I suppose, at times my stuff has made people shiver. But I wonder if my focus on telling a good story instead of “resonance” or other of the literary overthinking that sent me screaming from grad school is taking something away from my work, making the stories less salable.  Which is stupid, and yet…

Neurosis the second: 

Seven publishing professionals, including three writers, three editors, and an agent, all of whom range from “fairly” to “very” successful in today’s field, have said good things about my work.  One called my stuff “publishable, strong prose” which sounds like faint praise, but it meant a lot.  One said that although she was passing on the project, “your writing is good.”

My beta readers, although they had suggestions for changes and some complaints, universally praised the book.  One, who has never met me and doesn’t know me from the second guy to the right, said “If I had paid for this book, I’d consider it money well spent.”  These are all people who I know can write.

And yet…

I feel like I’m flailing in the dark.  I try to remain sanguine about the whole publishing dice-shoot.  But the truth is, every rejection sucks.  It’s like getting hit by a thousand tiny cuts–no one of them hurts, but all together, they form a droning sound that says “YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME.”

To shut that voice up, I started working on a new project, but now that I laid down the first few hundred words, I’m going to finish some crit-work.

Neurosis the third:

I almost constantly worry that I’ve only got one or two good ideas in me, and then I’ll be stuck as “That Guy who wrote two books and then fizzled out.”  I do not want to be that guy.

So there it is.  The neuroses that make me the neurotic writer I am.  What are yours?

Just checking in

If you didn’t hear it through other channels, the agent who requested pages passed on the project.

I spent about twelve hours crushed, because the agent in question was Sara Megibow, who is awesome in many ways, and I was really hoping she’d share my enthusiasm for the book and want to work with me.  Ah well.

In any case, I’m moving on. Instead of working on Book 2 without a contract, I’m working on a new story, in another universe.  Still space opera, but a different playground and focus.

The Widening Gyre is still being sent out to agents, and it’s still at Angry Robot (where it will no doubt also be rejected, and I knew that going in but hey, nothing ventured and all that), but that universe isn’t going to be my focus for a while.


Sad News re: David G. Hartwell

Very saddened to hear this morning that David G. Hartwell, one of the preeminent editors in Science Fiction and Fantasy, has suffered a brain bleed and is not expected to survive.

I am not fortunate enough to be one of David’s friends, but I was lucky enough to meet him at the 2014 Nebulas and I got to talk to him for a bit. He was kind. He was encouraging. He was a fount of knowledge, both in the SFF field and outside it.

As Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden said on Making Light: David was the most consequential editor in SFF since John W. Campbell.

In a very real way, David shaped my own love of the field, as editor of the annual Year’s Best Science Fiction starting in 1996, and numerous anthologies, magazines, and novels before that.

His loss is keenly felt in the SFF community.  My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Even Good News Can Make Me Itch

So this morning I saw I had an email back from one of the agents to whom I still have active queries out (no names; it seems unethical to say who they are here).  I had a mixed reaction to seeing the email there; all I could see of the message was the same generic way most rejection emails begin, and my heart sank a bit.  This agent is, for reasons I won’t detail here, high on my list.

“Well, let’s get it over with, anyway,” I said, and clicked the link.  “Thanks for sending, yeah, ok, I really enjoyed, ok, wait, what?”

It’s not a rejection.  It’s a request for a synopsis and several chapters, what the publishing industry calls a “Partial.”  So I’ll send that out later today, when I’ve had a chance to compile it and make sure my synopsis isn’t terrible.  That’s the part that makes me itch, because so much relies on my getting it right–or at least mostly right.

What happens after that?  Well, first I wait 4 to 6 weeks.  Then there’s most likely two options:

  1. She still likes it, so she asks for the rest of the book, what they call a “Full.” Then I wait a few months while she reads it and decides if she can work with me or not.
  2. She doesn’t like the rest of it, and sends me a rejection; if I’m lucky, it will tell me some part of why it wasn’t for her, and I’ll look at how I can change it.

There are other, less likely options, but those are the ones most likely to occur.  I’m hoping for option 1, but if that doesn’t happen, there are lots more agents out there.  One of them is for me.

Finding an agent is a lot like dating, only without the messier bits.

The Book, and What’s Important About It

Who knew selling a book would be so hard?

Well, I did, actually.  But this is nothing compared to the writing.

Anyway, the book is still going around to agents.  There was a request for more pages, but the agent passed–said she was a “very, very tough sell on aliens, although your writing is good.”   I’ll take that compliment; thank you!

The thing is, it’s very easy to start thinking that the book is crap because nobody has said “OH MY GOD I WANT TO REP THIS!”  But that’s bullshit. People I trust, who have no reason to lie to me (and who were very honest with me in the beta stage about the flaws it had, and helped me fix them), like the book.  In fact, my favorite comment from two of the beta readers was “If I’d bought this in a bookstore and read it, I’d consider my money well spent.” It’s not perfect–no book ever is, especially before an editor takes it in hand–but it’s good.  It’s a story worth telling, and worth reading.

It’ll sell, or it won’t.  But that isn’t the important thing.  The important thing is that I have a voice, and that I need to use it.  Because, while I need to write, I’m not really writing for me.  I’m writing for that teenager who thinks the future won’t have people like him in it, because they’re not in the mainstream books being sold.  I’m writing for the girl whose parents tell her she’s a loser because she loves SFF.  I’m writing for the man who is sick of every story with a gay protagonist being erotica or romance.

So the important thing is to keep writing, and keep querying.