Saturday, January 07, 2006

Journey Toward Publication #1

The notion of writing about my process toward publication moved to the front burner this week. Of course, my whole blog is about that. But I think my melancholy feelings about how long it's taking to hear anything solid about my book is causing me to be introspective. An agent. A sale. A pat on the head. Anything. Arf.

But, compared to other writers -- and I often wrestle with the question of whether or not I'm a "writer" -- I really haven't been at this fiction game very long. I know I'm good at writing what I enjoy writing, but I don't know how good I'd be with topics that hold less interest. I doubt I could be a journalist. The inner question came up because I saw an ad in a local women's magazine, asking for writers (for free). I have written lots of articles about various aspects of psychology, women's issues, metaphysics, etc., but when I saw that ad, I didn't get the feeling that I'd be a good applicant. I'm not a writer (my inner voice said). I can write vampire stories. I'm good at that. I have a clever mind and a way with words. Yes. True. But . . . what?

I started writing The Vampire Shrink at the end of January, 2004. Almost 2 years ago. A few months before that, I'd started on a paranormal with vampires, ghosts, and all kinds of things. As I read it now, I can see glaring evidence that it was my first attempt at a full-length fiction book. Anyway, with the help of a few critique partners I met through various RWA lists (even though I'm not a standard romance writer, I think RWA is great because it gives resources to everyone -- published and pre-published, alike), I cranked out the chapters, refined them according to the feedback and took the leap into contests.

I won the first contest I entered. Then finaled in and won others. My first three chapters were POLISHED.

That, and the enthusiastic cheerleading from my crit partners, motivated me to start sending out queries. Apparently, my query letter was pretty good because I got requests for 3 chapters from many agents.

Several of those agents were interested enough to ask for the whole manuscript.

I actually finished the whole thing in March. 2005 and sent the completed ms to those who had asked for it. There was a gap in there when I didn't do any writing at all. I got discouraged. Some of the harsh voices of contest judges finally ripped through my thin, pseudo-teflon layer and tore at my tender bits. I knew I couldn't give great weight to critiques from romance judges who filled my manuscript pages with written finger wagging: this isn't romance. You aren't doing it right. There's no happy ending. You have more than one love interest. Nobody will buy a book like this.

Luckily, chick lit was exploding as I wrote my book. I still don't think my book fits comfortably into that category, but it was a welcome relief from the one heroine/one hero/happy ending I'd been trying to cram myself and my story into.

I got rejections from my first group of agents.

In retrospect, I can see that they were never good choices for me. I don't mean anything negative or derogatory by this, but I'm a "woman of a certain age." I've had lots of life experience and my son is age 30 (we grew up together). Some of the agents who asked to look at my book are very young. Under 30. I shouldn't be surprised that my world-view doesn't jive with theirs.

Anyway, the requests for my full manuscript have continued as I've queried every agent whose website expressed an interest in the paranormal, women's fiction, chick lit, w/romance elements, etc.

Surprisingly, it has been male agents who like my book the most so far. Two have expressed serious interest.

At some point, I'll go back and look at my rejection file. Some of the rejections were from the full ms. Others from 3 chapters. Others from my query letter. Some of the rejections are wonderful. They give encouragement and tell me things like "we just bought a book like this," or "your writing is great, but I don't like vampires," or "this isn't right for me, but it's good enough to get picked up by another agent."

So, it's officially been 15 months since I sent out my first 3-chapter packet to an agent or publisher. Not very long, really. Not compared to the years and years some writers talk about.

I hope the next installment of this post happens very soon. In that one, I'll talk about what it was like to get "the call," to sell my book, and to see it in my local bookstore.


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