Friday, April 17, 2009

Hopeful Dunces

I've been a bad blogger lately, but I have two good reasons. First, I'm involved in this wicked difficult ghostwriting project that is sucking up every spare second. I'm glad for the work, of course, but I do feel like I'm fighting for Every. Spare. Minute.

And second ...

I didn't really want to end up writing a blog about the book I'm writing. Because who wants to read that? But I did want to write a blog about writing, and when you get down to it, everything in my fiction world right now is pretty much focused on the book I'm currently writing. So to heck with it.

For anybody who's counting (me and my wife, mostly), I'm working on my seventh novel. I've got six completed novels. I'm still unpublished in fiction, which sucks, but I'm really proud of the progress I've made. I don't spend a lot of time agonizing over why I remain unpublished. Right or wrong, I view it as my issue. In other words, I've never sold a book because I wasn't ready yet. I wasn't good enough yet. So I work really hard.

In all fairness to myself, though, I will say that I've come very close, and I've got plenty of good reasons to think that I'm on the right track. Also, I'm aiming really high. I know exactly what I want: a hardcover deal with a major NY publisher, preferably Scholastic, Hyperion, Knopf or one of the other big dogs. I don't think about money or best-seller lists at the moment because I think that comes later. My job now is to land the deal. Then I'll worry about the rest of it.

Anyway, back to the book I'm working on. I hit a snag the other day. I'm just about to move out of the first act into the part when the story begins to reveal itself. It's a three-book series I'm working on here (called The Rose Morphus). Anyway, I realized that I had a problem in book three that meant I had to stop working on chapter 11 of book one. Crazy, huh? But something didn't add up. So I quit drafting and went back into my outline, and I've been changing that around ever since.

I know it sounds crazy to work like that -- and it seems most writers just plow ahead -- but I actually found myself lost. The motivations of a major character suddenly seemed too random for my taste. I couldn't truly answer the question, "Why?" This has been the kiss of death for me in the past.

So I didn't know how to handle chapter 11 unless I knew exactly what was going to happen far in the future. Because, you see, it has to echo all the way back. Let's say I get these things published ... I want a reader to hit the middle of book 3 and be able to flip to page 25 in book 1 and say, "Holy cow. It totally adds up. No wonder she did that! I should've seen it!"

Writers are such hopeful dunces, no? I mean, if I can't sell book 1, then what does it matter what my notebook holds for the next two books? And trust me, I've been there before. But it's really the only way I know how to operate. I just have to assume that these will be published, and that when they are, my story will be equal to the challenge.


Jude Hardin said...

I know exactly what I want: a hardcover deal with a major NY publisher, preferably Scholastic, Hyperion, Knopf or one of the other big dogs.But would you settle for less, just to get your foot in the door?

There's no right or wrong answer to the question. I'm just curious.

LurkerMonkey said...

I thought about that while I was writing ...

Right now, my honest answer is no. My situation is unusual (whose isn't?), so I'm trying to figure out how to answer that. But as long as I'm in the position I'm in right now, we're not backing off. Even if it sends me into permanent therapy. Which it might.

But there are plenty of ways to skin this cat. So let's say things were to change, I would be happy to approach it from a different angle. And if this meant working with independent and smaller publishing companies, then I'd be thrilled to get the experience and to finally sell a book. Although I would still be pushing for the same goal :)

Amy Sue Nathan said...

Assumption is the road to hope...and without hope would we write novels? Blogs, maybe. Journals, probably. But novels? I'm not sure.

My goal is the same as yours...I'll re-evaluate or adjust according if need be.

Melanie Avila said...

I have similar goals, although I'd settle for trade paperback. ;)

My blog is a balance between talking about Mexico and writing, and I also try to avoid talking specifics about my book. But -- sometimes you just have to, and you might be surprised by how it can help another writer work through a tough spot of their own. I'm glad you figured it out.

LurkerMonkey said...


I love this: "Assumption is the road to hope."

How true!

LurkerMonkey said...


I read your blog ... I like the Mexico stuff a lot. It's funny, because I don't know if you meant it or not, but there's a definite air of mystery for me in your blog. You know, why are you in Mexico? Why are there grenades? Why did you cut your hair?

I haven't actually figured this out yet, so I'm still not writing new text. But I'm getting closer...


Melanie Avila said...

ROFL!! Oh, that made me laugh. :)

If you look on the side, there's a link called Hoo Am I: The Answers that at least answers the question about why I'm in Mexico. As for the hair -- it's hot here and I got sick of it.

Jude Hardin said...

I would jump all over a mass market paperback original deal, especially one with a publisher with excellent distribution, like Grand Central or Dorchester. But that's just me, and mass market might fit my genre better than yours. Like I said, there's no right or wrong answer to the question.