April 4, 2007

Topic Salad with Linky Love Sauce

Dear Evil Weevils,

I am working on the owl story. It is a hard story to tell. I will get there. I have a draft. IT WILL COME TO YOU, probably in three parts. So. Sock me no pink socks. Owls yesterday. Owls tomorrow. Not yet owls today.

The Owlman Cometh

Today I have A LITTLE LINKY LOVE, first to my friend Lani, who has started a podcast called Will Write for Wine where she and her writer friend Samantha Graves talk writing and drinking---an old friendship at least as strong as Lani and Samantha’s, might I add. I long to be a guest because I have some DARLING wines I got at the Biltmore I’d like to overdrink while hanging with the ever delightful and amusing Lani Diane Rich. The latest podcast is called, Episode 3: Flaming Skulls and Acronyms. I think that sells it in itself.

ALSO, I want to link to Cornelia Read because if you have not read her fantabulous debut Field of Darkness then you are a sad sad little lost thing, but it is NOT TOO LATE. Also linking to her BECAUSE I LIKE HER and because she gave me LITERALLY the ….FANCIEST compliment I think I have ever gotten in my whole life today. I woke up to find an email from her where she PARAPHRASES a conversation she just had with a guy who was an advance reader for TGWSS. She says, BASICALLY, that he is VERY pleased with the new book, and that’s ALWAYS good news, but it’s HOW she said it that has made my morning…

“[he thinks] you are not ONLY the fiery humpbacked wonder beast of all that is good and fine, but that you ALSO glow in the dark and build strong bodies in 12 ways.”

It’s such a GREAT compliment I wish I had freakin’ written it. *sigh* Would that I could wake up every morning to be told such things. TWELVE WAYS! That’s like nine more than MILK!

Also today, coasting on the bighead that Cornelia has given me, I offer a toasted pontification of totally unsolicited a~~vice for writers currently looking for an agent. I will say these things with conviction, because that’s; the advantage of the bighead. These are BUSINESS END things I know very little about, but I will serve you up the teeny platter of things I have gleaned. WITH JAM! It’s a topic I get a lot of e-mails about AND it just came up on a list where I lurk and dawdle. SO.

First, ask yourself what you want. Do you want "to have a book published?" Or do you want "a career as a novelist?"

If the answer is A, I know verylittl ethat wil help you. I never wanted A much. A looked like a good place to START to me. So.

If the answer is B, then here are some things you can do to help make it happen.

1) Finish a book. Don’t query until you have a complete MS that you have work shopped and honed and it is as good and shiny and whole as you can make it.

2) Start working on your next book WHILE shopping this one, so your focus is on the writing, the new beloved project, not the one you are sending out into the icy tundra of the publishing industry. You may think you will never love another book like the one you are shopping now etc etc, but that's not true. The next one will seduce you, and not far in you will realize writing the other one taught you things and this new one is better smarter stonger faster and SO MUCH CUTER IN ITS LEVI JEANS. It will be a romance all over again, and it will help you let go of the old book. Which you have to do, because if you do NOT let go, even if you SELL it, the review process will KILL you. Get a new lover and kick that old one out of bed. Make it go get a job. It can pay you palimony while you canoodle with the new one.

3) In the same way that you don't give up after a query or two, you don't give up after a book or two. My agent shopped two novels, a children's book series, and a non-fiction essay project. We got as far as contract negotiations with Simon and Schuster with one, and then marketing nixed it. So gods was my third novel and my FIFTH shopped project. I started SERIOUSLY pursueing a career when I was pregnant with my son. My son was born in 1997 and is now TEN, and gods in Alabama came out, what, in 2005? So it wasn't an instant, overnight, or easy thing. The good part is, I have a career that gods began that I would NEVER had had with my first two novels. They were not BAD books, if you do not mind me saying so, but they never would have netted the kind of attention that gods got. And I always thought once I had a career I could go back and sell them...um no. ONE I may rework from the ground up as YA, but I would have to cut/change/fold/spindle AND mutilate every sentence before it was ready, and I havwe too many books I want to write RIGHT NOW to take that time. As my agent told me, MANY TIMES, you only get one first novel, and its sales and reviews determine a LOT. So.

4) Read debut novels. Read GOOD debut novels in your genre. Read non-debut breakout books in your genre. Read GOOD overlooked books in your genre. Read BAD books through, to the end, and then reread them liek a writer to see what bad writing looks like so you can recognize it when you perpetrate it. And you probably will. Lord knows I have. That's why God made revisions! Reading well paced books will internally teach you pacing. You'll know what a well paced book FEELS like. Screw voice creep. It won't happen UNLESS you do not have your own voice yet, and if you have not found your own voice yet, nothing will help you find it like reading and even emulating the well pitched voices of others. LORDY I spent A LOT OF TIME smoking clove cigarettes, wearing black, and trying to be Samuel Beckett as channeled by Jane Austen. It was not wasted time. They are both my betters, and I learned so much from trying to be them. Later, when you have your own voice, you may find there are certain writers you can't read when drafting, but don't worry about that. You will learn to recognize them and save their books til you are safely in revisions. Now, just read.

5) I cannot over emphasize this:

If you are currently looking for an agent or suspect that you will one day be looking for an agent, READ MISS SNARK RELIGIOUSLY. You need to KNOW the industry you are trying to break into. Miss Snark is good and wise. Read Miss Snark. Miss Snark answers ALL the questions you have and more you have not thought of but you need to know the answers. Read all the archives. READ MISS SNARK! TWO FOUR SIX EIGHT WHO DO WE APPRECIATE? AS WE LIFT HIGH OUR GIN PAILS AND SWILL? WHO DO WE READ? EVERY DAY? LIKE RABID FANGRrrrRRrrLS? Yes. Indeed:

Miss Snark!

Posted by joshilyn at April 4, 2007 6:14 AM

"My son was born in 1997 and is now TEN, and gods in Alabama came out, what, in 2005?"

I'm curious about your head space during those seven (one year of production for gods) years. I have completed a novel. I have worked on revisions of said novel so extensively that I actually sprained my eye (not like normal eye strain, but one of my extraocular muscles throbbed inside of my skull for two solid days which I spent listening to music and wishing I could use said eye sooner rather than later), so I *do* have the tenacity. I also realized that said novel idea was too much for a first time novelist to execute properly. So I am also not a hack who thinks everything I type is mana from my left hemisphere.

But as everyday goes by and I work on the second draft of my second novel, the pervasive sense of suck envelopes me and starts wrapping like that anaconda on Snakes on a Plane- talk about eye strain- and though I once pulled a 60-pound boa constrictor off me (with the help) as it started to wrap around my neck, my metaphorical boa is 50 times heavier and 50 times more scary and 50 times harder to pull off.

Posted by: Sabra at April 4, 2007 8:02 AM

Sometimes I get a little intimidated by all the writers who hang out here in FTK. I soooo want to be a writer, but I haven't put words on a page (aside from my job) in ages. I got about 10 pages of something written recently but I "lost" it and haven't felt like putting forth the effort of getting it back or rewriting it. And those ten pages were like trying to get blood from a turnip! I think fear is holding me back -- fear of hard work, fear of rejection, fear that I don't know what the heck I'm doing. Reading these posts helps me. But I think my first task is really to decide whether I'm an A or a B writer as defined by Joshilyn.

In an aside in regards to the last FTK post....after dropping my kids off at preschool this morning I somehow managed to find myself back on the Loop, heading home instead of heading to my job. Total flake out. Wishful thinking, I guess.

Posted by: Leandra at April 4, 2007 8:25 AM

SO WELL SAID, Joshilyn. And might I add that, for aspiring screenwriters, nearly identical advice applies? We have two scripts that we've been marketing, one of which is under consideration. We're waiting for a trusted reader to give us feedback on a third, and we're writing a new one as we wait.

Posted by: Aimee at April 4, 2007 10:37 AM

Most excellent advice for blooming writers Joss. You glow in the dark? whoa.watch.that.milk.girl.

Posted by: Cele at April 4, 2007 12:08 PM

Hi! New reader here. Actually technically I'm a new listener--I have "Between, Georgia" on CD in my car...and so far I've cried twice(which means I really, really like it). I've laughed too (I'm at the part where Fisher has *desecrated* her panties). It's wonderful.
Also, I'm a knitter, although I would never, ever attempt those items you linked. However I love the "weal fuw coat" and think you should put up a link to the pattern. If I started now, I might be able to finish it in time for my goddaughter's 3rd birthday (I'm a bit of a slow, lazy knitter). :)

Posted by: SusannahS at April 4, 2007 12:43 PM

Thanks. Thanks for taking the time to provide such a useful, straight-arrow list of Stuffs to Know. I'm working on revising the slew of words I wrote for NaNo, and I have no idea if it will ever even reach the state where I'd want to publish it. (I've already realized that you only get one first novel, and I'm not sure this is it.) But I'm plugging away, because the work itself is bound to teach me something.

So really, your only piece of advice that smarts is forcing me to read bad writing all the way through. I believe you--I mean, you are the fiery humpbacked wonder beast of all that is good and fine, who am I to argue? Just, oh, bad writing is so very very bad...

Posted by: amy at April 4, 2007 2:35 PM

You and your new label... someone sent this to me:

Dewey the long-lived library cat with one of his future biographers, Vicki Myron, a librarian in the small town of Spencer, Iowa.

In a hotly contested deal, the life story of Dewey, a rescued cat who lived for 19 years in a library in a small town in Iowa, has sold for about $1.25 million to Grand Central Publishing.

With an eye toward creating the feline answer to the best-selling “Marley & Me,” John Grogan’s memoir of his misbehaving yellow Labrador retriever, Grand Central bought the book, currently titled “Dewey, a Small Town, a Library and the World’s Most Beloved Cat,” on Monday by making an offer high enough to pre-emptively shut down an auction.

“You can’t underestimate the market out there for people who love animals,” said Karen Kosztolnyik, the senior editor at Grand Central who will edit the book; co-authors will be Vicki Myron, the head librarian in Spencer, Iowa; and Bret Witter, a former editorial director at Health Communications, the publisher of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books.

Posted by: Tina at April 4, 2007 3:17 PM

Thanks so much for #2, the rest as well, but #2 gave me so much hope. I've been so fearful of that. Scared I won't have anything else in me so I procrastinate in fear of that.

Posted by: Tiff at April 4, 2007 3:48 PM

Very good advice. I really appreciate it. All except that last one. As much as I enjoy reading industry blogs, I just can't get into Snark. She seems very... um... well, mean, I guess. Not snarky, just mean. Not my thing. I can't even laugh at her stuff. It just makes me sad. But there are a lot of other industry blogs out there that I enjoy, so I'll just replace one (or three) of those with Snark.
I really like that you say to READ. What a great excuse to dive back into gods!

Posted by: dee at April 4, 2007 5:52 PM

I am shamelessly going to plug my group TheWritingMother.com because I think Leandra should come on over because the water is warm and we all have bodies that have birthed children and we won't laugh if you haven't shaved.

Such good advice Joshilyn!!

Posted by: Heather Cook at April 4, 2007 6:13 PM

please don't let Mr Bungaloo die. I love him. and his terrible dog.

Posted by: Dianna at April 4, 2007 9:09 PM

Another blog I read that talks about the writing process and getting published is Murderati - http://www.murderati.typepad.com/ - and while they focus mostly on the mystery (I work at a mystery bookshop, so of course I follow these things) the information is still incredibly useful.

Not as entertaining as you are, Peach, but it's good nonetheless. Much as I love those guys, they do not "glow in the dark" and they don't "build strong bodies in 12 ways." I adore Cornelia too!

Posted by: Fran at April 4, 2007 11:59 PM

Cornelia is a compliment-spewing goddess of the highest order! I'm so ready for her second novel. And your third (published, that is).

I adore Miss Snark. And your great advice, Joshilyn. Thank you.

Now if I could only let go of my journalistic work long enough to finish novel #3. Journalism is just so damn rewarding in the short term. You write something and, boom, it's in the newspaper the next day. But it's not exactly fulfilling my life's dreams to write biz profiles and articles about window treatments!

Posted by: Edgy Mama at April 5, 2007 9:58 AM

Yay you! This is some of the best advice I've ever heard. I have *just* begun dipping my toe in to the fiction writing waters (what a terrible metaphor) and this advice comes at such a perfect time. Thanks so much for sharing. Can I just tell you again that we are so looking forward to your being at the Miss. Writers Guild conference in August!

Posted by: Keetha at April 5, 2007 10:25 AM

Okay, I am all like "DUH!" out here in Cali-wifflehead-forni-ay, because somehow I missed this post even though I read the "Needs" one above.

But you DO SO TOTALLY GLOW!!! EVEN IN BROAD DAYLIGHT!!!! And I'm pretty sure I stole "humpbacked wonder beast" from you originally....

And your head looks GOOD big, which is really not true of many people at ALL!!!

Posted by: Cornelia Read at April 7, 2007 4:01 PM