Tuesday, January 24, 2017

An Ode on Querying.

To write a book, and thus, perchance to dream,
Spend hours to make the tale what it must be.
But the next step doth impassable seem -
Send queries out, whilst screaming, "PLEASE LOVE ME!"

Rejection's, truth, what every writer knows.
It comes in letters - simple, blunt, or kind,
With the same message, as it ever goes:
"Your book is just not what I had in mind."

I may grow old with books that no one reads,
Or kindle fires in some agent's eye.
I'll flip that coin, send queries to all leads,
Since I will never know unless I try.

I may not be there yet, but soon, I'll say,
"I'm closer now than I was yesterday."

I swear, I didn't sit down intending to write a sonnet about starting the query process.  I sat down intending to whine about the query process, again, since I'm planning to start soon and there's nothing quite like looking down that dark road to make me question every single part of this whole writing thing.

What changed my mind?  This.  Okay, not that exact image, but one on my screensaver with the same message.

Querying sucks.  I'm not going to sugarcoat that.  But I'm at the point with STARWIND where I have to put up or shut up - either start trying to make this happen or set it aside and work on something else.  And I damn well do not want to set this book aside.  Which means it's time to take the next step, to try yet again to get closer to what I want out of my writing.

And while querying rarely feels like it's actually bringing me any closer, I know that it is.  It has to be.  Anything that gets my book closer to the hands of theoretical readers is another step in the right direction.

It's possible that the same thing will happen with this book that happened with every other book I've queried, I can't deny that.  But even if, months from now, I'm writing yet another downer of a blog entry about how I've set yet another book aside, at least I'll be able to say I tried.  And no matter how big or small that step is, at least I'll know I'm another step closer.

...please do me a favor and remind me of this entry when I'm crushed under the weight of rejections.  Thank you.  >_<

Next week: IWSG.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On Passion Projects.

Before I start this week's entry, I'd like to remind y'all that last week's was my query letter for STARWIND.  If you have a moment to take a look, I could always use a few extra eyes on it before I start sending it out and playing the "PLEASE LOVE ME!" game again.  Thanks.

So, I've been thinking.  (This is a process that never stops as long as I'm aware that I'm awake.)  I've been working on quite a few different things recently, as I'm in that wonderful stage of plot preparation where I try to figure out what works and what doesn't.  There are a lot of ups and downs in this part of the process, and a lot of sound and fury, if by 'sound' you mean the rapid-fire rattling of my keyboard as I try to type out ideas as fast as I can before I lose them and if by 'fury' you mean my rapid-onset dismay when things fall apart for one reason or another.

Through all of this, I've started to notice a pattern: the ideas that hit me the hardest, the ones that beg to be written, are rarely the ones that pan out.

I've gone through a few different iterations of something I thought was going to be deep and dark and amazing, one of the most personal stories I've ever told.  After so many strong emotions invested in the creation of the characters and setting, I have no idea what to do with it and have set it aside several times already.  Hell, I even spun something else off of it, thinking it was going to be new iteration and realizing it was a completely separate project, and that one's in a state of "I have notes and a plot outline, and no longer want to work on it."  Something about this strikes me as off - if it's a story I'm so passionate about, shouldn't I be driven as all hell to tell it?

And then there's the flipside, a little book I've mentioned here a time or two: STARWIND.  This was not a passion project.  I wanted to tell a "crew on a ship" sort of story, I liked the idea of traveling between all kinds of worlds, so I put together a bunch of things I thought would be cool and figured out how to make a story out of them.  Not only has that turned out to be one of the best things I've written in a long time, I have a full draft of the plot for the sequel, and it worked out better than I thought it would.

This is the part where I stare at my monitor with my hands clenched in writerly fury, and shout/whine "Whyyyyyyy. . . .", and never get an answer.  -_-  I know some people say not to question the process, but no, I'm going to question the hell out of this.

It's possible that I'm having trouble with passion projects because I get too emotionally invested in them.  Thinking about how amazing something's going to be when it's a scattered collection of images in my head seems like a really good way to make myself choke when it's time to turn those images into a story.  Whereas the other stories come to me as more of a "what if" or "how would that work" sort of thing - more wondering than realization.  The emotional investment comes from working on the story and figuring it out, rather than from getting smacked upside the head with a supposedly brilliant idea.

I don't know if this is something I can change, but it is something I can watch out for.  I can try to develop the sudden ideas more slowly, and not put so much mental weight on them.  With this, I can try to understand that if there really is a good story there, I'll figure it out as I work on it.  And I can try to hold onto the stories I want to tell the most, rather than just the ones I could work out.

Does anyone else have this problem?  If not, have you seen any pattern in what you can make work for you and what you can't?  Either way, how do you deal with it?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Query Check, STARWIND Version

...it's that time again. >_<  Much as I'd love to say otherwise, the query check is nothing new to this blog.  But I know I need feedback to get even a little bit closer to a query that actually works, so here I am again, with my current query letter for STARWIND.  I'd appreciate any advice y'all can give me.

Thank you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

IWSG: People Need Your Stories

I've been trying to make this post for two months, and it took the turn of the new year for me to feel like I could.

I think we all know what happened here in the US about two months ago - a racist, sexist failed businessman rode into the highest office in the land on a wave of hate and fear and ignorance.  But I'm not here to talk about him.  I'm here to talk about all the people who aren't like him, all the people who his campaign made out to be lesser, and why what we writers do is important to people like them.

Because if I've learned anything since the election, it's that these people need your stories.

Growing up, most of the stories I read were about me and people like me.  I'm a straight cis white man, and I know it's a lot harder to find stories that don't star someone like that than ones that do.  It was different when it came to my writing, though.  I've always liked writing women more than men; every single book I've written has a female POV character, and in many of them, there are only female POV characters.  Also, I've been writing characters who aren't straight since high school, partly because standard boy/girl relationship stuff bores me and partly because I'm really bad at writing people as attracted to men.

I never thought there was anything unusual about any of this, though, or that it would make much of a difference.  Then I started reading about how rarely people who weren't like me saw themselves as heroes in whatever they were reading, or watching, or what-have-you.  I read about the damage it does to see those they identify with turned into villains or killed off; tropes like Black Dude Dies First and Bury Your Gays can hurt in ways that don't occur to people who don't see themselves in those characters.  And yet, I've seen countless examples of how much these people love it when those narratives change - when they get to see themselves as the leads, the heroes, the ones who get to win.  There are countless examples of this, but here's one I just found yesterday.

It makes them so happy.  And I want to be the kind of writer who does that for them.

If the election has done anything for me (more stress and more white hairs aside), it's inspired me to keep going, to try harder to get published and get my stories where the people who need them can see them.  I can't change the world on my own.  But if I can make things a little bit better for the people who now need it more than ever, I'll feel like all the effort is worth it.

I encourage all of you to do the same, in whatever way you can.  Art always has the power to change the world, but at the worst of times, it can be what one person needs to change their life.

It's a new year.  There's a lot we can do.  Let's get to work.