Wednesday, January 31, 2018

To Speak or Not to Speak

About a month ago, I started off an entry saying I was going to ignore all that advice about not talking about what I was working on and tell everyone about a plot-in-progress.  I now regret this, and I think it's time I changed how I approach this part of the process.

To put it very kindly, I've been having trouble with my plots.  To put it bluntly, I have not been able to take a single thing from concept to complete plot in a long, long time.  I haven't finished a plot and gotten it ready to write since STARWIND, and that plot was two years in the making.  And I wrote that book in 2016.

It's been nearly two years since I was able to make anything work.

The creative process is a long one, I know this.  And a lot changes along the way.  I've had plenty of ideas grow and twist as I worked on them, to the point that their origins were lost somewhere in their depths or excised completely as I discovered something new within the tale that worked better.  It would be kind of depressing to go through this blog and look at all the plots I've talked about and see what did or didn't happen with them.

But it wasn't until I realized that I was losing the Snow White story that I started to wonder if I should talk about my works-in-progress here.  Oddly enough, it's because people actually said they wanted to read the thing that led to this.  Shortly after I talked about the plot, I lost all enthusiasm for it; I've since realized why, but that's another entry.  And I felt like I was letting people down.

On one hand, I have a story that people want to read just from the basic concept.  But on the other hand, I don't want to write that story, not the way I've plotted it.  I could write it, but with what I have now, it would be crap.  And I will not deliberately write crap.

Considering how much changes over the course of plotting, I've come to realize that I shouldn't talk about what I'm working on when it's still in the early stages.  (Except for the occasional tweet, but I keep those deliberately oblique.)  I think I need to wait until things have developed a great deal more, until I'm at the point where it actually could be a viable plot, when things might not be set in stone but are at least....

I don't have a good way to complete that metaphor, but I'd like to wait to talk about things until I've got the story to the point where I know what it's going to be.  I don't think this will change much about the blog - probably more whining about things not working instead of talking about things that might work, but that's about it.  So if things keep going the way they have, it's not like there will be much of a change.

Anyway.  That's all I've got for this week.  Thanks as usual for listening to me ramble.  I've actually had some reasonable success with recent ideas, which feels good.  Wish me luck on making any of them work.

Next week: IWSG - No More Shiny New Idea.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Week Off/An Off Week

The past week and a half has been pretty hellish, and I don't have anything to say this week that isn't more whining.  >_<  But I didn't want anyone to worry about me if I didn't post, so this is me saying I'm okay, just... weary.  Weary and not much feeling like blogging this week.  Hell, I couldn't even get around to everyone else's blogs last week, and I apologize for that.

But I'm going to try to pull myself out of this and have something worth saying for my next entry.  And hopefully get some good work done between now and then.  Thank you all for the encouragement on last week's entry, and I'll see you next week.

Until then, here's an H.P. Lovecraft poem that someone discovered scans perfectly with Billy Joel's "Piano Man", so of course, they put them together:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Kicked off the First Step.

I have had the weirdest past few weeks when it comes to querying, but that's over now.

Back in September, I finally heard back from an agent who'd asked me to query her thanks to the July IWSG pitch contest.  To my utter and complete shock, it was good news - the agent wanted my full manuscript.  It took me a while to actually believe that this was happening to me, but I took care of everything and sent her what she wanted.

Then, I accepted that I'd have to wait for a while, and when the answer came in December, it wasn't what I thought it would be.

Querying has a whole lot of "it's not you, it's me" in it as agents tell us (or at least, tell me) over and over again that the writing business is very subjective and just because our work isn't right for them, we should keep trying because it could be right for someone else.  I see this all the time, and now find it odd when a rejection letter doesn't include some variant of that.  But when I heard back from this agent, I didn't actually hear back from this agent.

On December 27th, I got an e-mail from another agent at the same agency, saying the original agent wasn't able to get to my submission due to their workload.  But, this second agent said, they'd read my query and would like to see my manuscript.

If you're getting emotional whiplash from any of this, imagine how I felt.  :P  It's one thing to hear "it's not you, it's me", quite another to hear "it's neither you nor me, it's my workload."

After a significant amount of sputtering at how damn weird my life can get, I sent my book off to that agent as well, and settled in to play the waiting game again.  I've heard that it can take 3-4 months to hear back from a full request, and I didn't get a response from the first one for three months, so I didn't think I'd get word from her anytime soon.

I heard back from her on Monday.  She said no.

When this all started, and I was breathlessly telling people about it, I described the publishing process as like trying to climb a pyramid, and the higher you got, the lower the odds were of you getting any farther.  After fifteen books and hundreds of rejections, this was my first full request ever.  Technically my second one too.  It felt like I had finally climbed onto that first step.

And now, I've been kicked off, and find myself exactly where I was before.

I'd love to say this makes no difference, because it's just another rejection, right?  But it doesn't feel like that.  It feels like one of those "why did I bother hoping" things.  I know I should send more queries, but . . . I don't even want to.  Having finally reached that first step, every time I don't get there is just going to feel worse.

I swear, if I had any other story that was actually working and might become a book someday, I would have trunked STARWIND by now.  But I've got nothing else.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


This feels like the kind of entry I should have made last year.  No, wait.  This is the kind of entry I would have made last year if I'd been able to actually work on anything.


Plotting-wise, I'm having a few difficulties.  I have two different plots that I'm actively working on, at least in theory.  One is the Snow White one I talked about a few entries ago and haven't touched since.  The other is a plot I've told I think one person about and am keeping largely quiet until I'm sure it'll work.  And then there's last week's shiny new idea, which I haven't done anything with since I first wrote it down.

To put it simply, I'm having a hard time drumming up the energy to work on much of anything, even though I want to.  All of these stories have a great deal that I need to do on them, and it's getting to the point where I'm mentally exhausted just thinking about all I need to develop.

...I swear, this didn't sound so whiny when it was just in my head.

I know that writing is work.  It wears me out sometimes, even on an physical level - when I'm working on a book, I usually finish the night's writing session exhausted.  Hammering out 2000+ words over the course of one CD will do that.  But this is the first time that even getting things to the point where I can make them into books is just as tiring.

There's a part of me that wants to blame it all on work - y'know, the job that pays me so I can afford to sit here and whine about my writing problems.  :P  We've been dealing with a massive amount of stuff to do since July, mandatory overtime included.  There's a constant level of stress as we continuously get more work in than we can do.  So a lot of the time, all I want to do when I get home is sit down and relax, not try to hash out a plot and a world and all of that.

On the plus side, when I have felt like working on writing stuff, I've been doing more.  Over the long weekends for the holidays, I tried doing a midday writing shift.  Most weekend days, I have this period around 11AM where I find myself wondering what I should do next, so I figured I might as well try to get some plotting done instead of saving it all for the evening.

It worked really well.  I got a lot done over those long weekends, and while I didn't pull two writing shifts every day, I did it enough that it's something I can try for every weekend.

Of course, me being me, now I get on my own case when I don't do two writing shifts on weekend days, and doing more leaves me, you guessed it, even more tired.

I'm sure I'll eventually figure out the best way to handle all this.  It's just that, after last year's doldrums, I'd been hoping to dive right into this year with a fresh start and go forth and kick ass at everything.  But as if being worn out wasn't enough, it's hard to get past the fear of things not working out, and I have to fight that off every single time I sit down to work.

All I can do is keep trying.  And try to get more sleep.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

IWSG: Start Over

Every single year, on January first, I pay way too much attention to what I'm doing for the first time that year.  I recognize my first meal of the year, my first reading of the year, so on and so forth, and try not to attach any symbolic importance to all of it.  (I usually fail at that.)  I think the new year triggers some weird part of what I call "writer brain", and prompts me to think that everything's significant just because the calendar rolled over.

But this got me thinking: if I'm going to be a little bit neurotic about the new year, there has to be some way for me to use it to my advantage, to get something good out of it.  I looked back at how my attempts at writing went in 2017, and at all the time I spent trying to make things work when they just plain wouldn't.

And I realized that the new year is the best time to start over.

I think a lot of the problems I had with making stories work was that I kept trying to build on what I'd already done, or take a few elements that I thought worked and put them into something else, stuff like that.  Most of the ideas I worked on were things I'd been messing with for quite a while.  To be fair, that doesn't mean none of those older ideas could work - as I said a few entries ago, one of my current projects is something I first started working on in 2014.  But I think that one's an exception.

It's possible, maybe even likely, that I would have had a much easier time last year if I'd been willing to just start things over - to let go of what I'd done before and come at it completely fresh.  You can build up a tremendous amount of baggage around a story idea that won't work.  I know this very well; there's a story file somewhere on my computer that's more than fifty pages long and doesn't have a single complete plot or reasonably-developed character anywhere in it, because I kept trying to find a new angle on the same idea instead of just dropping it and starting over.

Hell, my idea file has three or four variants on an idea from 2016 that I never could get to work.  Some of those notes include sarcastic comments about how I'm still trying.  And saying mean things to myself in my idea file kind of says it all about last year.

Anyway.  I'm sure that everyone who reads this has different processes for going from idea to finished story.  But I know I'm not the only one to try to build a new story on the broken bones of another.  So this is me giving advice in IWSG for the first time in I don't know how long:

Stop that.  Start over.  Start anew.  Build your story without looking back.  Because I think you've got a better shot at finding what the story's supposed to be if you're not trying to keep pieces from what it's not.  One of my two plots-in-progress is something completely new for me, and it's the one that's going really well.

So I hope that, in the new year, starting anew will work well for you too.