Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sometimes the Magic Works

It has never been a secret that I want to be a writer, so it is totally normal that I received Terry Brooks's Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life for Christmas sometime in high school. (The book was published in 2003, so probably my junior year.) I read the book a couple times, but this is not going to be a review of that book. Mostly because I don't remember it well enough to say much about it! (The thing that sticks out most is him saying that lounging by the pool with a drink is working for a writer mulling over ideas. I think of that almost every time I go to laze outside!)

But the title of the book, ah now there is something. That has been popping into my head all week. Why? Because it's true. Sometimes the magic works! And it is amazing.

Writing is not an easy business. I've never heard of anyone say otherwise. There are days—and months and years—where it can be incredibly frustrating. I don't even want to go in to how many times I have been checking my email, refreshing my QueryTracker list for new comments, stalking agents on Twitter hoping to glean a hint of where they are at with queries, checking my email again, etc... Rejections mount up. Ideas dry up. Words refuse to come. We wonder why we ever wanted to do this at all, and we think about giving up.

But then! There are the times that we write and write. That what we are writing may not be earth-shatteringly great, but it's pretty damn good. It's a book that I want to be written just so I can read it already. Words pour forth, scenes flow, a book comes together almost as we envision. It makes almost everything else worthwhile, to be caught up in the creation of an entirely new thing that has never existed before. It can't really be predicted or pinned down or explained completely. We take it when we can get it.

Sometimes the magic works.

I still have the book! It sits on my shelf between Theodore Rex and Service Etiquette. And don't judge my messy office!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Every Writer's Most and Least Favorite Part*

*Note: I have no idea if other writers feel the same way, the title just sounds better that way!

There are a lot of things I love about writing. The way I can send myself anywhere in space and time and universe. When my characters come to life and make me laugh or cry. That moment when I look up and realize two hours have flown by while I was engrossed.

There are a lot of things I hate about writing. The crushing feeling that my writing is not good enough. The hopeless mountain of rejections. When my characters refuse to do anything believable and creak across my landscape as cardboard cutouts. That moment when I look up and realize it's been two hours and I still haven't written a damn thing.

But one of the things I both love and hate is that first step. The beginning.

A moment of sheer terror and joy.

You've created in your mind this wonderful novel that you are going to write. You've plotted and planned it out (if you're like me!). It is going to be funny and heartbreaking and speak to our inner fears of loss and the pointlessness of life and the meaning of home and family. In your mind, it is an unputdownable masterpiece. The possibilities are endless!

Unfortunately, one of those possibilities is that what you write will in no way live up to what you've envisioned. For me, the doubt can creep in almost immediately. "That's a terrible first sentence. Where's the hook?!" you might wail. You picture a legion of readers being bored by the first paragraph and putting your book back on the shelf (but wait, that's assuming that it doesn't go straight to the circular file of every agent, editor, or publisher that looks at it!). The first scene is limp. The second is too short. You're giving too much detail, you're not giving enough.

It's maddening. While the page is blank, it could become anything. And you're so excited to start crafting, but once the page begins to fill up, reality sinks in.

But the best solution is to just push through! I'm not one who believes in the Total Shit First Draft, but I also don't believe that the work is set in stone from the first keystroke. Write something decent now, get it down there, and polish into the beauty it could be later.

I am onto the third chapter of my new novel (novel 7, it shall be known), whose very beginning is pictured above. It is still an exciting ride and I hope it remains so until the end!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My #SFFpit Experience

#SFFpit is the brainchild of author/scientist Dan Koboldt. It is the spec fiction specific version of #PitMad. Basically, it is a 12 hour window where authors can pitch their books using the #SFFpit hashtag, and agents and small press editors can fav the pitches they want to see queries for. The most recent #SFFpit was on June 11 this year.

The timing was perfect for me. I had literally just finished the final touches on my query letter for novel 6 and was getting ready to submit some queries. The only problem is that I had no idea about it! It wasn't until I saw the hashtag in a retweet on my timeline that I even had an inkling. But I immediately wanted in! The event went from 8 AM - 8 PM Central time, and I submitted my first pitch after a five minute scramble at about 3 PM my time, which was 5 PM Central. Yikes! Spamming isn't part of it, only 1-2 pitches per hour, so I only got a chance to put 5 pitches out there. Which I wrote in between sending off unsolicited query letters to agents on my list. What a day!

Dan talks about #SFFpit winners here, and while that article hadn't been published yet, I went to bed on June 11 thinking I had won in the sense of #3 and 4. I had a couple new people to follow, and I had put novel 6 out there for all the world to see. It was actually a bit terrifying, especially thinking about all the non-SFF people on my Twitter. Are they going to think I'm crazy? Is my book so terrible that I shouldn't even be pitching it? Getting over those fears and just putting it out there was huge. And it was great practice for crafting a short, snappy pitch!

But a funny thing happened. There were people who hadn't followed #SFFpit in real-time, but they were still interested. On June 12, the favs started to come in! I ended up getting four requests, split evenly between agents and small press editors (including a small press that was on my list to query!). Dan's article says that only 79 of the 530 participating authors got 2 or more agent requests, so that made me feel like maybe novel 6 isn't the worst thing that has ever been written and I'm an idiot for trying to get it published (yeah, I'm at that stage!). So now I can count myself a #SFFpit winner in ALL of the ways Dan listed!

Now that's a good feeling!

So that was my experience with #SFFpit. It was hectic and anxiety-inducing, but it was also an excellent way to connect my work to some of the people who are most interested in it. It was a small affirmation in a journey that is paved with denials. And it was fun! My thanks to Dan for putting it together and to all of the agents and editors and authors who participated.