My wife and I traveled last weekend from here in D.C., where it is basically still summer (though much more comfortable than the actual summer) north to a place where it is really autumn already: the leaves are changing, sweaters are mandatory, and it just feels and smells like fall. Then, bizarrely, back from fall to "summer" when we returned.
Here would be a place where, a couple of years ago, I would include a lengthy analysis of family dynamics. But now I feel disinclined to do so except to observe in passing that if you'd asked me to list things I was fairly certain would never happen in my lifetime, surely a beer pong tournament with my family would been towards the top. Imagine a family consisting entirely of adults (or at least, people of adult age) - no children or even teenagers - it's a little strange. Which isn't to say that some people aren't having second childhoods of a sort. All I know is that I didn't have a bad time. No one said anything wounding. No bad memories were dredged up. The nights before and after weren't filled with especially disturbing family-themed dreams.
On a related note, this recent Saturday Night Live sketch becomes, in the words of Belimperia, "disturbingly relevant" (worth a watch - it's pretty funny):
I've been working pretty hard at writing, too. I've got a list of ten agents to query next, and hope to unleash a new round of queries before the end of this month. It's not exactly Travener's QueryBomb (TM), but 10 is a lot for me.
I have extensively reworked the first chapter, which is where a lot of my readers identified some weaknesses. It definitely uses some of the same content, but - remember the post earlier this year when I asked what constitutes a "rewrite"? - I think this constitutes a full-blown rewrite. Especially the first scene, which is actually a fusion of the first couple of scenes in the earlier version.
Usually, I edit by going over things again and again, a million times, but not spending a huge chunk of time or effort in any one iteration. (I know I am getting close as the tweaks in successive iterations diminish slowly to near nothing.) This time, I find myself spending the better part of an hour on a couple of sentences, turning them over and over, trying to get them just right.
I can admit to you all, since I am anonymous, that researching agents is an activity that I find both frustrating and depressing. Frustrating because there's no one real good source of up-to-date information out there (and yeah, I'm cruising querytracker and absolutewrite like everyone else, digging up the interviews on the Guide to Literary Agents and trying to make sense out of agency websites) and also because there seems to be so much talk and so little of it is informative sometimes.
Agents say they're looking for "a great story" or "writing that jumps off the page" or a thousand other little phrases that are utterly useless for writers trying to figure out who to query. Like seriously, am I supposed to read that and go, "Wow, Agent X wants a great story. Gee, my story isn't that great, so I guess I won't query her."?????
That sort of stuff just plain doesn't help, but agents say that sort of thing all the time as though it is actually meaningful to anyone. I'm torn between wanting to research the hell out of these agents and tell them what they had for breakfast in my query letter, and just saying "the hell with it" and taking the shotgun approach. So I wind up in the muddy middle.
Part of my problem, I know, is genre. My book is literary and that's the best I can do to classify it. I can't call it a "YA urban paranormal" or a "steampunk romance". That specific a classification could help me narrow it down, but it's just not possible with my book. I've done my best to find books "like" mine, and query those agents when I can, but plenty of those very same agents aren't accepting queries or have become memoir writers or have just had babies or whatthefuckever.
It's depressing because not only is it time-consuming but it reminds me of the dark hole of failure. I was laying in bed last night wondering to myself, could I really fail at getting published? It's not that I assumed I was destined for success and it has just now occurred to me that I might fail.
Just that here, at this point, I can see failure clearly. It looks a lot like last fall did, and while I know more now, while I have a new query and a new first chapter, while I've received a lot of good feedback on my work that has helped me strengthen it, I wonder what will happen if I send out another 10, 20, 30+ queries this fall (to add to my 55 or so sent so far) and have nothing to show but some form rejections and silence.
When I start to get depressed this way, I think about my WIP. It is so different that the query process for it will share little in common with what I'm doing now. I might totally lap myself with it. I can see it being an easier sell. It's fun, and funny. It's half the length. It's derivative. It's the furthest thing from deep. It might help provide me an entry point for my more serious work.
I know I am being way premature but I do worry sometimes that if I'm only able to publish things like this, and not the deeper stuff, it might wind up being more frustrating than not publishing at all. But that is complete hypothetical at this point as I have yet to even finish a first draft (though I am getting there, with nearly 40,000 words of a draft that I think will be around 50,000).
I've also been spending a little bit of time getting involved with a local writer's group. I would love to meet more writers, hang out with more writers, and especially network with more writers. Most of these folks are freelancers and technical writers rather than poets and authors, and I don't want to sink too much time in this, but I suppose it cannot hurt. Ignoring the people side in favor the technical side has ding'ed my efforts to do certain things in the past, so I need to try to balance.