Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Will I Spring Forward in Fall?

Hmm. Well, there's not much going on in the agent hunt, so I can only hope for some good news this autumn. One agent does have a partial of Kings & Queens, so I could be much closer to getting a thumb's up. Who knows. But, I think maybe my query is just not getting it done. Or it could be my concept, I dunno.

I've submitted so many different versions to little response, my head is spinning now, and I can't even tell good from bad now.

It's hard to know what to include and what not to. My book has weirdness and conspiracy, but trying to succinctly mention those aspects is difficult and stirs up a whirlwind of questions. It makes me sound like a crackhead and that the book is a result of me being a crackhead. Yet when I boil it down to the central conflict, as query-writing-lovers love to suggest, a teen jumping into a massacre plot doesn't sound so special.

My novel centers around this massacre, but the tone and other aspects keep the story from being too heavy and depressing. It has bits of humor and tenderness and shock, and it also features baseball, romance, conspiracy, high school tension, family drama and a dash of sci-fi.

Do you think massacres are far too ugly for YA? I'd think not. I mean, the Hunger Games is popular, which I'm about to order, and that's about teens who kill. And Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes centers around a teen shooting, and although it's shelved in adult, it crosses over into the teen market. But my YA novel, Kings & Queens, is not so much a topical one like Picoult's or a futuristic drama like HG. Mine's a whodunit with flair and depth. Beyond holding a core mystery, it delves into the psyches of those who've been manipulated and victimized and set-up.

But, man oh man, why didn't I think to include faerie wings or some sort of shape-shifting? How can I make a massacre sound more appealing? I do have some brainwashing going on and evil people can see through one teen's eye, so you'd think that'd be oo-factor enough. Nope. Not quite.

Maybe I should've made those evil people warlocks. Oh wait. Some of them ARE warlocks technically, but I forgot about that since it's not the commonality bringing the bloodthirsty blokes together. But I do have warlocks. And supersoaker wars with goat's blood. And some steamy kisses. And a ragdoll with a key that unlocks a box of new mysteries.

Um, did I mention my story was complex?

Maybe this sounds like a hot mess on the glowing paper you're now reading, like it's all too much content for one story, but it's not. Everything is intricately woven and fits together like a choreographed number with different types of performances.

Everything in this fictional world is affected when these characters are pushed to their limits, when they're forced to confront the malevolence not only in their world but also within themselves. And I like to show that struggle and revelation. I believe readers get more out of the story that way, when you give them both an intricate plot and deep, well-rounded characters.

I got two compliments recently that showed me the impact of my writing.

The first said, that even though it had been a while since she'd read Kings & Queens, the story has stayed with her all this time, and she thinks of my characters fondly. And the other reader said she didn't think it would be her kind of book, but it quickly sucked her in and she 's been having such a hard time putting it down. She absolutely loves it.

When you can provide an unforgettable journey with a pen and impact a few readers, it makes all the rejection worthwhile.

But, publication is the one industry where your dedication and skill do not really matter. It's more about hitting the right chord at the right time with the kind of story you wrote. It's about the perceived marketability of that book. Even if an agent and editor love it to pieces, the table full of suitcoats can still squash your dream.

I may have to enter the market with a different book first, one that's more strategic. Dropping Like Flies has a more gripping premise. And if I have to set K&Q aside for a time or come up with a new plan, like going with a smaller publisher myself, I'm cool with that. But Kings & Queens is too great a novel and too cool a reader experience to scrap. It would be a sad, sad thing to ever stick that in a drawer. So I won't.

~Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.


  1. I wish I had something to offer you but I never had to seek representation -- I was connected through a friend to a studio of agents doing non-fiction stuff and the rest is history. No synopsis, no query, no months of endless rejection ... so I have no idea what this process is like.

    I do, however, know you can't give up on a story. I know because I almost did. I can fix it, I know I can, I just have to sit down and make the time to organize the remnants into usable chunks and start writing the repair pats. Not too bad. It's not complex or convoluted, but it's a popular story with everyone who's read it. So no, you aren't going to give up on it.

    What you should do, though, is move onto the next one. Tweak your query letter for the next round and see what happens. Nothing but form rejections? Try it one more time. If you've repaired the query four times with the same results, it might be time to hire someone to take a look and see if it's the writing.

    But you can always self-publish on Amazon's Kindle store if no one wants it. ;) Honestly, it's a pretty simple process and Joe Konrath SWEARS by it. Lots of authors making lots of money by getting in sooner rather than later. :)

    I hope you have all the success you want though, whichever road you choose. The older and more cynical I get, the less I like the gatekeeper system, but that's me. And if I have to forgo the gatekeeper system to find the success I want (whatever it is to each of us), I will. You'll make your own decision and I'll support you and pray for you through it.

    I know you're a good enough writer to make it. I know I am too. It really IS about right place, right time -- and if the Lord is willing, it will be. :)

    Anyway, I'm on your side and believe in you, for whatever it's worth. :)

  2. Thanks so much. Your support means a lot. Lately, I've been querying agents who only ask for the query, so then I know for sure that the rejection is based on something in the letter. It's just trying to figure out what that something is that's the kicker.

  3. I've been reading around on Australian writers' blogs today about this very subject! Well, about first advances and marketing your first book to publishers and agents. The general consensus seems to be that both locally here and internationally it's not unusual for it to take years (1-20) to successfully land an agent or publishing deal. Like you said, time and trends are a factor.

    So is blind luck, and whimsy and serendipity. I imagine it's not all tied up in your query letters, but partly related to human moods and other uncontrollable factors.

    It can take time. But it's worth it. If the book was worth writing, it will still be worth reading in nine years, right? You'll get there, I know it. Also there's so much violent and gory YA fiction out there, one massacre or two is hardly a drop in the pool of gore and blood in that respect. Good luck!

  4. Thanks for swinging by to read my post and for the encouragement. Much appreciated.

  5. I've had some of these thoughts about my YA novels. I don't have any shape-shifting or any of the stuff that's the rave these days, so I have to wonder if something will eventually happens for these kids who are struggling with their unique problems.

    I'd go with the idea of working on something else in the meantime. The important thing is that you believe in the project. Keep pushing it out there as long as it's ready. Someone will fall in love with it.

  6. Thanks, Joy. I'm working on Dropping Like Flies now and still querying.

  7. I am so there. It's maddening, isn't it?

    We just have to keep plugging away at it. I've rewritten my query so many times I don't even recognize it. Eventually something will happen. Hang in there!

  8. Yep. Still plugging. Thanks for checking out my blog and for the encouragement. :)