Wednesday, January 19, 2011

There, yet

On Saturday, the envelope went out. Contained therein were the first three chapters and introduction, which came out to a couple hundred words over 10,000. I felt happy with that because the submission guidelines called for the same amount of words if the book's chapters were very long or very short. Maybe that means my chapters are almost just right? Also in the pack was the requested cover letter, which I drafted once and finished, and the synopsis which took me longer than a chapter would. For some reason I focused on it the most, likely because it was so difficult.

I tried explaining the phenomenon to a friend, that I probably don't spend enough time practicing the art of selling my work. Someone told me about the "elevator pitch," wherein the writer has roughly 30 seconds alone with whichever power player with agency and clout to sell them on an idea. And I'm still not sure if it involves compressing the entire work down to 30 seconds or expatiating on the most interesting bits, or both. I can't speak for other authors, but everything I put down I think of as important. Perhaps it's a curse or a boon, but with a few pieces under my belt at this point (drafted at least) I seem incapable of writing the trendy volume that looks like a stone block in hard cover.But still, the synopsis called for 3-10 pages to talk about the main characters, their arcs and development, the ending, and all major plot occurrences. I did it in about 6, then I read it over and over again, took a break, rinse and repeated. Ultimately, the fact that I changed things, a word here or there, every time was the reason I sent it out on Saturday. Friday was spent venturing out, sliding around on the still icy roads, and scurrying home, so it seemed auspicious that my courageous return (read: second attempt) to the world would feature the mailing of that, my first submission of 2011.

And then there set in a great silence. The blizzard pushed work back a week, so it seemed only appropriate that I take that time to write. But then I was done. Saturday came, and I was really done. It was somewhat nice, and somewhat scary to think that I could work on anything at that point. As the week started and the work routine kicked back up, other routines did as well: sneaking moments with scratch paper to sketch out little pieces of story, having strange and jerky epiphanies from overhearing things, or reading things, poking away at my countless, semi-forgotten online documents. Before I even realized it, all those things waiting to be written were there, and I was writing about them, at least in limited fashion. Outlining is really valuable for me. On more than one occasion, it was obvious that I had put the cart before the horse, which warranted a long, sweeping arrow that pointed to tight, angry paragraphs where I wandered through a way out of the hole I had written myself into. After pages of detours, I was on my way again, and happier for it. I can still keenly recall a time when I would get myself into such situations and not understand how to get out, much less what caused the incident in the first place. I'd just sit there with my hazard lights on, lost, watching the idea die like through a window slowly being obscured by pouring rain. 

I spoke with a writer friend recently, and he's starting the year off fresh too, working in the direction of some short stories. A couple ideas have occurred to me, despite my semi-diligent focus on the next novels. It's like I'm not sure what I'm going to do next, but only on the surface. I know that I will start these next books, likely with a goal to finish by Summer, and once I get them rolling under their own power will likely take a break to piddle around in these shorter ideas of mine. It feels good to have a productive way to ignore the stamped envelope a little part of me prays for and all the terribly untimely things that could go wrong for the release in March. It's like the nice version of auto pilot where one doesn't crash into a mountain.

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