Oh man, I am so fried. And it's only 1:15.
I attended a 3-hr publishing intensive workshop this morning. The key word here is intense. We had a small, yet diverse group of writers, ranging from nonfiction to children's fiction to my chick lit. And Zelda (our fearless facilitator) was excellent in giving people a forum to speak and ask questions and share experiences.
Where to start? I learned so much--not necessarily all *new* information, but I certainly had some awakenings and massively had to humble myself. I suppose the most important one was the follow-up to the lightbulb moment a week ago.
There is another side to the craft of writing: the business of writing. And it's so easy to get caught up in the creative process, and to see the creation like a child w/out a single flaw. It's easy to get so caught up in the "please read this and like it" that you forget about those things you would apply to any other job situation: do your research; persuade an agent and a publisher that you're going to make them money; show off your credentials (first, get some!); make connections; and so on.
My first humbling moment was, thankfully, a private one. I'm not doing enough of these things. Not nearly enough. Or I'm doing them and I'm not doing them well. And I can. Thankfully, I believe that much.
On self-publishing: Here's where my retraction comes in. I've gone back to my original position, which is that self-publishing is not right for me. And this is coming from a business point of view. I didn't do enough research. I didn't have all the facts (or, at least, enough of them). And now that I do (and know where I can go to get even more), I'm certain that my reasons for having made the announcement that I was going to were not good enough -- they weren't sound business reasons, although I thought they were at the time. Pride-swallowing moment number two.
And then, I really went and did it when I offered up my query letter for critique and feedback. And I admit: when I was barraged w/ critiques and questions, I went on the defense -- not angrily, mind you, but I just wasn't ready for it. But Zelda did what a good teacher does: she intervened, and gave me a moment to figuratively breathe. She invited me to *listen* and then told me to pick up my pen and write down what my co-participants were telling me (she said it like that, too: "pick up your pen and write what we're telling you." I so needed that!). And then I let down the wall and listened. I was ready. I asked for more. And their comments and suggestions helped me to cut the cord from my letter that I had read and re-read and re-wrote umpteen-thousand-million times and see/hear it from the point of view from the agent who wants to know how this is going to make her/him money.
Isn't that something? I teach audience and purpose for a living. I conduct workshops in which I ask my writers to do the difficult task of stepping into the shoes of their intended readers; and yet, I barely knew my audience here. I was talking around them, over them, at them, underneath them. Everything but to them. Each agent may as well have been that ambiguous "general public" or "anyone who is interested in reading this" that my students so often mis-identify or characterize.
Perhaps the most humbling moment of all was when Zelda recommended that I stop the query process for awhile. It was tough for me to hear that for a few reasons: 1) Because she was right and I knew it, 2) because I felt like I had just stumbled to the bottom of the hill again, 3) because I have this looming sense of urgency, that the more time that slips by, the farther into obscurity I will fall.
The last two are fear and ego-driven, of course, and thus not valid. All three are ego-driven, in fact.
And so, to avoid staying in the ego trap, let us call it like it really is.
Here's where I'm at:
- I've got a kick-ass first novel that still needs another 20K words, sequel or no sequel.
- I've got to hold myself to the same expectations of thorough research that I hold my students to when it comes to knowing the market, knowing as much as I can about an agent, knowing what's gonna make money, etc.
- My query letter is not sufficient.
- I've got to explore and aim for other publishing options (magazines, literary journals, other kinds of blogs, etc.)
- I've got to attend to all of these things before I can resume the query process.
- I've got approximately three months to devote my full time to it, come May 3rd.
- I can do it.
- Urgency is bullshit.
- I am a writer.
I suppose then, that a fitting end to this post is that when I came home and checked my email, I found an attachment from my PIC of our latest exchange of ideas and drafting. For one thing, it was a loving reminder of why I bother w/ it all. Without craft, without process, without creation, there is no business, no product, no market, no query. Without joy, there is no will.
That one humbles me enough to make me a little verklempt. (ok, a lot verklempt; I'm tearing up so much that I need to get a tissue...)
I could really use a Caribou fix. And some student papers await grading. That might actually clear my head. And awwwwaaayyyy we go!