Friday, September 18, 2009

Still sitting at the kids' table...

2009 has been a weird writing year for me. I've greatly increased the amount of paid assignments I've been taking on; so far this year I've invoiced almost 20 pieces, which is double the number of invoices I've issued in the last three years combined. (Unfortunately, this is not double the revenue, as many of the pieces are shorter and don't pay as well as the one project I worked for those years.) Of course, the other side of more paid work is that I've had very little time for my own writing. Over the last eight months I think I've managed a few chapters (and chapters is a generous term) in the middle grade novel I'm writing. I've only sent out four query letters on my three finished projects, and all four of those were rejected. (Although my picture book manuscript did get a champagne rejection, and one editor did request the full manuscript of a novel before sending a form rejection.)

On the other hand, I did get a very nice "maybe" from an agent I wrote to last year. After holding on to my novel for a few months, he finally wrote and said he was intrigued, but thought the manuscript needed work before he could represent it. He said he'd be willing to consider a revision, or another piece of mine. This was very exciting news, but it's left me in a kind of limbo. He wasn't specific about what revisions he was looking for, so I'm not ready to drop everything else and start rewriting. In the meantime, I'm hesitant to send out anything else to an editor or another agent, in case this does pan out. I'm going to a writers' conference in a couple of weeks, and I didn't try to sign up for any critiques—partly because I'm still in limbo, and partly because I've already had most of my stuff critiqued at other events.

This whole pursuit of publication and the upcoming conference reminds me of when I was a little kid at family gatherings and I would watch the older generation play cards. It looked like fun; I wanted to join in; but I was told, "your nose is too short." I knew this meant I wasn't old enough, or didn't know how to play well enough, but when when when would I get to play with the grownups? (Eventually I discovered the truth: when they were desperate for a fourth for euchre.) This is how I feel at these conferences: I see the writers who are already published, and they are encouraging, but when when when will my book get to play with the publishers?

I know each query, rejected or not, is making progress. I can see the progress: from form rejections, to personal comments, to this "maybe." It's still very frustrating, and combined with the focus on paid writing it's making it very hard to get back into writing fiction. So I've decided I'm going to participate in National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. In November I'm going to write an entire 50,000 word novel from scratch. I'm giving myself permission not to worry about plot or language or making it to the big kids' table; I'm just going to write. I've got six weeks to think a little bit about what to write; I have a germ of an idea—a character and a narrative device, really—and we'll just see what ensues.

1 comment:

  1. Boo about limbo and frustration and stupid editors who can't see your genius. Though I wonder what would really make you feel like you were at the grown-up table. Because I still feel like I sit with the kids at most of these things.

    Woo-hoo about NaNoWriMo; we are going to have so much fun.