Friday, May 29, 2009

The Verdict

My thanks to everyone who's sent positive vibes and encouragement my way. I have to say that the outcome of today's editorial phone call was as good as it could possibly--realistically--have been.

Of course, the pipe dream is that an editor will come banging on the door...um, via the phone...and say how much they loved your book and how they want to publish it RIGHT NOW because of its overwhelming awesomeness. But seriously, how often does that happen?

For me, the sentence that sticks with me from today's phone call was about how the editor thought my novel was good, but that it could be awesome. Now, that's ALREADY several kinds of awesome. But I made sure to try to convey the idea that I want to go that route--I want to improve it as much as possible. I don't want to be one of those writers who can't take feedback. I honestly want to make this a part of my career. I can only hope that I didn't sound like a nervous, over-eager, spazzy wreck on the phone (that blighted instrument of torture that makes me sound like a small child!).

So, here's the deal: I received some detailed feedback over the phone--none of which seemed out of left field or impossibly difficult or excessively scary. Some of it will result in major structural changes, but I've done that sort of thing before. It can, theoretically, be done again. Some of it is just tightening up and polishing. It all sounds like positive change that will bring out the core of the novel rather than drifting far away from my original intentions. This was a HUGE relief.

I'll be getting written notes next week sometime, after which I'll buckle down on this thing again and give it whatfor. Then, I'll resubmit it. If I can deliver the goods--and that's what's in question at the moment--then, hopefully, fingers and toes and eyelashes crossed, this could be it. If not...well, I guess then it might be time to think about setting this one aside for a while. There are my other three (!!) novel manuscripts begging for my revision attention, not to mention the graphic novel idea that Rob and I have been talking about, a project I want to work on with short-short stories and etchings, and NaNoWriMo coming up in November (did I mention that this particular manuscript was started during NaNoWriMo? If you remember the local NPR segment that I was on--THAT novel.) Either way, I feel pretty energized. It's one more step in the right direction. I'm very hopeful. Also full of red wine.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nervous Stomach...and Brain

I'm not sure if my stomach hurts because I ate too much carne al pastor from the random taqueria we ate dinner at, or because I'm nervous about tomorrow.

Tomorrow--in case you didn't see my Twitter feed--is a rather momentous occasion. At 1:00 p.m. I am scheduled to speak over the phone with an editor. An editor from an actual publishing house would like to talk to me about my YA novel. Presumably, anyway. The e-mail said he enjoyed reading my novel, and wanted to schedule a phone call, but he could, I suppose, be calling to talk about the NBA playoffs or the North Korean nuclear situation. But probably not.

So this got scheduled way back during last week--Thursday, to be exact--so I've been pretty much an excited wreck, unable to concentrate properly on anything. I probably ate too much al pastor tonight because I wasn't able to focus on the timely stoppage of eating. And now I'm wondering various things like: Should I re-read my entire novel in detail before the phone call? How can I keep from being a blithering idiot due to general phone phobia and/or social ineptitude? What if I get thrown a conversational curve ball? What if everything is a curve ball due to the fact that I don't know what to expect? Etc.

Mostly, though, I'm excited. I know that this can't be a BAD thing. Editors don't schedule phone calls to tell you why they didn't like your work. I might be up for some heavy-duty revisions--most probably I WILL be--but I think I'm ready for it. I really WANT a professional opinion that's more than two typed lines in a two-paragraph rejection letter. I welcome it. Bring it on.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Writer Seeks Agent/Editor – Must Love Satire

Fiction writer, female, age 30 – 35, likes young adult literature and long walks on the beach, seeks compatible literary agent or publishing professional for many fruitful years of fun and profit. Open to online correspondence. Long-distance relationships OK.

Me: Hardworking, willing to listen to criticism, learning to love revision and deal with my fear of rejection. Quirky sense of humor tempered by just a touch of cynicism. Have own query letter—it’s got some mileage on it, but it’s got a good solid hook. Willing to experiment beyond the vanilla—I’ve even been known to dabble in marketing. Inveterate blogger. Loves: literary fiction, YA novels, graphic novels, art, food, and traveling. Pet Peeves: long silences followed by impersonal, vague, or befuddling communiqu├ęs; constant negativity.

You: Looking to take a chance on somebody new. A diplomatic communicator, but also honest and experienced, and willing to share that experience. Patience and kindness are a decided plus, but I can handle it a little rough from time to time. Must have industry connections. Any age or gender OK (told you I was willing to experiment).

I won’t take no for an answer. Okay, I will, but if I have to sift through a thousand rejections before I find the one who says yes, I’ll do that, too. I know you’re out there. I’ll be looking.

P.S. Hope you’re OK with me sending out multiple submissions; it’s the least you can give me for not complaining about your multiple partners.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Fear of Plot

I think I have a fear of plot.

Honestly. It's sort of a new-ish thing, but I have this fear that any plot events I might come up with will be boring, trite, or forced.

I could happily spend several pages describing people and their surroundings, their backstories, moving characters in and out as they talk about nothing much of critical significance. It's like the written equivalent to walking on a treadmill--it feels like I've really gotten somewhere, and there sure are a lot of words on that page. But I know in my heart that I need to have them say plot-relevant things, and I need to actually make them DO stuff.

That's the moment where I sit frozen, unable to think of anything that doesn't seem like it came straight out of something I just read earlier that month, or something overdone that I've seen a million times on TV shows, or something based on a classic story structure that everyone will immediately recognize and not want to read again.

For example, I'm writing this new short story that I quite like so far. The narrator is a guy working as a barista in a coffee house. I have this idea that during the course of the story, he actually serves as the vehicle for several mini-stories as customers come in and order from him. When I ask myself what the point of the story is, my brain returns with "something about interpersonal responsibility, the line between observer and actor, stepping out from behind the counter" and other high-minded-sounding drivel. But yes, I do have a point in mind, kinda sorta. But I can't think of actual story events which serve that ultimate purpose that don't seem nauseatingly dull or glaringly artificial.

I've only come up with two possible answers. One is that the premise or the setup might be inherently flawed—that is, maybe I'm having trouble because it's just plain lame to try to put a meaningful story behind the counter of a coffee house. The other thought I had is that maybe I just need to take one of the lame-seeming options and disguise the hell out of it with a cleverly devised disguise of good writing. If I can write well enough, nobody will ever know how lame it actually is, or won't realize until it's too late and they're done reading. Any other ideas? 'Cuz I'm out.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Detour Into Fiction

I haven't posted any stories here in quite a while, not since our Flickr Fiction group more or less petered out. But when Tanita drew my attention to the anniversary writing contest put on by the Merry Sisters of Fate, I thought it would be a good excuse to stretch the ol' writing muscles in a different direction. So here you go: a (very) short piece of fiction inspired by the image below (Princess Tuvstarr by John Bauer).

Wild One Waiting

It isn't a path as others might define such things. It is really more of a track, a slight tamping down of brush and bracken that animals might use, wending past trees into the Deep Dark. But if you followed it, you would find no sign of wildlife, no scratches of bear claws on tree trunks or chirping of unseen birds. Not even the remains of small dead things that might have been left behind by a predator. Not even that.

But it leads from somewhere, to somewhere. If you follow it you might find out. Don't be afraid. The Deep Dark won't hurt you, at least not in ways you can see. Look: see how spindly and skeletal the tree trunks are. How sparse the leaves on the branches. There is nothing keeping you from the darkness, not really. You can step past the dry brown brambles and over the mounded tree roots. The fallen leaves are more grey than anything else; no longer green and not quite the rich brown of decomposing living matter. They pose no threat.

Oh, but you won't be alone. Make no mistake. No animals will you see, nor people. Yet you won't be alone. You will feel that someone else is there, feel them as if they were softly stroking the back of your neck, yet when you look back you will see nothing, and dismiss it as an invisible breeze. The shadows will shift as if a cloud moved over the sun, high above in his chariot, too high to send more than a few wan beams down through the latticed branches. Do not make the mistake of thinking you are alone.

And finally, if you walk long enough, endlessly enough, you will find where the path leads. Or rather: the path will lead you where it goes, allow you to the end of the track where the hillocks descend with treacherous angle and frequency to the clear reflecting pool where She sits. She saw you coming. She stroked your neck. She spied on you from the shadows. And now she will have you.

© Sarah Stevenson 2009


Thanks to the Merry Sisters of Fate for the fun prompt. Let me know if you decide to play too!