Archive | May, 2011

Another blank page

22 May

Ah, summer. Or, well, spring – but with summer classes starting tomorrow I can’t help but call this time summer now. Here I am at my computer desk pondering my writing career (word used loosely): one novel “finished” and out to a few agents and a publisher. I eagerly await the news: “Not right for me, or my list,” or perhaps I will hear,  “Your.book.sucked.” I’m ready for whatever. And maybe my novel totally does suck. I can’t tell anymore – and it’s been through so many rewrites I honestly don’t know if I’ve cut all the bad parts or the good parts. At a certain point they merge. But I suppose if I truly thought my book sucked, I wouldn’t have wasted anyone’s time with it (or maybe I would have out of blind hope); but there’s an extremely slim chance I’ll hear: “Your book was good, not great, but with changes of X,Y, and Z, I’d consider submitting it to houses.” This is my grand hope.

As I continue to wait for responses, my goal is to finish up my apocalyptic novel. But that story is crazy. Overwhelming. Lots of verbiage. And I just heard that “dystopian” novels are waning (who knew they were even popular?).  So after two years and 200 pages into it, do I come to the hard conclusion that I must throw that novel out? Do I put it on the backburner? Do I focus on my teen comedy that probably could sell and that I’m only 50 pages into and already losing steam? Do I start one of the myriad other novel ideas? Do I focus on YA novels? Or work on my ‘adult’ novel, which I’m some 70 pages into? Or start a different adult novel?

I have to speak candidly for a moment, which will completely show off my naiveté. Last week I came across an agent’s blog. She was writing on the trends of YA publishing. My idea that writers were people separated from the business of “publishing” and that publishers were in the business of finding great stories – typically on the lookout for something fresh, unique, stylish, original – and that us writers would just write away in our little apartments/houses/cabins in Montana/Nebraska/Oregon – proved to be so far off the mark that I ended up bursting my own ego’s bubble.

Publishers and agents follow trends very closely. And guess what? Dystopian novels are waning. Paranormal is still going strong.  And the list goes on and on, all detailed into convenient, easy-to-find categories. What isn’t on the list is really anything I’d write except for the area titled: contemporary/realistic fiction. Which it then says is a hard sell. I guess my interests don’t fit into the mainstream or the trends (this isn’t a new discovery). Want to know a secret? I write mostly because I love to discover new things about the ordinary. I love to dig deeper into character’s emotions, put people into situations that are hard to get out of, I love to uncover truths and lies about society and culture. I like to be long-winded, deep, and intelligent. I then end up cutting all the sections that I love the best in favor of the novel’s plot progression. I get it. Publishing’s a business.  But I’m in the business of ideas and not writing more of what everyone already knows. Or writing about another typical love story hidden by some cutesy plot device. Okay, so probably not much of a secret. Sorry if you had your hopes up for something more juicy.

I feel disconnected from this business of publishing. Reading the comments of the trend blog, it appears that tons of writers write to the trends – and feel validated when they are writing something trendy. Is this real writing? Are these the books that are going to push the envelope? Foster a better world? Change society? I don’t know, but it seems unlikely. I wish publishing didn’t become so transfixed into a Hollywood-like machine: pumping out fluff after fluff and following trend after trend to the exclusion of something askew, or different or unique. (These books sometimes fall through the cracks – but it’s hard for an unknown writer to push their debut through.)

The real question one has to ask: why do you write? Do you write for yourself? I have to say that I write for myself first (and have to be enlivened and embolden by my ideas), but in the back of my mind, I’m thinking about the eventual reader. Anyone who says they write a novel solely for himself is lying. To do it right, it takes years. If you were writing for yourself, you would write in a journal – not a novel, because after 4 years of writing something, and rewrites, and more rewrites, you do not want to read it. Nay, you CANNOT even pick it up – because if you read the same story anymore, you will gouge out your eyes. Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but you’d rather do anything else.

So that brings me to my question: summer was planned to be my time to really get some writing done before this hectic fall begins. But I feel I no longer have steam in my engine. I am disillusioned (or my delusion has burst). What do I want to write? Do I want to start another novel – and spend thousands of more hours in front of my computer screen? Or do I want to ignore writing and the business of publishing and my computer screen and spend a summer out among my vegetables and flowers, up in the mountains hiking and reading, and generally, let my mind take a break from all these fictional story ideas? Perhaps I’ll come back to it in half-a-year. Or perhaps never again. Or perhaps tomorrow afternoon I’ll be back staring at this screen – wondering where to begin again.