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Winter Wednesday Whine

January 26, 2011

Until last year I hadn’t really done much writing in the winter.  Instead I usually tried to work on editing or submitting during the winter months.  There are a number of reasons for this.  First I have too much stress at work in especially January with all the various taxes to file  and wrapping up the prior year and such.  It’s a pain in the ass, which doesn’t leave much time or energy for projects.  Also, winter in Michigan sucks unless you like skiing or snowmobiling or ice fishing.  Which I don’t.  Months of gray gloom are not conducive to positive thinking, energy, or creativity.

Last year and this year I’ve been doing some writing on weekends just because I have nothing else to do.  There aren’t even any movies I want to see in the theater.  Argh.  So it’s either write something or do nothing and I hate doing nothing because when my brain is unoccupied it will inevitably start going to dark places.

There’s no real point to this except to whine.  I’ve made some progress on the new project, like 60 pages or so, which is pretty slow for me.  It’s been kind of an uphill battle.

Then there’s the problem of what to do after that.  The good thing last year was I created a lot of work for myself with the Scarlet Knight Volumes 5-8, plus a prequel, plus a revised graphic novel script, plus a revised Volume 1!  So most of the year took care of itself.

This year I’m not so sure.  Maybe I should come up with Volumes 9-12 or something.  I probably could if I really thought about it.  Or I’ll just do like Hollywood and immediately “reboot” the series after completing one cycle.  To a lesser extent that’s what I’m doing with the current project by using many of the same characters only in new ways.

In the meantime it’s really gnawing on my brain that I should try querying Volume 1.  I mean I’ve expended so much time and effort on this series, why let it go without even a token attempt at publishing it?

Except I really HATE querying.  It’s like job interviews where you have to do this whole little song and dance for these other people, who probably won’t do shit for you anyway.  There isn’t a single query I’ve ever written that’s sounded natural to me.  They always sound stilted and forced.  Maybe agents and their minions haven’t realized it yet, but there really is a difference between narrative and summarizing narrative.  The former is supposed to use “showing” but the latter you’re pretty much forced to “tell.”  And you’re supposed to sound all friendly and pleasant and jaunty.  Argh.  Really, who invented this shit?  I’d like to piss on his/her grave.

Can’t I just tell you what the damned story is about and give you some pages to read?  It’s like those online dating services that make things so overly complicated.  No one needs to know how long your fingers are!  (Except someone with a finger fetish.)  Just give me your favorite movies/books/albums, a picture, a few other factual details (like location/age/kids/pets/religion) and that will give me a good idea.  A query, like a dating profile, can be completely useless in making a decision.  It’s a lot easier to get three paragraphs to look nice than an entire manuscript.  You can write a good query and then have a manuscript full of typos and terrible grammar.

My usual whine is, “Can’t someone else do it?”  Yes, apparently someone can.  For $100-$400 per round of submissions.  I’m almost tempted to do it just because I’m lazy and hate querying.  But one thing I’ve learned in this life is that if you leave it up to someone else to do it they’ll do it half-assed.  Because they don’t care!  It’s a way to make money for them; for me it’s my life.

Anyway, when I’m thinking about queries I like to try thinking of it in the most basic terms possible.  By that I mean that if I ran into you on the street and I had to describe the story, what would I say?  It sure as hell wouldn’t be some hook and three paragraphs because by then you’d probably be looking for a way to escape.  People don’t talk in query language!

So if I met you on the street and I was carrying this big stack of papers here’s how it would go down:

YOU:  What’s that?

ME:  It’s my novel, A Hero’s Journey.  (Though to sound more like me, throw some ums and uhs and imagine a deer in the headlights look.)

YOU:  What’s that, some kind of fantasy story, like Lord of the Rings?

ME:  No.  It’s about this girl who finds a suit of magic armor and becomes a superhero.

YOU:  Magic armor?  So she flies or something?

ME:  No, she can’t fly.  But she can turn invisible, jump really far, and deflect bullets.

YOU:  Does she have a golden lasso and invisible jet?

ME:  No, but she does have a magic sword that can cut through anything.

YOU:  Huh.  That sounds interesting.  But I’m not really into comic books.

ME:  It’s not a comic book.  It’s just a regular book.  It’s about 350 pages long.

YOU:  That’s a lot of pages.

ME:  No kidding.  Do you know how much it cost me in paper to keep printing it?

[END SCENE]

Actually that sounds a little too much like a cheesy infomercial, but maybe you get the point.  If I were going to describe the story in real life I wouldn’t be trying to use a bunch of tag lines and crap like that.

Anyway, that’s enough whining for today.  Back to work.

Until next time…

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