Friday, August 9, 2013

In Which I Am Not Dead!

I haven't written much since the baby was born. Because how can you write with this cuteness around? THE CUTENESS MUST BE HEEDED!

Buuuut, I went to the Cascade Writers workshop/JayWake the weekend of the 26th and I got myself all fired up. [Then I went to a wedding and forgot about this blog post. Bear with me.]

If you do not know of this workshop, you should. Karen, the grand poobah of the workshop, runs A Classy Joint. Crit groups roll with with published novelists and their New York editors and agents. Your tuition includes one-on-one time both with your group leaders and said agents.

When I arrived, I felt down. I've been going to this workshop since 2008, with one small break for 2010. Nothing much had changed about my situation this year from when I attended in 2012. In 2012, I was mired in the pits of an unfinished novel. Now I've given up on that one and I... am mired in another unfinished novel. Since last year, I published one story at non-pro rates, and then pulled it for a contract dispute.

Ask any writer, and you will find that there is a wall they want to leap ('step to take' doesn't describe the effort involved). For a long time, that wall is Publication, Oh, Please, God, Any Publication. Then there's where I am, More Respectable Publication. In SF, that means pro-rate pay of 5 cents a word US or more. I need one more pro sale to qualify for SFWA membership. Nice reviews and award nominations wouldn't hurt.

All writers have their wall, whether it's Sell New Novel Series or Avoid Internet Feuds. George R.R. Martin's is "Finish This Book In Less Than Six Years." JK Rowling's wall is "Keep The Next Pseudonym Secret REALLY REALLY JOANNE F.F.S."

I've been at More Respectable Publication for a long time. Since 2011. Not coincidentally, all through 2012 I had 2+ kids and 2+ jobs.

So I got to the workshop, collapsed on my hotel bed, and thought, "I should have stayed home. I'm not getting anywhere." Then I slapped myself for being a self-pitying dork and got up to prepare my presentations and critiques. Cue "Gonna Fly Now."

My first presentation was What Agents Want with Cameron, where I dragged out the part of my brain that, a long time ago, worked for a literary agency. I gave the usual shpiel, which I will repeat here for you: agents want to pay the rent. Give the agent a reason why people will buy the book.

Also useful: While your agent is shopping around your manuscript, write like crazy, blog like crazy, and generally put yourself out there. It's the writing version of Dan Savage's maxim "don't complain that no one wants to have sex with you; go make yourself into the kind of person people want to have sex with."

After What Agents Want, the good folk of the workshop gathered around and practiced pitching their novels. I critiqued every form of pitch, from elevator pitches, query letters, and rambling explanations of what the audience members' books were about. There is some serious talent out there, people. I heard about a lot of really excellent novels.

Pitch practice this year went a lot better than it did last year. I held a pitch practice session last year in which I tried, off the cuff, to pitch my complete novel The Great Faerie Strike.

The 2012 pitch was terrible. I couldn't pitch my own novel!

This year I stayed away from such things and just went with other people's pitches. We will come back to that abortive session last year, though. This year was a success, partially due to the fact that I didn't make a horrible example of myself.

Then, I got to explore the joy of grammar with Your Sentences Suck. This was an interesting presentation. Call me a weirdo, but there is no possible way I can squeeze my love of sentence structure into fifty minutes.

I started out by talking about structure, and the eyes, they did glaze over. BUT. IT'S IMPORTANT. You, dear reader, need to understand the difference between interrogative, simple, and cumulative sentences. I would have liked to spend more time on subjects, verbs and objects, because they trip everyone up. As it was, I moved on, in order to avoid said glazing over

I got to the good stuff, though. Partially thanks to Randy's handy handout. (I am not so much with the organization, so I got a guy to keep me in line.)

A sentence, like a prostitute masquerading as an FBI plant masquerading as a prostitute, offers many levels of proposition. A sentence like "Invisible God created a visible world" proposes all sorts of meanings. Oftentimes we aren't aware of everything we propose in a sentence, or For more, check out the Great Courses course by Brooks Landon.

Chrissy and the kids came down for JayWake on Saturday night. Much has been blogged regarding JayWake. I enjoyed it and was glad to show Jay our support. I even served as a pallbearer (for Jay's live body in a prop coffin). Quite unique and bittersweet. Despite best efforts, I cried. Lots of other people did too. We'll miss you, Jay. Don't leave yet.

On Day The Last, Cameron (and later Claire, the Tor editor present) asked me what I was working on. I brought up The Great Faerie Strike. Now, since last year, I've revised that novel and readied it for publication. Aaaand, I've worked on my pitch. Apparently I've done well, because both of them liked the pitch, and asked to see the book.

Pitches aren't much in the writing business, because they require a subset of skills that are only part of good writing. HOWEVER. I left knowing that I had improved since last year. The pitch that flubbed last year had been refined, purified, made goodenough.

And, I realized, I had submitted a novel for the first time since 2005.

Whether or not anyone takes the novel, that's definitely an important step in the work out to jump the wall.

How about you, dear readers? What's your wall and what are you doing to leap it? If any of you are secretly JK Rowling, you are exempt from leaving comments.


  1. I'm at the find a printed wall stage. Nice blog. See you in 2014, I enrolled for some of the same madness. Cute baby.

  2. Dude, you can't bring up the live body in a faux coffin and not explain it for those of us that weren't there!

    My wall is getting a non-fiction book published.

    write a proposal...check
    write well...check
    get an agent... are right it is certainly a leap and not a step. And finding the will to get up again after you fall on your face is another leap. :)