1 Down, 139 Still to Go

survive

At 2:10 AM Wednesday morning, I officially finished writing the first draft of Prism World, and I was so excited that I celebrated by doing something I have never done before: I submitted a query to an agent.

Now before I go any further, I have to clarify something. A couple months ago, I decided to get really brave and I swore that once I finished Prism World I would send off query letters to exactly 5 agents. If they all turned me down, I would self-publish. It was that simple.

To be honest, I have never actually believed that I could get an agent within 5 tries. My decision was not based in pride. It was the fact that I really am unsure I want to let the story go.

You hear it all the time from authors of all sorts of writing types. Writing projects are our babies, and the last thing we want to do is let them go. That’s me.

However, I hear people all around me saying, “You should try to get professionally published.” And frankly, I think that would be great, too. But to be a writer in the real world, one needs to be thick-skinned. I thought my skin was tough enough, but today I discovered that it could definitely be thicker.

I kind of expected the email I received today. It was the typical “Thank you for your submission but we aren’t interested” sort of message that I’ve read about on hundreds of writers’ sites since I first became interested in the publishing world 6 years ago. But expecting it didn’t make it any easier to read.

In the age of technology, self-publishing means that writers no longer have to feel the pain of receiving that all-too-common rejection letter that our spiritual forebears had to endure. While I can’t speak for other writers, I’ll be honest on this score. Self-publishing has made me lazy. Why go through the trouble of looking up hundreds of agents (or publishers) and risk rejection when I could just publish it myself?

There is a lot of talk about self-publishing these days. Some are all for moving straight into self-publishing. Others defend the need for writing agents and professional publishing houses. The jury is still out as far as I’m concerned.

It was hard to read that rejection letter. Harder still because I wasn’t sure if it was because I honestly didn’t have a story they were interested in or if it was simply that I wrote a bad query letter. I’ve read blogs and websites where agents post examples of how not to write a query letter and I cringe at the thought that mine might show up on one of those sites some day in the near future. But as with all things, the only way to learn is to try. And try I did.

There are many lists full of books, bestsellers even, that were rejected multiple times before they were printed. My favorite example is Chicken Soup for the Soul. The site that I read stated that Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 140 times before it was published. So hey, what’s one rejection letter to me?

I’m still egotistical enough to believe that Prism World is worth reading, and everyone who has read any of it seems to agree with me, which gives me confidence. Whether the publishing world believes that or not in the end, though, only time can tell. I’ll just have to keep trying.

1 down, 139 still to go.

The Obsession Chapters

obsession

I’ve been writing full-length books for about 7 years now, and over the course of those 7 years I have discovered something about myself: I obsess over the last few chapters of each book I write.

Writing has been a passion of mine for a long time and it is not uncommon for me to sit down and write feverishly for hours on end. But when I get to the last few chapters of a book, I go into full obsession mode where all I want to do is write. I’m not sure if it’s just me or if other writers do this same thing, but when I get to the last few chapters of a book, I can think only of the story. I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to sleep, I don’t want to even move away from my writing medium, and I certainly don’t want to go to class or work on homework…which is the dilemma I now face.

During the summer or when in the middle of a semester, hitting what I call “the obsession chapters” is not a big deal to me. The average workload is manageable and I typically have enough time and energy to devote to my writing. But as I begin to tackle the last 5 chapters of Prism World, I find I do not have as much free time available as I have had for past books. And so I carry around my “Notebook of Randomness”, (more on that later), and write as if my life depended on it during every opportunity, no matter how small.

My desire to complete the obsession chapters in this project, however, is made worse by the fact that I absolutely love this story. I have put more research and effort into this book than I have put into anything else I’ve written. I’ll be sad to see the story end, and I confess I’ve already started making plans for some after-the-fact short stories, but I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Because, after all, no matter how much an author plans the story, there’s still no telling where it will end up.

So far, I’m at about 71,000 words and counting, and with finals coming up and events I’ve been asked to go to, finishing the book will be no small task.

They say that true writers don’t write simply because they want to; they write because they can’t stop doing it.

So here’s to all the true writers out there, and in the mean time we’ll see whether real life or the obsession chapters win out in the end.

The Beauty of Language

The Trojan Horse

Today marked my third year to enter the annual creative writing contest here at my college, and I am pleased to announce that my poem, “Le Cheval de Troie”, won 2nd out of 18 poems entered in that category.

The funny thing about this poem is I don’t speak a bit of French. Well…not really. “Le Cheval de Troie” was an experiment of sorts, one that I still think turned out rather well. (And apparently the judge thought so, too).

The beauty of language is that it is always changing. As an English major/History minor in college, I’ve had the unique opportunity to spend hours upon hours studying the progression of language (namely English) as it has evolved over the centuries.

Though all languages have similarities and share similar words (particularly modern ones), English, especially American English, has one of the highest rates of language exchange of any language in use today. We say we speak English, but that’s because it’s easier than saying, “I speak a little bit of Anglo-Saxon, French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Gaelic, Arabic, Latin, Greek, etc. etc.” The words we use, even in everyday speech, are rarely what we would call “English” in the truest sense, meaning that a large portion of those words did not originate in England.

For instance, in 1066, William the Conqueror left Normandy (a region in France) and sailed to England, effectively usurping the English throne and bringing with him a tradition of French high culture and, more importantly, over 10,000 French words, of which 75% are still in common use today.

It was this fact that inspired me to begin researching familiar words of French origin and, in turn, inspired me to write “Le Cheval de Troie”. Of the 16 lines in the poem, there are 18 words or phrases that are of French or Anglo-Norman origin. I have added the poem to the end of this blog post with all the French and Anglo-Norman words bolded for your convenience.

Language. It’s a beautiful thing!

——————–

Le Cheval de Troie

A souvenir they thought it was
The vestige of the Greek barrage
There poised beyond the rampart
Like a grandiose, hooved mirage

The vermilion sun cast a hateful hue
Consuming as a hero’s pyre
The shadow of the effigy
And kindled like a fire

And against all good persuasion
The trammel they drew inside
Naïve they were of the menace
That here they stood beside

And left to wait in the sun’s decline
The pivot of fated law
The occupants of the city
Never knew le Cheval de Troie.