Monday, November 09, 2009

The process sucks for everyone..

We had our weekly critique group meeting last night and I was kvetching about writing proposals. Again. I love to kvetch about writing proposals because I hate it. For me, it's the worst part of my process - all the stress, none of the pay off. Just when I start to figure out my characters and what's happening and where everything is going to go - I stop writing, hammer out a crappy synopsis and send it off. To be rejected. Maureen was hating me at this point because we've had this argument plenty of times about what is worse - writing a whole book and having it rejected, or writing a measly proposal and having it rejected and the truth is - it sucks for both of us.

I devoted most of May to doing this with a project and now the rejections have started to roll in and they mostly say things like --- "hmmmm, just don't think there's enough here to fill a book." Frustrated, I asked my agent if I should just write the book. Because I know there's enough there to fill a book. I know because I wrote a disastrous 12 page synopsis that I cut down to five. That's a lot of plot removed - a lot of juicy character growth - a lot of subplot. And maybe I'm not the kind of author that can sell on proposal.

My agent said no. Instead she wanted another idea. I love my agent. Trust my agent so I said no problem. Her advice to me was - don't write different, write bigger. I said -"oh, I so get it. I totally understand."

I lied. I still don't understand 'bigger.' I think it's like pornography - I'll know it when I see it. But I'm hammering out another idea and I'm just to the point that I actually love my characters, this fabulous heroine and her troubled past, so I'm going to stop. Try to put all that love in the first 60 pages and send it off in the world, hoping that editors see what I see. Fantasizing about the best, prepared for the worst.

11 comments:

Eileen said...

I suspect Maureen is right and it's less painful to get rejected on proposal than it is after you've written the entire book. I had a kidnapping story that got rejected a while back. I still adore the story, but after a cooling off period, I looked at the reasons why it was rejected. I think I made the secondary characters the primary characters. It still hurt to get rejected after writing 70 or so pages, plus the #*&$*(& synopsis, but better than having written the whole book that way.

I have no idea if I'll be able to resubmit it at some point. I hope so, though.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I'm in no way saying it's not painful - for anyone and it's not really about the amount of time or effort anyone puts into submitting - because obviously writers writing the whole book have me beat hands down. And trust me - I know what an ass I sound like. Maureen wins when we argue - no question.

But I'm beginning to feel such a disconnect between what I'm submitting and what I'm being rejected on. The problems that come up in the proposals would hopefully be dealt with in the books. Eileen, like your kidnapping book - had you written more you probably would have seen that and fixed it in the process.
If the goal is to sell my book, and not just the proposal maybe I just need to write the book.

Molly O'Keefe said...

I'm really scared of sounding like an ass and I don't mean to offend anyone - but I think this is a really significant problem for writers after being published. When the blush wears off and you're trying to get to another level on Donkey Kong, but you either just don't have the tools or the right idea, or the giant barrel destroying hammer it can feel just as mysterious and frustrating as it did in the beginning. This business does a good job of making a writer feel like they're doing so much wrong and sadly, that feeling comes back throughout a career.

Eileen said...

You SO don't sound like an ass. It is frustrating to hear them say they don't see how you can make something work when you haven't had the opportunity to succeed or fail yet. I've been more than tempted to just write the book. I've got a women's fiction idea that's still burning inside me despite attempted dousings. One of these days, I'm going to write the damn thing and then see who wants it (or maybe it will live under my bed).

Other ideas I've been able to let die without too much sadness. Maybe that's more of a measure of how much the ideas speak to me rather than their actual merit, though.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Molly - you're not an ass. And if the published folks can teach anything to the soon to be published folks ... it is that the problems post-publishing are just as challenging as the ones pre-publishing.

My agent (and rightly so) says for me to break into historical I have to write the book. I'm one down. Post Bombshell when I wanted to go the NLODK I wrote the book in contemp suspense - I wrote the book. Two down.

But guess what - sustaining a career in writing category (which right now seems to be the only publisher who is buying) and trying to write the "big" book is near to impossible. So you have to write proposals - but writing proposals suck and it's really hard to know if the editor is rejecting for the write reason.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I meant "right" reason... that wasn't an intended pun.

And I also just had to say that I laughed when I read the "write bigger" it's like Tim Gunn on Project Runway... "I need more, but not too much more... make it happen."

And the designers nod and nod - but they don't really know.

You pick an idea you hope it sticks. That's it.

Maureen McGowan said...

I think it's painful no matter what... Every time we invest time and creative energy in developing a story and get all excited about it, it sucks if no one want to publish it. The difference that day when I failed to sympathize as much as I should have was partly because I suck as a friend, ;-) and partly because, as you said, you spent May working on that proposal, while I'd spent all of 2008 working on my ms that was getting rejections at the same time.

Sucks big time for both of us. Seriously. And while the emotional attachment is still as great, the time commitment isn't.

But you don't sound like an ass at all. I don't think this business ever gets easy. Even for the bestsellers, even if they get to a point where their publisher says yes to everything, they risk serious rejection from the readers.

Working in a creative field is hard.

Eileen said...

A creative subjective field, no less, Maureen. BTW, I really really want the giant barrel destroying hammer. That sounds like just the ticket for the proposal I'm working on now. :-)

Sinead M said...

So basically it sucks all the way around. Until someone says yes.. and really, we keep at it, because we must all have the belief that the next book will be the one to get published, or break us into the next level..

Right?

Eileen said...

Oh, yeah! That and the fact that I think storytelling might be more addictive than potato chips.

Kimber Chin said...

I'm not a fan of the 'once you're published, you're not allowed to vent' stance. How are we to know what lies ahead if all the published authors act like things are sunshine and roses?

I dread the sell on proposal stage. My novels sound really, REALLY bizarre based on the synopsis because it is all about the unique characters.

Lucky for me... I'm no where close to that stage.

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