Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Secret Ingredient

Tonight I've had two different ideas for a blog post battling in my head, but I realized only a moment ago that I was only trying to formulate the second idea because I didn't want to write about the first.  I know even if I post about the second idea, the first one is going to keep bugging me until I get it out there.  I've always been the rip the band-aid off fast kind of gal, so I'll just get the first thing out now so it won't keep poking its pointy wet wiggling little nose in where it isn't wanted.

A few days ago I was looking up agents so I have some additional ones ready to query if the agent that has my partial decides she isn't interested in representing me.  I found one agent who sounded very promising.  She represented a recently released book called Alcestis which is a retelling of one of the lesser known Greek myths (Hey, I wrote a retelling of Greek myth.  She's represented one.  A match made in heaven, right?). 

I went to the Amazon link for the book and read the excerpt.  I only got the first five or so pages, but this book is good, like the can't stand to put it down even if little blond person is screaming and bleeding at the same time good (not that I would ever neglect my child in that way for a book.  No, no, that's never happened.)  Immediately after reading the excerpt I deleted the agent from my to query list.  Then I put her back on.  Then I took her back off.

After that I emailed the agent that has my partial and asked for a status update.  When she responded less that twenty minutes later, I could hardly bring myself to open the email. I just knew that on the other side of that mouse click a rejection (and another small, brutal stab to the heart) waited.  Instead I got a brief polite email informing me she needed more time to consider my partial. 

I returned to my to query list and put the agent who represents Alcestis back on it and I was able to write a fairly significant amount that night. 

I kept thinking about that excerpt though and tonight at my reading as the words of my own novel spooled out of my mouth I kept thinking, this sounds so ridiculous.  I can't believe I'm reading this tripe out loud in public to strangers.  What was I thinking?

I came home, tucked little blond person in (five times), folded laundry and then opened my WIP, all the while thinking about the excerpt.  Not only could I not write anything, I deleted everything I'd written the last couple of nights.  And I almost couldn't bring myself to do this blog post because all the sudden all of this effort I'm putting into getting published, including this blog, seems so silly and trite and, yes, talentless.

Even as I write this though I know the most important thing missing from my writing isn't depth or talent or description or characterization.  It's my own deep seated belief that I can write things other people will want to read.  Without that the magic that it takes to create disappears and in whatever little dim nook of the mind the muse dwells, she curls into herself, closes her eyes and weeps.

I know before I can progress on my WIP or, according to The Rejectionist, land an agent I have to regain my confidence.  I just, well, I just don't know how to do that.


KarenG said...

Well, you just read something really really good so now you know the competition out there. Now go read something really really bad, that's been agented, that's been published, that's become a bestseller. I recommend Twilight. Or Chasing Fire. Or The Lovely Bones. LOL! Point being-- there's a huge variety and market out there for readers. And we don't all like the same stuff. So get after it and rewrite. You can do it! (And seriously, I didn't like any of the above mentioned books. I thought they were all weak. But I did like Hunger Games a lot.)

Theresa Milstein said...

I just came over from Rebecca's blog.

This post sounds similar in tone to my last post. Don't take that agent off your list. Remember - you're seeing the finished product. You don't know what it looked liked when originally submitted. It went through edits from an agent and publisher to become a polished product.

There are always people better than us. And worse - pull some books off the shelf. We just have to keep improving what we've written, the best we know how.

Good luck with your partial.

angfla said...

KarenG, I completely agree that Twilight was atrocious and the serious sort of went downhill from there. There are online communities dedicated to Twi-haters. However, I've never met anyone that agreed with me that The Lovely Bones was awful. I finished reading it and went 'huh?' So thanks for that. That was refreshing and thank you for your words of encouragement. I so appreciate them. I haven't read Chasing Fire yet, but I loved Hunger Games and was hoping Chasing Fire would be the same caliber. Crud!

Theresa, I popped over to your blog and read your post. It's so funny you should mention that passing from On Writing. After I read that book that very quote was burned into my gray matter. I couldn't stop thinking about it. But eventually I just put it aside and decided that's what all of this was about, to find out if I was bad or at least competent. Apparently I need to get back to that place. I'm so sorry about the harsh feedback you received. It's so hard to digest, but as writers we've all dealt with it at one point. The first novel I attempted got eviscerated by a particularly mean spirited man at one of the first online forums I even joined. Self esteem plummeted. Novel went in drawer never to emerge again. The muse curled up and wept for very nearly ten years before I tried again.

Good luck to both of you! We'll all make it through this crazy journey somehow.