Right now I should be sending queries out to agents. Or working on one of the two potential follow ups to the novel that I should be querying. Or I should be cleaning the kitchen. What I’m actually doing is making notes on yet another attempt to write something that my kids will be able to read.
This will be my fourth attempt to write something suitable for the YA (young adult) market. Two failed because I wasn’t ready to write the story. The notes and the first drafts are still there and I will probably come back to them. These stories are probably only temporary YA fails.
The third one failed because I was writing across two time periods and the grown up version of my heroine decided she wanted to jump into bed with of her best friends. I can’t really blame her – he’s gorgeous and available and she thought she was going to die the next day – but explicit post 40 extra-marital sex doesn’t really work for in a YA book. I will probably come back to it and it might work as an adult novel but it’s probably a permanent YA fail.
It is deeply annoying to me that I find it so hard to write stuff that my kids could read. I think a big part of the problem is that I find it very hard to think about my own childhood and teen years. My childhood sucked. My teen years were a nightmare and I’m constantly surprised that I survived. All the advice that I can find about writing for teens says that you should try to remember what it was like to be a teen and my reaction to that is, “Hell no! It sucked enough the first time.”
Of course there’s nothing stopping my kids from reading my other novels. They probably will at some point but I’m putting it off as long as possible. Sorry kids. Your mother has a sick, sick mind and I’d prefer that you didn’t know about it.
There are times when I want to do a thing and I know I should do it but I don’t seem to be doing it.
Days pass and I continue not to do it.
I miss out on opportunities. I piss people off. Sometimes it costs me money. I know I should do the thing. I want to do the thing but I continue not doing the thing.
It makes no sense. I get angry at myself. Sometimes other people get angry at me. They demand an explanation. They expect some kind of excuse or justification. There is none. I wanted to do the thing. I was capable of doing the thing. I intended to do the thing but somehow I did not do the thing.
I forgot to do the thing. I just didn’t get round to it. I didn’t really want to do it. I was scared of doing it. I thought it wasn’t really important. None of these are true. I was acutely aware of the thing. I had every intention of doing it but somehow it did not get done.
Over the years I have developed some coping mechanisms. Whenever possible I do the thing immediately. I know that if I put it off I just won’t do it. I try to avoid volunteering to do stuff because I know that there’s a chance that I won’t do it and not volunteering is a lot less painful than volunteering and not following through. If I can’t avoid it and it can’t be done right away I try to delegate it to someone who is actually good at getting things done.
There was a time when this problem applied to everything. Over the years I’ve found ways to actually get some things done but it’s patchy. At the moment I have 3 overdue library books, a conversation I need to have with someone that I’ve been putting off for a week and a list of literary agents that I haven’t contacted. On the other hand I have meals planned for the next 3 days, 9 novels in various stages of completeness and I’ve been posting 3 times a week on this blog for 12 weeks in a row.
It still doesn’t feel like progress. No matter how many things I get round to doing it’s never enough. There are still those things that don’t get done or get done too late and every single one irks. I feel like an idiot. A weak and foolish idiot that can’t follow through on anything. Except, of course, for displacement activity. I can displace like a boss.
I should have something to say. I normally put something on the blog on a Monday. I’ve usually written in over the weekend. Normally writing something isn’t a problem. I planned to say some more stuff about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 but I’m really not feeling like it.
I’m worried. The election solved nothing. Brexit still lies ahead and there’s no plan to deal with it. Politics, both globally and in the UK, is still all messed up. I’m still broke. I still don’t know what to do with my novels.
I just want some sort of hint about where to go and what to do. A great big quest marker in the sky. Even it it’s only so I can decide to head in the exact opposite direction because screw quests.
I don’t have anything to say. I don’t know what to do. I’m worried about the future. So instead of doing anything constructive I’m going to blow up some (virtual) tanks.
Today’s displacement activity is obsessing about genre. Again.
I should be writing or querying. Instead I’m obsessing about which genre I should be describing my completed novel as.
I know that the books that it most closely resembles are usually described as urban fantasy or contemporary urban fantasy. Except for when they’re magical realism but there’s at least two contradictory definitions for that. The urban fantasy thing isn’t quite right because the magic in my books is too subtle and I also have some weird science. There’s some alternative history but it’s not alternative history because it’s set in the present. There’s some advanced technology but not enough to make it science fiction. It’s quite dark but I don’t think it’s dark enough to call it horror.
The opening paragraph of a query letter should tell the agent you’re querying what genre the work is. How do I describe my weird, dark, slightly magical, detective thriller so that the right agent will actually read it?
None of which solves the problem of finding the right agent in the first place. They say that if you think an agent is right for your novel you should query them regardless of their stated genre preferences. Ok. I could do that. How would I find that out? I only have so many hours in the day. I’m not stalking every agent in the English speaking world until one of them expresses a fondness for ghosts and detectives and demons and magic and artificial intelligence all in the same book.
So, obviously, I should employ the scattergun approach and just query every agent in the English speaking world because I’ll eventually find the right agent that way. Right? Except you’re supposed to tailor the query to the agent. And tell the agent what genre you’re querying.
Why can’t I just be a sensible writer and write in a sensible genre?
This week I have not been a good writer. I wasn’t a good writer last week either. I have not been working towards my writing goals. I’ve only done a couple of proper writing sessions. I haven’t queried the existing finished novel. I feel like I’m not going anywhere.
On the other hand I’ve written a few blog posts and played a lot of World of Tanks. I had fun doing both but they don’t really take me anywhere.
I feel guilty about the lack of progress. But I also feel like there’s no point in working towards those goals. What’s the point in querying if rejection is guaranteed and the rejection just makes me depressed? What’s the point in pushing myself to write when no-one else is going to read what I’ve written? If I’m only writing for myself then there’s no hurry.
Is rejection guaranteed? I don’t know if it is but it certainly feels that way. It feels like I’ve already been turned down by the agents most likely to actually want it. If getting a deal is a 1 in 100 chance then I don’t feel like I’m working through the 99. I feel like I’ve already tried the agents that were a 0.5% chance and a 0.3% chance and a 0.1% change and with each new agent I try I’m just adding zeros before the final digit.
It’s hard enough to motivate yourself to face rejection when you know that your chances are slim but when your chance of failure only increases every time you try it does make the whole thing feel kind of pointless.
I try to tell myself that it’s not hopeless. People get agents all the time. Novels get published. Readers buy books. Writers make a living. These are things which happen. There’s no reason they couldn’t happen to me. Well, no reason apart from that it’s me. And when good things happen to me it’s only because life is setting me up for a kick in the teeth.
So I might be feeling guilty but as soon as I’m done here I’m probably going back to shooting at virtual tanks.
I have decided that maybe it’s time to give my completed novel a rest for a bit. Maybe it’s the wrong work to query? Maybe I was thinking too big, too long, or too crazy?
I’m going to concentrate on another story. As it stands it’s a complete first draft of a novella but I think it could be more. I think it could be a short novel. It’s smaller in scope than the novel I was querying though I think it will get a bit bigger as I expand it. Maybe it’s more what agents are looking for as a first novel? I know that the setting will be easier to pitch to Scottish publishers and easier for them to sell to readers.
Of course it’s probably displacement activity. It’s easier to write another novel than it is to query the finished one. The novel has to be finished before someone can reject it and, by extension, me. Writing is the bit that I know I’m good at. Well, think I’m good at. Most of the time.
It’s something a bit different for me. The narrator character is disabled. Writing stuff that’s too close to home is something I usually shy away from. It feels like cheating somehow. But I keep seeing agents and publishers asking for diverse storytelling and diverse characters. Maybe they actually mean it. And if they don’t I’ve got this other story I can whip out when they tell me that they can’t sell a locked room mystery set in Aberdeen where the central character is an unglamorous disabled woman.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently (and I really should have learned it a long time ago but sometimes I am hard of thinking) it’s that you should always do the thing now. Don’t put things off. If you can afford it, if you’re physically able, if you have the time or you can make the time. Do it now.
Clean up the mess as soon as you notice the mess. Wear the nice outfit while it still fits. Go see the film before someone spoils it for you. Tell the people that you care about that you care about them while they’re still around to hear it. Don’t wait for some far off perfect future to write your novel. Do the thing now.
I wanted to go and see Logan on Monday. I was really tempted to book the tickets on Sunday but I didn’t and when Monday came around my other half wasn’t really feeling it and we didn’t want to cook and see a film and we couldn’t afford take out and tickets and so we didn’t. We put it off.
Then we got some bad news. News so bad that it colours everything. I could still go and see the film but I’ll never enjoy it as much now as if I’d gone on Monday. And with every passing day the temptation to spend the ticket money on something more sensible grows. It becomes more and more likely that I’ll never see the film.
It will become the latest in a long line of lost joys. These are the things that would have given me a tiny spark of joy but didn’t because I didn’t do them. I put them off. Or decided they weren’t sensible choices. I waited and the moment was gone.
This does not change my positions on technology and computer games though. Leave the early adopting to people who get a kick out of being first. Let them deal with all the bugs and the glitches and the exploding batteries. Buy the fancy new kit when the price drops in anticipation of the next model coming out. If you can stand to wait for the computer game at all then wait for the game of the year edition or the Steam sale.
Not that I expect I’ll be able to follow my own advice. I give it 6 months before I make exactly the same mistake again and I’m back here saying this all over again.