The invisible wall

It feels like there’s an invisible wall between me and my novel. Some part of me doesn’t want to work on it and I’m not sure what it is.

It’s not because I don’t know what to write, or because I’m having plot problems. I know where the story is going and how to write it. It’s not because I don’t like the novel or because I’m tired of the characters. I like it and them as much as I ever have.

It feels like I’m scared of something. Or at least reluctant. Could it be that I’m scared of finishing it because that would mean I’d have to query it and that would mean more rejection?

I’ve invested a lot of hope in this novel. I’m hoping that, because it has a better opening, it will have more chance of attracting an agent. I think the opening is good but it doesn’t solve the problem of writing that doesn’t fit easily into any genre. Agents just don’t seem to be looking for the stories that I write. I’ve been trying to build contacts but so far the contacts that I have don’t link up with the kind of stories that I write.

There’s also the problem of my, apparently, terrible grammar. I say apparently because every grammatical problem that gets pointed out is stuff that I can’t see even after it gets pointed out. I know there are rules to formal english but prose isn’t formal. In prose you’re allowed to break the rules. Unless I’m wrong. Unless I should be following the rules of formal English just so that agents will know that I know what they are. Are agents laughing at my terrible comma usage?

It’s tempting to just give up on the idea of ever getting paid, stick a plain cover on it, self publish and then try to find something else to do with my time. It is just so frustrating to put all this work in on stories that nobody wants to read. I believe in them but I don’t know how to communicate that belief in any useful way.

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It’s never just one thing.

So in my last post my laptop had died and I discovered that I’d wasted 3 months preparing for a nonexistent competition. How can things get worse?

The good news is that my laptop is fixable and for a reasonable fee. The bad news is that after paying for that and buying Scrivener for the iPad my spouse and I went to the optician to get our eyes tested. I need new glasses and my other half needs two pairs (distance and reading glasses) and my eyesight is so bad that my one pair costs more than both of theirs.

I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. I dread to think what that’s going to reveal.

In addition to being impossibly broke yet again I also have to work out what my writing plan is. Until the debacle with the nonexistent pitch competition my plan was to prepare my current work in progress for the competition then when it failed to garner any interest I was going to query it while trying to fix whatever is wrong with the first one then pitch a third novel at Bloody Scotland in September.

I suppose I could still do the parts that don’t involve the nonexistent pitch but it’s feeling pointless. I can’t work out if it’s my usual terrible self esteem talking or if there’s something wrong with this plan that I’m not letting myself see. There’s this voice in the back of my head that keeps telling me that this can’t possibly work because that’s not how my life works. And it’s not wrong about my life so far. It is kind of insane to expect anyone to value anything I do enough to pay me for it. They never have so far.

I hope I’ll be back with a new blog post about Infinity War soon but it probably wont be until I get my repaired computer back. In the meantime if you want to donate to the fix the computer fund or the actually be able to see fund then you can do it via Ko-Fi. Yes it says that you’re buying me a coffee but I’m allowed to spend the money on something other than coffee. Also coffee is a vital part of the creative process.

There’s also the Shop Of Doom. It’s still closing on May 8th because nobody is buying anything. Which is a pity, I have a couple of the t-shirts and they’re lovely, but I get that they’re pretty expensive and not to everyone’s taste. At least I tried. Having tried is not as much consolation as you’d think. It really doesn’t ease the sting of failure much at all.

Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome is something that most creative people experience at some point. It’s that feeling of not being good enough, of not being a ‘real’ creative, or that you are somehow performing your creative endeavors in the wrong way.. For successful creative people it might also come with a fear of being ‘found out’.

I don’t have a ‘hot take’ on Impostor Syndrome. But I either have a bad case of it or I’m a genuine impostor. And it’s so hard to know which.

In the last week I’ve found out that I’ve been formatting my manuscripts wrong and that I’ve either been using commas wrong since forever or the rules have changed since I was at school. That might seem like a small thing. Surely a slight difference in formatting and a few stray commas won’t drive an agent away? Well… Maybe.

Agents are looking for excuses to stop reading. Of course they are. They get hundreds of queries. It makes no sense to read all the way through something if they can’t sell it, or don’t want to work with the writer. The formatting and the commas alone wont stop them but that’s already two strikes. It makes the agent less likely to overlook any other little weakness they might find. It makes me look less professional. It also makes me question whether I have any business attempting to write as a profession. What kind of an author doesn’t know how to format a manuscript or use a comma.

And while worrying about all this I discovered that part of the opening of the current novel in progress isn’t nearly clear enough. I had a beta reader read right through the death of a character and part of their wake and then ask me why they were reading about all these other characters and not the dead one. And this is an intelligent person. That means that 1 in 4 readers didn’t get a pretty major plot point. I can’t just decide that this person is an idiot. I have to make the scene clearer somehow. And I don’t know how.

So in the last week I’ve found out that I’m failing at punctuation, formatting and clarity. How’s your week been.

If you have enjoyed this post why not buy me a coffee with Ko-fi or visit the Shop Of Doom to purchase objects.

My tarot deck keeps telling me that I’m trapped by indecision

It’s not wrong.

I have done very little this week except vacillate on the subject of my writing “career” and I’m no closer to a decision than I was last week. I still have a novel that I was querying that I don’t know what to do with. I still have the novel that I was working on that I don’t know if it’s worth finishing. I still have many potential future novels and no idea where I want to go.

Back in 2016 when I pitched my finished novel at XPOnorth it was greeted with a great deal more enthusiasm than I had been expecting. So much enthusiasm that it led me to believe that it was good and that people liked it and that my pitch, and therefore any query letter I wrote based on it, was persuasive.

That was the last time I got any positive feedback from anyone in the publishing industry. Everything since then has been form rejection. If there’s something wrong with my novel then I’ve already blown it’s chances with the best agents to represent it. I have one beta reader telling me that there are massive problems with the first chapter that need to be fixed or I will never sell it and one telling me that it’s okay apart from a couple of spelling mistakes. I’ve got no idea if there are any agents left who’d be interested in it even if I could fix it.

I decided to concentrate on finishing the novel I was working on and then fix the other one later once I’d worked out what I wanted to do. Only now I find that working on this novel seems pointless. It has the same setting as the other one and though I could tweak it slightly and make it the first book set there I’m starting to wonder if the problem is the setting. Or if the problem is me. What if all my books are too wierd? What if they’re just not sellable?

I started thinking that if they are too weird to sell to an agent or a publisher then that’s not necessarily the end. I could self publish. Only I’d be doing it badly because I still can’t afford an editor, or a development editor, or a designer, or cover art.

Maybe the answer is to write stuff that’s less weird. I did try that for NaNoWriMo 2017. I wrote a first draft with nothing magical or supernatural or sci fi. It was ok. I’m not sure the novel has much potential but I wrote it. Maybe I should concentrate on that. It would be much easier for me to break into the industry via crime. But then I would be stuck writing that sort of novel. I’d have built the wrong career.

So what do I do? I’ve got a finished novel that isn’t really finished. A work in progress that might not be worth finishing. A bunch of weird first drafts that I might never be able to interest anyone in. A not weird first draft that I’m not ready to work on and that might be a move in the wrong direction.

Should I just drop the lot of them in a drawer somewhere and try writing something different? Maybe I could write some generic fantasy? Maybe I should give up on selling, give up on re-writing, and just stick them all on the internet for free.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if there is a right decision or if they’re all equally wrong. I don’t know what I want to do either.

All I know for sure is that I am spectacularly, incandescently, outrageously angry.

The last rejection

Well it’ll be the last rejection for a while at least.

Today I got the form rejection letter from the last agent I queried. I’m not going to query again straight away. I know that the standard advice is to query 100 agents and not to start panicking about your work until you’ve been turned down at least 80 times but I’m not sure there are 80 agents representing Urban Fantasy in the English speaking world. Good agents, anyway. And what’s the point in pissing off potential agents by querying them with a broken novel?

I don’t know if my novel is broken. I’ve had conflicting feedback. I need to think about it for a while. I probably need to sell a kidney so I can afford a development editor to tell me what’s wrong with it.

Or I could stick the whole thing out somewhere for free. Give up on the idea of ever earning anything back for my effort.

Or I could give up on it. Just stick it in a virtual drawer and try something else. I really don’t want to do that because I have plans for the characters and for the world. I have other novels that I’m working on that are linked to it. I wouldn’t just be giving up on that one story but on literally dozens of others.

At the moment I’m trying to work on one of the other stories in the hope that I can pitch that as the first in the series instead. If that one doesn’t work there’s maybe one more that I could use as the starting point but it’s a lot more work and maybe the whole thing is just doomed. Maybe these are stories that would never sell.

Perhaps it’s presumptuous to assume that there is a solution. That would be to assume that I can succeed at something and so far there’s no evidence to support that assumption. I’m not going to stop writing. I have to fill my time somehow. But I might give up on the idea of trying to get anyone else to read what I write.

Maybe I’m not a writer?

Today I got a report from a beta reader about the opening of the novel that I’ve been querying and it’s making me wonder if I really am deluded about being a writer.

There’s a grammar problem right at the beginning that’s bad enough to drive off an agent and I can’t see it even now that it’s been pointed out. Also it’s apparently unclear who kills who. Which is a huge problem. If I can’t make that sort of thing obvious then what hope do I have for the more complicated and nuanced stuff.

I don’t know how to fix any of this. I don’t know how to build the skills necessary to fix it. I don’t even know if I should fix it.

I have so few spoons on any given day. Maybe I should stop wasting them on something that I have so little aptitude for. My house is a mess. My body is a wreck. Maybe I should be concentrating on those instead. But what’s the point of a tidier house and a slightly less fucked body if I’m not making or doing anything?

Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe I’ll look at the comments tomorrow and I’ll know how to fix it. Maybe the beta reader is wrong about some of it.

Maybe. But it seems much more likely that I just suck at writing. I suck at most things so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I suck at this too.

Getting back on the horse.

Yesterday I posted about my latest rejection from an agent. It never gets any less painful but I did manage to query the next agent on the list before the day was out.

I don’t know how many more times I can manage to query. There is a finite number of agents in the world and eventually I will run out. I’m also running out of fucks to give and it’s starting show in my query letters. Is there any point in sending a query if the letter is only going to piss off the person reading it.

The latest submission included the following paragraph:

You’d probably like working with me. I’m funny, hard working and resilient. Also my life is just so horrifically awful that it will make you feel great about your own life in comparison. I know this isn’t the sort of thing I should put in a covering letter but this way I can blame your inevitable form rejection on my terrible letter and not on the novel. Which is great.

That’s not going to help but I I no longer believe that there’s any point in trying to get an agent. I’m just doing it because that’s the path I’m on. I’m querying the next agent on the list because I don’t know what else to do.

I’m trying to change course. It feels like trying to turn a supertanker against a strong current and a high wind. I’ve been working on another novel so that I can start querying that but I’m starting to feel like that’s pointless too. I’m trying to get up the enthusiasm for the move to self publishing. Once I’ve found the enthusiasm I’ll have to find the money.

Anyone need a kidney?

Behold my shiny new look

Check out the new theme. I liked the old look but I felt that it was a bit bare bones now that more people are visiting and I have multiple pages. I’ve also updated the About page since I think it’s more likely that people will visit it with the new layout.

In other news I sent off another query email. Since that’s almost certain to fail I’ve lined up the next Agent that I will start procrastinating sending a query to just as soon as the current one emails my rejection. It’s important to chain your rejections for maximum damage. I swear this paragraph made sense in my head.

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us and I really haven’t done enough prep. I’m about to spend a couple of days in Edinburgh with my Mother, which is great, but it does get in the way of the traditional last minute scramble of outlining and research. It could turn out to be useful since the story is partly set in Edinburgh. I just have to remember to take lots of photographs.

 

Yet more rejection.

I got the form rejection email today from the last agent I queried.

Once again I find myself asking if I’m mad to even try to find an agent. Even if the novel is as good as I think it is that doesn’t make it sellable. If no-one knows how to market it no-one is going to want to publish it. If no-one is going to want to publish it why would an agent want to represent it?

I am so bad at dealing with rejection and I’m not going to get better at it. As I said previously this is just the way I’m made. I’d give up on the dream of publishing if I could think of anything else to do but I just don’t have any other saleable skills. Writing is starting to look like just another one of my non-saleable skills.

It doesn’t matter how good you are at something. If no-one wants to pay you to do it then it’s not a sustainable life choice. I can’t afford for writing to be just another one of my hobbies and I can’t stand putting all that work into something that no-one will see.  I don’t want to die knowing that all I did with my life was to occupy the time between cradle and grave.

Hyperventilating

As I write this* I just hit send on a query. I feel sick. It’s a mistake. You only get one chance to make a first impression and I must have done something wrong. I’ve definitely done something wrong. I always do something wrong. My heart is pounding and my breathing is messed up and I am having a full-on fight or flight response.

All I did was send a fucking email.

Perhaps it’s time to let go of any hope of getting an agent or getting published and just view each query sent as another box I can tick on my way to the inevitable 100% failure. It’s like a rite of passage. All writers go through it. This novel is doomed.

Which is a pity because it’s really good. I would refer you to my beta readers but we all know that I’m far harsher on my own work than they could ever be. It is legitimately far better than I thought it could be at any point in the creative process after the point at which I actually started typing.

Of course compared to the perfect citadel of prose that I visualised before I  started typing it’s a piece of shit but that’s probably unavoidable. The idea of a story is perfect but the idea is also an illusion. Until you pin it down and turn it into an actual thing the idea is nothing. I don’t regret killing my perfect idea.

I’m still regretting hitting send on that query but I’ll get over it. It’s the same thing really. In my head I could assemble the perfect query letter and synopsis and I could imagine them landing in the agent’s inbox announced by choirs of angels. The moment I hit send rejection becomes a possibility.

 

*I wrote this in the middle of the night. I’ll schedule it to go out at a more reasonable time.