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.

Harriet Potter and the crippling fear of rejection.

I’ll be honest. There are very few Harry Potter references in this post*, just some JK Rowling quotes**.

A friend pointed out an excellent agent for my novel. I’ve decided that I want to query and they are currently open for submissions. This agent has made statements that would tend to suggest that they might actually welcome the kind of genre hopping, funny/dark thrillers that I write. There are literally zero rational reasons for me not to query this person.

It’s been more than two weeks and I still haven’t written the query. There are no rational reasons for this delay but there are about a million irrational ones. I haven’t had time (I do have time I’ve just been avoiding my computer unless I have some other task to do on it). It keeps slipping my mind (it only slips my mind when I’m using the computer). The agent is definately going to reject the novel so what’s the point (I’ve got nothing to loose by the wrong agent rejecting the novel and if they’re the right agent they won’t reject it). I’m scared (I don’t know what I’m scared of). I might I fail again (in this instance failure will cost me nothing).

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” J.K. Rowling

She’s right of course. Not querying the agent is a far bigger failure than querying them and being rejected would be. I know this intellectually so why is it this hard to accept?

The most confusing thing for me is that rejection is something I should be used to. I’ve been rejected all my life. As a fat, disabled, middle-aged woman I am pre-rejected by society. It doesn’t want me and it’s not afraid to say so loudly.

Maybe it’s because I know that society’s rejection of me is meaningless. Society isn’t rejecting me it’s rejecting the false version of me constructed by prejudice. When someone rejects my novel they’re rejecting the product of the best part of me doing it’s very best work and that is meaningful. That is personal. That really fucking hurts.

* By very few I mean none.

** By some I mean one.

A vote!

So I threatened to interview one of my characters and then I introduced you to the pub where I planned to meet them but here’s where it gets interactive. Who do you want to meet? I’m going to list a few of my characters using descriptions that are not necessarily helpful but which I find humorous.

Who do you want to get to know? You can pick more than one becuase pub banter is better with a small group. Don’t worry about picking people who go together because it’s up to me to make the group work.

  • The “Government Fraud Investigator”. She’s more than meets the eye. She’s got a shotgun in her desk for one thing.
  • The “Witch of the Tower”. Either before or after the tattoos, you choose.
  • The copper. AKA New boy.
  • The priest. He only looks like a famous vampire hunter.
  • The psychic. Just don’t let her touch anything you own if you want to keep your secrets.
  • The IT guy. He’s got an armoured rucksack full of exotic computer equipment and a sticker that says Temporal Engineer – Causality is my bitch
  • The coffee ninja. Don’t hold his caffein based kleptomania against him. He’s a really good manager.
  • The scientist. She’s super impatient, she looks like a tiny drag queen and she’s the biggest fangirl in the Department.
  • The soldier. She’s got an Irish battle Goddess in her head but she’s actually pretty chill most of the time.
  • The spy. I could tell you what’s going on in his head but then he’d have to kill you.
  • The historian. She knows where all the bodies are buried and she’s 100% honest 94% of the time.
  • The thief. He’s also a spy but only in the sense that he knicks things for queen and country.

Stick your answers in the comments, or reply on Twitter or Facebook or Google+

Advice to writers – tribes

One of the great things about writing is that it’s an art form with very few pre-requisites. You need to be able to read and write. You need something to write with. If you want anyone to appreciate your work you need access to an audience. Writing well is a bit harder though. Staying sane while writing well is harder still.

It helps if you don’t try to do it alone.

The first person you need is the one who believes in you. It’s not always easy to believe in yourself when you’re trying to be creative. It helps if you have someone else’s belief to push you onward when your own belief fails.

Adam Savage (yes the Mythbuster) talked on one of his fantastic youTube videos* about how a maker needs at least one person who believes in them. They don’t have to understand you or the things you make but they have to believe that you have value and your creations have worth. To that I would add that they don’t have to be physically close to you, online friends count. They don’t have to still be alive, the memory of a parent or grandparent who believed can be a light that you hold within.

If you’ve just realised that you don’t have that one believer in your life then don’t panic. You can find one if you start by being one. Find other creative people and believe in them. You’ll find that some of them will believe in you in return. You’ll also find that it’s easier to believe in yourself because you’re strengthening that part of your personality.

Once you have that one person who believes in you it’s time to fill out the rest of your tribe. You need people who face the same challenges as you. Even if they don’t meet them in the same way. So if you’re a writer you need other writers, if you’re having trouble balancing creativity and a busy life then you need others who’ve been through that, if you have to deal with mental health issues or disability getting in the way then you need people who’ve been through that.

You need people who are following the same path. So if you’re writing fanfiction you need to have some fanfiction friends in your tribe. If you’re planning to self publish then you need to reach out to others on that path. If you want to go the traditional publishing route then you need others who understand the pain of querying. When you’re writing your first novel then it helps to be around other new writers.

You need people who like the stuff that you like. They don’t have to be writers but it does help if they’re makers in some way. If you write scifi then you need friends who get scifi, people that you can go to movies with and binge watch TV with and discuss books with. You need people with whom you can get into knock down drag out fights about who’s the best Doctor, or Star Trek ship captain and whether Malcolm Reynolds is a bigger scoundrel than Han Solo.**

And finally your tribe needs diversity and generations. You need to reach out to people younger and older than you. You need people from the widest possible range of backgrounds and experiences and cultures and ethnicities. You need beginners and old hands and every level of experience in between. And you need to listen to them. People will tell you about their experiences both in creativity and life and you need to listen and respect. Not only will you be a better writer but you’ll be a better person.

Reach out to people. Find your tribe. Support them and accept their support in return. Be there for them But a word of warning. In your journey you may meet people who seem to be part of your tribe but who never repay. They’re happy to accept your praise and lean on you and others in your tribe but when the call for help goes out they’re never there. It’s ok to let them go. You don’t have to call them out. You don’t have to confront them. You can just withdraw from them. Concentrate your attention on the people who know they’re part of a tribe not the people who think you’re part of their entourage.

* I can’t find the exact video but here’s a link to the channel, Tested. I recommend it.

** The correct answers are: all of them, Sulu (yes he counts), and yes but Han has the cooler ship.

An Introduction to a Transdimentional Pub

A few days ago I threatened to introduce you to my characters. I said I could nip into the pub for a quiet pint and a chat with them. But If I’m going to do that I should probably introduce you to the pub first.

There’s one in every city if you know where to look. It’s always on a quiet side street. It’s not exactly hiding, it’s very clearly a pub, but the eye has a way of gliding across the sign and the name has a way of slipping your mind but if someone actually suggests meeting there you immediately say “Oh JW’s? Of course I know where that is,” and you do.

From the outside it looks quite small but you can tell that it’s one of those pub that’s been carved out of a series of liminal spaces. It will be a labyrinth of snugs, and lounges, and bars, and corridors. You’ll need a map and a compass to find the Ladies loo and the route back to your seat will look so unfamiliar that you’ll be sure you’ve taken a wrong turning.

It’s right in the sweet spot where you can’t tell if it’s a genuine traditional British Pub or a slightly battered chain pub that’s just pretending to be one. There are two large windows with bullseye glass panes on either side of a doorway that’s slightly too narrow for the double doors it has and slightly too wide for a single. There’s a sign above the door. Black with letters in peeling gold paint that say JW’s Cocktail Bar and underneath it Dimensionally Transcendental food and drink. Established 2323. There’s also a blackboard bolted to the wall next to the door. No mention of specials, or discounts or forthcoming events. It just says Your local bar wherever you are ~ Caterers to the Big Bang.

Inside there is always music. Sometimes it’s karaoke, sometimes it’s a band but mostly it’s a jukebox. Well, you assume it’s a jukebox. People claim to have seen it and even to have selected tunes but you don’t know where it is. It must be huge because it has the the most eclectic selection of music you’ve ever heard. Once you heard a Johnny Cash cover of Ace of Spades that you tried to buy later but that doesn’t seem to exist.

So join me there for a quiet pint and some people watching. I’ll be in the room with the knackered red leather booths. You know, the one with the piano. No not the electric piano, the upright chained to the wall with the warning signs and the fake blood stains. Well I hope they’re fake.

Looking ahead

I’ve been thinking about the best way for me to use this blog to tell my stories as well as using it to talk about the process of making them. I have thought about putting excerpts from my work up here but that feels a little like cheating. At the moment anything I put up here would be a work in progress rather than the finished article and that smacks of short changing my loyal readers.

But then I realised that I have a dimensionally transcendental pub in my stories and that means that anyone, including me can go there for a quiet pint. So I could nip in for a chat with my characters. I could interview them.

Or would that be weird? Would you rather read about crime and dark deeds than terrible pub banter?

Also be on the lookout for Zeppelins. I feel another forecast coming on.

Updates: pain, writing, pitching, querying

Keeping you all up to date on the things that I’m doing.

Pain

I’m continuing to experiment with vaping CBD oil for pain management. I’ve had two problems. The disposable vape pen I was using started to leak and I’ve had a major pain flare up.

Fortunately CBDlife* dealt with my complaint in a speedy fashion. I was going to buy a reusable vape pen anyway and they offered me a free oil cartridge as a replacement for the leaking pen and delivered the order the next day.

The pain flare up is a semi-regular thing where I get a muscle spasm in my upper back or neck that spreads to my arm (usually the left one). It’s horrifically painful and requires several days of painkillers, exercise and not using my arm for anything other than the special exercises. The CBD oil does seem to be helping with the pain so that’s something.

Writing

I’ve been working on one of the sequels to the novel I’ve been querying. I’ve now finished draft 1.5 and I’m going back and writing the extra scenes that I’ve realised I need. I reckon I have maybe 20,000 words of extra scenes plus one entirely new character that needs to be added.

Pitching

My friend,Vanessa Robertson, has persuaded me to enter the pitch perfect competition at Bloody Scotland. I’ve been working on a 100 word pitch for the ‘finished’** novel. There’s a part of me that thinks it’s a bad idea because I can’t stick to a single genre and Bloody Scotland is for crime writing. She pointed out that I have nothing to lose and that my novel does have crime in it.

Querying

Querying has stalled because most agents are on holiday. However I do have my sights on two agents that I intend to query in the autumn. Both are as a result of personal recommendations.

I also recently got some idea of how steep the mountain ahead of me is. Vanessa was recently offered representation by an agent and she told me what the numbers are like. In a single year her agent will receive thousands but take on only a handful of new clients.

Can someone remind me why I ever thought writing was a good idea?

 

*If you use that link to buy stuff I will get a percentage back as store credit. 

**I’ve decided to start calling the novel ‘finished’ because it can’t really be finished until it’s ready to be published. It’s currently as finished as I can get it without help from someone who knows more about editing than me.