Monday, September 24, 2007

The Oft Beaten Path - part 2

Remember how I said at the beginning that this story was originally intended to be part fictional? It occurred to me that the only really fictional part was my character, the hapless writer being run over by a tourist bus. I will endeavour to avoid such a tragedy and keep that event as fictional as possible.

In the meantime, let’s look at the crooked path a writer needs to travel before reaching their golden gate of paradise [that being the open and welcoming arms of enthusiastic agents and publishers].

I started writing fiction in late 1998. I was writing really bad poetry at the time. Not a lot [thank god] but enough to know that I loved to write. I started on a poem about a woman who was a messenger, of sorts, from the gods. Celtic history was a passion at the time so it had a lot to do with legends from Ireland. After a few A4 size pages of scribble it occurred to me that fiction might be a better option so I switched and started my first “novel”. I was hooked from that point on.

My first novel for publication [yeah, I’m still waiting for the publication bit], was started in late 99 and completed in very early 2000. Since that time, I’ve rewritten, deleted, added, polished, rewritten and rewritten. That novel is why I’m here in Katoomba. Either this retreat will lead to a publishing contract or I stick it in the bottom drawer of my desk and forget about it.

That’s not the only thing I’ve worked on in that time though. I’ve written another novel set in Sydney, a novella set in New Mexico and Colorado, a few short stories and two plays. All of these I have sent to agents and publishers with no luck.

And yet I keep going. I must be a true writer because I’m a bloody idiot who won’t give up on this whole writing journey!

Here’s a brief summary of what I’ve learned along the way.

1. There’s always another writing course you can take to improve your technical skills and knowledge

2. books on writing are prolific and expensive, tell you mostly the same thing and aren’t that helpful in the end

3. published novels are amazing in their variety, especially when it comes to good writing and bad. I’ve seen dozens of books that are complete drivel and yet they’re published and I’m not! Go figure.

4. Do not compare your work to published work. It will only make you feel depressed, frustrated or angry and all of these feelings are not particularly conducive to a great writing experience

5. Plenty of writers, advisor, editors and people who have an opinion on just about everything will tell you that you don’t really need an agent to reach a publisher. Great news! Agents are as hard to lure in as publishers

6. Many of the bigger publishing houses and those who think themselves big state on their websites that they will a) not accept unsolicited manuscripts b) will only work with literary agents

7. Publishers will tell you that they expect queries that grab their interest from the first sentence, are brief yet detailed, filled with marketable promises yet are original. Literary agents will tell you pretty much the same thing

8. Most publishers will not tell you whether you are being sent a form rejection letter because they are truly not interested in your novel or just because your query writing ability sucks

9. If you get a form letter that advises that your work does not fit in with the publisher’s line at this point in time, but, hey, good luck anyway, then they probably didn’t even read your query letter to start with

There’s heaps more but I don’t want to overwhelm you.


Lisa Gates said...

Trish, all this makes me wonder if you just have to sleep with the publisher and get it over with.


Aside from that, I've heard many writers tell how important networking and becoming known to agents and publishers is. Just as many actors will send producers and directors a note when they are in a play or receive an award.

What's your take on that?


Beginnings, Middle and Ends said...

Mmmmm, I have heard that networking is a great tool. Networking would be getting out and about at writing festivals, courses, workshops, launches and anything else a writer can manage. I find online networking about all I can muster at the moment. This is mainly due to the fact that a busy family life doesn't allow for much else and I'm lucky if I can get that in.

One way of "networking" is when asked your occupation, ensure you answer with, "I'm a writer!" People get to know you as "the writer" and, in turn, introduce you as such. Simple!

In regard to sending congratulatory notes, I'd be uncomfortable with sending a note to a complete stranger. However, if I have met or in some way "know" a publisher/agent/other writer, then a note is a great idea.

I have sent notes on occasion, mostly to writers, and received lovely responses in turn.

cheers Lisa