Thursday, May 31, 2012

Still in Love with a Messy Draft

I am four days into an exercise that I am calling Speed Revision. And yes, I'm talking about Safira. I've already queried, but I can't let this book go. So far I've polished 19 out of 40 chapters. And I'm so glad I'm doing this revision because I've found a lot of errors. There are small typos, missing details, and explanations that weren't nearly as fleshed out as they should be. I've added at least 1,000 new words, probably more. All of my descriptions of characters and settings are more detailed than they were before.

To be honest, knowing how many mistakes this draft had when the agent who requested it read it, I'm not entirely surprised he turned it down. I'm also a little relieved that nobody else got it in its previous state. Granted, some requests would be nice, but requests after I finish this round of revisions would be perfect.

I'm still struggling with why I haven't gotten more requests. This book is infinitely better than Mina, for which I got multiple requests, yet it's getting no attention. Is it just bad luck? I read on Nathan Bransford's blog once that if you're not getting requests, no matter what the story, then you've probably written a bad query letter. I've been through my query letter over and over and over again. I've tweaked it here and there. I know it's better than the letter I wrote for my first book.

The answer I keep coming back to is that the book is just too different. It's science fiction, but not hard science fiction, and it's more concerned with female characters and relationships than most sci-fi. Here's a random metaphor for this book: If it were a piece of fabric, the warp would be the characters and the weft would be the Aquatic Ape Theory.

Despite blogging about Safira for a long time now, I don't think I've ever talked about the book's premise, which is an anthropological hypothesis called the Aquatic Ape Theory. I would give you the basics here, but Elaine Morgan does it so much better in this TED talk than I ever could, so watch this:

video

Monday, May 28, 2012

Oh, Florence.

"And I am done with my graceless heart
so tonight I'm gonna cut it and then restart
'Cause I like to keep my issues drawn
It's always darkest before the dawn"

-Shake it Out, Florence + the Machine

I have this - among other quotes - written in big letters and taped to the wall next to my desk.

Helpful Discovery

Even Better Makeup SPF 15
Who'd a thunk?
I made a very useful discovery today! I was revising my MS and I wanted a good color to describe a character's skin tone. I didn't want to use a food word, and after the Hunger Games debacle - in which people had it out over Katniss's race - I certainly don't want to use olive.

So I went to my favorite make-up company's website and looked at the colors they use to name foundation. It was perfect! Tons of hues with accurate colors to describe them! I can't believe nobody's talked about this before!

Any make-up company would work, but here is the exact chart I used.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Request Denied

So far, only one agent has asked to read my full MS. Today he declined. He didn't give any concrete reasons for the rejection, just said he didn't fall in love with it. He did say there was a lot there to like, but that could very well just be a nice form letter.

The rejection wasn't heart-breaking. In fact, it wasn't even surprising. But what does that mean? That I've gotten used to rejection, or that I didn't really want this agent to make an offer? I have no conscious reason to not like this guy. Last time I queried, I began to feel relief when I got rejections because I realized as time passed that I didn't really love my own novel. I had begun to write Safira and realized how much better it was, and I knew I didn't want Mina to be my debut. However, I don't think that's what's happening this time.

Art by Annie Stegg Illustration
I really do love this story. Today I found a print of a painting on Etsy that reminded me of Safira. I ordered copies of it for some of my beta readers. With a few changes - eye color, adjustment of another feature - the girl in the painting could actually BE Safira, and I thought of how cool it would be if I could commission such a painting from this artist someday. I didn't feel nearly this much attachment to my previous story or its characters.

I've heard authors talk before about how happy they are when they realize readers care about their characters as much as they do. I never knew how that felt until now. I may have even raised an eyebrow at said authors for caring about fictional people. But the thing is, while writing this story, I lived with these people in my head. They were there all day, all night, all the time. I made up conversations between them in the shower. I had revelations about their motives while I walked my dog. I dreamed about these people. And when I finished my first draft and took a break from the MS for a few days, I felt grief. I really missed them.

The craziest thing is that when I told my mom about these feelings, she totally understood. I expected her to tell me I was nuts. Yesterday I read a tweet by an author who just submitted copy edits for the final novel in her trilogy. She said that grief set in within minutes. I sympathized. At least she knows she'll get to talk about her characters again, though. She'll get to see fans draw pictures of her characters on Deviant Art. How am I going to feel if I fail to find an agent, fail to get a publishing deal, and my characters for all intents and purposes DIE? It'll be worse than death. They'll be forgotten. I don't want to face that kind of grief.

Unfortunately, there's little I can do right now other than wait for another opportunity to present itself. The MS needs a little more copy-editing. But in the face of disappointment, I frankly don't feel like working on a book that nobody wants to read. (Yes, I do realize how abominably whiny that sentence sounds.) Maybe tomorrow. Until then, I'm going to watch episodes of Next Generation on Netflix and regret posting news of that full request on facebook.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ouch.

I'm still working like crazy to finish Safira, get the chapters out to betas, get their feedback and incorporate it into the MS, etc. I was getting so anxious to query that I decided to query a little early.

Sort of. I sent one letter.

You see, as of five minutes ago, I had a top choice agent. Like, WAY top choice, to the point that if they called me, I would answer the phone with, "Yes!" even if they weren't calling to offer rep. When I queried this agent for my Mina, they got back to me within 24 hours, and they only required a query letter. Since their process was so simple, I thought I'd get it out of the way.

I queried yesterday morning. I was a spaz all day and a zombie at night. I was also a spaz all day today. I woke up early this morning and couldn't fall back asleep. I checked email all day. I was pretty sure I would cry if the email came asking for chapters.

But I just got it.

And it didn't.

It was a generic rejection. I didn't realize how much hope I had stored up in the idea of this agent liking my work until it turned out they didn't. I try to stay positive on this blog, but today, this just sucks.