Je ne parle pas le francais…..

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When it comes to making decisions, I like to take my time to weigh all my options.  I am not a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of person so I choose to give a great deal of thought to the choices I make.  Last year, choosing to suspend my satellite subscription was the best choice I have made in a long time because it resulted in me being able to focus on my writing and finish my first novel.

This year, I wanted that ‘lightning in a bottle’ experience again so I contacted my satellite provider and arranged to have my service disrupted on the 9th of February.  I counted on that move to encourage my creativity and focus my attention on my new book.  I hadn’t counted on the Olympics beginning just as my TV programming was ending.

There are a handful of free channels still available on my Bell network and one of those channels is covering the Olympics.  Sadly that channel is a French station and, although I excelled in my Grade 10 French class, there is no mention of the little dog Pitou or finding a sweater because it is cold.  If, at some point, either of the phrases, “Il fait froid aujourd’hui, ou est mon chandail” or “Ou est Pitou?” should ever be uttered, those words will be some of the very few I shall have understood during the entire 2018 Winter Olympics.

Thankfully, emotion is a universal language.  While I cannot understand most of what the commentators are saying during the games, I can comprehend what the athletes are feeling after they have crossed their finish lines or completed their programs.  Exhilaration and anguish do not need words to be conveyed.  On Monday night, I watched Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their Free Skate in the Ice Dance Competition.  Once their program was completed, I muted my TV and simply watched their body language and their smiles.  I didn’t need anyone telling me how they felt because I could feel it just watching them.

Sometimes taking the rhetoric out of a situation allows us to truly perceive the emotion as it is meant to be conveyed – naturally, organically and wordlessly.  Je pense, ne pas etre capable d’entendre les mots m’a fait comprende encore plus.


 

 

Can you describe yourself in one sentence?

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I have learned a great deal about the writing world as I have begun to emerge myself in my quest to find a literary agent.  Each agent has unique specifications for sending a query and a fledgling author is bound to follow those guidelines or run the risk of having their submission thrown into the slush pile.

Many agents follow a similar model for submissions so it becomes a less daunting task as time goes on, but then you get the agent who asks you to sum up your manuscript in one sentence.  For me, that is a very arduous task.  There are so many twists and turns to my story that it is extremely difficult to craft one sentence that can convey every nuance of the story.

Imagine that you are in a job interview and you are asked to describe yourself in one sentence.  Can you do it?  Or are there so many different facets to you that coming up with one line to describe all of those things is impossible?

While I gave my all to put together a sentence that did its best to describe my novel, I know I did not do my story justice.  My book requires much more than just one sentence to fully illustrate its depth.  After I wrote that sentence, I felt like a test car that had crashed into the wall before reaching its maximum speed.

I have been more careful in selecting agents who are willing to allow me to give much more insight into my novel than just one sentence.  Even sending the first three chapters does not truly allow the people who hold my future in their hands enough material to see what the story truly has in store for them.  I can only  hope that they see enough bait to make them swim closer to the hook and take a full bite.  I can promise, they will be reeled in if they take the chance!

When the voices wake you

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I’m hearing the voices again, the voices that rouse me from sleep so I can tell their story.  Those voices have been quelled since I finished writing my first book but, now that I am forging my way into my second book, a new ensemble of characters is alive and well and they are feeling extremely vocal.

I woke up at 3:30 in the morning with a simple line that seemed to be rooted in my brain.  That line wanted so desperately to be recorded so, before I was able to drift into my slumber once again, I had to blindly feel around in the dark for my cell phone and find the voice memo app that has been my late night savior.  In a voice that sounded more like Morgan Freeman narrating a television commercial, I spoke a few words into the microphone and fell back into a deep sleep.

When I woke up again at 7:30, I knew I had recorded something but couldn’t remember what the words were.  I played them back and was overwhelmed with the urge to write.  I was almost late for work yesterday because the flow of words was substantial enough to warrant an apology to my bosses for my tardiness.  Thankfully, they understand my insatiable urge to listen to those voices and they accept my erratic behavior when it comes to my creativity.

The words that I recited in the wee hours of morning could possibly help shape the antagonist in my newest creation.  Karl is slowly becoming a character I want to embrace but a character I have become slightly afraid to welcome into my reality.  I can only hope, for both our sakes, that I can tell his story and give it the entertainment value he is seeking without becoming afraid of him in the process.

 

 

Handling rejection like a boss!

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I am a people pleaser.  I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb asking the medical staff if there was anything I could do for them.  I invariably want to go out of my way to make sure everyone is happy, but my ambitious goal is not necessarily always an attainable goal.  In the words of John Lydgate, later adapted by President Lincoln, ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time’.

As a young writer, back in my grade school days, I was afraid to let people read my poetry for fear they would not like it.  That same phobia applied to my poems and short stories through high school and college.  Writing, for me, is the biggest part of myself and I used to feel that if people didn’t like my writing, they were somehow rejecting ME.  It wasn’t until I began the process of seeking an agent or a publisher that I began to truly understand how rejection makes us stronger.

I received my most recent rejection last night.  It was a curt line that simply said, “Thanks for submitting, but I’m afraid this one isn’t for us. ”  Instead of feeling unsettled by such a quick and negative response, the thought in my head was more of understanding that my book was not a true fit for their collection.  I wasn’t sad.  I was merely determined to continue the quest to find an agent that would best be suited for ME and not the other way around.

Writing a book is not for the faint of heart.  Hemingway said it best when he quipped, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  My blood is now the ink on the pages that I crafted.  My skin is much thicker now than it was and I am more than prepared to deal with my overwhelming share of the writing world’s brush-off.  Those abrupt dismissals are the constant in the ‘writer seeking publishing’ equation and I am prepared to rework the problem until I come up with an acceptable answer.

To bastardize Sally Field’s 1985 Oscar acceptance speech, “They don’t like me. Right now, they don’t like me.”   And I’m okay with that because, someday, that will change.

Putting yourself out there

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Trying to find a literary agent is much like putting yourself on an internet dating site.  You spend a great deal of time stressing over how to describe yourself and your work without sounding obnoxiously confident but you have to nail that very fine line between determination and arrogance without exaggerating either of those things.  Contrary to internet dating, that agent is only looking for one very specific thing and if you don’t have it, they move on.

I have never been comfortable being the person to profess my strengths.  I can write for days about subjects that have nothing to do with me, but words vanish as soon as I have to point them in my direction.  I am extremely happy with the final product of my first novel and so are my Beta readers.  I want nothing more than to find an agent or a publisher who believes in it as much as I do.  But that process is much more daunting than staring at that first blank page, knowing that you have to string together over 80,000 words in an articulate and entertaining way.

Agents and publishers who are not interested in your work will not dangle bait in the water to see if you bite.  They are more than willing to move on to the next pond because there are so many fish and so few anglers.  An agent can’t even cast a line into a body of water without a frenzy of fish ready to fight to the death for the rare hook that shines in the distance.  In a sea of Piranhas, I feel like I am the poor carrion waiting at the bottom to be consumed by the predatory beasts with the sharper teeth.

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But there is always hope.  I know that one day, those Piranhas will have distracted themselves by something very shiny and I will be in the right spot in the pond at the right time, staring at a hook that was meant to catch only me.  And like every angler who is waiting for the “big one” knows, it’s all about patience.

 

Crouching Author, Hidden Fear

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When you give yourself so fully to something you are committed to, anything you are committed to, there is always the hidden fear that your efforts may not be received as well as you would have hoped.  From the moment you send that something into the great unknown, the fear is multiplied exponentially and your hope for a good outcome is sabotaged by the nagging apprehension that continually plagues you.  Self-doubt is a vicious curse.

But then you begin to receive feedback, really positive feedback, and your doubts slowly abate.  You gradually allow yourself a few moments to revel in the glory of the true affirmation of your talent and you think that your lack of conviction stems from your inability to believe that your commitment to your craft is worthy of praise.

I am that crouching author.  I have the hidden fear and the regrettable ability to doubt myself when it comes to my writing.  Only recently have I begun to believe more in my talent because people have responded so well to my writing and have been very encouraging.  It is one thing to write.  It is truly another to have people enjoy what  you write.

I can honestly say, putting myself out there has been a lesson in gaining confidence.  Somewhere under the veil of hesitation lay a willingness to expose the most natural part of myself, the writer in me, and I have been truly overwhelmed by the affirmations I have received as well as the encouragement to keep writing.  There is much less fear now and so much more belief that I can do this.  I can be a writer.  Wait.  Forget that.  There is no more fear.   I am a writer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three for three

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The term “Beta Readers” is a daunting phrase for fledgling authors.  It means you trust your book to people who don’t know you and won’t be so prone to sugar-coating their review of your work.

My first reader, admittedly, was my nephew.  While he is still a teenager, he is a voracious reader so I knew his opinion of the story would be valuable.  Since I gave him the book in the middle of the summer, his reading was not as fast as his usual pace but he loved the story and he liked the twist at the end.

My second reader was a friend, but a friend who I knew I could count on to be brutally honest about her take on the story, the writing and the characters.  When she handed the pages back to me, they were filled with sticky notes that I was initially afraid to read.  When I finally got the courage to open the pages, her sticky notes were filled with encouraging messages and notes about her excitement to keep reading to see where the story went.  She didn’t want to put the book down.  Her last message had me in tears when she said she was at a loss for what to read next because she enjoyed the book so much.

My third reader is a friend of my second reader.  I have never met her so her opinion was, by far, the most anticipated because she had nothing to gain, or to lose, by telling me her honest opinion of my book.  She enjoyed the intrigue and said my book had all the elements of a good suspense/thriller and she is looking forward to my next book.  For a writer, it doesn’t get much better than that!

After those encouraging words, I followed my pattern from last year and have scheduled the suspension of my satellite service for a six-month period starting a few days after the Superbowl.  Without the mindless distraction of random television shows, I hope to repeat my success from last year and finish book number two while still pounding the internet pavement to see if I can find an interested agent or publisher for book number one.

If ever I needed patience, now is the time.  I will still be looking for a few more Beta Readers in the interim but my confidence in handing over my pages is certainly much higher that it was before.  Most of the fear is gone and has been replaced by hope.  A few positive words can go a long way and I plan on holding those words very close to my heart.