Friday, April 10, 2015

The Dull Ache ... and Something Else ...

Of my readers who are also writers, a question: has any one of you who is going or has gone the querying route to publication ever received a request for pages or a full more than a week after an initial query? I never have.

It’s been a few weeks since my last query – and so, regardless of all those agents’ timelines now commonly stretching to three months for theoretical viability (“will try to respond within” or “if you don’t hear within twelve weeks, no means no”) – I essentially view EVERY submission I’ve put out there as a done and dead deal.

Which is why this contemplation that Ax is not a viable product right now is my ever-growing expectation.

It’s a good novel, The Ax and the Vase. Of that I have no question. But a novel and a product are two different things; and the publishing industry is a business in need of PRODUCTS. To sell. I can polish a piece of gold till it shines (and it does) but if the kind of bauble it is is out of style, it’s out of style no matter how gleaming.

So I have this precious thing *I* still find beautiful, and which can be appreciated by many – but not a *market* … and so, increasingly, I find myself pushing it less, and focusing on another piece, not even close to ready to polish yet. Still in the making.

It’s difficult not to think of the years I have invested in Ax. We all know, I’m a Thoughtkiller, not shy nor squeamish about “killing my darlings” and open to professional feedback to make my work the best it can be.

Even so. Abandoning something I’ve worked on so long, putting it away as a “maybe once I sell the next one, this one may follow another year” – or, heart-crunchingly, putting it away with the possibility it will never sell at all …

That is painful.

I once married a man I knew was A Good Man. I knew those were thin on the ground, and I recognized (and still do) so much that is fine and good and worthy and fun and loveable. Beloved Ex was, and is, a marvelous property, and the fact he’s not with someone even still kind of kills me. He’s a catch, and there are so many women who deserve the heart that beats in that man.

And I loved him. And I married him.

And love is no reason to marry someone. I love him still: and yet, my life is full enough, and fulfilling – even without Beloved Ex participating daily.

You marry someone not because he’s a treasure, nor beautiful, nor fun or sexy or any of the rest of it – but because life, without them, would be *less*.

The point is: I know a good thing when I see it. And I inherited a tendency from my mother: I sometimes grip things because I know they’re precious.

I married a man I truly did love, but a very big part of the marriage was acquisitive. It was nothing on which to build a lifetime, and the mistakes we both made drew blood. We may be friends now. But there were many years we were nothing to each other, and there resides even in our old bond not only the memories, but the damages. I wasn’t the only wounding party. But I know my part was, *in* part: a matter of greed.

Ax is another treasure I know for what it is. I know how good it is, I love it, I MADE it – and that didn’t draw blood exactly, but it occupied years of my life. I can admit, I have been greedy to see it succeed. Greedy.

As life tips past what we call Middle Age (yeah, I look fine and am healthy; yes, people like to think Middle Age lasts into their sixties; but I’m pushing fifty, and frankly don’t expect 100 years – I am decidedly getting past “middle aged”), the prospect of losing *years* of such work as the intimate, intense, and exultant craft as writing …

It’s really kind of heartbreaking.

Losing all that. Wasting it … ? No. Not waste. But not being able to share it.

The loss is giddy enough to make me somewhat sick.

My life is FILLED with good friends, good music, good food, and the two best pets any person could hope to be blessed with. I have a nice home, a spiff car. My mom is near – and, as far as they are, my brother and nieces and their mom are not truly *distant*. There are so many ways now to be with those we are not near to. My paying job is constantly fulfilling, and I honestly love it, and its people. There is so much to be grateful for.


Writing Ax has, as I suspect any fool can see, has been a balm to me through the years Mr. X has lived half a world away. I’ve hated having no partner. But I’ve had this thing – this “second” job – this work I have poured my heart and mind int. This work which has returned the favor by expanding my life itself, by making even fuller a blessed existence which was more than I ever should have dared to ask in the first place, and by teaching me so much more than its business and process.

It’s also been, in some way – both a tribute to my grandma and my dad. Dad, because he missed my writing it. Because he never knew I would make such a thing as this great book. Because, honestly, I think he’d have really LIKED it. And my grandma because … I am her namesake.

If I’d not been The Louise of my generation – there would have been no Clovis. A reverse etymological progression.

The prospect of losing this almost-memorial effort, this thing I have done, which has sustained and enriched so much of my wee and paltry little life …

It’s really kind of heartbreaking.

And yet …

And yet.

There is the WIP.

The energy, and the transportive experience of writing – of experiencing creation first in the learning/exploration/discovery of research and then in experiencing *what it is* to CREATE something. To *make* something, and know it both for your own and for the inspiration that it is. To understand that it is possible to both bleed a thing, and still somehow see it as an object so nearly-miraculous that to claim it for your own is almost hubris.

To write.

The bouyant power of … making … of creativity – that elemental, ineffable thing that comes from within but is sparked with something so much more than we are in and  of ourselves.

It is … compensation.

There is no art without pain, they say.

But, Christ Lord. I have to believe: it’s worth it


Colin Smith said...

No, I don't think I've ever received a request for pages (partial or full) more than a few weeks after querying. But it could happen if the agent is way behind on queries. I've read of other writers who have.

And don't forget, there's always non-traditional publishing. If, even when you get an agent, there isn't a publisher willing to take Ax, you could always self-publish.

Don't give up on it yet, Diane! :)

DLM said...

Colin, thank you.

Self-pubbing ... I have a lot of stamina, but I am very sure it's not the right kind for self-pub. One of my best writing friends, Leila Gaskin, has gone that route, and I just would not begin to live up to the demands. Not that agent/publisher is easy street, but it's much more down *my* street. :)

Colin Smith said...

There is also the possibility that a savvy agent could guide you along the self-pub path, so it's not quite going it on your own. It's another option, and that's one of the cool things about the brave new world of publishing we're in at the moment. Options. A novel doesn't have to die because one path didn't work.

Lilly Faye said...

Hello, Diane. Thanks for mentioning me in one of your prior posts!

I'm writing to urge you not to give up on the book of your heart. It may not be the first manuscript you sell, but that doesn't mean it won't be published some day.

Plenty of successful authors find initial success with their second or third manuscript, then go on to sell the first one they wrote.

Keep writing and querying. Don't quit one query shy of success.

Wishing you much success,
Lilly Faye Poodle

DLM said...

Lilly Faye Poodle, thank you! Penelope Pup says hi. :)

The WIP is actually very much related to The Ax and the Vase, so maybe someday it could be a prequel. But right now, I really don't think it's sellable (I shudder to count them, but ... yeah, I really don't know if there are any agents *left* to query!).

Concentrating on the WIP presently, and not really looking, but if I did find some new resource to find agents to query, certainly I'd use it. :)

TCW said...

Some agents are slow to come back.

It can be worth contacting independent publishers directly.

I am happy to discuss my experience of agents and small publishers, but not publicly. I have suggested before that you email or Facebook message me. I do understand that you want your privacy but there's a limit to how much I'm going to open up on a public forum.

DLM said...

Hello, Tom! I thought we'd tried at some point; will DM you my email address at Twitter. :) (I'm not on FB.)

DLM said...

... or maybe not? I thought I followed you on Twitter, but not finding you now. Shoot.

Lilly Faye said...

Have you combed through Agent Query ( ) ? It is a free and reputable resource.

Don't give up!
Best of luck,
Lilly Faye Poodle

DLM said...

Oh my yes, I beat AQ to death long since. As well as quite a number of other resources, including new agent listings, which of course often take you to agencies you've researched already, but it's worth it.

When I say I don't think there are any left to look at, it's no because I queried a couple dozen and quit. :) I've researched at least hundreds, and shudder to even count how many I've actually queried.

Of course, there are thousands of agents. The problem is, the number of those who are interested in adult, non-romance, non-Tudor, non-Regency/American/20th century or what have you historical is much, MUCH smaller.

AQ was perhaps my best resource, but one among many. Really not sure where to turn anymore.

Those agents who did pay significant attention to the MS were remarkable and not small potatoes. That sustained me for a long time.

But NOBODY'S buying, so to speak. And the exponential, very clear growth in interest in diversity (while it does offer even more hope to the WIP, which I know was already a hotter debut property - even though it's something of a sequel) has been telling me that Ax, a novel about the ultimate white dude with power really, is losing, not gaining, relevance right now.

It's a hell of a good novel. I don't really apologize for it. but the more I read about the industry, the more I THINK I understand why it's not necessarily a good product.

Like I say, if I find more resources, another great agent who's looking at something other than books for people significantly lower than my age demographic, I'll certainly query. But I don't know where to look anymore! :)

Donnaeve said...

Hi Diane, a day late and a dollar short on commenting.

I found your post and the feelings you poured into it quite elegant. It made me want to reach through my laptop and give you a big hug. I'm happy to hear you've pushed through to work on a new "thing." What I've learned, if I've learned NOTHING ELSE in this writing world is a new thing can give you new hope. Just like a new relationship can wipe away some of the pain of a lost love.

I followed your blog here, but for some reason I didn't get an email when you posted - will have to check my settings on WP. And I'll close by saying, if what you put down on paper in your work is anything like what you write here, you've already succeeded IMO, and now, it's just a matter of finding the right story that will have someone clamoring for more.

DLM said...

Hello, Donna! And there is NO such thing as "too late" round here at the blog. :) I'm so happy when *anyone* comments - and especially so when the Reiders come by. And this post certainly seems to have struck a chord; I'm immensely grateful for the encouragement of all of you whom I so respect and enjoy.

A word Our Host at our little community uses sometimes has come up again: fallow. I'm not *quitting* on Ax - I just can't. Yet I don't seem to have exactly a freeway's path in terms of progressing with it. So I'll take steps when I find them - and otherwise work on the WIP.

The WIP is very much born of Ax, but though it shares a character or two and a scene in common, it is entirely standalone and has never in my mind (and, I hope, in eventual practice) been a sequel. They are almost jarringly unalike, in fact; the one a first-person telling of the story of ambition, power, and the occasional bloodbath - and the other a dip into an entirely different set of lives, which is beginning to swim deeper than I knew it was going to (so exciting).

They're so different I have to tell myself the variety is a good indication of my limberness and versatility! (Rather than an unmarketably unwieldy scatterbrain ...)

I really do need to shut up.

Thank you so much. You and Colin and the irresistible LFP, and most of all Tom, who has taken the time to write to me personally, which is so appreciated.