A light bulb went off in my head as I was reading the 2017 Literary Guide to Agents. I identified the feeling in my stomach as the same overwhelming anxiety I felt when I was a 17 year old applying to colleges. First, choosing an agent is like choosing a college. I suspect the prestigious agencies look only at the proven. Not to say if I'm not a proven quantity, I won't apply. I applied to Stanford at 17 and was turned down. Turned out University of Pacific was a better placement for me. Hope I'll find a "Pacific" for an agent.
The next step is writing a query letter and a synopsis to "sell" Invisible Injuries. This process is so similar to writing an essay to impress, I shudder. I knew how to write a personal essay, and yet I freeze trying to write a query letter and proper summation of the book. I was on the other side of grading for too long. I sympathize with agents' feelings when they receive unsolicited manuscripts from hopeful authors. That sympathy leads me to hope brevity is the answer. I tell myself, don't brag, don't drone on and on, be concise. Hopefully, the first two chapters of the manuscript will be good enough to attract someone to take a chance on the unproven.
One huge difference between 17 and 80 is when I'm too overwhelmed, I can stop, pour a nice glass of Chardonnay, sit on the deck and relax.
Next installment in the process of publishing was copyright, or so I thought. I started with the Library of Congress. Once again, the amount of reading required to know what to do is amazing. I found out that once a book is in complete form, it is my intellectual property. Whoa! A Bit overwhelming and kind of an ego trip. After two attempts, I found the online form to fill out. More reading. There is a visual tutorial to help, but it really burst my "intellectual property" into a short lived ego trip. Started filling the form out only to have to go back to reading what each line meant. As Katie and I wrote the book together, I had to figure out if we were anonymous or pseudonymous. We are pseudo since I am the M and Katie is the K of MK Eddleman. I'm exhausted and I'm only on line two. What tuckered me out was trying to figure out if that meant we owed a single fee or a double fee so I quit for the day. The patent office is trying. At least they ask for feedback unlike many institutions. I suggest every head of company, university, public office etc. fill out forms, buy products, sit in coach seats for 8 hours (that's directed at airline CEO's) and try to get through to a person on the phone. Whoops, I just fell off my soap box. Bye for today
Invisible Injuries awaits an agent. People have read it, critiqued it, suggested improvements, corrected grammar and errors, and generally helped make it the best it can be. Now starts the process of trying to find someone who cares enough about the characters and the mystery to want to represent it. I thought it might be interesting if the blog describes the experience of how to or not to get a book published. First, Katie and I researched a plethora of "how to" articles - how to find an agent, how to write a cover letter, what's the difference between cover letter and letter of enquiry (BTW, enquiry means to ask a question, inquiry means to formally investigate), what type of mystery we had written. Our choices were capers, crime, whodunit, Pasitische, urban fantasy, steampunk, cozy, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, police procedural, suspense, thriller and true crime. I had to look up every one of them to understand the distinctions. Turns out Invisible Injuries is a police procedural mystery. Who knew!
After the research, finding agents who accept unsolicited manuscripts is another journey into testing one's tenacity. I went to the websites of some of my favorite writers to look for answers. Louise Penny was most helpful except she threw in a new road block. Her first book was discovered when she entered and earned top ranking in a national writing contest. Writing contest??? Holy Moly. Never thought of that, so a new search started. Hundreds of them but the big problem is which are legitimate and which are simply out to get the writer to spend money.
Are you beginning to understand why so many writers are self-publishing? If so, stay tuned in for the continuing saga of MK and the search for a book publisher.
Expectations of perfection have ruined more events for me than I can count. The perfect prom. The perfect mate. The perfect family. The perfect Christmas. I'm reminded of the story of the wealthy man who was looking for the perfect woman. He searched the world over. Dated constantly. He finally found her. She was perfect in every way. Except, she was looking for the perfect man. In actuality, perfection is rare, fleeting and unexpected. So, back to expectations. I have finally learned to let go of expectations and try to enjoy what comes, both good and not so good. It's only taken 80 years.
Does my age have anything to do with not being able to wait anymore? Or do we live in an age of instant gratification, and I've fallen into step? I do hear myself quip, "I don't have enough time left to wait." I was saying that ten years ago. Even titled our first book No Time to Wait. But here I sit writing as I wait for the date to have new cabinets for my bathroom installed, for the opportunity to submit the new book to some agents and for feedback from a police friend whether references to codes and procedure are right. Waiting has much to do with patience; ahhh, perhaps that's the problem. Do you find yourself impatient when someone doesn't answer your text right away? Or you have to press one, then four, and finally zero to speak to someone on the phone? I guess we're not too different.
Recently I listened to a Wait, Wait podcast featuring Nora Roberts. She writes romance novels as Roberts and mysteries as JD Robb. To say she is a prolific writer would be an understatement. When asked how she does it, she said writing is a habit. I started to think about habits. Almost everything I do is the result of habit. It is my comfort zone. Even my behavior is habit. With one group of friends I'm funny; with another I'm serious and intellectual; with another I'm quiet - all habit. When writing a book, I am so much in the habit of writing everyday, when I finish, I feel as though something is missing - empty, at a loss, searching. How do I fill the void. Either start writing again or find another habit. Are you the same way?
When I make art, I have to keep reminding myself not to be afraid, especially of making mistakes. I constantly tell myself to let go: let go of fear, let go of what other people think, let go of expectations. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn't. When it works, I feel calm, relaxed, fulfilled. When it doesn't, I feel anxious, frustrated and incomplete. To make a piece of art work, I cannot hold onto parts that are precious to me, parts I worked on for hours. I've also learned that occasionally what I thought was a mistake turned out to be a fortuitous moment. Writing is exactly the same, but I have to apply what I know from painting/sculpture to act of making stories. Writing is simply another form of art.
I haven't posted for a week because of a major crisis. Last week, I was rewriting in No Need to Wait... When I change a chapter, I create a new document so that I can cut, paste, rewrite, amend, change, add, subtract, edit, fix, arrange, and revise to my heart's content. Once I settle on the new version of a chapter, I cut it and paste it into the original work. Feel the foreshadowing?
I selected "all" in the main document, added the new chapter and hit save. I had an inkling I had done something wrong when the process, which is usual instantaneous, took about 30 seconds. Indeed, I had mistakenly selected the whole book, not the chapter. I lost everything, including all the revisions I had done in the past two weeks, but the one revised chapter I had just completed. Did you hear the scream? If you'd been listening, you would have.
I thought of Maxine Kingston. The story I heard was she had finished a manuscript, printed it off, and readied it to mail to her publisher. She left the new born book on her desk, safely wrapped in a mailer and went out for a while. The Oakland fire broke out. I'm sure she tried to get back to her house, but the fire department wouldn't allow it. She wasn't able to return to rescue her book or the computer (these were not the days of the cloud). She lost everything. I can't imagine what she felt.
Anyway, I know all you computer savvy people would have known how to recover. I didn't. Instead, I went back to the most recent copy I had and started a piecemeal revision. It's back together. but I am mentally exhausted. I've sent it off to Katie to do her magic.
Every time I've written before, I've tried to make the sentence structure perfect. I wrote in complete sentences with proper grammar, punctuation and spelling. In No Need to Wait,
I had to keep telling myself using slang, fragments, unsupported "it" and "there" was okay. Breaking rules was a struggle for me. The English teacher in me cringed with every fragment I wrote. Slowly, I realized fiction is not an essay, and an essay does make good fiction.
The next big hurdle was not using swear words. But, a cozy mystery is cozy not "cursed." The difficulty was not allowing the men to swear on a golf course It seemed unnatural, but either I found a way or Katie did. I suspect Katie had less difficulty than I did. I tend to have a potty mouth.
I'll write about more hurdles as I think about them. Thanks for reading.
Okay, all you bloggers out there who read daily or write daily, I'm a 78 year old aspiring writer who doesn't understand the blog world. That said, I'm jumping right in and trying. I'm nervous, intimidated, and afraid no one will want to read what I have to say. Maybe I shouldn't have said anything about age. Too revealing and too off-putting. Who cares?! My daughter Katie and I have written what is called a cozy mystery. It started with the idea that all movies and books today seem to be about older people with Alzheimer's. Yes, there's a lot of dementia out there. My husband died of it. But most of the older people I know are vibrant, funny, active, courageous and giving. Granted, repetitive stories seem to slip from our lips. I've seen young people roll their eyes. And sometimes we ramble... am I now? Anyway, I decided to write something that showed older people in a different light. I wrote a few chapters, sent if off to Katie, she liked it, suggested a few changes, and a collaboration was started.