The Journey of a Thousand Miles

I guess it all started back in 2007 for me. I decided I wanted to work on a book. I’d publish it both on my blog, which didn’t have many readers, and on deviantART, which was my primary social network site of the time. When I finished the book, I’d seek publication and fame and fortune would be mine. Rock star status. Naked women oiling themselves just for my amusement. Gold teeth. You get the idea.

Well, I did write the book. And along the way, I learned a whole lot about how that process goes. I met some good, kind and interesting people along the way. Some of them taught me more about writing than I would have imagined possible. When I finally finished that book in the autumn of ’07, I just knew I was ready for the big time.

Turns out, not so much.

See, I didn’t know about things like editing and re-writing and plot and structure. Planning? Yeah, I planned. I planned to finish the book’s first draft and get lottery-rich selling it to adoring fans, that was my plan. What I subsequently learned set me on my heels, and put me on the path toward learning, honing and developing my craft.

So, while doing that, I didn’t worry too much about getting representation and how that happens. I mean, I didn’t even have a fully completed project. So when I got schooled in how to do editing, I started that process. By early 2008, I’d been schooled pretty well in how to copy edit a manuscript and how to do it one chapter at a time. I thought that made me pretty doggone special. I’d also been schooled in the fine art of reading agent blogs and seeing how they want submissions.

imageBut I also got schooled in what happens between “The End” and publication. By the end of 2008 I was something of an expert in the process, including some of the things which go on after the publisher buys into the project and is on its way. But a lot had changed by then. For me, I mean.

See, in late 2007 when I started looking over agent blogs and ciphering through the requirements I had a clear picture in my head of the querying process. Basically, it sucked. Developing a query letter varied widely from one agent to another. Nathan Bransford turned the literary world on its head when he broke onto the scene with his “query me!” offer to all writers, giving them a place to practice and perfect their querying skills. What most of those writers didn’t know, and what Nathan didn’t know, is that no two agents want things exactly the same. The gatekeepers are all subjective. They don’t have the same requirements and the same standards, no matter how much they say they do. It’s just not true.

I remember ranting about it to my wife in frustrated agony, bellowing about how unfair, arbitrary and capricious the entire agent-scam was. Why can’t they simply read a portion of my work and determine whether or not I’m worth representing? Why does my career, my whole dream, hang on how well they like a query letter?! It made no sense to me. I swallowed my anger, my indignation, and kept going on that path because I knew, from an earlier experience, the gatekeepers were the only way to publication and the only way to success. Self-publication wasn’t a good idea and was a very, very poor business model at the time. I’d found that out, thankfully not the hard way. So I knew that wasn’t for me. Not anymore, at least.

2008 brought a lot of changes in my writing. A lot of changes in how I viewed the industry too. I knew just copy editing my work wasn’t enough. I’d lost a ton of my work when a thumb drive failed and took a lot of my hard work with it to the ether-grave. I wept, I gnashed my teeth and I gave up. I even stopped writing for a time, being so gutted about what I’d lost.

I wrote short stories to try and keep myself working, moving. I didn’t feel like getting back to my work in progress (and, in fact, haven’t gotten back to it since May ’08 now). I didn’t feel like re-editing and trying to capture lightning in a bottle a second time (I’d made what I felt a the time were some vast improvements to some sections of the book I finished in ’07). So I just did research on agents and the industry. I read as many editor and agent blogs as I could in a day. I subscribed to author blogs too, hoping for some insight in how to be published.

What I found surprised the heck out of me. I’ll post about that next time.


Copyright 2011 DarcKnyt, All rights reserved


4 thoughts on “The Journey of a Thousand Miles

  1. Nice cliffhanger.

    The whole query process turned me off, which was why I only wrote one before I self published Oasis. It did get a response though… just too late for me to do anything about it.

    I think you jumped the gun on that, but I know you did wait trying to give them a chance. I don’t know how it worked out for you sales-wise, but you could always go back to them with another project, right? And yeah, the query “process” (if you can apply that term to it) sucks a$$, IMO, and any agent who’s NOT using a submission form on their web page is too far behind the times to want to work with anyway. I say standardize it that way and drop the stupid letter-writing contest, which is what they use now.

  2. If only writing could make us lottery-rich! So far I’ve made as much $$ from my writing as I have from your average scratch-n-lose. Not that I’ve tried very hard… 😉

    I’ve earned enough, just on my fiction writing, to be able to buy my family a meal at McDonald’s. 🙂 I’ve not promoted my work very well/hard either, though. Someday! 😉

  3. I found that to be the scariest and most frustrating thing, that your entire writing career and chance for success hangs on one letter and very rarely the words of the actual work in question. Or it’s based on the presumed marketability, which may or may not hit right at the time you query. I’m glad to be going with a small, independent publisher. 🙂 Maybe if it’s successful, I’ll have agents hunting me down.

    It’s not a great system and yet, so many writers I know — not a few, a LOT of them — are VERY defensive of it. Suggest it needs to change, they laugh. Suggest it’s DYING (and it IS), and they get ANGRY and defensive. It’s like you’re attacking their mother or something. They act the same way a devout person will when their religious organization is attacked. Very strange, but then I guess it just shows how much they’ve drunk of the Kool-aid. It really IS a religion in that respect.

    I’m very, very curious to read the query letter for Twilight. Did she mention the sparkly skin?

    I’d love to see it too. I’ve heard she’s not a great writer, so why would anyone take a chance on a query letter by a mediocre writer? and on THAT story?

Hey, what's up? Tell me whatcha think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s