Saturday, July 30, 2011

An Insider's Look

It’s confession time.

For quite a while I didn’t talk about being a writer, and not just because in many regards it’s a solitary pursuit. First, I’m not published, and there are some who’d dismiss me as a poser at that point. Second, it takes a long time to create a novel from start to finish. And once you do, the process has only begun. It goes something like this:

1) Write the Masterpiece. It takes a long time. For most people at least a year if they’re good at it. For many, up to ten years.

2) Have the Masterpiece critiqued. I call this “unleashing the hounds.” This is where you straighten your spine and let several trusted critique partners have at your ‘baby’ because they’ll tell you the truth. They’ll go to work pointing out all the plot holes and narrative slumps, and scene/sequel issues, and character arcs, and—my personal weak area—goals, motivations and conflicts. Now the story is so much tighter and is starting to look more like a real story.

3) Rewrite the Masterpiece. Now you have to go back and rewrite most of the book at least once. Most likely several times, at least some sections of it. My first book was gutted and rewritten 7,359 times. I counted. But it’s so much better for it and I don’t regret the blood, sweat and tears.

4) Pitch the finished Masterpiece. Hopefully you’ve been scouting the industry for a while now and have a good feel for who would be a good fit for your project. You take courses and read writing blogs and learn about different agents. You write a synopsis (one page summary of your entire book). That alone can take several weeks. You poke and prod and tweak those first three chapters of your book until they SING, because they’re your one shot. That’s all an agent is going to look at to make his/her decision. If you’re blessed, the agent will love it and request the full manuscript.

5) Wait. Wait for so long you wonder if you really did hit ‘send’ on that email query. While you wait you start working on your next Masterpiece. Eventually the rejections come. You soldier on with book 2, trying not to let the rejections of your Masterpiece rattle you. Eventually you land an agent. Maybe the agent wants substantial edits. Now you have to rewrite some more. (see point 3) and resubmit.

6) Agent starts shopping the Masterpiece. This takes even longer. Months and months as the agent tries to prove to a publishing house editor that your project is just perfect for them.

7) Wait some more. And work harder to learn everything you can about the craft of writing. You continue to go to conferences to make connections with industry professionals and talk to editors about your writing projects. You continue to write, you read everything you can in your genre (and outside your genre), and you wait.

And that’s where I am right now.

It requires more patience than I ever imagined. It requires being okay with the process not the end point, something I’m not very good at.

Here's an interesting thing I learned not too long ago: when the Israelites escaped Egypt and headed to the Red Sea they walked right up to it and then had to WAIT until God moved. I had never picked up on that part before. God didn’t part the waters as the people headed that way. They got to the edge of the Red Sea first, and took a good long gander at that vast expanse of oceanfront. With the Egyptians (interestingly enough a symbol of the world and our struggles against the flesh) coming right up behind the Israelites in a less-than-friendly manner, God made them wait right there on the brink. They couldn’t go forward and they couldn’t go back.

One might say, stuck.

God drove them to the threshold and made them wait. They had to exist in liminal space, the place between what was and what will be.

Like taking a step of faith . . . except without the step-taking part.

Waiting. Being. Resting in the knowledge that He’s got you right where He wants you.

“I’m going to show the courage not to retreat back to what was and I’m going to be patient not to jump into what I think ought to be, but I'm going to stand in liminal space. I am going to trust that as I stand on the threshold it is pregnant with the possibilities of God.” –David Jensen

It’s hard, standing on the edge and looking out over the possibilities, trying to be OK with the “spaces in between” that sometimes feel heavy enough to crush you. I’m trying to be at peace on the threshold, trying to stay at peace as I wait on the cusp of this writing adventure. Because I don’t have a clue about this wild ride God is taking me on.

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Identity Crisis

What’s in a name?

A whole lot, as it turns out.

I’ve had an identity crisis that has resulted in the need to create an alter ego. A pen name. A pseudonym. It’s so pretentious-sounding I think I threw up in my throat a little just now.

But let me back up a minute and explain.

I’m a writer. Words are important to me. I’ve always tried to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. But it wasn’t until recently that I realized just how much value I placed on a few strung-together letters. Especially when those letters constitute my last name. There’s a whole lot of me invested in them, if you catch what I’m saying.

Anyway, when this writing thing started turning into something serious, I figured I’d better check to see about whether the domain for my name was available. It was not. I didn’t look any further into it, naturally, because I am an idiot.

Actually, I didn’t look any further into it because naturally I assumed I’d just add my middle initial. Countless people have to do it to differentiate themselves from others with the same first/last combo. And I figured if absolute worst came to worst, I’d make a fake middle initial and I’d be set, right?


Obviously not, otherwise you’d be somewhere else that shall remain unnamed, not here.

But in Emilyville nothing is normal.

Turns out the Other Emily-With-My-Married-Name is a writer as well. So several writers who are very smart at marketing and platform-building told me, “You need to consider a pen name.”

Being not very smart and feeling rather touchy about the whole name thing, I said, “Readers know the difference between romance genres. No one would accidentally buy one of the Other Emily’s books thinking they were buying one of my humorous contemporary romances!”

. . . that was until I had TWO people in TWO different writers groups get all aflutter when they thought I was the Other Emily.

In the first instance, I went in to post a quick question one day and got this lengthy, raving introduction about ‘how lucky we are here at [this writers’ loop] to have [the Other Emily] here with us today!!!!!!!!! As most of you are well aware she’s written 825,987,347 books!!!!!!!! and is considered an expert in the Regency time period!!!!!!!!! And we’re just sooooo lucky to have you with us!!!!!!!!!!’


So I broke down and went with a pen name.

You know the worst part? No one ever did get around to answering my question.