Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Winter of Our Discontent

Early Morning Summertime.
Guy Rose (1867-1925)
Oil on linen canvas.

Yes I know it's winter here and she's much older than I...but I am she.

This is where I am.
Wondering. What to do. Pensive.
In the past year I have sent out few queries. A handful.
The first lot of three got an emphatic not-on-your-life-ever, a maybe-some-other-time, and a request for a partial.

I revised the novel.
I revised the query.
Two fulls requested.
One declined with high praise - really high praise - the other with the bitter suggestion the novel might find representation elsewhere - about the time pigs hit the atmosphere.

So, I write a good query letter.
So, I have to decide whether to continue to query or to drastically revise the novel(s).

The sensible thing, of course, would be to do both.
Have noticed that many of the series-type stories with my kind of heroine are told in the first person.
Those by Kathy Reichs,Laurell Hamilton, Elizabeth Peters, Linda Richards, Nevada Barr: Temperence Brennan, Anita Blake, Vicky Bliss, Madeline Carter, Anna Pigeon.
Maybe that's a clue. Maybe that's the direction. Maybe.

So, here I sit.


Erik Ivan James said...

Consider rewriting the novel in the voice/style you use for the Minor Annals. Just a suggestion.

I love the picture, Bernita. I love you too, friend.

Bernita said...

Thank you, my Dear.
Love you too.

Rowan said...

Nevertheless, high praise is good. Perhaps shop around more 'as is' before doing major rewrites. As a certain stiletto-heeled agent says, if the writing's good, chances are there's someone for it.
I would call it good progress. Then again, I like to be the optimist.
Quest on!

EA Monroe said...

Bernita, I know how you feel. I'm in the middle of a "drastic" rewrite. As Rowan said, keep shopping, and in the meantime, let the brain/idea kettle simmer and write!

Keep the faith, dear lady! One day -- soon! -- we'll all be saying, those other guys had their chance and they blew it big time!

Anonymous said...

"The first lot of three got an emphatic not-on-your-life-ever, a maybe-some-other-time, and a request for a partial."

Request for partial is the first step towards publication and could be considered success. If you were a major league baseball player you'd be batting .333 and signing a contract for about $240 million. Too bad baseball is the only activity in which doing well 25% of the time means you're very good and doing well 33% of the time means you are among the very best.

Ric said...

Blogger was mean to me yesterday - and I had such great farm metaphors that went poof into the great whatever.

I would hestitate much longer before changing the pov on the novel. - like until you get 50 or so rejections. It will take that long to be sure it is a structure problem that keeps them away.

just my two cents.

December Quinn said...

I agree with Ric...and I totally sympathize.

Three (or was it two? orry, I'm a sievebrain today) rejections, especially one with high praise, on your full is nothing. It's certainly two more than we all hope to get...but it's not time to worry yet.

At the same time, as someone getting ready to start editing and querying an urban fantasy in third person, I totally get what you mean. They all seem to be in first, which gets boring to me because they all seem to sound alike. I don't dislike first, but it's not my favorite. Especially for sex scenes, I do dislike strongly first-person sex scenes.

I have thought, though, that if I rewrite it in first it might have a better chance, simply because that seems to be the convention in the genre (it appears to be something of a convention for kick-ass heroines in general, really).

I guess we'll both just keep plugging for the moment.

Jaye Wells said...

Send it back out! You can't change your book based on a couple of rejections. Yes, a lot is in first now, but if you're not feeling it then it will seem contrived. Further, a lot of people HATE first. If your inclination was third, go with it. So, yes, send it back out today.

anna said...

So agree with Ric and December.
I have a novel almost finished in 1st person. I keep thinking perhaps I'll revise to 3rd. HAH!
Love every one of your authors
except Laurell Hamilton - have never tried her. on my b or perhaps even c list is Sue Grafton
she also writes in first but about drives me crazy sometimes with her sentence structure. It seems she can go on for pages with each sentence starting with I.

Bernita said...

You are probably right, Rowan.
But no is no - no matter how sugar-coated.

Maybe, Elixabeth, but I don't hold the animus that they "blew it' just because I didn't fit.

That's right, Anon.
Writing is blood sport, and the odds are much different.

Thank you, Ric.
Sorry we missed them!
You must be kidding about the number 50 though.
Think the writing on the wall for my type of novel is about a third of that.

I know I haven't given it an adequate run-by yet, December, but one wonders about fundamental faults.
It does seem to be a convention, doesn't it?
I agree about sex scenes, too.

Thank you, Jaye!
I can see the attraction and value of first for this type. Then I wonder, as you say, if it has been over-done.

Bernita said...

Well, I'm not going to be one of those who suggest you do it both ways, Anna.
That's a heavy commitment on spec.
One could get very sick of a story by that time.
Different if an agent suggests it, of course.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

First let me say that I'm really jealous that you got a picture to upload. Blogger has been being a booger to me since last night *sigh*!

I say keep pressing on! Getting an acolade means you don't suck! Now keep plugging until you find just the right house for your wonderful work!

I'm working on my proposal package now. I've decided to query for representation first! With all the instruction we got from the christmas crapometer, I'm honing my query!

It gives me a goal for the new year!

Ric said...

I believe Miss Snark says 100. You know how much we love your stuff, one enthusiastic agent out of a hundred shouldn't be too hard to pull off.

For us older folks, that amount of rejection just seems wrong - but the younger ones seem to thrive on it - so, if you want to play.....

raine said...

Also had trouble with blogger yesterday. Bugger.
Also been quite pensive lately, and will be curious to know what you decide to do. I'm about pensed out. *snort!*

Was it possible that the 'high praise' submission might reconsider with reasonable rewrites? Did any of them give you feedback, other than the launching of said pigs?

I know it's cliche, but if you've gotten two requested fulls, it's possible you simply haven't found the right rep? Or, if you could get an opinion from an impartial someone whose opinion you respect, you might be able to make your decision more easily?
Without knowing exactly what was considered 'wrong', I'm not sure I'd consider a complete change of voice.

Bernita said...

Bonnie, I've had to use Firefox to get my pictures uploaded on Blogger for quite awhile now.

The Crapometer, even with factoring in Missd Snark's tastes, was a wonderful object lesson.

You are always generous, Ric.
For straight commercial or literary, I can certainly see wracking them up that high.

Bernita said...

Yesterday, Blogger had a scheduled shut-down that went on and on as is the nature of these beasts, Raine.
For the "nice" rejection, the house had moved to "edgy" stuff, after the MS was requested. Without a specific request for a re-write I wouldn't consider applying again.
The negative was neither a characters or plot connection.Splat.
I'll probably choose the line of least resistance and continue to query.
At least until I hit about 20 nays or so.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Yes, definitely query more, Bernita! Full requests and an enthusiastic response, albeit an ultimate decline, are good things!

There's an agent out there for you. Most definitely. :-)

bunnygirl said...

It sounds like you should keep querying without making any major re-writes yet. You got rejected on the poor book-agency fit, not for poor writing. Therefore the right fit is very likely to be out there somewhere.

Rewriting your whole work with a POV shift would not be a good idea. I tried it once, and it wasn't a pretty picture.

Unless you've got your heart set on a POV change, keep it as is. I have trouble believing 3rd vs 1st person would make the difference between getting published and languishing, if everything else were good.

December Quinn said...

I still don't think it's a fundamental fault, Bernita. Not this early in the game when you've already had two full requests.

And oh yeah, when are we getting another Vicky book? C'MON, Barbara/Elizabeth!

Rick said...

If you've only sent out a few queries and got two fulls requested - and one of those a very near miss, only because the house went to "edgy" - why not just query some more?

Also, have you considered peddling it as fantasy, as well as (presumably) romance? It certainly has fantasy elements, and on the fantasy shelf someone like me might actually stumble across it.

Rowan said...

No is no, I grant you there. But it's so few. Keep it out there! Work on something new, that way either you'll rework it after 20 (50, 100) rejections with a fresh mind, or you'll have something new to shop. Don't give up yet.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Sonya!

No, don't have my heart set on it, Bunny, just wondering. First does allow for more introspection and thus identification with the narrator.

Afraid though, December, that fulls might mean only a good query and a good over-all arc.
Yes! I liked Vicky!

Thank you, Rick.
That's another conundrum. As far as genre goes, I may be the kitchen sink.

Thank you, Rowan. Though at times I've felt "WTF" ( as in " you think you are, idiot?") I think I have to keep slogging.

Candice Gilmer said...

If you're getting high praise for it as is, I wouldn't consider changing it unless you're getting responses that say specifially "We like it but can you do it in a different perspective?"

But I'm also a firm believer in writing the book as you hear it in your head. Sometimes it's first, sometimes third.......... you just have to trust your gut and go for it.

Wait until you have an offer with a request of a major POV overhaul before doing it.

That's my opinion -- and opinions are like belly buttons. Everyone's got one. :)

spyscribbler said...

Those statistics are exceptional, really! Which genre is it?

What if you write the next book and keep querying? Even if you feel like giving up before 50, keep going. Patterns, hopefully, will emerge.

Re-writing into first person is like writing a whole 'nother book. (And it makes a huge mess, commenter above was right!) What about writing a new book in first person and see what happens?

cyn said...

definitely keep submititng, bernita! editing never hurts, but you don't want to polish it to a point where it isn't your true voice any longer. i love your voice from what you share on your site. good luck! i am excited for you!

Bernita said...

That's an encouraging bellybutton though, Candice!
Thank you.

Spy, probably best slotted as romantic suspense/time travel. A projected series involving a myth-buster/forensic consultant.
One complete, one needing revision and the third begun.
Difficult to revise book two, without making a decision on the pov of the first - since I'm not Lee Child.

Bernita said...

Sweet of you, Cyn. Thank you.

Kate Thornton said...

Okay, I may be a dissenting voice here, but I am an avid reader of the authors you mentioned - as well as a couple more of the same ilk who also write with strong heroines and tight crime stories.

I love the first person for these types of character-driven stories because it draws me so completely into the character.

The voice you use for Minor Annals is terrific. But your current work might need the harder edge I am sure you have given it.

Think about first person - maybe re-write a little and see how it feels.

Love and kisses - you're still one of the best writers I know.

MissWrite said...

Not sure novel revision is really at the forefront of necessity yet with so few rejections and with such a spectrum of responses. Like you said, it's obvious you write a good query letter (big ups for that, it's harder than it seems it should be, lol) since you're getting requests for partials and fulls. Most of all though, so few submissions could very well mean you just haven't found that one who'll love it. Now if we were talking 20 or 30 rejections then maybe revision, at least to some degree would be a good idea. In think in this case though you're jumping the gun a bit.

spyscribbler said...

Lee Child! His first person is worlds above his ... er, stilted 3rd person.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Kate!
You indeed see why I am considering the question.
With the exception of Reichs and Peters, I have just encountered these writers for the first time, and the basic similarity of heroines makes me seriously consider the virtues of first person.

You think so, Tami? I don't really want to drastically revise the novel(s) unless doing so would improve the story appeal, but I did wonder if that was a lazy attitude.

Robyn said...

Late, but I'll add my agreement with the others. Keep sending it out as is before you embark on a major shift.

ORION said...

I had really disparate opinions on another project of mine and ended up revising with a first person POV.
This is such a subjective business. This may be a good time to use beta readers to get a perspective.

M.E Ellis said...

Good luck!


Bhaswati said...

I have no suggestions for you (rather I'd take some from you). But you have my best wishes. GOOD LUCK. I know I would be delighted to see your book in print and buy an autographed copy. :)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Robyn.
It's seeing how all the others w/ basically a similar heroine/series that made me twitch and wonder if I had made a fundamental error.

An idea, Pat, thank you.

Thank you, Michelle and Bhaswati.
The idea may be perspicacious or merely novice nervousness.

Scott from Oregon said...

I would never take artistic rejection personally. I mean, the balance of commercial success and artistic merit in the year 2007 is a David and Goliath contest with pop rocks and giant sponsors...

You could very easily have outclassed the market, which, in my mind, means you should do no such editing.

Hope your hubby is healing and you don't need the acceptance of a dim populace to eat...

You are such a classy lady!

Bernita said...

"You could very easily have outclassed the market..."

You're a funny guy, Dave!
No, definitely not, and I aim for commercial, not "artistic" success.

Thank you. He is.
The best thing is that the downward slope is not as steep as we feared and they expected.
We are fortunate too that survival does not depend on my pen ( for sure!)
Not given to blushing, but that was a very nice thing for you to say.

writtenwyrdd said...

I know I'm getting into this discussion late, but I have to vote for you writing the story in the way you love it best. YOu don't particularly care for first person, from what I've gathered; so write it in 3rd. As long as you write it well and the POV fits the story you are telling, it shouldn't affect the book's marketability. It's the writing that will do that. And there are PLENTY of books told in 3rd person.

Bernita said...

I'm rather fond of reading first person, Written, and have used it myself.
For some reason - perhaps for distance in this case, as I used some personal experiences to construct the plot and character - I happen to choose third.
There are limitations with both voices.