Friday, April 18, 2008

RAISING THE DEAD

In some ways the last few weeks have been very rewarding. Four stories have been accepted for publication, two of them in places I really hoped to crack. But in other ways, it's been a bust. Four agents and one editor have passed on the book manuscript. Three agents wouldn't say why, one, as I recounted already here, hated the protagonist, and the editor told me I had a well-written mainstream novel, not a crime novel. I know five people's opinions are not enough, but I have a very clear sense I have written a novel that straddles genres in a time when that's a no-no.
Do I go back and make it more mainstream? This would probably be the easiest solution. Do I try to ramp up the crime elements--I can't really think how to do this without adding a second story-line. Do I put it aside, figuring in six months it might become clearer. Do I continue sending it out? Do I ditch the whole think and regard it as a practice novel?
Maybe I am strictly a short story writer and the whole enterprise was a misstep. Alice Munro only wrote one novel and it wasn't very good. Not that I'm comparing myself to her but you see the point.
What would you do?

13 comments:

John McFetridge said...

No idea what to do, but it sure sounds familiar. Twenty-five years ago I wrote a novel and the first agent who turned it down said it fell just between the cracks - not literature enough for hardcover and not pulp enough for paperback original.

I can't tell you how many times I heard that over the years. I tried to go in one direction and then the other and finally gave. When I returned to try and write a few years ago it was just for something to do so I wasn't an unemployed stay at home dad. Either the world has changed and is now more open to "in between" writing or I just got lucky hitting the right publisher at the right moment.

I think it's luck. I hate to say it, but I think so much of it is luck. You get your writing to a professional level (and the short story success shows you have) and then it's luck.

Oh, and effort. Five isn't enough. Twenty-five maybe, more like fifty.

Clair Dickson said...

What do YOU want? If you really want to be a novelist, you can either go back and rewrite your current novel OR you can start a new one.

Either one will likely be painful in some way. If you revise, you will have to ruthlessly hack, slash, and alter your novel to make it better (focus on the goal!).

If you toss it and start over, you'll likely ache for the "lost" time put into the first novel. I hear that many new novelists have a 'practice' novel. THe second one is better because they know what they did wrong in the first, and they don't have to go through the gut-wrenching process of hacking apart that precious first 'complete' novel.

I'm not sure you've made enough noveling attempts to give up just yet. But that's my opinion. You need to decide what you need to do.

pattinase (abbott) said...

What do I want? Hmmm. I don't think I can rewrite this. It is what it is.
If I write another one, I'm going for a PBO kind of thing. No literary pretensions at all. Just tell the story. But if you read my shorts, they are never like that so it may be a dream that I could do that kind of book.
As far as sending this out more,I have to get to the point where I can take the rejections. Maybe that mindset will come over the summer. But I will continue to write shorts. Or at least that's what I think right now.

Sandra Scoppettone said...

As I've said before you can't rewrite it for this market or that agent. You like it the way it is so leave it alone. Do whatever it takes to get stronger so you can take rejection. And when you feel you can, start sending it to agents again. Pick five. And then we'll all discuss it again. :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Is that my husband pretending to me Sandra? You speak with the same tongue.

Sophie said...

I've been told I write between literary and genre. It might not sell books, but it remains my favorite, favorite place to read.

(Where, come to think of it, would cormac mccarthy fall these days? How about James Crumley?)

I almost revised for an agent - -revised to the point of forcing a round peg into a square hole. Luckily circumstances intervened and stopped me before I did anything rash. In saner moments, I *know* that you can't make yourself into the flavor of the month...in less secure moments, I'm always ready to try.

My rule has always been that when the current project is giving me more fits than hope...I begin another one. I don't know if that's bad or good. Probably an avoidance technique going begging for therapy. Still...there is something very, very soothing about a new Chapter One...all is forgiven...the world is bright with promise....

Greg said...

I say,keep sending it out, and start writing something new. I think finding an agent is about finding the right person at the right time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Since coming up with an idea big enough for a first novel took a long time, I can't imagine what the second would be about. I think it would be crazy to write another novel about this protag. But maybe something quick and definitely not literary will come to me. Since I write character more than plot, it's hard to keep on the right path. I should study some of the better plotters and see how they do it. A good blog subject: who are the good plotters?

Josephine Damian said...

Patti: First - four stories accepted? WTG! You did not say if one of those was Ellery Queen.

I take it this is your first novel? Did you query it as a type of genre? Does it really fit the type of genre you pitched it? Did you query the kinds of agents with clients whose books are similar to yours? Did you read their clients' book to be certain you were querying the right agent?

This could be a matter of taste, of not querying the agents who'd be best for this project, or it could be you haven't learned novel writing craft yet.

Could be you're book is too "hybrid" - not obviously one type of genre or another. Lots of these books are getting published.. but IMO, it's easier as a first time novelist to sell a book that more closely fits a certain genre as opposed to those books that try to reinvent the wheel.

But John does make a very valid point about timing.

Any big name successful authors you know who might be willing to take a look? I went through many of the same doubts you're having with my crime thriller screenplay until Stuart Kaminsky told me exactly what my problem was.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Josephine. It was fortuitous they all came in close together. Some had been out a long time and some a short time. No Ellery Queen yet though.
Well, of course, Megan has read it and likes it but told me that it did cross genres. And I also have the unlikable protag problem although I think by the end, you like her or at least understand her. I think I may have more luck not pitching it as crime. I may try that next. Maybe I'll put my query letter up next week and let everyone take a crack at that.

Travis Erwin said...

Query widely. Five opinions in this very opinionated business is only a drop in the bucket. Tastes vary too much to get a real feel of what may or may not be wrong from only five, unless maybe they all say the same thing.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Other than an attack on my protag from one agent, the rest passed with the comment it was very well-written but they were hesitant to offer any criticism because taste is a very subjective thing.

Josephine Damian said...

If you got five agents to read partials or fulls, that alone tells me you had a solid query but.... I've heard agents say that some queries set up false expectations.... if you queried it as straight crime but it was hybrid-ish, especially in the beginning an agent might reject merely because it wasn't what they expected or represent.. might not have to do with merit of the work....

But hey, I'm eager to see the query....