Monday, November 15, 2010

What I Can See From Here

I have an entire thumb drive filled with ideas that are too large or too subtle for me to confidently write. It's a strange thing to conceive of something you don't have the skill or finesse to create.

When I finished my first novel-length manuscript, I felt like I'd created something singular and phenomenal. (My bookshelves advised otherwise, but I was juiced and a little amazed at my accomplishment, so I didn't listen.) It was an urban fantasy with a reluctant heroine and a beta male as the leads. It was poorly paced, occasionally risky, and decidedly unlovely. Also, I believe I mentioned Funyuns. It was not what the market was looking for in late 2009. A couple of scenes will likely reincarnate in other works, but I doubt I'll ever try to resurrect the thing. I still love it, but for what it was (my beloved first), not for what it has the potential to be.

When I stopped three-quarters of the way through my second novel-length manuscript (75,000 words in) because the story wasn't coming together, I felt okay. I told myself I'd circle back to it when I figured out what was wrong. What was wrong was that I was stringing words together and forming, instead of a novel, a really long piece of crap riddled with clich├ęs. I'd tried to fit it closer to the accepted (and well-selling) tropes of paranormal romance, and failed miserably. Or maybe I was succeeding. Anyway, I didn't like it.

My third manuscript landed me an agent. I tried to execute a certain style, found it really couldn't be sustained for the length required of a contemporary novel, re-envisioned it, and came out with something unexpected. The story still makes me laugh out loud on the eleventy-billionth reading, and my heart actually beats faster through a couple of chapters. In previous incarnations it was more disturbing, more philosophical, sexier, and flatter than champagne left out in the rain. My agent believes she can sell it, and I believe in her ability to.

I love these characters, in this world. I want to write them through adventures and losses, surprises and betrayals, and that one failure that I'm pretty sure will earn me a slap from an angry reader one day.

But more than that, I'm writing now so that I can one day be the writer capable of doing justice to those worlds that are too bold and too tragic for me to fully realize now. I want to grow and innovate, to become capable of nuance and wordplay that I haven't yet mastered. It was only a few years ago, after all, that I wasn't even able to finish a novel.


  1. Another nice post. I love finding out how many books came before a writer's debut. The urge, the motivation, to constantly grow in mastery as a writer is something else that resonates with me. I've heard agents say that's what they want in a long-term client, in someone who is going to be building a career with them. Much better than the seeker of fame and fortune. Of course, I wouldn't turn those down. That's just a bonus. Fame less than fortune. :)

  2. I feel that way about the novel I've been working on for NaNo, I'm wondering if it's too big for me still. I've considered putting it aside for now and letting it work itself out in my head awhile longer...because I don't think i can do justice to a first draft in the time remaining with being so far behind. Tomorrow, we'll see.

    Or it could be I'm just still too tired from being sick so long to get it together this month. This year, I wish NaNo had been in December...

    Either way, I loved this post. I know what you mean about characters that you love so much you want to write them through adventure after adventure- in my series writing online I've written for several characters for more than a decade and a couple of years ago I completely reinvented one of them by way of introducing a new character...writing can take you some amazing places when it's really going well.

    Wishing you always times when it's really going well...!


  3. Whoa...eerily similar. I finished two books, and then my third landed me an agent (and you know the rest). Best o' luck, hope it sells soon.

  4. Margo - I, too, have an unflagging curiosity about backroom writer gossip (thanks for fulfilling that for today, Kevin!), probably because it's such a personal thing, and the paths that leads people to writing and possible publication are so very diverse.

    Bru, I've become a firm believer in a solid first draft. If the story hasn't quite solidified (or branched off) the way you need it to, there's no harm in letting it breathe a little. And if you need to breathe at the same time, then so be it.

    And that's pretty much the best blessing a writer can ask for: wishing you always times when it's going well. Thanks, and back-atcha!

  5. Thanks for the offer of luck, Kevin. I might just need it. ;)