06/20/00 -- Writing Books and the Marketing Side of the Force

Gloom and Doom and Good Advice

We had pizza for dinner tonight.  Sean was told a zillion things he needed to do at Clarion, or so Sean relayed to us.  And Sean forgot everything except that he must buy us pizza for dinner on Tuesday.  Like we were going to argue.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Did I mention we had critiques this morning? *grin*  And thankfully not nearly so many stories turned in as we had yesterday.  (Did I mention we had 12 stories turned in Monday morning?  Aiee!  Though I'm one of the usual suspects.  I turned in story #3 yesterday, so...)

Thankfully, before critiques, Sean talked to us about some of the same things he and I talked about yesterday.  I wrote them down this time.  He told us things like Hamlet is the Shakespeare play with the most jokes in it.  Pretty amazing, huh?  That was one of the things he was talking about when he mentioned light stuff making the dark beside it much darker.

He talked about novels and writing novels and outlines.  I'm not sure I can manage to start with three ideas of my own and throw out all but half of one by the time the novel is finished, but I'm also not sure I can manage to rewrite a novel 8 or 9 times, either.  I'm looking to find a happy medium:  fewer than 8/9 versions of the novel and more than one.

Additionally, he imparted great wisdom upon us about the way most writers feel while writing novels.  They hit three choke points.  The first is about a quarter of the way into the novel (between page 80 and 100).  The second is toward the end of the book, between 75% and 81% complete.  The third is when you've finished the novel and you're trying to start the next one.

I feel much better about everything, now.  Because that's pretty much exactly what happened with my novel (draft one -- icky first draft -- but it's out there).  I stopped about a quarter into it, and dragged at about the start of the last quarter, and then I couldn't write a fucking thing after I finished it.  Now that I know it's normal, I don't feel so bad.  *grin*

So we had our critique session after... And I agonized, when I got back to my room, over the story I started yesterday.  It wasn't very long.  It wasn't done.  It needed to be longer.  It needed to be done.  So I threw it to the side and went downstairs with Jennifer to free-write in the laundry room (which just has this stale, musty, wet laundry smell *ick*) while her clothes washed and dried (she feared that she would forget about them if she left).  Then, back in my room, I started reading stories for tomorrow's critique session.

When I was starting to fall asleep on the manuscripts, I decided to nap for 45 minutes or so.  Five minutes before my alarm went off, there came a rapping as of someone gently tapping, tapping at my chamber door.  Okay, not really.  I mean, yeah, someone knocked, but with these doors, a gentle tapping the sound is not going to carry.  I stumbled out of bed and opened the door to be greeted by an, Are you okay?  from Sean.  Of course I was okay.  I always look like that when I wake up after such a short nap which I was quick to explain.  Apologies were made, though not needed since my alarm would've gone off soon, anyway.

Still partly asleep, I went on a mission with Sean.  He had to find a copy of The Night Watch so he could copy part of it for someone.  Though I didn't know it at the time.  We went to Archives, the bookstore where our instructor readings happen, to look.  While we were there, it came out that he was, indeed, searching for The Night Watch so I cheerfully pointed out that Jennifer had a copy, that I had seen it on her bed earlier that day.  He crossed his arms on the counter and laid his head down on his arms.  He had been in search of the book, true, so he could copy part of it for ... Jennifer.

While Sean looked around the bookstore and talked with the manager, I wandered over to the scifi section and found myself another Tanith Lee book.  Whee!  That makes two I've picked up there.  Maybe I'll luck into another handful before Clarion is over.  I still want to be the next Tanith Lee when I grow up.

We got the skinny on the pizza place next door, and then went and ordered pizza for that night.  Sean and I were the worst people to decide what to get for pizza.  And then we grabbed drinks from 7-11.  Sean had nostalgia for orange flavored Crush when he saw bottles in the case.  Ever the bad influence, I encouraged him to get one.  The nostalgia was great.  The soda was average. :)

We made it back to campus and unloaded soda into Suzy's apartment (where we were going to have pizza and hear about the business end of things from Sean) then I parked and came back to my room to try and finish reading and critiquing stories.

Dinner was great.  We ate pizza.  Sean told funny stories (about dwarves on unicycles with their hair on fire) and talked about the business side of things.  He's got the greatest advice ... sell your novel for $200,000 then everything will take care of itself.  I'd love to do that.  *grin*  Anyway... he talked about advances, reserves against returns (and warned us that different publishers handle reserves differently and that royalty statements are probably going to fuck with our heads until we get used to what the publisher is doing and how they're doing it), book signings, and a handful of other things -- and when he thought he might have completely depressed us (again!), he stopped.  *grin*

We had a great time.  Well, I did, at any rate.

When we started trickling out, I went back to my room to struggle with my story a little bit more.  It isn't exactly faeries.  It isn't exactly high fantasy.  But it's romance.  Sort a of Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending type thing.  I got an initial draft done, but I really feel like it's crap.  I don't like the style I'm writing in, I don't like the voice.   I don't like the tone.  And I'm praying that it actually is upbeat.

Oh well.  If I fail, I fail.  I just hope I don't fail too spectacularly.  Spectacular failure may be perfectly acceptable in a quest story, but I'm not sure I feel it is acceptable while I'm here (because I'm probably pushing myself too hard to be good, to turn out great, wonderful stories -- not perfect stories, but not worthless crap, either).