Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Changing Perspectives

So I'm querying again.

Shot that sucker right out there. So for now we'll sit back and see what we see. I hadn't realized it's been since October 2009 that I last sent out a query. Since then the novel has gone through three major revisions.

Last night, just for kicks, I took a look at the original draft from September 2009 and cringed. It's horrendous. Completely infantile. I can't believe I was arrogant enough to actually send that out into agent-land. It's hilarious when you think about it.

When you start your writing career in a vacuum, everything feels right. Your family tells you how great your stuff is. The words flow and before you know it, you think you the next great American novelist. It's funny to look back at those original words. They're awkward, overly-complicated and the writing style was so over-grammatically correct it was stiff as a board.

But what was there was passion. Probably more than I have now. There was a lot of feeling in that story, and it reflected in the plot. The basic concept was great. How do I know? More than a few professionals have told me so.

Haha, but therein lies the rub. I had to learn how to write my great story. And that took time. Make no mistake; I'm still learning to write. There's a reason the average time to publish is around eight years and a hundred queries sent. Make no mistake about it, this shit is hard.

So as I stared at the draft email containing my query, my finger paused over the 'send' button. I was fearless the first time I queried. Back then I treated the endeavor like I do with any request: the worst they can do is say no. In 2009 it took me two seconds to hit that button.

But two and a half years later, the stakes are higher. I've got a boatload more experience and learning, not to mention the scars earned from the monthly exchanges in Kelley Armstrong's Online Writing Group. In 2009 I wasn't afraid of failure because I had truly nothing to lose.

Enter 2011 and a different perspective. I am afraid of failure. Strike that. I'm not afraid of failure; I'm afraid of lack of growth. I'm afraid I'm no better than I was in the final months of my tour in Iraq in '09.

But I am better than 2009. There's no question there. Remember, I looked at that old manuscript and laughed. I have grown. This round of queries is a test to see how much. The goal is still to get picked up and published by 2015. So this time I did hit that 'send' button, it just took twenty seconds longer than the last.

Hey, the worst they can do is tell me no.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

And He's Coming Down the Final Stretch!!!

At least that's what it feels like. Isn't it horse-racing season or something? Kentucky bourbon and fancy hats? Show's you what I know of about that culture. My knowledge of thoroughbreds is limited to what I learned watching Secretariat, Seabiscuit, and Racing Stripes. *snicker*

But my post-beta WIP is heading towards the finish line. I've made it through the wild forest of debilitating partner-critiques and a massive rewrite. The second. A little perspective on this one: This marks the third calendar year I'm working on this novel. It's also the last. I should have been smart and let it go after one; should have chalked it up as a tremendous experience and accomplishment. It was my first novel. While spending a year in Iraq, I started with an idea and turned it into my 150,000-word opus.

Then I committed myself to learning the craft, joined a group and spent another year getting beat apart by my fabulous critique partners. I still had faith in the characters and plot from my creation, so rather than move on to something new, I took another stab. A year after that, my 150K opus was a 72,000-word YA novel a little more carefully aimed at my target audience.

But reality and a few friends slapped me back to reality. A couple of harsh critiques exposed some rather serious flaws in the plot. So back to work. For the last three months I've been hacking and slashing. Deleting poor material and replacing it with words more relevant to the core plot.

In the next week it will be done. I'm into the third act of the manuscript which survived the beta-round fairly intact. I'll get it done, do a final edit then move on to the queries.

But for Mason Ramsey (my MC) and his gang of friends, this is probably it. Barring some serious feedback from an agent or publisher that would lead to another round of edits, I'm retiring my beloved WIP. In the last several months I've had too many good ideas, and eventually even the marketplace will leave my novel behind. C'est la vie.

I'm ready for that, ready to move on. As I've been told by writers much wiser than myself, eventually you have to admit you've done your best and put it on the shelf.

Until then I'm going to enjoy this final stretch. Finishing a novel is like finishing a marathon. There's miles and miles of isolation and pain followed by that final high as the end comes in sight. In spite of all the mental fatigue and frustration, you still manage to get up on your toes and drive towards the finish line.

Okay, that's enough. Move on. Nothing to see here. Time to fire up some Daft Punk and get to #amwriting.