Making Connections

There are oh so many things in the news I would love to write about and get off my mind, but I’ve been doing too mach of that lately. Instead, this post will be a progress report.

The feedback on my book has slowly been trickling in. For the most part, it is positive. Where there are issues, I go in and attempt to fix it. So many kind people have pointed out small flaws in the timeline, questions about motivation that can be made clearer, typos, and odd sentence structure. They have also pointed out the good qualities like pacing, dialogue, character development, and chapter endings that keep you turning the page. So far, everything that’s wrong can be fixed, and everything that’s right… well, it’s just right. All good news.

A few weeks back one of our clients at work asked me some questions about my book. Her face lit up and she said, “You know who you should meet?!” She proceeded to tell me about a local author who has sold millions of books, won many awards, and is a good friend of hers. She set up lunch for us to meet and talk about writing, books, and publishing. It was a fun lunch and I was able to ask many questions and get some concrete ideas about what to do next.

His best advice was that it didn’t matter if my friends, family, or even strangers like my book. Until I put it in the hands of a professional editor, I won’t really know what I have. So, next week I plan to get started on that process. Thanks to another connection, one back in LA,  I may already have a good one.

The other piece of advice gleaned from our lunch was that it is time to start querying agents and publishers. So, that means it was time to sign up for The Writer’s Market – a huge searchable index of agents, editors, and publishers that lists what they’re looking for in both a query letter, and a manuscript. It feels a little overwhelming to see all the places I’m going to have to start sending letters, but I imagine the list will get whittled down by a large pile of rejection letters. Even Harry Potter was rejected at first. Eventually, I have faith that someone will see potential and take a risk.

One of the things I’ve loved about this process is its ease. In Hollywood there was a constant scramble to make good connections. If you were chatting with someone, and you realized they were in a position to help your career, your antenna went up, your brain started churning, and you calculated all the different ways you could approach, suck up to, and harness their power for yourself. It made for sick relationships, up and down the power ladder. I’m glad to be off that ladder. I’m glad to be in a world where connections flow naturally.

Even better, it’s nice when your friend has the courage to ask the guy who’s sold millions of books to read your novel. I could never have done that. It will be interesting to see what he has to say, if anything.

For now, the editing continues, the professional is about to be brought in, and I’m going to find out for real if this little leap of mine is going to work.

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Feedback Fear

Whew! Tonight was the night. It was the writer’s group where my first two chapters were critiqued. If you’re not a writer, and you’ve never had your work reviewed, you will not understand the exquisite agony of having your precious child put on display for judgment. I desperately wanted feedback, but it also set off waves of fear. Maybe I’m talentless. Maybe my idea is crap. Maybe it’s boring. Maybe it’s confusing. Maybe this whole leap is a fool’s errand.

Luckily for me, this group is made up of people who also understand these fears, and they are exceptionally kind, while giving lots of notes. So helpful!

The feedback was great. Everyone found it enjoyable, liked the pacing and flow, as well as the characters and dialogue. Since those are some pretty core necessities for a good book, I am pleased. Everyone had questions about what comes next, which indicates they were invested in the story. All good signs.

However, from previous feedback, I knew the story had a weakness and that was confirmed tonight. 25 years of focusing on writing screenplays has left me with a few weaknesses. Probably the biggest weakness is description. Screenwriters do not spend a lot of time describing the appearance of people or places, because that is stepping on the director’s creative toes. A screenwriter might write, “Interior – classroom” and that is all that is writen about what the room looks like, unless you need to describe the additional presence of some prop that is important to the story. That doesn’t really work in a novel. The reader may be the creative director, but they need a little more information to complete the picture. So, I need to spend more time on description of time, place, and scenery.

Because this novel is set in a unique world, yet still has many similarities to ours, it can cause a great deal of confusion to the reader. When is it? Where is it? Is this Earth? Is this the future? I had gotten this feedback from people who weren’t familiar wtih the genre, and tonight was the first opportunity for feedback from people who DID know the genre. I got the same note. To be honest, figuring out if this truly was a problem or not, was most of what i hoped to learn tonight, and i did. Success! I think a prologue of some sort will be needed in order to set the stage. Combining that with more description, I think the problem can be solved.

It was also delightful to hear someone say, “I loved this line” and then reel off something I also loved. I actually got chills a few times.

So all in all, a great night. I successfully handled both praise and criticism and walked out of the room feeling more confident than I went in. I have read the manuscripts of a few of the other writers, and they are a talented group of people, so their desire to read more felt like high praise.

There was also an exciting bit of business. The woman who invited me into the group has a novel coming out any day now, and she is starting her own publishing company. When this book gets done, there will be someone I know personally that may be able to help me get it out there. That is so very exciting. The publishing world can feel like a confusing maze, and maybe I’ll have a guide to help me through.

It really is true, everything you want is on the other side of fear. I made it through my feedback fear and am now able to improve my work even more. It was a good night in this writer’s world.

 

 

 

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