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29 February 2008 @ 08:26 am
2/29/08: Suckitude  
Word count: 128416 | Since last entry: 23

Nothing like getting a rejection, a difficult critique, and a deadline in the same week.

I've been spending every waking hour not spent on something else (yes, that's a tautology) on getting my second novel ready for the April novel workshop. The deadline isn't until March 10, but as we're leaving for Potlatch this morning and won't be back home until March 9 I have to get it in the mail today.

As I mentioned in my last entry, I put down the revisions a couple of days ago and have been working on the synopsis and other supporting documents. It took me about a day and a half to write a 22-page synopsis, then about half a day to cut it down to 14 pages.

What a load of fetid dingoes' kidneys.

Writing the synopsis gives me a 40,000 foot view of the novel and shows me all the places the plot doesn't fit together, all the places the characters are just marching in place and angsting over the same things over and over, all the places I set something up and never followed through, all the places I had something happen without proper setup, all the places I did the right thing in the wrong place. As with the last novel, the synopsis makes more sense than what's on the page. But this time I intend to take what I've learned and make the novel more like the synopsis (after the workshop).

In a couple of cases this is going to be a challenge. Specifically, I decided to take the critique feedback I got from djonn on the ending and write a completely different ending in the synopsis (with a few related changes in the last few chapters to set it up properly). I feel that I can get away with this here because most of the workshoppers will only get the first 50 pages and synopsis. Only two workshoppers will get the whole novel, and that isn't going out until later. So I have from now until later to rewrite the ending to match the synopsis. How late is "later"? I don't know, but probably shortly after March 10. Which means I should try to work on this while I'm on vacation. That didn't work too well while I was in DC, but we'll see. Worse comes to worst, the two workshoppers who get the whole manuscript will get to compare and contrast the two endings (but I don't want to do that, it would be unprofessional).

Yesterday I also got a rejection on my first novel. It has now been rejected by all of the major publishers and several of the more respected minors. It has maybe three minor publishers left to try before I trunk it. The rejections have been fairly consistent and the problem is structural. Basically, I should never have tried such a nonstandard time structure in a first novel. Theoretically I could take the novel apart and rewrite it with a more normal structure, but I think that time would be better spent writing another novel from the ground up. I also thought about chopping the novel into short stories, but I don't see any single section that can be made to have a satisfying ending.

I remember how good I felt about that first novel when I finished it.

And now I look at this pile of scribbled-on paper ready to go to the workshop and I wonder why I bother.


Nebula nominee Nebula nominee Nebula nominee.

(Doesn't help as much as you might think.)

Wendy S. Delmater: deadlines!safewrite on February 29th, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC)
However, you got to use "tautology" in a sentence. That counts for something. *pats*
Allan: Typewriterallanh on February 29th, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
Were it not such an incredibly time-intensive operation, if I were you, I'd be tempted to rewrite the novel with a more normal time structure, give it a different title, change the character names, and resubmit it to everyone who rejected it.

Just to see if they notice.

Edited at 2008-02-29 04:50 pm (UTC)
David D. Levinedavidlevine on March 1st, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
I don't think it would be necessary to change everything; I'm sure if I rewrote it with a different time structure most of the editors who've rejected it already would be happy to see it again. But I really despise revisions... tearing a whole novel to bits and putting it back together sounds even harder than writing a whole new one from scratch.
canadiansuzannecanadiansuzanne on February 29th, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC)
I remember how good I felt about that first novel when I finished it.

And you should still feel good about it. I'm assuming that you look it over after each rejection and tweak this or that. If not, perhaps enough time has passed since you last looked it over that you might shape it into something even more brilliant.

On the other hand, you could trunk it, for now, and go back to it later when you're so popular that everyone will be clamoring to buy it.

Either way, don't despair.


David D. Levinedavidlevine on March 1st, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC)
I don't rewrite after each rejection, for short stories or the novel. I follow Heinlein's rules on this: write, finish, submit, and keep submitting until it sells. I know from experience that many rejections are idiosyncratic (the story just wasn't a good match for that particular editor on that particular day) and the rejected story often sells to another editor, and maybe even goes on to further success, without modification. The only time I will rewrite a story after beginning the submission process is if it bounces with very similar comments from a lot of editors (like, more than five), which I have only done with a couple of stories. This does apply to the novel, but the thought of doing all the work this one would need to address its structural problem just appalls me. (It has alternating PoVs, one running from February to December, the other from September to December of the same year. To change it into a more conventional structure I'd have to make up a whole new plot for one or both PoVs and move things around so they're both running over the same time period, and it would destroy the parallels I've built between the two.)
canadiansuzannecanadiansuzanne on March 3rd, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
Yikes. Sounds like way too much "fixing" that might end up messing up the whole novel.

You should definitely stick with the Heinlein approach.
csinman on February 29th, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
Lots of novels are full of plot holes and lead-ins that never went anywhere if you make a synopsis of them. I've done it for a handful of published books before, as an exercise, and was surprised to note how awful even my favorite stories looked if you tried to sum them up in ten pages. It would probably make your work stronger to do what you said and make the structure of the novel match the synopsis, but it doesn't mean it's not good before you do that, either. It just means it will be better. Then it will get published, and the editor will ask you if you have anything else, and you can say, "Oh just this dusty old thing you hated last year." ;) And the editor will be like, "Well, I did wipe my butt with it, but the stains will come out. Gimme." And you'll live happily ever after!

Maybe I made all that up, but hopefully it helped more than your Nebula nomination (I never get to say that in day-to-day conversation). If that doesn't work, I have a present for you. :D (And I didn't spill anything on yours like I did to cmpriest's. Hahaha!)
David D. Levinedavidlevine on March 1st, 2008 04:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the present! I'll scan it and post it here when I get home next week.

And I do hope that this novel will eventually sell (maybe after some revision) once I've Made A Name For Myself.
barbhendee on February 29th, 2008 11:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, David, the person above me here is absolutely right. Do not despair. There are good weeks and bad weeks in the business, and the good ones make up for everything else.

As for the bad ones . . . at one point, I could have wall- papered our bathroom in rejection slips--I'm not kidding.

I do think that with a novel, having the right agent is important. I forgot to ask you this the other night. Who is your agent?
David D. Levinedavidlevine on March 1st, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm not really despairing. I just want to let my readers know that the life of an award-winning writer is not all sunshine and roses. It makes a character more sympathetic when the readers see him go through hard times :-)

My agent is Jack Byrne. He's also papersky and truepenny's agent.
Brenda Cooperbjcooper on March 1st, 2008 05:01 am (UTC)
gah - quit worrying
There's moments for every book I've written when I hate the thing. More than one for every book. A few moments of absolute love, too, of course. Or I wouldn't keep committing novel. But I think it's completely normal. Novels are like kids - they fight and scream some days, periodically they're cute as hell, we often don't recognize them as being ours, and in the end, they're different than we expected. And right after first full and once-over draft, they're teenagers. That's the worst part.

Besides, when I get a novel rejection, I remember that DUNE had something like 27 rejections.

Have fun at Potlatch!

Edited at 2008-03-01 05:04 am (UTC)
David D. Levinedavidlevine on March 1st, 2008 04:05 pm (UTC)
Re: gah - quit worrying
I know that there are good times and bad times in the life of every novel, and the revision process right after finishing the first draft is definitely set up to be one of the bad ones. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't feel pushed into sending it out before it's ready, but I signed up for this workshop deliberately to give me that push (if I hadn't done that I'd probably be poking along on the first draft of chapter 13 right about now), and the fact is that I can take all the time I want after the workshop to fix the problems. It's not like I have a contract, with all the good and bad that implies.
joycemocha on March 1st, 2008 05:06 am (UTC)
Sometimes you just need to table the stuff and find a home for it later. (Commiserates nonverbally).

I have had to learn to let go of the novels once I think they're ready to go out, and focus on the next thing. But that's the way I write. Other people like to polish and polish.

I also don't think that critting your novel through your synopsis is entirely a valid thing to judge it on, either :-). It's going to make it worse. As someone else said upthread, if you do the same thing to a number of quality published works, the results are going to be similar.

As for the first novel, it sounds fairly experimental, and the time may not be right for it either with your career or with the market tastes. I wouldn't give up on it yet.

Oddly enough, the best short story rejects I've been getting lately have been off of a set of quirky stories I've written off the cuff. How very weird. I don't necessarily think they're the best stuff I've written--and one is a major rework of something I wrote back in writers group years ago (only then it was pure horror, not dark fantasy).

Interesting, it is.
David D. Levinedavidlevine on March 1st, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
The fact is that the synopsis represents the novel to everyone within the publisher who doesn't have time to read the whole thing. It may or may not be fair, but it's the reality, so critiquing the synopsis is absolutely the right thing to do if you want to sell it. And the problems that I found in the preparation of the synopsis are problems that I would have seen eventually anyway; the process of preparing the synopsis merely made them clear to me.
Nancy: young readernancymcc on March 4th, 2008 10:59 pm (UTC)
Do Writing Advice publications suggest creating a synopsis at the end of a draft, as a way of seeing what you've got? I think it must be a fascinating process (if sometimes distressing). And then you get the synopsis critiqued, because it'll be the surrogate for the actual book -- that too makes sense. I wonder if another tool (as if you needed another) would be to have someone else (a cold reader) try to produce a synopsis?

And I have yet another suggestion that arises from my ignorance of SOP for writers. If, in the end, the first novel does require restructuring, what about getting a co-author and having them do it? There might be someone really good at that part. I always thought it sounded more appealing than writing on a blank page (just as I'd rather remuddle an existing house than design one from scratch...)
David D. Levinedavidlevine on March 5th, 2008 03:15 am (UTC)
You can either create the synopsis after completing the draft, or start with a synopsis and then write the draft to match (and then go back and rewrite the synopsis to match any changes that occurred in the drafting process, or else try to maintain the synopsis as you go along). Of these, writing the synopsis after the draft is complete seems to work best for me.

The purpose of the synopsis is to represent the novel to everyone who doesn't have time to read the whole novel. You send in the first 50 pages (or first chapter, or first 3 chapters) to show you can write, accompanied by the synopsis to show you can plot. If the editor likes that, they request the whole thing. If the editor still likes it after reading the whole thing, they will send the synopsis to the sales people and the art director and all the other people within the publisher. It's really a very important document, and I think the person who writes the synopsis has to be very much in tune with the writer's style and what the writer is trying to accomplish, so I can't see handing that job off to a third party.

I also can't imagine handing a completed draft off to a third party to finish. That would be like giving a child away for adoption after going through the whole process of birth, weaning, teething, and toilet training, knowing that the child will then represent you in the world and be responsible for you in your old age. I want to be sure it is the best it can be.

Authors are nothing but a whole pile of control issues...