Saturday, December 17, 2011

I Can Dream, Can't I?

I have always wanted to be an author, always always. I wrote my first book somewhere around the third grade. One of the things that got me through academically at school was that a few of the teachers realized I could write. Other stuff, eh. You know how it is. Some people are born multi-talented; you know, those people who were born beautiful, can sing, can play sports like a pro, were prodigies on the piano since the age of three, are out front and center during the entire dance recital, and of course are at the top of their class in every subject. Well, okay, so that isn't me. I can't carry a tune in a bucket, I trip over dust bunnies, never bothered about dance lessons (see previous dust bunnies comment), and most of my teachers probably thought I was a 25 watt bulb in a hundred watt box. Then I graduated from high school.
Graduating and pulling yourself out of the muck does something for you. A whole new beginning. You can go on to new things and leave everyone's preconceptions about you behind. When I entered college with a campus full of strangers, I realized, here was my chance to change. I was dumb at school because I was convinced I was dumb. But I'm not really dumb. I did okay in college in most subjects-but the ones I aced were English and the writing classes.
So fast forward about 20 years or so. I played around with writing but never did anything serious. I read the author bios on the back jackets of books and they all seem to say things like "was a newspaper columnist" or "a screenwriter" or "an advertising executive". I have only seen a few that said something like "is a housewife with three kids and a dog..." But the thing that amazes me about this is that the housewife with three kids and a dog writes just as good a book as the columnist or the ad exec. That stuff keeps me going.
And recently, in the the last two years, I really decided. I am going to do it. I just didn't know what to write about. Lots of people have told me that with my two very interesting autistic children, I definitely have the fuel. It's true. And probably someday I will write about that, when I'm ready. But this time, I wanted to write something that was light and funny. Something that would take me a year to write and you a day to read. I found out quick that there is no inspiration in staring at an empty screen. The inspiration is all out there, out of this seat, out of the house even, hard as it is to get out sometimes. And I know I'm right about that, because the idea for the whole book came to me suddenly when I was out walking my dog. The sight of one lawn ornament later and I was off and running. I went home and started.
And now it's written. And it took me about a year. Maybe a bit more, since I was not able to work on it continuously. If I got writer's block, I didn't let it bother me. I just lived life and waited. Sometimes I get the most fantastic ideas listening to a song, or by having some ordinary every day experience. Just a month or two ago I got the most fantastic incredible idea when I saw a transvestite in our public library.
Here's the thing that worries me. Writing the book was easy. Too easy. It almost wrote itself. Sometimes I sat and typed without conscious thought. Sometimes I would get to the end of a scene or a chapter and wonder how I got there. Yeah, that part was easy. Now, the publishing. I need help with this. There are an awful lot of yokels online who say they can help you. What they really want is your money. I'm not against self-publishing. I'm seriously looking into it. I think it can be a great thing. I also think it's dangerous in a way. What if you're honestly not any good? There should be some kind of filter to keep the rabble from getting through (and that includes me. If my book is no good, I want someone who can say, this really stinks, can you change it?). But with self publishing, they take your book and you pay them and they publish it for you. And if you want, you can pay more and they will help you with editing and marketing, etc. I just think you (I really mean me) can get taken in here if you really don't know what you're doing.
And then there are the agent queries. Gone are the days when you pulled your manuscriot out of your Royal typewriter, removed the carbon paper and stick the whole thing into some envelope to be mailed to some publisher in the hopes of getting someone interested. Now most publishers will not accept manuscripts submitted in this way. You have to have an agent to get you into that particular door. So now, instead of getting the attention of a publisher, you have to get the attention of an agent. There's a million-bajillion of 'em out there.
If you have the money and an unlimited amount of time off and someone to watch your kids, you can travel all over to writer's conferences where they teach you how to deal with this system and where you might even be lucky enough to get the attention of an agent. Weeeell, I don't meet any of those requirements. So I have to search online. Which I have been doing. I have fallen under the curse of the query letter. You have to pack a synopsis of your life's work into one paragraph or so, along with an extremely short bio of yourself, with maybe the first few chapters or a certain number of pages of your book stuck on the end of your email. If your margins are wrong, if your spacing is wrong, if you haven't typed the proper thing into the subject line, or any other of a large number of pit falls, you will probably be deleted with no consideration whatsoever. They don't waste their time on someone who can't properly write these query letters. Personally, I think they are probably missing out on a lot of great authors that way, but I can't change the world.
So that's the part of the process I have reached. Sifting through a million-bajillion agents and trying to find the ones who might be interested in me and my little book. And that is my dream. To get my book out there, the first of many-I have the whole series planned out for at least four more books. Number two is almost finished. If I ever get published, I hope you'll buy it!


  1. Hi Jane!

    I saw your query on Query Shark and thought it had great potential. However, what really drew me to comment on your blog was your personality. I love your sense of humor and your entire outlook on things. I think you are an inspiration in every way--from raising two autistic children (SUPER-DUPER HARD), to pursuing your dream regardless of the countless bumps along the narrow path.

    Jane, I strongly believe you will accomplish that dream of yours (don't ask me how, I just feel it). I would very much like you to keep updating your blog with your journey, as I am fascinated by all things Jane Marie!

    Thank you so much for being awesome!

    Have a Merry Christmas! ^_^


  2. Thanks, Tyson! Few people in my life have been fascinated by anything Jane Marie, so you know how to catch my attention. I certainly got sharked there on Query Shark, didn't I? I keep telling myself, "she warned everyone plenty, she'll take you apart!!!" Couldn't believe a subtle grammatical error tripped me up right at the start, but apparently the thing stank without that anyway. I thought the implication that I was a bad writer was a little harsh, and certainly untrue. But I gotta keep going.
    I love MG books, especially the sci-fi fantasy, read them all the time. I am not sure why you hate your sewer cover sentence. I thought it was great, very visual and made perfect sense. Is your book a work in progress? Actually, I think they are all a work in progress until they actually and finally leave your hands. I say my first is "finished" but I can't seem to leave it be.
    Thank you for your encouragement, and I know you have some idea of how much I need it!

  3. I thought the comment by a certain "blogger" (that's in quotation marks because you can't see his blog or read anything other than the sites he follows) was mean-spirited. And the fact that he laughed made me even more upset. It took a lot of self control to prevent my hands from typing a retort. Trust me, I so wanted to flame him.

    I dislike people who take a condescending approach to commenting (or critiquing, as he did nothing of the sort). There is no need to think yourself better than any other writer, because the only difference that divides us (craft-wise) is practice. Not skill or a degree or god-given aptitude--no! Plain old time and patience.

    You must completely sweep comments and writers like that aside, as they aim only to diminish your esteem and highlight their "prowess". (Ironically, those are the ones who don't get far).

    Anyway, I'm putting that MG novel in a drawer for now and starting a YA Urban Fantasy/Romance in January. I think this will be my debut, because it is just so good. Well, at least I think so. ^_^

    What are your writing goals? Who is your favorite authors? If you had the chance, which authors' career would you love to have?

    I simply must know!

  4. I'm glad you said that, and I thank you for it. I didn't like it much, either, and it wasn't the criticism either. I expected that. But I felt like I was on the online version of a reality show, where they bare all and then stand there while people enjoy taking them apart! I can take whatever the actual agent says, she's the expert. But the rest of these people are in the same boat with me. They're no better than me, certainly. Could be that they have been at it longer than me and have more expertise at this query thing, but I know I'm a good writer. As for what I want, it's pretty simple. I want to feel that book in my hands, know that I wrote it, and share it with people who enjoy it. I read myself for enjoyment, and rarely for any other reason. One of my favorite authors is MC Beaton, a British mystery writer. Actually all of my favorite authors are British, and if I could I would write novels set in little British villages! But since I have never lived in England I can't very well do that. The closest I can come is to write about life in a small village in the States, which I have done! I didn't understand thew relevance of the comment where the lady said, why would you mention being from Western New York? And everything in my bio was trashed. If an agent requests a bio, what am I supposed to include if I can't include the fundamentals about myself? They don't care if I'm an axe murderer who has killed my whole family. It doesn't matter! So what should I put in a bio? Should I make up stuff about all the writing awards I haven't won and the books I haven't written? I consider myself fairly intelligent, but some of the things I read in the comments (including the comments of the agent) just don't make sense to me! Oh well. I'm doing something similar to what you are doing. I'm "shelving" for now, my novel, and submitting a children's book I wrote about three years ago to a local publisher. I think I may make a start there. And they don't require query letter! Whew!

  5. I love little English villages too! Someday, I'd like to raise a family in the gorgeous town of Warwick.

    I, however, do not have the desire to write about these places at this time, but that might change.

    As for the comments on your piece: I adore Query Shark, her advice is always spot on; her approach is a bit, um, sandy, but that attracts people to read the review (apparently, like sex, snark sells).

    Generally, if you have nothing substantial to put in a bio you leave it blank. Agents don't like reading irrelevant/irreverent things, especially when it comes to unsolicited queries.

    Have you ever heard of Agent Query? It's a nifty site where you can input search parameters for agent name/agency/ and genre so you can find the proper agent for your book. Google it!

    I think you need a cover letter when submitting to publishers directly, and that's just as hard as a query. But I don't think running from queries is the solution, you simply need to read those that worked (there are a lot of places online you can find them) and practice on yours 'till it's right. It's also worth the effort to get a crit buddy or a crit group. These critique partners will voraciously read your stuff and point out any indiscrepancies.

    What is this new novel about? I love MG, extraspecially if it's for lil' dudes.

  6. Yes, I have been using agent query too. As for the bio, what is considered substantial? The agents I have seen so far always want a bio, always. If I can't say who I am and where I'm from, I don't know what else I would put there. The publisher I sent my children's picture book to does not require a cover letter or query. I'm not necessarily running away from queries, but have decided to go off it for the moment. This children's book of mine is actually a lot older than the novel and I think it has a real chance. od course, the way things have been going this week, it may all go up in smoke. It has been a stinky week, for a lot of reasons, so I need a break from all this.