"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, May 15, 2020

When worlds collide...in a good way

Sometimes you are doing two disparate things within the same time frame and they somehow magically pop together to make the third thing you're actually doing look not just doable, but achievable in a stronger, more bionic way.


If that makes little sense, it's because I'm so fired up, my words can't contain all the excitement I feel. I'm sharing this today because I have to tell someone to get these crazy-happy words out of my head so I can get to work. 

And I'm hoping you can read this and look for the same kind of inspiration and encouragement in your own life and work.

Let's start at the beginning, with the fantasy I've written. I wrote it back in late 2016, got it edited, and sent out queries. I am a gal who self-publishes, so that was always an option, but I had some very smart people convince me that a more traditional publisher would be able to offer me a larger fantasy audience.

I sent out 50 queries, got several requests for full, but everyone said no. I truly believe in this story, and I was thisclose to self-pubbing, but I took one more look at the comments several of the agents graciously gave me, PLUS I did a thing: I submitted the manuscript for a $99 BookLife critique. They all gave me the same notes. 

So I went back to the editing board, made substantial changes, and I've got it out with another round of beta readers. In the meantime, I was wavering, between submitting to more agents or just being the captain of my own ship. There's a lot to discourage me from submitting--I have to find new agents, plus I'm still not getting any younger and the years from query to book look like a century to me.

Then, two things happened:

1. I spent a fabulous evening talking to my pal Melanie (on the phone, like good social distancers). She completely lifted me up. First, she convinced me that what I have is YA fantasy, not just fantasy. New genre means new category of agents to query. Next, she pointed out that the eons it will take to get the agent, get the publisher, get the book on the shelves will be time well spent by writing the second and third books in this trilogy. 


2. I got Disney Plus and watched The Mandalorian. Not only did it give me an idea for a serious obstacle I had given myself in the second book (I now see it as a plus instead of a minus), but I watched the documentaries after, where the directors were all interviewed. Listening to them talk about the Star Wars movies was enlightening, from one director's excitement at having this "galaxy far, far away" where multiple stories could be told, to another director's explanation of the entire theme of the prequels leading into the original trilogy and the thread woven through all of them. Which is what I've been missing with this fantasy--the string that pulls it all together.


What a bounty! I have a better idea of the theme, which means I know where the story needs to go, and I have the luxury of developing it while the first book is out with agents. Also, knowing the theme helps in developing my query. It's not just a telling of this happens, then that happens. It's a specific tale of a universal idea.

I'd go on, but I need to get to work on all this. I hope you can take a lesson or two from my experience. Believe the universe conspires to help you, then look for the clues.

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