Mostly, it’s been psychological, but there’s been a creative reason there, too. Or maybe they’re one and the same.
See, I was submitting Startup to agents, right? It’s what we wordsmiths do from time to time: assault the walls of New York publishing (Nevermore, quoth the raven). I think I’ve mentioned this episode here before, but just in case I didn’t—or just in case I did and you missed it—I actually got feedback from one of the agents. It was still a rejection, but it was feedback nonetheless.
Now, this kind of thing is the fabled two-edged sword, or at least it was for me. We all react differently when this happens, and I’m thinking I had both the major reactions you can have.
At first, I was excited. Yeah, it was a rejection, but this guy—and he’s a major agent, believe you me; if I mentioned his name, you could research it and see—said he liked my writing, he just thought the first part of the novel needed redone because nothing was really happening. My writing was skillful, my characters engaging, so on and so forth (I doubt those are the exact words, but that’s the gist of the letter). Hey, that’s encouraging, right?
But then I had an idea, one I thought was a good one: I wrote back. Told this agent I realized there usually weren’t any second chances in the publishing world, but all the same, if I could rework that first hundred pages or so—and I was confident at the time that this was a trifling matter—would he be willing to give it another look? I mean, this guy is my dream agent. He represents one of the biggest influences I have when it comes to crime fiction. Can you imagine what it would be like to share agents with one of your heroes?
He had an assistant answer and say that, if it passed her muster, she’d hand it on to him.
I was nice, and for good reason. I thanked them for this second chance. I stopped working on the novel I was in the middle of and went back to the first one.
It ended up killing the momentum on both.
And the second submission was rejected as well.
First of all, I think my muse basically spent two years saying, “Hey, we wrote that bad boy already. Move on and get to work on new stuff, man.” Meanwhile, I’m cracking the whip on Mr. Muse, stressing each word with a slashing downstroke to his back: “You—will—fix—this—story!”
Mr. Muse thumbed his nose at me (to phrase it politely), and promptly took a two-year vacation.
Oh, he dropped by to see if I’d given up on my obsession. And sometimes I was able to trap him by baiting the trap with honey: “Look! I have this short story idea! Let’s write it! Oh, this thing in my other hand? Don’t pay aaa-ny attention to that. It’s just, um, and old thing I been lookin at.”
With a wary look in his eye, Muse would sit down and help me with my short story. I’d wait till he was heavily involved, flush with the feeling of victory on penning a good story, and then I’d nab him with the real thing: that bothersome old Startup beginning.
Mr. Muse is gullible that way. He lives to create, and he’s willing to work on something he thinks is finished if, in return, I’ll let him create little stories that’ll fend off my embarrassment at not having worked on my big story for another few weeks. I get to tell the writing group that I have A NEW SHORT STORY TO READ THIS WEEK!!! and he’ll try to come up with something halfway decent to do with that smelly old piece of tripe I keep trying to resuscitate.
In the end, it worked, more or less. With Startup scheduled to be released in June, I come up with something of an outline that utilized various scenes from the six or seven versions floating around on my hard drive, plus a smattering of new material. In return, Mr. Muse have given me…wait for it…A NEW WORK IN PROGRESS.
How cool is that?
I wrote an opening scene for it—a science fiction mystery with the working title of Animal Sacrifice that I’m writing under a pen name—then felt guilty and roughed in the eighth version of Startup (or so I’m calling it; I don’t think there are actually eight versions of it, but it’s damn close). I’ve worked at it on and off, revising scenes to fit into the new continuum, as well as finally getting a good finish on the prequel and sending it off to the editor. I think, as of today, I’m pretty much there. I still need to write a scene or two of new material to fit the revised storyline, but the good news is, in about a week’s time, I’ve added about forty pages to Animal Sacrifice. And it feels so good to finally be creating again!
I’m having to do a log of juggling to get this done. After all, there are still my editing duties for Oghma that I have to perform as well, so I’m creating, editing, editing, creating. So far, it’s going good, so Startup will be out in June—in hardback, at that—and once things are a little more firm, I’ll be announcing a special deal on it that you won’t want to miss.
In the meantime, I’ve got this mystery to work on….