Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gulp―How Will a New Publishing Trend Affect My Manuscript?

What! Someone already wrote a book about vampires that glitter? Of all the luck....

Recently, I read an article that indicated that the topic of my YA manuscript currently being submitted to agents looks to be a new trend in the fiction world. Now, as far as I was able to discern, there wasn't―until this article―a single peep in the market about this trend; nor had I been able to even find a book that resembled mine. But lo and behold, Ta Da! I was able to―apparently―predict a new trend (if there is any truth to this article―which there seems to be as there are now several authors launching new books dealing with this topic).

Of course, that doesn't mean my manuscript will get published any more easily. In some ways, it may make it more difficult, especially if articles like this one encourage writers to go out and start pumping a glut of books featuring this topic into the publishing world. And there is always the chance that someone (in particular, someone with a big name) could potentially write and publish my story before I get a chance to do so. At the very least, I will now be riding the wave, rather than creating it (which is okay...I mean, what was the likelihood of me setting any trends anyway?)

But now I'm a bit nervous. I'm not really sure what to make of this or how it will impact my ability to sell my manuscript. Certainly, one of the worst things that an author can discover is that someone else has already written her "original" concept. To be sure, when I came up with my idea, it was entirely original (well, a new spin on an old topic, though new to the YA genre, but I digress....).

So what is a writer to do in this situation?

I think that I can safely make several assumptions (correct me in my Comments section if I'm wrong):

1. Chances are that the story you created will be different from any others (characterization, rules, narrative, setting, etc.). Our brains all work in different ways, and if there are any comparisons to be made, they are likely over clich├ęd tropes/images anyway and shouldn't really be occupying much (or any) space in your manuscript in any event. At the very least, they shouldn't be monopolizing it―and here, I refer primarily to fantasy/sci fi/paranormal/etc, as there tend to be certain tropes which are often unavoidable.

2. If you do discover similarities between stories, presumably they are minor. If not, then it's likely that the similarities are due to large literary conventions and common narratives. After all, there is nothing new under the sun, right? How many possible basic storylines can there be? (In fact, I think they were all pretty much written by Shakespeare already, or so they say).

3. It seems to me that following a trend in the market by placing your own original spin on a popular concept can potentially help sell your book to publishers and to readers. Take a look at the vampire legacy, for example. So long as you don't try to rewrite Dracula and you rule out glittery-skinned vampires altogether (meaning, make it new, fresh, and yours―and awesome), then a trend may very well help you.

Caveat: If, for some reason, someone else's brain has been running on the same wavelength as yours, and that writer happens to be quicker and luckier (or―gulp―better), then you will just have to suck it up and keep going, because there's always the next book. If nothing else, you've learned that your brain rocks, your creativity is on target, and you can write a book (it's not like it's an easy feat, you know). And there's always the potential to turn it into fan fiction. Not that this really dulls the pain, but you can only squeeze a lemon so hard before it bursts in your palm and makes a mess.

As always, I wish you the best in your own writing journey. Unless, of course, you are trying to write a book like mine. In which case, I hope your muse deserts you until my own manuscript gets published. Just kidding. Sort of.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A letter to My Ex-Muse

So it seems I'm stuck in a sorry little village called Writer's Block located somewhere between Rejection (an overpopulated ghost town teeming with lost souls and dusty manuscripts) and Bestseller (a mythical land of editors with my number on speed dial and roads paved with royalties).

The strange, most disgusting thing about this is that I have these two brilliant ideas stuck in my head, but when I sit down to write those stories, I get nothing but static. It's like the translator between my mind and my fingers has suddenly gone mute.

Normally, I'd try to find a quiet place, maybe a soothing cup of herbal tea, some inspirational emo. But frankly, I think this to be a most uninspired solution. I think, perhaps, I stand a better chance of unleashing the creative genius within if I were to commune with my Muse instead. So, here goes:

Dearest Calliope,

You filthy, lying harlot. I know you're cheating on me.

Still, I am not so self-absorbed that I can't look at this objectively. I realize now that it was vain of me to assume that I might be enough for you. Truly, it hadn't occurred to me that my own personal setbacks might push you away.

I apologize for irritating you by claiming to have a headache. I swear upon my dear Aunt Gertie's grave that I wasn't lying, but I understand how you might have taken this to be a slight of some kind.

Yet I cannot understand how you could abandon me now during this heartbreaking chapter of my writing life. Oh, the fickleness of your heart wounds me, Calliope! Have you no sympathy? No shame? Where is your loyalty? Your patience? Your love?

I thought what we shared was special. We made a beautiful thing together. It doesn't matter to me if the entire world believes our baby to be hideous and smelly. It will always be beautiful to me. Is it not the same for you?

Oh Calliope, you heartless adulterer. It's not enough that you leave me stranded, but must you take up residence with others? The cruelty, Calliope! The pain you have caused me!

And yet, I still need you like a pen needs ink to find worth. If you must flit in and out of my life, then do so. But please promise me that you will always return. Please! I don't care if you return to me smelling of someone else's bookbinding-glue perfume. Even if you have ink stains on your collar, I will always take you back, as much as it pains me to share you.

Blast it, forgive me for the harshness of my earliest words (I haven't acquired an editor to delete them). I promise, from now on, I will do my part and make myself a partner worth your inspiration―if you will only return to me.

Yours in faithful longing and pathetic need,


Oh wow. That worked. Back to writing. What do you do to get unstuck?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Confessions of a Wicked Mother

"Because I'm beautiful"

I must confess. I have spent the last 2 days trying to hide from my 2 year old. There are some days, days like, well, today, where the distractions just seem too great, when my inability to sit down and hibernate in my own creative little cave and write becomes too overwhelming, and I become overanxious, almost to the point of paralysis. It is on these days when I am least capable of handling my beautiful, active, chatterbox, doll of a daughter. It is on these days where I see the drawing on my walls and think to myself "Oh heaven deliver me from this demon child" instead of, "how sweet and creative, you little stinker," as I should.
And thus, the last couple of days, as something crashed or screams pelted my sensitive ear drums, I have found myself not patiently trying to resolve the issues, but rather, quietly turning around and running as delicately as my slippered feet could carry me to the farthest rooms in the house. I have been very wicked, indeed, foisting my toddler on my poor preteen angel of a daughter, who has nobly taken it upon herself to watch over her sister, as her mother has been conspicuously absent from whatever room they are occupying.
wicked. wicked. Wicked.

But my hiding has not been without consequence. Truly, it has resulted in an amazing amount of new artwork on my walls and even a new waterfall on my bedroom carpet. And so it seems that neglect encourages the artist in my child to blossom. It was not until some time late last night, having excluded myself from the entertainment of American Idol, that I realized how terribly neglectful I have been. I had secluded myself in my oldest daughters' bedroom to read a painfully simple, yet hilarious and romantic tale of a pirate and his lady, when suddenly I heard the anguished cry of my eldest daughter: "Oh, Emmie! What have you done!" and hearing thus, I wearily climbed out of my daughter's bed, closed my book, and set out to find what could only be a miserably discovery.

Alas, I came upon my darling Emmie, who likely for the first time, was feeling her first pangs of shame, the red flush of embarrashment and guilt so prettily flaming her cheeks. And yet, my brave little darling did not try to hide; nor did she shove her hands behind her back like any child riddled with guilt might, but rather, she held out her toes and her fingers for inspection as if she'd just come home from the spa.

"I did my nails," the child said almost proudly.

And so she did, her tiny little fingers and toes covered entirely in bright pink nail polish. I mean, Entirely. Not to say anything of the streaks of hot pink on her cheeks, her arms, and her legs. "And what is that in your hair?" I asked, pained, making a feeble attempt to keep my poor little colt from bolting into the next room.

"I don't know," she said, shrugging her shoulders. "Show me." And so she took my hand into the bathroom and pointed. Well, at least it wasn't glue or vaseline. I hesitate to say what I thought it might be. Thank God it was only half a bottle of liquid soap.
And then her Daddy came upstairs and said, not entirely without anger, "Why did you do this, Emily Elizabeth Miller?" the angry sprays of spittle from his lips all but soaking both Emily and myself.

To this Emmie said quietly, but not without conviction, "Because I'm beautiful."

That's what I get for hiding. An hour of cleaning up nail polish and a late night bath, and I can't even yell at her because, as Emily Elizabeth so aptly stated, she is beautiful.
If only we could all find such value in ourselves, enough to paint ourselves bright pink and sculpt buckets of soap into our hair and still find the strength to say, 'Because I'm beautiful."

Well, and because you left me alone, you dim-wit.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Do you know what I've heard more than anything the last few days, weeks...err three months?

Carol, take a break!

But do you know what I've wanted to hear?

“Keep going, keep going! You can do it! Don't surface 'til it's done!”

To be sure, I've heard that, too (at least the keep going part). And let me tell you, that is music to my unattached earlobe ears. But the “take a break”? That's kind of annoying. You know why? Because everything inside me is already screaming it loud and clear.

Do you know what my fear is? Let me outline it for you in terms of a little dialogue:

Day 1
Andy: Hey, I was thinking you could take a little break today, and maybe we could go rent a movie, eat some popcorn, snuggle....
Carol: I don't know. I have so much work to do yet. And I'm so close!
Andy: Come on, you know you want to.

Day 2
Andy: Hey, I know you never got back to work, but last night was fun, huh?
Carol: Yeah, it was nice. Desperate to get some chapters done, though.
Andy: I was thinking maybe we could go into town today, catch a film, maybe some dinner....

Carol: Andy, please. I have to work.
Andy: Come on, Carol, you've been working so hard. Give yourself a break. Kids miss you!

Day 3
Carol: Think I'll take a break today. I'm tired.
Andy: Sounds good. Let's have some friends over after work. We'll BBQ.

Day 4
Carol: Why do I feel so tired? Think I'll skip the book today.
Andy: You sure? You're so close.

Day 5
Carol: I'll get back to it someday.

Day 370
Carol: What's this? Oh gosh, my old book. Stupid idea anyway.

Now, is it likely to happen that way? No.

But I'm a bit OCD about certain things. Especially dreams. And this is one of them.

The thing is, not all dreams are attainable, right? Some are passing whims, and others, we really do want, but they're ludicrous. Like, I'll probably never be able to marry Gerard Butler (unless they overturn bigamy laws, and I lose my conscience—notice how I didn't say anything about the likelihood of meeting him...dreams....). I'll never tour with Snow Patrol, and I'll never have my own reality show featuring my nineteen children—wait, that's not my dream.

But some dreams, you have FOREVER. You can't remember not having had them, and they won't go away. For years, I've tinkered at my computer, writing little stories, articles, whatever. I've started many books, but never with any real sort of attachment. I went to school for writing. I taught writing. I've made writing a mission, always with passion, but never dedication.

And then one day, July 2, 2009, I was washing up—hubby was drying—and I said, “Oh. I have an idea.” I started talking. We finished the dishes, headed into the office, and we sat for hours while I talked out my idea. The next day, I sat down at my computer, started taking notes, and began to write. I did not come up for air for 2 weeks, except for when I heard some whining, like “Mommy, we're starving!” And then Andy said, “Carol, movers arrive in 2 days. We're leaving the country.”

Yeah, I'm totally serious about that. I'd been so absorbed, I'd set aside the whole notion that we were moving back to America. And so, the movers arrived, and I holed up on the floor of our safe room and kept writing. I wrote on the plane until the laptop battery ran out, and then I wrote by hand. We moved into our new house and I wrote. School started...piano lessons, dance, guitar, dental appointments, doctor's visits, and still I wrote. I stopped long enough to have some minor surgery, and then I wrote. I wrote in every conceivable place in every conceivable way. It was inconceivable (yeah, I like the Princess Bride, too). And then, September 7, I was done.

Two rejections later and some research, and I realized my book is toooooooo big. Gotta cut 60,000 words or no one will touch it. So far, I've cut 45,000 words. Oh, the agony. And still, I've hardly surfaced for air. But I'm so close.

So, will I take a break? Soon. When I'm finished. I'm not a magician; I can't write a book without writing. And some dreams just grab hold and won't let go (especially if you're obsessive, like me). Thankfully, I have understanding family and friends. Or I'd be a very lonely, obsessive writer.

You know, it's only in books that dreams are fulfilled by accident.

What's your dream? Make it an obsession.