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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Silver Linings and Frayed Edges

I always try to look for silver linings, both in people and in situations. Even the grumpiest, lugubrious of people must have something that tickles their fancy - or perhaps not!

For the last two years I've concentrated on my novels - I've still written the odd short story, but not subbed anything anywhere, apart from 'The Yellow Balloon' (which was accepted by My Weekly 18 months but not yet published), 'Hypnolove' which was published in an anthology, and a couple of other random short stories which were rejected.

I have decisions to make about my writing - two different agents have now said that I am a better saga writer than a writer of the contemporary stuff. Two unconnected professional people - two identical conclusions. The thing is, I loved writing The White Cuckoo. It was written straight from my heart. It is special and precious and it feels like I want to protect it, like a mother would a child.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed writing the sagas, too, but I was helped by a walking encyclopedia of memories of the 20s and 30s and didn't have to do much research other than sit and talk to my Great Aunt, who sadly is no longer with us.

The White Cuckoo is a contemporary women's fiction, with the back story set in 1910. My gut feeling is that it works as it is (and both the first and second RNA readers seemed to have the same view, so I can't be completely out of step, can I?) One of my local readers said she felt like writing to the agents I had approached to tell them how much she loved the story and that it was refreshing to have a main character she could actually identify herself with and root for, instead of reading about criminals, misery and doom and gloom all the time. Now two agents, completely unconnected, have suggested I write the 1910 story as a family saga. The whole point of the Cuckoo is the subtle strands of connectivity between two women - one who lived in 1910 and the other who is trying to sort out the tangled mess in her life in the here and now. If I could liken the novel to a diagram, it would be like the geometry of a sphere-shaped object, with everything connected and the formulae all adding up, but with tangents and parallels going off in all directions, sometimes hidden from view, but there all the same for the reader to discover.

If I re-write the 1910 part of the story as a complete novel, I feel I will be stealing the soul from The White Cuckoo and selling it to the devil.

One agent said that people don't want to read about your average 27 year old woman who drinks lattes, has a well-paid job and sports car and who travels half way across the country to find her estranged sister and then falls in love with a Civil Engineer. Why? I'm so confused.

There must be thousands of young women who have good jobs, a sports car and fancy the pants off a Civil Engineer. Not everyone is destitute, hard-up and living in a squat and being gang-raped by psychopathic handgun-wielding, granny-mugging thugs.

JM, the agent who has been trying to sell the trilogy of sagas, has suggested that I re-write my first novel 'Sunlight on Broken Glass' to make it grittier - to make the heroine really suffer, but to tone down Tom (see previous post) because publishers she approached felt his behaviour is a bit near the knuckle. I think I would rather do this than rip the heart out of the Cuckoo.

Is it really such a mortal sin for a new writer to write a book that is cross-genre - like The White Cuckoo. Apparently you can get away with it when you have a few published novels under your belt, but a new writer? No, no no!

Anyway, despite being a little frayed around the edges, I have decided to tinker around with 'Sunlight' and let the 'Cuckoo' rest for a while. I just can't bring myself to dismantle this work of art that, I, alone, have created - it was for me and it is precious to me. I'm not going to let it go. I don't have to, do I?

In the meantime, I'll fray myself around the edges a little more by sticking my toe into the muddy water of short story submissions, and I might tinker around with the NaNo novel and see if I can turn it into a pocket novel (using the very successful, Sally Q's helpful guidelines on her blog).

Right - when I get my first short story rejection, can someone please remind me that it's just a hobby, it's supposed to be enjoyment and that all writers have to deal with rejections.

Perhaps my frayed edges will have a silver lining, after all? Who knows.

Anyway, a Happy and successful 2010 to anyone reading this post by a very frayed and frazzled Annie.


L-Plate Author said...

Oh Annie, sweetheart, I so feel your pain. I suppose I can really empathise with you, if anyone!

I know you had your heart set on the cuckoo but maybe, like me, that was the book that you had to write, that you have absolute faith in, that is you through and through, and that you needed to write so that you could concentrate on what you are clearly good at.

The question for you is will you enjoy your saga writing, once you get back into it? I think you will. You seem, like me, to be a prolific story writer (and dislke shorties as much as me!). Only you, and your heart, can answer that. I switched genre and am lucky enough to love the new genre. It shouldn't be a chore.

Hugs honey and keep on going. You will get there, you have the talent and the perseverance. xxxx

Pat Posner said...

Aww, Annie
I'm not surprised you're feeling frazzled!
Thing is, you've worked so hard and long on the saga and then turned it into a trilogy, I think you're right to have a go at doing what your agent suggests. She's obviously enthusiastic about it and that is a HUGE thing.
I agree with what L-Plate says - right down to 'feeling your pain' myself and I'm sure Cuckoo's turn will come when the time's right.

Good luck and, yes, you will enjoy saga writing when you get back into it.


ChrisH said...

It sounds glib but it is all grist to the writing mill. I think your feeling that you should let 'Cuckoo' rest for a while is a good one. You say that it's the story from your heart which is what makes it even harder to get some distance from it. I'm sure if you return to it once you have given it some time to settle you will see more clearly which path to take. Good luck and keep going.


Hmmm, Ms Annie. Surely isn't a book just like tucking into box of delicious chocolates. The outer coating always being chocolate but the inner segment full of interesting textures and content. It's just a matter of taste. Maybe it's time to try out a new flavour. You might just be pleasantly surprised m'dear. What have you got to lose? :-) TFx

Anonymous said...

It seems that all writers must write what moves and inspires them and you're no exception. Agents on the other hand are only interested in what will sell books. This may or may not relate to what customers want to read (as opposed to what the market tries to impose upon them). I for one agree with you that writing to a market sucks dead bunnies.

So... I'm going to throw back at you the advice you gave to me. Write from the heart, then leave it for such time as is necessary, then edit it and make it great. In the mean time, I guess you have to do what the market dictates, at least until you're established; then you get to call more of the shots.

Don't do what I did and throw in the towel. Hang in there and you'll make it. I also have a feeling that The White Cuckoo will be book number four or later, whatever the current agents may say.

Debs said...

It's so frustrating, but I'm sure The White Cuckoo will have it's moment. x

HelenMHunt said...

I think you're right to go back to 'Sunlight' and persevere with it. Cuckoo will have its day when the time is right. And you know you can crack the short story market because you've done it before. Good luck.

Lane said...

Don't despair Annie. You've put everything into Cuckoo and you want to protect it. And rightly so. But I would heed Captain's advice and do what they ask at the moment.

The White Cuckoo will be out there one day. I'm sure of that.

Karen said...

I agree with what everyone else has so eloquently said. I'm sure you'll be published soon, and when you are there'll be a way for you to put The White Cuckoo out there one day.

Annieye said...

L-Plate: We are learning all the time, and not just about our craft. We have to wise-up to the industry, too, which is ultimately about whether or not something will sell. I suspect it doesn't hurt to have several strings to your bow, but it's just knowing which one to pluck first!

Pat: I think I have now accepted that, one day, I might have to kill off parts of the novel, but I'm going to leave it for a while to distance myself from it before I do. Thanks for the e-mails, you have helped me to put things into perspective and see a way forward.

Chris: You're comment is wise and I know you are right. Thank you for helping me to see that.

TF: Chocolate! Do you have some left - I think I might just have to try some new flavours.

Captain: 'Write from the Heart' - yep, you're right. It's the only way I can. I fail miserably if I try to stick to rules and write to order. I have to accept that I might have to analyse my creative writing in the same way I approach my work-related stuff. It's going to be hard but it has to be done.

I feel so sad that you aren't writing at the moment. I feel like I want to package up a huge box of confidence and good feelings about your writing and send it through the post to you so you could open it and pick bits out, one by one, and start to enjoy writing again. You do have talent. I know it and so does everyone else.

We all need to meet up again soon, don't we? It seems ages since our last meet.

Debs: I do hope so, but for now I'm going to concentrate on Sunlight.

Helen: I've picked out five of my stories at random and I'm working on all of them in my lunch breaks. When they are ready, I shall send them out, but I think I might need to study the market a bit first.

Lane: Thank you m'duck. Wise words, as always!

Karen: My agent told someone else that a writer usually has to write 4 or 5 books before they strike lucky. I suspect it might be somewhat of a lottery - you need to hit the right buttons with the right people because what one agent/publisher thinks is fantastic, another will just chuck into the recycling bin.

Anonymous said...

I would do what they ask at the moment just to get your feet in the door, then you can turn around and do things how you would really like...but what the hell do I know? You are doing a fantastic job and I have nothing but admiration for you:) Sooner or later you will do it. Keep on doing what you are doing and it will happen. You were born to write!! Happy New Year:)

L.A. Mitchell said...

Maybe it's just not the right time for this cross-genre novel. It sounds more mainstream and may find more success after you've hit the genre groove. It also sounds exactly like the kind of novel I'd love :)

Best writing wishes!