Oregon Workshop Brain Twist

I went to the June Novel Writer’s Workshop with Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch from June 14-17.

It was good.  I’ll get to that.  But it was also incredibly sad, and even now it’s hard to write about it.

First off, what it was about:  it was a workshop for writers on the edge of getting published (or getting published but with an excess of frustration) to help them get their novel out.

But not to agents.  Directly to editors.

I’d been considering the idea for a while but wasn’t really sure how to go about it.  Does the ms need to be…perfect before I send it?  If an agent is supposed to make sure your book is ready for an editor, how…do you do that by yourself?  What do you send?  How do you find out where to send it?  What if, God forbid, the only guidelines for a publisher’s website say, “No unagented submissions.”  Most of them do.  What if I do something wrong with the editor, then get an agent–have I screwed the pooch forever?

Maybe I should just go the agent route until I figure out what I’m doing, I thought.

But I had this feeling that agents weren’t going to like my books, because I don’t have “bestseller” written all over me.  I write what I write what I write.

I ran into Kris’s Freelancer’s Survival Guide first.  It’s good; if you’re going to freelance part- or full-time (or are just thinking about it), read it.  (If you’re just messing around and going, “Someday I’ll [insert project here],” don’t bother.)

From there (gateway drug), I went over to Dean’s Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing.  Scary stuff.  You’re on your own, baby, and if you think an agent/editor/publisher/PR/publicist/fan base is going to make it magically all better, you’ve got another think coming.  After several weeks of hyperventilating, I decided to sign up for this workshop:  if I could walk out of it knowing whether to send a novel to an editor or not and how to do so if I wanted to, it would be worth it.  An end to the endless cycle of anxiety–should I?  shouldn’t I?  I’ll just give up and do it the way people are telling me to do it–would be worth it, even if I found out the answer was NO.

In short, I loved it, really liked all the people involved, loved the area (it was like any given tourist town in the Black Hills, with the hills and an OCEAN, so funnily familiar), loved the hotel (a miniature House on the Rock), want to go back.

Now for the sad part.

At a certain point, it doesn’t matter whether the ms is perfect.  The agent isn’t a writer and can’t magically make my book all better.  Basically, you get a book ready for an editor the same way you do for an agent.  You make sure your query letter is perfect and your formatting is perfect:  they’re your interview suit for the best job ever.  And then you send it out.

There are more details, but I don’t feel like typing out two-and-change days’ of information.

You ignore the “no unagented submissions” part.

And then you send it.

There is no magic recipe, there’s just you and your book and your interview suit (no bunny slippers allowed).

I grieved over this.  Rationally, I knew it, but I didn’t believe it.  By the end of the class, I believed it.  I’m a writer; if I keep it up long enough, I’ll be a professional fiction writer.  Any failure is due to excuses and life events, which, since all writers have them, end up as excuses.

I really don’t care what anybody else has to say about it; I’ll be interested to hear other people’s views, but it’s not going to stop me.  I have two books out now, both to agents and editors.  I’m writing another book.  I wrote a short story in three hours yesterday, and it’s good.  And this on top of all the other freelancing I’m doing.  I could not have done this a month ago–rather, I could have, but I never would have considered it.

For some reason, the change was incredibly sad.  Goodbye, not being a writer.  I’m glad I was you, but I’m not you anymore.

2 Comments

  1. You know as well as anyone how I feel about the publishing industry. (For a reminder, go read my comments on Dave’s post about the Kindle, today.)

    However, I still believe two things:

    1. If you’re going to interact with the Machine of the publishing industry at all, it’s best to follow the instructions provided, lest you lose a hand in the gears. This isn’t superstition on my part — I’ve sat with too many editors and agents who (both) rage that writers can’t follow basic instructions, and that inability to follow instructions is the *easiest* way to tell that this writer is Not For Them.

    With that said…

    2. When you hit your stride and Events = [Your personal Success Set] it will NOT be because you bucked the queue, but because you kept at the writing until you stopped being ‘not a writer’ — I can see that happening for you, and it’s exciting, and I’m excited for you.

    Reply

  2. Argh, I know what you mean. I’m at the point where I’m about ready to try publishers directly for project # 1, while I move on to shopping project #2 to the agents who already refused #1. But I keep worrying: “What if project #2 does interest Agent X, who then asks about project #1, but I’ve already ruined my chances…” etc. etc.

    Sigh.

    Reply

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