Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: submission

I’ve mentioned before I’m currently in the submission process with my novel, The Prodigal Hour. So far it’s okay; not spectacular, but not terrible, either. Of course, “spectacular” would probably be defined as “offered representation,” and I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens. I considered talking more about the submission process itself, but I think I’m going to do so more after I’ve been offered representation, and not before.

I’m going through the process as you’d expect; search the Internet and Writers’ Market and etc. for agents who are either actively seeking new clients or sound like they may be vaguely interested. And then I send a query, which looks pretty much as you’d expect a query to look: intro, synopsis, bio, and out. The intro gives me some trouble, though, because that’s where I mention the title, word count, and genre of my novel, and boyhow is that last characteristic ever a trouble spot. Many might think it’s easy: time travel automatically = science fiction.

But not so fast, I say.

Because I don’t feel like I wrote a science fiction novel. I don’t generally read science fiction novels. Science fiction is all wars among and treks across the stars, and it has a long and illustrious history I don’t feel a part of. Growing up, my choices for reading material were all Dean Koontz and Stephen King pretty much straight across the board, with digressions into Douglas Adams and Christopher Stasheff. Given that among my first experiences with Stephen King was a short story called “Strawberry Spring,” after which I read Different Seasons, I always had trouble thinking of him as a ‘horror’ writer. I never read It and never got to his straight-up horror until after I’d already read “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body.”

Try showing someone with no previous knowledge of their origins the movie adaptations of The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me and then explaining to them they were both based on books by a horror writer.

Because they certainly aren’t horror stories.

Admittedly, King is a bit of an exception; he himself is pretty much as much a genre as “horror”. People buy his books for his name, not for the genre.

Few people are going to buy The Prodigal Hour for my name, and you’re probably already reading this, anyway.

So far, I’ve been calling it a techno-thriller, but even that is a bit of a misnomer. It is thrilling (well. That’s the hope, at least), but character and plot work in pretty much equal measure, and it’s certainly not just about the thrills.

I sort of understand the requirement; it determines, basically, where your book is placed on bookstores’ shelves, which is key. I rarely venture to the scifi/fantasy shelves except to grab Neil Gaiman’s newest book, and again, I’m buying the name, not the genre.

I’m also thinking ahead. This one may be about time travel, but my next two big ones are about vampires and then werewolves, and both do things with those myths I’ve never seen nor heard done before. You can lump them all into science fiction/fantasy, I suppose, but I certainly wouldn’t, and I honestly think publishers and booksellers do more harm than good in categorizing books. Yesterday, Mitzi Szereto wrote about how publishers label books and how those labels can affect their sales, specifically related to erotica.

One of the things that’s gotten me thinking about this, too, are the writers who write stories that seem pretty categorically genre but whose books are not placed there. Lethem started out writing mostly weird science fiction tales. Crichton’s got Jurassic Park and Timeline, at least, not to mention Sphere and The Andromeda Strain. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was narrated by a dead girl, while Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time-Traveler’s Wife seems like science fantasy.

And then there’s Michael Chabon. He just won a Hugo for The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. The Hugo is a major award so known for science fiction that, when a handful of fantasy novels won (including JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Gaiman’s American Gods), some controversy got stirred up.

I haven’t heard any such controversy about the award having gone to Chabon’s novel, which is mostly an alternate history set in the present (I haven’t read the book. I tried. Got about twenty pages in before I gave up on it). But Chabon is an author with both mass appeal and a Pulitzer under his belt, and, in fact, more so than controversy, the win has mainly stirred up discussion like here, where IO9 asks which mainstream authors its readers would like to see write science fiction.

Personally, I don’t want any mainstream authors to deign to write anything they don’t enjoy. Personally, I’d like someone to point out, hey, wait a minute, twenty of the twenty-five movies with the highest worldwide gross ever have been genre movies, and, arguably, science fiction or fantasy movies. The only exceptions are Titanic, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Da Vinci Code, the last two of which are certainly genre movies (adventure and thriller, respectively) even if not science fiction or fantasy.

Seems like it’s mainstream to me.

It’s like people expect good entertainment from all media until they hit books, and then some weirdo mechanism steps in and says that it must be “literature” to be any good while preventing the memory that the whole reason Shakespeare is awesome is because he wrote swordfights and fairies and witches so damned well into really exciting stories.

I’ll probably write about finishing my thesis a few times, I’ve realized; “finishing” is, apparently, a process. A few weeks ago, I typed the final period, then sent it to my advisor. In the meantime, I started polishing/tightening myself, until I got a couple of notes from the man himself (he called it “brilliant,” for anyone curious. Coming from Sid Stebel, that’s high praise indeed).

He edited in WordPerfect, the comments of which are not compatible with Word, apparently. So I’ve been polishing blind to some degree.

Last night, I “finished” again; polishing and formatting done. Chapter headings where they ought to be, italics where I want them. Lots of scenes tightened or simply eradicated (I’ve no issues with red pens. Nor blue ones, for that matter); darlings not just killed but slaughtered, hacked up, shifted into Hefty bags, and dumped into the ocean (why yes, I have been watching Dexter. Why do you ask? It’s research for a future book).

I was going to use Lulu to upload it/bind it for handing in to my program, but Lulu apparently hates my fonts. Which is sad. So now I have to go to frickin’ Kinko’s or some shit to have it bound, and it’s going to cost an arm and a leg, neither of which I can exactly spare at this juncture.

I might get a couple copies made, too; I think it’s ready for submission.

Wish it luck.

I saw this Michael Bay commercial the other day (I’m sure it’s old, but whatever), and thought it needed to be included in some post at some point:

I haven’t really mentioned it except to note that I finished the draft and was going to start blogging again. Which was true. The draft is, finally, finished, but still needs some polish. It clocked in at a little more than 109,000 words, but since I posted that I was finished, I went back over the beginning and cut roughly 4,000 of those, and that was only in the first hundred and some pages. There are still at least two hundred to go.

It surprised me it clocked in so long, as I excised a pretty major subplot. But I did so because I upped the limitations for the main characters, and I think that ultimately makes it work better. It was something several readers suggested when they read the first draft of it when I first finished it a little more than a year ago, and they were very much right.

As it stands so far, I’m extraordinarily proud of it, but I realized, as I was tightening, that I shouldn’t yet. Which is what I’m doing now; I’m taking a couple of weeks away from it. This weekend/week, I’ve had to participate in a normalizing grading session, and on Friday I’m supposed to come up with a comprehensive marketing plan for a business class I’m taking (one reason I buckled down to finish is that this is the book I’m using for class example, and I was having trouble marketing without actually having a, you know, product). Coming from a scientific/literary background and being rather deeply analytical in nature, I’m fascinated by branding/marketing but find it difficult to apply some of the concepts. I look at some leading, renowned marketers, like Seth Godin, for example, and I just have to scratch my head, because it feels like it all becomes about attention and curiosity, and very rarely does anyone mention the actual quality of the product. It’s extraordinarily difficult for me to come to terms with the idea that the quality of something has absolutely nothing to do with its ability to find its audience, even though this is evident time and time again (Spiderman 3, for example).

I’m leaning toward a new title, too: The Prodigal Hour. It’s a phrase that came in a flash while I was at work one day, and it’s perhaps the one moment that felt most powerful with the book’s so-far best draft. This is the one that went farther than the others, and I feel like it’s the one where my skill as a writer finally matched up with my talent as a storyteller.

I’m going to try to finish a novel/la (I’m not sure which it is, yet) in the next few weeks, then finish the manuscript and start submitting it.