Hello and welcome back to the blog! From Darkness Comes… was queried to its twentieth literary agent this week. That’s half the total Breaking Character had in a year. Not bad for two months of querying. Of course, when you make sure to keep ten queries out in the world at once, well, the total builds up rather quickly. It also helps that I didn’t quit querying to pursue self-publishing, only to change my mind at the last minute (I had queried twenty-one agents when I gave up querying, if you’re wondering). That’s what happened the last time around. If you can’t tell, I’m feeling introspective today. In fact, this blog post is nothing more than me throwing some thoughts out into the universe.
My current work in progress, titled A Grave Awakening, is the second book in the Breaking Character Series. If you’re new to the blog there’s no need to search. I can save you the trouble, it’s unpublished for now, possibly forever. The first book was a writer’s dream experience. The words flowed fast and free, without any trouble or obstructions. In most cases the characters turned out better than I had envisioned, with the one exception dealt with in the second draft. My vision for the book at the beginning matched the end result. It was my fifth completed novel (not to mention a dozen others that were abandoned in my younger days). I had never had a writing experience like it before. Where was the distress at the unruly characters, the anger when the words either failed to come or showed up begrudgingly and ill-suited for the purpose, the consternation of a plotline shot straight to hell? All were absent. Yet as I struggle with the second book in the series, I wonder should those feelings have been present?
I won’t lie, the writing experience for this book hasn’t been an enjoyable one overall. It’s like being in a time machine set for ten to fifteen years in my past. In those days if a manuscript was being problematic or the writing was hard, I often gave up. Yeah, I had a lot of quit in me in those days. I like to think I’ve worked that problem out. My focus now is making the current
piece of work in progress as good as it can get.
I haven’t experienced many of the problems I talked about with other books. The plotline is still firmly in place, despite my repeated delays in making small decisions that will affect it. The characters are still as good as ever (at least I think so, you can never be sure until the first reading). While I have had a problem finding the words at times, when found, they are more than adequate. Finding motivation to continue with the series has been a struggle. Once a week I start a writing session by staring off into space, daydreaming of a return of the magical writing experience from the first book, while other times I pick that manuscript apart for errors. I don’t want you to get the impression that the problems lie with the book. My progress has been slow, but what has been written is good.
The truth is I decided to write about my experience with A Grave Awakening because I have spent so much time contemplating the problem. I have some ideas, though whether they are accurate I’m honestly not sure. It’s a mental blockage of some form. That’s not to say that I’ve been experiencing writer’s block. I believe that to be a different problem that I haven’t experienced. The first book is the source of the blockage. A few weeks into Book #2, Book #1 was retired from querying without netting an agent. I started the second book knowing this could happen, and decided self-publishing was an option. One literary agent requested a reading of Book #1 and held onto it for two months before rejecting it without a comment. That gets inside of a writer’s head. I took some chances with that book other writers don’t normally take regarding the plotline. Since there are spoilers involved, I’d prefer not to reveal what those are. I have wondered if those influenced the agent’s opinion, despite being told by those that have read the book that the decisions made on my part only added to the plot and in no way hindered it. Also, this is the first time I have returned to the same characters for a book. All my other writing experiences have been with fresh characters.
Though I have listed the above problems both for introspective purposes and for your reading enjoyment, I don’t think they had much bearing on my experience. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have spent time picking the first manuscript apart a time or two. (Here is the part where I lose some of you.) Before I begin, I would like to state that I don’t have anything against self-publishing. It’s a good fit for some writers. I, however, don’t fit in that group for reasons I won’t explain because it would make this already long post longer and because I have done so before. Self-publishing is a backup plan for me (Twitter hated this by the way). I’m a traditional publishing kind of guy. (Could lose some here too) Not all self-published books are good and the same can be said of the writers that write them. Look, I’ve never been a very confident guy. I had written four books before I worked up the courage to send one to an agent. With time that has changed, at least in my writing life. I’ve read a lot and in the last few years I’ve submitted a lot. I’ve had compliments from magazine editors and literary agents, who rejected my work ironically. There are some bad writers out there and I’m not one of them. I think the point got lost somewhere in there. The point is this, traditional publishing has always been a dream for me. The rejection of the first book in the series killed that dream for the series and made working on the second book difficult to say the least.
The dream of being a traditionally published author didn’t die with Breaking Character. It will have to be another book that brings that dream to fruition. As far as A Grave Awakening goes, the writing will continue. I’m not going to quit a story after writing twenty-eight thousand words of a planned forty thousand book. I look at it as a positive experience considering I didn’t quit, when years ago I would have. Personal growth, I guess.
For those of you still reading that I didn’t offend, thanks for reading. Until next time, remember to follow your dreams.
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Stephen Michael Roth