Humbled by Blogspace High

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Who could ever ignore this guy?

With my previous post attracting exactly one visitor, my doubts about the purpose of blogging have reached overdrive. I know what publishers and agents say that the purpose is: to motivate them by making myself pre-famous (thus rendering their services moot). While it is always nice to see Tanya Cliff, having her make the only visit to one of my most heartfelt and soul-baring posts is making me feel rejected by more than just those agents. I’m feeling rejected by the process of blogging itself.

In fact, blogging is starting to remind me a lot of High School. Continue reading

Carly Might Be OK: A strategy for facing rejection

Optimistic concept.

An unfamiliar road when facing rejection.

I’ve been comforted, lately, by a few other bloggers who seem to be experiencing more than their share of rejection from literary agents. The Daily Rejection is built around this recurring motif, and JB, like many writers, wonders when she will reach the “breaking point at which one accepts defeat.” This is a familiar question, and when I ask it of myself, I try to remember to give this answer.

Carly might be OK.

Of course, that exact answer only works for me, but I think that any writer—any human, really—can come up with a similar answer for themselves. Let me explain.

Continue reading

Start in the Middle of the Action… and 3 ways to find it.

To help with my series, ‘How to Follow Writing Advice that Makes No Sense,’ please comment with your favorite examples of high-action opening techniques. In the meantime, see Friday’s guest post on Cow Pasture Chronicles to cure your Writer’s Block by watching TV.

man-with-glasses-yawning

Even the most invested reader can lose interest in a slow opening chapter.

When I was teaching, I used to tell my students that readers and writers share a responsibility. I was quite pretentious about it, in retrospect; I tried to convince them that they needed to invest their attention into six or eight soliloquies before they could reward themselves with Hamlet double-crossing poor old Rosencrantz, or with Ariel taking Prospero’s revenge on the invaders. In order to enjoy those moments of action, after all, one would surely need an investment in understanding of the characters and the situations that motivate them. Wouldn’t one?

Perhaps one would, but it seems that literary agents don’t.

Several agents have given me feedback that leads to the third common phrase of advice in my series: ‘Start in the Middle of the Action.’ This may be the one that troubles me the most when I am writing my opening chapters. My obligation to provide background for readers clashes with my obligation to entertain them, until every attempt to balance the two seems like a compromise. Many of my opening chapters, in fact, have a current of apology in them, as if I am asking the readers to “just hang on” until things make more sense. Here are three of the cheats I have tried: Continue reading

Write What You Know (if you know anything)

This is the first in my series, ‘How to Follow Writing Advice that Makes No Sense.’ Keep checking back here for more. In the meantime, visit Cow Pasture Chronicles for my guest-post introducing my idea of good Metafiction.

tinman

Frank Baum didn’t actually know a tinman.

A writer trying to follow advice as is like a kid living with parents who hate each other. Every time you think you’ve listened to the wisest possible words, and crafted your masterpiece accordingly, something contradictory comes along to spank it back to Penny Dreadful status. This profession (like many, I’m sure) seems to depend more on balancing strategies than relying on any single set of them. That advice you are getting may not contradict common sense as much as you think.

Let’s take the classic: ‘Write what you know.’ Anyone who’s ever lifted a pen, even if only as a student, has had their well-meaning Great-Aunt Mabel over his or her shoulder, espousing the timeworn guarantee that ‘writing what you know’ will launch you to the same lofty heights of popularity that she enjoyed in her Bridge club. The problem with that advice is simply this: Some of us don’t know very much. I know how to write, I think—though sometimes better than others—and if you give me six or eight weeks, I can get a recalcitrant English student to do his homework. Usually.

Other than that, ‘what I know’ might not be very literature-worthy: Continue reading

The Rejection Reflex

Quit talking to the hand

How can an author help agents break the cycle of rejection?

Please comment with any advice about the querying process, especially if you have successfully enlisted an agent.

I have an idea for a new business that could be a real money-spinner. I call it ‘Literary Rejection Services, Inc.’ and I can see making a bundle from agents whose index fingers are starting to cramp.

This is not exactly a newsflash, but I had a rejection from a fairly reputable agent arrive to my inbox yesterday. The difference between this rejection and so many of the others is surprising, though; to this agent, I had never actually submitted a proposal. Is it possible that literary agents are so query-weary that they have started sending preemptive form rejections? Have their slush piles started to leak over the tops of their employer-issued gumboots?

Continue reading

The Nouveau Meek

Photo, hand holding globeColor

How can anyone remain meek, once they’ve inherited the Earth?

I had a debate with a Jehovah’s Witness, recently. He had come to my door to reassure me of the scripture promising us that the meek shall inherit the Earth. When I suggested that this may have already happened–that those who were once meek may now be too powerful to recognize–the question arose as to what has happened to those who once held that power. If they are now meek, that promise of inheriting the Earth may be stuck in an infinite loop.

While the argument was successful to the extent that it sent the young man packing, it still resonates in my mind days later. It brings to mind a time when authors could only reach an audience if they first knew the magical incantation needed to attract a publisher’s attention. Most authors were, almost by definition, about as ‘meek’ as one can get. As technology has progressed, we are witnessing a democratisation of authoring: an ability to claim at least some kind of audience by simply logging into WordPress and blathering away, regardless of what some old mothballed ‘publisher’ might think.

Surely, this is something to celebrate… but is it also something to fear?

Continue reading

Unpublished is the New Published

typewriter-twitter

It’s been an interesting journey attempting to join the ranks of “published authors,” and I take this next step with even greater interest. Today, apparently, I become a blogger.

I’ll confess it: my spanking new blog is a direct response to publishers and agents who insist that I have a ‘social media presence.’ Charitably ignoring the oxymoron in this phrase, I’m told, by those who ought to know, that a ‘social media presence’ is more important on a new author’s resume than even the achievement of being published. Let’s take a moment to contemplate this: has writing become more about blogging and tweeting than it has about the actual development of novels and short stories?

If this is so, then it holds implications for the canon. A stanza of Wordsworth might be shrill enough for a tweet, and one might pin with interest some photos from a production of Gatsby. Where, though, does this leave the works of John Updike or William Shakespeare? Would J.K. Rowling, even, have been able to adjust her expanding tomes to the rush we might now place on her writing samples, before we move on to watch a skateboarding cat?

Of course, technology has provided opportunities to streamline the process of submission and publication (or, one might say, rejection). My degree in Computer Science had me appreciating, long before my peers, the ability to format a submission onto an online form or into an email message. Receiving feedback within weeks–some of which is very helpful–beats the heck out of the days that authors would find crumpled letters in the mail about projects they’d already forgotten. It is a different world, though, when technology stops saving us time in the conveyance of our writing, and starts demanding that we spend that time writing much shorter chunks of something else entirely.

Still, here I am, more than game to try my first blog post and see where it leads. Like any first piece, a first post deserves a unique angle, and I am happy with the irony in this one: I am happy, that is, to blog my objections about the necessity of blogging. I can only hope that there are a few authors out there who feel the same way; if not, then who is left to spend their time writing fiction?

So, to the publishers and agents who aren’t reading my new blog, I say this: Shame on you. Shame on you not for discarding all but the most saleable submissions into your slush pile, because that is an industrial necessity. Shame on you not for passing over submissions without corresponding, because your time leaves you no choice. Shame on you, rather, for basing so many of your decisions on how often your authors float their opinions, cramming their abbrevs into a tagline. You are the guardians of deep communication: the last line of defence against the temptations of fleeting thought and lazy grammar. Without you on the side of our words, our words will be lost.

On the other hand, if you are reading my blog, well… I’ve written some novels you might like to read when your ISP goes down.

Oh, and also: you’ve found my social media presence.

Check out my Projects And Samples menu for samples of fiction by K. Alan Leitch, both here and on websites where it has won some awards.