Genre Lit is Lit
Hello everyone, I'm refocusing on editing for publication a manuscript titled Citizen Vamp. In a few days I am hoping to submit it for consideration to the Writer's Trust (of Canada) Mentorship program.
Not only did I receive a wonderful letter of support from Jess at The Terrace Library, who facilitates programs including the writer's group. She is also the deputy librarian and delivers programming to local youth.
Thank you Jess, your support means a lot.
I hope I get this mentorship. I also applied for the Pivot Grant from the BC Arts Council. It would enable me to actually take the whole time off to focus on writing rather than floating between my many other projects.
I hate talking about the work aspect of my writing because being a writer means constant rejections.
When non-writers ask you how your writing is going, they ask like:
"So... how'd that pitch you send go?"
"Oh, the pitch I had to simultaneously send out to twelve different publishers?"
"Yeah, is that for your story about the biosphere?"
"Yeah, that's the one. Well, I sent out the letters but I probably won't hear from many of them, already got two email rejections from publishers or agents that are rejecting all due to quota etc. and I'm not expecting to hear back from the more likely ones for a few months."
"What? Did you say months?"
"That's rough, you have to wait that long for an answer?"
"No, I continue working, but sometimes the wait is longer."
Then they give you the look, the look you probably unknowingly give other writers as well. The one that says, wow - you believe in your work so much that you'll keep working even through hundreds of rejections, possibly never getting paid for work you're continue to do?
And the short answer is yes.
Being an artist was always a waltz with insanity, the trick is always making sure you lead and the insanity follows. If you let insanity lead, well - that's a fun trip that requires medication to get out of.
I have developed a hard skin about it and if you want help learning what to do, try reading Stephen King's "On Writing."
I built a nail in a board, I put it up on the wall. Pointy-side out.
My job as a writer is to fill the nail with rejections, says Mr. King.
Lately I haven't done a great job because that novel wasn't quite right. It wasn't the right ending. I knew it, but the true ending hadn't come to me, yet. Anytime I worked on another project, I felt like I was betraying both. In 2017 & 2018 I wrote a novella-length story each year (once-offs) to fill the time I knew I wanted to work on Citizen Vamp, but I still didn't have the ending yet.
Last year, I rewrote the ending.
The book I started over ten years ago, before I was officially a mom, was finished. (Le big sigh.) It had an ending worthy of the series I hope it becomes. Then, I went through the text and adapted it for the change in ending, adjusting scenes and characters properly. Now I want to do a final edit for publishing and market. Each edit can be quite extensive. I'm doing one last edit before I submit the script to the Mentorship.
My ideal press is EDGE Publishing out of Alberta. They're who I've had in mind since the beginning of this project. I also want to publish in the Canadian Market because Canadian Lit needs a shake up.
It was recently asked on a Facebook page for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) why a romance writer was often looked down on by other writers. Here's what I said to them, and it seems to have resonated with other writers:
It's just snobbery. If someone isn't willing to look at your script it's because it may not have anything to do with you. It may be that the genre or style is wrong and it's just a belief or concept that the editors can't get past.
In fact, if you take too much personally, you will not be able to keep up a publication schedule. There's always an audience out there, the internet has proven that. Your job as a writer, mine as an interdisciplinary story-teller, is to create and find that audience as quickly as possible. Find them, and feed them!
When you pitch and get rejections, it sucks. Rejections are annoying, but you have to hear a lot of "no's" if you're ever going to hear a "yes."
Like Iliza Shlesinger said in her stand up on Netflix titled "Elder Millennial," men in the social sphere are expected to hear a lot of rejections from women, why? Because a decent person knows it's not about the answers you get, it's about the "at bats."
When I worked in Sales, it would be annoying because the same rule holds true. You have to sell and sell and sell because a lot will say no. The trick is getting one to say yes. Then, another. Don't worry about the totals, just handle the one in front of you. The next will come after you've finished with this one.
I couldn't handle selling. I didn't believe in the philosophy of selling, so I felt ashamed asking people to commit to purchase something I didn't even necessarily think they needed.
But my writing, well, I don't think anyone needs it, per se, but I do believe that there are people who might enjoy or seek stories of the variety I write.
In the end, my job is to keep showing up. Tell the stories I tell, and hopefully enrich not only others' lives, but my own in the process. In the end, I become a better writer, my nail gets filled, and readers get their fodder.
The painful truth is that I don't always like sharing the rejections. Who talks about rejections? No one. They make us feel like failures, but the truth is that sometimes the failure isn't yours.
Remember, although only 12 Publishers have been publicly identified as having rejected JK Rowling's famous Witchcraft & Wizardry series about The Boy Who Lived, Joanne Rowling has said numerous times on social media and her own blog that she was rejected "loads," or around a hundred times give or take a dozen.
The great stories are worth fighting for.
Sometimes those great stories have truly monstrous characters, and sometimes those characters are more than human. Sometimes a book or story helps you realize that we are the monsters.
Some of the greatest literary achievements are genre-like work because sometimes we have to work on our issues in metaphor to be able to write.
Vampire stories are about the lecherous qualities of the upper class and how they hold themselves artificially above even laws of mortality.
Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote "A Vindication on the Rights of Woman," in the last decade of the 1700s had a daughter also called Mary. Ms. Wollstonecraft named her after her partner whom she lived with unmarried for a while before marrying to the horror of polite society.
Mary Shelley never met her mother who died around the birth. Mary lived in the shadow of her mother's life, reputation, and notoriety. Sometimes she was pushed to support her mothers' work, but mostly she was often harmed by the protestant "purity" of the times. But if it weren't for that argument, would Mary have found herself writing alongside the men she did? The curious literary types that wondered about the humanity of us all, the wealthy men who grew up with male role models that actually looked up to feminist movements and women against what was a predominantly minority position politically.
We are often a product of our times and Mary Shelley is every bit the Legend of Literacy that she deserves to be heard for, but it wasn't easy for her. Not only did plague and death haunt her, and volcanoes ruin her years, she was a woman educated in an overly-reactive anti-women reactionary "man's world." She was a quiet person, using her literary wit to speak for her.
And did she speak.
There's a lot of truths I want to tell, but I can't tell them through the lens of truth without hurting people.
How do you process trauma when you've already forgiven the other players but you haven't yet forgiven yourself? How do you write about an abuser without outing the abuser? How do you write the truth when the truth isn't Kosher let alone welcome?
You write "fiction." You write your truth, you write it in an urban fantasy like my Citizen Vamp manuscript, you write it in a romance that never happened, you write it in the science fiction you wish were available if only to help that sick family member stay around longer. You write because the opposite is impossible. Something is dying to be told and writing is sometimes the only way to let it out.
I write because I can't stop. Daydreams and alternate worlds haunt my life like ghosts battling to have their stories told first.
By the time I'm done with them, they are like statues, chiselled with the editing of time. Their ethereal spirit captured for the afterlife and their stone cold figure held like a memory for sharing.
Citizen Vamp is complete at 90,181 words and 296 pages. It needs a professional. I've worked on the query letter for as long as I've had the project but it's not "Publishable" as it is yet, but it will be.
For now, if you write - write what you write and worry about market after the story is done. Market analysis is for while you're editing. If you worry about market as you're writing, you'll never finish because over time your market might change, your market might sour, your audience might even adapt to new literary or genre norms that you didn't expect.
Write your story. Let the genres sort themselves out. Let the market sort itself out before you worry about it. Finish the story. Polish it later.
Excuse me now while I go polish mine a little more...