Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Crisis of Identity


Halo, fine people! Welcome to First Wednesday and the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

I am feeling particularly insecure this month, so the timing is good.

My regular readers will know because I announced in my Monday Whiny Baby Blog, but for anyone who missed it, my agent fired me.

Okay. Fired is sort of too strong.

She doesn't want What Ales Me though, and doesn't think she's the agent for me. And I'd been so sure What Ales Me was very close to publishing ready, which means I don't know what the heck I'm doing. I am producing dreck and I feel useless.


Tara, Jess, Leanne, Me (front to back)
Thank goodness for Leanne.


I have a writer friend who has been with me from the beginning—she has read everything I've ever done and has edited for me as well as providing good feedback, so when I got the disheartening email from Ellen, I forwarded it to Leanne and asked for honest feedback.


There WERE problems...

Now while this isn't the news I wanted... I WANTED her to say “Oh, that agent doesn't know what she's talking about”... It was the news I needed. And it was accompanied by (*wipes brow*) some of my STRENGTHS as a writer.

I plot well.
My ideas are unique and strong.


What was problematic...

My actual language is pretty utilitarian (I know this—have actually sort of prided myself on my language not getting in the way of the story, but I have perhaps gone too far)

And she suggested that I am over-editing—losing my voice, which USED TO be one of my strengths, but she didn't really see it in this and has previously seen it in stuff that gets too many passes.


She suggests I read more in my TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED genre. No offense to self-pubbing or pre-published, but I need to know what the bench marks are for good current work.

And that I maybe slow down a bit so not so many rounds of editing are needed and more of my original voice is retained.

My own addition... I think I may need to DIAGRAM my mysteries (the ones I do this for work out best) and have more plot points on my timeline. I ALSO think I need to do more longhand—those scenes are always best, so I really need more of them.


Here is to the light at the end of the tunnel. I was feeling pretty lost there for a while, but now I feel a spark of hope. I don't suck. I just picked up some bad habits...

For all of you... find someone who both LOVES you and your writing (and gets what you are trying to do) AND can be objective and tell you hard truths.

Now you should go support some OTHER writers... (link at the top)

30 comments:

dolorah said...

I like the advice to read more traditionally published works in your genre. I feel it is good to get out of the blogs, and experience a variety of publishing markets.

I am so glad you have not given up, and you used the experience as a wake up call to get back to your original vision for your writing. Good luck Hart.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Oh no, I'm sorry to hear that. I think the voice was good...utilitarian is a good way of putting it...maybe not *cozy*, but I wasn't thinking that was exactly what you were shooting for. It sounded more like a police procedural voice (know you've got an amateur sleuth, but that's what the voice struck me as)...sort of clear-headed and factual. I think Leanne knows your writing the best and her advice sounds good! But you're absolutely right--if Ellen doesn't feel it's for her, she sure doesn't need to be representing it.

NASHVILLECATS said...

I am so sorry about your agent Hart, I hope all turns out well for you.......There's me with a housing agent who doesn't want me and your writing agent telling you the same. It is lovely to feel wanted somewhere by someone. Good luck.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sometimes we need that friend who can smack us and say 'Snap out of it!' And then be honest.
You know what's wrong now and can fix it. And then find an awesome agent who will dig it.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

You can do this, Hart. You can change those bad habits into good ones. I've revised and edited work to the point where my voice and any story oomph were gone, too. Sometimes all you need is some distance from it. Hang in there!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Writers get lost in their own writing. It's hard for us to pull our heads out and see things clearly or see them like a reader (or agent). With that said, you know I'm a fan of your writing and voice. This is just a slump. Don't stay there. :)

Teresa

E.E. Giorgi said...

First, agents don't fire writers, it's the other way around. I'm sorry this has happened to you. Try and look at the positive side: you have a great friend who helped you find the problems. Often we're too focused on the story to see the problems. So now you can go back, fix those and then publish on your own. The future is in being hybrid, so now that you and your agent parted you can explore the freedom (and challenges) of indie publishing! Go you! ;-)

cleemckenzie said...

Yuck. Sorry about setback, but maybe it isn't bad. Maybe this will move you ahead to your goal and with a better agent.

randi lee said...

I agree-harsh truths are well needed. I liken them to this new age of kids not losing in sports. If every kid gets a trophy, are we not setting them up for severe disappointment once they actually lose something in life? Same goes for writing. Agents are hard. If you want to impress one, make sure your work is at its best (and having someone who will share harsh truths definitely helps with that)

Roland D. Yeomans said...

She is a good friend who will tell you what you need to hear not what you want to hear. I read traditionally published authors, non-fiction and fiction, all the time, and it teaches me to strive to be more.

You can do this. I believe in you. And so does Leanne. The right agent for you will come in due course. Hang in there.

Chrys Fey said...

I'm sorry you're going through all of this, but things happen for a reason. And even though you have to work on your book, it'll be all the better for it in the end. Good luck!

D.V. Sheppard said...

Bravo for taking things in stride and turning hards things into action. I'm sorry to hear about your agent. Though, it's probably a blessing in disguise. You want someone who is with you for the long haul, and it sounds like the relationship just wasn't right. Just the start of a new beginning =) Have hope. Have lots of it. Hope drives you forward. Discouragement just wastes your time and your time and what you accomplish in it, is valuable.

D.V. Sheppard said...

Bravo for taking things in stride and turning hards things into action. I'm sorry to hear about your agent. Though, it's probably a blessing in disguise. You want someone who is with you for the long haul, and it sounds like the relationship just wasn't right. Just the start of a new beginning =) Have hope. Have lots of it. Hope drives you forward. Discouragement just wastes your time and your time and what you accomplish in it, is valuable.

Southpaw HR Sinclair said...

Wow, it seems like your recovering well.

What a great friend to support you AND tell you like it is.

Chemist Ken said...

Learning about problems you didn't know existed is what makes beta-readers so important. As long as you're pointed in the right direction, you'll eventually make it.

Andrew Leon said...

I use writing longhand, too. I do both, keyboard and longhand, but I will use longhand specifically for some stories, because I write differently that way.
It's really interesting.

Now, go make that pony jump a fence for you!

Tamara Narayan said...

Ouch. Parting ways with an agent must be tough. I finished A Shot in the Light and am working on the review. In short, it was a great thriller and quite the page turner. Well done. I will be ordering the next one. Write on!

Arlee Bird said...

Each negative experience is an opportunity for learning and moving forward. Something good can certainly come out of what has happened to you if keep facing forward with optimism and keeping yourself to learn the lessons that are being presented to you.

All will be well if you let it be.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Tossing It Out

VR Barkowski said...

May I just say, you're fabulous? You've got a plan of action. You're attacking your manuscript with fresh eyes, and you're enthusiasm isn't just palpable—it's contagious. I'd be my crying in my beer… um ale.

I'm sorry about your agent, but if she isn't the right agent for you, you are definitely the winner here. Would I be correct to assume What Ales You is a traditional/cozy mystery? The pun in the title definitely suggests cozy not procedural (or one of the 2000 other mystery sub-genres).

Having someone in your corner, whose opinion you respect and who will be honest about your work, is invaluable. I say this even though my critique partner of seven years just ripped my last chapter to shreds. I wouldn't trade her for anything.

VR Barkowski

Nick Wilford said...

Those are the best kind of friends to have in terms of writing. Honesty, delivered with love! Good luck getting everything in shape. Cherish your voice because you have one of the sparkiest voices in blogging.

I recently had to do some longhand due to laptop issues. It was a refreshing change, but I think I'm too lazy to do it regularly (ie, with the typing up!)

Yolanda Renee said...

Know exactly how you feel - but the feedback is great for moving forward no matter how much we don't want to hear it - we appreciate it so much more after the stab fades to a prick. I say that as I wait to hear from an editor and publisher and beta readers, oh yeah, I'm prepared! NOT!

You're are good, excellent, and have talent to burn - keep at it! I'll try to do the same. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Hart, I'm so sorry. If the relationship with your agent wasn't perfect, then maybe it's for the better. I hope you can make the manuscript stronger and find another agent who gets you. And your writing.

Helena said...

I'm so glad you have a good writer friend to guide you through this tough time. If it helps, maybe you could set aside What Ales Me, work on something else, and then after a while go back to it with fresh eye. I myself can get so close to a manuscript that I don't truly getting it--instead I find myself scanning whole passages because I already know it so well.

You've got a fabulous writing life ahead of you, plus a new agent and publisher. And yes, you can indeed plot like a wild woman!

Cherie Reich said...

She sounds like a good friend to have! It's easy to lose voice if you edit something too much, and I like the advice to read more in your genre, particularly traditionally published work, if that's the way you want to publish the book. Knowing the market really helps. And sometimes a book isn't what publishers are currently looking for, so your agent didn't know what to do with it. Sometimes timing is the crucial element above all else.

jack welling said...

We love the little bits of your frantic energy in the characters of a story.

You'll be fine. You'll have a business advocate who will feel passion for your work. Now, where is the frantically over committed detective story? Carpooling from the soccer game to the murder scene? Where is that character?



Romance Book Haven said...

You have a great friend. And good feedback from her, too.

J.L. Campbell said...

Defintely dangerous to edit until our voice is lost. It's good that your friend was able to pick up the problems that you had missed.

authorcgcoppola.com said...

Wow. I'm sorry you had to go through that - any of that. Especially having had an agent, which we all hope will be the end of the struggle, only to find she wasn't a fit. BUT look at it this way: you're talented enough to grab the eye of someone in the biz. So you're in the game and your friend (you're good friend) is helping you with your creative development. Every hurdle is an opportunity to jump higher.

Tonja said...

What good is someone's feedback if it isn't honest and constructive? That's awesome that you were able to use the feedback to make your writing even better. Yay! BTW, I love the phrase "Monday Whiny Baby Blog" - that is so funny. That should be a thing.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Things are tough for agents these days. Their entire world is coming crashing around them. Their publishers are struggling, bookstores are closing, Amazon is king and it's all going that way. In fact, Amazon is now a traditional publisher with 14 imprints at last count. And they don't need agents as they have a ready pool of best-selling authors right at their fingertips. As for the advice from your agent to read traditionally published books in your genre to see how high the standard is? Is she kidding? I've read some cozy mysteries, chick lit and other light fiction from the Big 6 and just about gagged on it. It's absolutely no better than self-published stuff on Kindle I can get for free. Other than they have fewer typos, is about the only difference.