Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Being a writer again

I have sadly neglected the writing part of my life in the last few months. I can give all kinds of excuses beyond the holidays (though that was a factor too)--but I got tired of querying and getting no response, not even a polite "no thank you." I was quite comfortable with my first mystery but not really sure where the second was going, etc., etc. etc. I read an interesting response to an online question about writer anxiety. The mentor of the day was an experienced editor and she suggested that many writers fear that the truth will out--I'm a fake, not a good writer. I'm full of cliches and don't have any original thoughts. Or, maybe, as has occurred to me, I've written my one best book--I think I know which one it is--and will never equal that again. Sometimes anxiety is ambivalence--should I continue to "polish" that first book or should I work on the second. For heaven's sake, you can polish forever, even over-polish.
The suggested ways of dealing with this anxiety were to acknowledge that every writer feels that way (a big plus, because I didn't think it was true), that fear is based on a "what if," which means you're borrowing trouble. Recognizing the fear is good, but as most of us know in the back of our minds the way to conquer it is to act. Writer's block? Write your way through it. As J.A.Jance once said to me in a mostly forgettablel meeting, "We all know the way to write a mystery is to put your seat in the chair at the computer." Easier said than done.
Belonging to Sisters in Crime and the Guppie (Going to be Published) group has taught me so much about the business of writing mysteries, but it has in some ways intimidated me--those ladies (and a few gentlemen) are so intense about marketing, the ins and outs of the business, that I think, with some 60 books or more to my credit, I'm a novice. I liked it when I could wirte, send the mss. to my agent, and she'd send it off to a publisher who liked my work. I didn't expect the business side of writing to be so all-consuming that you almost lose heart for the writing.
Tonight I took a big step in getting past the fear and the block: I sent my first mystery, Skeleton in a Dead Space, off to a small publisher, along with the requested bio, writing history and synopsis. They said either send the first three chapters or the entire manuscript, so I opted for the latter. I chose this company because getting an agent when you're unknown in the field seems nigh impossible, and I've contributed to anthologies produced by this same company, so I thought that gave me some credibility. Besides, because I work daily at a small press, I think I would prefer to deal with one. It will never make me rich, but it won't put the sales pressure on me that a major house would, nor the publicity pressure. I will of course be crushed if I get a rejection, but then I'll go back to plan B, whatever that it.
Meantime, tomorrow, I'm going back to the second novel, No Neighborhood for Old Women. It's mushy in my mind and maybe after having left it sit this long, I can sharpen it.
Meantime, I'm working at home tomorrow, once again waiting for an AT&T person, but I brought a stack of proposals with me, in addition to a new manuscript to read. Two weeks out of the office makes me fall really behind, and a lot of things have kept me away from the busineses at hand this week. Every doctor's appt. I canceled in December is catching up with me in January! I guess it's good to have a lot of work to do--I can avoid the January, post-holiday blahs.

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