The last few posts have been strictly business. Today I’m going to get personal and chat about where I am on my own writing journey. In addition to keeping to my blogging schedule (be sure to check the sidebar under "Coming Next"), I’m currently busy with three writing projects.
This has been a long arduous process, beginning with registering for my Master's degree in November 2005, dancing through The Rewrite Reggae , and culminating in its current phase called The Query Quandary. The Double-Q has as its core the question: when is enough enough?
The rejections are pouring in, and not one of them has been more than a form letter. Does this mean my story is awful? Or does it mean I’ve simply targeted the wrong agents?
I’ve had two publishing professionals (one an editor, who earned my undying gratitude by comparing my revised novel to Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”; one an MD of a publishing company) tell me I’m talented, so I suggest my story can’t be as bad as the 60 or so form rejections (with 15 replies still outstanding) imply.
The agents I targeted are those whom I felt would most likely “connect” with my story. Do I do more agent research? Or do I say enough is enough? If this novel was meant to be published, surely it would have happened by now? And, as nothing has happened beyond rejection after rejection, I believe it’s just not this story’s “time”. It may lie in a drawer forever, unwanted by others (but never unloved by me, its proud author). It may one day be dusted off, resubmitted and (gasp) published. But that time is not now. Enough is enough.
Buuut...there are two more possibilities before I finally, for the last time, definitely can say “enough is really enough”.
As I've only targeted agents, I am turning my gaze towards approaching publishers directly. There are four independent (and reputable) publishing housing which offer a glimmer of hope. One in the USA; two in the UK and one here in South Africa. I’ve sent a query off to the USA publisher. I just have to decide whether I wait for their response, or do I query the others while I wait?
The other option is self-publishing. While I admire authors who have enough confidence in their work to put up the money themselves, I'm unable to overcome my own prejudices (there, I’ve admitted it) about self-published novels. I have wrestled with these prejudices, but am quite unable to overcome them (or my fears) sufficiently to go ahead and self-publish.
When all other avenues have finally been closed to this sad, unwanted manuscript of mine, I would rather post it free on the internet. The risk here is plagiarism. When the time comes for me to make this decision I will weigh up that particular risk against the satisfaction of knowing at least one reader - out there in cyber space – may gain some enjoyment and entertainment from my novel. That, surely, is better than having it lie, lonely and unread, in the bottom of a drawer. What do you think?
I swore off writing romances in 2004 after the second rejection of a romance that I’d rewritten to editorial revision requests. Never, I said, will I ever write another romance. The moral of this story is “never say never”. My crit partners (lovely ladies, one and all) have nagged me into entering the Harlequin Mills and Boon Modern/Presents 2009 competition. I tapped out the first chapter in four days, submitted my entry and have since been steadily writing away.
Set in Johannesburg, the New York of Africa, my hero is a sophisticated self-made mining magnate and my heroine the privileged, protected daughter of an old mining family. He thinks he’s too old for her. She thinks he only married her for her family’s connections. Can Nicolo overcome his jealousy and fear of losing her as he lost his mother at a young age? Will Desiree realise that Nicolo wouldn’t have cared if she’d come to him in rags? Can these two very different people learn to trust each other again? Only time will tell if Nicolo and Desiree will live happily ever after!
I am having such fun writing this story. And it’s an excellent training ground for my Muse to ready itself for …
This is where my writing heart lies.
Different in tone and style to both project A and project B, project C also takes place in South Africa. My protagonist is a white, South African male who fought in the South African Border War in 1980/81. Often called South Africa’s Vietnam, the complex moral and political issues surrounding the Border War take little or no account of the ordinary man who – brought up on the warrior myth – fought in a war that history has condemned. These soldiers were winning the war on the battle fields, but were called to surrender when the political arena changed. What effect did this have on these brave men who only wanted to be heroes, but whom history has called the perpetrators of evil?
At the moment, I’m conducting war research. This includes a long reading list of historical books of the Border War, personal accounts of soldiers who fought there and some of the more recent novels from the South African genre “Grensliteratuur” (literally, “Border Literature”). With the help of an old school friend of my husband, Colonel Young of the SANDF, I’ve completed a questionnaire and have begun the process of sending that out to ex-Border soldiers. Plot and character ideas are coming thick and fast, and by the time I’ve finished my research (Target Date: 15 February 2010) I should be able to do my mind-map. And then it will be time to go back to basics and the ABC of writing (Apply Butt to Chair)!
Left: "At Thy Call We Did Not Falter" by Clive Holt. One of the research books I'm reading on the South African Border War, the title is a play on words from the English translation of the old national anthem "Die Stem". The original line reads "Ons sal antwoord op jou roepstem" ("At thy call we shall not falter"). This national anthem enjoyed equal status with the struggle hymn "N'kosi Sikelel i'Afrika" until 1997, when both were merged into a new, hybrid national anthem.
There is no doubt in my mind that this story will be politically incorrect. To the victors the spoils, and that includes writing history from a single perspective. But history – particularly South Africa's complex and often misunderstood history – should by no means be a single-faceted record. I hope that I can add some understanding, perhaps even some healing (one of the many important responsibilities of stories), to the personal sacrifices of the soldiers – white, black and san – who fought on the “wrong” side of the South African Border War.
And that, dear blog readers, is where I currently am in my writing journey. Where are you currently at in your personal writing journey?