The woes of a first time novelist


There will always be the lucky new author whose first novel ignites a hot auction. But more often today, many debut novels that would have won lucrative advances five years ago today are getting $15,000 or less, says Adam Chromy, a New York literary agent. Mr. Chromy was recently disappointed with the immediate response from editors for a debut novel he thought was exceptionally good.

So, I had originally anticipated writing my first bit of trivia about my manuscript today or perhaps had a little moan over Hazel’s (the small furry child) eye surgery. Maybe even combined them together into a nice little excerpt, but I couldn’t resist posting about the WSJ’s recent article about the publishing world.

I’m not afraid to admit that my soul dies a little bit inside every time I come across one of these articles. For those of you who keep up on these things, it’s not new news to you. If you are a budding writer trying to get your first book out into the market, you’re screwed. Okay, maybe not screwed, but frankly you probably have a better chance of winning next’s week Lotto. It’s brutal, I know, but I think it’s worse than that. Much, much worse. It’s no longer about separating the wheat from the chaff. It’s about the loss of cultural identity for every generation past ours.

So you might think that I’m a bit crazy. And I wouldn’t blame you. But I do believe that every age has books that help define the world in that moment, in that fleeting second of history. Books articulate a feeling, a notion, they imbibe us with a memory that we hold onto. And those books don’t necessarily come from the same old top selling author. Is James Patterson reaching the youth of today? What about John Grisham?

Think about this for a moment: what would’ve happened if no one had been willing to take Harper Lee’s first (and only) manuscript, To Kill a Mockingbird? Can you imagine a world without Scout and Atticus Finch?

What I’m trying to get across is that we need those new, undiscovered talents. We need to keep bringing new writers into the gene pool. And I don’t just say this with myself in mind. No. Variety is the spice of life, it what makes things interesting, compelling. Who wants to read the same old authors all the time. Isn’t it refreshing to pick up a new author that you’ve never heard of and actually like what they’ve written? I make it a point to go to my local book fairs and buy some random fantasy or sci-fi fiction authors I’ve never heard of. Yes, many times I’m disappointed, but sometimes, I’ll come across a real gem that I would’ve never found if I only stuck to the NY Times best seller list. (authors’s note: Listen to me people, loosen up and try it sometime. Go into a bookstore, go to your favorite section, shut your eyes and randomly place your finger on a book. Buy it, read it, and them let me know if you enjoyed it. 7 out of 10 times I reckon you’ll say it wasn’t bad.)

So you may ask me, “So Shawnee, if it’s so bleak out there, why on Earth are you setting yourself up for disappointment and the poor house?”

Because I can’t help myself and because I’m hopelessly optimistic that I will be one of the few. Because I really want it. Because I think I might be good at it. There’s a whole host of reasons, but mostly, because I have a story to tell. It may not be a story for everyone, but it’s my story, my characters, my little world inside my head. So there you go.


When it Rains, it Pours

So, we needed the rain. The grass was a shade of brown that I didn’t even know existed. The first day of rain was lovely. I baked beautiful cinnamon rolls. We’re on Day threeish and frankly it just sucks now.  Or it could be that my father couldn’t even be bothered to friend his only child on Facebook. Imagine that for a moment. I could go off on a rant about how socially dysfunctional FB can be these days, but then that would be boring. Like a maddened hornet with a meme complex, everyone’s been stung by FB at least once, I’m sure. Karma is a bitch after all.

Anyhow, so the book, right?

I guess I cheated a bit and actually got about 250 pages into the manuscript before I actually created this blog. For those interested, I’m actually up to Chapter 9. Given that there are 24 chapters in the outline, I still have a ways to go. And in case you haven’t done the math, I’ve got a problem in writing too much stuff, not too little. I find that slightly amusing since when I started this project I thought that there was no way that I could write a 400 page book. I’m over half way there and yet I haven’t even hit the half way point in the story. I can see there’ll be a whole heap of editing in my future. However, I’d always prefer to have too much to say then too little. I guess that’s par for the course. And those who know me know that I can do some serious talking when I’m in the right place.

The bad news in all this is that I haven’t written in about a month. With relatives coming and going (including above-mentioned father who forgets about his child) and with harvesting of vegetables and herbs, I’ve come up with every excuse not to sit down and write. Once I get going, I can knock out a chapter in a couple of days. So theoretically, I could be done in the next month or two if I could make myself stay in one location of the house for long enough. This is what you call writer’s procrastination. And unlike what one of my heros, Mr. King says, I do believe that you can really want to tell a story yet somehow fidget around it until finally you shackle yourself to your desk, turn the phone off, crank up the tunes, and blot out the rest of the world. Today should be that place. It’s almost 1PM. Ask me how much I’ve done today. Actually, don’t ask. I’d like to live in denial a wee bit longer.

Today is a day of lists

I’m probably the last person on the planet with a blog.

Well, perhaps, not the *very* last person, but I’m also the same person who had the same “no frills” cell phone for 5 years until about two months ago (texting keyboard, how I love thee). Oh the irony especially coming from a household with

  • 1 x laptop
  • 1 x netbook
  • 1 x iPad
  • 2 x iTouch
  • 2 x Mac mini
  • 1 x Mac book
  • at least 3 monitors over 24″ in diameter
  • God knows how many PC towers
  • and let’s not even start on the gameware

If we ever lost electricity, well, it wouldn’t bear thinking about.

But I digress.

So why the blog now?

Well, in case you haven’t talked to me in a while, I’ve had a bit of a life changer this last year with an incurable disease. Yep, afraid so. And while I’m not supremely comfortable with said disease, it has put things in perspective for me. I am extremely thankful for what I have, which is

  • 1 loving and completely supportive husband
  • 2 zany and somewhat neurotic dogs
  • a great house and garden
  • brilliant neighbors
  • some sorely missed UK chums who put up with me on FB
  • and a group of terrific girlfriends known as the musettes

And on top of all that, I’m writing my first novel, which in case you haven’t noticed is the real reason for this blog, but I was hoping to quietly sneak in that part.