October 1, 2007

Writing in a Vacuum

Writers write...always. That’s the old adage I've been unable to attribute to anyone in particular. However, it works for me as I am always writing about something. With that said, if it wasn't for this blog--which is in its infancy--no one would read anything I put down on paper, or on my hard drive for that matter.

Writers are an arrogant bunch, really. We think that just because we authored something which we think it is wonderful, the rest of the world should line up before us to rip the pages from our grasp and scurry off to a corner to read it. Unless you work for an established newspaper or magazine with a built in audience, you're out of luck when asking anyone to take a look at what you've poured your heart and soul into. I've written three novel length manuscripts, along with several short stories, and dozens of posts on this blog. Unless I cram a hard copy into someone's hands and bribe or threaten them to read it, no one cares.

My first two novels were rejected hundreds of times by agents and publishers alike. That's not an exaggeration as I have the letters to prove it. It's becoming abundantly clear to me why those first two manuscripts were rejected as the pacing in the first novel was practically nonexistent (the action didn't begin until chapter two), and the second story didn't have a likeable protagonist. Even Tony Soprano, a murderer who cheated on his wife and ran an organized crime family was an affable, gregarious person who cared about his family. It was hard to dismiss or even dislike him. Tony Soprano was the classic anti-hero and I obviously was asleep for the lesson in writing class as I failed miserably with that second novel. My protagonist was a chump, plain and simple. No one likes a chump.

This latest manuscript is the one which will break through. I am convinced of that. I managed to find one person to read the story and he absolutely loved it. After interrogating him about the plot, characters and other details for weeks afterward, I'm convinced he really took the time to read it and he isn't lying when he says he enjoyed it. That leaves me back to my main point in this post: getting others to read what you wrote.

Yes, one guy I know took the time to read the story before I send it out to agents for potential representation. I want maybe two more opinions to work with, and my wife is a natural candidate for the job. I printed out a copy for her to read three weeks ago and she is on page fifty. She claims that it is 'very good" and that she can't wait to finish the "whole thing" but she's too busy "taking care of our children," blah blah blah, to read it. Another friend has a copy of my story and will read it as "soon as she has time." A lot of time has passed since July, but I am sure the day will come when she finds some extra time to turn the first page.

The problem most writers have is the medium we choose to work in. A terrible artist can display his or her artwork on easels on a street corner and attract attention and opinions from those who walk by, whether they are good or bad. Musicians can stand on the next street corner and play as badly as they want to and still get a reaction from a crowd who has no choice but to hear awful guitar strumming, or whatever. A writer couldn't do any of that. Try standing up the block from the musician or artist with a megaphone and read your work aloud. You'll get hauled away in handcuffs.

Blogs have helped the unpublished writer. Instead of agents and publishers, the language of the blogger contains words such as "search engine optimization," "links," and pings." I'm working on all of that. Many folks have stopped here and left comments and it has me encouraged. Still, I haven't given up on my dream of being published by a traditional publishing house. I have to work hard to perfect my craft and to appeal to the arbitrary and capricious whims of agents and publishers. I'm hoping that this will happen soon, but will be just as happy if it doesn't. Why? Because I have this quaint little blog, which to me is like standing on a street corner with a bullhorn, but I'm not likely to get arrested here.

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