If you aren’t interested in bloggy stuff, skip this paragraph. You’ve been warned! For no apparent reason, we are getting about 25 percent more visitors over the last couple of weeks. This is usually caused by Google modifying their search algorithms in a way that favors our site. The surge goes away when they change things again. It’s nice to know that more people are reading our blog. I wondered if blogs were fading away in favor of social media. I hope not. I like this format and the friendswe’ve made over the years.
OK, bloggy stuff done.
I’m back to writing again. I’m starting my third novel. The first two remain unpublished. When I was trying to pitch my last novel, I sent a query to an editor who works for a small publishing house. To my delight, she replied within minutes. She wanted to know why I chose a female protagonist. It was a good question. After all, I’m male. Why would I want to write as a first-person female?
My answer to her was that I thought a female protagonist would be more interesting to female readers. She wrote back that she thought a male protagonist would be easier to market. The decision to write as a female wasn’t just to make a more marketable book. It was also because I fetl freer to be emotional as a female character. My image of a male protagonist is of a strong, problem-solving man. I wanted to write as a smart ass, emotional female.
I told that to the editor in a second email. She responded that writing as a male with flaws who could express emotion is absolutely marketable The combination of lack of interest by agents and the constructive comments by this editor stopped me dead in my tracks. That was last March. Since then, I’ve made a few weak attempts at a new novel with a male protagonist. My heart wasn’t in it.
The overwhelming lack of response from agents convinced me that I was an unmarketable author. It began to feel like writing was just mental masturbation. So I stopped. Then we visited my daughter last month. It wasn’t a great event. Her kids are overscheduled suburban brats, so there was little family time. When we got home, I let her know that we expected a better chance to be with the family. One thing led to another, and we also talked about other things that bothered us.
I brought up that she never read my novel–I sent her the second book–even though I told her it was important to me that she give me her opinion. She promised to read it. I talked with her a week later, and she said that she had read part of it. I asked what she thought. She said it was “chick-lit” like the other books she liked to read. I loved that feedback. That’s exactly what I wanted to write. I have absolutely no interest in creating literature. I want to write and sell popular fiction.
The second thing that happened was that I attended a webinar on pitching books to agents and publishers. There wasn’t a lot of hard information,but the webinar made me realize something that was both depressing and encouraging: the agents never looked at my pages. Agents require a query letter, which is a pitch for the book, plus the first ten or twenty pages of the manuscript. If the query letter doesn’t excite them, they reject the project without ever seeing a word of the manuscript.
My query letter is horrible. Maybe my book isn’t.
That left me wondering if I shouldn’t try again with a new query letter. It also made me wonder if I should take the editor’s advice and write a book about a sensitive, flawed male protagonist. I could draw from my own life. I’m certainly flawed.
That’s what I decided to do. I’m about 2,000 words into the book and happy with where it’s going. I also plan to look for help with a query letter for the book my daughter is reading. Maybe I can sell that while I am writing the new novel.
I’m trying to be kind to myself. After all, the last English course I took was in high school. My degrees are in computer science. I’m completely self-taught when it comes to creative writing. I think writing this blog and the two novels have helped find my voice and perhaps made me good enough to sell a fucking book!