Firstly, I have to admit–it had not occurred to me that when I went to Google the word “amateur” just to make sure I was spelling it correctly that I would be immediately directed to amateur porn sites…on my work computer.
Oh, IT is going to love this.
Secondly, this is my new blog. For those of you who used to follow me on Tumblr or on Blogger, I hope that you’ll continue to follow me here on word press. I felt like I needed a change of scenery and websites to begin this new adventure.
If you’re new, you may be wondering what in the hell I’m talking about.
Well…I just finished writing my first novel. I’m in the process of editing and drafting and hopefully I’ll have something remotely decent (more like freaking awesome) to begin sending off to literary agents sometime in the spring or summer. I started this blog to chronicle my journey and the hundreds of rejections I’m bound to get before *hopefully* finding someone to represent me.
Which could take months.
Or the rest of my life.
But I figure the rejection will be easier to swallow if I have people to share it with. That’s where you come in. Besides, I read in How to Land (and keep) a Literary Agent that I needed to have a blog. And a website. And a radio show. And a huge Twitter following. And that I need to have been published at least 20 times in the New Yorker if I want an agent to even consider representing my novel. Otherwise, I run the risk of looking like an amateur.
Hey, man! I AM an amateur. That’s why I need representation. I’m not Stephen King. Hell, I’m not even Danielle Steele. I’m just a 31 year old teacher from the Ozarks. If I wasn’t an amateur, do you think I would have downloaded a book like How to Land (and keep) a Literary Agent onto my Kindle? Do you think I’d need help writing my query letter and synopsis? Do you think I’d be Googling how to spell the word amateur on my computer???
So all of this begs the question–who am I? Who am I to think I’ve even got a shot in the publishing biz? Who exactly do I think I am?
Well, I’ll tell you.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a 31 year old English teacher. I teach for a university in Arkansas. I have a master’s degree in Creative Writing. I have a few small poetry publications under my belt (which according to the books means jack shit). In 2006 I co-wrote and co-researched a book about the Gillioz Theatre in Springfield, MO with a few other grad students. That book, Gillioz: Theatre Beautiful was eventually published, and I got to go to a couple of signing events and readings.
I have 117 followers on Twitter (I hate Twitter). I have 500+ friends on Facebook. I do not have a website. I have about 4 blogs that I don’t keep up with. I have no radio show. I have no publications in the New Yorker.
I do, however, have a little experience with the publishing world and with agents. Albeit that experience vastly entails rejection, but it IS experience.
In 2010 I got the notion that I wanted to publish a collection of humor non-fiction pieces (my specialty) that I’d written in grad school. It was in no way ready for publication, but I was far too lazy to take the time I needed to make it a cohesive collection. When the pieces stood alone they were great. But when they were put together…eh. They didn’t gel, and it needed (and still needs) some real work. So I did what many writers do–I threw myself to the sharks without knowing what in the hell I was doing.
I did, however, do one thing right. I studied the industry. My manuscript might not have been up to par, but I read everything, and I mean everything there was to read about querying agents, writing query letters, non-fiction proposals, publishing, etc. It took me months.
I got a full manuscript request from the first agent I queried.
Ultimately he turned me down, but I learned one valuable lesson–the query letter must rock the agent’s world. The sample you send must rock the agent’s world. Everything about that initial presentation must rock the agent’s world.
I queried about 60 agents. I got a full ms request from about 20 of them. Looking back, I’m sad that my ms was so rough. I wish that I’d spent months polishing it up in addition to the months I spent learning about the industry.
I might be sitting here with a publishing contract. I might be one my second or third novel.
Instead, I put the manuscript away and lived life for a couple of years. I had a kid. I moved. Took another job. You know, all those things people do. But I’d learned a valuable lesson, and I’m hoping that it serves me well this time around.
Now I know enough to be fucking terrified.
Especially since everything I’m reading now has been telling me that most first novels suck…and suck hard. Most fiction writing books say that you might as well burn that first novel because you know nothing about writing and nothing about what it takes to become published. Put that novel away and go write another one.
One that doesn’t suck.
I don’t have any idea whether my novel sucks or not. I’m constantly having a Jedi battle inside my head about whether I should try to have it published. Some days I feel great. Some days I feel like the novel needs so much work that I might as well scrap it. I don’t know.
Stephen King threw Carrie in the trash bin.
I can’t decide if I fall into the first novel category or not. I mean, yes, it IS my first time writing a whole novel. But I’ve been writing since forever and I do, in fact, have a degree in creative writing. Actually, I have two degrees in writing. I’ve written short stories and poetry and started novels and yes, I’ve even written some novel length fan fiction (of which I totally plan on writing more).
It’s exhausting. It makes me think that maybe trying to type out a novel on a typewriter or write a novel by candlelight might not have been so bad since nobody ever asked Hemingway how many followers he had on Twitter.
And my guess is that I’m an amateur. In every sense of the word.
So I’m going to keep this blog as a chronicle of my amateur life, and maybe one day I’ll graduate and become something else.
Who in the hell knows. But I’m hoping that some of you will stick around to find out. I hope that some of you will continue to read and root for me. I hope that you’ll get a kick out of my journey.
It’s bound to be a bumpy one.