Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

To Thine Own Story Be True

What a roller-coaster ride this writing shtick is.  No wonder my poor husband keeps quietly praying I will give it up and save him from all the emotional turmoil and bleed-over will-I-ever-publish angst into what used to be a relatively quiet, normal life.

Many of you who follow my blog--hmm, are there many who follow this blog?--maybe it should just be--the few (or one) of you who read my ramblings know that I've been struggling to get published through one of the big, NY houses.  I've had two agents--I'm still with my second agent and I hope to stay with her--and have gone through much turmoil trying to turn my dreck into gold. 

Anyway, in my last blog, I mentioned alternative publishers, such as e-publishers.  I have some manuscripts which are good--they are what initially snagged my first agent--but they are traditional Regency romance stories (or a few are horror-romances, go figure) and unfortunately, that is a genre which NY publishers have finally closed the book on.  Okay, sure, there is Avalon which produces hard cover books for the library trade, and Mills & Boon/Harlequin, which produces historicals (not really traditional Regency, though) but that's about it.

But I had these good manuscripts.  What to do, what to do.
My first agent (who shall remain nameless) had me "darken" and add sensual elements, including a love scene, to the best of my traditional Regencies, in hopes of selling it as a historical.  It didn't sell, and I gave up on that manuscript and got my second/current agent with a different Regency-set mystery/romance.  I love mysteries and feel this might still work out.  So does my current agent.  So far, not so good, but I still have hope...

Deep in my heart, however, I still loved this one story in particular--the one my previous agent had me bastardize by darkening it and adding sensual elements.  It never sold, although she submitted it, so I finally wrote it off and archived it.

In the meantime, one of the very reputable e-publishers is now opening up to mainstream titles AND traditional Regencies.  Well, I decided to submit this story to them, thinking it wouldn't necessarily fit in the traditional Regencies anymore, but they might take it as a historical, since they are producing mainstream titles in a lot of different genres.

Two months after I submitted it, I got a request for a full.  I sent it toward the end of the week and the very next week they said:  we would like this for our traditional Regency line but you would need to take out all the dark stuff and the sex scene.

My blog-readers will know how I have agonized in the past over revisions, but this is one time when "to thine own story be true" really does have meaning.  I was/am THRILLED to do these revisions.  I am ripping out all the stuff my first agent had me change/add, and going back to my original vision for the story.  I LOVE these revisions.  It is so easy and it makes me so happy to do them.  Yes, I'm a little sad that this manuscript will not make it into print--it will be e-published for downloading, but the most important thing to me has always been to tell a story to someone else and this allows me to do that.  And I love, love, love this editor.  She is so-ooo nice--I can't believe how gratifying it is to find someone who gets me and understands the story I was trying to write.  I mean she picked out things that had always bothered me but that I included in my efforts to satisfy my previous agent.  I am so happy to remove those elements--you really have no idea.

Of course, she's not my editor yet--I have to finish the revisions and send it back and hope she will like the changes and send a real contract--but I am so sure I can do this, because it is what the story was supposed to be.  It's what it was before I mucked about with it.

Mucking about wasn't so bad, though, because through that process, I improved the writing tremendously, so although I have to now cut out a lot (thankfully), what remains is MUCH better than my old, original first draft.

But this "mucking about business" is why you, as a writer, must decide what you can and cannot do with your story, because in my previous life with my previous agent, I was so desperate to publish that I was willing to make any changes necessary to accomplish that.  I didn't really care what the changes were.  If she had told me to add alien rabbits with green whiskers, I would have figured out a way to do it (I read a lot of science fiction so maybe that wasn't a good example, because I really could think of a way to include alien rabbits).  Unfortunately, you can't turn one sort of manuscript into another with a great deal of success, and that is the pain of writing stories--such as traditional Regency romances--which are simply not published any longer.

Full circle back to why I mentioned e-publishers last week.  They are a golden opportunity for writers--good writers, not schlock writers--to publish things which simply are no longer published in NY.  Or maybe were never published.  Old genres, such as traditional Regencies, may fall out of favor but I know there are still audiences for these stories.  Why else would Georgette Heyer's wonderful stories--which actually created the entire traditional Regency genre--still be sold?  Why would I hanker for a really good, eerie haunted house story, a la "The Haunting of Hill House," except with a happy ending and a romance (yet another genre which may not even exist, but should).  If I hanker for such a thing, surely others do, too...

So, I have had a small taste of almost-success and it has validated my belief that e-publishers fill a niche and can be an avenue for something different.  I hope I  can finish my revisions and send the manuscript back and this lovely lady likes it.  At least I know the story reached another human being, and she appreciated the things in in that were important to appreciate.  She got me

I'm not stupid, though.  I know my big, NY-published friend doesn't believe in e-publishers, and most NY-published writers firmly believe that e-published writers are e-published because their stories weren't good enough to receive the capital investment required to be NY-published, what?  Fine.  Be that way.  The fact of the matter is, there are some niche genres which NY publishers will not publish regardless of how good the manuscript is.  The story doesn't fit into their marketing scheme, and that's fine.  I understand that, and I know that being e-published will not get me to the NY Times Bestseller list.  But it will let me tell my story, the way the story should be told without a lot of extraneous elements, and at this point, that is more important to me.  (I'm not talking about writing quality--in my specific case, remember this story netted me an agent--I'm talking about a manuscript without explicit sex and where the explicit sex added nothing to the story--but where the absence made it a "traditional Regency" and therefore unsellable to NY publishers who no longer publish traditional Regencies.)

For those interested in the minutiae, the temporary working title is:  A Smuggled Rose.  It used to be:  Perchance to Dream, but that didn't have anything to do with the story, really, as my editor-to-be astutely pointed out.  If the revisions go well, and the provisional contract turns into a real contract, I will post that success and anything I learn through this process. 

If anyone else has a traditional Regency romance, horror-romance, or any other genre the NY publishing guys won't touch, I highly encourage you to resist turning your work into something it was never meant to be and try an e-publisher.  You might not get rich and famous, or be on the NY Times Bestseller list.  You might not even get bumped up to the next tax bracket, and in fact, you might not make enough to buy that new washer/dryer you need, but at least you will be able to tell your story the way it was meant to be told.

And after all, isn't that the point?

1 comment:

Sonja Foust said...

Congratulations Amy!