Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hasta la vista, Affleck!

The title of my book has been A Happy Armageddon for as long as I can remember. I like it. Even though Ben Affleck almost ruined it for me and The Guardian sort of made fun of it, I think it still works. I like the sounds of the words together and how they look on paper. Most importantly, the title makes sense given the plot -- it warns the reader of the bad inside while leaving hope for the good. So I'm sad that I have to change this title. But I think it's best we go our separate ways.

Over the past few years, I've submitted my book -- as A Happy Armageddon -- to agents and publishers, and those agents and publishers rejected it. And for good reason: my book was bad. Since then, my book has been completely re-written and over a year has passed. But time alone does not heal. To even stand a chance with any of these agents and publishers again, my new book will require a new title, too.

Some writers believe a title cannot be judged until a book is read, but I don't think that's true at all. In fact, when I'm in one of my impulse-shopping moods, I regularly buy books based on the title alone.

It's no easy feat to name a novel and -- as that Guardian article hilariously demonstrates -- marketing, unfortunately, must be taken into consideration. So here are the titles I have going right now (+ my current self-published cover design fantasy). Which book would you be more likely to pick up in a book shop?

my former favourite (red spellcheck squiggle included)

my current favourite

I sure hope you read that article...

(And yes, I know my name is up here now.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unnecessary drama

Because I'm all about recycling, this is a melodramatic email I sent to a friend last weekthe day before I handed my manuscript over to my new freelance editor:

"I finished the latest version of my MS last night -- just in time to give it to that freelance editor person tomorrow. Ugh. I'm kind of sick about it, to be honest. It feels like the book I've been trying to write for five years has finally crawled out of me. Like some kind of paper baby. I know that's totally gross, but that's what it feels like. So yeah, it's weird, like really weird. And it makes me think of all the $#it that's happened in the last five years, and how much it helped me write this damn thing and how much it hurt it, too."

I know, I know. Like a scene from Twilight or something, right? My teenage angst is bleeding all over the screen.

The good news is this: when I gave my manuscript to the editor, it didn't feel quite as terrifying as I thought it would. She was cool and nice and smart and liked my glasses and she wasn't wearing a pashmina covered in cat fur (don't all editors wear those?). As a matter of fact, the handing over of my of MS -- the actual physical act of it -- brought me nothing but relief.

Oddly enough, we didn't talk much about my book. A full-blown synopsis wasn't part of the plan (I didn't want to plant any ideas into her head) and when she asked me "what's it about?" I had a real hard time answering. Beyond my pre-rewrite "it's about a girl who's dealing with the aftermath of her boyfriend's decision to become a Jehovah's Witness," I'm still sort of stumped. Which means I still have a ways to go. Blarg.

Anyways, for those of you who've read the recent elitist poo-poos about the value of hiring a freelance editor, I highly recommend letting a qualified stranger rummage through your manuscript. If you can find one who shares your taste in eyewear, that's a plus, too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 and other news

85,345 words, countless rejections and five years has come to this. By this evening, my final round of changes will be made, Word doc exported to PDF and manuscript bound. On Friday I'll be handing it over to the freelance editor whose opinion I am terrified for. Should be an interesting couple weeks of waiting. I wonder how much hair I'll lose and weight I'll gain? I'm taking bets.

Minor freak-outs along the way, it's been kind of a cool editing process this time around. There hasn't been too much re-writing needed, which made the whole experience feel rather luxurious -- adding new adjectives here and there, refining, scaling back, reinforcing. Also, the manner in which I've been doing the editing has been somewhat of a successful 21st Century experiment. I've been quite busy lately so I've been trying to squeeze in editing opportunities everywhere that I can. My iPod Touch (and now my new iPhone!) has been incredibly handy for this. No matter how busy the subway is, with this little device in my hand, I've been scrolling through my manuscript and copying and pasting areas that need fixing into the Notes app. A bit tedious, yes, but a wonderful way to commute when standing room and three inches around my face is all I've got.

Speaking of things high-tech, I came across this amazing blog the other day: Literary Rejections on Display. There is a vast collection of most excellent stuff here, including actual rejection letters and -- get this! -- a rejection app! What's next? A man on the moon? Speaking of apps, did you know that there's a guy named in The Black Eyed Peas? (scroll ahead to 3:35) I think he does Fergie's hair or something.

In a final piece of good news, a fellow book writer and novel blogger, Tara Benwell, has listed her self-published book The Proper Order of Things for sale on Amazon here. I just ordered my copy this morning and if you want to support first-time Canadian novelists, why not do the same?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

M M M My Teratoma

A question for you, my little pretty one, pretty one: Do all writers behave this way, or am I just particularly insane? Because I've been working on my novel for roughly five years now AND I JUST CHANGED IT. AGAIN.

I was almost done my edits, almost ready to give my manuscript to the freelance editor I've hired. And then I went and changed it. It's pretty major stuff, too, what needs to be rewritten. All the subtle weaving background stuff, underlying motivation, showing without telling stuff. Ugh.

As much as it grilled my cheese to realize that these changes are necessary, these changes are necessary. My subplot is so annoyingly complicated with so little pay-off for the reader. Here's the gist:

See there's this secret, yeah, a secret from my main character's past that only certain secondary characters know about. This secret unfolds slowly, gradually, until... well, nothing. But wait! There's more! See, it turns out that those secondary characters don't know the whole truth, only bits of it, bits that my main character keeps to herself, buried under trauma and disease and religion and snow and self doubt and and... wait! There's more! There's a secondary narrator, too! She tells her own story through these diary entries that are supposed to be subtle and mysterious... but you pretty much know what's up from the beginning. And she's connected to the main character who's connected to the secondary characters...

I mean, wow, talk about overkill. It was impossible to show and not tell. I could barely keep the subplot straight and I'm the one who made it up!

When I started writing this revision I thought, hey, it's literary fiction -- plot elements are allowed to dangle without ever amounting to much. And then I read Cloud Atlas and was terribly disappointed. All that delicious language and set-up, and for what?

I don't like reading those books, why the hell would I write one?

Anyhoo, I'm not upset about the changes, the making of, the realization of. Keep it simple stupid, and all. But what I am upset about is how these changes make me feel. And how they make me feel is this: that this project will never be complete.

This book is starting to feel like a growth, like one of those benign tumors with hair and teeth and a heartbeat -- a teratoma is what it is. I love my teratoma because it's a part of me. But it's sort of sucking the life out of me, too.

If you're having a bad day like I am, read this. It didn't cheer me up today, but it may do the trick for you.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Stieg Larrson complex

You know you have a Stieg Larrson complex when...

1) You tell your friend where the most up-to-date version of your manuscript is saved online. In case you get hit by a bus.

2) You take your memory stick with you everywhere you go, which carries the most up-to-date version of your manuscript. In case the news picks up on your story and some nosy arts reporter bribes the evidence locker cop to snoop through your purse.

3) You inform your boyfriend that while your friend knows the location of your up-to-date manuscript, it is he who will be responsible for getting the thing to a publisher. In case you go into a coma and, well...

While I hate Stieg Larrson's books with a passion (and yes, I only read the first but I hate the rest by association) his personal tragedy and eventual success has got me thinking. I mean, I know it's a stretch, and I have no delusions of grandeur, if you haven't caught on to that by now. But what if the infamous Vomit Comet were to strike me down on Yonge Street and my book, my precious, never saw the light of day?

Believe me, it's in everyone's best interest that this does not happen. Because I know myself and I know that if I "go" and some publisher somewhere has not read my latest revision, I will totally come back to earth and haunt the $#!t of this place.