Thursday, July 30, 2009

Not What I Envisioned

Come August I will have been writing seriously for exactly 8 years. When I say seriously, I mean with publication in mind.

In those 8 years I have found some successes in the form of contest wins, short story publications, and this blog. Yes I count my blog as a success. How could I not when I am fortunate enough to have so many of you come back to read and offer your comments on a nearly daily basis.

Despite the above mentioned successes, I have still failed in my main objective. To publish a novel. At this point I have failed to so much as acquire an agent. Eight years in an in some way i feel like I'm farther away than I was even a few years ago.

It seems to be harder to get agents to request material than it was even a couple of years ago. If only the publishing business fell in with horseshoes and hand grenades ... because I have been close. Matter of fact my very first novel a romance did catch the eye of an editor that I met at a conference. She requested the full manuscript and then asked for rewrites. She then took my novel to their acquisition meeting where the marketing team nixed it on the grounds I brought nothing special to the table as far as helping it stand out among the crowded shelves. that same editor also liked my third novel enough to ask for rewrites, but those revisions failed to excite her the way she'd hoped.

And once upon a time I engaged in a series of phone calls when an agent. That particular agent and I met at a workshop where I read a few chapters aloud for her. She told me that my writing was much stronger as long as my speaking voice and Texas accent remained strong in her mind but as they faded from her memory the novel lost a bit of it's charm and flavor. she said unfortunately editors and ultimately readers would never have the experience of me reading it for them so she was going to have to pass. That phone conversation literally broke my writers heart, but my spirit and determination remained strong.

But now even they have began to wane. is till love to write every bit as much as I ever did, but the shadows of doubt have infected my brain . this year has been tough. finding time to create and tell stories has been tough. Getting anyone in the business to actually read my words has been tough and for the first time I've begun to question my abilities. Don't get me wrong. I think I am a good writer, actually I realize that I am a much better storyteller than writer. Not to sound conceited but I believe myself to be a damn good storyteller and a pretty decent writer.

The problem is I may not be good enough. Evidence indicates that may be the case. Or maybe I simply have not hit upon a story idea good enough to put me over the edge. Either way, whether it's my talent, or ability to create a compelling enough plot, I somehow have to find a way to improve, or face the fact that some dreams never come true.

I'm not ready to quit dreaming, so I guess I better get to improving because 8 years from now I dang sure don't want to be whining about this very same thing in yet another post.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

You have not "failed in [your] main objective." You just haven't succeeded in it YET. There's a big difference!

David said...

It's incredibly hard to keep going. Only fellow writers can understand just how hard. But for us, there's no alternative.

MTL said...

"she said unfortunately editors and ultimately readers would never have the experience of me reading it for them so she was going to have to pass"...

Couldn't you have done an audio book if that was the case? Or like some sort of a "podcast" that could be purchased online. Why can't these people think outside the box man!

You could always publish online for a download on your own and I bet all your blog followers would buy it. That way, all you do is type it up and secure it for purchase. Use paypal if you must. You won't have any overhead, and you don't have to share your proceeds with any shortsighted editors.

There are also publishing companies who do small batches (you can find them online) of books for reasonable costs. You could print a few up, sell them in local coffee shops, etc.

Just some suggestion....:-)
I'd buy that funny one you keep talking about for sure.

Being Beth said...

I struggle too. It's hard being 50 something, eight years into serious writing, a bazillion 25 yr. olds with MFA's breathing down your neck, and a publishing business that is basically on the fritz.

What I know for sure is I love writing. I love telling stories. I love making people think and laugh.

I have given serious thought to some of the same things that MTBLaura suggested in her comment. It may be the way I go, but I'll also probably give the traditional route a try.

I must say though, that if I get the same type of responses you have gotten, I'll do my own thing for sure.

I also know that I would definitely buy and recommend your novels should you decide to self publish. Absolutely would buy them.

Just keep writing, Travis.

Cloudia said...

Travis: You ARE a successful writer because your words interest, amuse, and inspire here at the blog. My well published writer friends will be the first to tell you that publication does not equal good writing; rather it is about marketing. The Hawaii Writer's Conference will be held a few blocks from here in a matter of weeks. The whole idea of the "business" of writing just exhasusts me! I'd rather write my little column, flog my "self" published little book that continues to make friends, and connect with REAL people from all over the world (even Texas!) at my blog. Would I LOVE to have millions of fans, movie credits and tons of money? Sure, but people who "want to be writers" interest me less than folks like you and me who already ARE. Remember all the starving painters whose work now fetches millions? Did they "suck" before $$$$ and fame found them? I don't think so either. Fond Aloha my journeyman friend!
Comfort Spiral

Cloudia said...

8 years? Pffft!

I been writing for 40 years watching crap come and go.

A writer = a person who writes.

We do it because it is "who we are."

Teresa said...

I totally agree with Cloudia, Travis. Keep on doing what you are doing. The publishing industry is getting about as bad as the network tv industry. Don't say that you're not good enough for the publishers, say rather that you are too good for them and refuse to compromise your art for filthy lucre. Your blog is hilarious; the stories you have put up online are really great. You have a ton of fans on the internet. That is no small feat. I think you should celebrate what you have accomplished with a huge carnivore barbecue and some of your favorite brew! You're awesome.

G. B. Miller said...

I have to agree with everyone here so far.

I look it at this way: I started writing only three and half years ago, and it's been in the last year that I decided to serious up about it.

Will I ever be published the normal way? For the most part, I don't think so.

But I'm having fun while doing it. I write to share with the public, for the public is the one that will determine whether or not you're good. If I didn't want to share with the public, I wouldn't have opened myself up to scrutiny/ridicule with two blogs and one self-pub book (with another on the way).

I enjoy what I'm doing and from the looks of it, you do as well.

Never say die. Or at the very least, don't let the holier than thous tell you otherwise.

Stephen Parrish said...

Your first commenter, Debra, has it right: just because you haven't yet succeeded doesn't mean you've failed.

Hemingway wrote in A MOVEABLE FEAST about complaining to Sylvia Beach that despite his efforts he wasn't succeeding as a writer. Then he expressed regret:

"I'm sorry, Sylvia. Forgive me for speaking about it."

"Forgive you for what? [Sylvia responded]. Always talk about it or about anything. Don't you know all writers ever talk about is their troubles? But promise me you won't worry and that you'll eat enough."

Let's hope she wasn't referring to lettuce.

I haven't read your novels, so I don't know what condition they're in. But I've read your blog: you know how to tell a tale. You'll make it if you keep trying. The only people with your talent who fail are the ones who quit.

Janet said...

You just need one of your books to catch on, then you will be able to sell all the others that don't "stand out". They'll stand out because they have your name on them.

But you do realize that vacations are OK. We need them from everything else we do, why not the occasional break from writing?

Patti said...

it's obviously beer summit time. these thoughts have been poking me all week. wth? we rock...just haven't hit on the "it" yet.

trust. and beer. my life's mantra.

Gary Corby said...

Hang in there.

If you think you're stuck with what you're writing, try writing something utterly different. It might spark a change.

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

I've never done this before, but I insist you read my current post. I wrote it for occasions just like this. Then, pull your head out of your ass and get back to work!

Hugs, Debbie ;-)

Kristen Painter said...

I was in a very similar place myself about a year ago. Those feelings, and some anger I had about some other things that were going on in my career, led me to write what I affectionately termed my "screw you" book.

That's the book that just sold to Orbit in a 3 book deal.

Sometimes, you just have to write for yourself. Tell a story that's just for your own entertainment. Get back to the joy of writing and the joy of storytelling.

It's tough, but only the tough survive, especially in this business.

Anonymous said...

The discouragement that ends up heaped on so many good but unpublished writers is tough to deal with. Writing is an art of personal expression and if you find it fulfilling you'll continue to write whether or not your work is ever accepted for publication. You can only say you've failed if you give up.

The publishing industry is a hard one to crack unless you're willing to start slowly and keep at it. Whatever you do, don't give up too soon. A sale may be just around the corner.

You might consider submitting some shorter works to suitable magazines. Whether they're paying markets or freebies the exposure builds your publishing credits.

I have a blog post coming out soon that focuses on finding time for writing, but the suggested skills apply here, too: organize, prioritize, commit and persevere. I hope you'll persevere. No destination is ever reached if you turn off before you get there. :)


David said...

I don't know if my own story will help or make you feel worse. In the hopes it will help, here it is.

My first novel was published by Pocket Books in 1977. I sold more books, to Pocket and other biggies, and I thought I was well on my way. Then I saw my career fade away -- an experience shared by many other writers.

Fortunately, I didn't give up. I kept on writing and just signed with a brilliant, outstanding, wonderful New York agent. I feel like a kid embarking on the great publishing adventure for the first time.

Never give up. As Winston Churchill said, "Never, never, never, never, never give up."

sybil law said...

You'll get there.
And damn - how good will it feel when you do?!!

Anonymous said...

Ah, now we get down to it: the crux of the matter, what's been eating you lately. Travis, you are a great storyteller and anyone who doesn't hear that special Texas something in your writing voice has been listening to subways and elevator bells too long. You are a wonderful writer--living in a tough time. Publishing types, and maybe even agents, don't realize it but they are riding a sinking leviathan. Change is here, and their way of dealing with it is to hunker down and take no risks.

The list of self-published writers is long and illustrious, and if you look at that path, don't let anyone deter you with silly "career advice" that it will hurt your chances of "real" publication down the road. Phooey.

Your friend are right, and so is Churchill. It's August, a time of melancholy for lots of us. You've had a tough year, and so has your family. Take a breath. Remember to eat and don't ride with drunks. Wallow (but journal it--you can use this in something, specially romance) then swim to the surface and take another deep breath. Do I get the prize for most-mixte metaphor?

anon said...

If you love to write then what else would you do with all the extra time if you quit writing?
I say keep at it, do it for the love of the craft.

Lynnette Labelle said...

You're not imagining things. I've read over and over on agents' blogs that they are picker than ever because editors are taking on less books. Not only that, but because of the economy, readers are buying less books, so even they are selecting only the best.

Does that mean this won't change? It's hard to say. I believe, no matter what, the bar's been raised. We all have to work harder at it and write better than the best sellers of the past decade.

Don't give up. If you haven't already, join a critique group. You'll learn a lot from fellow writers that way.

Lynnette Labelle

Cheryl Wray said...

Travis, I can absolutely relate to you and (as a fellow writer an aspiring novelist) I "feel your pain." All I can say is keep positive and stick to your dreams!

Maybe, also, you could explore the idea of being a paid storyteller. Go into schools, conferences, etc. and read your stories.

Clare2e said...

Travis- You know, I've been doing this crap for about the same length of time as you have, and I'm glad I never knew that I'd be knocking without answer for as long as I have. A couple of years ago, I did find an agent (yay!) who couldn't sell my work for reasons similar to one of yours. I've been trying to do more book-length, but also shorts to see if I can get a foot in any door. Well, today I got a new rejection.

But then, as I was experiencing this new disappointment as a fresh sock to the chin, I got speedy replies from my friends. They brought honest sympathy, but also new ideas for placement, and damned if I didn't bite the hook yet again and get excited about the possibilities! When will I learn? I told them if I'm too stupid to give up, I'll eventually outlast the Fates opposing me. Or I might just learn to write better by then. I'll bet you're that kind of sucker, too.

If you're investing a year in a manuscript, make sure it's something you can pitch to a specific market segment. Could you be working at shorter length for other markets where you don't need an agent? Would a couple of short stories out in the world help give you a platform for a related book with the same characters? You are a spinner of tales, but if the venue's not fruitful, you can change it if you want.

If it's more important to you to tell the stories you feel most drawn to in the way you feel they ought to be told, then keep writing them just that way and let the world catch up with you. The cycles wheel around and what's hopeless now gets sale-able later. These seemingly inevitable periods of battle fatigue let you re-examine what you love and hate about what you're doing, and adjust your course.

Charles Gramlich said...

Writing is an incredibly frustrating occupation. Or nix that, not the writing but the publishing. Writing is rewarding, but getting someone to listen even when you know your words are good is agony. I tried like hell to sell Cold in the Light to the major publishers and it was no go. Just wasn't gonna happen, so I went to the small press. I'll probably be there the rest of my life, but at least the books will be out there and some folks will have a chance to read them. The major publishers are cutting back and even the fact that something comes out from the major publishers doesn't mean it's worth reading. I see crap on the shelves all the time because it's not about quality but about money and trends.

Skeeter said...

Hi! I don't think it is that. If it can take J.K. Rowling as many rejections as it did for Harry Potter to come to print, I think you just need some more time and postage to get your novel out there and into the right hands.

Best wishes,


Grace said...

I believe you are a very talented man, and I can say you need not worry about "dreaming". We all need that. :)
Keep it going.

the walking man said...

Travis you have already published more than Emily Dickinson did in her lifetime. She got one snide comment from a jealous poet she admired and quit trying to publish. She had one piece published under a male pseudonym. Think if she had tried instead of quit?

Just keep doing what you're doing, becoming known for what you are and the stories that you set to paper. You're focused and on point, still just a kid, and when the collective business side of this thing sees you then that ride will take off; but for now, just keep plugging away.

DrillerAA09 said...

Hang in there big guy. It can take a lifetime to be an overnight success.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I'm in the same boat, if only for five years. I wish I had something more enouraging to say than 'hang in there', but that's the best I've got.

Hang in there, Travis. You aren't alone.

Tracy said...

I understand the frustration, Travis, but you are a very good writer and an amazing story teller. Don't give up. I've seen far inferior work in print. Unfortunately it isn't totally about talent, but about luck.

There's a Mexican proverb that says, "A cada santo le llega su dia de fiesta." - That loosely translates to "To every saint comes their day of celebration."

Your day will come :)

Melanie Hooyenga said...

I agree that you are a wonderful storyteller. I always know I'll enjoy your posts. I've only read the snippets you've shared here, but I've loved all of it.

Keep your chin up!

Eric said...

I will probably reiterate what others have said, but it needs to be said anyway. Do not allow yourself to quit or become discouraged. Every time I stop by your blog, I hear your voice in my head (with accent, thank you) and I enjoy every bit of it. Perhaps that means you need to bring that same voice to the written page? I don't know. What I do know is that you are a talented storyteller, and putting that story on the written page is something I believe you can do. Keep in mind also that this is a tough industry, there are millions of people also trying to get published, and only perserverance will allow you to reach your goal. Don't do your fans a disservice by allowing yourself to become disillusioned. You are talented, and someday the rest of the industry will realize it just like we (your supporting fans) do.

Aaron said...

Sounds like you need to try your luck with a male editor?


David Cranmer said...

Charles G once again beat me to the punch.

Mels Place in Big Bear said...

It has nothing to do with your writing. Trust me, and I haven't read it other than your blog (which is great.) Publishing is a biz just like anything else. Yes, you need to be good, but some of it is who you know and where you live. You need to be in their face and network network network. I certainly think I'm a fine writer, but I'm not the best in the planet. But I live in L.A., and I have surrounded myself with writers. I'm in groups. I blog for pay. I read a lot. I'm good - don't get me wrong - but I'm sure you are just as good in your genre. So don't let the lack of publishing define you as an artist because that would be a royal shame.


Chris Eldin said...

I go to this place you speak of very often. It is hard. But it sounds like it's rewarding, and you are very close. The timing may not be right for some projects, so start new ones perhaps...

Have you thought about getting a professional editor to look at your ms? Could be worth it, since you are so close. It wouldn't be a line edit, but a careful look at the macro issues.

{hugs} I think you're a terrific writer--based on everything I read on your blog.

alex keto said...

No matter what people claim, the publishing industry is completely dysfunctional.
But if you point it out, the response is sour grapes, you just suck as a writer.

The reality is that most of money being made is made by snake oil salesmen who promise some form of elusive access which they say will lead to publication. It's a predatory behavior practice fostered and abetted in part by agents seeking free vacations at conferences and a check to boot who participate as the bait.

What can you do? Probably, the best thing is to keep mailing. At least then, all you're out is the postage.

Will that lead to publication? Who knows? After all, 11 expert publishing houses turned down Harry Potter which says it all about the industry.

alex keto said...

I'm still debating whether to bother to attend an upcoming conference.
If the agents paid 400 bucks to attend, you'd be pretty certain they'd move heaven and earth to recoup that money. Or they wouldn't bother to attend. But since they are paid, what's it to them if it all fails?
Might just skip it without bothering to ask for a refund.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

read about you from eric's blog. chin up, travis! it'll happen when it's supposed to. sounds like you've got the right idea...keep plugging along, improving your craft. you're in the "not yet" category so many of us are in, as well. :)

Unknown said...

Travis! I'm the one whose supposed to talk that way! You're suppossed to be the voice of encouragement, to fluff me up when I get down!

What am I going to do now that you have those same doubts and fears!??!

Well, I guess I'll breath a sigh of relief that we're all human... and we're not alone in this!

And Second, I guess I'LL be the voice of hope and encouragement.

Quit yer bitchin', Pull up those boot straps and get to writing! Don't you DARE give up!

Because if you do, it's not only you who will be disappointed, but the entire writing world.

You're a great writer!!! I'd give up my pinkie, if I could be half as good.

:) Plunder that Booty!!!

Junosmom said...

Read the book "Outliers". There is evidence that those that hit it big, e.g. Bill Gates, etc. had the right stuff, BUT were in the right place at the right time, that is, luck. Being in luck means doing it a long time, hours and hours, 10,000 hours according to the book. Keep going. You write. It's who you are. Being published will be nice, but you will not be more or less than you already are. (although some money might be nice)

Lana Gramlich said...

In the fields of talent, it's very much an "us vs. them" world, where certain people are hand picked by the powers that be to glean the spoils & honors. Talent's usually the last thing they're judged on, unfortunately.
I know how you feel, though. It's frustrating, for sure. Although I'd decided to quit art a while back, I found that art refuses to quit me. So I quit "the biz" of it, for the most part. I'm not chasing the carrot on the end of the stick anymore. My works are better off as gifts to those who truly appreciate them, y'know?