Archive for the ‘Sleep of Reason’ category

regrettable, but not surpising

March 20, 2012

I did not make the cut in the latest round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I would have been surprised if I had; I was surprised when I made the first cut. Still, the experience has given me pause to think.

  • It was a contest I didn’t even know existed until a kind soul told me and encouraged me to submit. It was not a dream I have been chasing for years.
  • Being sad about not winning would be like submitting to only one agent and then being sad about the rejection. The odds were long. (And there is an ocean of agents out there.)
  • Winning would have meant that I needed to be in Seattle on the day when I am going to be in Rhode Island for a wedding.
  • Participating gave me a month of harmless buoyancy.
  • I can now include that The Sleep of Reason was a semi-finalist in this contest when I pitch it to agents.
  • There is plenty of other work I can focus my attention on.

(Does this much analysis suggest that I am not really as okay with the disappointment as I pretend?)

a little bit of news

February 24, 2012

Now don’t get excited. I’m not letting myself get excited.

You’ll recall that I submitted my novel, The Sleep of Reason, to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest last month. Entries were limited to the first five thousand who sent them in, and I thought that those odds were at least as good as submitting to nearly random agents, but to tell the truth, I didn’t hold out much hope for my submission.

I thought the first cut was in the middle of March, so I didn’t give the submission any more thought. But it turns out that the first cut was yesterday. Four thousand of the five thousand submissions were declined.

The Sleep of Reason is one of the one thousand that survived the first cut!

Granted, most of those four thousand were probably first novels by first-time writers who had no business entering but didn’t know any better. I’m sure mine is in the category of not-bad-enough-to-cut-right-away. In any case, I can say that my novel was a semi-finalist in this big contest.

So a thousand thanks and a garland of Martian fire flowers to Annam Manthiram for encouraging me to make my submission in the first place.

Querulous queries

October 18, 2011

I keep sending out queries for my completed novel The Sleep of Reason, and I’m mostly getting utter silence in response. I do get occasional polite rejections, and even less frequently I’ve gotten requests for partials. So far, though, no breakthrough, no call.

I sent a query out last week that got a swift response; it was an automated response. The agent, it reported, was out of the office on maternity leave and would be back “later in the fall.” That seems like my luck.

I sent a query out today to an agent at a newly formed agency that was actively looking for new clients. There was very little I could find out about this agency, so I didn’t know if my type of story was what they were interested in. I figured it was worth a try though, and I sent the query. Then when I was adding the agent to my list of attempts, I saw that I had already queried her a year and a half ago when she was at a different agency.


Out of my mind

February 28, 2011

Not an hour goes by that I don’t have some idea or impression or solution for my novel-in-hibernation, Larger than Life. (As I noted before, I’ve even had this happen in my sleep.) If I’m not near my computer, I jot my note on a piece of paper (with a mechanical pencil, of course) to transcribe it and incorporate it later.

By the time I’m at the computer, I usually have a pile of these notes waiting for attention. And if it’s not for Larger than Life it’s for Finnegans Deciphered (the one I am working on right now) or for any of a half dozen novel and story ideas I’m gestating.

I have no complaint about this. It’s how I evolve my ideas, and eventually enough of it gels into a whole.

What’s curious to me, though, is that absolutely none of this is happening with my novel, The Sleep of Reason. I’ve finished that novel, and I’m (still) shopping it around, but unlike everything else I’m working on, no fresh ideas are coming to me for it. Zilch. Zip. Nada.

Is it because that novel truly is finished? Or is it that I have closed my mind to it, believing it is finished? Or am I simply not allowing myself to give any more creative effort to it. I don’t know, and I don’t suppose I care either. The ferment that I’m currently experiencing for my other efforts had happened to me at the same pace when I was toiling through The Sleep of Reason. I was in the thick of it back in those days (not so long ago either). Which is why I’m a little surprised that it’s not still happening.

Sleep gets some attention

November 16, 2010

In my woeful post of the other day I mentioned that nothing much was happening in my writing universe. That changed today when I opened my email.

I’ve mentioned that my WIP, The Sleep of Reason, has been with a few agents for several months. Only one had asked for the full manuscript, but today a second agent asked for the full. I know that for most of you this is small potatoes, but I’m stoked!

I’ve made a small change to the plot, one that I’ve wanted to make for some time. It adds a bit more credibility and a lot more darkness to the story, and since the novel was going to fresh eyes, I thought I’d present the best I had.

I have no idea how long the agent will hold the novel until she reads it, much less when she will respond, but I’m grateful for the activity (while I continue to plod through Larger than Life).



October 31, 2010

I wonder how many stories I would have written by now if I weren’t waiting for them to be “ready.”

Somewhere along the way I came to the notion that I needed to have a story fully imagined in my head before I started writing it. And it’s true that I made an embarrassing number of false starts with stories — really just ideas, images, characterizations — that didn’t have legs, so to speak. My hard drive is littered with the corpses of these failed attempts.

Still . . . I’m not sure this is a fruitful stance. My hard drive is also filled with “notes” for stories that I may never write as I wait for them to be fully imagined in my head. Lately I’ve found that if I just push my way past this imagined barrier, I tend to produce the core of something worthwhile.

I come to this realization because I am reflecting a great deal on how different it has been working on my WIP, Larger than Life, compared to the completed-and-being-shopped-around The Sleep of Reason. The latter wrote itself. There were many times when I felt the story was being revealed to me and that I just had to keep up putting it in writing. Larger than Life, on the other hand, is only coming grudgingly from that murky creative part of my brain. Every writing session is a chore, a voyage of uncertainty, and yet each time I am pleased with what I have done.

The fullness of the story is percolating in my head. Hardly a day goes by now when I don’t have some realization or insight about it, some really substantive understanding of the characters’ relationships or the implications of an act (or the foreshadowing for the act). The writing isn’t getting any easier, but the connectedness of it all is growing more clear by the day.

And I think this is happening, in part, because I am forging ahead with the writing even though I know the story is not “fully imagined.” I think the act of forcing it forward is compelling me to achieve these insights and understandings. If so, then this has been a valuable lesson to learn.

It makes me think that I should take up some of those short story ideas I have floating around and pushing my way to getting the core of something about them written as well.  (In fact, my recent success with the story “Diaspora” resulted from something much like this.) Now it’s just a matter of stealing the time to do it from the myriad of other things that need doing.

So I was thinking . . .

September 30, 2010

about what I haven’t been thinking about: The Sleep of Reason.

There were days when I was writing (and rewriting and revising and editing and trimming) that novel when I couldn’t get my thoughts down fast enough. Ideas for developing this or that bit of it flowed into my head all the time. I was happy with this; nearly all of it was good stuff that I found a way to use.

Then I sent the manuscript off to the agent who expressed an interest in it (still no word — it’s driving me crazy), and suddenly my mind just abandoned that story. Those rapid-fire thoughts no longer come into my head. Sure, I’m busy working on Larger than Life now (pokey progress, but progress nonetheless), and thoughts are pouring into my head about that. (And about some short stories and even the next novel).

Yet is is interesting to me that something which consumed my waking thoughts a couple of months ago is now not even an occasional thought. (Even the apprentice novels I wrote years ago visit me from time to time with suggestions for updating or improvement.) Is this how creativity works?

He began to edit

August 23, 2010

The agent who expressed some interest in the manuscript of The Sleep of Reason had asked me to trim some words to give it more urgency and momentum. It started out at 106,000+ words, and now it’s down to a lean 96,000+ words.

I trimmed a lot of fat — my but I write a lot of relative clauses. There were some scenes that really weren’t essential to the plot, some musings by the protagonist that were gratuitous. Some flabby sentences and tortured syntax.

What I found thoughout, however, was a certain verb construction that really weakened the narrative. My character would “begin to wonder” or “begin to worry” or “begin to realize.” Sure, once or twice that might make sense to show the dawning of some idea to him, but that didn’t need to happen an average of twice in each of the twenty-one chapters!

So the manuscript went off to the agent yesterday evening, and now I’m crossing my fingers and holding my breath.

Life goes on, and I can go to Larger than Life again.

Slash and burn

August 11, 2010

Only a few days back from my rapturous time in New Mexico, and I’ve already managed to work my way through a third of the draft of The Sleep of Reason. I need to cut out about 7,000 words from the 107,000 total and make it read more urgently.

I’m doing pretty well. As I said, I’m a third of the way through it (by chapter count), and I’ve managed to delete a hair more than 3,000 words. So far I’m just trimming the fat, cutting out excess words that add nothing to the meaning. Boy, do I write a lot of relative clauses! If I keep up this pace, I’ll have no problem getting it under a hundred thousand words.

Still, I should probably do some structural cutting too. I’ve noted here that a certain ritual is performed three times during the course of the novel. I devote a lot of words to the preparations the protagonist goes through for those three events. I think I can do some serious cutting there. The process gets described the first time. The subsequent times it doesn’t need such full development. At this point I don’t want to remove one of the three ritual performances altogether, but if it comes to that, I can already see how I might do it.

So I press on.

Curiously, I found a significant continuity problem that none of my readers caught. I have the story opening on a cold January day. Later that same day, my protagonist notes that he doesn’t feel much warmth coming from the fire on the cold February night. Oops!

Away for now, back soon

August 3, 2010

I may be more than my usual level of quiet around here for the next week. I am staying at a lovely bed and breakfast in New Mexico, and the internet connection is iffy. (I had to wait ten minutes just for the blog to load so I could make this entry.) I don’t even know if this post will appear, and I can’t be sure I’ll have the chance to check until next week.

Nonetheless, this has to be the most gracious bed and breakfast we have ever stayed at. It is in an old hacienda with thick adobe walls, timbered ceilings, and large rooms. There are books everywhere. Lots of brass artwork: mostly statues of horses and horsemen but also Native American art including rugs and blankets. And the setting is gorgeous. It is in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, nestled close to the base of the Tooth of Time. (I’ll try to give you some links when I get back home next week.)

We’re visiting our son, who is doing his pediatric rotation for medical school at the huge Boy Scout ranch near here, and we hope to visit some of the sights in the area including the towns of Santa Fe and Taos and perhaps the Taos Pueblo.

In other news. I have a hopeful response from one of the agents who looked at The Sleep of Reason. She wants me to trim 5,000 words from it and make it read a bit quicker. I’ll have to get going on that right away.