Monday, January 20, 2014

Abstract Thoughts: I Kicked a Whole Litter of Kittens

Brilliance from Idea Salesman
There's a question I get asked a lot: just what does an Idea Salesman do?

I mean, people have been down with the idea of Muses since Ancient Greece--good PR ain't exactly hard to come by when you spend your entire existence inspiring people. And most folks in writing circles are well acquainted with the Inner Editors' Union, mostly on account of having had one or two IEs stage red ink protest rallies all over their manuscripts. But Idea Salesmen? Yeah, we don't have a big reputation proceeding us.

Not every writer has an Idea Salesman. We don't show up until the writer in question makes that leap from "I like writing stories; maybe someday I'll sell one" to "I am going to get this novel published". Once they turn that corner, the writers may not recognize us by name (we spend all our time doing PR for the writers, so we don't get our own names out there very often) but they've all had some dealings with us.

We're the voice in the back of a professional (or aspiring professional) writer's mind that pushes their butt into the chair and makes them put their hands on the keyboard even when the writing isn't fun.

We're the shove that forces them to strip off little pieces of their soul and send them out into the world to be chewed up and spit out by publishing professionals in a process known as querying. We're also in charge of managing the emotional fallout from that process, by the way.

We nudge them, kicking and screaming most times, out of their writing cave and make them interact socially with other humans so they can do things like networking, platform building, and promotion.

Muses create the art of writing.

Inner Editors handle the craft.

Idea Salesmen take care of the business.

(There's a fourth abstract rattling around in here too, the Critic, but we don't talk about her and she's not allowed to blog. She's, to put it as politely as possible, a total bitch and no one needs to hear what she's got to say. Least of all Renee.)

Now my particular gig is pretty laid back most of the time. Renee is getting pretty good at putting herself in front of the keyboard and making herself work. I don't have to shout pep at her to get her out of bed most mornings anymore. And she doesn't have anything out on submission right now so I don't have to deal with shaking off rejection letters at the moment, thank the gods. (Emotions are some messy shit.) Most days my big responsibility is keeping up with the Twitterverse and the blogosphere. It's not exactly hard labor.

But every now and again, I still have to step up and do something really unpleasant. Because in addition to all the other things, I'm also the guy in charge of deadlines. And last week, because of my deadline duties, I had to kick a whole litter of kittens off the table.

Renee has been working on this project we've been calling Familiar off and on for a long time now. You guys know about this already. When we sat down and booted up the Professional Writing Career machine this time around, we decided she'd get one year to make a serious go at putting together a new rough draft of the novel.

That was October 2012. But in September 2013, it still wasn't done. Word count wise it looked almost done, but anyone actually reading the story knew it had a long way to go. 2013 was a hard year, both in terms of real life and writing life, and things just hadn't gone the way we planned. But the girls were so excited about finally making progress, and they really thought they could finish the novel if they just had a little more time.

So I gave them an extension. One month, just until November and NaNoWriMo rolled around.

Well November rolled around and Familiar was still lumbering forward, but nowhere near the finish line. The Muse lobbied for another extension. We made a compromise. We'd take November off to work on the new project, Guardian, and then we'd come back to Familiar. I gave her an extra two months this time, because I understand there are things like holidays and stuff in December. The new deadline for Familiar became end of January 2014.

As the weeks have gone by, it's became really obvious that Familiar isn't going to make the new deadline either. So we started talking about another extension.

Getting this damn book written was starting to feel like passing a federal budget. And now we weren't just talking about another two-month continuing resolution. This time we were discussing a serious overhaul, pushing the whole calendar back by a full year and starting Familiar all over again with some serious replotting.

No, no, nope. Sorry, girls, but I had to put my foot down. This is my line that shall not be crossed and I'm standing firm. The story is good, the characters are fun, but there are big flaws and we can't just sit down and start the whole process all over again. It's been a good ride and I like cats just as much as the next guy stuck sharing the head space of a cat person with two cat-loving abstracts. But this is the end of the line.

I read writing and publishing blogs every day and I've read this same story over and over again from published authors all over the spectrum. There's always that one book they wrote and loved and just couldn't sell. And so they reworked it and tried again and reworked it and tried again. And again and again and again, until one day they finally got that ah-ha moment and the story came together into something publishable and now their baby, the book of their heart, is out there in the world.

It's a great story, full of hope and inspiration and dreams.

You know else all those stories talk about? How those writers went back and wrote other things and got those out there into the world, in between all those reworkings. You almost never read about authors who flogged the same dead horse novel for twenty years trying to fix it over and over again. Because those authors spend all their time flogging a dead horse and thus never get published.

Renee wants to get published. She wants this to be her career. And that means sticking to things and finishing them, sure, but it also means recognizing when something isn't working and she's spent too much time on it already and knowing when it's time to move on to other things.

Familiar isn't going away, per se. I'm not suggesting with burn it to the ground, salt the earth, and poison all the wells on our way out. We're putting it in a drawer. (Metaphorically speaking, of course, as this is the digital age and all that.) It's going back into the background, where the Muse can play with it in her spare time and maybe coax a solution out of the ether. Then we'll talk about putting Familiar back on the calendar in one of the future project slots, and maybe give it the time for another serious go. Until then, we're moving on.

And moving on is good. Guardian is a good story with fun characters too and Renee likes writing it. (Though it is a little darker than Familiar and tends to leave her with a somewhat fouler mouth when she really digs into her MC's head space.) And there's still that short story I've vowed we will write and send out on submission at some point this year. There are big scary fun things in our future!

But, yeah, I'm not gonna lie; being the guy who had to kick the kittens out really sucked.

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