Sunday, November 27, 2016

You Only Need One

It’s frustrating to wait.  But it is a trait we all must adapt to – especially those of us in the creative business.  So much seems to be hurry up.  “We need those rewrites immediately!”  “Your deadline is coming.  Hurry.  Write faster.” 

And then we sit in front of the computer, or maybe at the kitchen table stuffing our faces with comfort food, as we wait and wait for some word.  "They're busy on another project. They'll get to you soon.  Yes, your work is great," my agent assures me. 

"But if it's so good, why is no one snapping me up.  Look at all the material I have.  Look at what I've done."

I don't know. Maybe because I'm an Aquarian.  They say that we're ahead of our time.   One of my young adult novels - Against Her Will - about teens in a psychiatric hospital (based on experiences I had as a psych nurse, myself,) I had written almost 15 years before.  (Well, I'd penned the outline and first four chapters because at that time as a selling writer I was able to get a contract on just that.  Now, however, unless you are a Kellerman, King or Koontz you have to write the whole novel on speculation before the publishers - big or small - will look at it. ) 

When my now fabulous agent Italia Gandolfo asked if I had any young adult stories, I hesitated and then mentioned Against Her Will (so saying because the protagonist learns that nothing in life is really against her will) I sent it over.  Drama had always been a tough sell.  Readers wanted action, mystery, comedy, I thought.  She assured me we could sell my book and so with the assistance of partner (Jo Schaffer) since I was deep into another project then, we finished the book. 

It’s not like I haven’t had some success, but as my parents told me in college – writers don’t make money.  Be a nurse or a teacher. So I became a nurse.  Still, it was my writing that I wanted to fuel my retirement and provide for my family.   But patience, it seems, has to be practiced in this business no matter how badly you want something.

Another book – My Sister’s Shadow, an unusual Gothic novel at a time when gothics were supposedly hot - took me over twenty submission (seven to the same publisher with actually very little rewriting) before it was finally accepted.   Of course, being "just a writer" at that time and not really conscious of audience cycles, I didn’t realize the reason that while readers were snatching them off the bookstore shelves, the publishers were seeing a decline in their sales.  Topics go in cycles.

Vampires were hot for a while…and then Zombies.  But if you tried to write a book with their focus at the peak, you would have been lucky to get an editor to read it.  I soon learned that when publishers think a subject is in vogue, they buy everything they can get their hands on -- and many of those manuscripts poorly written and poorly edited.  Then when the readers wise up, they stop their purchases…for a while. 

 My script Dragon Seeds (now being called Mark of the Dragon) which I started twelve years ago with my friend director Sean McNamara, won some awards, and then was rewritten numerous times with notes from a variety of sources. It now looks as if it  will now become a trilogy of books and then scripts with the assistance of Amy Miles to partner on the first of them.   Apparently, with the change of times, studios now really like it if you have an IP (Intellectual Property) behind your script since that gives them a modicum of relief that the book audience will head for the movie.  

Meanwhile, with several scripts - some from my books and some stand alones  - sit on my shelves, so I kept bugging my agent.  When are we sending these out?  When are they going to sell?  If I am so good--
Well, you know the writer's self-doubt cry.   Yet I see others, whose work I believe is not as good or as professional as mine, being picked up.  Why?  What am I doing wrong, I ask?

And yes, I have had some accomplishments – maybe more than most writers I know.  Over forty books, scripts and adaptations have been sold.  (Many of the scripts optioned and even a few made.)  I have also been able to mentor other writers by teaching at various colleges and seminars or conferences as well as a workbook –The Ultimate Writers Workbook For Books And Scripts – to help them.   But somehow I still hunger for that big bite, that major acknowledgment from the entertainment world (and reluctant family members, too, who still think I live in a fantasy world.)

"Stop focusing on your old material right now.  Don't pay for people to help you pitch them." My agent says.  “Your time will come.” She repeats that with my new current projects - The Master's Will - a great true Civil War that I was hired to write both as a book and script, and Nursing The Evidence - my television series concept and pilot about forensic nursing (which I was trained in) -- that things will sell soon. She assured me that once I get one bite, others will soon gobble up my works. 

Intellectually, I know she is correct. When you are hot, you are hot.  Yet one can't be help being anxious when sending one's "children" out into the world and wanting them to succeed.   I long for my other projects to fly off the ground, too.  Well, I waited years for some of these other books to be accepted and then published when the "time was right." 

So now I return to my revised book/ script -The Unborn Witness – a former award winning short story and short film - and make it greater than before as a feature and full length book! 

Onward and upward, writers. And I will trust in my agent's superior knowledge of the market.

The pen - or in this case - the computer - shall overcome - and maybe with a little help of some Xanax!   Stop watching that clock!

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