I think we’re up to about week 19 of A Year in the Life. Close enough, anyway!
Actually, the past month has been quite a disappointment in writing terms. I’ve finished a short story and done some more book proposals, or at least the first stages of them–synopses.
The first synopsis is for the Big New Project I discussed several weeks ago. At the moment I’ve got about 2000 words written on what is very much a high-level, first pass version of the synopsis. Normally I would think that was actually enough, but the size and depth of this particular project suggests to me that I’m probably going to need to triple the length of the synopsis. And also write a separate world building file, which I assure you I have never done before. I anticipate the actual proposal–the rough draft chapters of the book–to come in at a couple hundred pages, or around 50,000 words, because I think it’s going to take that much to delve far enough into the story for editors to get the right feel for what they’re looking at.
It is by far the largest thing I’ve ever proposed, and let me tell you, it’s a little nerve-wracking to know I’m going to be spending probably two solid months of worktime, maybe more, on a project that could possibly never sell.
But this is part of the job. Most of the time, after their first books, writers sell on proposal: a synopsis, chapters, something that says “This is generally what you’re getting.” If you’re proposing books 4-6 in a series that’s selling well, you can be reasonably confident that you’re not wasting time and energy, but sometimes series end, or you just want to do something new.
So, for example, at the beginning of this year I wrote a proposal that I love. Lovelovelove, with sugar on top. I think it’s a wonderful catchy idea with an obvious marketing thrust behind it, and I was very hopeful about the proposal. It was solid, more than fifty pages, and because it’s set in the 1940s it required a fair amount of research on my part, so there was some real time put into it. My agent sent it out, and so far I’ve gotten 5 rejections (out of 7 houses it’s been sent to). One just didn’t like it, one loved it but didn’t like the series story arc (and I’m not sure she’s wrong), two thought it wasn’t a breakout book, and one was concerned about it being set in the 40s. (And the last two are notoriously slow about responding. :))
Anyway, so the point is: proposals aren’t sure things. (Of course, not much in this business is a sure thing…) So knowing I’ll be investing a whole lot of time and energy in this Big Project is on one hand intimidating, because gad, what if I throw the party and nobody comes? But the flip side is that if someone does bite on it, I’ll have a really good grounding to begin from. And if they don’t–it’s annoying, it’s cliched, but it’s also true: I’ll have learned things from doing as much as I intend to do. It’s a different style, a different genre, a different everything from what I’ve been doing, and so that’s going to be worth it on its own.
I think you have to have a certain belief that that’s true, to do this job. I mean, not just a belief that your work is worth reading, but that putting time into something that may not take off is worth doing. That you’re going to learn from it, and that you’re going to in some way improve your skills by doing it. Otherwise I think we’d lose our minds (which of course may be a danger anyway…:)).