Thursday, June 30, 2005

Rob Williams’ Musings - Good News?

So last week i got an email from my agent who had finished my story collection.

if you're just tuning in, or if you forgot, I sent my short story collection to my agent the first week of June. This is an agent i've had for a few years. She signed me when I was still in grad school and has been very patient with me while I worked on my collection, often e-mailing me to ask how it was going, to offer encouragement, little reminders that she was eager to read more when i was ready. She also read stories periodically as I finished them, and offered advice, feedback.

She even sent a few stories out to some of the bigwigs: New Yorker, Harpers. We did receive an amazingly encouraging letter from the New Yorker, saying that the submitted story wasn't right for them at the time, but asking for more.

She's been great, waiting waiting waiting while I wrote. She was one of the first to suggest that I strengthen the ties and connections between the stories-- to make them more interconnected; increase the crossover of characters and plots.

Finally, at the end of May I realized I should just send what I have and see what she has to say. Plus, Ted said he wouldn't marry me until I sent my manuscript to my agent. So, with the fear of being an old maid with a cat for the rest of my life I sent it off to the agent.

This is an excerpt of her email sent to me last week after she finished reading the collection:

I love the writing but the collection as a whole seems like it wants to be a novel (maybe a young adult coming of age novel??).  I say this because most of the main characters in the various stories seem like the same character.

Soooo. Shit. She found me out. All this time I've been posing as a short story writer when I'm really a novelist. Sigh.

You know, I've heard this comment before--that many of the stories either sound like the same boy (his voice) or that the voice is similar enough in each story that it stands out.  But for some reason I've been denying that it could be the same character.

Why denying? I dunno. Maybe I've been afraid of writing a novel. It just seemed like too big a task. Too big of a commitment.  I was comfortable writing my little stories. But the other thing is-- I also have trouble wrapping up stories. My endings are sometimes awkward, or ambiguous, or unresolved... like the chapters in a novel... perhaps?

Also, I think that i've been worried that if I write just about one character--a 15 year-old boy in southern California--that folks will think it's really me I'm writing about. Or that this is a memoir in disguise (a la Running With Scissors). Which it isn't. I mean, yes, there are parts of this character that are parts of me, but as a whole it's not the story of my life. I'm not really ready to tell that story. That's why I wanted this to be about a bunch of different boys; each one with a different life, a different quirk, different family. Or so I thought. But apparently no matter how many brothers and sisters I added or subtracted, no matter that I changed the names of the boys, no matter that one was a movie buff, one was a soccer player, one was a theatre geek, one was a veterinarian wannabe... they all have the same voice.

The email also said the collection...


(Which, I think she meant to say The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime)

And then,

the thumbnail sketch for the novel looked promising indeed...

(which made me feel better)

So I made an appointment to meet with the agent and then spent a week tossing and turning at night, obsessing over the agent’s email during the day, reading it over and over, looking at my collection, wondering if I could do it-- turn the collection into a novel. and wondering --should I do it? How difficult will this be? Will this sell better? Will editors/publishers find it more appealing? Is this really what I should have been doing all along? Have I been kidding myself (and thus wasting a ton of writing time)? Why did I ignore all of the signs and advice from friends, readers, the agent, about the strong similarities in the voices?

Needless to say, I was a bit cranky and nervous the whole week.

To be continued...
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1 comment:

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