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I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant

August 9, 2012

Surprised myself yesterday: I was up at the UNR library, trying to apply myself to the psychology textbook I rented for the class I had to drop, which has become more difficult lately. The book is due back in two weeks at most, I tried to buy an older version of it on Amazon only to find myself the victim of some deadbeat who never mailed it out (on the bright side only out $7), and worst of all I ran up against the reality of what’s really tested on the CLEP. Doing a sample test, I did pretty well on the parts about memory, learning, etc., which had stuck with me, and sucked on the mathy/science bits – statistics, parts of the eye, etc. – which to be honest I’d glossed over on my first read of the book. Yesterday I was reading and making notes when I just had a moment of “you know, I don’t give a shit about this part,” and just stopped reading, stopped taking notes, and stared into space for a minute.

But I had time to kill before an appointment, so there was no just getting up and leaving. I don’t know how or why but I just flipped the notebook over and started making notes for the next three chapters of the book. It was like an episode of “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” or something – “it just…popped out!” [Not he said hastily that I’ve ever seen it, but doesn’t the title pretty much give away the plot?] I’d had some image in my mind that outlining more of the story wasn’t possible unless I went to New York or the beach or something, but there you go.

God, it felt great. When I write up what I have outlined now, I’ll be at about ¾ done. My problem has always been with endings, so this time I’m not pushing it – I’m going to get through what I’ve got outlined, and then what comes next will come next – sometimes you have to let your characters do their thing before you can reasonably project the next thing they’ll do. It’s funny – I told a woman I worked with a while back about the project, back when it was stuck, and she said that Caroline was a character who deserved to live. Now not only is she almost alive (the book being done making her birth official and giving her the Spank of Life), but she’s getting the life I can’t seem to give myself. Which is okay – how many of us live through fictional characters anyway? And of course, the advantage of being the creator of one is that if she’s memorable enough, you get famous or at least known, and then you’re not alone in the world anymore either. Or so I tell myself.

I really don’t think there’s much out there like this. It’s popular fiction in that it’s plot driven, it’s “speculative” thanks to Alex, but there’s a lot in there about loneliness that is definitely deeper than I’ve gone before, but also funny. So not “literary” because it is most definitely *not* all about the sentences, but not entirely shallow, either. If nothing else, I can definitely say I didn’t do what everyone else is doing.

Which feeling of the nearness to completion of course brings me to the realm of What Comes Next. I never heard from the agency after two queries, and going back to Agentquery.com, I read this: “That cricket chirping silence? Yeah, that? Chirping crickets = rejection from the agents. No response required because they ain’t interested.” Okay, I tried. As I said, right now I don’t want to get back into that cycle of hope and despair that submission brings, and what’s more, I’m not sure it’s the greatest idea to even try, for the following reasons:

1. The emotional bits, as noted above. To paraphrase Morrissey, “rejection is one thing but never even knowing that you’re rejected is cruel.” You could literally wait forever wondering and hoping that someone might, today might be the day, finally get to your slush pile submission. That sense of expectancy can be crushing when it’s never fulfilled. You start to feel like a gambler plugging coins into a machine that never ever pays, not even a little. On down days you try to cheer yourself up thinking, hey maybe I’ll hear from someone today! And then you don’t, and then you feel worse. So yeah, not so much.

2. The need to move on to the next thing. It really hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday – this is the first novel I’ve written in eight years. Which means, as far as my sense of self goes, I am a novelist again. For a long time I thought, I “was” a writer, because writers write and more importantly get published. Now I feel present tense again. So the last thing I want to do is finish this one and be stuck WAITING for things to happen with it, rather than starting to think about the next book. Let’s realistically examine what it takes to get published traditionally.

3 months to hear back on a query to an agent.

3 months to hear back on a manuscript from an agent.

3-6 months for them to get an editor interested and get the editor to read it (even this is an optimistically short amount of time).

3-6 months for the publishing house to buy the MS.

12 months from then before it’s published.

12-18 months from then before you see royalties.

Years. Years and years and years.

3. Financials. Optimistically, given that I’ve been out of circulation for eight years and my track record then was “gaynovelsforgayguys,” and this genre (if it is a genre book) is totally new for me, you’re looking at a $5-7K advance. And then, years and years before it breaks even, with some houses using Hollywood style accounting to make sure it never does. Whereas…

4. If I publish it myself via Kindle, I may never see even $5K, BUT…I’ll see a check for SOMETHING every month. If I price the book at $.99, then I’m seeing around $.65 or so after Amazon’s cut and fees. But, at that price, people are much more likely to take a chance on an unknown quantity. To make $5,000, you’d have to sell 7-8,000 copies, but that’s not unrealistic.

5. The downside of self-publishing of course is that you have to be Sally SuperSocial and Harvey Handshake. “Hi! Me! My book! Rah rah!” Gofundme.com was a totally useless idea because it sets you up to get funded then says, “okay now go to your vast social network and really promote this!” If I had a vast social network, I WOULDN’T HAVE TO ASK STRANGERS FOR PENNIES! So it’s entirely possible the book could rot on the virtual shelf.

6. But self-publishing is what I’m a gonna do, I think. Making that decision frees me to finish because I don’t have to fill my mental tank with bricks labeled AGENT and EDITOR and WAITING that displace the creative waters.

So I’m going to give the outline a few days to settle in my head, let my unconscious operate on it and prepare the content for me, but it looks like there will be a lot more of the book posted soon.

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