Got Them “Screw this shit—what’s the use” – Submission Blues

I hit SUBMIT yesterday at noon. I am suddenly reminded of why I gave up on submissions twenty-five years ago.

The Prospect Agency tells me: You will hear nothing back unless we are interested. Do not expect a reply before three months are up and possibly longer.

Because my book is a hybrid: not a text-only novel, not a short picture book. (For picture books they want to see it art and all.) I have a tad under twenty-thousand words, just barely a noveIla. I sent (requested for a novel) three chapters. I also sent two pieces of art. They may or may not be pleased with my lengthy captions.

I may have violated their guidelines. We’ve all been told, they’re looking for any reason to reject you, to whittle down their stack of submissions.

They state on their submissions page: you will receive an email within three hours informing you that you’ve been added to the queue. It’s two days now, and I have no email. Is this a sign?

An 11×17 poster to be used for publicity. The images are high quality, it can be blown up even larger.

I am going to continue to build my print file for a self-pub. It will take me another several months. The dimension I originally set it at is not accepted by any self-publisher that I can find.

You might well ask, why didn’t you confirm the size before you started? I did. With Valor Printing, in Utah. They said fine. Slowly it dawned on me that they are not a publisher. They print, but do not connect with wholesalers, and they do not fill individual orders. You receive a bulk shipment and mail the book out yourself. That’s when I began to explore true self-publishers.

My layouts are elaborate, with many text-wraps. I have half-a-dozen major pieces of art still to create, perhaps more, this to be determined by how much the page count grows because of the restructure.

The story will contract a bit. I’m taking out sentences here and there. The paper doll will stay the same size, I refuse to have it any smaller. The Victorians made their dolls teeny-weenie. That’s not for me.

Thus, pages that hold two outfits may take only one. And I want every two-page spread to be a least twenty-five percent art, fifty-percent even better, to break up the type, so it’s not so intimidating to those who think they bought a paper doll book.

At the same time, I will resubmit once a month. At the end of six months, when my book is ready to go, it’s gonna go, probably to IngramSpark. From comments I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot of comments on a lot of impartial-pundit sites, they seem to be the best choice. On the whole. Each possibility has advantages and disadvantages. Ingram has extra fees along the road to publication that the others don’t have. They’re small, but they add up.

I’ve contacted an agent. Now I’ll look for a publisher that accepts submissions without an agent-intermediary.

We all know how many rejections Rowling got before she landed at Scholastic. Did she receive notices of rejection, or was she told, if you don’t hear from us within six months, assume you’ve been dropped from consideration? At what interval did she approach a new target?

it all comes back to me now. Abundant aggravation, until I finally gave up. This time I have a solution: IngramSpark.


Nope. Nope, change in strategy: I’ve been combing through the Agents’ Wish List site. Honestly, my thing is probably not what any of them say they want. And the closest I see to a genre for Maisie is Magical Realism.

OK, at least I have a category they’ve heard of. I’ll call it Humorous Magical Realism, pick out five more agents to approach, then look for five publishers who accept un-agented manuscripts. That may be more difficult. The publishers are narrower in the range of what they’re open to looking at.

Ten tries out there, next week if I can manage it. If I hear nothing back by the time my book is complete, I’ve given it a fair chance. I get no nibble on my line, my best path forward is to self-publish.

writing technique

How do you do it?

Manuscript of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary

I don’t mean creatively – we had some excellent advice on that a few weeks back. But I’m curious about the logistics. How does it get from your brain to the final text? For what it’s worth, here’s what I do myself.

Pen and paper. Many people type directly, I know, but I can’t do that. Any pen will do (though I have my favourites), any notebook too (but a preference for spiral, as it’s easy to rip out the pages). I’ve tried to keep separate notebooks for different ideas, but despite my best intentions, they always end up full of disparate notes, with arrows going back and forth from one section to the next. At some point it all gets too confusing and I type everything up. (How on earth did Flaubert and others manage without a word processor?)

For that I dictate into Google Docs. It gets a lot of words wrong, makes a hash of punctuation, and puts unwanted capitals all over the place. But it does a reasonable job, and certainly saves me time compared to typing. It’s far less accurate than Dragon, but has the advantage of being free. Here’s a comprehensive comparison of some different tools available.

Several years ago I bought Scrivener. I wrote a post comparing it to a Heath Robinson machine – an ingenious, complicated device that doesn’t do very much. Certainly I was put off by the frustrating attempts to master it. Who wades through a manual of 360 pages? Not me. Nor did I want to pay $200 for a course explaining it all. But I stuck at it enough to revise my opinion somewhat, and I use it now to organise the typed manuscript as it evolves. There are lots of buttons and bells I don’t bother with, but the basic arrangement into easily navigable chapters is a boon. I can also add notes about characters, setting etc, which I previously put in a separate Word document. So yes, even if I only use a fraction of it, it’s well worth the $40 I paid.

When a draft is finished in Scrivener, I export it to Word and print it out. Then I revise, and the arrows go all over the place again. Rinse and repeat till I’m satisfied – or rather till I decide that at some point I have to consider it’s finished.

Curiosity, as I say. I’m happy enough with the procedure as is, but I dare say there are gains of efficiency I could make. Time-saving tricks, better software options – any suggestions? How do you do it yourself?

Research, Uncategorized

Writing What You Don’t Know

  • by Peter Thomson

A standard bit of writing advice is to ‘write what you know’. Good advice, but how many of us have confronted vampires or run electricity through patchwork corpses? We create new worlds from bits and pieces of the ones we know – including the ones we know from other imaginings, fishing in the cultural deeps until we draw up the strange and new. How deep can we go?

I am not religious. I do not believe in an afterlife and have no truck with divinities of any persuasion. The closest I come to the supernatural are the feelings anyone of ordinary sensitivity has to places of great beauty or sanctity. Yet when Faithful Service and her sister Loyal Service stepped into my mind, demanding I tell their story, religion was everywhere. These were people and a society where faith was central. Theirs is a fantasy world, so I had considerable latitude. I could make up some analogue of an earthly faith (I studied medieval history; basic theology is part of the package). I could stud the story with prayers and priests. I could have a god or gods step in and out.

The story did not want these things. It wanted people who gave serious consideration to what their faith asked of them, and explored how they resolved their differences. It was about the interior of faith, not the trappings. I have religious friends and acquaintances, and one approved my remark that religion must look very different from the inside than the outside. Here I am on the outside, wanting to write about the inside. As it came out, my characters actions spoke for them, each according to their understanding.

One more thing – it’s a world where the supernatural is everywhere evident, to the point of being commonplace. People don’t believe in the gods in the same way that people here don’t believe in chairs. They are just there. So what do the sisters believe in? What is right, and where does it come from? It’s a question at least as old as Socrates – Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious? Or is it pious because it is loved by the gods? (the dialogue with Euthyphro). In The Forked Path the answer is that right is a journey, one undertaken in trust that the dilemma will be resolved in the end. So the story became one of twin journeys, to a reunion and beyond.

Looking back, I think I drew on a melange of medieval mystics and devotional poetry, scraps of theology and philosophy, and both the dogmatic insistence and serenely tolerant certainty I’ve met among the devout. My readers think it works.


On and on they went, slow but never stopping. Villa walls and market gardens went by, the sun rose higher, the puddles steamed away, the earth grew harder. Faithful Service was long unused to going barefoot, and her feet grew more tender as she walked. The old couple went more and more slowly, Right Conduct’s right hand clutching at his side, Proper Support true to her name as she held his left. In one village a boy threw a handful of mud at them, then ran away at the escort’s frown. Travellers made the sign against evil, and a presbyter ostentatiously prayed that wrong-doing might fall from them. All this deepened Faithful Service’s misery, yet on she walked. She had been given nothing to eat that morning and by midday hunger added to her woes. They were permitted to drink at the roadside fountains, where water bubbled clear and cold into stone basins by grace of the Highest’s grant of craft.

Right Conduct and Proper Support kept gamely on, limping and staggering. Right Conduct had cut his foot on a stone and left blood on the ground at each step. By later afternoon Proper Support could hold him up no longer; he sagged against her, they made a few more paces and then both collapsed to the ground.

“By the Highest’s grace, we will not hold this as a falter if you rise within five breaths,” one of the escort told them in a firm tone. Proper Support lifted her head to look him in the face, then clearly made up her mind.

‘My trust has been in the Highest all my life, and I will trust Him still. My husband can go no further, and I will not leave him. If the Highest will not lend us His strength, then we must accept the fate He gives us. I will go no further on my own feet.” She put her arm around her husband’s shoulders and sat firm.

“You have faltered before the Highest. As the Highest decreed, you are not of us. By the Highest’s mercy, you leave the land with your life.” The senior member of the escort intoned the ritual words. Then one was sent to fetch a cart, while another stayed to watch Right Conduct and Proper Support. The other two motioned Faithful Service to go on. She was tempted to join Proper Support on the ground, for her legs ached, her feet were sore and her stomach a gnawing pit of hollowness. Yet she did not; she was young and strong enough to go further, and had not Graceful Deeds always insisted that she do her utmost, told her that there was always one more effort in her? She would honour his memory by going on as far as she was able. Faithful Service set herself in motion, putting one foot in front  of the other in a steady plod.

(The Forked Path is out through Amazon and also – a commercial sale! – Rambunctious Books)

How do you, as authors, feel when the work takes you into areas of ignorance?