A Dad and a Writer: Month 5

As winter rolls in, I’m cautiously optimistic. The baby is growing up quickly, and that’s a much-needed motivation boost. His sleep schedule is also becoming more convenient – he was already sleeping full nights, but now we’re slowly putting him to bed earlier, which gives me more uninterrupted time.

I also think that I’ve turned the corner on accumulated fatigue – by which I mean that instead of finishing every week just a bit more tired than the week before, I’m finally recuperating. In retrospect, that accumulated fatigue was probably also impeding my ability to write in months 3 and 4, so I’m glad/hopeful that’s over.

Hence the “cautiously” optimistic. It won’t take a lot for me to slip back into that energy-deficit trap. Another baby cold, a rough month at work, and I’m back in that low-concentration hell. But as of now, I’m running out of excuses not to write regularly.

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Query Report: Back to Square One

Well, I was about to write this with a hopeful tone, but then I received an official manuscript rejection, leaving me with exactly zero potential leads at the moment.

It’s my fault – sure, the baby has been a massive timesink, but I should have been throwing out more queries this fall. So, with all my queries either dead or stale… it’s time to reassess the situation.

Number of Agents Identified: 25*

That’s the work I’ve managed to do this fall. Twenty-five names of agents that I feel could be interested in reading my manuscript. Figure on maybe another ten that didn’t make the list because I don’t query multiple agents at the same agency at the same time (hence the asterisk.)

Number of Queries sent: 14

Well, six queries in what, three months? As usual, blame the baby.

Number of Rejections/Stale Queries: 14

As specified, by now all the unanswered queries can be considered rejections. One caveat: I’ll go through my list of stale queries and see if there are any that come with a guaranteed reply. Those will warrant a second try.

It’s probably worth mentioning that I received another personalized, “this-is-great-you’re-obviously-talented-but-it’s-not-for-me” reply, in addition to the positive side of the feedback from the manuscript rejection. Those are nice to get, but we’re looking for success here!

Number of Requests for the Manuscript: 2 – Both ultimately rejected

That hurts.

Also, while the feedback I got with the first rejection a year ago led me to do a revision that ended up making the book better… I’m not sure I can do anything with the feedback from rejection no. 2. Don’t get me wrong: it’s certainly something I will consider for my future writings, but applying it to Book the First would entail a full sentence-by-sentence rewrite. And I’m not sure I want to do that.

Final Thoughts:

Hard Truth time: between all the queries I’ve sent, and the feedback I’ve received… I think getting an agent for Book the First is starting to look like a forlorn hope.

Sure, I can probably keep identifying new agents and sending queries forever, but at this point I need to start looking forward. And that means beginning to consider that traditional publishing is just not going to work for my first novel.

 

I’m not out of the race yet. I’ll take the time to prepare fifteen really good, personalized queries over the next month, then ship them out before the end of January. But if those don’t work, I’ll turn Book the First into an e-book and move on from there.

Bonus Creativity: A Sandbox Pathfinder Setting

I’m an obsessive TTRPGer. When I’m not thinking about books, I’m thinking about games I’ve played, and especially games I want to run.

And one of my goal is to run a sandbox Pathfinder campaign.

For the uninitiated, a sandbox campaign is one in which the players, not the game master, take the initiative in deciding what the story will be. The GM manages the setting and prepares adventures based on what the players want to do, but ultimately it’s the players’ goals that drive the story.

What this means, in practical terms, is that there are quite a few tropes that can’t be put into play. No prophecies to be fulfilled, no apocalyptic wars between gods to win, nothing that the players can’t choose to ignore. The stakes can still be high, but if the players don’t want to get involved with a particular plot point, well, the show must go on.

It also means that the setting must accomodate a variety of activities. If the players want to explore, there must be some amount of terra incognita. If they want to play politics, there must be a theater for that. And there still must be villains to confront, monsters to slay, and so on.

The old AD&D settings were pretty good for that – the pre-Time of Troubles Forgotten Realms in particular had plenty of unexplored (read: unwritten) land to explore and a relative dearth of player-achievement-trivializing fiction. Modern settings, by contrast, tend to be less accomodating. Besides, where’s the fun in using someone else’s creation?

So, over the course of the next few months, I’ll be posting my design process as I create a new setting to play in. I’ll try to go light on actual game mechanics – it’s not really pertinent to the creation process and besides, I expect there’ll be a second edition of Pathfinder by the time I get around to actually playing in that setting. Instead, I’ll focus on the reasons for my design decisions rather than on the rules minutia.

So… in our next instalment: let’s draw a map.