What the F***! Where did my story go?

One fine day, a little over one year ago, I sat down at the laptop and started writing a story. I had never written anything in my life, other than some crappy reports in school. To be honest, I hated to write.

Several months had passed and the manuscript grew longer and longer with each passing day, until one afternoon I had typed the the final words to, not just a story, but a novel.

A friend read the manuscript and insisted I submit it to be published.

I didn’t exactly know how the whole submission process worked. I had read that a Literary Agent was a good way for an unknown author to get his/her inaugural work in front of a potential publisher. So, I queried a few potential agents and within a few weeks I signed a contract. Now, I would sit back and wait for the offers to roll in, or so I thought.

Months had passed without a word from my agent. During the waiting period, I had written and self-published a short story and a novella, with more ideas brewing in my brain.

While self-publishing my works, I had learned a lot about the publishing industry and even more about the writing process itself.

The finest lesson I learned was about a special group of individuals called: Beta Readers.

Before I self-published my short story and novella, these fine folks tore apart my manuscripts, not in a bad way, they had helped to improve the stories immensely.

Beta Readers have now become an important part in my writing process. I transfer their tons of notes, highlighted words/phrases, suggestions and corrections to my grammar and punctuation, onto my MASTER MANUSCRIPT. Each Beta has a predetermined font color and I add all of the colorful notes directly into my manuscript (corresponding with the particular issue). When I have completely transferred all the notes onto the MASTER, it looks quite colorful and pretty with all of those different colored fonts.

A friend noticed my MASTER on my laptop one afternoon and she inquired about it. I explained to her how my manuscript revision method worked. After all the colored Beta comments are posted onto the MASTER, I start at the beginning of the manuscript and address each Beta issue. One at a time, I make my revision or correction and delete the colored Beta comment and move onto the next Beta issue until no colored Beta comments remain on the MASTER. After addressing and deleting all of the Beta issues, my MASTER is a totally revised manuscript.

My friend began to read some of the Beta comments and became extremely offended over comments they had made in regards to my manuscript.

I closed the laptop and immediately changed the subject, not wishing to get into an involved discussion of how their comments made my stories more readable.

Several additional months had passed and still no communication from my Literary Agent about my novel. I sent copies of the novel manuscript to Beta’s for an initial evaluation. WOW! Was I ever impressed with their extensive comments.
After completing a new revision of the manuscript, I sent the improved version off to another round of Beta’s.

Result: the Beta’s suggested the deletion of six entire chapters and in doing so required major modification to the story.

My contract with the Literary Agent had expired, without even an email asking if I wished to extend it.

I have since realized that my involvement with the agency had been a waste of time. The agent had lead me to believe I had an excellent manuscript, ready for publication and the agency would locate the most suitable publisher for my work. In actuality, my manuscript was a piece of shit and needed a tremendous amount of reworking before it could be considered “submission ready”.

On my own initiative, Auf Wiedersehen~Journey to Goodbye has already gone through eight entire rewrites and I have begun the final revision. It’s basically the same story as it was one year ago, but it reads like a real novel now.

Funny how things in our lives change, sometimes over night. Nineteen months ago, I sat down at the laptop to write just one measly story…


A Story Without a Genre – or – If You Write It a Genre Will Come

For months, I did research for my latest novella, Masked Identities. The storyline includes a period story sandwiched within a contemporary story. In other words, I was writing two stories that would ultimately become one.

The interior story of Ambrose and Sebastian takes place in 1890 Victorian London. Mind you, I have never been off the shores of North America and I definitely had not lived in the 19th Century (at least not during this lifetime). To properly tell this story required months of research into Victorian London history. I recreated a large 19th Century map of London which was taped to the wall in front of me along with reproduced photos of clothing styles, buildings, actual newspaper articles, court and police records, birth records (to select from popular names given to infants during the period), along with tons and tons of notes. During my research I discovered actual events, places and even people that made the story seem like it was becoming more than just a work of fiction. Not having written a “period” piece before, I encountered a challenge with phrases and words that sounded too contemporary or too “American”. Luckily, I had come across two comprehensive directories of “1890 Victorian Slang Terms” which was quite beneficial as well as educational. I began incorporating the results of my research into my story. There was a nagging voice constantly chattering in my head: “The story has to be authentic and historically accurate.”

Once the interior story was completed, I finished the contemporary (exterior) story of a troubled relationship between Megan and her boyfriend, Chandler. But, I had two different endings and was undecided of which to use. I flipped a coin and that decided the ending.

The completed story was sent out to Beta Readers for review. The extensive comments were mixed and quite varying. The Beta’s were evenly tied in their comments of how the story should end, although they had no idea I had a second ending which I had not included in the manuscript. During the revision I decided to include both ending, so the story had an alternate ending. I would leave the selection of the ending to the reader.

Then what to do about about Cover Art? I had six mock-ups and was just as undecided on which I liked best, so I put the mock-ups to a vote of my peers on Facebook.

The story was completed and ready for publication. So, exactly how many writing rules had I broken?

(1) The story has both a Contemporary story and a Period story – OK, that’s a genre specific issue.
(2) The interior story is gay themed and the interior story is hetero themed – another problem.
(3) An alternative ending rather than just one ending – can I break any more writing rules?

To publish the story, I had to consider exactly which genre did this story belong? The publishing industry has specific established genres and my story severely crossed over genre lines. Pondering my dilemma, I questioned why in the heck had I written this story in the first place.

I was reminded of an author friend who recently told me that there are two kinds of writers:
(1) The writer who follows all the rules of grammar, punctuation and writes the edit-perfect book.
(2) Then, there is the “story teller” who creates wonderful tales, but does not follow the writing rules, either due to a lack of formal training or just because they are a rebel.

The author friend had classified my writing style in the second category, as a “story teller”. Yes, I can tell you a tale, but don’t ask me to diagram a sentence, or ask me to identify an adverb or a noun, and I’ll put a period or comma wherever I feel like it. And what the **** is a gerund?

I was reminded of Cyril Connolly, who said, “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

Masked Identities was released in digital format on December 4, 2011 and the paperback edition will follow. Maybe no one will read my story, and those that do may not like it. Whatever the case, I will always consider Masked Identities as my alternative fiction that lacked a genre.

Synopsis of Masked Identities

Megan thought she had read every book in her grandfather’s extensive collection of fiction, until stumbling upon an unfamiliar title. Curious, she delves into the book, realizing that her own relationship with her boyfriend of four years parallels the story she is reading of Ambrose and Sebastian. Can a story of love between two men provide the answers to salvage her floundering relationship?

This unusual tale is actually a period story wrapped inside of a contemporary storyline. The interior story includes actual places and events of 1890 Victorian London. One story follows the relationship of two men in Britain, the other story follows Megan and Chandler in upstate New York, USA. Not specifically defined as a romance novella, since this manuscript crosses genre specific lines: gay / hetero, period / contemporary, and even includes an alternate ending. Definitely not the traditional run-of-the-mill read, but a journey into alternative fiction.

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006IU902U
Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/111086