June 3rd, 2005

good mris pic

Without Missionary Fervor

So let's see. I still have important-to-me books to talk about, and I wanted to write a fairy tales entry for copperwise and porphyrin, and skylarker wanted to hear about fantasies in which magic was a positive thing and not one of those bite-you-in-the-butt things. And also I should tell you all what some of you already know: that markgritter and I are going to London on the 2nd of July with my folks and my grands, returning on the 9th, and for the two of you to whom it matters directly, the flight times are on my calendar here in the office. So there's that. And then -- ah! I know. My conflicty feelings about speculative fiction conversion packs.

Some of you -- checking the friendslist, I can find yhlee inspired by vonnie_k, but I believe I'm missing someone -- have been putting together "SF conversion lists." Stuff to convert people to reading speculative fiction if they don't already. I'm a little weird about this: Collapse )

*Oh, side note here: here are the rules for when you can sneer at what I'm reading:
1) You read it and didn't like it.
2) You read other things by the same author and didn't like them.
There is no three. There is especially no three if you don't read much at all but have appointed yourself Lord High Muckety Muck Of Appropriate Reading Material. If you believe that nothing interesting about the human condition, nothing entertaining, nothing thought-provoking, nothing, in short, worthwhile, appears in a book with oozy green lizard aliens, naked women, cowboys and covered wagons, or any other general category of image on the cover, you are wrong, and also possibly stupid, depending on how much you cling to your wrongness. Ignorant, at the very least. Uncurl your lip, bother to educate yourself, and move on.

Also I will say that even if you have read the book and didn't like it, your face might freeze that way, or, to quote one of my charming relatives, "Birdie gonna poop on your lip." (Pithy, no? I think of it every time I see a picture of the Sex Pistols.) So maybe there are better ways of expressing your disdain anyway.

Me and the book and our awkward silences

So. Here we are. Just me and the book. And me. And, um, the book.

Hi, book.

(The book, as expected, does not answer. It is busy. Books are.)

So. Yah. How 'bout those Twins, book?

(I could not have written a book that cared less about those Twins. Even my other books -- all baseball-free -- would be much better books to sit and watch a baseball game with, although many of them wouldn't get the appeal, being in a different universe from baseball and all.)

See, we're at this awkward stage, the book and me. Half-alpha'ed. (What, does that make it hydrogen'ed, then? Umm. Sorry.) I have a notion of some things that need doing, and some of them are large-scale small things, if that makes any sense: chapters that need an additional two words in the right spot. Or chapters that need to do exactly the same thing very slightly differently.

I am extremely anxious about the book right now, because the people who've read even some of it have liked it, and because I keep hearing that it's not really like other stuff. If they'd hated it, and if it seemed to them that I was doing something trite and derivative and not very interesting, I could remove some of the mental pressure on the book -- with some disappointment, sure, but also with relief: this is not that book, you may move on to a different book now, one that is fresh and shiny and promising, one that lets you write words upon words upon words instead of poking in the right word and then reading another twenty pages and pulling out two more wrong ones and sticking in an expository sentence. One that doesn't require you to actually put it all out there yet again. One that isn't going to be your best, so you might as well not drive yourself nuts over it.

I am perilously close to the point where I have to declare belief in this book and allegiance to it. That is what beta readers mean to me: that I'm standing behind this book going, yes, all right, this is going out as soon as you people have picked at it. This is going to the editor I've had in mind since '02. This is going to be sent out to be rejected and, worse, ignored. Like all the others.

I know what I have to do. I have to keep writing better, revising better, getting better in every direction I can, and I have to keep sending them out. After the first book it gets easier. After the fourth or so it gets harder again, especially if you still believe in the earlier books, still like them, still think they're good stuff and worth your time and worth other people's time, too. It's not even the sting of rejections that's the worst. It's the echoing silence.

It is very, very hard to consign another book to that silence. It is even harder to do so hopefully. It is harder still to do so hopefully and put one's back into making it the absolute best one can do, the best one has ever done with anything important in one's life, just as if one's effort would pay off in something other than personal satisfaction.

It's also the only thing to do, so I'm doing it. Awkward silences and all. I'm starting with the easy bits, the places where an inverted clause isn't clear or a word seems anachronistic. I'm easing in. But I'm doing it, and it's uncomfortable, hard, sometimes miserable work, and the hardest, most miserable and uncomfortable bit is summoning the belief in it all. And it's as necessary as all the rest.