So, I started querying Citizens of Optimism last week. So far, I’ve got two very speedy rejections and two full requests. This of the six queries I sent. I have no idea where this will go, so there’s little to do but wait and see. I probably won’t get an agent, but heeey I tried.
Point the second, a lot of writers are participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. Technically, this starts in the beginning of July and the plan, I believe, is to write 60,000 words. However, it’s the 13th so I’m kinda late to the party so am aiming for 40,000. I came up with an idea this morning for an epistolary YA novel, tentatively titled Scout, in which a teenage girl sends letters to the aforementioned Scout in the hopes of repairing the three year rift in their relationship. Of course, there’s quite a twist involved but I don’t intend to divulge that just yet. Or ever, maybe.
This is gonna be very character-based and heavy on the descriptive prose, so I don’t know if I have enough plot for a whole book. In its entirety, this is gonna be a short novel and won’t reach much further than 40-50,000 words. Which is acceptable in publishing, yo, but realistic fiction isn’t something I usually do. I tend to err towards hyper-realism, with situations that are just about believable. This shall be a challenge!
That is all.
ETA: I decided to graph my progress with Scout. Day One: 5,000 words buuuut I’m not feeling, so I’m not sure this novel will work. We shall see–though I’ve never started a novel and not finished it.
Sometimes I feel old.
My housemate and I were driving around town a week and a half ago–aimlessly, because there was nothing else to do–and we passed by a group of girls in their school uniforms. I’d guess they were sixteen or seventeen, and I looked at them and could no longer really remember a time that predates this: predates driving aimlessly around our little town.
School seems like a decade ago. I don’t remember anything I learned there. Irish? All gone. History? Nope. Geography? Sometimes I’m certain I’d get lost in my home town. Physics? I hated Physics. French? Je ne parle francais.
It’s been four years since I last wore a school uniform and left that place with such hopes and ambitions. I was going to college. I was gonna graduate and get a good job and get a book published and do all of these things, and they were just gonna be because they were meant to.
There’s this strange go-between time where education ceases to be a thing and you’re out in the real world and none of it really matters. I’ve spent three weeks applying for jobs. I’ll wager I have many months of the same ahead of me. There might be an optional fourth year in my course, but I can’t imagine I’ll ever return. Something about this last week feels final.
I moved home two days ago. Prior to that, I sat in my house a lot. Wrote a lot. Illegally downloaded movies to stock up for the summer. Played frisbee in my friend’s garden. Went out far too much. Drove aimlessly around Carlow. Talked about the future–touched on it, because that conversation is larger than any of us.
It all feels final in a way–and not in a bad way either. This may read pessimistically but it isn’t that. Though there’s a finality, there’s also optimism. I’m endlessly optimistic about what comes next, because I feel like there’s something good in my future–I just have to wait for time to catch up with optimism and get me to where I need to be.
I thought I’d be sadder about leaving. Though it’s a little town, it was home to the best three years of my life. I met people who I adore–made a second family, in a sense. I love these people and I will miss them terribly, but that’s all part of moving up and moving on and finding out who I’m meant to be.
The friends I have will move on too, and so will I and maybe we’ll find our way back and I don’t know if it’ll be like we never left or if we never knew each other at all, but that’s an adventure too.
My memories of the last three years and the five years that predate that (and that one funny year where I went to seven lectures in English and History) get foggier all the time. The idea of my teenage years becomes more and more like a ghost town: it was populated once, and though I can go back, the shine is gone, the colours lost.
Again: this isn’t a bad thing. Change is inevitable and vital, and I really, truly look forward to whatever happens next.
I think it kind of hit home when I started to pack my bags. I don’t own many things. No one in my family does. We’ve never been the kind of people to have lots of things–though we always had enough. My prized possession as a kid was a coin collection, because, invariably, I was really cool. That and two copybooks in which I’d written my first book.
When I say I packed my bags I actually mean I folded my clothes into a cardboard box. I own two pairs of shoes. One went into the box. The other went onto my feet. I have a small tub in which I keep my valuables: mostly useless little things like trinkets and photos and a scented candle someone gave me because they forgot I have no sense of smell. I’m not a sentimental person, but I like keepsakes. They colour the ghost town.
These things have been unpacked and folded away for two days now. Everything I own–everything I have of the last four years of my life (and fours years is a long time!) fitted in a single cardboard box. That’s everything I have to show for four years–and that’s mad really, isn’t it?
It’s not as if the world owes me anything. It doesn’t owe me success or money or any kind of accomplishments. Everything I achieve I’ll have to fight for, and there’s something kind of cool about that. It’s exciting, you know? See: optimism! I have no idea what’s next. I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now. I’d love to know. If I could, I’d flash forward in an instant and see who I become. I think it’s impatience.
Most importantly, I left the town with an education. I don’t know if these are things I learned here or before or if I’ve been learning them all my life, but I’m at a stage where I’m really, truly content with what I have and who I am. It’s an amalgamation of a million different things I suppose: of growing up, and making mistakes, and fixing them. Of finding solace in and of myself.
There isn’t really a silver lining to this post. Maybe I’ve already had my silver lining. Maybe the last three years have been that silver lining. Maybe it all goes to shit from here. Maybe life rises and rises and rises. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
With my mind set to ‘maybe’, I have a list of things I want to achieve in the next year:
- Get a job.
- Learn to drive.
- Build up a portfolio of published work.
- Get my book published. I’m currently working up the balls to start querying it.
- Discover what the next stage of my life is, and get there. I’m twenty one. My whole life has been marshalled around education. What’s next?
- Make an attempt to keep in touch with my friends.
- Get back in touch with the ones I’ve drifted away from. I have such wonderful friends. Keep them!
- This one’s the big one. I have this habit of hiding parts of myself. I’m horribly embarrassed by my writing. It’s something people know about in a passing sense. I need to start owning it. I need to own my thoughts and dreams; my ideas and characters and all the things that run around in my head because they’re an intrinsic part of me.
Will I achieve any of these things? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll do half of them. Maybe I’ll work on a couple. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. Maybe! Maybe! Maybe!
It’s a minefield of maybes and I’m the trigger.
It’s weird but I can’t imagine being forty and still writing.
I can’t imagine being forty. I can imagine being twenty five. Or thirty. But not forty. Forty seems too far away and by then I’ll either be a failure or I’ll have done something with my life. There’s something far more solid and adult about forty.
I don’t know what it is. I spent tonight reading Please Ignore Vera Dietz. You see, I’m working my way through all the Printz winners/honour books. I don’t love them all, but three are my all time favourite books–and it’s a list I someday hope to occupy. In reading these books, I always Google the writer. Almost all the winners are in the thirty to forty-odd bracket.
I want to be on that list and I want to be on it now. I can’t write anything nearly good enough. I don’t know if I ever will. I have no idea if anything I write is actually good. Writers live in this strange nowhere-place between narcissism, optimism, and self-doubt. I want to be published. I’ve spent the last six months writing a thing that I sometimes think is good enough.
Other times I re-read it and my own ineloquence is gasping. (I refuse to accept that ineloquence isn’t a real word. It is now, Miriam Webster.)
I have three weeks of college left. I graduate with a not-so-good degree from a not-so-good college that will not get me employment. I could have gone somewhere better but I was scared of the world that exists in big city. (Even now, I sometimes talk about moving to Dublin and my friends laugh because they’re convinced I’ll walk under the Luas or get lost and starve to dead in Dundrum Shopping Centre. Such is my uselessness.)
When I started college, I had this ridiculous idea that it was a go-between phase wherein I’d write a novel and it’d be published and I’d leave college both as an actual ‘grown-up’ and an actual writer.
This hasn’t happened.
I’ve failed in the one goal I set. There are times when I consider my course, my options, and my future and I’m almost certain I’ve pissed away the last three years of my life. That’s not to say I’d undo it. I’ve made memories with wonderful friends. I’ve lived and loved and learned.
I’ve grown up too. Inevitably.
And yet my dreams are still the same.
The idea that I’ll set all these milestones and continue to miss them is an odd one. I have this strange certainty that I will publish a book. I will do it. I say that, but then I can’t imagine being forty and still writing books. Especially if I still haven’t published something.
At what stage in our lives do we accept our own inabilities? Every person has a plateau beyond which their abilities cannot grow, right? What happens if I’ve hit my peak and I never grow past it and I’m stuck with the abilities of a 21-year-old who has only just begun to understand the ways with which words can be used? I know my own limitations.
I can’t write descriptive prose for shit. My plots are weak. I lack an Algonquian wit. (Bonus points because I didn’t have to Google how to spell that.)
I have this novel that is probably 95% finished but I still haven’t written a query letter because I can’t stand to envision a future beyond which the novel has been rejected and remains hidden in a folder on my laptop. I love this novel more than anything I’ve ever written.
But that’s not enough. In searching for a fourth beta-reader, I’ve read really bad novels with optimistic writers who strive for publication in the same way that I do. Their novels are not good–and this extends beyond personal taste. One of them didn’t have the basics, but still she puts her novel out there to receive a million rejections. And she’ll keep going too.
Technically, you’re supposed to be tagged to do this but it’s 00:20 here and I’m really bored and I just saw a photo of a young Irish actor who would be perfect for my main character.
So I’m tagging myself.
What is the working title of your book?
Citizens of Optimism. My mother hates this title. She told me I’m definitely not to call my book this. The name’s staying for the foreseeable.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
It’s a mish-mash of a bunch of ideas I’ve had in my head for a long time. The icing on the cake was when I heard about the MMA fighter in Seattle who fights crime.
What genre does the book fall under?
Which actors would you chose to play the lead characters in your book?
This is Jack Reynor. I know who he is because he was officially cast in Transformers 4 ten minutes ago. He’s twenty, Irish, soft-spoken, and almost exactly how I imagined Nick–my MC.
Saoirse Ronan as Charlie. Obvious and easy. Irish. Fantastic actress. Way too good for my little book.
Polly Bergan as Nan. I saw her in Chris Colfer’s Struck by Lightening. I didn’t like SbL. Polly Bergen is amazing though.
Ellen Page as Jane, Nick’s partner in crime. She’s too old and not Irish or ginger, but she has the whip-smart endearing-ness to pull the character off.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agent?
I like how this question automatically presumes that one or the other *will* happen when the likelihood is that neither will. In the spirit of the game though, I’ll go with agented. I’d never self-publish.
How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Two and half weeks this summer from the end of July to the first two weeks of August. It was 55,000 words long and shockingly, horribly awful. Debatable as to the extent of improvement since.
What other books would you compare this to within your genre?
I like to think of it as Kick-Ass meets the Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Because I’m insane.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My brain. And I was bored. Mostly because I was bored. And I have no friends or hobbies so I write books.
What else about this book might pique the reader’s interest?
What *else*? Was something I’ve responded supposed to be interesting?
I’m supposed to tag more people but I don’t read blogs so…if you read this and are a writer, consider yourself tagged.
Book is currently gestating. It’s 69,000 words long and I think, plot-wise, it’s where it needs to be. Draft two is more or less finished and now all’s left to do is to somehow make myself a better writer. My descriptive prose is a bit shit. I like sparse and clean, but lately, I’ve become a sucker for beautiful imagery.
It’s not something I do well–and I wish it was. I rather lack the ability to craft a pretty sentence.
I swing between hating my book and fist pumping in triumph at certain parts. Yeah, I actually fist pumped at one stage such was my jubilation that I no longer hated it. I’m back around to a hanging sort of hatred, but that’ll pass with time–as it always does. Overexposure to my own words and other brilliant books, I think.
This is me fist pumping, Judd Nelson-style. Seriously, the Breakfast Club is such a good movie. DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT…
Back on topic. I have a topic? Book is as close to finished as it’s gonna be for a while. I need to tidy it up still, but there’s no longer anything hugely wrong with it–at least not that I’ve noticed. I dunno. Maybe it’s rubbish?
Other than that, life is good. I’m slowly crawling towards the life of a qualified person. And by slowly crawling I mean hurtling in despair. Come May, I’m done college and all I see when I look ahead is the awning vastness of a future wherein I’ll have a degree that’s barely worth the paper it’s written on–in a home town that has little to offer if you’re a creative person. Kinda a big deal when you’re a somewhat useless 21-year-old. But back to the writing thing!
Y’see, I have a list of things I want to accomplish in my (writing) life. They are:
1. Get a book published.
2. Earn my keep as a writer.
3. Win a Printz award. My two favourite books ever won this. It’s awarded on literary merit. Can’t imagine I’ll ever win that.
4. Be on the Banned Books‘ List. Seriously. I’d be in such great company there.
5. Options purchased; film made of one of my books.
6. Write a screenplay–options purchased; awesome film made.
So I have Plans, of course, because everyone needs them, but mine are ridiculous. If I ever get as far as step 2, I’ll be as accomplished as I’ll ever need to be.
See, I’ve always had a pipe dream wherein I’d get a book published and be a bit successful and never really have to face the real world–or at the very least, I’d face it with rose-tinted blinkers. The Plan right now is to graduate, work for a year, and apply to do an MA in either Creative Writing or Screenwriting. I’m not a fan of actually studying writing in such a capacity, but short of getting a book published, it’s my only in into the only industry I want to crack into.
Who knows what’ll happen between now and portfolio submission time. Maybe I’ll somehow write a good book. Maybe I’ll get Book published. Maybe I’ll get a job I’ll settle for and never go back to college. Maybe my portfolio will be crap. Maybe I won’t get accepted to a Masters degree. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe? To quote a line from a book I like: my hope is built on an empire of maybes.
It’s one part exciting/one part depressing, no?
To counteract the depressing, marvel at this guy:
Some of these I opened and didn’t particularly like, but I *will* finish them. I even finished Toibín’s Brooklyn which was singularly the worst book I’ve ever read in my life. It took about a month to read, and I ordinarily speed-read but Brooklyn…oh Brooklyn.
There are a million books I want to read, but these are ones I actually own. And they will all be read.
The following facts aren’t exactly secrets, but they’re stuff I haven’t mentioned on the interwebs before. I’ve gone to great lengths to hide my identity to ensure that this blog is in no way linkable to my full name so I haven’t divulged too many personal details beyond my love of the X Factor and the fact my hair is now a shade of ginger.
(While writing these posts, I wear a blond wig and glasses…it worked for Clark Kent and Hannah Montana!)
To quell my boredom, I thought I’d give a little more information about me. What can I say, I’m an ego-centric self-indulgent asshole. Let us begin!
1. I am a quadruplet.
This isn’t exactly a secret, and should make it even easier to find out my super secret identity. Seriously, it’s not like there are all that many Irish quadruplets. As little ‘uns, we were quite a big deal. We graced the front page of many national newspapers, and were on many, many talk shows. The highlight of our media life was probably appearing on the Morbegs. That shit was massive.
Every single birthday up until we stopped being cute (at age 12) was documented in local and national newspapers.
My last interview with a newspaper happened when I was 18 and just about to start college. I was warm and funny on the phone. The writer changed and edited everything I said so I sounded like a dry shite. Oh joys.
Here is a photo from our 18th birthday:
I actually do get asked a variety of stupid questions once people find this out. Examples include: “Are you, like, the same person?” “Do you all like the same thing?” “Do you look alike?” “If you were joined together, would you make one super human?”
2. I have no sense of smell.
As far as I can remember, I could never smell. When I was little, I presumed everything smelled the same. I could never understand how, when arriving home from school, my brothers could tell what was for dinner by smelling the aromas wafting from the kitchen. This baffled my young self for years.
This is another thing people like to ask me stupid questions about. Once upon a time, in a maths class in secondary school, a new friend found out I couldn’t smell. She preceded to list everything she could think of, and in turn, ask me if I could smell it.
We never really did much maths in maths class. Too many days were spent where the students terrorised our teacher until she fled in tears.
3. I can’t type in the dark.
That probably sounds stupid, but it’s one that baffles me. I can touch type. I haven’t looked at the keyboard to type since I was about fourteen. I’m a very fast typist. As soon as darkness falls, and I’m too lazy to get up and turn the light on, I lose all sense of awareness and button mash.
4. When I was six, my brother and I were convinced we were gonna run off and be Santy‘s elves.
One Christmas, when we were very little, me and my brother, Mark, decided we were gonna stay up late and join Santy in the North Pole. We hatched a dastardly plan: to convince Santy we were actually elves and not children, we tucked our pants into our socks and rolled the toe part into a ball. That’s it. That was our entire plan. There may have been some aside that involved tucking our hair behind our ears so our ears looked more prominent and elfish though I can’t entirely remember.
Santy was supposed to see us, be convinced we were elves in our rolled up socks and take us back to Lapland with him. Ingenious, right?
We stayed up for an hour or two, provisions in hand (a glass of 7 Up and a chocolate bar), but eventually resigned ourself to the fact that Santy wouldn’t let us join him, so went to bed. Why did our parents allow this to happen?
5. I wrote my first book when I was eleven. It was two copy books long. It sits in a drawer of my desk in my room. There are two copies. My brothers, in an act of retaliation for telling on them about something, scribbled all over one copy. I cried for hours after that. All my hard work, ruined! I then re-copied my book into a new copy and sent it out to publishers. When I got a slew of rejections, I decided it was because I didn’t look professional so typed it up, aged 12, and saved it to a floppy disk.
I then sent the floppy disk out to publishers. I had a vague idea a query letter was required but didn’t have the internet so didn’t know what a query letter was. My query letter basically requested that they publish my book in time for either my birthday or Christmas, and told them about my love of Harry Potter.
I truly believed it was gonna be published. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t. I also question why my parents allowed this to happen.
P.S. may I request that anyone who reads this post also writes five facts about themselves – trivial or otherwise.