Thursday, August 13, 2015
Flirting With Murphy
Here we go again. I just never learn.
A couple weeks back I caught an announcement for an open call from a UK SF publisher. They’re looking for anything with a science fiction, fantasy, or horror flavor. Young Adult is okay, as long as it has crossover appeal. Self-published is okay. Partially written/unfinished works are okay. No agents required. In fact, if you’ve got an agent, they ask that you have said agent submit your work through the usual channels. This open call is meant for the unagented only.
Perfect. I don’t have an agent. I do have an old urban fantasy/horror book I wrote way back when. It’s already been through several open calls, without success. Ditto for queries to publishers. But hope springs eternal. Maybe its time has passed, but it could be its time hasn’t come around yet. Sooner or later it’s bound to hit the right desk at the right time. Is this that desk and time? I sent my synopsis and chapters last week. We’ll know in a couple of months.
Then there’s that YA book I’ve been screwing around with. It’s science fiction, alien invasion of Earth division. It’s definitely YA, but is it crossover enough to satisfy these people? I sent that one too. I figured I’d let them decide.
Here’s the problem: the urban fantasy’s completed. The YA isn’t. I’m maybe a third of the way through, longhand in a spiral notebook. I know vaguely how it ends, but how I’m supposed to get there from where I am, that’s a little sketchy. Make that a lot sketchy. I’m like Indiana Jones trying to steal back the Ark: “I’m making this up as I go.”
I wish they hadn’t said it was okay to send in unfinished works. Because you know what’s going to happen now. If they’re going to say yes to one of my two entries, Murphy’s Law dictates it’ll be the one that isn’t ready. I know. I’ve been through this before.
Several years back I entered the American Title writing contest, sponsored by Dorchester Publishing and Romantic Times magazine. When I entered, I had a finished book, of sorts. It was a handwritten first draft. I sent in what the contest asked for and then went on with my life. I kept meaning to type up the manuscript, just in case. But then again, why bother? They must have gotten hundreds of entries. What are the odds they’d ask for mine?
Pretty damn good. I got the email while at work. I’d been chosen as a finalist. They wanted my complete manuscript.
Massive panic followed. I told the job I had an emergency and had to leave. I went home and for the next day and a half typed like a maniac. Dorchester wanted an email version, but I didn’t have the laptop then. I got them to agree to accept printed pages. I FedEx’d the book to them in batches. I was red-eyed and exhausted at the end, but I got it done.
Then I got cut in the first round. Yeah well. I got fired from the job, too, but that wasn’t as big of a deal. It was temp and I didn’t like it anyway. Dorchester went out of business about three years later, so they didn’t fare any better.
The point is, never think, “It won’t happen to me.” It will. Murphy’s got a vicious sense of humor, and he’s always on the lookout for unsuspecting schlubs to lay down his law on. If I don’t finish the book, the publishers will want it. If I do finish the book, I’ll get a “thanks but no thanks.” Although if I finish the book, I’ll have something to query YA publishers with, so that’s a win for me.
Fortunately, I have plenty of time. They’ve told us we should all hear back by the end of September at the latest. That gives me over a month to finish a first draft. More than that, I’m willing to bet. My past experience with open calls has taught me to add a minimum of six months to any done-by date the publisher gives us. The last one I entered, for Harper Voyager, was supposed to run three months. We waited for over a year before they made a final decision. England’s a smaller country. Maybe they work faster.
At least this time around I have the laptop. I can type up the manuscript directly into the computer if I have to, so it (or however much I have done) will be ready to go at the touch of a finger. Of course, if I’m done by the end of September, they’ll say no. With Murphy, you just can’t win.
But wait! There’s that story I sent to Evernight, the one that got accepted. If I get those edits with a short turnaround, that’s the week I’ll get the response from the UK publisher. I forgot to factor in all the variables.
Best-case scenario: I get the book done and almost completely typed before I get a go-ahead. Worst case: I just covered that up there. I suppose it could be even worse. This time I don’t have a job.