Friday, August 16, 2013

So When's Your Book Coming Out? Part 2

Thank you all for the well wishes on my last blog entry, about my recently completed manuscript. Now the question on everyone's lips seems to be, "So when's the book coming out?"

Since you've stuck with me this far, and since many of you have told me you're vicariously living through the bumps and triumphs with me, I will fill you in on what's next.

The immediate next step is finding myself an agent. In the US, you can't just go knocking on publishers' doors on your own as a newbie writer. Why not self-publish, you ask? In a word: marketing. I could self-publish but I simply can't self-promote the way a publishing house can. I can't get my books out past California let alone to Norway or South Africa. A dear friend, you remember, the one who won the Commonwealth Prize for her debut novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors (available next spring), told me this very thing. So that, in a nutshell, is why I'm starting with the traditional publishing route and if that fails, there are other options I won't go into here.

So on August 14th, I send out my first batch of queries (quite apt, as it was Pakistan's Independence Day and that is the setting of my novel). This process was years in the making. I had begun crafting the perfect query letter 1.5 years ago, which, in less than 10 sentences, must encapsulate my 100,000 word novel in a way that's enticing enough for an agent to ask to see the whole manuscript. This letter, this one paragraph of this letter that does this, took me two years on and off. I read countless books on how to draft the perfect query letter and even paid someone to critique it. The last three weeks were spent showing draft after draft to my live-in marketer (hubby), who kindly but firmly pushed and pushed till we were both happy with it.

I then turned to my list of agents. This process alone took me 8 weeks, as I had to find people who were a) suited to my type of novel b) had actually published something in the last year or two and c) were taking submissions at this time. Many reputable agents simply don't take submissions, especially unsolicited ones.

This list of carefully researched agents had been made 1.5 years ago. Some were no longer agents. For the remainder, I had to personalize the second paragraph of the query letter, telling them how I know them, which of their clients I've read and loved, etc., based on my research.

August 13th, I was ready to submit. I got to work, logged onto Facebook and made a big proclamation that today was the day. It was not the day. Without going into too much detail, that was the day I broke up with Hotmail, which took all my careful formatting and blew it to smithereens. So I called tech support (hubby) and that night we got me a gmail account like most grown-ups.

August 14th, letters went out. Nails were bitten. Email was compulsively checked.
Visual approximation of my life at the moment.

August 15th. Two responses. Hallelujah. Clouds parted, angels sang, harps strummed.

At least that's how I had pictured it.

In reality, because of the way gmail is formatted (remember, this was my second day with gmail), it shows you the first sentence of the email on the main page.

Both emails were very sweet in turning  me down.

This was very exciting. I have two rejections under my belt. I'm a real writer. And they actually wrote no, instead of leaving me wondering forever more.

These two rejections really made it official. I had been hiding from this process for months, years really. I posted that my MS was done last week. It was done in July. I just lingered and procrastinated because I knew the worst was yet to come.

And it's here. And it's not bad. At least not so far. I know it'll get worse from here because Stephen King had his first FOUR novels rejected and J.K.Rowling got 100 rejections etc. But I can't worry about that right now. Right now I can only take it one day at a time, one rejection at a time. I've been planning for this phase for so long, I know just which holey shirt I'll spend my days and nights in, I know just what I'll mutter under my breath as I walk around the house in a daze, and I know just which bugs will begin crawling around in my unwashed hair.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Knocked Up- A Photo Journey of My Unplanned Inception

The course was just so good-looking, how could a girl resist?

Unplanned Inception

Oopsie, I couldn't stop and before I knew it...

Coming in at a healthy 350 pages


Teething, potty-training, countless sleepless nights


 Learning basic stepping stones of literary life:
Plot arc, sympathetic characters, protagonists and antagonists, sidekicks and foils,
setting, tone, mood, voice,
suspense, subtext, subplots, brevity of prose,
obstacles and pitfalls, incremental movement towards or away from character's ultimate goal,
chapter division, scene division, paragraph division, sentence variety, effective dialogue
be yourself, emulate others
be original
be marketable



Overnight stay at the beach

Scariest part of any camel ride

Nothing to do with novel, just a proud aunt boasting




Once you've eaten Pakistani food, there's no going back

Naryal  Pani (coconut water)


Teaching Bombay Jam, what a great distraction


Elementary School Teachers:
 Community of Writers at Squaw Valley- the first teachers always lay the foundation...

High school and college teachers: 

Writing group, support line, sanity-makers

International Teachers
 Aspi Mama (L), opened his house, heart,  and fridge to a very invasive house guest
Maju Mama (R), put years and years (and years) of work, suffered countless emails and a hijacking to Starbucks,
 to help his (ex-)favorite niece develop a key concept in the novel

Danu and Sehr were drove me all over Karachi, while I drove them crazy with lists of places they'd never dreamed of visiting
Zarin Mami, kindest, most patient host

Danu and Freyoo, allowing for hours of being grilled on all subjects

Tech support: Kuraish Godsend Irani, answering frantic Facebook messages for the past three years and counting

Zane and Zara, for being my lifeline for all things Karachi,
for doing things they probably didn't want to do to help this novel grow.

And finally, no personal growth happens without a good shrink:

Monthly breakdowns, no cooking, binge cooking, bad cooking, tears, self-doubt, self-hatred,
this man put up with it all

Complete manuscript- June 28, 2013

So that's it. Like any parent, I've done my best. I've provided the best education, the best teachers, the best therapists. And now my baby is going out into the big bad world and I have no more control over her life. Will she find work? Will someone find her attractive and take her in? Will she have a long and prosperous (shelf) life?

I don't know. All I can do is wait and see.

Totes kidding. Like a clingy stage mum, a book parent can do plenty. This one certainly is.
 More on that later...