Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

And Another New Year

Happy New Year to all of you, whether you’ve already celebrated because you’re on the other side of the world or not. I hope 2013 is good to you and brings you all you hope for in life.

This is, of course, the time when we reflect on what we’ve done, set our goals for the coming year, and, quite often, make a series of predictions about what’s going to happen in the world. I’m not much for the latter; I have no crystal ball, and I honestly don’t understand enough about how the world works to have even a hope of a shred of accuracy over where we’re going to end up as a society. And if I try to narrow down and focus on something like, say, publishing, I’m equally in the dark. About all I do know is that paper books aren’t going away any time soon. Beyond that? Call me clueless.

But Bonnee Crawford fired the first shot across the bow of writerly resolutions (appropriate enough, given that she’s one of those people who is already in the wild, wild world of 2013) when she asked in her blog last week: What is everyone else aiming for? And I thought about it and realize that my goals for this year (as a writer) are pretty much the same. So I took a look back to my first post of 2012, and here is what I found:

  • Get an Agent.
  • Write a New Book
  • Improve, Improve, Improve.

Well, the sad thing is I still don’t have an agent. But I’ve also backed off the query process a bit lately. The overwhelming silence from agents since the first round went out in April is significant. I believe in Parallel Lives, but I think I’m still pretty bad at the querying thing. So I spent most of NaNoReviMo pounding away at my query. Sent out a newer version at the beginning of December, got some rejects, got some more silence, and I’m back in the query workshop. I’d have asked Santa for a new query for Christmas, but let’s face it, this has got to come from me. I realize that an inability to create an articulate query could point up to troubles in the manuscript, but I don’t believe that’s the case with PL. I would not, however, be surprised to find myself querying some of the same agents who rejected PL with Barton’s Women.

And speaking of which, that was one goal I definitively met. At the time I wrote my goals for 2012, Barton’s Women was still just a glimmer of an idea born of a hurricane. Six days later, in my writer’s group, I wrote the first paragraphs. I finished an first draft in August, read and revised, and have it out with some excellent critters. My wife has read it and given me invaluable feedback. So my list for 2013 includes doing another revise round on that one and getting it out in front of agents, too.

As for the new, new book, I mentioned a while back that I had an idea that was floating in my head. Though I’ve not had that crystallizing “Ah ha!” moment with it, I’ve decided to try to write my way into it and have made some headway. It’s definitely proceeding slowly so far, but it is proceeding. I certainly hope to be able to finish a draft of it in 2013.

Finally, we should always strive to keep improving. This is a tough one, since I am the Doubting Writer, after all, and I’m always going to find my work…not as good as I want it to be. On the other hand, I”m pretty sure that Barton’s Women was in better shape when I sent it out for critting than Parallel Lives at the same stage of its life. But I’ve kept reading, I think when I read, and I’m trying to crit where I can. I haven’t read many books on the craft this year, but I’ll be honest, a couple of the ones that everyone cites as being Godly have left me kind of flat. I’ll have to look into some others and see how they strike me.

And now I’ve rambled on too long. I wish you all a very happy new year, with good things for you and your family.

And just for fun, here’s the Grateful Dead New Year from 1980/81. I cut out about two minutes of the late Bill Graham riding on top of a giant skull to the stage. Happy New Year, all!

12 Responses

  1. Barton's Women is amazing and you should definitely start querying for that simultaneously once it's ready! That might actually have more appeal right now just given the subject matter. Either way, you're crazy talented and it's only a matter of time until someone snatches you up!

    Happy New Year!

  2. I'd love to know which books you tried. I think I'll pick up a couple more during 2013 and have been debating on several.

    I hope you find much success with all your querying.

  3. I don't think it's a bad thing at all to repeat some of the previous years goals. Especially in the case of us writers. Best of luck JeffO, and a Happy New Year!

  4. Author Brandon Sanderson said in a lecture once that when he gets an idea–that initially is just that, an idea–he puts it in a folder. Things will come to him (maybe character, plot, or milieu) that he thinks would fit and he adds those to his folder. Only when he has enough to really do something with it (he write epic fantasy–and I mean EPIC) does he begin to write.

    I'm so not in his class. lol

    Happy New Year!

  5. Happy New Year!

    Well, you were busy and productive in 2012, so that is the biggest hurdle (production) cleared. I bet 2013 is a big year for you, Jeff.

    Improvement comes from writing new words, so you're making progress on that, too. I like some of the writing blogs better than some of the books: storyfix, the other side of the story, the character therapist, alicia rasley's writing corner.

    Good luck in 2013!

  6. I've never been one to make resolutions or set goals with time limits. I know what I want and I go for it until it makes no sense to continue. If I did have to make resolutions, it would be to market less and write and read more. I still have BW on my calendar. Hopefully things will calm down in the coming week(s) and I can jump back on to it. Now if I could only find time to write!

    Happy New Year, my friend!

  7. It's certainly better than saying, "Well, I didn't accomplish this, so the heck with it." Who knows, that day may come, but it ain't today! Thanks, and happy New Year to you as well.

  8. I resolve to try to get an agent, but I only have so much control over it. All we can do is try really hard to improve and keep submitting. Good luck in 2013!

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