Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Utopia That Was Not

So. Grad School. Let's just say that it's not what I thought it would be. Because the discussions that are had are not any more intelligent than undergrad... and, how do I put this delicately? the standard for academic excellence isn't set very high. Why, in grad school, am I still only required to write five-seven page papers? In both my classes. Aren't much longer papers supposed to be the standard - like 10-20 pages? Which would be hard, but that's the point - it's supposed to be a lot harder therefore making you push yourself to new levels. Because, you know, we should have a lot more to say about topics, more research, more analysis, I mean, freakin' A! I guess I just imagined grad school like this academic utopia where every one is really smart and dedicated, and not only DOES the reading, but tries to UNDERSTAND and analyze the reading in a meaningful way that promotes intelligent discussion. Isn't that the point? Where we are learning how to participate in the larger academic community of quality scholarship??? The answer is, maybe not at Texas State University. Time will tell.

In other news, I'm re-writing the novel I had been querying agents for. Really learning the ins and outs of how the market works, especially as regards to children's publishing, has been invaluable, and something i think only could have been done the hard way - i.e. writing a book, trying to sell it, understanding why its not selling, and not just being like - fucking publishers! don't realize GENIUS when they come across it! So. There are some problems with the book. The main one of which is "voice". I kept seeing this all over agent requirements - they don't care what the material is but only if it has strong voice. One agent put it simply, "Voice, voice, voice!" And me sitting there constantly seeing the phrase and idea pop up, was like, what the fuck is voice????? That was always one of those words I'd heard bandied around, and vaguely had an idea of meaning, but not specifically, and not enough to put my novel and my writing under the litmus test to discover if it had this elusive entity of "voice".

I'm finally kind of getting it. It's like tone, which is also hard for me to define, other than just saying - you know, how it feels, the vibe you get from reading it. But where the rubber meets the road - how the hell do you CREATE that feeling or tone? I've been writing seriously for four years now, written two and a half novels (two of which were about Persephone, trying different angles, but all completely different...and all shitty) and I still don't know exactly how to manipulate language to create the tone I want - though I'm finally learning. I've written thirty pages on the new novel, writing it as Persephone in the 21st century as a teenager - and I'm writing first person, plopped directly in her head, so that what is on the page are her thoughts and personality. And I think it's getting a vibe.

Also, it should be a much better sell when I start querying for it because it actually FITS. Unlike straight high fantasy, which the one I've had is. Urban fantasy, or at least starting from a relatable protagonist who is just like us, and then taking her to crazy places, is not going out of style anytime soon. It's kind of timeless - that starting in our world and then bringing in fantasy or surreal elements. Just ask Alice. And I'm writing with attention to voice for the first time, which is this wild paradigm shift that I've really needed to move forward with my writing. I'll still be querying and honing the old version in case I do catch interest somewhere, but I have a feeling it'll be the new version that starts that chapter in my life.

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