What to Write When the Mood Doesn’t Strike!
by Marcus A. Nannini
We all find ourselves in situations where we must write out of obligation, rather than for our own edification and joy. If I’m lucky, the writing obligation is also fun, but sometimes I must force myself to put words onto paper. This is one of those rare times.
So if you decide not to read on because you assume this will be a POS, I wouldn’t blame you – but I would be disappointed, as I do try to put out a consistently decent product. Today is no exception.
This is the 15th time I am writing a blog for this excellent blogsite. Sometimes in the past I actually had two drafts in progress at the same time. Seems I was so full of ideas, I would get ahead of my obligations. But this month has been a trying one, with research taking the place of original writing and gobbling up my energy in ways few things can do.
But wait! I fancy myself a skilled researcher, so how can it possibly tire me out? Fair question. The answer is that this month’s research has not been for the purpose of writing a book or magazine story. In fact, I have been forced to delay my next magazine story as a result of this research.
This research is along the lines of near-fruitless. It is research intended to discover a literary agent who will grasp the scope of the books I presently have in manuscript form, those in outline format, and those I have already managed to have legitimately published, to date. An agent who understands that one person can write a biography and then turn around and write a genuine thriller.
I’ve seen agents mention looking for writers recommended by ITW (International Thriller Writers http://thrillerwriters.org/). Guess what, Ms./Mr. agent? I have a book that ITW rated a “Best Thriller.” It was also labeled by Publishers Weekly as one of the “Best of the Best Books.” And Midwest Book Review deemed it to be “Very Highly Recommended.”
My first biography found itself in the U.S. National Archives a few months following its release. If that is not enough of an endorsement, I would point to the flurry of excellent reviews it has garnered.
The problem is actually a federal antitrust issue that was somehow ignored by the Federal Trade Commission. There are five major publishing companies which dominate the sources of first-class book reviews and book sales.
An author cannot even send a letter to the so-called “Big 5” without receiving a certified mail letter from their attorneys scolding the author for having the audacity to send a member of the Big 5 a pitch and threatening them with emotional distress should they continue with their brash behavior. The Big 5 will only accept book pitches from their friends, and they deem bonafide literary agents to be their friends. It is a closed shop. Closed to competition and closed to the average citizen. It is a clear violation of Federal antitrust regulations.
The same is true for the movie industry. Send them a query, and you might find a pack of German shepherds at your door, anxious to make you their next meal.
So what is a writer to do if he desires to break into the upper tier of publishing? I guess getting killed in a well-publicized crash might be a boost to the writer’s estate. Perhaps.
Since most of us prefer to live to write another day, we are left with the daunting task of gaining the attention of a literary agent.
Sure, if you have the time and thousands of dollars to spend, a person could attend writer’s conferences and seek the attention of an agent who makes their living collecting fees for attending said conferences as a paid invitee. Hmmm, why would an agent want to work at finding me a publisher if they can get paid, along with free room/board, just for attending conferences? I don’t know the answer to that puzzling question.
What I do know is when an agent states they are looking for, say, a biography, that claim does not necessarily mean anything. I check the books these agents have brought to market recently, often to discover that romance books overwhelmingly dominate the titles they have nursed to publication. So what should we conclude? Personally, I no longer even read the descriptions of what they say they are looking for. I have started instead to focus only on what they have managed to publish; their list of published works is more telling about what they are really seeking.
And still, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to the selection process. I base my conclusion on the opinions of numerous fellow authors I have spoken with on this topic over the years. So what are we to do?
Personally, I gather publishing offers from lower tier houses than the Big 5 and hold them off while sending out agent queries to the point I find my writing calendar falling further into arrears. The Big 5 is a necessary evil whose existence is made possible through the benign neglect of the Federal Trade Commission.
I will continue my quest for the holy grail of representation and shall let you know what comes of it. For now, time to get back to my research.
Marcus Nannini began his journalistic career when he published his own newspaper in the sixth grade, charging 25 cents for the privilege of reading the only printed copy of each edition. During his undergraduate years, Nannini was a paid reporter and worked three semesters as the research assistant for journalism professor and published author Richard Stocks Carlson, Ph.D. Nannini is a life-long history buff with a particular interest in World War II and the Pearl Harbor attack. His continuing curiosity over several Japanese aerial photographs and the turtling of the U.S.S. Oklahoma lead him to write Chameleons, first as a screenplay and now as a full-length novel. His latest work, Left for Dead at Nijmegen, has recently debuted to great regard, internationally.