Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Procol Harum song

"A whiter shade of pale" has been the Whirlwind's latest discovery among her father's music collection. She has been working her way through it and I have been getting comments about what she likes and does not like. Although she thought the words were nonsense this was a like. "It's sort of sad but like it's a bit happy too - and it has a proper tune."
We looked up the references to the song on the internet but they were long, involved and confusing. I turned to our friend Roger instead. There is very little Roger does not know about the music of that era and he has produced a sensible, intelligent and intelligible response. I will be interested to know what she makes of it.
Following her questions about the music she returned the last chapter and grabbed the next one.
"Hurry up and do the next bit. I want to know what happens." I am revising and she is being allowed to read. She will tell me if she does not like it. I will get told if it is "silly" or someone "would not do it like that". I will not be told about the actual writing. That is still beyond her.
There was another e-mail in my personal in-box this morning. Another agent has turned me down. She "very much enjoyed" reading what I wrote but it does not have the "competitive edge in an increasingly competitive market" although I "might get a different response at other agencies" and she would "certainly recommend" I try elsewhere. All very nice and I am trying to be grateful for the encouragement but it is not, of course, what I really want!
This is the third time this has happened. I know it is not many in the scheme of things. The first submission was turned down as not being for their list (and I knew it was unlikely but they were open for submissions) and they urged me to try elsewhere. The second try produced something very like this response.
I am still not sure what to make of this. Good but not quite good enough? Agents are apparently not known for being encouraging of poor writing so I am trying to be hopeful. But I wonder if there are other things getting in the way?
I have been looking closely at the books on the shelves in the children's section of the library. I have talked to children in there. They think there is room for "an adventure story". They tell me that what they are reading is sometimes "cool" but more often "all right" or "okay". I would like to be thought of as "cool" rather than "okay". I would like my writing to have a "proper tune". The question is, "Am I musical enough to do it?"


widdershins said...

Good questions all ... JK Rowling had a gazilion rejections, but I wonder what would've happened if she'd decided to self-publish? ...

Anonymous said...

Widdershins I doubt it would have been the same success - no editing for a start. Even without editing Cat has written something far better than many things we have in the library. Problem is that it is not vampires or boyfriends!
Honestly Cat - it IS good enough. Ros

JO said...

Whiter Shade of Pale - I remember it first time round. And the words were probably rubbish. But this was the late sixties, and cannabis was a floaty thing then that made everything wonderful, man, and who said it has to make sense if the tune's fab!

But agents come from a very different place, and in all shapes and sizes. And their criteria seem to be ever more stringent - there is such pressure, now, to make money in the marketplace that it feels as if they are taking fewer and fewer risks. Which makes it so hard for those of us knocking on the door, asking them to open it just a teeny bit.

But we keep going because we must. Because life without writing would be impossible. Keep going, Cat - you have an army of blog-followers behind you.

catdownunder said...

I think I agree with Ros Widdershins - I doubt the HP books would have been the same success - but it took the child of one of the Directors at Bloomsbury to tell the adults that "this is a good book". The adults did not recognise it at first...which suggests they do sometimes get it wrong!
Thanks for the encouragement Ros.
Jo, Roger says the words are not quite meaningless (but heading in that direction)and the tune is something that even I recognise (and I am not particularly good at recognising 60's music). I am not giving up by any means - this is only the third rejection and all of them have said keep trying - I just wish they wanted to try with me! :-)

JO said...

Cat - we all wish they would try with you!

Frances said...

Cat: I've been looking at a book called "January", one of a series of 12, evidently, called "Conspiracy 365". Written by Gabriel Lord, and to be filmed by ABC this year. Perhaps you know it.
What is distinctive is that the text is broken up, by time, into very small chunks, so that little concentration or focus is required.
I wonder if such as this is what publishers patronisingly require?

The emphasis is all on action. In the first 18 pages the hero is caught in a storm at sea, attacked by sharks,and rescued by helicopter: is this trying to match the pace of video games?

Out of curiosity I read one HP, and enjoyed it. I have no interest in reading more of "January".

jeanfromcornwall said...

Sorry to be belated, but I feel compelled to point out that the tune of "Whiter shade of pale" is lifted straight from JS Bach. So, yes, it is good!

catdownunder said...

Yes, I found Air on a G-string and played it to the Whirlwind. It puzzled her still further - although she likes both versions! I then had to explain it all to my father who was horrified at the thought of "doing that to Bach".

catdownunder said...

Frances I do not know it - have not read any Gabriel Lord. I will have a look when I am next in the library but, from what you say, it may not be to my taste - especially if you are correct in your reasoning!