Fiction Fragment Friday

In the middle of the night last night I woke up and had a line in my head. I immediately sent myself a message with the line before going back to sleep. This is a process that I have followed many times leading to quite a few past Fiction Fragment Fridays. I didn’t have a story idea I had a single line and then wrote the story to explain why the line was said. In this case the line in question was the one referencing the phonebook.

What started as just a funny story actually ended up having some seriousness to it at the end. There are thoughts that mirror my own self doubts about my own writing and if I can live up to the promises that some of these stories make in an actual novel.

“I’m sorry I just can’t sell that.  No one will buy it.”  My agent was noticeably frustrated with my latest book idea.  I had expected a similar response, so I had made the meeting a call instead of traveling out to see him in person like he requested.  In person he could always talk me out of my passion projects, but over the phone I was insulated from it. 

“You said that about my last book too.”  I remembered the weeklong fight to get him to agree.  To be honest I think he only caved to try and teach me a lesson.  In the end though he found a publisher for it and the book came out.  It found it’s audience too. 

“It sold half as many copies as the book before it.  You’re shrinking your audience with these weird projects.  You have three successful series, why can’t you just pitch me the next book in one of those.  Your fans are clamoring for them.”    

“I will, but this book wants to be written.”

“Then write it and put it in a drawer somewhere so you can move on to something that will sell.”

“You know it doesn’t work that way.  When I write a story it needs to get out there and find its audience.  It demands to be read.”

“This one doesn’t have an audience.  It won’t sell.”  He was getting very frustrated and yelling into his phone at this point. 

“It does though.  I talked about the idea on social media and got really good feedback.”

He verbally sighed over the phone line. “Look Jimmy, the people that follow you on social media are your super fans.  They are obsessed.  They would read the phonebook if I put presented by James Abernathy on the cover.  You can’t base your decisions on social media.” 

“This is a really good idea though.  Look, let me try to explain it again.  I can do it better this time.”

“Alright, I’ll give you one more shot to pitch it to me.  I want to remind you though that we had a deal.  You give me at least two marketable books for each passion project and your last book about the Sparkling Vampire Surfer from Atlantis being hunted by the jealous former surfer he beat in competition was not a marketable book.  Now I’ll listen to your pitch, but if I still say no, you drop it and give me the next Benjamin Everhart book instead.” 

I didn’t like it, but he was right.  We did have a deal and he had really come through for me numerous times.  My last novel had been critically panned as the worst book I ever wrote.  Little do they know of all the books that I never got published before my first hit.  I have written far worse books and Vampire Surfer from Atlantis did in fact find its audience.  It might have been a small audience, but it was there.  Once he agreed my agent put his reputation on the line to find me a publisher.  I owed him and we both knew it. 

“Deal.  Ok, so here is the pitch.  Born into a necromancer family Justin Marshall is not defined by his inherited magical abilities.  He is a fashion designer first, but his frustration with egotistical fashion models makes him turn to his familial abilities.  He sends ways through the fashion world using zombies to model his clothes.  He soon has a thriving side business of providing zombies for his competitors, but when one of them is eaten he is the prime suspect.  We’ll call the book Killer Fashion Sense.”   I smiled to myself.  How could that pitch not win him over?  This book was as good as sold.

“So, it’s a comedy?”

  “No, why in the world would you think that?  It’s an Urban Fantasy mystery.  A real who done it with loads of family drama.  I’m sure I’ll include a few funny moments because I am me, but that’s not the tone I’m going for at all.”  I just didn’t understand why he would think comedy when I gave him such a strong concept.

“Do you really think anyone will want to publish that?  Who’s the audience?  Even at the height of zombie popularity that would have been a tough sell, but zombies are over.  People are tired of them.  You certainly would never get an offer for movie or television rights unless someone wanted to make a parody movie.”

“No way.  If anyone tried that they just don’t get it.  I don’t care how much they over you say no.”

“How about I practice now.  No. Give me another book in all three of your series and then I’ll think about trying to shop this to the small press market.”

“Small press?  It’s won’t ever find its audience that way.”

“Well, if you really believe in this idea then it should find its audience anywhere.  All those people on your social media will buy copies for their friends.”

“I don’t appreciate your sarcasm.  I’m going to write the book, but I suppose we can wait a little while to try and sell it.  You do have a point about zombie saturation, and I would hate for it to get lost in the crowd.”  I hated giving in at all, but he did have a few good points.  I really had no idea how to continue any of my series though.  I had written myself into a bit of a corner in each of them and just didn’t think I could write anything that would live up to the promise of those endings.  Not for the first time I started to wonder if my passion projects were just a way to avoid facing my fear and imposter syndrome.  If I lowered expectations, then people wouldn’t be as disappointed when I did return to those series. Those books wouldn’t have to be better than the last in each series, just better than these.  

The self-doubt really hit me all at once.  Was this book concept bad?  Was my last book as terrible as the reviews indicate?  Are my passion projects just a form of self-sabotage?  I didn’t like the way my thoughts were turning.  It felt like they held a little too much truth.  I needed to get out of my head or at least get something good from it onto paper.

“We had a deal.  I held up my part.  If you take the time to write this thing it’s just going to push your series back further and even your most devoted fans are getting impatient.  I’m not the bad guy here.  I’m on your side.  I’m team Abernathy.”

“Ok, I’ll write the next Benjamin Everhart novel.  I’m going to find a way to work a necromancer fashion designer into it though.”  Yes, I realize I was just being petty with the comment.  I wouldn’t really try to shoehorn the concept into the series, but he didn’t need to know that.

“You can try, but I doubt it makes it past your first editing pass before you even send me a draft.”

“Sometimes I hate how well you know me.”  I hung up the phone more disgusted with myself than I was with my agent.  Why did he always have to be right?