Friday, March 30, 2012

One Writer's Journey to Margaritas and Indie Writing

In 1983 I completed my first novel, Glorietta. My sister Rita was the only human who read and edited the manuscript from cover-to-cover. Bless her heart.

With the naiveté of a Chihuahua taking up residence with a pack of wolves, I began the journey of submitting my “baby” to agents and legacy publishers. Like so many novice writers, I was convinced my semi-autobiographical tale would be hailed as the new great American novel followed by fame and fortune.

A good friend had an in with a well-known agent. After querying Mr. Agent, he offered to read the whole manuscript. Time for celebration and margaritas with my hubby.

For the next few weeks, I checked the mail each day waiting for the ticket to my dreams. Weeks turned into months, and at some point, I lost hope of ever receiving a response. The question now, should I call him? Would I be annoying him or would he even remember me? I agonized for another few weeks. To call or not to call. Then one day a letter arrived from NYC.

The letter’s body was one sentence: “Too right on for me.”

That was it. A summary of my life’s work in five words. Definitely time for margaritas with my ever-so-supportive husband.

It didn’t get better from there. Numerous form letter rejections, a couple partials sent with ultimate rejections. I finally got an offer for publication, only with a caveat. I had to “pay” them to publish it. In those days, that was like telling someone your father cheated on his taxes. Mine worked for the IRS.

So I stopped sending the manuscript out and did what any other writer would do: I wrote another novel. Many form rejections, a couple full and partial manuscript requests later, I moved on to novel number three.

One day a fellow novelist brought me a screenplay she’d written. I’d never seen a screenplay before and had always thought those people, (screenwriters), weren’t real writers.

However, by the time I’d finished reading my colleague’s manuscript, I thought, hmmm, I could write one of these things. And it will take me a quarter the time of writing a novel.

I began reading Chris Vogler, Syd Field, Robert McKee, and Michael Hauge, the gurus of how-to screenwriting. Three months later, my first screenplay was born. Within the next few years, number two and number three were added to my résumé.

If you think New York agents screw with your head, try Hollywood. In the next ten years I had three option agreements, two agents, and one manager (don’t ask what the difference is between an agent and manager). But did I ever see one of my scripts on the screen? Well, no. Did I see any $$$? Ah, a little.

However, I received a lot of “this is the best thing I’ve read in years, awesome, fabulous” etc., followed weeks later by receptionists responding to my calls with, “Laura who? No, Mr. Agent (who formerly thought you walked-on-water) is on a conference call.” No return phone calls or e-mails. How hard is it to write a damn e-mail and say, "Sorry, no longer interested?"

So what did this now older, but obviously not wiser, gal do besides go out with her hubby for margaritas? Duh. She began another novel.

Does it make sense that this time around she doesn’t want to get on the merry-go-round? No sir. Not again. She may be dense, but she ain’t no masochist. This time she’s going to control her own fate. She’s going Indie.

Laura Resnick-Chavez is the author of the upcoming novel The Girl From Long Guyland.