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Friday, November 1, 2013

My Stories Are Convoluted, But So Is Marge. Uff Da!!

She’s funny, kind, and tells it like it is, speaking in a rather nasal voice that for some reason has a distinctive North Dakotan accent.  (Think “Fargo Lingo,” as in “uff da” and “you betcha.”)  Her name is Marge, and she’s the voice inside my head. 

Marge knows how hard I’ve been working to improve my writing.  She knows how hard it’s been to submit to literary agents, hoping that somehow my novel will catch someone’s attention and stand out from the other hundreds, if not thousands of competing manuscripts.  She knows how intimidated I am each time I read a fantastically written book and worry that I’ll never be that good. 

Being the quasi obsessive/compulsive figment of my imagination that she is, Marge helps me keep track of all my queries to agents.  She even divides the results into categories:

·         The dreaded “no response after 6-8 weeks”                                                                       6

·         Polite email “no”                                                                                                                       7

·         Partial manuscript requests (first 30-50 pages)                                                                   3

Regarding the first category, Marge is a pragmatist.  “Well, now,” she tells me, “at least you don’t have to hear anything negative they might say.  Count your blessings, sweetie, and hand me another piece of lefse.”

As for the second category, Marge inspires me to use anything the agents say to improve my work.  I’ve looked at pacing, worked to improve my main character, and looked over several other issues based on comments received from agents.  She celebrates with me when the agents say something good, like:  “your query was intriguing,” and “keep writing.”  Woo hoo! 

The last category is harder.  Marge knows how I get my hopes up.  An agent reads my query and asks for more!  It seems so promising…then, the letdown.  No thanks, again.  “Uff da,” Marge always huffs.  “Keep your chin up, girlfriend!  Have another piece of chocolate.”

Well, I received my latest rejection, only 4 days before the start of yet another Nanowrimo odyssey.  Talk about an ego-bruiser and motivation crusher!  I quote:  “Your story was a bit convoluted and we would have liked more of your main character’s back story in the first 50 pages.” 

Ouch.  Marge was wounded.  She also fumed.  “How dare they ask for more back story!  How many times do we hear not to do the dreaded “data dump” in the first few pages?!!  Let your character reveal her story slowly, bit by bit, to the reader.”  And that whole “convoluted” thing?  Uff da.

But Marge is a big girl, and so am I.  I’ve already spent some time looking over my first 50 pages, carefully considering whether or not I need to include more back story earlier in the novel.  I’m reviewing my major plot points once again, trying to decide whether or not my novel is too “twisty and turny” in all the wrong ways.  I’m plodding onward, urged forward by Marge, who, in her usual witty style, reminds me that I’m not a quitter, and neither is she.

P.S.  A final note for all of you not of Norwegian descent:  (Don’t worry, I’m not judging you.  I know how jealous you are).  The word “uff da” is an interjection that can have many layered meanings.  One way to use it is to express feeling full or overwhelmed, as in "Uff da!  I ate way too much lefse! "  My favorite is as an expression of boredom or tired resignation, as in:  “Yet another vampire/cyborg/alien/end of the world love story hits the big screen?  Uff da!!!”

P.P.S.  Lefse is a thin potato pancake of major deliciousness.    Look it up on Pinterest!


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