Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Reflections From One Writer

After weeks, or months or years, sitting at your keyboard trying to get a story out of your head, you type those most wonderful words: The End. You’ve finished your first book! You feel like dancing around the house (and maybe you do, just because you can). You open a bottle of champagne (or a beer, or a bottle of Boones Farm) and bask in the glow of being amongst the few who started writing a book and actually finished it. Feeling pretty proud of yourself, you strut around your house like a god. (And why not? You should be damned proud of yourself because you have accomplished a great feat.)

But eventually, the inevitable question arises: What now?

Maybe you pick up The Writer’s Market and start attaching sticky notes to every agent who looks like they might represent you. You know you aren’t really sure what you’re doing, but you shrug and pick the one absolutely perfect agent who is certain to love your book as much as you do.

You read a little bit about what the agent wants you to send, mainly because you know there’s got to be some kind of procedure for this. Then you think to yourself: What in gods’ name is a query? You shrug and put together a reasonable looking business letter, and mail it off with a return envelope. (Assuming you’ve figured out what SASE stands for, that is.) Time passes and your envelope comes back. Your heart swells with expectation, never thinking its contents could be anything but glowing praise, only to find a nice letter inside telling you while your work isn’t for them, they’re sure you’ll find an agent in no time.

Bruised but not broken, you whip out your big book of agent names, and pick a few more. After all, Perfect Agent was sure one of his brethren would snap you right up. Same letter, different names and off they go into the blue box on the corner. And you wait.

A few more days (weeks, etc.) pass and all your little envelopes find their ways home with more rejections—all pretty much worded the same as the first. More queries go out; more rejections come back. You kick yourself, and cry a little maybe. You throw your big book of agents across the room, and curse the day they were born. You go through all the phases of loss: Anger, Denial, etc. until you get to the inevitable Acceptance.

You suck. Now you're cursing the day you were born.

Weeks go by, and dust covers your keyboard. You thought your words glowed like the sheen of love on a young girl’s face. Now you just think you’re a hack.

Finally, however, your creative juices reach their boiling point. You can’t take it anymore; you can’t NOT write, so you sit back down at your computer. You start writing your next book.

But your confidence is toast. When you started out the last time, you knew without a doubt that you could write. There was nothing to it, and the words flowed out of your fingers like a dam had burst somewhere along the Colorado River. Now, it’s like Death Valley.

Hopefully, a little light bulb goes off over your head. When you first started writing—way back when you were in 2nd grade and your teacher made you write about your summer vacation—you were learning how to put words together to make some kind of cohesive story. It was a learning process then; it is a learning process now.

Hopefully, a little voice in your head tells you to figure out what went wrong with the last book. You do some research. You pick a whole new list of agents who really do represent your genre. You find out what a real query letter looks like. You find out how to write something called a hook. You read everything you can get your grubby little hands on. When you’ve learned everything there is to know about the business, you try again.

In the meantime, maybe you realize your writing, as wonderful as it is, needs some fine tuning and a little more polish. While revising and editing your first book, you keep writing your second book, tweaking and shining until it really does glow. A short story or two come to mind, and you pour those words onto the paper while you mull over your novels.

You never quit. Because NOT writing would be like not breathing.

Maybe you’re still waiting for your acceptance letter to come. Maybe it’s waiting in line behind another slew of rejections. Or perhaps, it’s waiting because you just haven’t queried the right agent yet. But no matter what happens, if you’ve done your work, you have done your best to kick the obstacles out of your way. And you can come to realize no matter what has happened or will happen...

You are a writer.

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