Friday, September 30, 2011

Still on the Verge

A few weeks ago my good writing friend and mentor, children’s author Tracy Barrett invited me to write a post for her Goodbye, Day Job! blog. (I’ll give you a moment to read it here. Thanks.) So writing for Tracy got me thinking about a lot of things—some kind of depressing, like the fact that I quit my day job four years ago to write full-time and haven’t made much outward progress on the publication front since then. Unless you count one story in Cicada. But it was like two years ago and the next story I sent them was “passed on” as my former agent liked to say. I had a few nibbles here and there and a few encouraging comments from editors and agents. 

But mostly what I got were more passes, or worse, nothing. As in, no response at all from what I picture as extremely young, over-worked editors, demoralized in the face of this dismal economy and general state of malaise when it comes to the future of the book industry. That, or else they’re all out having a grand time strolling the streets of Manhattan and sipping coffee in outdoor cafes and traveling around giving speeches at conferences for audiences of eager/deluded beginning writers (I get this image from following these editors on Twitter. Lately my Twitter feed reminds me more and more of high school when I was sitting off at a side table eating soggy French fries while gazing longingly at the popular group, laughing it up and clearly living more exciting lives then I ever would. I know this is a weird digression, but it occurs to me that there’s a revealing clue in here about why I spend my days writing about angsty teenagers. Or maybe not.)

Anyhoo, enough of the depressing side of things. In the positive column I’ve come up with the following:

1. I’m counting that Cicada story, damn it. I should count it. They paid me, the only payment I’ve earned thus far in the past four years.
2. I said in the Goodbye, Day Job post that I had written over 500,000 words during this time “off.” That was a total guesstimate. But it got me thinking how many words I really have written. And guess what? It’s 1,564,910. (This includes eight novels for a total of 483,256. Plus 1,081,654 words of daily journal writing. In case you’re wondering, I did not include in this number several projects I started but didn’t finish, a handful of stories, three years of correspondence with my writing buddy, and this blog. For trivia purposes the blog stands at 45,398 words as of this moment.)
3. And speaking of my writing buddy, meeting the glorious Donna Koppelman of Edenton, North Carolina in line at a porto-potty at a writers’ conference, ranks right up there as one of my greatest accomplishments in the past four years. She is my accountability/critique partner extraordinaire. We still haven’t quite decided if we are mentoring or enabling each other on this seemingly never-ending quest of ours, but we do agree that we are thankful to be on the road together.
4. Did you catch it up there in number 2 that I wrote 8 freaking books? (Okay, one of these will likely remain in a drawer forever. And two were complete rewrites, but still. I’ve been busy.)
5. Made some cool breakthroughs in my process. (These include but are not limited to (1) figuring out that I must write something everyday to stay sane. Which also has the added bonus of making me less of a witch with a b around my family (2) realizing that to follow a story through to its proper end I must hold nothing back, no matter how strange or bizarre it seems as I am writing. Strangely, my best stuff comes from this murky, subcutaneous place (3) learning how to revise giant messes of rough drafts with help from tons of books on writing and numerous writing workshops and conferences (4) understanding that I really really do trust the process. When I start a book, I know without a shadow of a doubt, that I will finish it, one way or another, even if I don’t quite know how I will get there.)

Not too shabby. Even if I don’t have an actual book on a shelf to show for it. The road, as they say, is long. There are mountains in our way. But we climb a step every day. (oh geez, now I’m quoting bad 80’s songs.)

It’s freakily true, though. When I first met Donna and we were comparing journeys, she said something like, you’re way further ahead than I am. (She is very sweet. Did I mention this?) And she went on to say, it’s like you’re on the highway and you’ve got your blinker on and the exit’s coming up and you’re about to veer off.

In other words, she was saying I was on the verge. When I started this blog last year (Sept 30, 2010, to be exact), I believed that I was just about to get off the interstate. I had no idea that the exit ramp was so far away. I’ve had my blinker on for miles now. Sometimes I’m tempted to turn the stupid thing off. But that’s only on a really gray day. Mostly, I just keep driving along. I’ve got a decent gps system. Apparently, I’ve got an endless gas tank. My windshield is mostly bug free. I’m not stopping.

1 comment:

  1. It's such a tough market right now. Keep writing, subbing and revising. One of my crit partners recently found an agent after suffering through a long string of rejections. One day you'll have that break through.