Nearly five years ago I'd hit something of a low point in my writing life. My manuscript Thin Space had been floating around the publishing world for a year and a half. "Floating," for the record, in publishing terms, is actually a nice way of saying "Sitting unread in multiple editors' inboxes."
Then my agent quit the business.
During that floating time, I'd written a sequel to Thin Space. Also, two other novels, companion books of sorts, set in the same dark weirdo mythological world. I started a third that winter.
The book was about a boy who wanted SO MUCH to have the powers and talent and special gift that his family members and friends had. But, alas, it wasn't happening for him. Still, he refused to quit. Consumed by the quest to transform himself, he set about trying to MAKE THIS THING HAPPEN by logically approaching the problem-- devising a plan and checking off items on his checklist. Practicing. Exercising. Stubbornly refusing to stop despite every setback.
He was a trooper that little guy.
The parallel to my own situation was pretty clear to me and somewhere over the months of writing I could see that the book had morphed from
Boy Makes Dream Come True Out of Sheer Willpower
Writer Comes to Terms with a Failed Dream.
By the time summer rolled around (and my agent quit) I was torturing the poor boy. But for whatever reason, every day, despite the growing futility of the endeavor, I parked my butt in the chair and wrote the latest installment of this idiot kid as he pursued the dream we both could see was never going to come true.
30,000 words. 40,000 words. I was writing the Five Stages of Death and Dying. Accept it, I wanted to tell the boy. Get a grip. Move the F on.
50,000 words. 60,000. I kept writing. What else was I going to do with my time?
70,000 words. 80,000. 90,000... The plot, if there had ever been one, had long since fallen apart. The story was meandery and repetitive and pointless. I kept writing it.
I think it was the end of August when it hit me. Something was happening to this kid. All of his work and crazy determination had gotten him somewhere. Strangely, it was not the place that he'd been striving toward.
He was no longer afraid. No longer consumed by his quest. He was not the same boy he'd been at the beginning. Somewhere along the way, he had been transformed after all.
I finished the book and never looked at it again.
A few weeks later my second agent told me that there was serious interest in Thin Space and if I could hold on for a bit longer, I might have a book deal. (spoiler alert: it took 6 more months before that happened). In the mean time, while I was almost manic with anxiety and frustration and worry, I did the only thing I knew how to do.
I wrote another book.
Last week I went to the Columbus Museum of Art. On a wall in one of the galleries there was a row of pictures, what looked like the same empty glass. The artist is a German man named Peter Dreher. Apparently, those paintings are the representatives of over 5,000 that Dreher calls his magnum opus, Tag um Tag guter Tag (Day by Day good Day).
Every day since 1974 Dreher has painted the same empty water glass. Basically, it's the guy's practice. Wake up, paint a painting of the same glass. He's done it at least 2,500 times during the day. He's also created 2,500 paintings of the same glass at night-- because hey, why the hell not?
In case you're wondering, he does other things besides paint the same glass.
Over the next few weeks I am finishing up a revision of my tenth book. I haven't sold my two weirdo mythological world books. Or the sequel to Thin Space. I still have never opened the 100,000-word first draft of the Boy Who Refused to Quit story.
Oh, I also no longer have an agent.
When I finish my revision I will query it, which may or may not snag an agent's attention. If I do snag an agent's attention, he or she may or may not be able to snag the attention of an editor.
So, all of that is up in the air.
But here is what is NOT up in the air:
as this tenth book floats around in the publishing world, I know with absolute certainty what I will be doing.
I will be writing.