Saturday, January 31, 2015

Persistence (Update 1.31.15)

This week I finished another round of revisions on the newest "little novella that wouldn't quit" and polished the synopses for a potential pitch from "kind of okay" to "OMG! EPIC!". (At least that's how it felt this morning when I finished three cups of coffee and the last half of the synopsis for book three.)

With this project, I succeeded, once again, in setting deadlines I didn't meet and turning a fairly simple plot idea into a complex and emotional little book that makes me *SQUEEE* a little when I read through it. Really, you'd think I'd start to expect this by now, but it still startles me. Probably some phase in the "growing as a writer" process; I continually anticipate I'm writing average genre work and then manage to surprise myself. (I'm less surprised when I remember when I wrote my first (and absolutely average) genre novella 21 years ago when I was fifteen. Given a few starts and stops due to college and work, I haven't stopped working at it since. So, maybe it's about time I start showing some sign of being, you know, good at what I'm doing.)

This week also marked a rather horrible round of self-doubt. The specific details don't really matter. Suffice to say it was because writer reasons*. And because this project has taken significantly more rounds of revision than the last. (The Summer Project aka The Spider Thief Novel, consisted of one rough draft and one polishing round to fill in a few blank spots. And writing the synopses. Then it was done. This one is currently on draft number five. Four of which have been written since November. But still. Five! Why isn't this easier, right?)

The point being, it's easy to get discouraged and forget that every project is different. Easy to forget that this writing thing really is hard. No matter how fun it may seem. Even if you do get to drink whole pots of coffee and sit around in yoga pants all day except for when you have to put on real clothes so you can get more coffee from that fancy grocery store. Easy to forget that with any creative endeavor there is some grain of I-do-this-because-I-love-it buried deep under all the other reasons and motivators.

Approaching writing like work has been a large part of why I've accomplished as much as I have. It's enabled me to remove my "self" from the stories I write. Which in turn has made me more honest in how I write because I don't link dislike or judgement of the work to dislike or judgement of me. It's also enabled me to learn how to set goals and work through rough spots even if I'm not feeling the vodka-addled pinch of my muse**. Because part of this work IS work and the art can always come later.

But, when things get rough I persist because I love writing. Even on the days when I really suck at it. Even on the days when I THINK I really suck at it. Even on the days when a rejection rolls in.

I persist because I love it.
And because coffee.
And love. 
*Writer reasons may include, but are not limited to, the following:
The wind was from the East.
I didn't have enough coffee.
I had too much coffee.
Something on TV made me angry.
I read something that was so good, I wanted to burn everything I'd ever written.
I read something so bad, I wanted to write All The Words just to show that fiction is not a waste of time.
Someone who should be supportive said something unsupportive about my work.
The story I was working on did not flow like water and I thought "I must be doing something wrong."
The story I was working on did flow like water and I thought "I must be doing something wrong."
I remembered thinking I was brilliant in college and wondered why I'm not already well-known and successful.
Thought a sentence my cat typed into my laptop with his ass made more sense than the chapter I'd just spent a week on.
Assorted craziness.
Unavailability of chocolate in the house.

** This should not be interpreted to mean that vodka is my muse.
My muse however, tends to sit in the corner chainsmoking and trying to find his way to the bottom of a bottle of vodka while periodically slurring "Just finish the damn book." And then he passes out.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: Another Year Gone

This past year I accomplished a number of things. Among them:

I found a fantastic literary agent.
I wrote approximately 280k words on various novels/novellas; including heavy revisions to The Steampunk Novel, finishing/revising The Spider Thief and The Assassin King, and finishing/revising The Super-Secret Project. (The rest of the words written were on Old Guard - a space opera, and Thingbreaker - a magicpunk novel. But neither of them have reached a "finished" state yet.)
I attended my first ever convention and met a bunch of really awesome folks.

Acquiring an agent and writing/finishing a new novel were both big milestones for me.
The first is a big step toward finding a publisher for my novels (in all their genre-rich glory) and means I can spend more time writing. (Compared to 2013 which was a pretty slow year for me, I was super-productive. Mostly because I was not wading through the query trenches and could actually spend my time putting words on the page rather than researching potential agents.)
The second was proof that I could move on to the next thing after having spent a lot of time in the previous years working through all the flailing mess that is writing a first novel. (To be fair, I wrote some other stuff during that time too, including the first steaming pile that is now the in-progress draft of Thingbreaker.)

A few things I didn't do this year:
Write/sell more short stories.
Finish a third novel this fall. (That was what I meant to do with Old Guard, but a sudden move + family drama + H1N1 = only part of that book got written.)
Sell one of the novels.

The latter is something I've been wrestling with the past few weeks. The holidays are a difficult time for me anyway and it was a perfect opportunity for doubt to sneak in and tell me I'm not good enough to do this writing thing on a permanent basis. If I were, the agent would have had no trouble finding a home for my novels. If I were, wouldn't I be making more money at it?

And, here's the thing, I would really like to already have book contracts and a nice advance on any of the things I wrote this year. But I have to remember that the life of an author is a marathon, not a sprint. Not only does the business move slowly, but it's a long-distance proposition. One book doesn't make a career, even if it should happen to sell immediately.

Right now I am building a body of work. Unpublished? Yes. But that can (and will) change at any time.
In the meantime, I am writing - which is something I love - and telling stories that scare me in the best possible way. It's not time to give up, it's time to push forward.

So here's to the New Year and the opportunity every day brings.