Saturday, November 19, 2011

Defeat Does Not Exist In This Dojo.

There are 12 nijas in this photo. Can you find them?

I’ve had a thought continually resurfacing in my mind lately. Something that I find particularly relevant to this blog since its readers are in the pre-publication stage. It’s something that I didn’t hear until recently. I’d like to pass on the message to those of you just beginning to write while you’re still in the early stages and hopefully it will spare some frustration.

I’ll recount that several years ago while I was cleaning my boss’s floor, I realized that I was unhappy with the route my life had taken. I wanted purpose and a direction so I dredged the depths of my mind for what I wanted to be as child. Because it was long before life began to bear an impression on me, I felt that there, in the memory of my childhood, I would find what would make me happy.

 I did. It was writing.

The best part about it was I could start after my dream, right there while sweeping the floor. All I had to do was get my gears turning. I decided I wanted to expound on a story I’d written in middle school about a killer scarecrow that all the students loved and all the teachers hated. Only it wouldn’t be a scare crow, it would be a real person, there would be a strong female detective as the protagonist, and the plot would be intertwined with twisted romance.

It was probably the worst idea I’ve ever had. Even worse of an idea, I decided it would be a novel.

Ah, here’s where the missing piece fits. If only I had of known that taking on the task of writing a full 200 typed-page 80,000 word novel was even worse of an idea that thinking the base-plot to Silence of the Lambs could be re-worked in any kind of readable fashion again for the 50th time.

For months I was consumed with writing. I’d fill up notebooks at a time writing and re-writing chapters. (I eventually started using a laptop.)When I was nearly done I went back to begin editing only to realize that I’d gotten much better at writing since I’d first began. So much, in fact, that I realized not only could I write better scenes than what I had, I could write a better story. I trashed it and tried again.

This went on again and again for, oh, five or so years. During that time, I really beat myself up that I’d been writing for so long and hadn’t finished anything. Even once I had a credible story and decent ability that nagging feeling that I couldn’t finish hung over my head. Nagging feelings make things so difficult. Once I started networking, I realized this was actually fairly common. At least I wasn’t alone, but I was continually comparing myself to authors that had finished their books thinking, ‘They did it, why can’t I?’

Then I realized what I really needed to do was just finish something. It didn’t matter what it was, I just needed to know that I could do it. So I wrote a short story At the Hands of Criminals. It’s about a criminal that gets thrown over the side of a pier by three of his own. Not only did I finish it, it became the backstory to the novel I’m writing Bad Men. It appears in the novel written from a different perspective.

What I didn’t realize that by writing that story I was following a piece of advice I hadn’t yet heard; new writers should write short stories, several in fact, before they attempt a novel. There are several good reasons:
1.       Books are hard to write. Writing Bad Men is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The mental toll, the physical exhaustion, the frustration….ugghhhh. This is coming from someone who passion is writing. If your goal is find your true being in the great outdoors, I’d suggest search the bike path before you climb the mountain. Chances are you could use the training.
2.       You’ll have several marketable pieces of work. Agents and publishers like writers with credibility. You’re more likely to get a book published by one of the big guys if you have a resume that shows other people have invested in your work. Clean up a few of your short stories and send them to magazines, competitions, whatever. You can also earn a little cash while you build your resume.
3.       You’ll have the confidence. The writing field is full of rejection. The cold, hard truth is that no one considers your writing as valuable unless you do. No one is going to stumble upon your work and tell you how amazing you are and beg you to write more. You have believe in yourself and this requires proving to yourself that you can measure up.

Now, Daniel-son, you have the rag and the Turtle Wax so get out there and polish up the Honda so when bad guys show up in act four you’ll know what to do.

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