Friday, August 22, 2008

The Literary Journey

Last weeks post got a lot of page hits and a few comments; I'm amazed that when people read how shady this publisher is, they still think it's a good idea to publish with them. That's just how desperate people can be to see their books in print. There are plenty of writers out there willing to help nurture those desperate writers, so places like Publish America will cease to exist.

I think there are a lot of people out there that think they can sit down and write a book, and then it's going to be a bestseller. They make the entire process seem so effortless. I wish that it was (and for maybe a few it is), but for most people the journey is much longer and much harder and what it all comes down to is hard work.

Roland (from the book) told me awhile back that he read if you practice anything for three hours a day for ten years, then you should be successful. You can read his blog about it here. He's a little off. This is what led up to the publication of my first book:

*Age 11, write my first short story. It's about a person whose hand gets cut off and comes alive and haunts people.

*Age 12 or 13, begin to write first novel. It's about terrorism; more precisely it's about a group of people who are going to take over an airplane and take everyone hostage.

*Age 16, have two rods inserted in my back and get pissed off at the world

*Age 16, write a serious of essays in a book length work about why everyone is going to hell. I was very angry at the world.

*Age 16-17, write my first complete novel. If memory serves me correct, it's about 500 pages, and follows the life of a high school basketball star; he was kind of who I wanted to be, but couldn't on account of having rods in my back and being pretty immobile. Rejected by 50+ agents. Never Published.

*Age 17, compete my second novel. This one is about a prophet who heals people and preaches around the world. He is assassinated at the end. Rejected by 100+ agents. Never published.

*Age 18, enter college as a journalist major, but drop out of the program after I write my first article and am told it's so bad that I will not receive a grade.

*Age 18, complete my third novel. It's about a movie star whose wife is kidnapped and he goes on a journey with his brother to find her. Never bothered to submit it.

*Age 18-19, write about 400 to 500 pages of two or three different novels that I never finish. By this point I had probably wrote close to (or perhaps over) 2,000 pages of writing.

*Age 19-22, write mostly short stories to develop my voice. About 30 to 50 in all. Submit many of them. Only two ("Golden Poppies" and "Mother's Day") are published in journals

*Age 22, attend Kenyon Review Writer's workshop

*Age 22, start library school, but continue to take graduate level creative writing classes. Start writing a new novel and a novella. Finish both. I believe the novel is the best piece of fiction (at that point in my life) I had ever written, and start to lose hope in publishing when I can't find anyone who will publish it.

*Age 23-25, begin writing children's books and graduate library school. Write about three middle grade books, and a dozen or so picture books. I also begin writing "Dispatches from a Public Librarian" for McSweeney's. Begin to seriously consider self-publishing. Ultimately decide against.

*Age 25-27, work for the next several years revisiting old stories. Decide to skip a MFA in writing to study the craft of writing independently. I work on developing voice, structure, character, and dialog. Write several screenplays for movies, in part to learn about dialog and pacing. Begin work on a new novel, this one combines elements of mythology, fantasy, and literary fiction. Complete it but is rejected by the few agents I send it to.

*Age 27, begin to work on what will become "Quiet, Please." I don't think it was rejected by even one agent.

*Age 28, signed a contract with Caroll & Graf, which was bought by Da Capo.

*Age 29, after 3000+ pages of rejected fiction, non-fiction, and even poetry--after receiving hundreds (if not thousands) of rejection slips from publishers, agents and journals--having spent hundreds of dollars on stamps--I am a published author. I had been writing for almost 20 years with nothing but reject slips to show for it. Was it worth the struggle, the desperation, the loneliness, the years of hiding in my room slouched over a keyboard typing? Of course.

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