Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Life Unpublished

An Unpublished writer’s life is full of the highest highs and the deepest lows.  The in-betweens are usually rare; we save them for our novels. 
When we write we enter the world of our imagination and forget the world of bitter writers, tired agents and dreadful queries.  In our writing worlds things might turn out wonderful and happy or bittersweet and difficult, but it’s all anticipated in our minds.  Real life isn’t like that.  I can’t foresee the next high or the next low, and all too often they come too close together for any worldly good.  I can’t write my reactions into the script already knowing a glimpse of what is to come.
In our writing we are always looking ahead, building that next scene as the current one plays out.  But in real life we are stuck here in the moment.  Oh, this dreadfully endless present!
So what are some of the highs and lows that come on like a whim and make up an unpublished life?  Here are a few of mine:
-          That time you first start to look into publishing.  You realize that there are about 1,000 writers still trying after 10 years of querying for every 1 that finds their agent match.  This is the first low to wade through.
-          When you begin to research how to write a query letter and discover that there are 500 sources of information that all contradict each other.  “I can’t possibly win!”  You shout at the four walls that seem to be closing in around you.  (Tip: Don’t look for the unique things that these sources suggest, look for the things they have in common.)
-          Waiting, waiting, waiting.  At first you can handle the wait.  Ok, you’re confident, of course it takes time.  Then it starts to get to you a little bit, but you’re still ok.  But the day will come when the sheer amount of waiting will weigh upon you like a ton of bricks.  The wait itself begins to whisper words of inadequacy to you, “what were you thinking?”
-          Random critiques.  Ok, so you have a great group that has already critiqued your novel and your query.  You handled it all well, considering the advice, editing until you were happy with the results and they are all supportive of the changes.  Ok, no problem, critiques are good!  Then the random feedback starts coming from here and there.  None of it matches.  Bizarre, unanticipated questions.  Vague, vague, vague.  What am I supposed to do with vague?  You begin to do the angry edit.  “Oh, you want that?  Well, I’ll give you that!”  You shout to the absent reviewers as you make changes here and there to things you never intended to alter.  “Oh, maybe that is better?”  The angry edit actually might have helped, and you are shocked!

-          The first rejection letter.  Ok, maybe you think this should be under the ‘LOWS’, but it’s not.  That first rejection, be it form or lengthy, is like a right of passage.  You are actually doing this.  You are a writer and soon you may be an author; it is exhilarating.  Besides, it sounds so good.  They’re not the right fit, but they said it so nicely and with such encouragement.  You’re sure something positive is just around the corner.  (That is before you receive 9 more with the exact same wording and realize this is just a form and you haven’t really begun yet.)
-          The first request for more!  Ok, yes, this one has you jumping up and down in the family room at midnight!  You squeal and laugh uncontrollably.  You think you might actually stop breathing as you run to awaken everyone you know, tweeting and texting at the same time!  It doesn’t matter if it is for a full or a partial, you would give them your first born at this moment if they really wanted it!
-          People first begin to notice your existence as a writer.  Whether it be through a blog, a random posted comment, a tweet, whatever… someone, somewhere notices you exist and you write.  You feel like you might be getting somewhere!  Hope, a shimmering light around the corner beckons you onward… “write more” it calls to you!

What are all these highs and lows for?  What purpose are they serving as you ride the unpublished roller coaster?  Maybe they are preparation for what is to come?
For every 1 person who openly loves your work, another 10 will hate it.  But, by that time your skin will have grown quite thick.  After all, how long did you wait for that 1 agent to see something special in your words?  How did it feel to finally get ‘the call’ that began the events that changed your writing life?
What are 10 critics compared to that one fan?  Nothing you can’t handle.
So here’s to The Life Unpublished!  To everything it prepares us for and everything it teaches us to endure. 
Here’s to The Life Unpublished!  May it be a fleeting life, leading onward to The Published Life!
Go toward the light Unpublished Life!

Tell me, what have your highs and lows been?  Do you continue on toward the light?

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