I don’t write to be famous, I don’t write to be known, I write because I am and I want to be read. How sad to fill a room with paintings no one sees or play music no one hears. Writing is talking without sound, singing without score and dancing without movement and yet, it is all of them. It is a solitary art conjured from thought and expressed by the need to communicate.

HEAD-SLAPS, SPEED-BUMPS and LIGHT-BULBS, one woman's WTF, oops and ah-ha moments of life.

They were published once, and as every writer knows, once is not enough.



Friday, July 24, 2015

It's easy, sort of

Contrary to the popular opinion expressed among writers, writing is easy, it’s fun, it gives you confidence and rewards you in many ways not always monetary. It’s also damn hard, creates nightmares, riddles you with doubt, and alienates you from friends, family and at times, even your own sense of self.
 
I am able to look at the conundrum of writing, and the pleasure I receive by fitting all the pieces of the word puzzle together, because I have been published…often. Getting the first piece out there is the biggest hump. Once that’s over, the rest is easy…right?
 
August, late 80’s, my first readers-write essay ran in a local newspaper. I was beyond thrilled. Barely above a letter to the editor, I didn’t care, I was published, I was ecstatic.
 
A short time later my first real op-ed (opinion/editorial) was accepted by the editor of one of Connecticut’s largest newspapers. The editor was also my former writing teacher. That piece, a little over 600 words, literally and figuratively changed my writing life. It also changed how I intellectually defined myself. From that moment on, “I was a writer”.
 
Before I was notified of the publication date I wrote another op-ed and sent it to a different newspaper in the state, a bigger one, a scarier one.
 
At first I thought the original editor accepted my op-ed because he knew me, we had a great back and forth in class, but when the second piece was accepted I discovered the most important thing a writer can realize, I had figured out what they wanted.
 
Figuring out what an editor, an agent or a publisher wants and needs is key. Almost everything I submitted back then was accepted. It was a pretty big deal at the time, still is, because it drove my (so called) career.  Both op-eds broke on the same day in those two big dailies. It’s a wonder my head fit through the door.
 
But this isn’t just about my humble beginnings, fits, starts and restarts in writing. It’s about the frustration unpublished writers experience while wondering when publication will actually happen. I used to lament, usually after a few glasses of wine or a half-gallon of Rocky Road, when will someone, in the business of words, want something I’ve written? When will the day come that a writing professional, will convince other writing professionals that MY words are the ‘write’ words? When will all the effort, all the hours of solitary contemplation and exacting of execution, pay off, both intellectually and monetarily?
 
When will the dream become a reality of effort?
 
When?

When?
 
WHEN?

In my experience short form writers have an advantage. It doesn’t take years to finish a manuscript. It doesn’t take months and years to find an agent. Time to completion is realistic and response swift.
 
As a long form fiction writer, if you haven’t figured out the magic formula by the 100th query of your 100,000 word tome, you must dedicate another huge chunk of your life to getting it ‘write’ again and again. Some say that novelists can cut their teeth on short stories. I don’t think so. Novels and short stories may be backboned the same way, by the arc of a novel is infinitely more complex.
 
So, no advice here, only observation.

The oft used chant, stay calm carry on or don’t give up, hang in and you will get there, is okay. It’s also crap because first, you have to figure out what they want and how best they want it presented to them. Easy, right? Write.

It is easy once you figure it out. Sort of.

Oh I almost forgot, even after a byline or a title page, (unless you are a writing megastar), you’re only as good as your last accepted piece. That you have to start over, and figure it out all over again, kind of dampers my brilliant writing solution, doesn’t it.
 
Have you figured it out?
 
Are you having fun?

8 comments:

  1. 2NS, I feel like I am climbing a ladder, but I don't know where the top is. I just climb rung after rung - some are easy to navigate, others take a long time, but I just keep climbing because I hope by the time I reach the top I'll have it figured out.

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    1. AJ, My first thought is that there is no top rung, just more you have to climb, always climb. "Figuring out" is only one rung. Sure it may make the rest of the rungs a little easy to navigate but the need to continue up will always be there. I thinks that's a good thing because then we don't become complacent, or arrogant, or feel entitled to success because we were successful figuring it out once or twice or many times before.
      I'm loaded with bylines but sure as shit I want a title page some day. Will I get there? Who knows.
      All I DO know is that if I stop, I'll never get there. I guess that's what it means to carry on.
      Keep climbing my friend. At least the exercise will get us, and keep us, in writing-shape.

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  2. I'm....working on it. I've had my first short story acceptance (a flash piece) and then a podcast wanted to run that story. So far, before and after, a lot of R's (personal and form) for my shorts.

    Definitely still writing, though, and definitely still trying!

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    1. WOW! Congrats !
      Acceptance is fantastic but a podcast, double WOW !!
      Still writing and still trying, that about sums up what we do.

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  3. I am having fun. No doubt. There's a sense of accomplishment, regardless of the outcome. I totally agree with you on the short story thing. Back before I met Caroline Upcher, Ann Patty first read my ms. (she acquired LIFE OF PI and a few other blockbusters) My first ms had a fatal flaw - which she'd pointed out. She suggested I backup and write short stories first. I thanked her, and said I wanted to fix my ms rather than do that. She probably thought I was a nut job. No matter what she thought, she eventually pointed me to Caroline. And the rest is history.

    Not really. I just said that b/c it fit that spot. :)

    You've got a lot to be proud of.

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    1. It's funny, but no how good I feel about what I've written, I keep thinking that 'better' is just a fingertip away.

      Has your agent submitted your book yet?

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    2. Yes, he did. Get this - on Friday, the 13th. (In February)

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    3. Ha, so.......has anything come of it, despite the date or because of it?

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