Every now and again, the writing bug bites me.
Not the variety where I publish 7+ blogs in a week or the kind where I go on a mad dash and get my blog stockpile up enough to last me through Christmas or the kind where I sit up all night trying to get that one, fleeting idea on paper and working out its intricacies.
No, the kind that bites me is the kind where I realize that my life-long dream to be a published author is slowly (but surely) passing me by because I have no finished manuscripts. None. Nada. Zilch. I don’t even have enough themed short stories to put together a chapbook, much less a collection.
And this time, that bug was probably fueled by the NaNoWriMo competition and Syp and other bloggers’ posts about their NaNo experiences. My getting married at the end of October and being in the middle of a very hectic time-and-a-half working semester kind of put a damper on any attempt I might make at crossing the 50k finish line in November.
So here I sit, writing, but still feeling slightly unsatisfied because it’s a blog and not a piece of fiction. I love writing fiction and a few people (not even family and friends!) have said I’m kind of all right at it. But I never do it because the Internet tells me I can’t.
While I’m not necessarily callow, I take it to heart (whether I should or not) when I read an overwhelming amount of blogs and articles from authors and agents discussing how only the tiniest fraction of wannabe authors get published, much less make any money at it. To me, that’s the Internet giving me a big ole “don’t even try, buddy.” Because after all, these are the professionals telling me this.
I shouldn’t listen because there’s no reason in the world that hacks like Stephenie Meyer can make it and I cannot. Unfortunately, the reality of it is that they’re right. Agents get hundreds of poorly written queries a day and slush them all. Publishers and editors turn down well-written, unique stories every day. Authors struggle to be the Next Big Thing and get looked over because they’re too far out of what’s “in” to sell. The publishing world is hard and unforgiving, and I’m pretty idealistic and naive.
Sometimes I wonder why such authors and agents write and put out that kind of article. Is it really to inform us wannabes of the perils and rules of a game we’re not yet versed in? Maybe. I can see how people like Christine Rose legitimately want to help fledgling authors get off the ground. She did it the hard way and learned a few lessons. I’m still put off by how rough she makes the industry sound, but at least the information’s there.
On the other hand, I look at agents like Miss Snark, who ran a very successful “this is the way not to get published” blog for a very long time, and wonder if their motives aren’t a bit more subversive. Are they really trying to inform wannabes of the world that awaits them? I don’t think so. I think this is more of a “weeding out the chaff” maneuver.
I think that Miss Snark and the likeminded agents and authors who put out discouraging statements do it for that reason: because they’re discouraging. They have to deal with a lot of crap every day and the best way to keep the worst of it away is to make them feel inadequate and not worth submitting in the first place. The more people Miss Snark reaches, the more who are ultimately put off by the harsh realities she presents. Only the strong will persist and query. It’s like Darwinism for literary agents.
So now I’m at a crossroads. I’m easily put off when I’m made to feel inadequate, which is what the Internet does. On one hand, I know I’m a good writer. I have the degrees, presentations, and job to prove it. On the other hand, I wonder if all the hard work and energy I would put into a novel or collection of shorts is worth it if the end result never rises past a slush pile.
I know that seeing my name in print and on the bookstore shelf next to Stephen King (which would likely happen thanks to serendipitous alphabetical similarities) would be the single greatest professional accomplishment I could have. Because of that, I will trudge on.
Even though the Internet says my chances of ever having my life-long dream come true are slim to none, I have to try. I have to. I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t at least give it a shot. I may never make it big, but I get bitten by this bug once too often to ignore it much longer.
Yeah, the Internet says the odds are against me. So what? Even if most authors never get to bring home a paycheck solely from their writing, that’s okay. As much as I want to be a full-time author and writer, I understand the practical limitations of that dream. While it might happen eventually (let’s remain optimistic), there has to be a novel first (or is that a first novel?).
And that’s my current problem. I get bogged down by the might-nots and the snarky anecdotes that I freeze in my tracks and forget that I just might have something unique that someone else wants to read. And I won’t ever find that out if I don’t sit my ass in a chair and just write my stories.
My goal, then, is to have a drafted manuscript finished (or at least close to it) by the end of 2010, which gives me plenty of time to work on other projects and, well, pay the bills. In that goal, however, lies my next problem: I have three ideas I think are equally workable, two of which already have 10k words or so drafted. I have to decide between them and that’s going to be difficult, as they are as different as night and day: Young Adult SF vs. mainstream paranormal horror vs. a post-apocalyptic SF/horror short story collection. Yeah, it’s genre, but I think I know how to add some bite to it.
I feel better now. I really do. I now return you to your regularly scheduled pop culture infused ramblings.