Things I’ve Learned in 2008

It has been an educational year for me on a number of fronts, but particularly with my writing, and as this will be my last post of the year, I will now share some of the knowledge I have gained:

Damn it, I AM good enough. Yes, I received a few rejections this year, but I did make it as far as I could towards finding an agent without actually finding one. I had three full manuscript requests for Dead and Dying and, though I still have not heard back from two of them, found the rejection of the third very promising. More importantly, I’ve written a better book this time around that, logically, should increase my chances of landing an agent in ’09.

I need to be better. Yes, I am good enough, but I’m not really content to stop there. This book is better than the last which was better than the one before. I’ve also written what I consider my first decent set of short stories that I hope to find a home for soon. I can see the improvement in my own writing–hear the improvement–and I’m really looking forward to see how much better I can get this year. I’m going to need to improve a great deal if I hope to pull off the story I’m writing next.

Query letters are not the enemy. I’m kind of sorry I wasted my chance with the first three agents I contacted with a sub-par query letter. Still, had I not done just that, I don’t think I would have taken the time to reevaluate what I was sending out and would have never received the requests I did. There are writers out there who cry that query letters are much harder to write than the stories they represent, but I say that if this is the case, you probably didn’t spend enough time or effort on the fiction. Writing is writing; either you can do it or you can’t.

There’s not as much difference between my day job and publishing as I thought. Forget that the industry revolves around people telling stories. Forget the creative aspect of it, the mirage of the reclusive author working at the roll top desk penning his masterpiece. Forget all that propaganda bullshit we’ve been led to believe about the writing life. It’s a job, just like nursing or construction or, dare I say, retail management. It’s a business and we as writers should never, ever forget that. It’s not about how great the story is, it’s about how marketable it is. Nothing personal, all business.

I am not alone. There is support out there for those of us willing to look for it. Writers are, by nature of our jobs, creatures of solitude. We make our magic alone, performing for an audience of none and with little chance of reward or recognition. The great thing about this is that there are so many others in the same boat, so many fantastic writers who are not only willing to help others achieve success, but welcome the opportunity to share some of that creative energy with a like soul. People around us, even our spouses and closest friends, don’t generally understand what we do or why we do it. Often, we don’t know ourselves, but it’s sometimes great to talk about it with someone just as confused as we are.

I can’t NOT write. When I first made the decision to attempt a novel, the main thing I wanted to know was “Can I write?” Now, a couple of years down the road and with three completed manuscripts to my credit, the question is “Can I stop?” The simple answer is no–I don’t sleep well when I’m not writing and I feel a general sense of “blah” when I’m idle that goes away when I’m working on something new. It’s become my drug of choice and I don’t think I could give it up. I don’t want to give it up.

As I said, this is the last hooptedoodle I’ll be posting for 2008. My 9th wedding anniversary is New Year’s Day and I think my wife would frown on me taking time away from her to write blog posts about writing that not even she is going to read. So, to anyone out there who stumbles by, have a wonderful close of 2008 and a better opening of 2009.

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About Lee Smiley

I write things. Maybe you'll read them.
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