Dear Friends, I wrote a book. Remember?
I finished the book, and then re-wrote the book.
I left the book alone for a while, and then I re-wrote the book again.
My endlessly talented bb Victoria edited my re-write, rather aggressively.
Eventually I sent it to twenty publishers and agents.
And got back only rejection letters.
People are pretty split when things like this happen. I could brush it off. Fight Club was rejected a ton of times before it became what it is. On the other hand, I could be bummed about it and question my talent, and whether I’m cut out for this.
But here’s the real score:
1. I’m not a writer because I want anything from it. I’m a writer because it’s a compulsion. Because I’ve been doing it since I could write and it goes beyond storytelling into my normal day to day behavior. I simply cannot help it.
2. I am a good writer and I am cut out for it.
3. No one said it would be easy. As a matter of fact most professionals say the exact opposite, which I find annoying.
THING 4: I hate the story.
I’m comfortable with my writing because if everyone on the planet hated it, I’d still do it. I like it. Fortunately, people on the planet also like it. And that’s nice. And it’s nice when they tell me they like it.
However, with JACLAND, I’ve grown both ambitious and cocky. Not necessarily with writing specifically, but with my ability to pull things off.
I said I was going to write a book from an archaic concept, and I did. And that’s what I’m proud of. As far as the story goes, it was pulling teeth to get it done because I was cutting corners and it led to plot holes, or asking my reader to overlook the thin storyline.
I wrote the first draft in about two months. The second draft took about four months, and the third took six months. Because I simply couldn’t read it again. It was harrowing. It was arduous. It was a bad story.
So when I got back all these rejection letters I wasn’t surprised. I couldn’t be bummed. I wouldn’t have bought it.
But I didn’t stop there. I genuinely thought, “You know what, I’ll just self publish. I made a thing, whether good or bad, and I want to take it all the way.”
I listened to a podcast called the Tim Ferriss Show by the very same guy. He wrote a really popular book called The 4-Hour Workweek and has a really interesting and inspiring podast. He did an episode with Brian Koppelman, one part of a writing duo responsible for Ocean’s Thirteen, The Illusionist, the show Billions and more that hit me right in the wrote-a-story-I-don’t-care-about feels.
In so many words, he said that if your rejections are coming with criticism about something you knew wasn’t working, that means you are correct in thinking it doesn’t work. If you know why you’re getting rejected, then you should be rejected. The piece wasn’t finished. For me, I knew I was going to get rejected because I wrote a bad story. I wrote a story even I hated reading.
He goes on to suggest that you find the things that inspired this piece or that inspire you as an artist. Watch them, re-read them, and do that over and over and over, taking notes. Why does something work? How did it come together? How can you learn from that, and how can your story benefit from what you learned?
(I will say I had this existential crisis where I couldn’t tell if I wasn’t going to self-publish The Plum Wizard because I knew it needed work, or because I was using any excuse I could to self sabotage. You hear stories like this where people are just one move away from accomplishing something, and they stop short because of some weird reason that made sense only to them. Am I convincing myself out of publishing because it’s hard or because I know it’ll fail? Or am I making the right decision in not publishing just so I can get it over with? Sigh. Being human is complicated).
Anyway, I’m not going to self publish. It’s a bit self absorbed to publish something you don’t care an ounce about just to see your name printed on something. Especially when I know I’ve got the goods. I’m good for the writing, I know how, I do my homework and I am capable. So what’s another year of sitting on this dumpy little project if it means, possibly, maybe, and maybe even not but maybe getting something I do care about out of it? That would be worth self publishing, right?
Lemme know your thoughts on all this. Is this something you struggle with? Do you have a counter point? Other interesting podcasts about art and creativity?
Wish me luck this week and if you know any books similar to Neil Gaiman’s Sleeper and the Spindle or adventure fairytale like stories, toss ’em in the comments below.