Then one of my friends died.
I’d met this particular lady, Darlaine Traub, and her husband while I was living in Washington State. She was an avid reader and during my initial attempts at writing, she encouraged me. She even read some of my most awful stuff and kindly and patiently critiqued it. It was ironic then, that she had passed away at the very time I felt my dream of being a writer dying away. Now, as a resident of Ohio again, I needed to fly to Washington for her funeral.
I got it in my head that I would write just one more book, for me. It would be a bit experimental, bringing together a lot of ideas I had accumulated over my years of struggle. Most importantly, though, it would be written without any thought as to whether anyone else would ever see it, or whether it was even marketable. Again, it was just for me. This little story about a future man who fixed robots, written entirely in first person present tense.
So, in the airport on my way to Washington, I took out my laptop, started it, brought up Word, and wrote: It is hard to describe, this buzzing in my head. It wakes me, obviously. But it is hard to clarify for someone like you—at least the type of person I assume you to be—someone with a free head…
I labored on that manuscript for the next few months. Just enjoying the process of creation sans encumbrances. My wife hated it, of course, this idea that I was writing just for me. She thought I literally (and literarily) was just putting my feet up now. Kicking back and being a slacker. Might as well have been writing grocery lists.
Then five months later I finished it, and after reading it I realized, “You know, even though I wrote it just for me, there is a lot about this story that is unique and cool and maybe even good. It is certainly like nothing I’ve ever read before. Certainly not standard Christian fiction.”
So I actually started contemplating shopping this book around. Jumping back into that cycle of pain again. This time, though, I would be wiser. Before I did anything else, wasted any more time, I was going to get an expert opinion. I was going to hire an editor.
And I knew just the person. That Jeff Gerke fellow who had rejected me previously now had his own freelance editorial service. He also had his own burgeoning publishing company called Marcher Lord Press… I wasn’t thinking that far into the future yet, though. All I really wanted was an opinion—is my book about a “future man” named Sandfly worth the digital paper it is printed on? Was it really as unique and cool as I thought?
So I hired Jeff to let me know. I sent him my manuscript.
And I waited. Many months went by. I grew nervous. Sent Jeff a little reminder.
In November of 2008 he finally responded:
“Just wanted to let you know that I’m loving your story. It’s brilliant, my friend. I’m about 40% in and totally enjoying it…”
You know that scene in The Pursuit of Happyness where Will Smith’s character finally gets the job? The emotion on his face when he realizes that, despite the hurdles and hardships—despite sleeping on floors and homeless shelters—he’s finally achieved what he set out to do?
That was me on November 17, 2008. Completely and unquestioningly. I’d done it. With the book I thought no one would ever read.
That wasn’t to say that my quest was finished. I spent the better part of the next year getting A Star Curiously Singing into its final form. Again I was in a cycle—writing and rewriting—but this time I had a willing accomplice. A friend who understood and believed in the project as much as I did. Maybe even more so, at times.
In October of 2009 I held my first novel in my hands. Over ten years from when I started calling myself a writer, and a full six years since FoxTales was published.
Since then the “author” life has grown up to consume me. I still spend much time writing, of course. But I also spend time discussing my books, dialoging with other authors about writing, and even meeting people who call themselves fans of my work. Interviews, reviews…I’ve even recently had the honor of writing a cover blurb for another author’s book.
And I’ve written a second novel in record time. The Superlative Stream was published just six months after the first book. Not bad for a guy who thought he’d given up writing.
Now having read through my story, my life on the cycle of pain, I hope readers of this blog can come away with lots of encouragement and wisdom for their own endeavors. But if it isn’t obvious, I’ll spell it out for you:
- Be persistent. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never, never give up.”
- Be teachable. Everyone can improve on something. If your query letters are bad, do what it takes to make them good. If your technique is stopping you, then fix it! If you need connections in the writing field, make them! Do it, because you’re the only one who can.
- Be patient. Trust God! If you feel led to write, then do so. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. It rarely does. Let God take you to precisely where you need to be. That will be the time it happens.
- Finally—something I learned from that technical writing course—say only what you need to say, and no more. Do your readers a favor and be concise. Stay on track. Be methodical. Every word is important and has a purpose. Every sentence, every paragraph. You are crafting just as much as you are storytelling.
With that, I’ve said all I wanted to say. Keep writing—and all my thanks, for reading.