Straight Through

I’m going to aim through the novel, not at it, to a future place where I want it to land. It’s easy to get stuck in the notion that my novel has no real audience, no real deadline. It’s easy to sit in it, to imagine it exists when really, does it? If you put a gun to my head right now and asked to read it, I’d be flattered, but it would be in pieces.

Struggling through a novel is the narrative most accepted in literary circles. I’m working at this. I’m rewriting. What if I actually pictured success?

What would it look like, really, to have this novel published? I’m told it’s far less fine than I think. Published writers are always complaining about having to promote their book, ensuring young hopefuls that having a novel published doesn’t guarantee, or in any way lead to, financial success. But what an amazing thing it would be, sitting on stage, blushing, talking about your characters like they’re real. Yes, asking people to read your book would be a bit demoralizing, but how much better it would be than if you didn’t have a book at all, frequenting book clubs and bookstores promoting other books, always books that aren’t yours.

And what if you were really successful – like really successful? Then what? You go on tour with the book. You are like a rockstar but your bandmates are your books in boxes. Maybe you have a friend with you who is literary-minded. You probably travel around on a bus, where you get to read a lot. You get to be a grump and speak esoterically about everything. No one bothers you except for the craziest of people.

And then your job is over and you are under pressure to write more. So what? You love writing. This time someone else cares about you writing too. Maybe you get book topics suggested to you. What a great way of coming up with ideas. Maybe you have a deadline, unlike something you’ve ever had before in writing. Maybe you make money.

And then the second book comes out. And it doesn’t have as good of reviews. That’s great! You can then wow them with the next one. You have made a career because people are comparing something you’ve done before to something you’ve done now, which means time has passed. And you are still at it. You are writing every day. You’ve lost your other job! You’re just writing. You wake up and instead of thinking about other people, you are thinking about a world that you made up. And it can be anything.

I would live in my dreams, if it were socially acceptable. What a joy it is to lay down every night and know that I will be entertained. I feel more overnight, or am given the ability to feel everything every night in a way that then benefits me in my day life. Writing is the same. I feel things, and maybe I’m making them up, but it’s better than not feeling them at all.

So living a life of writing, then, would be a life of dreaming. And getting paid, and getting acknowledgements, and getting to not do other things but it. I can’t imagine being that life being all that bad. Just this novel, that’s the bad part. And then the one after.

My Take on Publishing

This is how I understand the publishing industry. I am not an expert; I am obviously not an expert.

At first, you write something (anything) and you are so proud of yourself. You get published in a high school thing called a “zine” and you’re like, I’m published.

You start getting work from another high school magazine, this time a bigger one (a maga-zine), and you write overly critical CD reviews. You don’t always get the thing you wrote published, or sometimes it’s rewritten for you. You write sad poetry in the meantime. Wish that other zine still existed.

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You leave high school and become an intern at a tourism magazine. You have to write fifty words about Matthew Good and your fifty words get changed just enough so the last line is “any Matthew Good concert is a good concert.”

You start writing something that you like more. This time you don’t think it’s good, so you secretly think that must mean it’s good. You don’t show anyone this time, because that’s what a writer does.

Eventually you show someone. Either they love it and they think it should get published or they think it’s so cute, they’re so proud of you. You either start sending it out to agents, making sure it’s formatted properly and that your return address is on there, or you feel really bad about wasting your life away and you lose total interest.

You wait a few months (either way). In the meantime you try not to touch your thing you wrote but you definitely find at least a bunch of embarrassing things you should have changed. You read it over and over before you go to sleep, picturing someone else reading it. You do this whether you sent it out to agents or you gave it to that one friend who called it cute.

A day comes when you get something returned to you. It says, sorry but this doesn’t fit the genre of thing we publish. Or it says, maybe change it a bit. Or it’s just a slip of paper that’s pretty generic. You think, okay, I’m getting rejected. This is step one. You remember step one was that zine. This should be step six or something. You should almost be there. What’s there? You read horrible little statistics about how when you get one book published, you still have to have a day job. You think, I don’t even have a day job.

You start doing something else as you wait for that last agent who hasn’t sent you a rejection letter (now the best agent, in your mind). You expect balloons at your door, you expect that this guy loves you. Then it probably just tapers off, your excitement, as you realize that actually this person lost your manuscript.

You send it to that agent again, just in case.

That person who first read your manuscript tells you a friend got her book published in Australia or something. You always disliked that girl because she got to read her work out in class and she just wrote such boring description of scenery. You hate that friend now, whether she liked your book or called it cute or not.  You hate whatever friend you showed your work to. You start a new thing, and it’s probably journalism. You think back with rosy coloured glasses about that zine, about that Matthew Good piece.

The new thing is okay. You lose interest in writing good things.

Suddenly balloons appear at your door. That agent spent two years with your novel because he loved it so much. He was just waiting to get the best deal ever for you and now you are going to be so rich you don’t have to work and you will just get to write whatever thing about Matthew Good you want to write and maybe you can even start your own zine if you want.