Friday, September 17, 2010

Tree Killer

Writing is an odd business, and that’s even before you get to the business end of it. I’ve been writing for years, but I’ve only recently developed the “let's stop stuffing around and see where this goes” attitude. With that in mind, I picked the work-in-progress I felt had the most potential and I finished it. In December 2009 I sent it off to an appraisal service. When the parcel came back in late January I was too scared to open it. It sat on the side table for hours, just sort of lurking. Whenever I walked past I sneaked a sideways look at it. Yep, still lurking. Eventually, having prepared myself for the worst, I opened the damn thing.

Inside were a good twenty pages of comments and suggestions, and every single one of them was right. I’d been blind not to see it, but that’s the thing with writing: you spend so long enmeshed in it that you lose all sense of perspective. Well, I certainly do. Anyway, underneath all of those pages was a letter of recommendation to a publisher. While I don’t know how valuable it is in industry terms, that letter was certainly valuable to me: What I am doing is not a waste of time.

Fast-forward to July, and the manuscript has been culled, revised, and, even though I know I’ve lost perspective, is hopefully a lot better. Since then I’ve sent out a few query letters, and received a few form rejections. My first rejection, and all subsequent ones, haven’t been as soul-destroying as I'd imagined, because I’m still enjoying the idea that I’m being a professional writer. Also, after improving my query, I received a request from an agent who is currently looking at the entire novel.

I am in two minds about this. I don’t want to be rejected. Who does, right? And, if I am rejected, I’m worried that I won’t know why. Is my novel just not for her, or is it complete and utter crap? So now, whenever I veer between the fantasies of starting conversations with My agent, in New York… and the horrors of I’ve wasted my life! I try and maintain a positive attitude: In less than a year I have completed a novel. I have had it favourably appraised. I have finished a second draft. I have written a successful query to an agent, who has requested the whole thing. These are all significant milestones, and I’ve chalked them up in under twelve months. I’m still new at this game and I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I hope to remember that every step on the journey, however small, is worth celebrating.

The downside, of course, is that I currently hate my novel. I’ve haven’t looked at it in weeks, because, frankly, it wore me down there at the end. There were times when I wished my main character would be ambushed and killed by the murderer he was chasing. (I can make it happen. I'm a god to him!) Strange days. I’m starting to warm to it again, or at least to its potential sequel, but that’s a whole new issue: should I bother writing the second book if I don’t know if the first one will get anywhere? 

Actually, I know the answer to that. I couldn’t stop writing if I tried. It is a compulsion. Sure, most of what I write is rubbish and, if there is a God, will never see the light of day, but I just like writing. I enjoy the process. I like the solitude and the speculation. I have a filing cabinet full of half-finished disasters, going right back to when I was in Grade Eight and, knowing nothing about poetry, decided to write an epic poem longer than Hiawatha. It's beyond terrible, but I can't throw it out because I spent months on it, scribbling down a few pages everyday at school when most of my classmates were busy colouring in the checks on their school uniforms or writing the names of boys they liked on their pencil cases.

I did not actually kill this tree. Yasi did. 

I write because I enjoy it, and because I suspect I would got crazy if I didn't.  So, whether my headstone reads She was a published author or just She killed a lot of trees, at least I’ll have kept myself entertained.  


  1. Doing all that in a year is definitely reason to be proud.

    And the fact that you'll keep doing it, no matter the outcome in the marketplace, says even more about how you're truly a writer.



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