Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Being Steven King

So you’re a creative person who likes to make things with words or paint. You’re also a nice person, or anyway, you usually think you are. There are love stories in you, flower petals to paint, and poems to your new baby or grandchild. You make pretty art; you paint sweet words; you kiss butterflies on the nose.

Then again...

What if you’re a nice person who also wants to cover a canvas in thick black paint, or fill it with naked bodies writhing in erotic passion? Can you allow yourself? What will people think? What if, in the story you’re writing, the bad guy—or worse, the good guy—licks the spit-up off the baby’s face. Ick. That's totally gross.

What if what comes out of your keyboard is unintentionally mean, revengie, and/or disgusting? Or worse...what if it’s sappy, stupid, preachy, or boring. What if it’s bad and you’re humiliated for life?

But what if it’s good and no one sees it?

Insecurity is having a party in my head, self-questioning is dancing a polka, doubt is twerking it’s fat butt at me. I just finished a final—I can’t say “the final”—revision of my novel about a suicide and what happens to the survivors, and I’m trying to be brave.

You can be creative without being brave. Your can hide your manuscript in a drawer or in a file folder on the computer, your drawings can be held captive in the closet. If you never expose your work, no one can judge you.

When Steven King writes one of his scary novels do you think he worries about whether anyone thinks he’s nice (which I’ve read, he is). He just does what he does, and then has a few trusted friends read it before going seriously public. 

So the first step after writing the book (which is really the first step) is imposing your masterpiece on some of your friends. 

The reviews of my novel (if graphed) would look like bad teeth.
  • Barbara, John, Ann, and Joy all said they liked it. Were they being nice, or did they really like it? Maybe I should ask them again?
  • Pat hated it (but loves me), and emailed, “I thought the characters were too black and white. Lacking nuances.” She was disappointed not to see the sly humor of my blog, which—since I’ve been working on novels—has been neglected. (The sly humor and the blog.)
  • Carol wrote, “So intelligent and perceptive—a flowing, delightful writing style. The characters were very real.”
  • Kristen, my environmentalist granddaughter, loved it and interspersed the manuscript with post-its of “Fun Facts,” most of which I added.
  • Louise read two pages and returned it, she didn’t have time then, but never asked for it back.
  • Jim DeLorey, who wrote an exciting thriller, Scream Cruise, took the time to write pages of valuable positive and negative comments. 
  • Ed, retired professor of literature, had some helpful suggestions, but, bottom line, he said it deserved to be published. 
  • My daughter, Sue, liked it, and I know she always tells me what she really thinks. 
  • Bonnie said, “Ehh.” 
  • Colette thought I should write a sequel. 
  • Mary Cay said she liked it so much that she read it twice.
  • Alison said, “The way you interwove the environmental issues felt very much like what Barbara Kingsolver does in her work, and I thought you did it equally well.” I immediately reread Flight Patterns. Alison’s comment was a stretch, but fun to hear, especially since I’m a fan of Kingsolver.

Most of these folks (likers and dislikers alike) had suggestions—excellent, helpful, and wise. 

Then five agents rejected the book.

After six months, with only an auto response saying they got it—the agent I was most hoping to work withemailed, “We would be pleased to consider your manuscript, INTENTIONAL, for possible representation.” 

Woo Hoo! Yippee! Yay! Can you believe!

Nine weeks later—NINE WEEKS LATER!—that agent sent a rejection email, a nice one, but still a rejection. Six months plus nine weeks, that’s a lot of waiting time, and I’m aging quickly.

Friends say, “Hey, listen, five rejections is nothing. You know how many times Harry Potter was rejected?” The reassuring legend grows; the last I heard J.K. Rowling was rejected twenty-seven times.

Steven King is, from what I’ve read, a nice person, a gifted literary writer who writes terror in black paint. “Carrie” was rejected ten times.

But I’ve decided I’ve had enough rejection. Years ago self-publishing was a huge no-no, but times have changed. I’m going to be brave. I want people to read me. If they like me, great, if not, that’s okay too.

Two weeks ago I sent my book to a professional copyeditor. I should have it back in early December. Then, after more editing by me, and more fussing with my cover design, hopefully, by January (two and a half years since I began) it’ll be a real book. 

PS. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent (my much appreciated readers). I want to be able to ask them to read the next one.

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