The Twelve Stages of Writing

Thoughts on a novelist’s life as they cope with conceiving, writing, revising, and publishing a novel.

  1. Jubilation! What a great idea! I must start thinking about this and writing. This is brilliant! Coffee, quick!
  2. Doubts. Wait…what was it about? I don’t know…that’s more complicated than I realized, and derivative as hell. What the hell…why would those characters do that? What’s their motivation? Man, I need some caffeine just to make sense of this. Better go get some coffee.
  3. Bargaining. Look, let me play a computer game and then get through just one day, just one hundred words, just one scene, just one paragraph today, and I promise that I’ll write more tomorrow and catch up. Give me some coffee.
  4. Denial. Why am I doing this to myself? I don’t have what it takes. I’m not smart enough or talented enough. I’m such an idiot! Why did I ever think that I could write a novel? Let me just finish my coffee and go.
  5. Acceptance. Well, I’ve gone this far. Might as well finish the damn thing. Then, maybe I’ll set it aside for a century, and take a look later, see if I can edit and revise it, and make something out of it. I need a fresh cup of coffee.
  6. Jubilation! Hey, this isn’t so bad. This is pretty good. It just needs some work. It’s all coming together. Give me some coffee.
  7. Doubts. I don’t know…what was I thinking when I wrote that? I don’t even remember writing that part. Who is that character? I don’t remember them. I have never seen so many typos in my life. Even the coffee tastes bad. What a waste.
  8. Bargaining. Listen, self. If I can just finish reading and editing this part and sleep on it, I know that I’ll find a way to make this all work, and then I’ll take a break from it all. More coffee, please.
  9. Denial. Who am I kidding? This is absolute garbage. I’ll never make it as a writer. I can’t even type. Even if I finish this, who will ever read it? Maybe I should work on something else. I need more coffee.
  10. Acceptance. No, you’ve come this far. You owe it to yourself to at least finish it. Maybe more coffee will help. Come on, you can do it. What’s the saying? Just open any vein. Sure. Give me some coffee.
  11. Jubilation! This is pretty damn good. Now all I need to do is find someone to publish it. Let me hunt for an agent. But first, some coffee.
  12. Doubts. I’ll never find an agent or a publisher. Maybe I should self-publish. But then I’d need to have a cover made, hire a copy-editor, and then do all the marketing once I publish it. Let me drink a cup of coffee and think about it…

How ’bout you, writers? Any thoughts on the stages of coping with your writing efforts?

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An Uplifting Dream

Last night’s dream felt so uplifting and positive. I remember taking off my shirt and having my abdomen suddenly beginning muscular, showing off an eight pack. Suddenly, everyone was looking at me in admiration. I’m usually withdrawn and self-effacing, but I was happy for the attention and accepted it with grace.

As marvelous as that was, a woman suddenly sought me . I vaguely knew and recognized her. She said that she was back to get a story from me, fulfilling a promise she’d made a few years before.

Delighted, I was completely taken back by the unexpected request. I wasn’t aware of any promise, but I wasn’t about to question it and scrambled through my files for something.

Nothing was ready. I confessed to her, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have anything ready.”

She said, “Do you have anything that you think is promising?”

“Yes, yes, I have many things partially begun or sketched out.”

“Pick one.”

I returned to my files and began searching. “Okay, I think I have one in mind.”

As I continued searching, she said, “How soon can you get it ready?”

“I’m not sure. It’s going to take some time and work.”

“Get it ready. Finish it. I’m waiting for you.”

The end.

Well, cool. Amazing how something as unexplained as a nocturnal dream can feel so empowering, infusing me with positive energy while it shunts negative energy away.

 

Disturbing Results

He didn’t know how this fit into anything.

Completing his manuscript, including revising and editing it, he scoured the net, found a dozen prospective agents, and sent it off to them.

Three weeks later, he hadn’t heard anything from any of them and decided to beat the net to see what was happening with his prospective agents.

Imagine his surprise when they all turned out dead.

Well, he’d always thought it was a killer idea.

Agent Submissions

wish agents submitted to my will, but they’re impressively resilient.

That’s not what I’m writing ’bout, as you know. I’m addressin’ the other sort of submissions, the one that requires you to send agents your writing, seeking a pinkiehold on the path to traditional publishing, which, as we all know, also brings us fame, fortune, and immunity from ever doubting ourselves again.

Right?

As I’ve refined my submission process in this go-around, I’ve come to think of it as job-hunting. Instead of a novel or proposal, you’re submitting a resume when you’re job hunting.

They have other similarities.

You peruse every source you find for potential places to submit.

You submit as much as you can.

You wait and hope for positive responses.

You keep going until you’ve signed somewhere.

What ’bout you? How’d you approach it?

Syn-Syn-Synopsis

I brushed off writing my synopsis like I was signing a birthday card with élan when I wrote about it in a post earlier this month. Writing a synopsis wasn’t that easy for me.

It’d been yonks since I’d written one. I wanted to do the best that I could. I knew the idea was that it’s a brief summary. How long should a synopsis be? How much detail should be given? Should I describe the character and setting?

Searching for answers, I pulled out books on writing and publishing that I have on hand. I read magazine articles, newspaper articles, and blog posts about how long a synopsis should be, what it does, and what it shouldn’t be. I panicked. I read agents and publishers’ opinions about what’s at stake in the synopsis in their opinion for accepting or rejected a novel. I read what authors shared about their rejections and their initial efforts writing synopsis, and I grew disheartened. Then I brushed that off and got busy.

After creating a synopsis file, I opened the latest version of Four on Kyrios and began reading it. After refreshing myself with the chapter, I wrote one or two sentences about what it was about. I did so chapter after chapter. One paragraph typically captured a flow of events about what the characters were doing, where they were doing it, and results. I resisted doubts and over-thinking it while I was doing it.

I won’t lie, working intensely, it took me most of a week to write. Did I do it right? I don’t know. As with everything, I learned what I could and applied the knowledge and tried to do the best that I could. As with everything else in life, that’s all that I can ever do.

Got my coffee in hand. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

April Showers 1921

I wrote about a new novel that came to me in a dream the other night (“Spinning Up”). One unmentioned aspect was the newly conceived novel’s cover. I saw it in the dream. The cover felt and looked so real and substantial to me that I was nonplussed. The title, April Showers 1921, was embossed gold letters on a silver cover. It seemed so real that I looked up the title to determine if that book already existed. Without surprise, I found songs, books, and short stories called April Showers, but none had the 1921 addition, and none featured silver and gold covers. I seem safe with it.

I’ve worked on April Showers 1921 some since dreaming about it, fleshing out characters, setting, and writing some scenes, but I didn’t throw myself into it. After two days of that, I wondered, why not? I realized that indecision caused by my greatest weakness, over-analysis, was paralyzing me once again.

It’s a familiar scenario. I overthink something. That drains my resources, and I stop making progress until I resolve what I’m overthinking.

Naturally, this paralysis is all founded on a writing issue, specifically — this time — finding an agent for the Incomplete States series. I think I’ve identified several potential agents. I narrowed my search to one lucky agent. I’ve written a synopsis and query letter. That’s where I stopped.

The Incomplete States series employs several styles. In terms of recent books, it reminds me of Cloud Atlas. My series science-fiction infused, but its mostly literary, except the first novel has a science-fiction military noir feel to it. Fantasy flares strong in another book, while yet another has the sensibility of historic fiction.

Yes, I enjoy genre B&B – bending and blending – whether I’m reading or writing it.

On a side note, the great and all-knowing Internet says, don’t mention any of the rest of the series when seeking representation and publication of the first book.

For grins, I hunted down the rejection records for successful writers. I’ve followed this path before, so it’s very familiar to me.

J.K. Rowling. Her Harry Potter series was rejected twelve times, you know. Dr. Suess was rejected twenty-seven times before he found a publisher willing to take a chance on his Cat in the Hat book. The author of  The Martian, Andy Weir, had given up on being published, but kept writing and self-published. When The Martian found success, publishers came running. Kathryn Stockett, The Help, was rejected over sixty times. Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, had twenty-six rejections. Catch-22, Joseph Heller, twenty-two rejections. Twenty for William Goldberg, The Lord of the Flies. Carrie, by Stephen King, was rejected thirty times. Pretty amazing was that Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, experienced over one hundred rejections. After she self-published and had success, publishers came calling, and her novel was made into a movie starring Julianne Moore, who won an Oscar for her performance.

There was also Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, over five times, and Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, rejected one hundred twenty-one times.

Reading about these rejections is invigorating and inspiring. You gotta have hope, optimism, belief, and determination. You gotta keep writing for the love of writing.

Writing about my paralysis cleared matters up and broke the log jam. (I now have a featured image of logs floating through my mind.) I’m ready to submit. (Ha, ha, I love how that can have multiple meanings.) All they can do is say no, right?

The day is full of promise. I got my coffee. Time to submit, and then write and edit like crazy, at least one more time.

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