Posts Tagged ‘Writing books’
I’m reading “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett. 802 pages long, the first in his trilogy about the 20th century. Since he is 62, I suspect this trilogy will take years of research and writing, and may be his swan song after a long, successful career that began with “Eye of the Needle” when he was 27. Prior to this, he had already published five books before striking the mother lode. He is one of those dedicated, working writers who can now choose to write the books that he wants to.
After reading about him, I ask myself, What if I had stayed on the writing path that I started on when I was 12? Would I now be a recognized author? Maybe, but I would have spent my life doing something that I loved. While I also loved my advertising career, the difference is that I worked for others to promote other people’s products rather than my own.
When I was 12, and reluctantly living in Mexico (after being informed that we were not going home to England), I sat down at my mother’s Remington and typed my first book, “The Glass Stag.” 240 pages, double-spaced. Then I revised and rewrote it three times. My next book came at 13 (considered and rejected by MacMillan as excellent but no audience for a book written by a teenager). At 14, I joined an adult read and critique group, where I wrote my third book.
I knew for certain that I would become a writer.
Then why did I stray from that path?
Young love, having fun, moving, a career, New York and London took over my life. Until I was 21 and in a dull marketing job where I wrote lots of poetry. One day, I looked out of the filthy office window and thought, Is this how I want to spend my life? I quit, typed scripts at the BBC part-time for a living, and spent several months writing a book. This time, I was on track.
Until the day I met the love of my love who whisked me off for a year of high style living and travel before we broke up.
Back I went to a high-flying job as PR for an airline (pun intended) until marriage and a kid led me back to the corporate world and to Mexico, another marriage, another child, and then as a single mother supporting my kids.
Once, a friend from my first read and critique group, who had published several books, took the manuscript written years before in London to his top New York agent who got all excited about it. “Just clean it up and send it back,” he asked. It was a week before my second marriage, I was about to start a new job, and I had a two-year old to look after. The timing was off. I never did.
Fast forward to forced early retirement from advertising, a failed business, and the urge to create came back. In a golden four and a half months, I typed out (yes, an electric typewriter) the first draft of my opus, “Recognition.” As I rewrote 2nd and 3rd drafts, I supported myself with part-time work teaching English and selling my belongings. The agent from before, one of New York’s best, agreed to read it twice, both times sending me encouraging rejection letters. Over the following years, I wrote another seven drafts, joined several writing groups, and often followed up on comments made by agents in the numerous rejection letters. My first chapter won an award. But after seven years with “Recognition,” I wasn’t getting anywhere. So I stuck it in the closet.
I wrote another first draft of a novel, and a personal memoir (five drafts) that everyone, except for me, in three writing groups praised and loved. I was a weekly newspaper columnist and had shorter pieces published.
Next, inspired by Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed”, I took a Writers Digest book proposal course. When I approached several agents, they all wanted to see the book. For several years, while working freelance as a Hispanic report writer, I wrote “Don’t Hang Up!” Initial response from agents: great book, excellent writing, current and relevant theme, “but you need credentials for a publisher to be interested in it.”
An impasse of sorts until online opportunities unfolded before me.
Another writers’ conference and I knew where I was going: Found a small publisher willing to publish my book if I’d promote it. Put up my website, contacted a publicist, ready to go, and …
Hit by the economic downturn that depleted my resources, left me jobless again. And book less.
However, I still had a blog so I decided to make a go of that. Try to create interest in “Don’t Hang Up!” and then publish it.
I became addicted to blogging, not so much writing posts as to reading other people’s blogs and commenting on them. Many blogs inspired me or filled me with such enthusiasm that comments flowed, and I’d spend the better part of a week happily blogging.
I realized I’d lost my focus.
I wasn’t looking for or doing much work.
I got hustling and found freelance work. A lot.
That issue solved.
The other, my writing has been on hold. Meanwhile, several friends have published their books. Where am I with mine? What have I done to get it published? Too busy blogging.
Do I want to be a blogger or a book writer?
I already asked this question in a blog post months before, “Out to Sea. To Blog or Not to Blog.”
The answer is right in front of me.
I’ll never have the time or experience to aspire to reach Ken Follett’s level.
However, I do have two finished and edited memoirs, one first draft, and the outline for a trilogy that starts with “Recognition” (needs another go round/editing).
For me, at 68, time is at a premium.
So I’d better get going – and fast – with my writing.
And I can’t let life and work get in the way again.
Photo credit: Jacob Tron
Is it taking you years to achieve your goal?
Or much longer than you envisioned when you started out.
Only a few of us ever make it on our first try, and many, not even on our second, third, fourth or more attempts.
So how long should we keep going before giving up?
It depends on how much we believe in our dreams and goals, and wanting them badly enough to battle for them. It depends on our determination and perseverance.
It depends on treating every setback as another learning experience rather than as another defeat.
And ultimately, it depends on never losing sight of what we want to achieve.
The Spider That Wouldn’t Give Up.
The quote, “Try, try, and try again,” comes from a legend about the 14th century King of Scotland, Robert the Bruce, and a spider.
After Robert the Bruce was defeated for the sixth time by the King of England, he fled and hid in a cave. He lay there, ready to give up all hope, when a spider caught his eye. It was hanging by a long silvery thread from one of the wooden beams above his head, and trying to swing itself to another beam. It tried again and again, failing each time. Six times.
Robert thought, “I too have failed six times in my fight for Scotland. But if this spider succeeds the next time, I will try once more to regain my kingdom.”
The spider swung again – and on its seventh attempt, it succeeded.
Robert the Bruce threw off his despair and went on to battle the English and eventually, won at the Battle of Bannockburn.
He regained his kingdom – all because of one spider that wouldn’t give up.
This story’s premise holds true in almost any battle in our lives. Robert the Bruce’s success followed a series of failures. The same can happen to any of us – if we’re willing to try again and again and have the courage to look beyond failure.
My own story is not a success story – yet.
“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.” ~Author Unknown
Youthful dreams vs. adult reality
I wrote my first, full-length novel – 240 typed double spaced pages – when I was 12. And rewrote it twice. I dreamed of the day when I’d become a famous writer.
At 14, I wrote my second novel. It was “considered” by MacMillan but rejected because a book written by a young adult would not find an audience. Years later, “Eragon” written by 16 year old Christopher Paolini would become both a bestseller and a hit movie.
I wrote my third novel at 16. I still hope to get it published – some day.
When I was 22, I started another book, but gave it up to travel around Europe. Several years later, a published friend showed the first chapters to his agent at William Morris. I received a note saying it was magnificent, and to clean it up and send him the rest.
This happened one week before I was married, two weeks before I started a new job, and a month before my three-year old started pre-school.
Instead, I shoved my manuscript into a box in a closet where it remained for the next quarter century.
The long road to nowhere.
In my early fifties, I pulled out the yellowed pages of my unfinished manuscript from its box. I’d revive my “magnificent” book and this time, it would be published. I wrote a whole new draft in four months on a manual typewriter. Once more, I dreamed mt childhood dream and that my novel would become a blockbuster.
My “blockbuster” required tons of research, dedication, brushing up on craft, and editing with a read and critique group. I spent five years working on it – ten drafts – until it was in good enough shape, I thought, to look for an agent. Rejection letters piled up, including from the same agent who had loved it years before.
Reality set in. So the book went back into the closet.
In the next years, I wrote three more books. I received the best rejection letters (one, two-pages handwritten) ever, but no takers, for one of my non-fiction books.
The computer age had changed everything. More people than ever were writing books. Agents, inundated with query letters, seldom had time for unknown authors. You had to go to a conference to meet them. And publishers were accepting fewer books.
In the decade of 2000, the publishing world experienced a radical change.
The way I’d hoped/expected to be published, the traditional route, seemed barred for me.
I’d missed the boat. Time to give up.
There’s still a way – just not the way I envisioned
Then I thought about all the people who had encouraged me and believed in me over the years. All the work and the sacrifices I’d made to become a good writer.
I thought about my father who, when he died, left an attic full of finished manuscripts.
No, I couldn’t give up. Or better said, I’d come too far to give up.
So I’m still at it, as anyone reading this blog can see. I’m learning as much as I can about this, for me, daunting new world of Social Media, and focusing on my non-fiction book, “Don’t Hang Up!”
And what about that all important novel?
I’ll be damned if I let it wither again on my closet shelf again.
If I don’t lose sight of my goal, it will find a publisher. Of that, I am certain.
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