It's been four years since those fateful early morning hours when Matthew appeared on the road and I began the process of giving life to an idea. Err...Matthew Buchanan's idea, thank you very much. Much has happened since, I have skinned my knees and elbows a few times, but most of all I have gained immeasurable respect for the men and women who are invested in this half-insane craft.
So, what's the big deal, you ask?
I didn't have a writer friendly job. My desk was not on terra firma, and I did not keep the usual nine-to-five hours.
Of course not.
I flew for an international carrier, with assignments that would take me, literally, around the world. Add to the days away from husband and home, the dreaded time change, plus the residual physical effects of constant swing shifts without rhyme or reason, and I'm getting awfully close to describing the schedule from hell.
In order to accomplish my goal, I had to steal moments to compose my very first, ultra-wordy draft. I had researched high and low, read several books on the era, taken unending notes, and wanted to be so accurate, that unknowingly, I had begun my version of the Bible, circa 1960's. No one explained I wasn't supposed to torture my readers with endless research minutiae. All that information was my protective barrier against using embarrassing, incorrect details. Period.
Ah, but my mind was a beehive of activity, the inspired thoughts would pop in the middle of a flight, sometimes during lengthy sit times—airline lingo for connecting times in-between flights—or during a full service. Without wasting a second, I would eagerly jot down the thought in a napkin, the back of my printed schedule, or even a leftover menu so I wouldn't forget. The minute I dragged my exhausted body through the door, I'd toss the bags aside, kissed my sleeping husband, and rushed to the computer to type my brilliant, Pulitzer prize-winning idea.
The following morning, the outstanding paragraph read like gibberish. First lesson learned, never write anything while your brain is in Teflon mode, which is its normal state after long hours of flying. I know renowned authors in the past have written masterpieces while under the effects of drugs and other mind-altering substances. Coleridge, Kerouac, and Kesey to name a few, but I'm not one of them. To my dismay, I had to backtrack, try to understand the previous night's hieroglyphics and fix them so they made a bit more sense.
Second lesson learned, The End translates to = you're just getting started.
By the way, the RWA's local chapters are a wealth of information. No kidding. Whenever possible, they bring to their meetings special speakers who can enlighten the members with the latest craft trends. This is how I found my first editor. I had struck gold. She was affordable and excited to work with my project. Alas, is was not to be (insert frown here). An unexpected illness forced her to back out and I was left with a new search. Once again, the RWA came to the rescue — I don't want to give the impression the RWA is as powerful as Mighty Mouse — but they have resources. Through one of their on-line seminars, I found a wonderful new editor. However, the poor woman was appointed with the unenviable task of explaining I had entered re-writing territory.
There is a world of difference between writing cute essays and stories that will never see the light of day, versus writing a manuscript with dreams of publication. Here I lost my writing innocence, part one. We worked on and off over three months, slashing, editing out the excess, verifying dates and historical events, polishing dialog tags, and superfluous commentary. Finally, we crafted a svelte manuscript of 125,000 words. In my less than expert opinion, this size 8 beauty, would be easier to sell. My editor liked it, I liked it, my beta readers liked it, even my pickiest beta reader was happy...then everything came to a screeching halt.
Third lesson learned, the "ideal" manuscript size for a newbie is 85,000 words. That is the magic number, people.
What happened to that writers' axiom: tell your story, forget the market?
I had visions of The Devil Wears Prada, when is thin, thin enough? The rejections piled, one after another, the language had changed from, no thank you, to encouraging letters, nevertheless, no is still no. Once your agents' spread sheet fills with red ink, you begin to lose hope, and you have no remaining knee and elbow skin untouched.
End of the road.
Wait! There's one avenue still available: go indie. Sounds easy? Not so fast. This is where I am. Here I've lost my writing innocence part two while gaining illumination. Yes folks, the light is upon me, in fact, it's so bright I'm half blind, but now I understand. I finally comprehend why so many outstanding writers sit in the dark, linger in the world of unknown oblivion, while they wait for that elusive and fickle opportunity. The heavenly call from the literary agent who will open the golden doors to a contract and publication.
I used to think it was fear of the indie stigma that stopped them. "Ugh, you're a self-published author." Nope, they fear something greater, a bigger evil, far more difficult than writing a book, two books, three books back to back. A monster that requires all the energy you can muster to defeat it, because if you don't you'll never write another word again. I guarantee it.
I give you: self-promotion.
Wish me good luck.