As I gradually wade into the waters of the writing life, each step becomes less timid and more confident than the last. I look back at those few baby steps behind me, barely making an imprint in the sand, and I wonder–now that I’m ankle-deep—-if the arm floats I’m wearing will turn into iron shackles when I submerge myself further. I see a raft in the distance, beckoning me with its promises. When you’re ready to discard the last of your computer software chains, I imagine it saying, I’ll be here, waiting for you to embark on a ride through uncharted waters. But I won’t let you fall.
I’ve recently discovered that my writing goes more smoothly when I have several projects going simultaneously. If only I had learned that years ago! Here’s what I have in the works:
I completed the first draft of my first novel, The Cornflake Girl (still a tentative title for reasons I’ll explain), in May 2012. The second draft was completed three months later. Only then, in my backwards way of doing things, did I begin studying the craft of writing and the business of publishing. I quickly learned that my novel breaks all kinds of rules. There are three protagonists, one of whose likeability is questionable, and there is no tangible antagonist. There are parts of the story that I think are well-written and thoughtful but don’t necessarily move the story along. The title character is only one of the protagonists and for the first one-third of the book, she is only seen by another character, rather than being part of the action. It’s about so many different things that I’ve had a hard time explaining to people what it’s about. So it definitely needs an overhaul. All of these facets, combined with a common piece of writing advice, add up to my decision to shelve it – for now. The aforementioned advice, which I’ve read from several accomplished authors, is that if your first novel breaks a lot of rules, you should consider not submitting it for publication until you have some credits under your belt.
I began my second novel, Peer through Time, in June 2012. It’s a sequel to the first book so it shares the same predicament, but I’m early enough in the process that it should be salvageable. I’ve learned that it’s not unheard of for the second book in a series to be released prior to its prequel. This story is about a woman who grew up during the latter part of the 21st century and is sent back in time to the early 20th century where she must learn to live without all the technology she’s come to rely on. Meanwhile, back in her own time – the future – acquaintances of her adoptive mother are dying from what appear to be mysterious freak accidents. It’s all connected but I’m still working out the details.
In an effort to get some necessary publishing credits on my resume, I’ve taken the advice of my favorite science fiction author, Robert J. Sawyer, and started submitting short stories to magazines. The first one is titled Inauguration of the Hillbot, written during September and October 2012. It’s a near-future tale about a new mode of urban transportation that might endanger its passengers due to faulty testing procedures. It features a minor character from my novels-in-progress, who has a secret about this standalone event that takes place between books 1 and 2. I’ve submitted it to some magazines and I am currently waiting out the average response time, which is five weeks to three months. I know to expect rejection and will continue to submit to other publications.
My second short story was begun in late October 2012. Loneliness in the Late 21st Century examines whether technological advances that keep us connected to each other will evolve so much that loneliness is eradicated, becoming a notion from the past. Inspiration can come from unlikely sources: I was reading a thriller that had little to do with anything I was writing, but one sentence about someone being lonely sparked the idea. I’ve always written in the past tense and have been irked by stories written in the present tense: ‘he says’ instead of ‘he said.’ But it’s a grievance without rationale, so I’m challenging myself to write this one in the present tense. It’s working and I’m less bothered by it now.
Another short-story idea is tumbling around in my head; this one has to do with memory loss. As a society, we are already storing information in computers (or the cloud) that we formerly stored in our heads: phone numbers, for instance. As technology advances to the point where we can back up our memories, perhaps it won’t be a pill that solves Alzheimer’s disease and other types of memory loss. Maybe it will resolve itself as a by-product of the technology we’re developing for other reasons.
Then there’s my blog: the one you’re reading. An author’s blog ideally has a central theme. In my “weblog for miscellaneous thoughts,” each topic is different from the previous one. Another rule-breaker. But this is not my author blog, which doesn’t yet exist; it’s just my first attempt at an outlet for some writings that don’t have a home elsewhere. My mildly rebellious literary nature might be the very thing that prevents my initial success—-but might later prove valuable for its non-typicality. I can hope.
Many times I’ve been very close to giving up and relegating this dream to the archives along with so many other roads started but ultimately not taken: architecture; gymnastics; and computer programming, to name a few. But one of the most common pieces of author advice I’ve come across is this, or its many variations: Don’t give up. Keep going. The only way to guarantee your failure is to give up. It’s true: I guaranteed my failure in those other endeavors by not following through with them, continually dropping one interest in pursuit of another.
I take one more step into the water and my fear of drowning decreases just a little bit. The raft is waiting. Where it will take me, I have no idea. I don’t even know with certainty that I’ll reach it. Perhaps it looks sturdy but is really just a cheap, thin rectangle of plastic from the dollar store, its promises nothing more than imaginary. But I won’t know until I take several more steps; until the ground beneath me retreats and I risk sinking while envisioning the potential rewards brought forth by swimming.