Saturday, March 25, 2006

Persistence; How Much is Too Much?

If we're trying to publish, persistence is the key. But how much is too much?

I once read an article by a published author (I don't recall his name) who said that during the writing of his first book, his wife left him. He shrugged it off by saying that, "at some point, the novel takes you over, and everything else has to go."

I used to be an entertainer—singing, stand-up, all strictly low-key—and almost all of us in the group I associated with eventually wound up divorced, including myself. It's nice to have ambition and believe you are destined for great things, but how much are you willing to sacrifice for it?

Like all of us, I need to carve time out of my day to satisfy my writing fix. But should I allow my paying job to suffer, risk getting fired, lose my house and my current wife? I like to think I'm doing as much as I can yet still maintain a balance, but I could get my novel finished quicker if I worked in the evenings as well as the mornings, and if I devoted my weekends to studying the markets and writing queries. And, no doubt, I'd find myself alone before too long.

Understanding spouses, partners and friends are essential to the writer, and I suppose you could say that if they don't understand your devotion to writing then you are better off without them. But would you expect the same devotion if you were spending as much time fishing or bowling?

I'm not questioning the need for devotion and persistence, or hinting that my marriage is in trouble (believe me, it is not) I'm just pondering the need for balance. After all, a healthy family/social life is necessary for a writer, unless you want to be the type of writer who writes about writers because they don't know anything else.

Lawrence Block once told a story about a friend of his who thought he might give this writing thing a try. He started a novel and, about three weeks into it, decided it was going pretty well, so he quit his job. Not long after, and not surprisingly, his girlfriend left him. He persisted and turned out a totally horrible book. The second one was awful, too, but the third one was better and the fourth one sold. In the end, he became a successful writer, but at what cost?

These thoughts were prompted by a discussion going on over at Joe's blog about persistence. I think it's certainly a requirement, but I also believe balance is just as important. Otherwise, your success may be hollow, and you may find yourself on top of the mountain all by yourself.

How you do feel about your writing life? Are you willing to take the chance of losing your family, friends or mental health over it?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Trying to write and hold down a full time job isn't easy. But if what I'm reading in these blogs is an accurate reflection of the profession, that's what most writer's do (not unlike actors). According to the advice I read as well, as common sense, carving out a portion of your day to dedicate to writing is a basic and necessary step in being a writer.

I've said before that my day automatically includes up to three hours of writing time, but during busy periods (i.e. the end of the fiscal year) I am on site more often than I am in the office. This involves getting up at 5AM and leaving immediately (I am allowed a shower and a change of clothes, however) for my client's offices. I often don't return home until 6 PM and then have more work to do to prep for the next day. Last weekend, I was up at 5:30 on Saturday and worked straight through until 10 PM. I worked Sunday afternoon as well and, these days, breakfast at the Little Chef en route to the client site (where I used to be able to pull out my AlphaSmart for about 45 minutes) is taken up working on reports and documents for the project.

This is, thankfully, a temporary situation, but it still means two or three weeks where I literally do not have a free minute to do any real writing.

Right now, I'm looking forward to Saturday when, fingers crossed, I shouldn't have to work and can spend the day catching up on my novel instead.

What do other full-time job/write when you can authors do to carve out writing time when life conspires to take it all away?

Gotta run, now. It's 6:30 and I'm late for the office.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Query Phase

Interesting to be out of the re-writing and polishing stage and into the query phase.

Writing the query and synopsis was a grind but now, at least, I can send it out without wondering if it could be better (although I have already thought of some tweaks for future mailings).

Postcards... is in good shape, so I don't have to worry about that, either. If (when) an agent agrees to see it, I won't have to worry about that, either. It's a good, polished manuscript; it just needs a chance.

I'm still in the early stages, sending out queries to those agents who accept them via e-mail. The advantage of that is I can be rejected on the same day that the query goes out. Modern technology; you gotta love it.

The overall best thing about this is I am no longer divided. My novel is now the only thing on the front burner and the time spent polishing Postcards... helped put Chapter Four into perspective. Time to get back to work.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Into the Unknown

I was just over at Joe's blog and he was equating writing while not knowing what you are doing (i.e. not having an outline) to being shoved into the outfield while having no knowledge of baseball.

Boy, can I relate to that. Not because I don't use outlines (I do) but because I spent a lot of time in high school standing in the outfield with borrowed glove on my hand wondering what the heck I was going to do if the ball came my way. The bad part of that story is, I never got any better at baseball; I hope that doesn't hold true for my current activities.

With the writing and polishing and tweaking of Postcards . . . suddenly behind me I find myself in the awkward position of having to market it and I really, really suck at that. No, really, I do.

I did manage to find about 50 agents I can send it to, but I want to send a good query/proposal/synopsis/manuscript and not come off like the amateur I am. (I'm not sure how to pull that off when I can't point to other books I have published; it's like not being able to get a job because you don't have any experience but you can't get any experience until someone hires you.)

The secret, I suppose, is not worrying about the areas you can't do anything about (i.e. not having a list of previously published books) and concentrate on those areas you have control over (e.g. query letters, presentation, manuscript).

And there is no secret to that; there are dozens of books in the stores and lots of helpful advice in the blogsphere. It's mostly a matter of studying up on what you need to do until you know how to do it. Easy as snagging a fly ball.

I'm doomed.