It’s funny. When I started this blog, I had little idea of what I wanted to put here. Then I ran across an article in one of the Writer’s Market books. In it, the author was talking about “how do you know when to quit?”. He proposed that a person might be best served by writing a novel a year for ten years, and at the end of each year sending the finished novel out and moving to the next one. If, after ten novels and ten years, you are unpublished, he suggested that then you might consider quitting. Looking back, I’m not sure he, and I say he, because I recall the author being a he, but I’ve donated that book now, so I don’t have it to reference. If I’m wrong, I apologize!, anyway, he probably knew that by the time a person got a few years and books in, they would likely never think of quitting. When I first read the article, however, I thought “okay, I can do that. And then I’ll know if I’m no good at all.”
I’m technically two years into that plan. I’ve learned a ton (not the least of which was that hey, I can write a novel). And the plan no longer works for me. This blog was originally my ‘ten in ten’ record. Now it has evolved to something else. It’s just about me, as a writer and my plans to make a living (and a good one, hopefully) at writing fiction.
I had some funny realizations at the Dean Wesley Smith workshops I went to, things I have spent the last few weeks processing. One was that even a year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to get all I got out of that experience. It would have terrified me, froze me up. Not because a year ago I felt that differently than I do now (I still feel like a rank amateur and imposter). I’m not even sure why or what changed. Somewhere I got serious about this. And even I hadn’t realized that until the end of the week when a bunch of us at the workshop were sitting around and Dean asked if anyone was actually following completely Heinlein’s writing rules.
That is the moment it hit me, the moment I’ve been thinking about and using to put everything else about myself as a writer into context.
I am. I am following all of the rules now, almost completely by accident. And I think this is what feels different. A year ago, I wasn’t following the rules. I had a lot of issues making myself mail things out. I mailed some things but not others. I was slow to get stuff back out. I rewrote over and over and over on a few stories, worried that they were “bad” and “not perfect”. I started a few things and had trouble finishing them (the novel currently out on submission, for example). And then somehow I started following the rules. I started pushing myself to finish things, even if they felt “wrong” or “bad”. I gave myself permission to suck. To fail.
And I finished a novel. And I sold a story.
Ever since about October, I’ve been following the rules. Stories that come back go right back out. My novel is out to people who can pay me for it if they so choose (ie editors, not agents). I’m working on five more novels and a bunch of short stories. I finish something, it goes out after a clean up pass. No multiple drafts, no crazy rewriting and agonizing because it isn’t “perfect”.
And that’s how I managed to survive a week surrounded by “real” pros as a complete impostor who sucks (so says the evil voice in my head), and still learned things. I was ready to hear what they all had to say because I’m really doing this. Having a name for it (Heinlein’s Rules), helps. But in the end, it just is a way for me to see that I’m truly working at something and going for what I really want. And that feels really really good.
It’s easy to get discouraged. The downside of having a lot of stuff in the mail is that sometimes I get two or three rejections in a day. It is easy for me to get frustrated and feel like I have no control over anything. That’s why I like rules. I think it is what attracted me to the article about ten novels in ten years. That in a way was someone else saying “do this! see what happens”. Heinlein’s rules are the same way, but without an end date.
I can write and finish what I write. I can rewrite only to editorial order (and only if I agree). I can send what I write out to someone who can pay me for it and keep it out until it sells. I have control over these things. That’s a job description I can live with.
I’m not exactly sure what I’m trying to say in this post is coming across, but basically I’m ditching (have already ditched) the ten in ten idea. I’m going with the unending plan of writing, finishing, mailing. That’s what this blog will be about (and has really been about for a while, even though I was too wrapped up in the process to tell). I’m following a simple set of rules, and I’ve never felt so free. Which isn’t to say there won’t be hiccups, because fear gets me all the time. I imagine that if I start selling more I’ll likely face a whole new set of fears since success has always been one for me (that’s another post for another time, for sure).
So yeah. That’s where I am right now. Now, back to my job. *grin*