I’ll just get it started here.
I’m just one of those people who always wrote. Long narrative poems full of excitable adjectives and labored rhymes when I was ten. Whole novels in pencil about wild horses when I was eight. A rather strange novel a friend said was full of homoerotic subtexts (she didn’t use either of those words but that’s what she meant) when I was sixteen. A lyric prose/poem about my equally strange infatuation when I was twenty-five.
You’re not really going to hear about any of those, so stop salivating.
I had a labor of love. I won’t go into the details (I said don’t salivate). I wrote and wrote on it, version after version, convinced it was a story worth telling, for at least ten years. At one point, I went away for a month to do nothing but write. Wrong. I produced drivel. Of my beloved character, whose voice I had so carefully echoed in a hundred typed pages, a friend and sweetly masochistic reader said, “I got sick of hearing him whine.” Back to wondering what this story was about and why no one loved him like I did. My best reader turned out to be my sister, who said of a later and less annoying draft, “This is a character sketch, not a novel.” Back to drafting. Make some things happen. Let people get killed. Joy.
It came out to 700 pages. It had a wonderful beginning. I knew the day I wrote that first paragraph I had nailed it. It had an existentially tragic and profound ending. I had a feeling I hadn’t nailed that, but I was stubborn. My character’s glorious adventure had to end in an abyss of ironies. Only then could I be writing a great novel.
(Truth #1–or have I already listed some truths?): Endings are HARD.
So I began the Sisyphean task of sending bits of it out to the editors listed in Writers’ Markets. I don’t think in those days one wrote query letters; in any case, I didn’t know I should. You know how that effort ended. You’ve been there.
I don’t begin to remember any of the rejections I got.
Then I discovered writers’ conferences. The next chapter begins.