Let me tell you my publication story

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.


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Filed under Myths and Truths for writers

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