… A mini course on what not to do.
By guest blogger Tricia Sutton
It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s read all or parts of my novel that I began writing it on April Fool’s Day, 2007. Nor should they be surprised it was one writing-on-steroids April Fool’s Day later that I completed the first draft. After all, my story is about several comical characters who are a few straws short of a haystack. So the April Fools-like pattern was befitting. I gave myself until the next April Fools to revise and be query ready.
We now approach April Fools, 2011 (shamefully, I’ll wait while you do the math). I speculate The Gods of Tricks and Foolery have played one upon me by replacing my steroids with tranquilizers. A warning to you all not to begin important life projects on April Fools—add Friday the 13th, too.
I have no fear of writing. I have Fear of Finishing. Fear of Failure. Fear of Success. Friend of Sabotage.
I write most days—whatever my ailing back and eye fatigue will allow—but my biggest setback is called I-Know-Too-Much. I call the glorious first year of writing my novel, The Year of No Internet. The second year I discovered agent blogs and their wealth of information, subscribed to a few, began a blog of my own. By the third year, I was in deep. I subscribed to every literary blog known to man, learned my genre was/is passé, and learned the demand for writers plummeted while the supply of them skyrocketed. According to their blogs, agents were inundated with more queries than ever before and had become even pickier with acceptances.
I have stick-to-itiveness. I persevered. But I slowed down. While it’s nice to be informed, there are only so many “Don’t quit your day job,” “The odds of acceptances are slimmer than winning PowerBall,” and “You’ll fail” messages a person can take before they finally believe it.
Couple negativity with my aversion to long-term gratification and you get burnout. Thoughts like “is it all for nothing?” crept up on me like a growing mold. And distractions like “life” made it easy to put my novel on the sidelines without, ya know, better odds. Give me incentive, and I’ll give you eight novel-focused writerly hours a day.
I know. What kind of writer am I? Shouldn’t writers love writing just for themselves? Is it wrong to write to be read? Money’s a plus, but I want to be read. Right now. Right now’s a challenge when I’m clearly off my timetable, publishing and genre-wise. Character-driven/family stories/coming-of-age is out. YA paranormal is in.
With chances so slim, what’s a writer like me to do? Well for starters, I gave up for about a week in ’09. Then I said, Okay, this is it. Send out an excerpt to some magazines to test the waters. If an editor publishes it, you have the validation you need to finish your book. If not, nobody’ll like it, get a day job. So I did. And they did.
And I said, That was a fluke. Do it again. And I did. And they did. And I did it again. And so on until I had ten published excerpts to show for it and several more on submission. Yay for me, right? Wrong.
I woke up from my I’ll-never-make-it-in-this-business-so-why-try coma and said, “Hey, enough already.” Putting off success or failure, either way I was putting it off. I want my book published, but publishing was getting in the way. So I’m putting a moratorium on magazine submissions for now. I’ve unsubscribed to industry blogs and I’m giving myself until April Fool’s Day, 2011. Or should I wait until the 2nd?
Pictured is Tricia Sutton in her writing jacket—it’s called a robe in some parts—and one of her distractions, Spanky. She’s re-written the beginning of her novel over a hundred times, using at least 99 of the listed 100 Worst Novel Beginnings. By the time she’s finished, they’ll need to expand the list. To see what she’s been doing during The Great Novel-Writing Coma of 2009/10 (and the first month of 2011), visit her publication page.