I’ve been reading a lot of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series. I’ve gone through Way of Kings, bled through Words of Radiance until the end where I cheered. And now I’ve started Oathbringer. All of this since finishing what I felt was the final draft of my book.
As it happens, I was incredibly wrong. On a number of counts, but mainly that I had arrived at my destination. What I will say is that The Stormlight Archives words that need be spoken resonate within me. Well, one phrase.
Journey before destination.
I have gotten so caught up in the destination that I’ve neglected the journey. I have rushed and produced what I now see as an inferior product. I didn’t take time to enjoy the act of crafting — something I DO take time to enjoy when making jewelry or painting. I didn’t take time to consider what I want to be and how I want to be perceived.
Do I want to be a young adult author? Or do I want to be a sci-fi author? Fantasy? What kind of stories do I want to write? What resonates within me?
The answer is never simple and one that’s discovered through journey, not destination. I’d lost sight of that, and focused on “I want to be published! I want to be an author! I will rush to the finish to get what I want!” That never does anyone well, and while I will say that my final product was not terrible, it was not great. It was not discovered through the journey. It was not the best that I could be. It was not worthy of being sent to agents in the hope of finding a champion.
It was the shortest path to a supposed destination I thought I wanted. I don’t want that destination anymore — not that I don’t want to be published, or that I have lost sight of my dream, but that I don’t want a destination I rushed towards.
I feel a bit like Kaladin, in the stories. For his ups and downs resonate so well with me — it is easy to become what Kaladin expresses as the ‘wretch.’ To lie down and give up, to turn into nothingness with nothing battering at the senses. But even my words here are relics of how comprehensive the storytelling is that I can really connect to these characters.
I want to discover that ability on my own. I want to be like Jasnah, owning the world through action and giving not a wit to what others say.
I can do it, I say. I can take the time to journey and relish in the mistakes and missteps I make. I can craft something that may not be magnificent in terms of what else is around it. It will be majestic to me because I will have woven my experiences through it. Maybe my characters will never be as vibrant as some, but they will be as human as I can make them.
It is my first journey. I will never get another like it, and I do my book and myself a disservice by rushing towards it at a speed that denies the ability to experience it.
Thank you, Brandon Sanderson, for your books and your forward at the beginning of Oathbringer for reminding me who I wanted to be. I had lost it, but now I’ve found it.
And to that, I will enjoy every step in the recreation of this book. I will enjoy bringing the characters to life. And it will take as long as it takes, for it is my journey and none others.
So it begins.
What a wild ride the last few weeks have been. I think the hardest part about talking about rejection is the sense of failure that tags along with that concept. It’s hard not to feel like what you tried to do didn’t work out because of some brokenness within the idea or construct. You put yourself out there and what gets returned are words that mash together into a belief of unworthiness.
The first rejection letter I received felt a bit like the mumbling of the parents in the Charlie Brown cartoons. Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah; you’re not good enough.
You’re not good enough to make it. You’re not good enough for success. This project isn’t good enough for us.
Rejection isn’t synonymous with failure, but that’s a hard concept to swallow because that’s not what it feels like. In the case of project completion, it’s most important for me to break the emotion from the business. A project can get rejected for a number of reasons. Not the Right fit, not quite meeting the required specifications, not quite invoking the right need for the target audience, etc. In software development, projects “fail” all the time, though the heart isn’t quite in it as much as something more creative. Code is cold, logical, and can be easily manipulated.
Not the right specs? Change the API.
Full of bugs? Fix the defects.
Not efficient in memory usage? Assess the code and make efficiency updates and load test again.
I understand code. I understand software development. I understand release cycles. I understand working myself to the bone to meet the needs of the business. So I thought I was ready to attempt once again to publish a book. Unfortunately, comparing software development with book publishing is like saying that because I can fly in an airplane that I’m ready to take off from the ground.
It’s a different beast. It feels like more of the heart and soul go into crafting a story that people may love or hate. Software is ultimately a tool to be used or something that makes life easier. It solves a problem.
That is the inherent difference (at least for me) between the two aspects of my life. Writing requires the same amount of work to perfect the craft and the same level of effort in terms of producing a product, but it carries with it this idea of subjective judgment. A book is good or bad, not only because of the linear mechanics of its plotline but also on how people enjoy it.
What I had to do was separate the feeling of failure with the positive outcome of rejection. Why was I rejected? I didn’t entirely understand (rejection doesn’t always come with specifics), but I had a good idea.
So I tackled the problem like it was a software defect. I identified the potential weak points. I did more research on better ways to build a well-crafted story. I tore apart my work and rebuilt it using the broken remains of the old elements.
Now, I have a plan. More importantly, I am beyond (almost) the hurt of that rejection. From the fires of rejection has arisen a greater desire to succeed, and to build something not just acceptable. Not just good, but as exceptional as I can make it.
I had strung all of these false expectations on myself and the project. False requirements — I needed to be done in X timeframe. I needed to make sure I had it submitted in a rush to publications. — created a storm of rewriting that lead me down a road full of many-faceted lessons.
What does this all mean? It means I have some work to do, but I have reformed my expectations as well. I will enjoy the process as much as I can but will continue to persevere and move forward.
So my goals are simple: rework the weak elements of the plot, create a more engaging world, simplify the overcomplicated components, and add more complexity to the aspects that come off too simplistic. When I am done, I will find an agent (hopefully) that will further enhance my understanding of not only the book world but navigating what makes a book stand out from others around it.
In the beginning, I was unsure of the direction I wanted to take. It is difficult in this day of changing technology to know what path to take. Self-publish? Indie publish? Get an agent?
I feel that until I understand better what this marketplace is and what I need to do to craft a better book, I need a partnership. And I hope that I can find that within an agent who can bring about even more refinement to my writing.
I may never find a publishing house for this story, but if that day comes, I can let the book rest knowing that I did as much as I could.
In comparison to the fervor of last year, where everything was moving quickly, and change was happening at an incredible pace… the new year has felt strange. Good, in some ways. I finally have time to relax and enjoy the things I’ve worked hard for, but off-kilter, because there aren’t deadlines. There aren’t things that have to be done immediately.
Now I wait. I’m waiting for a lot of things. Namely, for an upcoming trip to Japan. I’m getting excited about that, although, I’m worried a little bit about my passport. I hate waiting for critical things, but I can’t hurry the government or the USPS.
The hardest part of anticipation is maintaining that level of inner emotional churn. The questions born of excitement: What if I…? When will I…? How will I…? Did I forget something? How long as it been since I last checked…?
I am not good with patiently waiting. It’s something I’m working on because life is as much about waiting as it is about doing. I’ve been filling my time with copious amounts of World of Warcraft, as well as some crafts I got for Christmas. Painting, knitting, attempted crocheting (miserably, but I’ll learn!); I have projects in each, in different stages of finish. I also want to amp up my jewelry making, too. I miss making it, but I’ve found myself short of attention span these days. It is the beast of anticipation, gnawing away at the wall of my resolve.
Two months. It haunts me, this timeframe. Will I have enough time to get everything done that I need to? I have wasted so much time already but will continue to waste more. Time can seem both abundant and extinct; at once I’m flush with free time to do the things I want to do, and yet, I find myself wondering where it all went. How did I get as far into the new year as I did?
I’m in-between writing projects, hesitating to move forward in case I must go back. An idea is percolating in my thoughts, dripping into half-formed ideas. I hope to use my trip to Japan this year to fuel the creativity beast within and formulate a unique story.
It’s a different story from the last one. A different world crafted of … what? I am not sure. I only have half-formed thoughts and ideas. What do I want to tell? I am not sure, but it grows within me.
Whatever world is getting built, it grows brighter each day. One day, I’ll know it, and I’ll know the stories within it.
And one day, the story that’s meant to be told will be born with the birth of the one expected to live it.