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.
It always seems impossible until it’s done.
So a while ago, I finished Origins, and I received some excellent feedback on the manuscript from a Beta reader I’ve been looking forward to reading my story. I’ve worked on it, but now I’m in the process of submissions for this manuscript. Which includes a lot of waiting — the hardest part for me. I am not the most patient person, but I am learning how to be.
Beyond the pain of waiting is the pain of feeling like you’ll never succeed. I realized as I checked my email for the millionth time in a single day, that I was feeding into the wolf of insecurity. I could focus on what might happen, or I could turn my energies into the arts of creation. Whether that be through jewelry making or writing or what. It is hard because I am my own worst enemy. I tell myself that I am not good enough and I’ll never succeed and get what I dreamed.
I AM good enough. I need to stop feeding the wolf of insecurity and feeding a different wolf. So whenever I’ve found myself riddled with doubt, I’ve focused on a new story, new world idea. I get two weeks off from work, so I’m going to spend that time researching all submission avenues now that I have successfully written my synopsis over the weekend as well as spending time world building.
I have a tablet I got last Christmas, and I’m going to use that to draw out my maps and flesh out this new world. I’m excited!
Oh and I’ll probably play copious amounts of WoW. It will, however, be a good time for my brain to recharge and formulate new words and new worlds.
I don’t have much this week! Life’s been pretty quiet other than getting ready for Christmas, buying Christmas gifts, ordering chainmaille (which I still need to do) for Christmas gifts and playing with kitties.
What else can I say is going on? Not much other than I’m that crazy person that’s gotten back on the ‘watch what you eat’ train in the middle of the MOST delicious month of the year. I’m an insane person, I know.
Nothing new to report on the novel front. I’m still figuring things out and have one more person reading the book. The very same person who’s read each iteration from terrible to the final, finished product. Not to say the final is perfect — far from, but at this point, I think it’s as perfect as it can be without getting more eyes on it.
I’m terrified. I’m excited.
So here’s a cat picture, because my life revolves around cats.
Is it true? Could I be done? I am not sure. I finished the latest book rewrite/edits based on beta feedback, and I feel like the story is more solid. It feels weird to be ‘done’ and not stressing about finding time to write. I’ve got other project ideas, but nothing is grabbing me at the moment. I have given the latest revision to a few folks to read, and I’m curious what the response will be this time. In part, I’m studiously ignoring what must happen next: querying, deciding whether or not I want to try for an agent, or what. The industry changes rapidly, and that gets scary to think about. So I sit with my head in the sand, wondering if I’m going to convince myself the book isn’t worthy to avoid putting it out there for others to see.
I have a few other ideas, though, and I swore I’d know what project I wanted to pick up next after the rush of Thanksgiving… but I find myself dithering. On the one hand, I want a change of pace. I want to explore a different story with different characters and possibly a lighter side. I don’t know if I can pull off humor, but I’d like to try. On the other hand, I want to explore what happens to Cimin and the others as they traverse the next leg of their adventure.
The point is, no matter what happens next, I have finished what I set out to do. I persevered and didn’t quit when it felt like it was never going to get better. I still feel like I’m peddling horse manure, but I’m reassured that that’s not the case.
It’s time to jump off the comfort train of rewriting a book and see how it fares in the large, wild world of the unknown.
Damn, that scares the hell out of me.
I always have grand ideas to write or to plot, plan, and finish things when I travel. I’ll have all this time, I tell myself, surely I can get it all done. Invariably, I overestimate the amount of viable available time I do have. I usually stay up too late, sleep too late, and get so out of whack on my internal schedule that I rarely feel like doing anything other than playing WoW or reading a book. Not to mention, I’m here visiting family, and that takes priority over everything else. So while my time off isn’t as productive as I’d like, I am getting the exposure of the past. Memories are powerful. They shape us, mold us, remind us of the history that has sliced into our hearts and soul. Surrounded as I am by the memories of the past, it helps me give life to a story I want to tell. Sitting at the table with my mother, I can feel Cimin’s pain anew when she loses hers, and I thank God that what I wrote is fiction.
So I suppose in that way that the trip has been productive. The little details of our lives are what bring them into sharp relief. The smells that surround a particular moment. The feel of the fabric beneath the fingertips. The ache of missing home while dreading leaving the place you’re visiting.
We embarked on a journey to my aunt’s house. It’s like tripping down the lanes of the past and rifling through the old bones of memories. As a child, you see things and make up the stories around them without understanding the complexities of human nature. You make misconceptions and jump to the wrong conclusions and believe that your world is safe and free of darkness. That isn’t always true, and the monsters you do believe in aren’t always really monsters. As a child, the mistakes an adult makes is ground-breaking, heart-wrenching, but as an adult, it’s easy to see the steps that lead to the choices people make.
This trip is good for me in so many ways. Not only am I visiting and reconnecting with family but I’m reminded of the intricacies of the human spirit. The resilience of life after death and the will to go on and enjoy life. The world isn’t as rosy as we view it as a child, but it’s not as dark as it can feel like an adult. I will hold onto some of that innocence I had as a child where houses were magical, and people were wonderful beyond belief.
All of this will help shade the story I will write for the ending is nigh, and the ending is the hardest part. Not because I do not know where to go, but because the path it must go is difficult. Hearing the stories of relatives of the past, of what they went through, I know that it is possible to lose everything and still hold onto the resiliency of hope. I also have a better understanding of how important a driving connection can be.
I am a sponge that soaks up these shades of emotion, remembers them, so that I may craft them later into the people who have become larger than life in my thoughts.
Many lessons I have learned from this trip.