Do It Your Way
Some of you have given up on me. You’ve quit asking “How’s the writing going?” You’ve even stopped asking, “Are you still writing?” Honestly, I don’t blame you.
I gave up my law practice in 2001. At the turn of the century. Fourteen years ago. Fourteen years. In that time, I’ve published a lot. A lot. You can read all about it on my Achievements page if you want. I’ve also won awards. A lot of awards. You can read about that on the same page.
I have not published a novel.
When I began my writing career, I thought this was the trajectory. Hallelujah—you’re getting short stories published. And essays. Winning awards. Getting your first book published. Now you can impress an agent with your resume. Have a major house publish your novel.
But when I got involved with writing novels, I began serpentining. I wrote a novel. And another. And another. That kept up for five novels. I began sending them to an editor. She gave me feedback. I sent her another novel, and revised a different novel while she was working on her review. Or wrote a new novel. Which I then sent to her for review. I have now written seven novels; she has reviewed five.
This is not a straight line trajectory.
I felt this was the route for me.
Today, the editor sent me her Reader’s Report on my latest submission. Usually, she chitchats in the cover letter and gives a synopsis of her reaction to the novel. This time, she basically said, I’ll let the Reader’s Report speak for itself. I thought, well, she must really hate it. She wants to keep her negative feedback in the professional realm of the Reader’s Report.
I couldn’t blame her. I’d taken a real risk with this novel. It features Mary the mother of Jesus and, yes, Jesus too—back on earth to deal with the evil of a new, supercharged private prison. Plus, structurally, I’d played around. Offered stand-alone chapters that asked the reader to hang in with me—time would explain them. Religious irreverence, political bomb shells, literary devices—what’s not to hate?
Her first sentence: “Cutting to the chase: I think this is your best manuscript. Hands down.”
Here’s the point: you have to follow your own process. Even if it is contrary to everything you’ve been taught. Even if you can’t find anyone else who follows that process. Not your published author heroes. Not your writer friends. Even if it’s so time-consuming everyone starts asking, Are you still writing?
Do what feels right to you. It may work out. It may not. But at least you have done everything that felt right to you to succeed.
And you know what? You just might do it.