Ordinarily I avoid New Year’s Resolutions, for the obvious reason that they never last. If I want something that will never last, I’ll make a list of campaign promises.
Resolving to lose weight? Yeah, right – this is the time of year when we need that layer of fat. In fact, that’s the biggest problem with most resolutions – the timing. In the middle of winter we need all the comfort we can get, and most resolutions involve cutting down on the things that comfort us.
By the time we get our tenth winter storm warning of the year, you’ll have to pry those potato chips out of my cold, dead hands. Or at least, my cold hands.
But this year I’m making a resolution.
I’ve been writing fiction for 35 years. I decided as a teenager, three decades ago,
to become a full time fiction writer. I sent my first short story to a publication 25 years ago. I completed my first novel manuscript 20 years ago.
I remain unpublished. I have given up trying to sell my writing, in disgust and despair, 128 times.
About five years ago I landed an agent, a Very Big Deal for writers. We came heartbreakingly close to making sales, but in February, 2007, he decided to leave the business.
Feeling like my efforts had been set back a decade, I went into an emotional tailspin, a depression that lasted the better part of two years. Well, I’m done whining, and I’m back in the game. My New Year’s resolution is to get published.
Not that I ever stopped writing. I love it – might as well tell me to stop breathing, or taking in nourishment, or drinking Mountain Dew. But all jobs have their bad parts, and for writers the bad part is selling our work. The problem is pretty basic: If you want to sell your writing, you have to send it out. No manuscript ever gets bought if it stays in the desk drawer.
I’ve produced numerous stories, and some are even readable. It’s been said that every writer has a million horrible words in him before he finds something good; I’m at two million and change right now, so I’m ready.
In 2009, I’m going to ignore everything else: House work, yard work, television – well, maybe not all television, let’s not get crazy. But does the roof really need repaired? I maintain a plastic tarp will do just as well, and be safer. Do the bushes need trimmed? They’re bushes – what are they if not bushy? My kids? Perfectly capable of cooking for themselves, and I’ll keep a large knife on my desk in case they dare commit author intrusion.
The first priority is to get my office ready. I have to be able to research markets, and keep track of what manuscript has been sent where. I’ll need a secret drawer for my editor slush fund – they don’t get paid well, so who knows what a little palm greasing will produce? I’ll connect my old printer to my older computer, and hope they both hold up. I’ll need envelopes, labels, printer paper, and a steady supply of beverage. Don’t worry, the bathroom’s just down the hall.
Then there are the stories, of course, and I’ve decided to diversify. I have a few older science fiction short stories that survived my review and can be sent out again. My criteria was simple: If reading them made me cringe, they hit the trash can. Of the three dozen short stories I produced in the 80’s, five could be salvaged – and one of those is iffy.
Meanwhile, I have three romantic comedy novels, ready to go. Yep – a man, writing romances. Hey, we’ve got a black guy as President, don’t we? Welcome to the 21st Century. One is the story of a storm chaser, imaginatively entitled “Storm Chaser”. Another was invented at a drive-in, and is about a drive-in. the third is set in Michigan, and involves a radio personality; I plotted it out while on vacation in Michigan, at a time when I was a part-time DJ. The words “write what you know” are never far from my mind.
Those will hit the mail, with a prayer to the publishing gods.
But as I said, diversification is the key. I already have the first draft of a humorous (well, I hope) story about a father and daughter who team up in what will surely be a mystery book series, if I can ever sell the first one. See – optimism! My youngest daughter and I invented the storyline together, which means she gets a line in the acknowledgements.
I also have a half completed work about firefighters, which is tentatively titled “They Must be Crazy”. I suppose some author with firefighting experience has already used that title, so I have a backup: “You Have to be Crazy to Have This Job”. It’s just a working title.
Finally, my girlfriend and I have been kicking around an idea for a comedy about zombies.
Seriously. Well, I mean funny, I hope, but I’m serious about being funny. Surely nobody’s written a comic zombie novel, have they? The “Twilight” books have already stolen some of my thunder, as one of my original thoughts was to have a “vegetarian zombie”, and they have vampires of the same ilk – maybe great minds think alike, but some think faster than others.
Of course, none of those ideas means anything if they’re not turned into a good story, and if that good story isn’t then sold. That’s the challenge. Anybody can write a short story, or even a novel – selling is the problem. Since I’m not a celebrity or a criminal, I have a long path to travel.
But I’m ready to start down that path again. In these hard times, all we can really do is take on the challenges with hard work, even though that light up ahead might be nothing more than some other aspiring writer, using the glow of his laptop screen to follow his own path.
That’s okay; I can type in the dark.