The End

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Wish it, dream it, do it!

This is the notebook my boyfriend’s oldest daughter gave me for Christmas last year. I have filled up that notebook with the first draft of my latest novel which I completed today.

I’ll be taking a break before revising and pitching the professionally edited manuscript to agents.

May you also wish it, dream it, and do it, whatever that “it” might be.

Coping with Failure

Fire

Last night, I received my royalty statement for the third quarter for the last book I published in 2015. After viewing the sales and returns, the release of the reserve funds, and the final payment, an avalanche of emotion overwhelmed me.

I am a failure.

Not only can I not support myself as a writer, but I cannot earn enough to call myself a professional either. I am a hobbyist, as a co-worker at my day job called me.

A hobbyist.

To me, that is synonymous with failure.

After all, I devoted 30 years to writing, starting out with the first poem I published for $5.00 to the first article I wrote for $35.00 to the first book excerpt I sold for $2,000.00. But if I cannot pay my mortgage and put my child through college, I cannot call myself a professional writer.

That wave of emotion I felt consumed me for a couple of hours. I sat, editing chapter 28 of my book, a manuscript that is incomplete and hardly worth the paper it is printed on, when I realized sadly my status as a writer has nothing to do with time or talent. . .just sales and net income. Fans will go out of their way to pay for a copy of my work, and new readers still email me to say how much they enjoyed my writing and ask when the next book will come out.

I am, theoretically, a success since I am good at what I do and there is a market for it.

But, technically, if you define success as whether or not you can support yourself financially with your talent or your craft, then I am a failure.

To me, I am a failure because others call me a hobbyist. If I was a stay-at-home author, then others might not place the same label on me. But they have, and it hurts.

It hurts as much as the other labels I wanted and failed to achieve: wife and friend. I am no longer a man’s wife and am currently devoted to a man who has professed his desire to never remarry, which, therefore, eliminates the possibility that I might have an opportunity to reclaim that title and make things work the second time around, if I choose to stay with him. I have also lost the majority of my friends during my divorce and have yet to find replacements, which makes life rather lonely.

I could list other things I have failed at, but what would the point be?

Everyone has failed at one time or another. The important factor is how to move on beyond it and find the motivation and desire to continue to pursue something else, regardless of the consequences.

Most endeavors do not contain any guarantees of success or failure. They are born of hope and pursued with faith. The outcome is independent of the process.

It remains to be seen whether or not I accept the label of hobbyist and resign myself to my small corner of literary life complete with the knowledge I will always need a patron of the arts to support me, even if that patron is myself. All I know right now in this moment is I have to create because it is who I am as a person, whether that creativity takes shape as a book or a painting. To know who I am, regardless of the labels others choose to give me, is enough to sustain the battle wounds and continue with the journey. I am who I am, and no failure can change that.

Wish for The End

Make a Wish
Ideals, dreams, and wishes are not just for children

It’s been almost four months since I started writing my next novel, an anti-romance.

During this time, I’ve spent almost a month in the middle slogging through the difficult challenges and complications that culminate in the story’s climax.

I’m moving through the last 100 pages, eager to reach the denouncement, yet intuitively knowing there must be one last plot twist before the story wraps up and everyone lives unhappily ever after (since it’s an anti-romance).

What I’ve discovered so far is that dreams and wishes plague our psyche, both individually and as a culture. Those dreams and wishes, once thwarted, lead us to make decisions out of desperation to save what we cannot bear to lose — our illusions of whatever it is that will make us happy and fulfilled human beings.

Writing an anti-romance, while wonderfully pragmatic, challenges me to uncover the ways in which we unconsciously live out our desires to the detriment of ourselves and the ones we love the most.

I’m looking forward to that final plot twist and that unhappy ending, which may not be as unhappy as I originally envisioned. Only 25,000 more words will tell.

Muddle

Frustrated Woman Using Laptop

I’m in the middle of the first draft of my anti-romance novel and have hit the wall. I know how the story begins and how the story ends, but the middle is where I am fumbling.

Much like life imitating art, I often know what I want but do not know how to go about getting it.

And I know from experience the only thing I have going for me is the combination of patience and time and writing my way through it.

Many authors feel the same way about the muddling middle. Forty-thousand words into the story and the complications get so intense and the stakes get so high no one in their right mind would ever want to live through it if it was real life. So why do I willing sit and stare through tears at the screen as each painful letter is pounded out?

Because I want to get to the end where the conflict is resolved and everyone lives somewhat better even if it is an anti-romance. Maybe there is a funeral or a wedding or a showdown in the back alley of a bar where both parties realize they’ve drawn blanks, but whichever way the story ends, the puzzling middle is long gone.

In the midst of sleepless nights, I struggle to write through those 40,000 words to crest the summit and head toward those last 40,000 words to finish.

But until I start coasting toward THE END, I’m a miserable person to work with, live with, and love….

The Search for an Agent

2015 BelieveAfter self-publishing two novels, selling a novel and a short story collection to small presses, and winning a nationwide contest to have my memoir published, I am again seeking a literary agent to represent me in my next project: a contemporary romance.

I finished the manuscript with my daughter in 2014. I resurrected the search for an agent after receiving unfavorable offers directly from two publishers and being unable to successfully negotiate a fair contract for all.

Since I started querying agents, I’ve had a few rejections. The ones filled with kind words keep my spirits up and my stamina strong.

My favorite rejection came from a literary agent who reviewed and responded to my extensive fiction proposal that included not only the standard cover letter, synopsis, and first three chapters, but also a biographical summary of who I am and what I’ve accomplished to a detailed marketing plan and competitive analysis with other titles in the same genre. The agent said, “I found it (the manuscript) fun, the pacing nice, and the main character likeable, but unfortunately I am looking for a more tightly formulated romance right now.”

Not tightly formulated? No problem. A publisher in the United Kingdom wrote, “Don’t give up—it only takes one publisher, one day, at the right moment.” I’m hoping that saying also applies to finding the right literary agent.

In the meantime, I’ll keep writing that non-formula anti-romance that I know no one will want to represent unless they have the courage to fight for a new genre.

Nuggets of Time

After publishing five books, no one asks, “When do you find time to write?” Instead, I am asked, “When is the next book coming out?”

No one wonders about the process, just the end product. No one assumes I work a day job, raise a family, or have other responsibilities. After all, most successful authors devote their working hours to writing and promoting their books.

But my story is a little different.

When a family is divided, the responsibilities multiply. I went from supporting one household to supporting two households. I went from caring for two children to five children. Everything in my life seemed to increase instead of decrease, except for time.

I’m learning to sacrifice things I have never sacrificed before so I have nuggets of time to write.

And still, the muse is not satisfied.

But I cannot quit my job, abandon my families, and run away to a writer’s retreat for 12 weeks to pound out a first draft. I must stick to these small wedges of time—five minutes here, two minutes there—to develop my next story even if it takes months to get the job done.

Starting a New Chapter

?

I have started writing my next novel.

An idea surfaced during a conversation with my boyfriend and his mother. I jotted it down in the memo pad on my cell phone and continued chopping vegetables.

The next day I woke up and heard the main character’s voice. I grabbed my notebook and began taking dictation.

The following day I wrote down other tidbits as they surfaced: memories and character sketches, scenes and dialogue, timelines and deadlines.

By the fourth day, I had enough to start my next book.

I wrote the first scene of chapter one today, and I’m thrilled.

It’s good to be writing professionally again.

Beyond the Page

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks fielding the fallout that comes after a divorce. From the public comments of “She’s a sicko to celebrate a divorce!” and “Who gets rid of a husband after 24 years of marriage?” to the private comments that cannot be repeated, I have been struggling to reconcile the image of who I am with the truth of who I am.

As novelists, we try to convey the emotional truth through the lives of our characters, whether they are protagonists or antagonists. We use the tools of our trade to create the depth needed to gain a reader’s sympathy or understanding. If we succeed, then our books resonate with our audience.

Once we step beyond the page, we novelists become just people, no different than the clerk in the grocery store you don’t give a second thought to once you check out or the aunt you text once a week to see if she’s okay. We are three dimensional people with three dimensional lives making three dimensional decisions, but we are sometimes treated like one dimensional caricatures by strangers, acquaintances, or people who say they love, support, and understand us.

Not everyone has the ability to walk in another person’s shoes and feel their pain, their longing, their hopes, or their fears. But as a writer, I would hope there are more people who are acutely aware and chronically compassionate, people who would never say, “There’s something wrong with them for behaving in a certain way,” not because they agree with our actions, but because they can see beyond their own sphere of beliefs, mores, and judgments.

Maybe this is part of the curse of being a writer. You become stuck in a world of make believe. You know anything is possible because you can create it. Good and evil. That’s why you persist in going forward through the thicket of protestors who cannot see beyond the image. You keep the faith because you know the emotional truth of who we are and why we’re here and how we are united.

Intensely Personal

I’ve spent the first half of my life as a confessional writer, beginning with the poetry I wrote in high school and ending with the memoir that was published last year.

Now I don’t feel like sharing my intimate writing with the world anymore.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, but that everything I want to express is too close to the bone, too personal, without that professional distance even a confessional writer needs.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I’m writing a lot, every other day, even though I feel like I could write all the time, only my schedule does not allow it, at least for now while I’m preoccupied with other things that are temporarily more important.

Does that mean my professional writing is postponed a little while longer? I don’t know. I’ve spent the last week reaching out to old contacts who had requested articles and essays and short stories from me. I’ve let people know I’m back, but I’m not anxious. I’ve already begun to write that slow, painful dance of trying to contain the emotions that are spilling onto the paper and rein them in as words. Most days I spend crying when I’m not writing. After all, I have 20 pounds of emotions to purge from the previous year. It’s not going to happen overnight.

From experience, I know when I’m done I’ll be a better person and a better writer, deeper, clearer, more empathetic than I already am. And, hopefully, the words will become less personal and more professional, and I’ll be ready to publish again.

My Apology

I’m sorry for disappearing.

I should have told you the truth sooner. Maybe you would have understood. I wasn’t trying to avoid you. I was just unable to write.

For over the last year, I’ve been embroiled in the process of ending 23 years of marriage to my biggest fan.

I pushed through the first six months, propelled by the sales and marketing campaign for my memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck, and the resulting nationwide book tour. But when I returned to California last November, I stopped writing. I would pick up a pen, but I could not find the words to express what was going on or what I felt or needed to say. I could not tell a story, write a poem, or compose a letter. I thought my writing days were over, that I had done what I needed to do, and that my career was finished.

But once my ex-husband signed the final marital settlement agreement, I felt my spirit lighter and my attitude brighter. The first half of my adult life was over. I was free to start again.

Instantly, the words returned.

The first thing I wrote was an apology to you, my fans, my community of readers, my extended family.

I want to thank my ex-husband for the gifts he gave me. For 25 years he protected me, cared for me, guided me, and partnered with me. He helped me grow up and into the woman I am today. He read every story I handed to him, encouraged me to continue on the writing journey despite rejection letters and other setbacks. He never said, “Quit. Get a real job.” I will always cherish those memories of unconditional love and support.

I admit I failed him. I broke his trust and his heart. I didn’t give in and I eventually gave up.

It’s always been difficult for me to write a good ending. That was my ex-husband’s specialty. Getting those last few words right. He isn’t here to do that anymore. It’s one of the many skills I am going to have to learn going forward.

And that’s alright because you’re here with me. We’ll help each other, one word at a time.