Friday, October 11, 2013

Lessons From the Cheap Seats Part II

I'm a slow learner.

When it comes to being a writer I'm the slowest.

If this were a road race, you'd be tempted to run back to where I was and poke me with something sharp.

S.L.O.W.

As in it takes me years to do what other writers manage in a matter of months.

Like writing a novel.

I've been working on this one novel for about 3 1/2 years now. Awhile ago, I thought it was finished.

I was wrong.

I gathered it back to myself, edited, reworked much of it, then thought it was done.

Wrong again.

I repeated this tedious process several times.

I was certain the novel was finished. Complete.

New York has proven I was, once again, wrong.

Rejection bites.

And returning to the novel I was so sure I had already finished felt a great deal like humble pie. Which is fine, I eat that stuff regularly. After so many years as a writer, I have no ego anymore.

So, this is where things were for me when I was invited to have dinner with a group of highly successful and very well published authors. (This was the weekend I spent riding on Lesley Livingston's coattails.)

Mostly we didn't talk about books, writing, or the publishing industry. If someone mentioned what they were working on, or asked someone about their new book, it was titularly--an aside--and the conversation moved swiftly past and onto more exciting topics like hockey, living in France, embarrassing relationship faux pas, and the time I punched out a mime in New York City.

They didn't treat me like a failing wannabe author (which is very much how I felt about myself).

So, when Guy Gavriel Kay turned to me and said, "Tell me what's going on with this book you've written." I pretty much barfed out the whole ugly truth. Years of writing and getting it wrong. Years of NY agents saying things such as, "You're a fantastic writer, but pass."

He nodded several times and said simply, "That's not at all unusual. It sounds like you're going to do very well someday."

That was it. That was all he said.

And it was enough. Because he was Guy Gavriel Kay. I read his stuff in when I was in high school. He has eleventy-hundred novels published. And he basically said, "You're normal. Keep going."

I'm a mess. My work is a mess. I continue to rework the same novel I've been working on since the dawn of humanity (it feels like),  I've been rejected and/or ignored by some of the best in the business.

Normal.

I keep going.

What keeps you going as a writer?

13 comments:

Susie Finkbeiner said...

A lot of novels written in the matter of months are...well...not Bonnie Grove Fabulous. You write very deep, rich, literary fiction. It's harder. But it's far more valuable.

What keeps me going? If I stop, I get squiggly and uncomfortable. I get grumpy and borderline depressed. And the stories keep me from dropping over that ledge. I'm learning that the more I write, the more I fear life without it.

Another thing that keeps me going is this community. Because I know that you all understand. And because I know that I'm loved here and that I'm safe here. That's a beautiful thing for sure. I am deeply grateful for all that you ladies do for us. I suspect that I'm not the only one who finds a haven in this blog. Thank you so very much.

wanderer said...

What keeps me writing? Three things.

My husband, who asks if I don't.

The fact that I have zero expectations and thus can write without pressure.

And...because writing has the same ingredient Doritos do: that spice that makes you keep reaching for more, even when you vow you're done. (I suspect it's that pesky msg in the Doritos' case, but you know what I mean.)

wanderer said...

By the way, I've been reading every post, even if it looks as though I don't. You ladies always inspire me.

Tracy Groot said...

Guy Freaking Gavriel Kay?

Can't even comment on what keeps me going as a writer...

You were with GUY Freaking GAVRIEL KAY?!

THAT keeps me going. Today.

By the way, ladies...I'm finally reading these posts more, and I'm in awe of what I must have missed. I'm a recluse. To say that I don't get out much is to say I don't get out at all. Too busy, blah blah. But the stuff you guys have ponied up, man--I wanna get out. Meaning, I wanna join the human writer race and I'm starting here.

Thanks for the richness, guys.

Lori Benton said...

Love. I think that's what keeps me going. I fall in love easily with characters. Deeply. Even obsessively. I find their dreams and hopes compelling enough to try and make other people love them too. That had to be what kept me going through twenty years of rejections and, sandwiched in there, chemo fog.

Another thing is keeping me going full throttle this particularly week. An unexpected deadline. :)

Cherry Odelberg said...

Bonnie. You? That is hard to believe. While I slave away over all the grammar and editing details, I assumed you write faster because you can write it right the first time. I am so slow, it takes a decade to look back and see I have done something.

To keep going, or not to keep going? I've tried quitting. Susie said it best, "I get grumpy and borderline depressed. And the stories keep me from dropping over that ledge. I'm learning that the more I write, the more I fear life without it. "

Lori Benton said...

"particular"

Megan Sayer said...

Okay you had me at the second sentence. And by the middle you had me in tears. One of those 'did I actually write this?' posts. Because, aside from the fabulous dinner, that's exactly what's going on here too. Except it's been seven years (although I did have two babies in those years too which kinda wiped me out for a while). So many times I thought I was a finished. And I was! People loved it! Suddenly stinking getting it, the thing I thought I already knew. Berating myself for being...such a...slow...learner!!!
So THANK YOOOOOOUUUU for the most amazing encouragement you could have possibly given this morning. Thank you!!!!!

Sharon K Souza said...

Susie, I know what you mean about this community. I hold it very dear, because for many years I wrote in a vacuum, feeling very much alone in my pursuit -- a pursuit that just wouldn't let up, even when I wanted it to. The first writers conference I went to, I left the lunch room after the first day and went to my room and cried, because for the first time ever, I was in a room of people who "got" me. They were like me and I was like them. And then to have been given the privilege to be part of this group, well, it's been a gift. a Gift.

Bonnie Grove said...

Susie: Thanks for the kind words. Interestingly, what I'm finding now is that I've managed to OVER write a few of my novels by, oh, let's say 40,000 words or so. Which seems weird, but I guess it's part of finding my writer legs--part of the process of getting honest with myself and writing my truth.

I agree, this community is bedrock for all of us. When the six of us began blogging we had no idea how life was going to go. We've clung to each other as one does a life raft. Not only that, we've found you, and so many more writers who, like us, are finding their way and aren't afraid of looking dumb as they search.

Wanderer: Now I'm hungry for Doritos.

So happy you're here on the journey with us.

Bonnie Grove said...

Tracy: Hey girl! Yes, Guy Freadking Gavriel Kay. I have so. many. stories. It wasn't like we were at a writer's conference or anything. It was dinner--a 4 1/2 hour dinner, all of us sitting at a huge round table, eating and laughing. Guy ended up buying me dessert (we shared) and we played a little game of musical chairs so I could sit beside him and share.
And his stories!! Oh. My. Word. Brilliant storyteller with so many life stories. He had us rolling on the floor.
And he has a generous soul. He is inclusive, drawing people to him.
At one point, we were in the lobby of a fancy hotel downtown and I cracked a joke about something Guy said. He looked up at me over his glasses and said, "Bonnie, my dear, you haven't known me long enough to mock me." A pause. "You have to buy me a drink first."

Welcome to the human writer race! You are always welcome here.

Bonnie Grove said...

Lori: Love is the best motivator, and I think you hit on it for all of us. If not for love, then for what? Thanks for that.
Cheering you on as you hit your deadline.

Megan: I'm always glad to encourage. Soak in all of Canada you can before you must leave. How sad it will be to leave us behind.

Sharon: There is something so brilliant about starting a sentence about what you're going through as a writer and ten people stop you and say, "Yep. I know exactly what you mean." It's AMAZING.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I learn. I apply. When I cease to find improvements I could make, just me, on my own learning, then shall I submit my work to the professional publishing world.
Been at it 10 years now. Maybe I'm just improving my child's chances of getting her inheritance from the publishers.
Praise God for the established writers out there who stoop to draw up and encourage the community. That's how I see you novelmatters ladies.