Wednesday, April 30, 2014
What Really Changed in Publishing
You can Goggle "how to write a novel" and choose from hundreds of thousands of sites with advice, tips, and know how. Why, oh why, do we keep showing up every week to toss our pebbles into the writing ocean?
Maybe because we're delusional. I'm willing to at least consider the idea. Delusional people often make great artists. So, maybe it's that.
I think when we started this blog back in 2007/08 our reasons were different from today's. It was exciting back then, we were all published and writing for publication. We had daily conversations with industry people, agents, editors, publishers. The future was uncertain, but it looked bright in terms of our writing lives.
There are six of us writing Novel Matters and I don't speak for the other five.
I'm going to talk about what changed for me.
One the surface, it appears what changed was something pretty bad. I haven't published a novel since 2009. That's bad. Publishing novels was the whole point of getting into this gig, right?
That's what I believed when I stepped into the arena. I was here to write and be published.
I've written four (and a half) novels since Talking to the Dead. Good ones, too, though you'll have to take my word for it because none of them are published. Am I bitter? Not even a little. Tempted a few times, sure, but I managed not to fall into that pit. Because things changed.
I'm not juggling fluffy puppies in the air, here. I'm not blowing sunshine and trying to tell you I've turned into a writer uninterested in my work being published. That's not the part of me that changed. What changed was when I started the writing journey I was convinced I knew what I was doing. Years later, I've arrived at the place that awaits everyone who journeys this far in pursuit of art. I arrived at myself.
Once, I thought because I read Ibsen, and Chekov, Dostoyevsky, and Hardy, because I read Alice Munro before reading Alice Munro was cool, because I took seriously the three hundred years of literature that came before our time, I had what it took to be a writer, maybe even a good one someday.
Failing to publish for five years, brought me to the place of being completely honest about who I was as a person. Not as a writer. A person. To shed the layers and arrive at a place where I was forced to be completely honest about the stories I am uniquely qualified to write.
It was difficult for me to admit.
I'm not Alice Monro. I'm not Marilynne Robinson. Or any number of writers whose work has changed me. That was hard to face, but it wasn't the really difficult bit. The hardest part was accepting the fact that the truest stories I write--Bonnie Novels--terrified me. Because I realized the novel I started (and am currently working on) is the very best and most true thing I have in me.
And it's kind of dorky.
It's not high literature. It aspires to little more than entertainment. Its main theme is simple, the premise can be easily stated in thirty-five words or less. And I'm having the time of my life.
Maybe that's the reason the six of us show up here three times a week and talk about writing. Because things are changing and we need to talk about them.
We're changing and we need to talk about that, too.