Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why I'm Not Published

Unless you count this blog, which does say push-button publishing when I log in. Or the Moxxie column, my words printed by someone else and put out for all of Miami to see. To clarify what I think of when I think of a published writer, I don't have a nice advance from a publishing house or an acceptance letter from a magazine or a good answer when someone asks if I've written anything they might know; I'm missing the moment that says my discipline over the years hasn't just been masturbation.

I finished my first book ... three years ago. Like many first novels - and I've heard many stories like this watching author appearances at Books & Books over the years - it was unpublishable, an important exercise in focus and determination, a milestone for anyone whose ambition is to write a book, but nothing anyone should have been subjected to reading. Unfortunately, I did subject people to it. Friends, family, a sales rep at Harper Collins who promised to pass it along to the mighty Carl Lennertz. I was so excited to have finished something three hundred pages long, I wanted the world to know.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten Hemingway; "The first draft of anything is shit."

I couldn't rework "Skritch Skratch Man" into something readable, so I junked it. Started from a blank page. "Scratch the Dead Places" was a vast improvement, but still not what I wanted it to be. I sent it to an agent in NYC who liked my writing but not "Scratch," so I sent her my second book, "Ming."

Meanwhile, I had a breakthrough with "Scratch the Dead Places." I threw it out a second time, only I resisted going back to the source material. I started a third edition. The hundreds of pages before amounted to character research and plot outline.

The agent liked "Ming" and thought it would be suitable for a young adult audience. I wasn't thinking YA while writing it, but the finished product screamed YA. The only roadblock is the last fifteen pages, where the violence goes a bit far. I promised to edit and send her an update.

So here we are.

I have a finished YA second novel that has resonated with various readers whose opinions I respect. I toned down the last pages so slightly it might not even count, which is why I hesitate re-submitting it, but I have an agent who is interested. I have an outline for parts two and three of the triology and the first fifteen pages of a movie script which placed top twenty in Writer's Digest's 76th Writer's Competition out of 10,000 entries. Why am I not working this for all its worth? Throw a nice cover-letter on it, and you've got a ready-made package to send to agents and / or editors everywhere.

Instead, I do columns for imaginary publications. I write short stories I send to no one. I plod through "Scratch the Dead Places Redux," relishing the craft, patting myself on the back that I've finally found the right approach, gritting my teeth that I only have a couple hours each morning to tackle this beast.

Why do I reject myself before anyone else has a chance? Is it sucess I'm afraid of, or failure?

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