Thursday, April 7, 2011

The List

Been busy, busy, combing blogs and websites, arming myself with information, immersing myself in ideas, and playing around with concepts. Dean Wesley Smith, on his excellent blog, has a very informative section called Think Like A Publisher, in which he provides numerous sections about the various aspects of publishing yourself. It's a great starting place to give you an idea about what you need to think about, especially if you're more of the DIY mindset.

Under Production &Scheduling, he suggest making a List, just like big publishers make a List, outlining your now and future "inventory." He says, "This total number of your inventory may surprise you, disappoint you, or scare you to death (as it did with me and Kris). But at least you have a list of inventory now."

I dutifully opened all my electronic folders, improv notes, notebooks, bundles of amassed scrap paper, and after digging myself out from under it, tried to be honest with myself about what I had.

I would say surprise is maybe not as descriptive as "shock." If I'm being honest (counting the four books that are for all intents and purposes close to publication) I have 25 book-length projects that are totally viable. (And by that I mean the concepts are complete, some have multiple chapters already written, they're ready to work on without much further thought.) Beyond that, there's a maybe another 15 good ideas, and at least as many short stories. Like some zombie squirrel, apparently I've been stashing these things away for years and years and forgetting where I put them. The sub-cellar in my head must be very, very full.

Even when I can quite the day job and write full time, I've got enough to keep me busy for the next 15 years. This is both gratifying and utterly terrifying, because what was always at a safe distance is suddenly on the doorstep, possibly like something wished upon a monkey's paw. Now every one of those stories is knocking on the door and demanding to be let in.

You see, for years and years I did the minimum to keep this going. I queried, I got an agent, I went back and forth with publishers, but there was always a safe space, a buffer. I went back and forth for an entire freaking year with a publishing house (which shall remain nameless) over rewrites that they requested only to have the book dropped at the 11th hour.

So over time, while I never stopped writing, it became the act of just jotting down something I fancied on the back of an envelope, whipping out three chapters and then letting a book lie fallow, creating a world full of characters and then consigning them to a closet that I forgot to open again. I stopped producing, because something inside my head told me I could better spend my time doing something that had immediate results, that paid me enough to feed the kids, that got the damned floors swept and the dogs walked.

Sadly, because I let it, my talent and time became expendable. It became something that was not as valued as other people's time. If the kids needed something, that always came first. If the significant other needed something, that always came first. Hell, if the dogs needed something, that came first too. And over the years that default has just grown, because I've got to make a living right now, not next year, and nobody else is doing the laundry or the shopping or the cooking, or most of all the planning and double-checking and coaching that makes everybody else's lives run smoothly enough that they forget what it's like without the woman behind the curtain.

So now I have worlds upon worlds waiting to be set spinning. And I've got to answer the door, because something there is knocking.

1 comment:

  1. Heck, if we're talking POTENTIAL publishables, I'm gold. I ain't ever going to run out. I've got Rose Red staring me in the face, Parthenogenesis I'm currently writing and Princess Knives I could finish if I decided to publish something insane. I just wrote a Doll House story merely to rev up the writing muscles.

    For inventory ready to publish now, I've been doing this exact search. I have two Doll House stories, a short book of fairy tales, and Sweet Dreams that I can have cover art for in the immediate future. Wild Children I'm still thinking about. You know it is. It's my 'I want it in bookstores and on library shelves' book, ya know? It's my Magnum Opus, my baby.

    Now for the important part of your post: Every writer knows that pain. Writing may be the least rewarded art, where there's not much middle ground between 'four people read your story' and 'a million people read your story'. The neverending series of slaps in the face drains you utterly, and you keep writing only because some part of you isn't able to stop. And the slaps. The HB Storyboard Contest. Klasky-Csupo pulling the rug out from under me. The magazine that folded just before publishing my first short story because the editors had a fight. Five years - FIVE YEARS - of not writing anything noticeable because an abusive ex- waged a campaign to convince me I wasn't a 'real writer'. But you can't stop. One reason I wrote Wild Children was that it built up inside me until I wrote Amphiaster in what I can only describe as a psychotic episode in an airport, and after that the floodgates opened.

    The point of all this talking about myself? I know your pain, and I bet every writer has a story just like it to tell.

    These days I often listen to Queen's 'We Are The Champions' for motivation. When I was young and had low self-esteem all I heard was 'no time for losers'. Now that's the least important line in the song to me. It reminds me viscerally that you only reach the top of the mountain if you never stop climbing no matter what. People who've only seen you standing on the peak assume it was easy, but they haven't tried the climb themselves.