Being a writer is hard, but it seems silly saying that since, at least for me, it’s merely a hobby. But writing is the best creative outlet I’ve found. I can take a pad and pencil anywhere I go, and when a new idea suddenly appears, I can pull over in the hallway and write on the wall or on my hand or on top of a big trash can. I can write while working. Can write in my head on the commute home. In essence, all I have to do at any given moment is not be lazy enough to not write, and KABOOM, I’m working within the realm of a new and exciting world.
But (there’s always one) I’m also a fierce competitor. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. I loathe losing, because it means I wasn’t good enough. I just got back from a week-long cabin vacation, and I remember getting irked by losing a card game to my wife several times in a row. It was like a puzzle, and I kept failing each game, kept losing. Yes, I was the kid in grade school who would throw video game controllers at TVs when I couldn’t beat a level. I’ll have to ask my mom how many controllers she had to buy for me. And yes, I got into shoving matches with other friends when I continually lost. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten better with age. I have no problem letting my sons absolutely dominate me in Go Fish and Old Maid and Liar and so on and so forth. The real competition lies in the areas I’m trying to improve in.
So how does a writer handle jealously?
You’ll see it every day—an unknown writer who no one knew existed suddenly becomes a household name. That’s fine, good for them. But then you find out they just started writing last year. Okay, they’re just a natural. One in a million type. It took them three days to write the book. Whatever, this isn’t going to get to me. They didn’t edit a single word because they didn’t care much about writing—they were simply bored as hell and looking for something to do on a long weekend when the power went out. Look away. They sent out a query and got rejected! It was devastating. But then they sent out ten more, and every single publisher wanted the manuscript. Where’s a controller to throw?
I’m going to be honest here—there are a million ways an author can find success, and I’ll read a new one every day, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t get under my skin. No, I’m not always happy for others who find success. I admire people who are, but that’s just not me.
Again, how does a writer handle jealously? Especially a jealous king like me?
You channel it. You make yourself read these success stories. You look for them. When you get three form rejection letters in one day, you go read the type of stories the publishers accepted, and you say to yourself, “How is this better than what I submitted?” That’s the beauty of writing—it’s so subjective that it’s ridiculous. Nothing is concrete. You’ll get shafted more than you think. You’ll deserve to win, yet you won’t. You’ll be the best writer with the best material, and you won’t even get shortlisted.
Why is that wonderful? The justice system works the same way, but it’s horrible to think about those situations. But for writing, you don’t lose anything, except a little bit of sanity. You do gain so much more. You gain ammo. You gain energy. You continuously gain reason after reason to prove those who’ve rejected you wrong. If there’s anything movies have taught me, it’s that revenge tastes orgasmic when the odds are stacked, yet you overcome them.
I’ve found that rather than getting mad, taking to message boards like I see so many do to voice their frustration, I stay quiet, let whatever’s going to build inside me build, and I release the pressure through my fingers. If an editor who rejected me says they dislike excessive violence, well maybe I’ll write the most violent story I can think of. Oh, you dislike sad endings? Well I just wrote a story where nothing good happens to the protagonist at all. It’s just misfortune topped with more misfortune topped with a tragic death. No sex, huh? Well I just created twelve unique characters and made them have an orgy.
Sound stupid? Sound like a waste of time? Writing something you’ve never written before is neither You’re not only branching out, but you’re writing with passion. Yes, I believe controlled anger can be passionate. And the funny thing is, when you submit this type of story to the editor, you fully expect to get a rejection, but what if you don’t? What if that editor simply loves and accepts it? Don’t think that’s happened before?
Take Chuck Palahniuk for instance. He submitted Invisible Monsters to a publisher, but they rejected it, stating how disturbing the content was, so what did he do? He wrote Fight Club as an attempt to disturb the publisher even more for rejecting him. And you know what happened? The publisher loved and accepted it.
But even if Palahniuk is the exception to the rule, there are always publishers and magazines out there looking for the exact opposite material of their counterparts.
So write, and get rejected, and fuel yourself further and further, and when you least except it, if you’re like us average Joes, you’re going to hit the target eventually, and when you do, it’s going to taste so much better than instance success. And by that time, you’ll have a huge inventory up for sale.
Since I haven’t updated the progress of any of my future work, here’s where I’m currently at:
- I’m working hard to finish what I hope will become my debut novel, Dead Butterflies, a crime/mystery book about a father trying to exact revenge on an grade-school bully who killed his son. I’m excited to jump back into the querying stage. I have my list of top agents ready. My query is almost how I want it, and just the feeling of the great unknown—Will they like it? Hate it? Love it?—it’s all giving me butterflies, pun intended.
- Other novels—I have six of these. Most of them are considered “practice novels”, meaning I’ll never go back and rework them—they’re dead and collecting dust, and they should accept that’s how it will always be. But two of them are good enough not to suffer the above fate. One needs to be completely rewritten, but the other titled Friendly Cannibals (also crime/mystery) just needs a good edit. If Dead Butterflies finds success, I’m sure I’ll hop over to Friendly Cannibals and finish it within a few months.
- I’ve been plotting my next novel the past few months. It began as a short story back in 2009 about a serial killer’s guardian angel, and has since evolved into something much grander. The novel will surely be my longest work to date, and I do have plans to make it a trilogy. I’ll be writing about time periods spanning from the 60s all the way to present day, the coal industry, and of course Heaven and Hell. I’ve already worked out most of the major plot points, including their twists, but this novel is truly testing my method of “letting it flesh itself out”, meaning I have to continually sit on ideas, let them play their course, then ask a million questions to see if they work. I think this one is going to be worth the work though. I’ll be conducting the most research I’ve ever done, but I hope to give readers multiple reasons to read the book—you’re going to be entertained, and you’re going to learn something new.
- Short stories—I’m pumping out a new short almost every week. Sometimes I’ll pump out two. That’s the curse of shorts—they multiply like bunnies, like deer. It helps to tell other people, almost like they’re hunters, about your ideas, and they shoot them down, dwindling the population. I always seem to have at least a half-dozen or so stories out on submission at any given time. One has made it very far with a top market. I’ve gotten several “you were so, so close” rejections, but I feel like I’m almost there—on the cusp of breaking onto the scene. When I get there, I hope there’s cake. Regardless of what happens here, I have more than enough material to release two anthologies. I’ve been hosting something of a royal rumble between my stories since last year. I am definitely going to release an anthology or two when the time is right. It won’t be until I get at least one novel on the market. But until then, my stories are constantly fighting for a place in said work. So my stories are serving a double purpose right now—material for submissions into magazines and competitions, and material for future anthologies.
- Horror. I’ve always favored the mystery/crime/thriller and sci-fi genres, but as of late, I’ve found myself growing a hunger for horror. I’m not talking cheap thrills, jump scares or hideous-looking-creatures horror. I’m talking about that scene in Trainspotting when you see a baby crawling around the floor where a group of druggies are passing out from getting high. Then, several scenes later, you see the baby in a crib, in the same room, dead with a silent scream on its purplish-gray face.
I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on any progress, as I’m excited to share what I’ve been keeping secret for so long. I’m experiencing those butterflies I was talking about all over again. And don’t worry, I’m not mad bro, and no controllers were harmed during the course of this post, either.