My first week as a “real” writer.

Okay, so I probably need to explain that title.  If you write, you’re a writer. Period.

I’ve always believed that and I still do.  It doesn’t matter if you’re published or not.  Yet the layman, the non-writers, don’t really look at it that way.  When I tell people that I’m a writer, I often get the question, “What did you write?”  What they really mean is, “What did you write that has been published?”

And that’s not a fair question.  An architect can design a house that hasn’t been built, yet that doesn’t make him less of an architect.

I’ve been writing short stories in one form or another since grade school.  In high school, I was the editor of “Slant of Light”, the school’s literary magazine.  In college, I wrote and submitted to that school’s literary magazine. Afterwards, I tried my hand at screenwriting, won some contests, and I even got some stories published in some small press magazines (alas, they paid in contributor copies, so they “didn’t count”).

But it wasn’t until a little over two years ago that I (with the support of my wife) decided to cast the die and try to go pro.  I quit my day job and decided I was going to put my money where my mouth was.  I was in for a rude awakening and suffered a ton of setbacks.

Though I still considered myself a writer, I was beginning to doubt myself.  Every rejection (or lack of rejection, since most agencies and editors don’t even send a response nowadays) whittled away at my confidence.  I thought my stuff was good.  But if it was good, why wasn’t anyone biting?

Last year, at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Conference, I had some great luck with a fantastic editor.  First, I was able to get in his workshop and got feedback it would take me weeks to decipher and incorporate into my work.  Second, I was able to pitch my novel to him.  He asked for a full and I sent it to him that same weekend.  Third, he liked it!

But then I didn’t hear anything for a long while.  (Well, what I thought was a long while, but I’ve since been educated, and it wasn’t all that long for the publishing industry.)  Anyway, as the year turned to 2012, despair began to settle in.

Last week, all that changed.  I hit the jackpot!  (Alas, not the $300 million + powerball, but I can hardly complain.)  I heard back from the editor.  He was interested in buying the book.  Next I heard from Sara Megibow, a superb agent with the Nelson Literary Agency.  She was at the top of an extremely short list of agents I wanted to work with. After we had a great phone call, and I waited with my heart in my mouth for her decision, she decided to sign me.

And that’s when it happened.  That’s when I felt like a “real” writer for the first time.  Though what I really mean, is that I feel like a professional.  Sure the deal may fall through for any number of reasons, but for now, I have confirmation that I can make it.  And if it doesn’t work out this time, it will the next time, or the time after that.

An interesting side note, after the initial elation died down, I sensed another emotion lurking in the wings.  Fear.  As I texted one of my friends when he asked about the news, “**** just got real.”  It feels like I’m years behind on my work.  I should have already written a dozen synopses and at least two new drafts! (At least that’s what it feels like.)  But it is a good feeling and I wouldn’t trade it away for anything (not even for the afore-mentioned Powerball jackpot).  I’m daring to dream that it’ll be nice not having to write for spec for a change.

At a previous RMFW Conference, guest speaker Connie Willis passed on what is probably the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever heard.  It is a quote from the film “Galaxy Quest”, but it easily applies itself to the writing craft which can take us on such a terrible emotional roller-coaster ride.  She said, “Never give up, never surrender!” And I’m beginning to see that she was right.

1 comment to My first week as a “real” writer.

  • Anonymous

    Great article!  I’m looking for representation and reading articles like this helps me put things in perspective.  Best wishes for a speedy and lucrative sale. And kudos to your wife 🙂 

    Betsy Thompson

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