I don’t want to publish a book. I want to become a writer. Right now, the long view seems like the only view, so as happy as I was to finish my first novel, I didn’t pop a single cork when it was done. Don’t get me wrong. Finishing The Winter Queen was certainly a milestone for me, but other than the small circle of beta readers who’ve supported it, nobody really knows it’s out there. As a buddy in my writing group revealed at the end of that long journey: “Writing a book is the easy part. It’s getting it published that’s a bitch.”
I’ve started to pursue that process, but I’m doing it while actively engaged in the creation of another work, and even sensing the first shimmering visions of whatever comes next. I do it all by dividing my writing time into very unequal thirds.
Most of it is spent in the wilderness of my work-in-progress: Autumn Imago, as I follow the map of my completed outline through the scenes I feel my way through every day. But I’m also researching copy editors for The Winter Queen and circulating the manuscript to others outside the orbit of my closest friends. It’s hard for me to judge the work objectively– but I do know that I followed the advice I read in so many books on the craft when I created it and wrote exactly the kind of story I wanted to read. The unsolicited enthusiasm I’ve received for it from many of my readers lets me know that at least some of them are getting the kind of ride I tried to design. That reaction tells me that the book has more lessons to teach me as I try everything I can to see if there’s a place for it outside of the small, dark recesses of my hard drive.
Finally, the dirt road near my home that’s yielded so many visions over the years has been offering up a new one lately. With memories of one daughter’s wedding still fresh in my mind from last October, and my other girl’s nuptials scheduled for the end of the summer, I’m seeing some action under a big, white tent beginning to gel for novel 3. I have no idea of the characters who might inhabit that tale, only of the power of a story that takes place centered around the rituals of a single, symbolic day.
Having three plots to play with in my head also helps me to reinforce each of them. I’m constantly checking what I’m learning in Autumn Imago against the knowledge I gained in The Winter Queen. And I’m also using the latter as a caution for the former; the last thing I want to do is to repeat myself. So when I find a character or plot development in my new book that feels a bit too familiar, I push myself out of my comfort zone to take a walk over new ground. And somehow that exercise is working the fickle fictive muscle I believe will strengthen my wedding story as well.
Time will tell which, if any, of these efforts make it to the wider audience any writer seeks as consummation of his efforts. But I take comfort in the fact that these stories are starting to add up. At a minimum, they’re a reaffirmation of my commitment to the craft. That’s no guarantee of published success, of course but I do know one thing: Every link I add to the chain of tales I create keeps my driving harder towards that goal.