Query Status: First draft completed. I'll be sending it to the executioner this afternoon *cue death scene from Braveheart*
Research Status: I've gone through the entire Writer's Market listings of agents and publishers. I had no idea there were so many people out there who disliked fantasy!
My favorite find: agents who refuse to represent you unless you've been published before and publishers who refuse the publish you unless you have an agent. Anyone up for a game of Catch 22?
With that out of the way, I've been thinking for several weeks about doing a series on writing wisdom from various books that I have read throughout the years. I know I haven't read as many books on the craft of writing as I should, but those I have read stick with me and draw me back between their pages at least twice a year. One of those books is Madeleine L'Engle, Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life. It is a compilation of L'Engle's writings, lectures, and essays on writing and the writing life put together by Carol F. Chase. Not only is it chock full of brilliant insight into the craft of writing, but it's also a wonderful window into the life of one of literature's most beloved authors. Her book, A Wrinkle in Time, has been my favorite since I first read it when I was ten years old. It's the book that made me want to become a writer. I thought it only fitting to begin this new series with a look at the writing life through the eyes of Madeleine
"Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work...each work of art...comes to the artist and says, 'Here I am, enflesh me. Give birth to me.' And the artist either says, 'My soul doth magnify the Lord,' and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses..."
Many people think of writing as a hobby, as means to sorting out thoughts or living vicariously through daydreams. What most non writers (and many writers) fail to realize is that writing is a calling. When you can't NOT write, you know you have been called. I know there are many people who say they write for fun. I write because I must. I have no other choice. When the inkling of a story comes to me, I have two choices. I can jot it down and muse over it, ponder all the directions it's apt to go, mark a path and begin wandering down it, exploring the dark places of an undiscovered terrain. Or, I can shrug my shoulders, mumble something about being too busy, and trudge along on the well-lit path of the everyday.
The latter is safer. It might even make more sense. "But I am too busy! I have this other story I'm working on!" True. And I'm not saying we should stop working just to entertain every flighty thought that flutters through our minds. But I am saying that we should give proper attention to those ideas. They may be just daydreams, little flights of fancy that offer us a moment of respite to ponder a "what if?". Jot them down just the same. When your finished with your work in progress (or that wip is giving you fits and you would just as soon kill off all your characters than work out all their dramas), give this new idea a try. See how far you can run with it. Delight in the new discoveries you'll make as you uncover the meat of the story, the complex personalities of it's characters, the exotic destinations in which they live.
"What if I'm not busy?" "What if I'm not working in the next great American novel?" Even better, "what if I've never even thought about writing a book and I just stumbled onto your blog out because my finger slipped on the keyboard and brought me here by cosmic chance?" Then by all means, see where that story is going to take you! You never know where a new idea will lead. Like I said, it's a dark road to trudge down before all the details come to light. But in the darkness lies discovery. In the darkness lies mystery. Yes, it's frightening, this going into the unknown. And it's hard. Very hard. You have to look in holes, lift up stones, peak into to caverns and over steep cliffs. Sometimes you have to dive into black lagoons and swim to the slimy bottom before you unearth any treasure. Like any good treasure hunt, however, the prize is well worth the effort.
What is the prize, you ask? Why, the discovery of a new tale, a new world. At our finger tips lies the vast eternity of the blank page. The story comes to us. Only we can write it. Sounds ominous, I know, but it's true. If you shrug the call, if you refuse to give even just the tiniest bit of curiosity to the idea, the story is lost. It shrinks back down that dark path and hides. It waits for you. Only you. Why not give obedience a try? The worst that can happen is you have a great story to tell once you're through!