book writing

The Best Kind Of Stress

The most beautiful thing about the Internet is the ability to search for, investigate, and learn new stuff. Everything from an analysis of the most up-to-date theories of how the Earth formed to how to tie a bow tie can be found online, and in incredible detail – videos, scientific papers, walkthroughs, even the ridiculousness of WikiHow can be poured over to learn whatever it is you would like to learn.

Why this is important to me, and why it’s important to me right now, is because I’ve started investigating and learning to achieve a specific goal, and thereby achieving a goal I’ve set for my life: selling the book I’ve spent the past three years writing. And the process is why I’ve only so far sent two proper submissions over the past four days.

And I’m freaking out about it.

As it turns out, funny enough, writing the book might well be the “easy” part.

Still one of my proudest achievements.

That’s not to say that writing a novel is easy. (Try National Novel Writing Month if you don’t believe me.) As I said above I’ve spent the past three years to write, re-write, edit, look over, think about, and worry about my story for any issues in things like consistency of characters, minor spelling errors (typing “his” instead of “him” by accident which won’t usually show up on spell checks), even reasonable weaponry for a given situation (it’s that kind of a book, after all). It takes a lot of time to not only write the pages, but work through any problems caused by loopholes or forgotten/dropped sub-plots, even the spelling of a certain character’s name can become a headache.

Three years, and only now have I reached the point where I feel comfortable enough cutting the very beginning of the story, writing a short synopsis, and sending out that information to possible agents asking for submissions. And even NOW I don’t feel it done — likely it’ll NEVER feel finished, as there’s always something more that can be done or added. That’s the nature of the beast, and having been a professional writer for nearly eight years, I’ve grown accustomed to deadlines and how delightfully (and necessarily) furious they can make a person. Seriously, if there were no deadlines, there would be no novels, no reviews, nothing… y’know, DONE by those who take their craft seriously.

After that time working on my book’s drafts, I then had to learn how to write a query letter. Before I had any concrete, professional info from articles on trustworthy websites, all I knew was that a query letter needed to be about a page in length and the greatest single page ever written. Not ever written by anyone in the history of ever, but the single-best page I had ever put down to be read. It had to be as perfect as I could make it. I didn’t know about the format of the letter – brief bio, thorough-but-short depiction of the manuscript, personable but professional, to condense it down – nor did I realize how to share that information from agency to literary agency. Asking for perfection is intimidating enough, but asking for literary perfection is scary as hell.

And that’s after finding an agent that even sounds like they MIGHT be interested in your work. There are lots of agents in the world, and not all of them would be receptive or interested in certain types of work. Being that my story straddles a few genre lines I have to locate those agents that would be interested in such a piece or work. They’re not difficult to find in my case, I don’t think, but I do have to make sure I’m not wasting my time writing my query letter catered to someone who doesn’t want my type of story. So being selective is important, which has me opening a lot of browser tabs (and closing almost as many).

I have to admit though, after submitting my first query, I couldn’t help but feel giddy and excited. It’s one thing to write a book-length anything, let alone actually pursue the process of that thing becoming a real, tangible piece with one’s name emblazoned on the front of it. I’m beginning to recognize that excitement, since it’s come multiple times now — once at every step of the process. When I finished my first draft, a shiver went down my spine, and I couldn’t stop myself from dancing just a little bit. As I typed “The End” across that first draft, the sense of accomplishment was a high I will never forget, and I remember it as clearly as I can remember any specific thing in my life. I felt the same after finishing the second draft, complete with dancing and combination mental and physical air punches.

Submitting my first query letter was like that: an accomplishment. I know this process is further than the vast majority of people that have ever had the thought of “I will write something great” cross their minds. Many, many people say they want to write something; few actually get around to writing ANYTHING; even fewer accomplish a draft, let alone multiple drafts; and as many people as it may seem are submitting finished manuscripts, that number is significantly less than even the people who wrote one in the first place. Even if it turns out the world of literary agents aren’t interested in taking me on as a client and selling my work, this is further than 90% or more of self-described writers will ever get. And it’s a high unlike any other I’ve ever experienced.

Sure it’s a stressful thing – I’m taking this process seriously, as a professional man with a passion and a history of completed professional work to back me up – but it’s the kind of stress that keeps me daydreaming when I should be actually sleep-dreaming, the kind that for every milestone has given me a high of accomplishment that I’ve grown addicted to working towards. I feel like I can thrive in a pool of anxiety and stress. It’s how I function at my best: stepping up to the plate to do what I said I’m going to do.

Stand tall, my friends. And may you find that high for yourselves some day (if you haven’t already, of course).