Tag Archives: publishing

Baby Steps

Writing is a journey, yeah?

You start off uncertain whether the two words you just committed to the blank page even belong in the same zip code with one another, or whether, like tinfoil and microwave ovens, their relationship is doomed before the heat even gets turned up. But you press on, smashing words together with the blithe indifference of the LHC, watching for sparks, looking for anything that resonates, and before you know it, you have a thing.

Maybe it’s a novel. Or a screenplay. Or a short story. Or a poem. Or a lyric. But you have this thing, born from the unfathomable space between your ears, and it’s raw and wriggling and it may or may not have a chance in this world, but it’s yours.

And at first, it’s all: whoa. I did that. I created this thing from nothingness. And you float on that godlike feeling for a while. But it only lasts for so long, because we’re talking about literature of one caliber or another, here, and literature is only as important as its audience decides it is. And that means that, first and foremost, what it needs is an audience.

But it’s not ready for an audience yet. Too many rough edges, too many unshapen limbs, too many vestigial tails. You shape it, you trim it, you coddle it in some places and you axe its redundant bits in others, never really knowing if you’re helping it or dooming it, only trying your best to give it a chance to breathe the air of this strange and indifferent world. Like it or not, eventually that moment comes, when it must leave the nest and survive or die trying.

The second draft of my novel is out today to three beta readers. The first was my wife, and as much as I love and appreciate her for reading my drivel, I can’t trust her feedback alone. She’s more or less obligated to tell me it’s good, and that I haven’t been banging my head against the keyboards of various computers for the last seventeen months for nothing. And I value her feedback, I do — she’s a hell of a lot smarter than I am — but I’m (hopefully) writing for an audience that’s larger than just my wife. And I’m not ashamed to tell you, even though I know these beta readers personally, I am scared sharknadoless to get feedback from them.

It’s odd. I am hoping that they’ll be impartial enough to give me the feedback that I need to better the story, but I’m terrified of what that feedback will be.

Still, it’s a necessary step in the process. In order to grow, we must shed our skins, leave behind the old uses that threaten to keep us from becoming the new and future uses. (That’s “us”es, not “uses”.)

Of course, that doesn’t make it easy.

Dreams Don’t Mean Things

So I had a dream the other night in which I was playing pickup football (because I totally do that) at a friend’s party (because I totally go to those). Usually I don’t remember much about my dreams, but for some reason this one stuck with me after I woke up. Now, I don’t put a lot of stock in dream symbolism, aside from obvious metaphors (oh, you were fighting with a seven-headed bear-monster with the body of Chuck E. Cheese? That means you have a struggle to overcome in your life). I do, however, think that the brain works on its issues buried beneath the surface (or even slathered all over the surface like butter on a stack of pancakes) through dreams, which is why I think that dreams are some of those situations where THINGS MEAN THINGS.

Anyway, in the dream, it’s just a couple of guys noodling around tossing a pigskin, but then the scene shifts a little in that funny way that dreams do (one moment I’m licking cupcake batter off a giant spatula and the next I’ve got my arms and legs wrapped around the leathery neck of an alligator and somehow this makes perfect sense). Suddenly it’s like the warm-up game before a for real Georgia game. UGA being my alma mater, this isn’t particularly strange. Then, for whatever reason, I look up into the stands and notice a friend of mine. Somehow, amidst all the hubbub before the game, she looks down at the field and sees me, too.

With that, the pickup game is over and the proper game is about to start, so I head up into the stands and manage to track her down. She’s sitting with an old, grumpy, obese woman in a wheelchair and a friend of hers from work and the theater group they founded. (This friend, who is a touch over five feet in real life, somehow towers a foot over me when we are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in this dream.) So we chit and we chat, about life, none of which came back with me from the dream. The old woman, it turns out, is dying of cancer and griping about a time in her life when 40 degrees was warm (she apparently can’t feel any warmth at all now and is always cold, thus all the blankets covering her up in the wheelchair).

And as is often the case with dreams, there’s no narrative. The conversation doesn’t go anywhere, nothing really happens, and that’s pretty much where it ends… next thing I remember is the plaintive wails of my not-quite-1-year-old irritating me into wakefulness.

Now, the thing that resonates is this friend of mine. This is a friend who’s always sort of existed in my periphery. We went to rival high schools but met through theater events and competitions. We went to college together, but never shared any classes. We both still live in the Atlanta metro area, but not really close enough to ever get together. I’m sorry to say that she’s one of those legions of people who I only really keep up with on facebook, which is a shame, but as any parent knows, trying to keep up social relationships outside of home and work can be like trying to pull a starved, insane badger off your face… much easier said than done.

Do things mean things? The last time I had a dream about this friend, I ended up getting in touch with her and getting involved in her local theater group, which was among the funnest experiences of my adult life.

Oh, and I forgot to mention one other thing. She works — or at least, worked — at a small publishing company here in Atlanta. Which means that this dream is probably my subconscious way of telling myself that it’s time to stop flerping around and get my novel into the hands of somebody who can do something about it. But casually. You know. Like at a pickup football game.

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