This week has been mostly about National Novel Writing Week. I started last Sunday on my quest to reach 50k words in 30 days. I’m pleased to say it is going well. The only problem, or blessing, is that my motivation has changed.
I started last week with an agent reviewing my last novel, Life: Immaterial, and the next novel in the pipeline. I ended the week with a liberated feeling as it now looks less than likely that said agent will sign me through an event of unlikely synchronicity which even I have struggled to believe really happened. I won’t replay it here out of respect but suffice to express my disbelief thus: what are the fucking chances?
Anyway. Onwards with nano. I had a period of about three hours on Wednesday evening when I wondered if I should quit writing. My expectations of other people sometimes *are* a bit out of synch and being an eternal optimist I tend to overestimate what people are thinking of me. This time I really had it wrong. I wondered if my intentions in writing these novels from themes in my psychology and philosophy work were being brought into question, if I was working on a different level to the rest of the world? Was there a place for me in the literary world at all? Was I completely wasting my time because no one ‘gets’ my work?
But I love writing. I almost cried when I thought about never writing again. I suppose I have had a reality check and it’s made me consider how I spend my time but I just can’t stop. Even a couple hours after I had this conversation with myself I was brimming with ideas.
So I carried on with nanowrimo. I hit 13195 words today and the story is coming along nicely. I lost a little bit of confidence but I didn’t lose my story. I’ve become involved with my characters and now I feel like they deserve to conclude the days of their lives I have brought to life in my novel. Does it matter what anyone else thinks?
Yes. I would like to be published. It would make me work even harder than I do now. So I care what agents who are reading my work think. The problem is, there is a writer/agent divide before publication that is extremely unbalanced. Whereas the agent is actually a mere mortal just doing their job, writers privilege them worth almost god-like importance because the whole future of their writing career rests in their hands. The odds of actually getting plucked from the slush pile is akin to winning the lottery if the submission statistics are to be believed. I laugh when people tell me they have bought a lottery ticket, so why do I insist on buying my own lottery ticket and posting my MS off?
For me it’s a case of wanting to be judged on my merits. I’ve worked hard in other areas of my life to be professionally credible and now, in this strange world of creative types and commission hierarchies I’m feeling my way through blindly. I’ve excelled in some fields solely on my knowledge and skill, regardless of my working class background and who I inevitably don’t know. I somehow assumed that it would be the same in the publishing world. I’m not suggesting that people don’t get chosen on merit, just that it’s enormously difficult to get a MS read by the right person who will ‘get’ your work. Clearly there is some element of ‘it’s who you know’ from the success for ‘sleb lit’. But I’ll keep trying!
I’ll carry on with nano and see what I end up with. No editing until the 30th but by then I will have another full novel to think about submitting next year. One thought consoled me and carried me through this week: a weaker person would have crumbled. My reserves of strength stepped up and lifted me out of my dilemma and set me down in a new place, one week into nanowrimo. Any other time, when I didn’t have a goal to reach, a daily word count to update, I might have just put my pen down.