I reached a bit of a milestone last night. The Pythagoreans, my practice novel, is over two-thirds complete. While I sort of wish that I was closer to being finished at this point in time, I realistically couldn’t ask for much more out of this experience so far as the rewrite was both necessary and helpful as a learning experience. I feel that I have grown as a person, becoming more focused and disciplined and am really enjoying having a constructive outlet for my creative impulses.
Better yet, I have had the chance to speak with some of my favorite writers about everything ranging from their path to publication to how and why they write the way that they do. I have been shocked and humbled by the level of positive feedback that I have gotten from both the writers that I asked to interview and readers who enjoyed getting to know their favorite authors a bit better.
I have been debating about whether or not I should attempt to write a NaNoWriMo book and am deciding to go for it. Even though it means that The Pythagoreans will not be done until early January, the breathing space will allow me to flesh out some of my weaker scenes and do some more research on the period. In the future, however, I will resist the temptation to switch between projects like this.
So where to go from here? Well, I can confidently say that I will be sticking with this writing thing for some time; I’m having a blast concocting new situations for Binyamin and his compatriots to fight, think, or sneak their way out of and am having even more fun outlining the dozen or so stories that I plan on getting to in the next couple of years. I have spent the better part of a year reading whatever books, blog posts and articles about the writing and publication process that I could get my hands on and feel that I have a fairly solid understanding of where I need to go from here to write well and get published. The short answer? It won’t be easy. It will be frustrating most of the time. I will fail far more often than I will succeed. Does that worry me? Not really.
I was told that I was too short to ever be a good competitive swimmer. I made the varsity team for one of the better high schools in Illinois my freshman year in High School. I was told that I would never get into a vaunted academic institution like West Point with my grades and résumé. I did. Once there, I had the opportunity to enjoy plenty of delightful experiences where my choices to serve my country and become an Officer the hard way were put to the test. My inner confidence, sense of self-worth, personal initiative, desire to improve as a person, and hope for the future were all severely bent, but never completely broken. In Afghanistan, I saw friends hurt and killed while we struggled to help the Afghans and fight a tough, intelligent enemy while saddled with dozens of onerous restrictions that seemed to level the playing field in favor of the enemy considerably. I took over duties and responsibilities held by three Officers from the unit that we relieved and did my job(s) well for the duration of the deployment. Two weeks after getting married, I was informed that I would be going back to Afghanistan for a second time with a different unit even though they had plenty of Officers that had been back for two years or more that could have been given the job within their own ranks that were staying back. As a result, I will be spending my one-year anniversary in Jalalabad rather than with my wife because people did not want their dates for Captain’s Career Course disrupted by a deployment and their commanders were willing to coddle them and request an outside Officer to come in and take their place.
My point? I am not worried about a few dozen rejection letters. Or a few hundred. I have dealt with worse, and work with men and women who have dealt with even more horrible things than me. When most people sit down and think about it, they have gone through far worse things than receiving a rejection letter in the mail as well. Why should any of us let the threat of rejection keep us from doing something we love to do anyway? Everything worth doing is difficult and the rewards of hard work are not always commensurate to the effort given. It’s a risk we take. Fear of rejection or hard work should not be the limiting factors in a person’s plans for the future.
So here is my plan to become a better writer and eventually get published:
On a weekly basis, I will:
-Write a thousand words six times
-Edit a chapter of any book three times
-Outline for an hour two times
-Blog or Network two times
-Back up my work on an external hard drive
2014 is and will be my setup year where I will continue to set the conditions for later success in writing.
2015 will be my training year where I will master the fundamentals of writing through daily practice, extensive reading, and study. The fact that I will be deployed for most of 2015 will probably help greatly since there will not be much to do when I am not working.
2016 will be my contest year where I will begin to enter writing contests in a variety of genres. I will internalize the feedback that I receive in hopes of improving further as a writer
2017 will be the year that I start querying agents and attending writer’s conferences. Depending on my feedback from 2016, I will probably continue to participate in writing contests as well. By this point, I will have close to a dozen novels and plenty of short stories from a variety of genres to send to agents and publishers.
By 2020, I will be transitioning out of the Army and (hopefully) headed off to pursue an MBA. At this point, I will begin self-publishing if my efforts at traditional publication have been unsuccessful. Due to the fact that self-published authors keep a higher percentage of royalties, they only need a quarter of the readership that a traditionally published author does to enjoy the same level of financial success, and I have no problem holding down a day job while I write if I have even a small audience that enjoys what I am doing.
Honestly, all this comes out to about an hour and a half of work a day. While I generally work ten to fourteen-hour days, I can put a serious dent in my daily writing requirement during lunch or after PT in the mornings. If I keep my commitment, I have the potential to finish a full-length novel every three or four months. Until I am published or decide to self-publish, I will refrain from writing sequels to any of my novels, letting my readers tell me which characters and stories are worth adding to and which would be better off as standalone books. I would be equally content writing Sci-fi, Fantasy, Mystery, AltHistory, or Thrillers, depending on which stories end up intriguing the greatest number of people.
I believe that my plan is solid, reasonable, and methodical. All that remains for me to do is to write often and write well. I am grateful for the feedback that I have received so far and hope that you continue to be a part of this journey in the future.