It’s a marathon: 50,000 words of prose, the majority of words for an 80,000-word standard mainstream novel. I’m at a little over 24,000 words this morning.
Why am I doing this? Because writing is bliss and marketing a book is hell. Undergoing the process of trying to get a literary agent, who then tries to get your book a publisher, who then takes more than a year to publish it — that’s anyone’s definition of hell. It would fit Hieronymous Bosch’s picture of hell. And I’ve been in it for more than two years with a completed novel I’m marketing. It involves extravagant amounts of waiting, laced with copious rejection. It takes persistence and faith beyond what you think you have.
But working on a new story is heaven. It makes hope, inspiration, and excitement surge. Every act of storytelling is a new adventure. It unfolds one day at a time, in the company of people I’m gradually getting to feel are boon companions, my characters. Like the Fellowship of the Ring, we have a purpose. We have a story to tell. We must sustain hope above all. It’s exhilarating, like climbing to an impossibly high peak and standing there to survey all the lands of the earth.
Also, running my marathon has been a way to write myself through the dark woods of grief over my brother’s death a little more than a month ago. I would adapt the cliché and say that when things get tough, the tough writer gets writing. I know so many poets and writers who write their way forward, especially in difficulty. It’s how we learned to cope with our fatal flaws and the curveballs life throws, such as death, poverty, illness, divorce. I’m telling a new story involving all those.
Here’s an excerpt from my spirit guide, Lisa Cron’s book Story Genius:
“Only by knowing your protagonist’s defining misbelief can you craft a story that will test it to the max, opening his eyes along the way.” Those are the best stories, the inward adventures that may be occasioned by outward ones, but always lead to new levels of understanding yourself, other people, and the world.