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Monday, August 1, 2011

The Split Personality of a Writer

Brodi Ashton, my new best friend* author crush recently gave an interview over on the Appendix Podcast about persistence.

She queried over one hundred - ONE HUNDRED - agents before she found the One, who sold her debut novel, EVERNEATH, in two days - TWO DAYS. Totally inspirational.

In it, she and the hosts talked about how, more often than not, an author's first novel is "the throwaway" - destined to never be published. (OhpleaseGodno.) It's our training wheels. But we can't write it that way. (I know I didn't.)

Here's the thing, she said: Writers are creatures that are completely narcissistic and completely self-loathing. We're supposed to hate our novels, and boy, do we ever. We tear them apart, replace the parts we don't like with ones that we think might be better, but probably aren't, then do it all over again. Then we ask perfect strangers to tear them apart again.  We kill characters and slash chapters and bury the whole darn manuscript in a drawer for months.


I know, personally, that about 90% of the time I sat down to write, I thought to myself. "This is silly. This will never amount to anything. This isn't what I went to school for. People will laugh at me." 

But I did it anyway.


Because when we think of the characters, and the story, we are completely in love. It is, after all, the reason we started writing about them in the first place, and sacrificing time with friends and family, the cleanliness of our house, and maybe even personal hygiene (No, I wouldn't know about that firsthand. Not exactly.) The story calls to us from the drawer, or the hard drive, or wherever, and reminds us why we loved it in the first place.

That spark of love buried beneath the hatred and the hard work and exhaustion and resentment of the training wheels is what allows us to dream, and eventually, forces us to write queries and synopses that tell agents all about how wonderful the book is, how wonderful WE are. We can be narcissistic, because at the end of the day, isn't it that little whisper of belief in ourselves that got us to pour so much hard work into it in the first place?

It is terrifying.

I don't think becoming a writer (see how I just snuck that in there? Calling myself  'a writer'?  That right there deserves a round of applause...) changed my personality. I think that I've always had this split, and even though it can make for some very tough days, it makes for some really wonderful ones, too. The day that a CP points out eight inconsistencies in one paragraph can be rough, sure - but when someone says they really like the premise of your book? Or that you've nailed the query? Or that they're excited to read more? Those days make it all worth it.

Gina, my incredible, patient, saintly first critique partner, started on this whole journey over a year ago. Yesterday, the self-confident part of her writerly self WON, and she clicked "send" on a first round of queries to agents.
Luckily for Gina, she's written a solid, sweet, heartwrenching book that, in my opinion, is flawless. I have a feeling that today is going to be the start of some Really. Good. Days. ahead for her, but I know her head is kind of spinning right now. So run on over and give her some virtual hugs and cheerleading, would you?

*In all seriousness, the protagonist of Brodi's debut is called "Nik," just like my MC. As far as I'm concerned that makes us (blogosphere) besties. EVERNEATH releases on January 3rd, and I'm dying to read it!

10 comments:

  1. Awwww thank you. It is a rollercoaster, this writing journey. And I only sent three queries, which doesn't give me very good odds. Still, I did it, and that's something.

    Isn't Brodi amazing? She is so funny, and Everneath is surprisingly dark, yet still funny. I am so happy when people like her succeed. Hmmm... perhaps we should stalk her agent?....

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  2. This post is so true. I loved it. Good luck to you and your writing career, and to Gina!

    And I think you both should totally stalk my agent. He is a wonderful person to stalk.

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  3. This was a really great post. I feel like I *have* to gather inspiration from Brodi's story because I so often feel like my 'the one' agent is out there, somewhere, waiting for me and thinking to themselves, 'Why can't I ever read a book about an intl teenage spy with pink hair and a penchant for knitting?' :-D So many of my own feelings are mirrored in this post -- keep on moving forward! :) (My blog is at amberplante.blogspot.com -- I don't update too often, but I would gladly welcome you into my group ... as I have now 'favorited' yours!)

    PS -- My spy novel is my first one, too. I've written 2 others, but I keep going back to No. 1 -- it's my baby! :)

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  4. @Brodi....First, let me get this out of my system:
    *squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!*

    Okay. Thanks for the "permission" to stalk Michael. I think that's all I'll be doing though, since I doubt he'd ever rep two Niks.....:)

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  5. Leigh Ann, every word in here resonates for me from the difficulty of calling myself a writer (I'm over that now) to how much self-loathing but also narcissism goes into what we do. Bravo!

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  6. I'm already a Gina fan- so excited for her!

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  7. @Amber - thanks for the Kudos. I'm loving your posts and your novel (Go Zellie!) so much.

    @Nina - Thanks for the applause, lady. <3

    @CQG - I know, doesn't she RULE!?!?!?

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  8. Hey! Congrats on calling yourself a writer!! I love hearing stories about how authors had to query a TON. It makes it easier to never give up.

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  9. This is an awesome post, and Gina sounds like an amazing CP. They are definitely worth their weight in gold (and then some). :D

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