Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dogs, cars, and a really good decision I made while applying mascara one day.

A chase dog getting ready to write the next book
I made a story for you.
A dog sits comfortably in a fenced yard where not much goes on, but little goes wrong. From where he sits, he has a decent view of what the other dogs in the neighborhood are doing.  
Occasionally, a car passes by and the yard dog watches as a neighbor dog rips and races after it, barking to wake the Gods, until the car is out of sight. 
The dog in the yard shakes his head, goes over to the fence and says to the chase dog who is on his way home, "Come here a minute." 
The chase dog approaches. 
"Tell me something," says the yard dog. "Why do you frustrate yourself, chasing something you can't catch?" 
The chase dog says, "Haven't caught. I don't know that I can't." 
The yard dog says, "You have a record of complete failure." 
The chase dog  trots across the street and says over his shoulder, "So do you." 
The yard dog shakes his head and goes back to his spot, where not much goes wrong.
The end.

Some of you know I've been working on, and submitting my novel for several hundred years.
I started it in 2008 and began submitting the first version of it in 2010. Then I went back to work full-time and left it on the desk next to the cat. Three years later, I came back to writing full-time but now my novel and I had grown apart.
My writer-cat Percy had died. My crazy, funny, muse of a brother had died. The last two of our children were leaving home at once. And now, my book didn't even look familiar to me. It just seemed as heavy as a memory, and not one of the good ones.   
But I'd come this far. 
So I put it on a diet and it lost three characters. Then I gave it a better central conflict. Then I decided one of the characters was particularly likable and gave him more presence. Then, because you never paint just one room in the house, I gave the other characters more presence. 
Which only made it gain the weight back.
I tried to change it's personality, but there were holes that I couldn't see and the charm leaked out. So, I listened to music that reminded me of when my book and I first met. I tried to remember the feelings I first had for it. We went to counseling and got advice, and I rewrote it. But then, it just looked like one of those strange looking homes that were probably nice before someone put on too many additions.
And then. 
One day, about two weeks ago, while I was putting on mascara, I started to see a story. I saw the characters, what they looked like, and the way they looked in a conversation. I saw them develop and the way their pasts moved them around each other like game pieces on a board. 
Writer-kitten Gus
"Holy crap," I said to my new writer-cat, Gus. 
I knew my characters would meet each other, and I began to see how they would react. I watched them talk to one another. And after a while, I sensed a problem brewing in their universe.
I began to feel for them, and I couldn't imagine how it would work out.
And then. 
I could. 
Don't be sad, but book 3 and I have decided to separate.  Some people I know would look at my submission stats and say it's too early to give up. Some would say, "I see where you're going with this." 
But I'm not quitting.
I'm not giving up.
I'm not sad.
And, I didn't fail. 
That part of my training is simply over. 
A picture of practice
And, there is opportunity cost. I won't catch book 4 without a chase, and I can't chase book 4 if I'm still begging book 3 to tell me what it needs from me. And I may not even chase book 4 at all if book 3 makes me too frustrated and discouraged to leave the yard. 
And so, that's it. I've stopped chasing book 3, and book 4 and I are in a relationship. 
I made this story in case you need to remember that failure, turned another way, can be seen as practice for success. 
Whether we're putting books we've known since they were wee little pages in the drawer, or ending a relationship, or leaving a job, or moving to a new state, the act of cutting our losses and leaving who we were is universally wrenching. 
Until it isn't.
My advice: free yourself of the old, free yourself for the new, let the writing begin, and tell your next story, because it's waiting.

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