And no, I don’t mean the bastards city tax collectors who just sucked away half of our stimulus check in the form of car tag renewals. I’m talking, instead, about the graveyard of books that we write as we learn our craft that are not fit for publication. That’s what I read about in my brief morning craft lesson from Chapter By Chapter. Sellers was telling a story about a woman she met once who was saying “I want to write one book before I die, just to cross it off the list.” I can’t fathom that. Not really. Not only because I have so many stories I want to tell or because, for me, writing is a compulsion, but because–as Sellers pointed out–it so often takes many books before we learn enough about craft and storytelling and how to write before we wind up with something that’s honestly a good or great book. Manuscripts under the bed, in a drawer, squirreled away in the annals of our hard drives.
I’ve completed 3 books so far in my life–2 in high school and 1 as an adult this last year. None were fit for publication. And that doesn’t count the DOZENS I have started and abandoned when I reached the dreaded Valley of the Shadow of the Middle. I’ve a platoon of well-meaning friends and family who would argue with me regarding my latest finished effort. My husband is livid that I’m making such sweeping changes to the story because he thought it was wonderful as is. I love him and appreciate his enthusiasm, but it isn’t right. The pacing is off, the halves of the story (romance vs. suspsense) don’t feed each other–it’s very much a situation of them being together, then the bad stuff happening (see that whole Mary Sue Relationship thing again). I knew it was going to need sweeping changes about 2/3rds through, but I pushed through to the end just to prove that I could. So I learned something from that book. I learned a lot of somethings from that book. A sense of pacing, of conflict, that I can finish something.
My frustration these last several days has been that I haven’t felt like I’ve learned as much as I can or as quickly or permanently from my past efforts. I was always a ready and eager student. Learning has always been very easy for me–but there is a big difference between book learning and application. I can know the technical aspects of craft, can even pick them out in others’ work. But it’s a lot harder to always apply to my own. That only comes with practice. And that’s the point of all those previous efforts and present ones. To learn and grow as a writer. Write them, hopefully bring them to term and birth them, then, if they aren’t up to snuff, bury them in that graveyard under the bed. Or if you’re into less grisly imagery, toss them in the compost heap for your creative garden. And in the meantime, maybe I should take up meditation again and do something about learning patience.
How many bodies are under your bed?