I told my friend Nancy, the poet, that when I had four novels finished, I thought I could become a ‘professional novelist’. She asked, ‘Shouldn’t you be able to do that with one book?’ Therein lies an interesting question —
How Long Should We Wait to Start Living Our Dreams?
Now, for the dream of simply writing, we shouldn’t wait a minute (go, I’ll wait). But for the dream of being a Professional Novelist, well, I’ve always taken a restrained approach. My sister Sarah (who’s a fantasy artist doing book covers and planning to move into concept art for games and movies) and I have always wanted to wait until our creations were up to a very high standard.
My first novel Other Gods was quite good I think — for a first novel. I had already written two screenplays and so had knocked a little of the mud off my writing soul. But, though I sent out about 50 query letters, I wasn’t sure if it was ready for prime time. It was also a long, epic fantasy/sci-fi story that was the first in a series. I loved it (and still do), but maybe my breakthrough book should be something else.
Enter A Caged Heart Still Beats. I picked a short, fun, romantic little novel from my list of story ideas and it quickly turned into the best thing I’d ever written. It’s short (almost novella short) and a lot of the story takes place in a cage where the lead character has been held against his will for four years (I’ve sent about 60 queries out so far but apparently agents have a problem with ‘fun, little romance’ meeting ‘enforced imprisonment’ — go figure) But the story is filled with gratitude about the beauty of the universe, musings on the power of love and forgiveness, and some quite charming characters.
I still hold that Caged Heart will be my breakout book, but sometimes I wonder. I’m now writing two books (hence my magical ‘4 = pro’ formula). Both these new novels, Fall Street, a coming of age story set in a small town in the 1950s, and Spark of Madness, my fantasy about metallurgists in Victorian England, are full of writing that’s even better and I believe people will love reading them when they’re finished, at least if the way I keep going back and rereading them is any indication!
Start Where You Are
In the end, you have to trust yourself. I feel that Other Gods will need more rewriting to bring out into the world. But I also think that Caged Heart is ready to go. And so I’m continuing to send out queries throughout the fall but with a view to a self publication date of February 2014 if I don’t find an agent. I truly believe —
“If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it.” — Jonathan Winters
Caged Heart will be an adventure, and it feels good to know that the more I write, but better I get. It feels even better to know that there are two more amazing novels in the pipeline just waiting to lift me toward my goal of — Professional Novelist.
2 thoughts on “How Long Should We Wait to Start Living Our Dreams?”
I love your passion for your work. I recently started blogging and last night when I was running an idea for a story popped into my head. I outlined and think it would be a great story to write down. Even though it is just an idea right now, your post really moved me to just write it and let the story take me wherever it leads to. The best time to go after your goals is in the present. Good luck on your books and I hope to read them in the future.
Wow — thank you! That’s really nice to hear. I warn you though, stories are dangerous things, they will kidnap you and take you away to the land of your dreams and you will not return unchanged. I hope to read your writing one day too! And I totally agree; I need to remember to go after my goals NOW also.