Living life without a cuttting-edge rifle

As I’ve publicized wider and wider my desire to get some of my novels published, I’ve gotten lots of questions about how all this may go down from friends who didn’t know about this aspect of my life.

Many say they’ve thought about writing a book and seem to hope I just recently had the same idea and made it happen. Well, unfortunately that’s not how it happened.

I started writing fiction when I was 13. I vividly remember the exact place where I sat and how awesome it felt to leave the boredom of my room and enter a world more than a hundred years in the past. A world where Native Americans in the West were threatened by the encroachment of settlers.

And for 18, incredible pages, I scribbled with a pencil exactly how I fearlessly fought these white SOBs, who were killing buffalo and taking my land. Yeah, I was using a cutting-edge rifle that gave me an edge — and probably never truly fell into Native American hands — but it didn’t matter.

I was no longer the little boy who worried constantly about being bullied and dreamed too much while sitting in his room. I was suddenly a proud warrior wreaking havoc and easily picking up women.

And I’ve pretty much never stopped writing. I soon started a book after the Native American novel that’s about wolves in the wild. In it, a young pup works to earn respect and grow into the pack leader. It reads quite similar to “Call of the Wild,” a favorite of mine when I was a kid, but it again served to teach me some of the trade.

So when I hear people say they’ve been want to write a novel, I hesitate. I don’t want to discourage them, but but this shit isn’t easy. And even after 20 years and more than 40 projects — most unfinished — I still struggle to write. When you’re new, the words fly. You’re a genius.

Heh. Back when I was 21 or 22, I got a call back from an agent on a novel I’d finished, and when he asked me to rework part of it and make a change, I scoffed and literally said “no.” I had such confidence that my book was a work of art and perfect that I was completely inflexible.

Now, how stupid was that? But, when you’re that young and confident, the writing’s easy. It’s also mostly shit.

And so as you get better, you get more and more critical, and suddenly you can’t stand your writing. And novels that once seemed fun to tackle seem daunting and unimpressive as you finish them.

This is a hard stage to push through — even for successful authors.

So, while I joke about making it big on my blog and to my friends, that’s almost always far from the realty.

You only have to read Robin Mellom’s story to know how difficult the road will almost certainly continue to be. (Her story is all to familiar to those of us who’ve been laboring for decades to catch a break.)

But even though the chance of earning a living from writing fiction is somewhere between slim and none, that won’t ever stop me. One, I’m still that young 13-year-old dreamer. And two, I’d write all I’ve written and 10x more for nary a dime. Because when you’re writing, you’re alive. And if you’re a writer and you’re not writing, you’re miserable. You’re testy and antsy and your wife wants to kill you.

Worst of all, you’re probably desperately needing to escape this brutal world we live in and enter a world where life makes sense and happy endings generally happen. Where a man wins the woman — in the end — and nabs the bad guy, too.

So, since this is real life, I know the path to success in the fiction world will hardly prove easy. It probably will never prove rewarding. But that won’t keep me from continuing this odyssey.

It’s just too bad I can’t instantly pick up a cutting-edge rifle in real life. Or be about a foot taller. : )

8 Comments

Filed under Stories about my life

8 responses to “Living life without a cuttting-edge rifle

  1. Nancy England

    Size ain’t everything, sweetie. Just continue to meet life head-on. And you don’t need to pack heat to be hot.

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  2. Keep at it Stan! I know you will get there. As a nonfiction writer, I envy you. Writing fiction is far harder (to me) than what I do. I dream of giving fiction a try, but find it almost impossible to switch from my standard approach to what is required to “show the action in dialog” rather than tell about it from an objective viewpoint.

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    • I agree, Ray, that writing non-fiction is easier, but with all the writing you’ve done and the talent you shown, I think fiction’s easily within your reach. Since you’ve got the bug, and a heavy writing background, why don’t you get Stephen King’s “On Writing”?

      That book helped me so much, and it breaks down the seemingly daunting task of writing a novel into something more manageable and, dare I say, fun?

      And I should give one clarification to my post, I guess, for those who may not have Ray’s background. It’s not that you shouldn’t write a novel — you should. It’s a blast. And who knows where it may lead. I’m just trying to say not to expect to write your first one with no previous experience and make any kind of money. Or probably even get published. It’s a long road if you choose to pursue it seriously. Elmore Leonard wrote I think like 20-something books before he ever made the New York Times best-seller list, and that man can write.

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  3. Nancy England

    Stan, I’ll have to admit that when the kids were little, I sketched out a childrens’ book, Ulster the Oyster, who lived under the sea – and wasn’t happy because the fish could swim, the jellyfish could sting, etc. and he couldn’t. There’s a typical upbeat ending, a classic humorous moral ending. The kids loved it. I undertook to produce finished drawings, got halfway through, and Life took over. So maybe with a little encouragement (cough cough) I could now finish it – the kids are talking about self-publishing online. Any suggestions?

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    • Hmmm… I haven’t researched the self-publishing angle yet, so I can’t speak with any authority.

      I’d probably for step 1 dig it out, look at it with fresh eyes, and see what kind of impression you come away with. If it’s about a 7 or 8 on your 1-10 scale, then I’d polish it up while the mistakes were fresh, and then begin researching the children’s book market. A good place to start is http://www.literarymarketplace.com/lmp/us/index_us.asp.

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  4. C Orick

    I can completely understand the getting grouchy when you aren’t writing. I did that last week. When dirty dishes and laundry were calling today, I told them to take a hike and sat down and cranked out 3 scenes. Most impressive for me with only an hour to spare. Keep writing!

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    • Oh, I know. Poor Danah. She can sense when I’m in that mood and just tells me to go, which is totally awesome to have a spouse who gets you and supports your dreams that much. So, what are you writing?

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