Puzzle

31 Jul

img_1605It wasn’t that long ago that I looked forward to my writing time—a few free hours here and there would make my stomach tingle with eager anticipation. I’d grab my coffee, open my computer and begin piecing together my puzzle of words, sentences and paragraphs. After several years, I watched my jigsaw come together with pages, chapters and finally, a completed novel.

I know I should feel a sense of accomplishment that after many hours of work, I took an idea and turned it into a story with a beginning, middle and end—a story that many people have told me they’ve loved reading.

And yet the truth is, it’s not right yet.

After another round of queries, another agent was intrigued and asked for the full manuscript. He told me he’d get back to me within three days—which he did, but not with the positive news I’d hoped for.

It was another pass. But instead of the standard I’m sorry this isn’t the right fit for me at this time, blah, blah, blah, this guy actually called me on the phone and spoke to me for twenty minutes about what I needed to do to make the narrative execution work. He really liked my voice, but felt I needed to flesh out the main character more so that the reader could better understand her motivation. He said he’d be happy to take another look at after some revision.

More revision? Oh, Lord.

I guess that in my eagerness to finish the puzzle, I neglected to take the time to see if all the pieces were in the correct position. From a distance, it looked fine, but upon closer inspection, it became obvious some of the pieces were not aligned.

When the truth hits you right in the face, it hurts. Especially when you realize that deep down, you knew it all along.

Which is why I haven’t been writing lately. I’ve avoided my computer altogether (except when I waste time on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—or spend an inordinate amount of time following the distracting antics of the crazy man in the White House.) Right now I’ll do anything to avoid facing the nitty gritty work that I know I must do in order to make my novel really good.

But it is imperative that I remember I’m not defined by whether or not I get this novel published. Instead, I’m defined by my tenacity in sticking with this process no matter how much rejection and failure I’ve faced. I have a stubborn streak and it will do me justice in the end.

There. I just wrote over 400 words. I guess I’m already back to work. I’ll report back and let you know how it turns out.

Thanks for listening.

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4 Responses to “Puzzle”

  1. Liz July 31, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    I’m really inspired by you, Jessica, and I’m delighted that you received that phone call and some concrete advice. I just know in my bones that you will be a published author!! Hope you enjoy writing again once you get back in the groove. In the meantime, I enjoy your blog posts. xoxo

  2. Betty Pierskalla July 31, 2017 at 2:19 pm #

    Good for you Jessica! I am rooting for you!

  3. Becki July 31, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

    You’re in with a good crowd ~ persistence will pay off! See:

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/stmartinspress/20-brilliant-authors-whose-work-was-initially-reje-7rut?utm_term=.uyAyAMK1q#.uqOGJYPdD

  4. brittonswingler August 10, 2017 at 12:55 pm #

    Jessica, my own novel, written so quickly (as you know) in 2014, is still being re-written (not edited, mind you, re-written) because I just can’t set it aside until, as you have mentioned, it’s ‘right.’ I do think we know when a piece, long or short, is at its sweet spot. We’ve been writing long enough and seriously enough that there is a place of knowing, of resonance, that isn’t easy to find. I think of it as the place in which I know I’ve done my best work. This doesn’t mean I don’t think someone else might or would do it better, but that for that moment in time, it’s in its final or gosh-darned-near-needs-better-eyeballs place. I’m determined to get there, and the critique group I’m in is helping me (sometimes with stark ‘this isn’t working’ types of input, which I relish, even as my gut writhes in oh-crap-when-will-I-get-this-right speak. So, whether or not it become publishable material, I’m committed to figuring out how to make this work (its genesis is important to me).

    I think this avoidance you are doing may just be the exact right thing; the space you need is often disguised as other, less savory-feeling things, um, like total self-doubt. But I know you will reach a point of readiness and delve in again. And when you do, you will be tasting the balance of patience, hard work, honesty, and skill that will have you sending this novel to that gentleman with confidence.

    Make this time yours to take in the beauty of your life, your incredible garden, your talented and amazing children, your soul-stretching husband, your friends…and then with ‘pen in hand’ (can’t bring myself to say ‘keyboard’ just yet), you’ll press on.

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