W. P. Johnson

Archive for September, 2015|Monthly archive page

The Road To Publication II. Or, How I Wasted A Year And A Half Of My Life

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2015 at 11:02 am

brushes inch of dust off blog-


My first novel, A Song For John, is finished. I mean, for real this time, the fucking thing is done.

Heavenly light falls upon me and harps start playing.

Well, sort of…

Cue fart noises and the collective groan and all humanity.

Okay, okay… so I wrote a draft (too long). Then I wrote it again (definitely too long now). Then I went and cut it down to about 170,000 words (still too long). At this point, it is as good as I can make it and as short as I can make it without getting some outside input, so a draft is now in the hands of three beta readers who will adorn it in all that glorious red ink we dreaded as high school students (though now I hear they use neutral green). Personally, I prefer the red ink as I want to feel like Satan himself is jotting down notes in his own blood on these pages if only to compel me to cut the adverbs, redundancies, and that one scene in a church that can be cut completely, lest the devil himself fuck my eyeballs out with hornet cum until I learn that their and they’re are two different things.

Note: none of my beta readers are Satan. Not that I know of…

I am hoping to resume work on the book sometime this winter when I get notes, have it edited again by a professional, then do a clerical edit, and then, hopefully, start pitching it in the spring at the HWA Stokers Con in Las Vegas (among other avenues). I have yet to develop a concise pitch, as it is difficult viewing your own work with an objective eye. The best I’ve come up with so far:

An immortal wanderer collects the memories of musicians, their shine, in hopes of one day spending eternity dreaming in these moments. A girl from Philadelphia wants nothing more in life than to play music and take her band as far as it can go. An estranged father returns home in hopes of regaining the memories he lost after a deadly club fire more than twenty years ago.

Or something like that… erg, I kind of fucked that up, can I start over again?

Elevator opens, Random House editor rushes out onto wrong floor and I’m left with drool running down my face and piss staining my jeans because, you know, I had a few cocktails before braving the trip to Manhattan and they wouldn’t let me throw up in their bathroom prior to bum rushing the elevator when I spotted what I could only assume was SOMEONE IMPORTANT.

I’ve learned a lot from writing this book. Are you thinking of writing one? Well, here’s all the advice I have for you, because, really, what the hell is this blog for?

For starters: don’t. It’ll make your body flabby, your acid reflux boil, and your hair go grayer if you have any left. It’ll carve out some made up path in your own mental labyrinth wherein you start to quickly realize that there is no road map to this imaginary world, no wikipedia for any of these characters, and you will constantly wonder if it is just as well that one thing happens over the other because you are the petty god of these people and you don’t have a fucking clue what it is you’re doing in the first place because who the hell are you to write a book? You’re not a genius. If you were, you’d have a book out already and people would actually like you.

You will get a hundred pages into a story only to realize you’ve been digging the wrong way. You will get carpel in your hands. You just will. Your sex drive will wane like you never thought it would years ago when you first decided to write a book. Your dick will probably fall off and you’ll start carrying it around in a paper bag until you accidentally leave it on the subway and some homeless guy sells it for drugs. You will probably spend hundreds of dollars on coffee and liquor every month and will pick up a few other substance abuses on the way (check). You’ll have night terrors after many years assuming they were bullshit. You’ll also probably lose whatever conversation skills you’ve had in lieu of actual human interaction, wishing there was a way to communicate via smells. You’ll also start to smell (badly). Many of your friends will ask you how the book is doing, to which you’ll struggle to find a new creative way to say “good” when what you really want to do is bore them with every tiny detail about the characters you’ve grown so irrationally attached to.

Then again all of this happens alongside the good stuff.

You will learn to be disciplined in a way that you’ve never been before. You will find value in your life never thought possible (goodbye suicidal thoughts). You will learn to be healthy despite the hours spent sitting and typing (hello kale). You will make time for your friends and family and loved ones without having a panic attack that you didn’t finish your word count for the day. You’ll get used to less sleep and develop the willpower to say no to that extra drink because you have to get up early the next day. You will find your characters don’t really need you anymore and will talk and do things on their own and that you are not their god but just an observer dictating the events of their complex lives. You will probably cry more than once while writing despite all previous notions that you don’t take yourself that seriously, and it will be extremely cathartic (and yes, I did cry twice writing this book). You will give yourself excuses to celebrate a made up thing, that of completing your book. And you’ll probably celebrate more than once.

Pop a bottle for every chapter finished, what the hell, you only live once.

You will start a story with the intention of it only being a few pages and find that there is far more beneath the surface than you ever imagined.

So… in the end, I suppose I can only say that if you’re anything like me, I can’t tell you not to write your book anymore than I can convince someone who isn’t made for this life to start writing no matter how much I urge them to jot down their brilliance. It is a compulsion like any other. It’s been rewarding and stressful, boring and crazy. I’ve definitely snapped a few times at the people around me and there were quite a few scars collected while sleep walking (I also starting swearing in my sleep). There is fear, you see. There is the fear that all this is for nothing, that no one will want to publish or read the book. There is fear that a year of your life has been wasted when time is a precious commodity one cannot buy more of.

But this is a mistake. The notion that time spent on any creative endeavor as valued according to its reception is a misguided one. We all strive towards some kind of perfection in the way we express ourselves. What we must understand is that the failures are stepping stones towards the moment when we speak and people listen in earnest. We stumble, and then one day we walk.

Yes, I sure as hell hope this book is me walking. But if it’s not, the next one will. Or maybe the next. Or the one after that.

Until then, I’ll keep stumbling.

Until then, here’s to being scary.