Friday, September 25, 2015

Try Something New

It seems like a long time ago, but in August of 2013 I'd just finished yet another draft of Second Blood, my fantasy novel already six years in the making. I'd cut it and trimmed it and re-edited it numerous times. Three times I'd sent it to agents without so much as a sniff. And yet I was certain that this was how it was done. Patrick Rothfuss had taken ten years to write The Name of The Wind. Brandon Sanderson spoke of the ten year period it took him to get Way of Kings, his best-selling epic fantasy series, the way he liked. Hell, Jefferey Eugenides took nine years to write Middlesex, and Pulitzer prize winning authour Donna Tartt says that she only expects to write five books in her lifetime.

I'd absorbed these success stories. Believed that they applied to me without ever thinking about me. About what I was as a writer and a person. I was forty-one years old. I'd sniffed the hem of publishing's robe with a literary agent in my early thirties, but that hadn't gone anywhere. Whatever I was doing wasn't working. After twenty years, my writing career was going nowhere.

I happened, after much searching, upon a website called NaNoWriMo. National Novelist Writing Month. A supportive and interactive website that encouraged writers to take up the challenge of writing fifty thousand words in thirty days. That's right. Fifty thousand.

Having hewed to the concept of years to produce a good book, and being extremely critical of those who didn't, I was mildly appalled by the idea that a writer could produce good work in such a short  time.

However, I hadn't met with any success, so I registered (free) and took the challenge.

If you're not a writer, it is hard to explain how much fifty thousand words in thirty days is. Suffice to say, you're buried in work. Buried in your story. It is hard to think of anything else.

I persevered, and within that month, The Last Angel was born. Everything changed after that. I realized that I worked better, that my stories were more complete, when I wrote them at hyperspeed. I wrote the sequel the next year. And now, two years later, i have three complete novels and two that are already half-done.

Agents have shown interest. My beta-readers love the work. And next month a professional editor will be looking at those first three books.

None of this would have happened if I had stuck with my original idea of just re-writing the same book over and over. I don't lay any special claim to this other than frustration, which led me to attempt something I thought was impossible, but it ended up freeing my gifts to tell the stories and write the books that I was born to write.

The key is this: whatever dream you're pursuing, if it hasn't happened, maybe it's time to change things up.

Keep the dream, but change the methodology.

Tony Robbins, our erstwhile guru of motivation, says that doing the same thing over and over to get a different result is a definition of insanity.

He's annoying, but the message is right.

How can we expect different when the methodology is the same.

Change it up. Approach things differently.

As a rule, we don't like the change because we fear it.

So don't be afraid. Figure out what you need to do to "upset the applecart."

Scatter the apples to the ground. Throw them against the wall. Burn the cart. Whatever you do, don't use the same strategies that led to failure.

You're better and smarter than people think.

Just don't be afraid. If you're afraid, you won't succeed. No matter how good you are.