First of Many

Reached a milestone today — my first rejection. This is not failure, but progress. It’s now time to read the submission guidelines for the second journal, format my manuscript to get it in compliance, and submit that story again.

I’ve got 99 more rejections to accumulate in the coming year, so there’s no time to waste. On to the next rejection, and the next, until I finally get an acceptance, and then move on to my next series of rejections.

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Getting There

Got a good start on chapter nine this holiday weekend. Eight hundred words or more each day, another five hundred the first day back to work. I’m at around twenty percent so far — still a long way to go, but at least I’m not playing catch up yet.

The pace will slow as the weekday grind sets in. Four hundred words on the days I work, double that on days off — I’ll have to pick up the pace on more than a few days to reach my goal, but I can get there. May have to push myself that final week, but this chapter is going to drafted at the end of September.

And now, chapter nine of Gray Metal Faces

There’s one more chapter of Gray Metal Faces that remains to be drafted, and I plan to cross that task off my to-do list this month.

Like I did with chapter 8 in April, I’ll be drafting the ninth and final chapter on a private site. (I’ll get around to explaining why I’m doing this at some point.) If you leave a comment on this post, I’ll send you an invitation to the private site so you can see the work in progress.

Complete the draft by October 1, and I’ll be ready to update the final two chapters for NaNoWriMo in November. A completed draft of the whole damn thing… not sure what I’ll do when I get to that point, but I’m looking forward to that great unknowing.

One Touch

I’d look up the last time I wrote about fencing, but I don’t have room in my life for any more regret. So I’ll just go ahead and talk about a recent night at the club, an unusually successful evening, during which, for the first and quite possibly the last time, I defeated my coach.

We played a game of one-touch, which, as the name suggests, involves a running series of matches to a single score. There were a half-dozen fencers that evening, all adults (the kids will come back when schools come back in session). Our bouts began with the score tied at 14 (elimination bouts in tournaments go to 15 touches), and since we had some fencers with competition ratings, competitors were deducted a point for each level they had attained; an unrated fencer in a bout against a fencer with the next highest rating, E, would begin with a 14-13 advantage.

I drew the opening bout of our competition, and faced our coach, who also happens to be our club’s best competitor. With her D rating, I had a 14-12 advantage, meaning I needed to get her once before she scored her third. A difficult task, but hardly impossible; in our competitive bouts, I’ve earned one touch for ever four or five surrendered. But this was a different game, and coach always plays to win (as do I, but at a much lower rate of success). I’d have to catch her making a mistake, and when she made it I’d have to score, because there wouldn’t be another opportunity.

Our bout began, and I retreated on her approach, stepping forward a few times to break up her rhythm. She needs three, and all I need is one. I lunged out of distance, to see if she’d overextend herself on the riposte, but she was too good of a competitor to take the bait. Just one. I retreated, letting her advance…

And then it was there. My brain didn’t register the thought, but my vision combined with instinct and experience recognized that she had come in too close and left an opening on her right.  I pounced, disengaging under her blade, extending my arm wide, and leading the point of my blade to her right shoulder, on the edge of her target area. It was an action based not on any decision on strategy, not something I thought about, but more accurately something I felt.

The scoring machine to my right buzzed, but I didn’t know if I had landed on target (green light), or off (white light). I looked over — green light.

Some fencers claim that yelling or celebrating on strip is inappropriate. I don’t agree with that opinion, but still feel compelled to apologize after showing my excitement over a successful attack, especially during practice. But to knock out my coach, on the first bout, the first touch, of the competition, and win without relying on my handicap: YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAH!

I would lose my next bout to an unrated fencer, and over the course of that evening I probably lost more bouts than I won. But I did defeat every other competitor at least once that evening, defeating another D and an E. When the competition came to its end, we all agreed that the event was not only a load of fun but also an effective simulation of a close tournament bout. And for me, it was a rare opportunity to celebrate success. I’m not going to beat coach very often; I faced her three other times that evening, and never came close to scoring against her again. But for one evening, I could honestly say I beat everyone. Winning isn’t everything, but it certainly is a lot more fun than losing, and I had enough fun that evening to carry me through a lot of tough bouts to come.

Now, for part three

Wrote my pitch letters for part 2 of my freelance writing workshop last night. (Interesting observation: for the first part of the workshop two weeks ago, we had around 15 people. For the second part last night, for which we had an assignment, only four people returned.) Feedback on my pitches was largely positive (I need to clarify the angle for each of my stories), and I was encouraged to submit them to actual publications. Consider that part three of the workshop — applying what I’ve learned to the real world. Taking a workshop or course is definitely within my comfort zone, but the time has come to be more daring.

Grinding

Been a productive week. After submitting my short story, I completed a draft of the next chapter for one of my novels, and forwarded it to a writers’ group that meets on the second Saturday each month. Next task: pitch letters for two magazine/newspaper articles. And after that, spend Labor Day weekend starting the draft for the final chapter of another novel.

It’s tiring. At times I feel the reclinter and remote pulling me towards them, tempting me to turn on a ball game and put this crazy idea of making a living as a writer on the shelf. But I gotta keep grinding,  

One Closer to A Hundred

Finally submitted the story I’ve been writing to an online publication. Might sound perverse, but I almost want to be rejected — not being I’m a masochist, but rather because I know rejection is a part of the writing career. I’ve heard that a writer should aspire to 100 rejections a year, the assumption being that among all that failure will be several key successes. I’m not going to get to a hundred by the end of 2017, but 25… we’ll have to see.

Big Plans

Got a lot of projects to finish in the coming weeks:

  • Final proofread of a story, then start sending it out and gathering rejections
  • Draft another chapter for the novel I’m sharing with my local writer’s group
  • Create pitch letters for two non-fiction articles
  • Start drafting the final chapter of Gray Metal Faces

Completing all that work while working my day job, and helping my wife’s home business, is going to be a challenge. But stepping up to challenges like these is the only way I’m going to get where I want to be.

Writing to Live

And on the day after I declare my intention to make a living as a writer… I drive down to my son’s college, to help him move into his fraternity.

Writing is a big part of my life, and if all goes according to plan that portion will grow substantially larger in the coming year. But just as I’ve refused to define who I am by whatever job I currently worked, I’m not about to let my new profession interfere with other priorities. And there’s nothing I value more than my family.

Thoughts at the Base of the Mountain

After forty years of preparation, I’m finally walking towards my primary ambition in life.

I’ve known since my teens that writing is the only job I’ve ever wanted to do. That last sentence intentionally included the word job, because my ambition has never been simply to write. Any clown can create a WordPress account and start posting within a day, and for the past several years I’ve done little more than clown around at writing on this blog. I harbor no regrets, and I’m glad for the wonderful people I’ve met during this time — but all that effort has never been fully satisfying. I want to work at writing, make a profession of this craft, make a living at this gig.

Why work, when I’ve been having a pretty good time so far? Lemme tell you a story…

A few years ago, a former coworker developed a software application. Knowing that I was an adept technical writer, he hired me to write the app’s user manual. Within a few hours after installing and using his application, I realized it probably didn’t have much of a future — I think he sold six licenses before abandoning the project — but I had already signed a contract to write the manual, so there was no going back. One Saturday afternoon in June (the month is important), I swallowed a bowl of mac and cheese for lunch around 1, then fired up my friend’s app and a word processor. I began exploring the app’s features, and making notes on my observations. After a while, I had an outline for the manual; material for the introduction came to me suddenly, and I banged out a page and half of text with a couple screen shots. I continued exploring the apps, and after finding a series of bugs I opened a second document to record those issues. I then created the first draft of the setup instructions, reminding myself to add items to the FAQ… when I realized my back was stiff, and I was hungry. For the first time since I started working that afternoon, I then looked up at the clock.

Eight. Thirty. Six.

With the length of the summer day, I had completely lost track of time. I had been writing, without a break, for over seven hours. I was tired, hungry, and sore from my work that afternoon… but at that moment, after finally coming up for air, I didn’t mind. Because I was having fun. And I realized that exhaustive exhilaration I was feeling had been my aspiration for nearly four decades. To commit heart, body, mind, soul into my writing, and at the end produce a work that not only pleases me intellectually and aesthetically, but also sustains my material needs. To make this sucker pay. It was a spiritually invigorating experience, a brief but shining moment when I felt complete and satisfied.

That marvelous feeling didn’t linger, as my attention turned immediately to dinner, and then in the coming days to completing a user manual that few would read and none appreciate, as well as the productive drudgery of my “real” job. I found new ways to keep myself from pursuing that destiny (and in subsequent posts, I plan to explore each of the barriers I’ve erected to keep me in place). But there was no forgetting that Saturday afternoon in June, and that memory has led me to this moment, staring up from the base of a very tall mountain.

This journey that begins today isn’t going to be easy; people far more talented and bold than I have failed in this profession. I have no idea how long it will take me to reach the summit, little concept of the difficulties I’ll encounter along the way, few clues as to the pain and frustration that lie ahead.

Yet I’ve never been this certain about any other decision. The ambition that awoke in my teen years, and was realized briefly on that incredible Saturday afternoon in June — to work the only job I’ve ever desired, to make a living as a writer — the climb begins today.

This blog has evolved several times over the years, and this post marks another transition. There will be fewer extended series of fiction, and much more content similar to today’s, as I chronicle my career as a professional writer. Words such as I and me will appear far more frequently; whether that’s possible without degenerating into self-indulgence remains to be seen, and is one of several challenges I plan to conquer. As always, I appreciate your support for this blog, and hope you remain curious enough to follow my new adventure.