Saturday, September 25, 2010

Number Eight

I just typed "THE END." Are there any better words in the English language?

I've disappeared from view lately because I made myself a vow: write every day until my current book is finished. I'm sorry to say that didn't exactly happen, but you know what they say about aiming high ... you can miss the mark and still do pretty well. So in the last 60 days or so, I probably missed 5 days of writing and turned out a 72,000-word novel.

I'm such a tool that I didn't even give myself one full celebratory beer before the "to do" list started piling up. My half-empty beer is sitting next to me right now, in fact. The problem is there's an enormous gap right now between what this book COULD be and what this book IS. I think it COULD be a wonderful, funny, fast-paced, original, and thematically interesting book. It IS a steaming pile of problems at the moment.

Let's not even get into it.

But it's also book #8. It's kind of hard to believe ... I've finished eight full-length novels. That's eight. A tiny bookshelf. I've published exactly zero of them, but I'm not getting into that either.

Anyway, in honor of #8, I thought I'd look back on the ones that came before.

Book #1: Totally autobiographical. Full of self-regard and purple prose. Is there a plot in here somewhere?
Book #2: A doorstop—120,000 words written in seven weeks. Maybe three redeemable scenes and one scene that caused my crit group to question my masculinity.
Book #3: A dirty secret. We don't talk about book #3.
Book #4: A medium-sized leap forward. Sure, it took three years to write, and it suffered from one character who was so toxic that one agent remarked, "I had to set it down when she showed up." Also, this book was the seed for book #7. It contains the idea that has become my own great white whale.
Book #5. A giant leap forward. Plot? Yes. Hook? Yes. Characters? Okay, not so much. But still ... I love you, book #5. You almost made an honest man out of me. We almost went all the way, baby, and I want you to know that despite the crushing rejection we suffered at the end, I still believe deeply in you.
Book #6: Boy, did I love this idea. And boy, did I love writing this one. And book six, I think I did wrong by you. I know you attracted attention from a major publisher, but I think the editor didn't understand you. I'm sorry now that I tried to change you to fit her vision. It was a bad fit, and my heart wasn't in it. Murph, my little buddy, go rebel all you want.
Book #7: A misfire. I went back to the idea from book #4 and tried to write it again—same mythology, same backstory. And while the setting was my best yet, the book itself did not work. A giant step back. I didn't even bother to query this one.

Which brings me all the way back up to this afternoon and book #8 with its pile of rewrite notes. And now I hope you'll forgive me for signing off—I'm finally feeling like there's some celebratory drinking I should be doing.


Mark Terry said...

Congrats & good luck with it. For whatever it's worth, I believe I wrote 10 before I got the first one traditionally published, and there are still occasionally books that don't get picked up. I gather I was somewhat of a slow learner in this regard, since some of our blog buddies sold their 1st or 2nd (yeah, I secretly hate them, all of them, fie, fie on ye!), but that's the weird aspect of this business. EVERYBODY'S journey is different.

Kath Calarco said...

High five and chest slams! In honor of your great achievement I'm breaking open a bottle of wine. Okay, I'm using your great achievement as an excuse, but still, now I can tell my hubby when he says, "In the sauce again?" that I'm celebrating.

P.S. Resubmit the misunderstood by editor one.

Natasha Fondren said...

Congratulations, Jon! Woo-hoo! :-)

Good luck on the edits and the querying. I wanna write 120,000 words in 7 weeks. I'm jealous. I gotta get to writing faster. It's driving me nuts, how slow I am now!

Jude Hardin said...

Congrats! Wish I could write as fast!

Melanie Hooyenga said...


Jon VanZile said...


So that means just two more to go? Ugh.

But yeah, I've been a slow learner in this area too. The thing that frustrates me the most is that I'm still making a lot of the same mistakes ... but I guess the trick is I can see them now.

Jon VanZile said...


Ha ha! I too need very little excuse to celebrate. But life is better that way, no?

Jon VanZile said...


Thanks. I wish speed translated better into sell-able novels :)

Jon VanZile said...


Hooray backatcha!