My urban fantasy novel The Red Eye and its prequel novelette The House on Concordia Drive (both 2014, Alliteration Ink) mark the publication of my 49th and 50th pieces of writing.
I didn’t actually realize I hit the big five-oh until I started working on some bio/promo things for querying something else. Suddenly I saw that my list had grown, and I decided to add number bullets.
There it was. 49. 50. FIFTY.
For someone who used to write nonsensical (yet somehow endless) Dickensian soap operas every summer growing up, for someone who’s never quite felt “good enough” as any sort of artist (see my failed attempts as musician and painter), this is kind of huge. So even though I demur a bit and really don’t always feel like the most confident writer, I have to kind of say, “Good for me” for once.
I’ve had help. Every English teacher, from high school, college, and my M.A. program, and my colleagues in several arenas of my life certainly inspired this love of words and forcing them together into sentences and stories. I’ve had more specific help from the members of my writing group, my M.F.A. program classmates and mentors, spouse, and various helpful editors and publishers, some of whom even helped in their rejections.
Every day, I encounter something that makes me a better writer, whether it’s formal notes and edits on a story or something I read in which the author makes a particularly deft turn of phrase (or a not-so-deft one, one I then take pains not to emulate). I’ve learned from others’ success and failures, learned from others’ reactions and support and very occasionally the lack thereof, truth be told. But it’s both the acceptances and the rejections that make a piece of writing better, and I think sometimes in life it’s acceptances and rejections on a larger scale that make us better people, stronger people, more resilient people.
I was excited to figure out that I’d hit 50. A few years ago, I had a goal of trying to get 35 before I turned 36 (which I did do, but just barely). Once I stopped counting, something interesting happened. With this arbitrary goal gone, I just kept going, without real target in mind other than to keep writing and then sending things out. Once I stopped counting, I racked up more credits than when I was counting. Kind of funny how that works, huh?
The love of the craft is the goal, of course. That’s the real lesson. If I were only in this game for any reason other than the need to write stories, no matter the outcome, I would have either never started in the first place or kind of petered out after meeting that magic number. Instead, I just kept chugging away. The placement of a piece now is secondary to the thrill of really, finally getting a story into tip-top shape. Getting a full-length novel into truly tip-top shape is also paramount, which explains why The Red Eye was first due last fall but delayed a bit—I wanted it to be as perfect as I could make it more than I wanted to actually hold the thing in my hands.
When you do something for the love of it, some of the other stuff will come, too. Maybe not the way you think, the amount you think, the timing you think, but something will, and it’ll often be all the lovelier because you didn’t crave it quite so desperately but instead cherished it enough to wait until it was really meant to be.
Not gonna lie, though. Now I’m wondering if I can’t hit 60 in the not-too-distant future.