A Signal

How many times have you heard someone say, “I could write a book about it” or “When I write my book…”? My advice to you, if you’ve ever thought that way, is to go write it. Enjoy writing it. Just be prepared that writing it to your satisfaction is one step in the journey.  For most writers, the road toward publication snakes far, far ahead and then disappears over that distant rise ahead. What’s over the other side? A sale? Rejection?

Seaborn is my sixth book to be published, and I offer thanks to the writing gods every day that it was. But my experience seeing it into print and onto bookstores’ shelves wasn’t much different from the five that preceded it. 

It started with an image, a small image of a young man standing in the cockpit of a sailboat, looking at the panicked face of his father in the cabin below. I spent years carrying around that image inside my head until it finally crystallized enough for me write all the action around it, write the world around it, and rewrite it till it rang true. That took nearly a year.

Sound easy? In some ways it was. Writing the first draft is a honeymoon and a high. But it’s also brute labor. How many times did I think that it was headed nowhere, that it would make great kindling for the fire, that I should be writing something else? But I’d go back and rewrite it until I wouldn’t have the urge to gag over what I’d written. Then I’d press on with the next scene, and the next, and finally see my way ahead, and before I knew it, I was correcting the pages, sitting down at night and sending my pencil through the thickets of sentences, unraveling kinks, scribbling new scenes. I rewrote and rewrote. At last, after reading it and correcting it for maybe the eighth or ninth time, I was packing it off to my agent.

I’d topped one hill. I felt elated. I levitated. I could breathe again. I realized that I had a family, and that they’d been doing very well without me.

But only days after sending off the manuscript, a new image formed inside my mind’s eye: a vast expanse of land spreading out before me, and the path I had to follow leading across it toward a distant range of peaks.

The road lay ahead.  I needed a signal from my agent if it was the right one, and if I should continue down it. 

Comments are closed.