The other day while avoiding my manuscript like the Ebola virus and shopping online...I mean...researching...I came across the Five Stages of Grief. I really am going to write about a guy in a grieving group, just probably not anytime soon. Anyhoo, as I read through them I realized that grief is a lot like writing a book.
A good time was had by all.
"OMG. I've really got natural talent."
"Editor? I don't need an editor."
"I've got to check the mail, I sent my manuscript off last week and I know I've got offers from a bunch of publishers."
"I'll be able to quit my day job soon."
If you've said anything even resembling these sentences, congratulations! You have embraced this first stage with both carpal tunneled arms. If, while reading these sentences you think, "Well...these really are true about me," get your jammies, your slippers, and a couple bottles of Jack Daniel's. You're gonna be here awhile.
You've come somewhat to your senses and decided to take your Steinbeck-esque manuscript to a writer's seminar. You can barely contain your glee because, as luck would have it, an agent and an editor, both big city publishing house sorts will lead several groups. You've re-read your manuscript and it's just as polished, funny, heartbreaking (you fill in the blanks here) as you thought.
After ingratiating yourself with said agent and editor, it's time to trade chapters with the other writers in attendance for their critique. The romance writer who cried during the first session, never met a heaving bosom or "ly" adverb she didn't love, thought "point of view" was a Barbara Walters talk show, and whose own manuscript would make excellent kindling, has handed you back your work with so many red penciled corrections it looks like she cut her throat over it.
It's finally your turn to go over this ridiculous travesty with the group. "She's crossed out the first five chapters," you wail. "The story really gets going after the first 100 pages," you insist.
"Then start the story there," says the big city editor. WTF? He's siding with the Danielle Steele wannabe?
"What is the story exactly?" Big city agent asks. "I read it and I couldn't figure it out."
You reel. The floor is coming up to meet you. This. Can. Not. Be. Happening. Afterall, you didn't come to this thing to get criticized. You came to get discovered.
I had to pause here to wipe my eyes, I was laughing so hard. Sorry.
After your time in hell is up, you've gathered your things and what's left of your dignity and head for the door. Agent and editor wish you luck and bid you a fond farewell.
"Thanks for coming, Jennifer," Editor says.
Your name's not Jennifer.
This stage so sucks.
In the modern age, this stage has two components -social media and soul searching.
"If you Like my page, I'll Like yours."Or, "I'll give you a 5 star review if you give me one."
"Dear God, Allah, Buddha (again, feel free to fill in the blanks here) if I get my book published, I'll volunteer at the hospital for the rest of my life."
This isn't true for so many reasons, the first is you'll be so busy Liking, Posting, Tweeting, Plussing, Reviewing, Blogging, Commenting, etc., that you just won't have that kind of time. The second is, you're a liar and an atheist. You write fiction for a reason.
But, back to the time thing - you won't have any.
Although, you might have to find time for the divorce lawyer because it's right about now your spouse wants to leave you. You don't remember the last time you took a shower, but it was somewhere around Obama's inauguration. The first one. Shave your legs? Fuggetaboutit. Sex? He'll have to read your book for that, but even he can't make heads or tails of it.
I hate to tell you this...but you could be at this stage...forever. Just sayin. Which leads to:
Ahhh...the writer's best friend. Along with your obvious talent, you're known for your self discipline and thick skin. You're an adult, you can take it.
You drink all day because you want to, not because you have to, for God's sake. The good news is you really can mix those meds with your glass of wine. Anyone who tells you otherwise is spineless.
Today's writer needs to buck up, stop whining, grow a pair. What did they do back in the day?
Do you think Virginia Woolf or Ernest Hemingway sat around...nevermind.
You've been at this for years. You might've even been published. Unless you're in the five percent who make a living writing novels (which you aren't) if you did get published you've still spent about ten times what you've made on the damn thing. Who knew they'd actually cut a royalty check for $1.50?
This is your life and welcome to it. If, after you get to this final stage, you are still compelled to express yourself through the written word, you're a writer and there's nothing to be done about it.
So, get out your Prozac, your Abilify and pour yourself a scotch and water.
Skip the water.