Sunday, August 11, 2002. That's when it all began for me. One day before my second wedding anniversary. One year after dropping out of grad school having completed a lone miserable semester, loading up a moving van, and heading fifteen hours north from Virginia to Maine – headed toward a new job, a new city, a new life.
In retrospect, it makes sense. I'd always told myself I'd write a book one day, but it wasn't until Sunday, August 11, 2002, that my life settled down enough for me to even consider it. For me to muster the guts to try. For me to get quiet enough to hear the stories in my head.
On Sunday, August 11, 2002, I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of nine AM –
a rarity for me in those days
and started writing. I didn't even tell my wife what I was doing, so sure was I it would soon wind up on the ever-growing pile of cast-off hobbies I'd turned to in attempt to distract myself from my sudden rudderlessness, having abandoned my life's goal of a career in epidemiology. I'd love to tell you that day I penned the first sentence of DEAD HARVEST, or maybe began one of my many published shorts, but the fact is, that's not remotely true. No, instead, I created a file folder titled "Ramblings of a would-be writer," and in it, I placed a file named "some beginning thoughts." Apparently, I couldn't even bring myself to capitalize the title of the file, so little did I think of what I typed into it. Which makes sense, because much of what I typed into it was crap.
No, really, I'm not being modest; I just reread it, and it was terrible. But here's the thing: terrible as it was, it was necessary. Those first godawful notes became my first godawful attempt at a novel, which in turn led to my first not-godawful attempt at a novel, which led me to begin thinking about seeking representation, which led me to write some short fiction so I could pad my query letters, which led me to write an even better novel... which leads me to right now.
In a little over three months, I'll be releasing my first novel – but of course it isn't really my first novel. That one, I worked on for the better part of two years, and never finished. It's not even my second novel, which also took two years and turned out well enough to land me an agent, but has yet to see the light of day. No, my first novel is, in fact, my third, and that one only took me a year to write. My fourth one took me shorter still, and it's slated to come out about a year from now. As for my fifth one... well, I'll let you know as soon as I finish it.
Some of you will read this and despair; after all, it sounds like nine years of toil and torment, with not a ton to show for it. But others will read this and take heart, because, like me, you realize not a moment of that toil and torment was for naught. The fact is, unless you're a cast member of the Jersey Shore, there's no shortcut to publication, no secret handshake to get you in the door. All you can do is sit down and get your lousy words out of the way because you know in your bones the better ones are coming.
And no matter how far your words wind up taking you, cross your fingers and keep on hoping the next ones you type are better still...