Monday, September 19, 2011

One Step at a Time

"How do you write?" the young hopeful asks Stephen King. The author blinks, and replies, "One word at a time."

Sounds facetious, but of course that IS how it works. Not just in writing, although certainly there. "One step at a time" is the rule for most endeavors, including selling the work you've so painstakingly written.

So I was delighted, thrilled, relieved and probably a few other emotions when I FINALLY got word that an agent wants to represent "Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter." That's a big first step on the journey.

I know. I know. It's a long, long way still to go. And the journey may never end up where I want it to. But the first step has finally been taken. I've got an agent. And he's not just enthusiastic about this book. We talked on the phone about "Chance," the first YA novel I wrote that didn't find a home with a publisher, and about the new one I'm working on, "Scurvy Dogs!" It sounds as if he's enthusiastic not just about the one book, but my career as a writer. At my age it seems silly to be talking about a new career, but hey. I don't mind.

It's been a long, sometimes painful process just to get here. It's taken more than a year and I don't want to tell you how many queries. Let's just say it'll make a great story some day.

Among the many tools a writer needs – beside grammar and spelling and imagination and all that – is a hide as thick as an elephant's. Because it's easy to get beaten down if you let it. The funny thing, to me anyway, is during that whole long ordeal, receiving message after message that, while very politely, even contritely phrased, amounted to "Go away, ya bother me!" I never once lost hope I never thought, "Hey, this many agents can't be wrong. Maybe the book isn't very good." No. My reaction every time was, "What's the matter with HER? Doesn't she want to make a lot of money?"

I know. You're not supposed to mention anything about the process, and certainly NEVER say anything bad about an agent or an editor or a publisher. Because of course, they all have computers and Internet access and Google and can look me up and find out I said things I don't want them to know I said. Or something like that.

But today is my chance to spike the football in the end zone. I may get an "excessive celebration" penalty, but I think I've earned it, just for this one day. Then it's back to work. Because the agent is interested in "Scurvy Dog!" which means I've got to finish writing it.

And read it to my wife's fifth graders. They're my test subjects, of course.

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