BY ELEANOR SHELTON
Originally posted February 06, 2020
I’m about to jump into the querying trenches again. This time with a new novel and hundreds of writing hours under my belt on this recent work of magnificence. My last magnificent opus inched up the ladder of success until the ladder was unceremoniously yanked from under my feet. I’m second burn shy. Is it going to be easier this time around? It’s possible, but unlikely.
At least my skin is thicker, and I know what to expect.
I am not young enough to know everything.
― Oscar Wilde
I had a plan, a schedule that my writing life would take:
- MFA by 30 (achieved!)
- a few short stories published to some attention
- find an agent who thought I was a fantastic writer (found an agent who liked my story)
- publish a novel that would catch on and garner a loyal following (nope not yet).
But hope springs eternal, it’s just taking a meandering path.
William Shakespeare wrote 39 plays, 154 sonnets, and several works by collaboration, and was deemed “The Bard” of England. He was 52 when he died. I am 52.
[Note to self: consider deleting this section, so fewer readers think you are comparing yourself to Shakespeare, which you are definitely not!]
I may envy his word count, but not that hairline.
Of course, the average lifespan in the 16th century was 40. So that puts things into perspective.
Let it go? Should I let my personal writing schedule go?
[Note to self: maybe change the subhead, so fewer readers think I’m being cheesy and using a worn-out cliché from a Disney movie]
After all, much of what I wanted is out of my hands:
- finding an agent who thinks I’m worth the risk, is as much a matter of serendipity as it is perseverance.
- getting traditionally published can be a long wait for a slow boat in this ever-changing market.
- attracting a loyal following can have you feeling like Sisyphus.
The one thing I absolutely control is writing, writing, writing, which I do. Am I a better writer since I was 30? You betcha.
Last year, in Forbes Magazine, Pia Silva made a gut-wrenching point. In today’s world of self-publishing, too many people are focused on the fact they can publish a book rather than if they should.
That’s not saying independently published books aren’t worth the ink. Given the volatility of the publishing industry right now, I don’t blame writers. But, there is no denying a market flooded with self-published books makes it hard to find those quality gems. And we all know of a self-published book or two that was wanton murder of a few trees.
While I’m working on the traditional route, the same question is valid. Just because I want to get my story published, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen. Waaaaah!
But then I came across mention of eighty-year-old Roberta George, who took twenty years to finish her manuscript and find a publisher. I’m a spring chicken when you think about reaching eighty years old.
Eighty is the new forty. Robert George.
[Note to self: perhaps you should limit your glee, so you don’t inadvertently insult those readers in their eighties because that is not the intent! Some of the most amazing people are in their eighties, like my father who is a talented writer]
This tidbit reminds me not to put too much credence in my schedule. And his prolific word count wasn’t the only thing Shakespeare had going for him.
Nothing will come of nothing.
— William Shakespeare
It is easier said than done when I reach each birthday. Will I let go of the things I can’t control? Only if someone pries my fingers off the keyboard as I write query letter after query letter. Will I continue to try even if I’m in my 80s still striving to get my stories published?