Looks Like Work

You know what, I hate going to the gym, and I hate running. I hate sweating too. I’m not a huge fan of sweat. I avoid sweat, moving, and effort. If I ever get the option, I want to come back as an indoor house cat who lays in the sun and watches the outside world through a protective glass window and eats canned food, grain free dry food, and treats. I could be a good house cat.

I can manage to put forth effort, sometimes. If there’s one thing my three marathons and 30+ half-marathons have taught me, it’s that I can drag myself along a street long enough to flop on a finish line. Even when I have a race coming up, I can’t really bring myself to train. I hate training; it’s so much work.

Still, you know what, I did it. I did another thing too; I wrote a book. Actually, technically, Kill It With Magic is the fifth novel I’ve written. Its older siblings are dark horrid things that fester in the night. Sometimes they reach out with hands bleached white by their time in the box under my desk, begging me to read them. I don’t know why they want to make me cry, but they do, and it’s horrible.

I read a post recently, and it moved me so much that I actually made a long, well thought out comment. Why? Because I want to be that author guy everyone knows who sips French coffee (I hate coffee) and wears black turtlenecks (I haven’t done that since high school) and looks down at everyone else (it’s not personal). I get to do that, once.

Basically, this post was about whether or not everyone has a novel in them, and, to some extent, I sort of agree that everyone’s life can probably be distilled into a 250-300 page book where we will all laugh and cry. I believe that everyone does something in their life that I would like to read about. Probably.

But could anyone actually write a novel?

I don’t really think so. I think anyone can write a novel just like anyone can run a marathon, put together a million piece puzzle, or design an award winning invention.

I think it is possible for people to do these things. Like, you know, physically possible. In that we all can breathe possible. I still don’t think most people will do most of those things because it takes work to do any of those things. Because it takes work to do those things, well, that makes it impossible for most of the population.

Even the people who write a book by stabbing at a keyboard, littering the screen with semi-intelligent prose (been there) or hobble down a marathon course in five and a half hours (done that) put forth a degree of effort far beyond the average and even the above average person.

Writing a novel or running a marathon can be done with nothing short of effort. Not done well, but done. It still takes a lot of work. It’s estimated that 1% of the population has run a marathon. If you look at people who have done it more than once that number drops to like .1% of the population. I think it waxes exponential after that.

I’m not sure what the numbers are for people who have “written a book,” but my guess is that they’re similar. My guess is that most people look at the accomplishment and think they could do it because they can physically write down words, but that they won’t do it because the amount of effort involved is staggering.

News flash, that means you can’t do it. If you could, well, you wouldn’t tell me you could do it, you’d point at a finished book or a finisher’s medal. You wouldn’t bring down every marathon finisher and every author with a tome under their belt by saying “Oh I thought about writing a novel, I have this great idea.”

Yeah well, didn’t Thomas Edison say, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Skin Game

I just finished the new Jim Butcher book Skin Game. I have to say, it was one of his better novels. I may spoil the end of the book, so if you really care, tread lightly. What struck me was a scene toward the end. I don’t think I can write a scene like that. I know it’s really not a fair comparison, but I don’t think I can write at his level at all, at least not now.

I know he has 20 books under his belt and a team of editors. I know he went to school for writing and all, but I want to write a scene like that, and, to be honest, it was a scene many books in the making.

I get that, but I want to write like that because when I read it, it brought tears to my eyes. My heart was pounding, and I started hoping for him against all odds. I really wanted Dresden to win, and I didn’t see how it would happen.

I’ve always been sort of at odds with books like this because the power levels of the characters seem to fluctuate. Sometimes Dresden or Anita Blake or even Superman can overcome crazy challenges with relative ease. (Diving into molten magma and lifting California back into place, anyone?) Other times, even the smallest challenge seems Herculean for guys who can fling around dump trucks.

There’s a part in this book where Dresden drops a super powerful bad guy like nothing. Afterward, he makes the comment that it was more like murder than a fight. Then, this scene happens a little later. Dresden is facing off against non-super-powered people, and he is about to lose. He should lose, and I wanted him to pull some crazy Dresden crap and live.

I totally believed that they were going to lose. The reason Jim Butcher could do this is because of Lois Lane. This is going back to Superman, but remember, I’m trying not to spoil the ending of Skin Game. Lois Lane has no super powers to speak of, yet she’s daring and always getting herself in all sorts of trouble trying to help. It’s a character that Superman can save because, let’s face it, Superman doesn’t really need saving very often.

It’s why we love Batman, because under all his money, flash, and bang, he’s a normal guy. If I had a billion dollars I could be Batman. I will never be Superman. It’s why, when in this Dresden book, Lois Lane stands up and becomes Batman all you can do is yell “Yes!”

I don’t know if I can write a scene like that, and it is my own fault, at least in the Lillim world. There are no Lois Lanes in my story. There’s no plucky side-kick who she can step in and help. There’s no friends who aren’t near her in power level. Hell, if I go through Fairy Tale and Hatter, almost every person she encounters on her side is nearly as strong/powerful as her, if not stronger. I mean, let’s be honest, no one cares when Superman saves the Green Lantern or Wonder woman. We care when he saves Lois Lane… but we really care when Lois Lane saves him.

I need a Lois Lane, and I’ve messed up and written three whole books without one. It’s probably why I feel so disconnected from Lillim at times, why I worry that she’s too Superman and not enough Clark Kent.

In every book, I’ve stripped her of more and more humanizing factors and now? Now, I need to find some.

Jealousy

I’m a bad person… possibly evil. I’m coming to terms with that. Yesterday was a silly day for me. It was silly because I’m silly. Let me tell you why.

I had a thought as I was cruising the blogosphere yesterday. I wondered what happened to my old crit partners from 2011/2012 and, like an old lover, I decided to google them. I knew one of them was a published author now, so it wasn’t a surprise. What I didn’t know was that the second (of three) was getting the book I helped critique published by penguin in 2015.

I had several completely separate reactions about it.

Happiness! Because she worked damn hard on her book, probably harder than anyone I’ve ever met… and her book started out really good.

Excited! I have critiqued a book that is now being published. I feel sort of proud even though I contributed like .00001% to her success.

Blinding jealousy! That’s the rub. It took me a long time to shake it yesterday. I wondered to myself how these two people, who I worked so closely with, managed to get published when I can’t even get past the query letter stage with an agent.

I know she had a good query letter; I sat in “internet query workshops” with her where the agents helping us would request her book because the idea was that good… From the workshop…

The agents always told me my query was perfect, was good, but none ever requested my book.

When we had last spoken, I’d just suffered a blinding stream of 12 rejections, not one asking for pages and she had 9 separate agents asking for her book.

So, clearly, she had something special. I am happy for her, and I’m not just saying that. I really, truly am.

But I sorta wish one would just pick me. I think that’s the problem. Getting chosen is like a 1% chance, actually less than that according to some statistics. Still, it is hard to not feel your self-worth start to chip away under an onslaught of rejections… especially when the people you worked closely with are getting there.

I know… I know I shouldn’t define my worth based on:

A)     Other people’s success for work I had nothing to do with. We are totally different people with totally different life circumstances and totally different books.

B)      On what other people think of my work. I can’t base my happiness on what other people think of me because I will always come up short. All I can do is my best and be happy that I did my best. I need to choose myself as it were.

 

Those are two things that make no sense to get upset about and I understand that… but it still bugs me.