Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How Writers Pay Their Dues

I don't need to tell writers what that means. Most of us practice our craft for years before we have a manuscript good enough to submit to an agent or publisher. Once we work up the courage, we send out enough hard copy queries, partials, and manuscripts to take down a hundred trees. We work ourselves into a blubbering snit as we prepare to pitch our work at a conference or workshop. And sometimes, decades after we first began to write, we decide it's never going to happen, and we give up.

Or, we finally get published.

Yeah, I know, sometimes a guy hits the big time with his first manuscript. Maybe that author is so brilliant he deserves his good fortune. On the other hand, there may be a long story you haven't yet heard, like maybe the author has been revising the same manuscript for twenty-seven years.

My story begins a really long time ago, after I graduated from high school and started college. I dabbled in poetry, short stories, and essays when I wasn't busy with term papers and part-time jobs. From time to time, I took a writing class or attended a workshop. Later, after joining the corporate world, I abandoned the poetry and worked harder on short stories. At the same time, I was documenting accounting procedures, preparing business reports, and designing training materials for new accounts payable computer programs. And I also had a family.

That may explain why I wanted to escape to a make-believe world in my free time.

Fast forward to 1985, when I had an incredible opportunity to take a break from the real world and spend a couple of years in France. All of a sudden I had more free time than I'd had in years, and I began to write. Since my brother and I had discussed collaborating on a novel based on his years in the transportation industry, that's where I began. We sent materials back and forth between France and Illinois by regular mail (no e-mail yet), and the result was an action/adventure story, The Troubleshooter. While my brother tried to get someone to read that novel, I moved on to romantic suspense set in the South of France.
It took us thirteen years of submitting and about six rewrites before I discovered the niche for The Troubleshooter. Books in Motion marketed heavily to cross-country travelers and truck drivers who could buy or rent the books at large truck stops along the way. The Troubleshooter was released on audiotape in 2000. The story has not yet been published in any printed form. However, I'm thinking it has potential as a historical mystery if I revise it one more time. If you tend to suffer from review anxiety, read the one on The Troubleshooter at the Worldcat site and eat your heart out. Come on, you'll like it.

The romantic suspense novel which has no title requires a tougher and braver heroine than the gal who showed up for my first draft. The manuscript is sitting on a shelf in the bookcase just behind me. I intend to rewrite it one of these days and bring in a new gutsier dame with a sense of humor to play the lead.

Meanwhile, back to the never-ending story. I continued to write once in a while from the late 80s to 2003, but my working hours increased, and then Bill dude and I retired, moved across the country, and did a bit of traveling. When I did write, I rarely took the time to submit anything. As a result, I have that one published article I told you about yesterday and a file box full of bad poems, short stories, essays, and beginnings of things never finished.

And then, late in 2003, my writing life changed. I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.


Galen Kindley--Author said...

Maybe I’m wrong, but, seems like getting a book released in audio version is tougher than in print form. Is that so? Regardless, having an audio book is very cool. Do you have anything in eBook format?

Best Regards, Galen.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

You did really well to make time for writing in the middle of raising a family, working, and traveling. I know it's rewarding to see how your efforts paid off!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Karen Walker said...

Patricia, is there a memoir lurking in there somewhere? This is good stuff and makes me want to hear the rest of the story.
Karen Walker

Helen Ginger said...

Always leave 'em wanting more, or in writing terms, end the chapter with a hook. Which you did - you writer you.

Straight From Hel

Anonymous said...

Ohhh a cliff-hanger! I wanna know more! Do tell!

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the history of your writing career and will loook forward to the rest. :)

BTW, from one "old cynic" to another, I laughed and enjoyed your comment on my Tie Dyed Tirades today.

The Old Silly From Free Spirit Blog

N A Sharpe said...

I love to hear how others got into writing. As for the audio book, it just goes to show with enough re-writes and finally finding the right niche home...I love a happy ending :D

Looking forward to the continuation tomorrow!

Nancy, from Just a Thought…

Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama said...

Loved to hear the journey and like the updates to the blog!