Friday, January 01, 2010
"You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist." -- Isaac Asimov (1920 - 1992)
I very rarely bother to follow the advice of other writers. Usually, it just annoys me; every writer's journey is different, after all. Some got their lucky break because their wife pulled a manuscript out of a trash can; others got their break because of their family's connections; still others sent out manuscript after manuscript for decades until they finally hit upon the right combination of story-agent-editor-publisher and found themselves inexplicably at the top of the field. But Asimov's advice is one that really resonates with me.
In a nutshell, he claims that persistence is the secret of success. If there's one thing I've got, it's persistence.
Now granted--I have had some small measure of success. And yet--I dream of more, of bigger, of prolific production of quality manuscripts that entertain the majority of people who read it. I find that lately in my work, I'm getting bolder--I'm exploring issues and relationships and conflicts that once had no place in my creative mind. I, who was once inordinately fond of the tropes of genre fiction, am now looking for a way to break out of them.
And still, the weary round of submissions goes on. Every time I hit "send," I'm sending a little bit of my soul out to be examined and judged. Now that bit of soul is twisted, warped perhaps from my comfortable, familiar world of fantasies and romance and long-dead honor into something where faith is questionable, where romance is an obstacle and where fantasies grow darker and more intimate. Am I doing the right thing?
It doesn't matter. I'll still keep working on them, wrenching them into a condition where I can sit back and say, "I trust this story on its own. Let's see what it can do."
I woke up this morning infused with a new, stronger sense of purpose. I feel empowered, like something is waiting just around the corner for me if I have the guts to reach out and take it for myself. I went through my works in progress briefly, analyzing them, looking at them from glasses that are no longer rose-colored, but more of a steely grey. And you know what?
I like what I'm seeing.
So aside from the Mythos and Covenants books, I'm going to dedicate a great deal of my focus and attention on the darkest work I've ever written. Terella is my new pet, rising in all its onyx glory to push past my other work. I think I've finally matured enough to really explore the depths of that work and the ideological horror it emerges from. It's time to give it the attention it deserves.
If Asimov is right--if persistence is what leads to success--then well, I've got that in abundance. All the trepidation I've always felt when submitting to agents or publishers has vanished. Now I'm looking at it as a challenge and not the soul-sucking agony I've felt in the past. While Deception is still alive and kicking on a few desks across the country, its successor will be polished and shined until it's like obsidian--shiny, stygian and sharp. Then we'll see if my currect instinct about my work is correct--if I'm more suited to creating the darker side of speculative fiction than the heroic side.