Wednesday, February 4, 2015

When Do You Quit the Pursuit?

Oh, I suppose if you’re a Winston Churchill admirer, you ‘never ever give up’, but seriously, sometimes it’s just practical. For instance, if something feeds depression (that would never happen with writing!) then you should probably cut it out, yes? Here’s a twist: What if something better comes along? I ask that you digest those points for a just a moment.
                For me, the pursuit for novel publication has become counter-productive at a minimum if not outright asinine. Now, before I insult all writers, friends or foes alike, we’re talking about what’s most suitable for my little ol’ world. Perhaps it’s still a good fit for you. Maybe you’ll rethink it, though, after I reveal some of the traps of this ‘profession’ if you’ve not already gotten tangled in them. The reason I’ve come to this decision is I do not care for spending months on a project (sometimes years) to no avail. Progress is measured differently depending on who you are, but I wanted to earn supplemental income or do it for a living. The latter I understood from the get-go to be difficult, but you never know until you try. With manuscripts that number in the teens and twelve years later, I haven’t achieved either. There was lots of schmoozing, improving in the craft, unprecedented marketing stunts for my only publication, tireless submissions, and nothing has caught traction to help me realize my goal.
                If I reveled in every moment of creating a novel, it would be different. They say you got to love it. A good written word gives me chills – to read and to scribe. I even named my son after a literary reference! However, coming from a performance background, I’m a sucker for getting quick attention to my work. In novel land, you hardly ever get that. Barely anyone will read your stuff when you’re unknown.

                In the Be a Star series on this blog a couple of years ago, I emphasized the need for tenacity and love for the art, and I cited the stories of famous entertainers who exemplified these qualities to stardom. I have the passion and persistence. Time – not so much. And in the spirit of the Be a Star series, Jay Leno spent years trying to ‘get his break’. He auditioned for lots of acting roles while doing stand up at night and turning a wrench during the day to pay bills. Remember him in American Hot Wax? Anyway, he kept being told that his chin was too big. To Mavis, his wife, he resolved, “I’ll just have to find a back door in.” So, to my immediate situation, if I'm not getting anywhere, change the game – find the back door.

                When I started writing, horror was my genre. Soon, it became clear that macabre was the worst selling kind of fiction. Because of my love for writing, I adapted to hotter acquisitions: romance, fantasy, young adult, steampunk western, and urban fantasy. By the way, I received lots of praise on concepts and voice for all these new frontiers. Let me tell you something: Writing is like a selfish lover. I bent over backwards to please her, but she still rejected me. Worse, I lost my identity. I’m a horror writer, damn it!
                So, thus begins my new life. When I hinted in the first paragraph about something better than novel publication, that’s exactly what happened to me! I’m in love with Julie Pfennigwerth. She is my treasure…besides my gifted son. I pinch myself everyday. It’s not an understatement when I tell you I’m flying higher than any spirit. So why do I need the adulation of a novel deal? Put simply, I don’t.

                That established, Julie is a smart, accomplished writer. She has actually made money doing it, so my change of strategy comes mostly by her influence. Going forward, I’ll be chiseling out short stories, articles for magazines, blogs, and maybe the occasional children’s manuscript where you can wrap up a plot within 40k words. That should suffice for my writing fix and won’t chomp out all my time with loved ones, thus bumming me out if nothing comes of the finished copy.
                To be sure, I am very proud of my titles, published and otherwise. Heck, Tattoo Rampage garnered film representation by Jody Hotchkiss who gloated about my imagination and the villain…even though I haven’t heard from ol’ Jody in a couple of years. Another friend with impressive status in the entertainment business, screen writer Cardinal Robbins, continues to encourage me. I mean…wow. However, these little shots in the arm become addictive like heroin and distort reality. You may be good, but are you selling?

                Since I was a wee lad, Prairie Home Companion has been an inspiration to me. A few weeks ago on the program, Garrison Keillor spoke about his gravitation toward writing. He never wanted to be a novelist. Poetry and shorts were his love. And I thought: How smart is that? Keillor, who worshipped the Grand Ole Opry which served as a muse for the Lake Wobegon radio show, used his writing skills and pioneered his own path. I am a guitarist and singer with a booming voice. In the 90s, I made nice scratch on the side plunking strings in restaurants and coffee houses. In 2015, the Gusto Dave Show will return. I’ll be gigging shortly, massaging patrons with musical renditions, humor, and some of my anecdotes.
                Here on the Rock, we’ll still be interviewing agents and editors. A lot of them will probably be magazine publishers for my own appetite. When Janet or I stumble on good-to-know stuff for novel submission, we’ll share of course. As for myself, besides my goofy observations, I’ll be starting a series that exposes some of the trials and tribulations that you may not have anticipated with the novel game. The first coming: The Funds That Publishers Ostensibly Expect You to Fork Out.

Gusto Dave


Julie Luek said...

I'm glad, of course, you're still pursuing the craft, whatever form that takes. I'm a big fan of your writing, singing, and humor (even before you shmoozed me and won me over with your charm). It's smart, creative, and just plain good. I think it's healthy and a more holistic outlook on life to nurture your creativity and talents, in all its varied forms. Glad we're in this together.

CathyRoy said...

Good points and definitely food for thought. I'm trying to pick up the pen after a year or two away from writing and its daunting, but I like the whole back door idea. Miss your performances and was always happy to be a part of that!