4 Books and a Writer

This occurred to me the other day: I'm currently writing my fourth book.

I'm sure a lot of people can say they've written a book, or come close to writing a book, or started writing a book.  It is the great cliche of American literature, really.  But the fact that I'm on my fourth is either really impressive or really sad, and possibly a bit of both.  After all, only one of them has actually been published.

The first book I ever wrote, now called "Through Sheer Strength of Will (and Blissful Ignorance)" started off as a short story.  Like with most of my work, I had no idea what it was really about.  All I knew is that I was living in an apartment that had been completely refurbished because the guy who lived in it before me had stayed there for twenty years.  I also knew that I was still getting his mail.  And it occurred to me that someone who lived in this tiny studio apartment for twenty years must have had reasons for it.  It also occurred to me that, given how long he'd lived there, maybe he didn't leave willingly.  Maybe he'd died there.  And maybe his ghost had stuck around.

I started writing that book (which, at the time, was called "Reliquary") in the last few months of 2002.  I "finished" it in the last few months of 2003.  In my mind, a year was plenty of time to write a book.  It was probably too much time, but that just meant it must be good -- particularly given the fact that it had all but encompassed my entire life.  Just a few months into 2004, I was already sending off query letters to any agent who was accepting new clients.

Needless to say, I got rejected.  A lot.  Looking back, it's not particularly surprising that so many people turned me down.  The book was no where near ready to give to anyone and I was really just learning how to write in a long form (something I would still struggle with when writing "Pray").  It was surprising, hindsight being 20/20, that two agents actually requested not only sample pages, but then the entire manuscript.  Both ended up passing on the book.  In fact, I received rejections from both of them on the same day.

Book #2 aka The Only Book That's Been Published aka My Only Non-fiction Book aka "I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At" has a long history, but it's one that's pretty well described in the book itself, so I won't go into it too much here.  I suppose it's not surprising that it would be my first published book, given that non-fiction is currently outselling fiction like crazy, and the little fiction that does sell is generally YA.

This brings me, funny enough, to book #3, which just so happens to be a YA book.  It doesn't really have a title at this point, and I'm not too thrilled about the working title, so I won't mention it.  I read a lot of YA, so writing a YA book seemed like a fairly organic idea.  It didn't take me too long to write the first draft, either, although I had learned over the years between my first attempt at a book and this one that the first draft is generally awful.  I left it alone, then went back and made some changes.  I left it alone again and then went back and made some more changes.

Book #3 is currently in the hands of my wife, Nicole.  Anyone who has read this blog knows that Nicole is my in-house editor and she's a damn fine one at that.  Nicole is a reader, and she knows what makes a good story.  She's also an actual editor (albeit for film and television), so she knows what is important to a story and what isn't.  The fact that she has it also gives me a handy excuse for why I haven't done anything with it yet.

This all brings us to my latest book.  It has a title, but I'm going to keep that one close to my chest for now.  I'm five chapters in and it's been the hardest thing I've ever written, at least from a craft standpoint.  I wouldn't necessarily call it YA, but there are definitely fantasy elements to it.  I think it has a chance of being the best thing I've ever done, which is also making it really hard to write; there's nothing like self-inflicted expectations to freeze you up.

So is it sad or impressive that I'm on my fourth book?  I suppose it's sad that I haven't started sending out my first book, given that I've revised it to the point where I think it's actually pretty darn good.  But I'm sure it's at least a little impressive that I have a published book out there, one from an actual publisher.  And I suppose it's a bit impressive that I've managed to get to a fourth book in just nine years while holding down a full time job for most of that time.

Like I said: It's a bit of both.