It is awful. Sort of. Most of the time, yes. Some days it feels like any other 9-5 day at the office, except you somehow manage to cram 8 hours of mental exhaustion into 2 and still end up feeling like you've accomplished nothing. It's like the worst kind of time-travel, minutes and hours speeding by you faster than your mind can comprehend and you're still exactly where you started. Anyone who ever thought it would be a good idea to write a book, even those people who wrote books I hate are brave and insane individuals who are worthy of respect if for no other reason than sheer dogged perseverance. That, in the end, is what it takes. Yeah, creativity and passion and the desire to make a difference are important, all well and good, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions and in the end the only thing getting you anywhere is the grim determination to sink your fingers in to the sheer rock-face of inevitable rejection and just cling.
First thing you have to realize is that your original draft of the story is probably actually crap. That brilliant idea you've stretched and nurtured into something approaching a coherent narrative? It will likely no longer exist by the time you're done. The worst timing for this realization is right about where I'm at. So very close to finishing the first round of revisions, which took me about 8 goddamn months, and realizing as I'm closing in on this imaginary deadline that my second round of revision will probably take twice as long, if not longer, because the entire story and every scrap of revision I've just completed will have to be broken down, destroyed, and built up again. While still, hopefully, remaining the same story except it won't because how could it when the very problem is my story and how, essentially, it isn't right. In fact I jut came to this realization not five minutes ago, which is why I'm writing this nonsense because the alternative is a complete cognitive meltdown in a Starbucks entirely too close to my home for people not to recognize me if I ever decided to show my face in public again.
This, of course, is only step two on the road to publication. The other steps are so shrouded in needlessly ominous explanations and allusions by people "in the know" you might as well be peering down into the all-consuming charnel-darkness of Gorgoroth, because who the hell would bother with any of this shit if they were sane? Upon Googling "How to get published" I came across a very informative bullet-point list of steps to get started which included helpful hints like:
- Get an editor
- Get an agent
- Go to a writer's conference
- Ask questions
- Write a cover letter to a publishing house
- Perform voodoo sacrifices to Nyarlathotep the eldritch god of insanity and your worst nightmares, because no one else will bother explaining these steps to you and your soul probably isn't worth that much anyway.
This seems like a fairly straight-forward and comprehensive list of how to get started in the publishing game. Except that for anyone not initiated into the dark circle of cold consumerism and ego-stroking, no one actually knows how to go about achieving these steps. Get an editor. How? Get an agent. Again, how? Oh, well you have to go to a writer's conference. Great, where do I sign up? Well, you have to go to one specific to your genre of writing, and bring a completed, revised copy of your story, probably several, and sit through a bunch of panels and be one of hundreds of slavering plebeians gathering around the keynote speakers in an attempt to gain their attention and, if you are one of the lucky few, their approval. O....okay....um, and how do I find one these conventions? Oh, they're listed at your local library. .......Where? Where in the goddamn library are they listed? Why are you like this? I get the distinct feeling you don't even know how to complete these steps, you snake-oil-peddling murderer of dreams.
And you can just forget about the "contacting the publishing house" phase of the process being any easier to swallow. There's the letter of intent, of course, which no one will tell you how to write, which of course can be rejected out of hand before they've seen a glimpse of your actual story. If they don't immediately dismiss your letter of intent, however, it doesn't really get any simpler. Courting a major publishing house is, apparently, akin to coaxing a wild animal out of a cage. You make the first move, then immediately back off; don't make any sudden movements. You don't contact them, they will contact you, but probably not. Never ask to speak to them directly. Prolonged eye-contact makes them feel threatened. Never approach them from the left, and always with your hands open and palms up to show you're weaponless. If worse comes to worse, bear your throat and play dead.
Of course if you do get a publishing deal, guess what you get to do then. Revise. Again. Except now, you're revising to their standards and you get an infinitesimal cut of the profits because after all, you and your book aren't making them money, it's their ad department marketing your book that's making them money.
The answer to many of these problems is getting self-published, or it would be, if not for the fact that you still need an editor to make sure your product doesn't suck, and either way you have to trust some asshole you don't know not to shit all over, alter completely, or steal your book. Copyrights, copyrights, copyrights. And without a publishing house designing your book and layout free of expense on the assumption that you will earn your costs back, self-publishing requires you to foot the bill for all of these things with even less guarantee that your final product will turn any profit.
But since the alternative is getting a real career, I'll sign off here and go back to my impossibly infuriating story, plod through a few more pages of revision, feel inadequate, and do the same thing all over again tomorrow. And again and again and again until such a time as I'm finally published or I get run over by a bus. Whichever happens first. Because what else can I do? It's my dream; my beleaguering, burdensome, unremitting dream. Cold triumphs and warm, lingering failures. I'll take it though, and I'll bitch and whine but I'll never want it any different, because at least I'll never have to know the aimless drifting purgatory of not having a dream.
Because that just sounds like a nightmare.