Rebelling Against Life

Early in the twenty-first century, I set out to fulfill a lifelong dream to be a writer. I wrote a book that was so terrible, I packed it away and never looked at it again. I kept writing, though, and I studied the craft of writing along with the art of getting published. I wrote a book I was proud of, and set out to find a publisher. When I racked up too many rejections, I took a break and went back to writing. Wrote an even better novel, and when it was finished, I sent out query letters and proposals to agents and publishers. Still no takers. So I wrote another novel and then another.

By the end of six years, I had four solid novels (including my magnum opus) and more than 200 rejections. So I went back to writing. But this time I decided to forget trying to write something readers would want to read, agchainents would want to agent, or publishers would want to publish. I decided to write something silly and unpublishable as a rebellion against the system.

I wrote half of this new novel, and then things changed. My mother became ill and died. My life mate/soul mate kept getting weaker and weaker. I got a computer and the internet, and learned blogging and emailing and various new ways of querying agents and publishers, racking up even more rejections.

During all this time, my silly story just languished. There was too much real life going on (if either death or the internet can be called real life), and I had no time for foolishness. I finally found a publisher who loved my books, which started a completely new focus for me — editing, promotion, Facebook, networking. And then my life mate/soul mate was diagnosed with inoperable kidney cancer, and “real life” took on a whole other meaning.

My silly story continued to languish. What use is whimsy when my world had collapsed? Why rebel against the system when life itself seemed to be rebelling against me? I could barely smile for more than four years during his illness, his death, and my grief let alone be able to see the humor in the world coming to a fictitious end.

I still don’t see the humor in life, but I am beginning to sense the stirrings of rebellion. I don’t much like this brave new world of publishing where anyone who strings a few unedited words together can publish their scribblings and call him or herself an author. I don’t like spending so much time on the internet hoping to attract readers (though I do like getting to know people). I don’t much like the real world, either. I don’t like sickness and death. I don’t like loneliness and heartache. I don’t like . . . well, there’s no need to make a list of the things I don’t like. The point is, I am feeling that same rebellion I felt when I started writing my silly story.

Oddly, until this very moment, I thought the emotion driving the story was whimsy, when in fact it was rebellion. I’m not in the mood for humor or wit or looking at the absurdities of life because the realities are still too strong. But I can do rebellion.

And I will.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Immigration of Characters

I was sitting here trying to figure out what to write — I’ve had so many guest bloggers lately, I’m out of the habit of writing my own bloggeries — when I received an email from a friend with an attached article that she wanted me to check over. It was so clever and true it made me smile. We all have characters who deserve to immigrate to a better place than in our heads or on our computers. More to the point, she’s letting me post her article, saving me the trauma of having to think of something to write. Here’s what my friend Sylvia McKye say sabout the immigration of characters:

I write, as do many writers, because I enjoy writing.  I take pleasure in telling stories and taking people on adventures via my stories.  I have voices and ideas in my head.  It gets crowded in there; I need these clamoring characters to immigrate.  Onto my computer screen is the perfect new world for them. Rarely are they happy there, though.  They want a larger world.  They want to travel; they want to see and be seen.  These characters are determined; they have visions of the wide world of places like Barnes and Noble in which to sow their wild oats.  A few are truly ambitious and, having a high opinion of themselves, dream of traveling to New York and make the rounds socially-on the ‘A’ list, of course.  One or two have even mentioned being on the ‘A’ list will help them realize another dream, living on the silver screen.  Once they’ve done that, then they want to settle down on a nice little cozy bookshelf somewhere. 

So what’s a beleaguered writer to do?  Help them immigrate, of course. 

As a writer, I’ve in effect given birth to them and I’m emotionally attached to them.  I’ve raised them to be tough and strong, to set goals and dream.  I applaud their ambition.  I love my characters, so I start the paper trail to help them realize their dreams and ambitions.  However, immigration laws for characters have become tough in the past ten years.  There’s so much red tape involved.  Character immigration is a tough business all around. Getting through to the Character Immigration Officers is daunting.  

I get frustrated because some of these CIO’s reject my characters without even giving them a chance.  I polish them, provide my characters with a new wardrobe, take care with accessories-because appearances are everything in this world-and try again.  I provide them with the right background and setting and still they get rejected.  Some of these CIO’s want clear-cut categories to pigeonhole them.  A certain background.  Some of my characters don’t fit into a particular category-they are people after all-much less a set background.  Some of my characters do, but still aren’t accepted.  My characters are upset and I’m frustrated.  Because I’m attached to them, it bothers me when they’re rejected.  Meanwhile, I have a small town of characters living on my computer, and more in my head.  Will I stop creating?  No.  Will I stop trying to help my characters to immigrate?  No, again.  

I have invested in some tough Rhino skin for my characters and myself.  It’s survival.  I have no intention in giving up on finding homes for my characters.  But rejections hurt you as an author.  They can’t help but hurt us because we have created these characters and invested time and emotion in them.  Rejections are a normal process of the querying your novels and stories.  Some published authors say they’ve received enough rejection letters they could’ve papered their bathroom walls.  That’s a lot of rejections. 

Some of these published authors made it through the red tape of Agents and Editors and gotten their stories published with traditional publishing houses, others investigated smaller publishers and went that route, and still others have settled in nicely with POD publishers.  They did this because they believed in their abilities to tell an entertaining story and a desire to take readers on an adventure.  They enjoy writing. 

The point is, these are published authors and they didn’t give up. They obviously invested in some tough Rhino skin as well so as not to be discouraged to the point of not writing or querying their stories.  Persistence has its rewards.   They’ve networked and marketed aggressively. Even after getting a contract, they continue working on building and keeping a strong reader base by perfecting their skills as a storyteller. 

For these published authors, their characters have emigrated from the world in their heads and their computers to New York and hit the ‘A’ list-the Best Sellers list.   Some of the authors have had their books optioned and have seen their characters make it to the movies. Some of their characters have starred in TV movies or series. Their characters have happily found homes in Borders and Barnes and Noble.  Others are happily ensconced on a nice cozy bookshelf in someone’s home.  

There are many success stories out there.  The question is, will you stay the course and help your characters immigrate?  Where will your characters end up?  Will they immigrate or end up spending their life with you?

As for me, I’m determined to help my characters immigrate.