If you hadn’t guessed already, I’m a little bit of an extrovert. That’s not always a plus in the writing world—sure, having “chatterbox” as an honorary added middle name helps when I’m hanging out in the hotel bar at a book festival or at a coffee place with my writing besties, but it sure doesn’t help when I’m back home alone, staring at the blank cursor with silence rapping on my eardrum.
I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I can do in the actual process of drafting, editing and selling Architects of Memory. I’m not the person I was when I started, and I’m really thankful for all the lessons I learned along the way.
But I’m even more thankful for the people I met, too. Getting a novel on the shelves is a very long game, which is the bad news. But it’s also, as I’ve found, a team sport. Some people don a jersey for a few minutes, while others grab the ball and barrel down the field like they’re channeling Payton Manning. Others sit in the stands, waving signs and cheering.
They’re all part of this story, too.
These are only some of the scenes I’d use if I were writing a book about—well, writing my book:
1. I’m sweating bullets trying to make an article perfect at my very first newspaper job. Deadline is five minutes away, and the article isn’t perfect, and I’m one hundred percent sure my editor will fire me when he reads it. My editor appears. Grins. “Art is never finished, only abandoned,” he quips. A choking weight evaporates. I send the article. It appears in the newspaper. I write another one. And another.
2. Usually, our group gathers at a coffee place to write fanfic and chat about our lives, but tonight we’re in German’s backyard, blowing up a dollhouse for Lori’s book trailer. We take a picture: the dollhouse bonfire, the fire extinguisher, eight smiling faces. Writing is more than just sitting in front of the computer, picking at keys, I realize. I also realize, much later, that you only realize the perfect moments when they’re over.
3. The island air on Martha’s Vineyard smells like salt. Behind me, someone’s playing a guitar. I hear laughter from the other workshoppers. People talking about plot and character like these are ordinary things to talk about. All of this feels normal. Which is extraordinary. I test the thought: maybe it could be normal. Maybe I could sell my book, could be a professional, could write another one, and another, and another. Just like articles. Normal. They all don’t know it, but they’ve changed the game entirely.
4. I log on to IRC after a few years away from the dark and dangerous Wood. My writing compatriots are still there—nicknames and black-and-white text, their words illuminating the shared fantasy world we’ve been building for ten years together. They were witness to my first hundred thousand words, and maybe more, and were the people that taught me how to plot. I wonder how to explain Internet roleplaying to the crowds, and then realize: I’m from the Oregon Trail generation. We grew up on the Internet. It’s all good. It feels like freedom.
5. I print, collate and submit my last workshop story, then leave campus alone for the first time in the six weeks we’re spending here. I walk down to the beach, then climb down the cliff staircase. I wade into the water and watch the sunset as the waves lift me from the ground. Nobody’s actually here, but I still hear their voices. That’s the point of this workshop — to carry them home with you. And I do.
And there are so many more players who are just coming on the field that I need to thank: my amazing editor, my brilliant agent, the artist who made my cover (seriously, look at it, is it not mindblowing?), the production people, the marketing folks, the copyeditor—
—and all of the scary and super things yet to come.
So, before you pop the turkey in the oven tomorrow and settle in for some sportsball (or go about your ordinary business, for those of you reading this from outside the United States), consider sending up a flare to thank the people who helped you get this far. And then, thank your lucky stars that you can be that person for others.
Thank you, everyone, for helping me make this a game well-played.
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