You've always wanted to write that novel, and now you're finally deep in the weeds. You tweet "#amwriting" and suddenly you've got a slew of new followers, all of whom are doing the exact same thing. But hey, there are enough readers out there for all of you, and besides, your premise is fresh, and your wriing, kickass. And yet, to paraphrase the Buddha, pain is inevitable. Here's a snapshot of what that pain looks like:
1. When a beta reader requests a hard copy.
At ten cents a page, Staples wanted to charge me more than $40 to copy and bind my manuscript. I'm a struggling writer, Goddamnit. Are you trying to kill me?
2. When said beta reader receives the requested hard copy and emails you, "300 pages? Wow, you know you're asking me to make quite the commitment."
May I just ask, what did you think you were going to get? Also, fuck off.
3. When people ask whether you have a publisher lined up -- before you've completed your manuscript.
I suppose I should take this as a compliment? Either that or pure ignorance of how the publishing industry actually works?
4. When people can't wait to tell you how it's impossible to get published nowadays unless you self-publish.
At the risk of repeating myself, may I just say, fuck off?
5. When people assume you're self-publishing "because that's what everyone does now."
But you're like, I'm not everyone, and since when did I care what everyone's doing? And why must they stomp on your three-part dream/delusion of mainstream publishing to bestseller to movie?
6. When your characters talk back to you until you listen to what they're desperate to tell you.
If you've created characters with authentic imaginary lives, then you'd best listen. Also, writer's block can be very instructive, painful as it may be.
7. You kind of hate yourself when you write, but you hate yourself more when you don't.
When you're in that zone, you can't possibly eat right, working out takes far too much energy, and you can't talk to people because your head is all fuzzy when you try to be of this world. But when you pull yourself out of the zone, you feel frustrated and vaguely humiliated, and terrified that the holiday-taking muse has flown the coop forever.
8. When you stand up for the first time after five hours of being in the zone and your body is as sore and depleted as if you've just run a marathon.
I really want someone to explain this phenomenon to me. Please.
9. When your teenaged son watches The Shining and says, "This Jack Torrance guy reminds me of you."
And you realize that it's kind of true. When you're in the zone, interruptions are at the interrupter's own risk. And seriously, how dare they?
10. When your writers group only accepts screenplays.
How did you wind up in this place anyway? So you write a treatment, but they're totally not fooled and fully demoralize you, as is their right.
11. When your writers group wants more zombies.
And you just can't with zombies.
12. When your writers group wants more women walking around in their skivvies.
Alright, maybe one.
13. When you finish your manuscript and wish there were actually a way to high-five yourself.
That bottle of prosecco in the fridge does the job nicely, however.
14. When you finish your manuscript and go into mourning because you miss your characters, even the awful ones.
So you just talk about them incessantly. Like even at dinners, as if they were real people whose lives you didn't invent.
15. When you have to turn every one of your carefully chosen and carefully placed 100,000 words into a one- to two-hundred word synopsis.
See also, when you have to urn every obsessive thought you've had regarding finely nuanced characters and tightly-woven story structure into a pitch that doesn't exceed four- to five-hundred words. There are no words to describe this torture.
16. On a related note: manuscript and query format.
I don't know about you, but double-spaced Times New Roman isn't my choice. And never in my life have I put the names of books into ALL CAPS, until now, of course. It feels weird to me, but it's industry-standard,
17. When that one agent ignores your pitch and snubs you on Twitter.
And yet your pitch is basically a perfect match for her "list". Why God? Whyyyyy?
18. When you can't even because, Oh My God, THEY WANT YOUR FULL MANUSCRIPT!
This actually happened to me. It can happen to you.
The pain is real, fellow-writers, as well as excruciatingly delicious. Stay tuned for more pain as it unfolds.
Lauren Cahn is anxious waiting to hear from agents who are reading the manuscript for her multiple point of view thriller, THE TRUST GAME and desperate to know that every other agent to whom she submitted a query is throroughly enthralled with her carefully crafted 400-word pitch.