Friday, August 25, 2006

Tacit Knowledge/Before I Wake

Michael Blowhard adds another trenchant observation to his occasional “Let's stop and take an unblinkered look at the publishing industry” efforts, here. This earlier post is what originally turned me on to the Blowhards. I'm not resorting to hyperbole when I say it changed my life for the better.

In June, 2003 I'd just finished the first draft of a novel. I had other boxes of paper I'd typed out, but this one was different: I'd spent four years on it, waking up at 4:00 in the morning to type for two uninterrupted hours before my daughters (one an infant, the other a toddler – originally, of course) woke up. After that, it was time for me to change diapers, warm bottles, tend to the household. In June, I had achieved the singular feat of concluding a manuscript that ran to 763 single-spaced pages. My wife asked if she could take a peak; she promised to be generous but honest in her appraisal, so I pushed the heap of paper in her direction. I was kinda-sorta pleased with myself, but mostly looking forward to taking a break from the insanely early mornings.

Days later, a friend e-mailed me the link to the Blowhards, with the words, “Wondered what you might make of this.” I read it. I feverishly hammered out a lengthy comment, and hovered over the “post” button for a bit. Then I went back and read all the other comments for the first time. I finally shut off the computer without saving my comment and stared out the window.

Then my wife walked in, holding a page from my manuscript and tapping a pencil to her lips. “I think I've just found your first sentence,” she announced.

I snatched the sheet from her hands and looked at it. Page 145.

I determined then and there that waking up at 4:00 was strictly for the birds, that I was no longer going to be the bleary-eyed droop who slouched around impervious to my daughters' glorious impromptu song-craft (among other delights), and that I was going to renegotiate a more realistic personal contract with my dreams.

I was grumpy for a stretch. The kicker was this really had been “tacit knowledge”: I'd been a buyer for a successful independent bookstore in Toronto, and I had friends in the publishing industry, including a high-profile editor of high-profile fiction – I witnessed first-hand how it all worked. Early in the game, my editor friend encouraged my efforts at fiction, but also made a point of sitting me down and explaining what I needed to do to get published and sold. Without getting into specifics, we were talking about a hell of a lot of work, the likes of which made my 4:00 a.m. type-fests look like an idyllic pastime. (For the record, I did give the advice a try, and there followed some literary misadventures which I'll save for another post or two.)

I finally took up Michael B's self-publishing (i.e., "blogging") suggestion, which had the pleasant effect of quickly extracting me from the Slough of Despond (note the starting date in the Archives). I re-engaged, but still kept writing, mostly shorter stuff that didn't require an undue amount of my time. I'm editing and formatting a selection of it, and will be going the Lulu route – with a little luck we'll have something ready by the end of September (working title: “Youthful Desires”).

In the meantime, it's been a privilege and a treat to acquaint myself with Robert J. Wiersema and follow his progress as newly-published novelist. This cat's living the dream, but aye carumba – the work he's done and continues to do! In 2005, as Wiersema was making the final changes to his soon-to-be-published novel Before I Wake, he:

- worked as buyer/seller for Victoria's pre-eminent independent bookstore;
- worked as contributor/organizer for that city's literary festival;
- reviewed over 100 books for various newspapers and trade journals;
- hit the road and did promo work for Before I Wake at Toronto's Book Expo;
- obligingly started work on his next novel.

If you need any further proof of Michael's “authors sell themselves” thesis, here's what RJW's currently up to. I understand he also remains happily married and has taught his son how to play chess. Excelsior, dude! (Whew – I think it's time I brewed my second pot of coffee!)

Before I Wake
has received excellent advance reviews (here is one such with spoilers), and can be found in nearly every bookstore in Canada, or purchased on-line here.


DarkoV said...

October 1st can't arrive too soon. The tip of the 'berg becomes more visible. Too early for congratulations? Too early to paint the new "baby" 's room?

Whisky Prajer said...

Being somewhat superstitious about these things, I'll translate the "congratulations" as "good luck" until the boat is actually in the water, sailing gloriously toward the setting sun. By which I mean to say (of course), "Thank you."

Rob in Victoria said...

I'm puzzled -- I responded to this post late last week when I first saw it, but it seems to have disappeared... Ah well.

Thanks for this. I'm touched, and I really feel like I don't deserve it (especially since Xander and I gave up on the chess a while back -- we're trying again, but only time will tell).


Whisky Prajer said...

Rob - strange, you're the second person to say he wasn't able to post a comment. Thanks for persevering. Blogger must be having troubles.

Michael Blowhard said...

Thanks for the links. I'd love to see that that comment you wrote and didn't post or save! It's interesting how minimizing the suffering can actually be good for the writing (and the quality of life too), isn't it? Please let me know when the Lulu book is ready.