April is winding down. We have a slightly different version of April showers here in the Northwest. The song goes, “April showers bring the flowers that bloom in May.” Here, it goes, “April Showers bring the May showers.” We don’t get a lot more rain than other places. It rains about the same here as it does in New York City. The difference is that it comes down harder and faster in New York. Our rain is usually drizzle and mist. It comes down nine months of the year.
Since Mrs. Lion and I are inside kitties, the rain rarely inconveniences us. The dark days sometimes affect our mood—we both like sunshine. My mood has been pretty dark. I’m having a crisis about my ability to write good fiction. I don’t think I’ve found my voice. I’m very close to giving up my attempt to be a novelist. I’m not sure what to do with my time if I do. I like to write, but I can’t see spending the rest of my life writing crap.
This latest crisis of confidence was brought on by faint praise from an editor I consulted to help me shape up my submission package for agents. Her first pass included a lot of helpful comments on how to sharpen my style and corrected some focus errors. After rewriting the book based on the feedback, I resubmitted my work. There were no editorial changes to the sample pages I submitted. I wrote and asked why she was silent. Her reply was, “I think you’ve gotten your opening pages as good as you can.”
There you go. She didn’t say that the pages were good, just good as I can make them. From an objective point of view, I think that means it isn’t good at all. I could write porn. I know that I can write hot sex scenes. There’s a very limited market for that. Also, it isn’t much fun to write. To make matters worse, there is enough free porn on the Internet to make selling anything nearly impossible.
My father used to tell me that I could do anything I set my mind to. My mother used to say that childless couples are the happiest. Dad was wrong. Mom was partially right. Anyway, I can probably learn to write more marketable fiction. It isn’t an art, after all. Writing is a craft. I did my undergrad work in business and, later, computer software. My master’s is in computer science. I haven’t had an English class since high school. It shows.
Maybe writing over a million words on this blog has helped me express myself. It hasn’t taught me how to build characters. I can tell a story, but I don’t seem able to make people love my characters. I think that failing shows up here. People like our reporting but don’t identify with us enough to start a two-way conversation in our comments. Visit Julie’s blog, for example. She almost always gets thirty or forty comments to each post. We usually get none, or on a good day, one.
I think it’s because I’m not a compelling character. If I can’t draw readers to myself, I have no chance of inventing characters they will love. I’m lucky that Mrs. Lion loves me. She must see something that the rest of the world doesn’t.