The act of sitting down to write, day after day, then painstakingly revising what one has written, often starts with a fantasy. There are many variations on this fantasy, but I surmise that many writers share a similar fantasy to my own: I write and revise my novel. It is AMAZING, right up there with the great American classics. I easily find an agent, who easily finds a publisher, who quickly puts my novel into print and sends it out to libraries and bookstores across America. People around the country read my book. My agent helps sell the movie rights for a nice price, and it gets made into a good movie that doesn’t violate the integrity of the book. It gets translated into several languages and people around the world read my book. When I take my next airplane ride (as part of my book tour), the person sitting next to me (in first class) is reading my book. After my book readings, people line up to get me to sign their books. And then I sit down to write my next novel.
Of course, the logical part of my mind has talked to enough authors, ranging from aspiring to moderately successful, to know the brutal reality that I most likely face as a writer. The actual writer’s journey is probably more like this: I write my novel. I read it and realize that it is not nearly as great as it was in my head. I revise my novel, then revise it again. Though I never get to the point where it belongs with the great American classics, I at least get it to the point where it is good, something that other people will enjoy reading. I try to find an agent. I try to find a publisher. If I do find an agent, he or she may or may not find a publisher. If I do find a publisher, they give me no advance and hardly market my book. If I don’t find a publisher, I consider self-publishing. Before I self-publish, I have to pay out of pocket for an editor and a cover designer and an ISBN number (yes, one does have to purchase that). Then it becomes one of the millions of self-published books on Amazon. Either way, I have to do my own marketing. My friends and family read my book. I squeeze into the coach seat on the airplane on the way to visit my family and imagine that other people on the plane are reading my book. And then I sit down to write my next novel.
Despite the disconnect between my writer’s fantasy and the writer’s reality, I’m still revising, still working to publish my novel, and still dreaming. Part of the reason is because, like many writers, I feel compelled to write. Characters come into my head and start having conversations and my novels start writing themselves before I even sit down to type them. Putting words on a page is often liberating, even when those words aren’t quite as brilliant on paper as they seemed in my head and require numerous revisions to come close to that level.
Another reason why I’m trying to publish my novel is because I won’t ever know what might become of my writing if I don’t try. My chances of “making it big” as a writer may be slim, but they are zero if I let my unwritten novels languish in my head forever. When I’m on my death bed—hopefully at an old age, after a full life—I don’t want to wonder, what would have happened with my writing if I had tried?
And so I continue on my journey to publish my novel. Though I would classify my current work as “realistic fiction,” it is fantasy that keeps me pushing forward. Because my fantasy only has a chance if I actually try.