Wednesday, March 02, 2005

How I Got Here, Part 5


For over six years I’d been learning how to write fiction. And, doggone it all, before that I’d been making very good money at my Vantage Point marketing business. I’d given up almost all my clients to work full-time on becoming a novelist, making not one dime. All the financial support of our family had fallen to my wonderful husband. If he hadn’t made the excellent salary that he did, I never would have been able to work so hard—for zilch.

Now I waited to hear from my agent about Color the Sidewalk for Me. Meantime I dreamed about how much she’d love it. About being published. Becoming a real novelist. I even had marketing ideas for the novel already. Man, I was gonna make such a splash in the literary world. I’d be famous. Readers would love me.

The fax from my agent finally arrived. I watched the pages spit out of the machine, my heart hammering. Picked them up with trembling fingers. I can still remember the sound of my own breathing as I read the first paragraph. “I read your manuscript—every word,” the agent wrote. Every word. As if it had been a chore.

She hated the book. It lacked character motivation, was poorly written, and was way too long. “Why did you do this and why did you do that?” she demanded. None of it worked for her. In fact, this was such an awful book, it wasn’t even redeemable. And further, since I’d written such an unredeemable book, and since she’d worked so hard to sell Eyes of Elisha (which she really liked) but couldn’t, it had become obvious to her that I was not a client she could keep. End of conversation. Adios, fare thee well, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

I stood in my office, staring in shock at the blurring pages. Then I ripped them up into tiny pieces and threw them in the trash. My husband tried hard, but was unable to console me. The dream of my lifetime had been ripped away. With two pages. That’s all it had taken. Two lousy pages spit out of a fax machine—and seven years of work slipped down the drain.

I walked away from writing that day. Obviously, I did not have it in me. Obviously, something was very, very wrong with my thinking. Because you see, the whole time I wrote, I knew deep inside that I was good at it. I knew I had much, much, much to learn. But I felt a raw talent there. It just needed honing. I knew I could connect with characters, make ’em live on the page. Knew I had a facility with the language—

Well, I thought I knew. Evidently I was wrong. With such skewed thinking, what did I have left to do but quit? My characters lived on, in my heart, my mind. But no one else would ever read about them.

The next day I glared at the trash can. I’d quit writing. That was final. But those ripped pieces of feedback about my novel plucked at me. I fished them out. Painstakingly taped them together. Read the hated words again. Good, Brandilyn, just keep tormenting yourself. Rub it in. Rip out your soul one more time.

For some ridiculous reason, I saved those taped-up pages. Stuffed them in a file where I wouldn't have to look at them.


Then I went on with my life. I had a great husband and two kids. I had plenty to do. So what if I never wrote fiction again?

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Read Part 6

9 comments:

mrsd said...

Wow. Sounds brutal. :(

Kelly K. said...

So what happened after you published and became a name - did you mail a photocopy of your vicious rejection back to the agent?
Could you write just a little more everyday, a paragraph, maybe a complete chapter. (Early in the book ones, not the 3 paragraph chapters at the height of the suspense)...please...

Becky said...

I am speechless. I never knew you went through such an arduous process. I am so eager to see how God brought you back to writing. And I've seen Color the Sidewalk for Me. It is no 200,000 words. The birth of the 3-book series? I can hardly wait.

(Jim &) Brandy Brow said...

Are you sure your name isn't Brandy? You're starting to sound an awful lot like me. (Thanks for the encouragement--obviously you didn't stay quit and so should I continue. I needed to read you post today.)

Lynette Sowell said...

Wow again, Brandilyn. This is the "untold" story. Thanks for sharing with us. It's encouraging, esp. walking into a bookstore now and there's your books!

Katy said...

Brandilynn, Thanks for reminding us at the ACFW site about your blog--this story about how you got your start is inspirational and fascinating. I've got a supposedly finished first-novel in hand, but am now realizing (with the input of some talented writer friends) how much work it still needs. And I'm already 51! VERY tempting to forget the whole thing...and yet, I just can't.

C.J. Darlington said...

Fascinating reading. It's very encouraging, actually, to read that this writing thing takes time. I need to remember that and not rush things.

Paula said...

Thanks Brandilyn!! I needed this today! So very glad you didn't give up!

Rachel Hauck said...

B, thank you for sharing. It helps so much. I remember waiting to hear about a story - "I love it." and I got, "change all this stuff." It sold, but I know that feeling of wanting to hear how wonderful the story is, how great is your writing, and getting, well... not that.

You are an inspiration, as well as beautiful. Rachel