Tuesday, November 2, 2010


by G.M. Malliet

This is from a diary entry of mine of about five years ago—Autumn 2005. As it documents the ups and downs, and the inanities, of the unending struggle to stay motivated and get published, I thought I’d share it with you here.

I was still working full time, and fitting in the writing as best I could. Making up rules, and breaking promises to myself, as I went along. Being "good," and then backsliding. I am glad to see that I didn't really whine much--at least, not on this particular day. I'd been at it a long time and perhaps had learned that whining is a time-waster.

As I waited to hear back from people, I entered contests. I wrote short stories. I started and abandoned novels. I was rejected; I was accepted. Death of a Cozy Writer was finally published July 2008. 

An aside: The cat I mention turned out to belong to a neighbor, and was named Sybil. She turned out to be a little con artist who went from house to house, looking for handouts. Sybil passed away two years ago.

Yesterday was the Autumnal Equinox, a day of change and celebration. Deciding I liked the celebration part, and that I clearly needed a rest, I got my hair done (change) to gear up for the new regime. I will write until the day before the Winter Solstice. Three months, gearing up for 2006. It is said agents and editors don’t do anything at all, whatsoever, in November and December anyway.
     Now, all I have to decide is my method.
     Should it be the Dick Francis method: three pages a day, no matter what, handwritten? He used legal pads and the trick was, when he didn’t feel like writing, he would write as big as he liked. I think he had the right idea. You have to cheat sometimes. You just can’t let the cheating go on for longer than a day or two.
     So…off I go. Every day is writing day, and the work must be on my novel. Three pages a day. Somehow I have to squeeze the short story in here somewhere, too. Deadline for Zoetrope is Oct. 1.
     This morning, a little black and white cat dropped into our patio. Very friendly little thing, mewing for food or company, no collar, but it used to have one, you could see the indentation on its neck. I named it Equinox and fed it two bowls of milk.
     I just got an email from the Debut Dagger people. My novel Death of a Cozy Writer is not among the 13 short-listed entrants. Big sigh; rock on.
     I was going to give up my Wednesday night online writer’s chat room, but now I’m going into withdrawal. I really do get a lot done on those nights. It’s become a sacred ritual.
     It’s the rest of the week that’s a problem. Finding a balance is hard. Certainly writing one night a week is going to get me nowhere fast.
     I can think of a million reasons not to write, on any given day. The question is, how badly do I want to be published? Enough to work hard for it, and give up other things (like sleep) for it?
     Incredibly, I am now into negative figures on the manuscript. Some of what I had in there was duplicated material. However, opening up the file and putting the story in order is the hard part. A good day.

Photo taken from news.therecord.com


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Congratulations, Gin, on sticking it out, and look where you are now?! Bravo!

My favorite part of your entry (which was fabulous, BTW) is: "I can think of a million reasons not to write, on any given day. The question is, how badly do I want to be published? Enough to work hard for it, and give up other things (like sleep) for it?"

When folks ask why I work as hard as I do on 3 series, all while juggling another career, I say almost the very same words. "How bad do I want it?" is the question every writer, budding or established, must ask themselves, and honestly answer. There are no short cuts, just sacrifices and a lot of sweat.

Mark Terry said...

"How bad do you want it?" is a question every writer should ask themselves, even after they get published.

Keith Raffel said...

Gin, great post. Reminds me of Theodore Herzl's saying: "If you will it, it is no dream."

Beth Groundwater said...

I want to finish the book I'm working on so badly that I'm here making a comment. What's wrong with this picture! I'm getting off the Internet now to write.

N. R. Williams said...

An interesting look back. Sadly I don't have a diary as such. I keep all my writing in word doc. so I can relive my stupid mistakes anytime I want to until I deem it an unworthy waste of time and delete the docs. Thanks for leaving me a comment. I'm not really very organized, but having a theme helps the old brain come up with a post.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

G.M. Malliet said...

Sue Ann - You still make me look like a slacker. You make ALL of us look like slackers.

Mark - I hear you. It's not as if you've ever "arrived" and can just sit back.

Keith - That is fabulous, and completely true.

Beth - That's the spirit! I totally unplug this thing some days - it's the only way.

N.R. I love this comment. Alas, I have lots of laughable stuff in my computer, too. I delete very little, tho. It's inventory...

Darrell James said...

Gin- Thanks for letting us peek inside your diary. It reminds me of all the contrivances I have invented along the way to keep myself going.

Nice to look back and see how far we're come.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Gin, thanks for reminding me that all of us have ups and downs, doubts and faith. So glad you kept going!

Keith Raffel said...

Gin, one more thing. Cute photo of you atop your posting. Who is the blond guy? Does Bob know about him?

Jessica Lourey said...

That's priceless, Gin. Thanks for saving it and sharing it.

You know what struck me about it? I thought you literally burst onto the scene with "Death of a Cozy Writer" and swept the awards with it, and that writing came as easy to you as breathing. That is, when you decided that you wanted to make it your life pursuit.

Isn't it funny how we can assume that stuff about other people? Your make it look so effortless, but you slogged along just like the rest of us. I'm glad all that hard work is paying off for you.

Of course, I'd be just as glad for you if your success had been easy, because you're a nice person and a great writer. Anyone know if there is a mystery writer who just sort of walked into a publishing deal? If so, should we start a cult worshipping him/her?

G.M. Malliet said...

Keith - That Redford thing is so over--ancient history. [How young he looks! They both look!]

Jess, that is too funny - that I've blown my cover as the woman who just took up writing on a whim! I can't think of any real overnight successes. I think those instant-success stories are made up by publicists.

Carol Grace said...

Writing a book is hard work, we all agree, but for those who keep a diary... Doesn't that sap your creative juices and give you muscle spasms and suck time out of your life? Or is it worth it because...?
Just wondering...

Alice Loweecey said...

Gin, great post!

I know how bad I wanted it: to keep plugging through some jaw-dropping setbacks (which shall remain unnamed) for four years.

Where's that hair dye?...

G.M. Malliet said...

Carol - a diary acts for me as a repository for the boring, everyday stuff. So I can move on to the [hopefully] more interesting book writing.