The Best Laid Plans…

As I sit here, coughing, hacking, and sneezing, with my nose a continual fountain of snot and mucus, I had started off January with such high hopes. I always do…until reality bites me in the butt.

2018 ended with a bang. In late November, my husband had major surgery. It was quite unexpected, and the surgeon was candid in what could go wrong. Maybe too candid, which only added to our fear, worry, and confusion. Thankfully, husband sailed through it, and is now pretty much back to normal.

What is not back to normal is my writing routine.

I’m the type who has always blustered through. I’ve written though anything: hurricane, stomach flu, sinus, moving, kids puking, and various other travails. I always prided myself on my strength and stamina. I wrote 365 days of the year, come hell or high water.

But I have to be honest….November was pretty much a washout…and having my sinus/cold flare up just as I picked up hubby from the hospital meant another week or so of feeling lousy. Yes, I was writing, but it was a real slog. I was far from from the “zone”, where I write on auto-pilot.

Then, December, well, that was pretty much a wash, what with the holidays and hubby still recovering, and kiddies being sick here and there. I don’t think there was one week where one of the older grandkids wasn’t home with something (or one of the grandbabies was running snot like lava).

But January, which also happens to be my birth month. I always start out with high hopes and good intentions. This was going to be the year!

Until the grandbabies came down with an awful cold/grippe…then my husband…and then me, and of course, I had it worst of all. No appetite, no sense of smell or taste, and no energy. In one week I went through six tissue boxes.

The last couple of January’s have been like that. Awful flu, stomach virus, sinus, cold, grippe…the germs find me and don’t let go. I don’t know if it’s because of the change of season or that as I get older I’m more susceptible to disease and infection, but man, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

And as sick and as miserable as I was, I still wrote. Sure, not as much as I’d like to ideally, but even when I wasn’t physically writing, mentally, I never stopped.

I got off queries.

I wrote down ideas.

I sent off requested material.

In my head, I continued to plot out the three novels I’m currently writing.

I gave notes.

And I still wrote, even if it didn’t seem like I was making progress.

So yeah, even though there were days I felt like going to bed and pulling the blanket over my head, I still trudged on.

Which leads me to my next train of thought…

Rejection.

It sucks.

I mean, REALLY SUCKS.

It’s one thing to get generic, form, bland passes. I tell myself, just one more no until I get a yes. I don’t dwell on them.

But when you get a pass that is just so lovely, so complimentary, so very close to a yes but is still a no, no matter how many times you read it, you’re gutted like a filet of fish. No matter how long you’ve been doing this, it still hurts like hell, and no amount of cookies and cream ice cream is going to make you feel better.

I know many writers who obsess over passes…who try to read in-between the lines, the subtext, what did they really mean, or not mean.

In the end, it doesn’t matter.

A pass is a pass, no matter how nicely it was worded.

And as much as it hurts, you must remain professional. I repeat, YOU MUST REMAIN PROFESSIONAL.

You can’t write the agent back and say boo-hoo, they’re missing out on the next great fill in the blank.

You can’t threaten.

You can’t cajole.

You have to grin and bear it, and move on. I can’t stress that enough. Don’t be the nitwit who is castigated on social media for being a jerk.

It’s a business. Opinions differ.

Many writers who went on to become great writers were all rejected at one point.

JK Rowling.

Stephen King.

John Cleese. (Fawlty Towers was rejected. Fawlty Towers!)

What I’m trying to say is that rejection is normal. You can’t expect everyone to “like” what you do or to “get” it.

As I am fond of saying, it only takes one yes.

I don’t need ten.

Just one. (As I reach for another box of tissues with watery eyes).

Taking Stock

Well, not that kind of stock, but it looks inviting,  doesn’t it?

We’re in the last collective gasp of 2018, and while the house is semi-quiet, and outside it’s cold and dreary, it seemed like an opportune time to put my feet up next to the lit tree while I’m semi-lit from a couple of sips of Grunch (don’t ask), and ruminate on what I did these past twelve months.

Positive: I kept to my diet pretty much, but then, I always watch what I eat…except when it comes to Nutella, croissants, brownies, cookies, coffee cake, ice cream, apple pie, ice cream sodas, and Blizzards. Do you notice a pattern here. 

Negative: I didn’t lose any weight, but then again, I didn’t expect to.  See positive. 

Positive: I resolved to make 2018 the year of novel writing. I was determined to finish my long aborning passion project come hell or high water. And I did, and now it’s out in the world trying to find a good home, and I hope one day that it will be available for all to read.

Negative: I’m still on the hunt for an agent.

Positive: I persevere. Hope is like Santa’s endless bag of presents. Just when you think you’ve reached the end of your rope, someone throws you a lifeline. 

Negative: I need more rope. Lots of it.

Positive: I signed contracts for two picture books to small presses. Completely unexpected, not on my radar, and a great confidence booster. 

Negative:  I’m still looking for a home for my passion project. Patience, grasshopper.

Positive: After fits and starts and delays, my personal website is up and running. I had a lot of help, you know who you are, and I can’t thank you enough.

Negative: I have not mastered Scrivener, and I doubt I ever will.

Positive: I started writing two brand new books, one a contemporary MG set in a seaside village with a unique tourist attraction, the other a magical YA fantasy re-imagining of  The Prince and the Pauper.

Negative: I have more ideas than I know what to do with. Ideas are like seeds, the more you sow, the more your back aches from all that bending down.

Positive: I’ve made many new, supportive, writing friends. They’ve picked me up when I’ve been on the mat, and I’ve celebrated their successes.

Negative: I haven’t won Powerball or Megamillions.

Positive: The Blue Wave is real and very much alive.

Negative: Trump is still President, but hopefully, not for much longer. 

Positive: I’m still in relatively good health, aside from my sinus, allergies, weak stomach, and bum knee. 

Negative: Hard lesson learned, don’t screw around when it comes your health. My husband was loathe to get a routine colonoscopy; finally, around Halloween, he got it done after a ton of nagging, and to our shock and surprise, the results turned out to be anything but routine. Flash forward a few scant, whirlwind weeks later, he had major surgery and thankfully is now on the mend, but it wasn’t  without a lot of upset, fear, and worry.  I’ve earned every gray hair this year, trust me.

As for 2019, my goals remain the same: write, write, write, get an agent, sell more books, keep my family happy and healthy, and ice cream. 

First Page Giveaway

BLUE LIGHT IN AISLE FOUR!!

To celebrate the grand opening of my website, I’ve decided to do a first page giveaway. That’s right, FREE! No stamps required. But there’s a catch. (Yes, there always is, and why should I be any different).

The first 25 lucky souls who spread the word about my website wins the golden ticket: I’ll critique your first page. Could be a query letter, synopsis, outline, screenplay, picture book, middle grade, young adult, adult, new adult, old adult, porn, Amazon wish list, last will and testament, you name it.

Leave a comment below, show me what you did in gory detail, I’ll approve, and when I do, voila! Once I give you the all clear, you can send the material to pjmacwriter @ gmail.com

So get your fingers clacking far and wide,  by carrier pigeon, tweet, or Facebook share,  let the world know that PJ McIlvaine is open for just about anything.

first-page-of-the-bible-0-pleasurable-inspiration-catalogue-number-3