The Zero Winter, Part 2

Back in the fall, my publisher mentioned they’d be “interested” in seeing my new novel – provided I finished writing it by the end of the year.

Unfortunately, by the end of November, I’d only written 30,000 words. I needed to write 20,000 more – FAST! So I booked a week off work, and ran away to this cabin to write.


I didn’t speak to anyone, didn’t play Super Mario Brothers, and didn’t watch a single cat video. All I did was write. And occasionally run. For nine straight days. It was…intense.

The view out the window

The view out the window

December 3: I’ve been here for three days, and I’m not sure how productive I’ve been. In terms of page totals, I have nothing to brag about. The first couple of days were consumed with organizational stuff – mapping out the chapters, going through old drafts, harvesting descriptive passages for re-use, blah blah blah. Boring, but necessary.

Kai called yesterday. He asked if my characters are surprising me with their words and actions. I think I disappointed him by saying no. My characters aren’t very clear to me yet. I’m not sure what motivates them. I don’t even know what kind of music they like. Hiphop or Christian metal? Shoegaze or bro-country? Until I nail that stuff down, they can’t possibly speak for themselves, never mind set out on an unexpected murder spree.

Copy of rewrite - floating island

4 December. I’ve been at the cabin for 4 days. I’ve only squeezed out 14 pages so far, and by no means are they polished pages. On the bright side, 10 of those pages were written in the last 24 hours, and I expect to continue writing at that clip (10 pages / day) until I return to Toronto Sunday night. I’m still hopeful that I’ll break the 160-page barrier while I’m here.

On the running front. things are great. I knocked off an icy 28k tempo run today in 2 hours 20 minutes. Didn’t even raise a sweat. Saw a beaver in a swamp at the side of the road.


5 December: Ideas are flowing now; literally tumbling out of my mind, one after the other. One of my characters did something I totally wasn’t expecting! I need to call Kai and tell him. I love it when that happens!

At the end of the day I went for a three hour run. It was cold and icy and I ran straight into the sunset. Later, sitting cross-legged on a cushion for 45 minutes, I felt my mind go quiet, and I thought: I do not want this day to end. I want tomorrow to be just like today, I want to write another 6000 brilliant words.

It won’t happen, of course. Tomorrows are never like todays. I need to be okay with that.

Fireplace 2

6 December: Another solid day of writing. Churned out 14 pages, including a soulful chapter involving Finn, and Tab, and a guitar. Basically, I was writing about my old friend, Christopher Lailey, who invented Wikepedia (without knowing it) when I lived with him in Ottawa in 1989.

So now I’ve written 29 pages in 5 days and I expect I’ll tie off at least another 5 pages tomorrow. That’ll take me up to the climax of the story when the storm hits and Finn runs away to the floating island.


11 December: Back in Toronto. I’ve been feeling gloomy lately. I’m still working on this crazy novel, every spare moment I can find, and I’ve become the most boring, least fun person in the world. All I do is write. Every. Single. Moment. I’ve forgotten how to joke around or have fun. I am a fun vacuum. It seems like forever since I’ve laughed or even smiled. I keep ignoring invitations to Christmas parties. I don’t even know how to speak to people anymore. I just mutter-mutter-mutter-mutter-blah-blah novel.

I don’t like myself this way. I don’t want to be a fun vacuum. I want to be the opposite. I want to be a fun...forced air gas furnace? A fun…leaf blower? Yes, that’s it. I want to be a fun leaf blower. I want to blow joyful leaves all over the place.

18 December: Got an encouraging note from a young friend. I met Luka at a school visit this past fall, and he took a picture of me, and photo-shopped me into the Sahara desert. I’ve always wanted to run in Africa, so thanks Luka, for making another of my running dreams come true!

David running in the desert

23 December: I need to start my Christmas shopping, but I’m having trouble taming three sections of the book: Pages 125-132, pages 156-163, and pages 180-188. The rest is fairly smooth sailing. But I need those time-travel sections to hold together. Without them, the novel will crumble to pieces like that dry vegan cheese that doesn’t taste very good. Okay, that’s a bad metaphor. But you know what I mean.

25 December: It’s Christmas morning, and yes, I’m still working on this book. Chapter 14 is a total wreck, and I need to start laying track for the final 3 chapters. Will I finish this thing in time? I have one week left.

blue skies in Markdale

1 January 2015: I finished the novel yesterday, so yay. It’s 212 pages / 58,500 words.

I have no idea if it’s any good or not. I cried while I wrote the ending, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign. It might just have been the exhaustion though.

The chapters that take place in the magical land of Perpetuum still need to be sanded down or amplified or…something. I’m not sure what. I need time away from it. Later on, things will be clearer, and I’ll start in on the rewrites with a fresh mind.

There, I just sent it off. Mission accomplished. I don’t care what happens to it now. I just don’t care.

I’m free!

snow blowing 12th looking west

Post script: Last night (New Year’s Eve), me and Shawna drove to Collingwood for a party. The weather was appalling: freezing rain, white-out conditions. Biblical stuff. As we passed over the Blue Mountains, slipping and sliding through the Siberian landscape, I thought to myself; what if we spin out, what if we get sandwiched by a truck or smash into a hydro pole? My novel will never be read by anyone! It’s locked on my laptop and nobody knows where it is. All that work will have been wasted!

I drove the rest of the way at 15 km/h. I swear. Writers are so vain.


The Zero Winter


Writing a novel is hard. Have I mentioned this? Writing a novel is like running up a mountain of razor blades in an Antarctic blizzard while wearing high-cut Richard Simmons shorts and a pair of barefoot toe-shoes.

I was reminded of this particular brand of anguish these last couple of months. See, back in the summer, when I was younger and happier and the birds sang more sweetly, and my house hadn’t yet begun leaking and needing $87,452 in repairs, yes, back in those halcyon days, I sat down and wrote the first 70 pages of a new novel.

It was an innocent time, and the words flowed like honey, like an Iggy Azalea song really, and my potential publisher was encouraging about the direction of the project. Not so encouraging that they offered me a book contract. It was far too early for that. Still, they were warmly supportive, and they offered lots of feedback and guidance, which is, frankly, more than I deserve.

Anyway. I asked this esteemed publisher a very important question. If they did, potentially, one day, wind up publishing the book, when might it theoretically appear in book stores?

Potentially next fall, came the answer.

And if that were to happen, I went on, when would you need the full manuscript?

The publisher sat me down on a comfortable chair, and then said one word: Christmas.

NOTE: At that time of this conversation, Christmas was 58 days away. The novel was not even half written.

No problem, I said.

Seriously? the publisher said.

No problem, I repeated. I work best with a deadline.

So it began. I had 58 days to write half a novel. I determined that I would somehow accomplish this, in spite of having a full-time job and (more importantly) a full-time relationship.

NOTE: If you harbour any dreams of becoming a writer, you may want to STOP READING THIS BLOG NOW. The following journal entries detail some personal thoughts from the 58 most exhausting, most infuriating, most miserable and most euphoric days of my life.

8_Dec. 2010_Winter wonderland (27)

9 November: Wrote all weekend. Like, every single moment from Friday night until now. Every 20 minutes my opinion of the book changed. It’s awesome! It’s a crap sandwich! It’s awesome! It’s a crap sandwich!

I hate the names of all my characters. I want to change them. Possible new names: Paz,  Kap, Coley, Philly, Saba, Sab, Constant, Paquette, Skyforce (a dog)

 * * *

20 November: Ermagherd it’s cold. I have to work upstairs because the main floor of this doofusy house is so frigid. I just sent chapters 10-14 to my trusted reader. Just to see if I’m on the right track. The novel is currently 113 pages, 33000 words. I just need to write another 20,000 words, or roughly 80 pages, in the next 35 days.

 * * *

28 November: I heard back from my trusted reader. She had questions about the floating island section of the novel. Not questions. Problems. Yes, I think it’s fair to say she had problems with that section of the book. Basically, she was confused by the time-stopping business. She didn’t understand how it works. Admittedly, I’m not sure how it works either. I’m an artist, not a physicist. I’ve been putting off dealing with the mechanics of this issue.

Anyway, I read her email a few times, and then I threw a bunch of plates on the ground, and then I phoned Jian Ghomeshi and hung up on him (that’ll teach him!), and then I did some quick brainstorming, and came up with a handful of elegant solutions.

I called my trusted reader and told her that I agreed with everything in her note.

I need to make some hard decisions, I said.

I do not need those glimmer lines, I said.

Finn does not need to be parachuted into some alternate reality when he’s already in a perfectly good alternate reality, I said.

Why pile complication upon complication, I said?

Why give Finn X-Ray vision when normal vision will do?

I need to simplify, I said.

I’m going now, I said. I need to write.

Glenelg Forest

30 November: Drove out to the Dundas Valley today. Ran 33k on trails under gorgeous blue skies. I should have spent the day writing, but I needed this, needed to drop a pain bomb on my quads and glutes and calves. One needs to live.

The valley was more beautiful than I’d remembered. I ran for nearly four hours, up and down zillions of hills. I barely even felt them. I can’t account for this. I haven’t done much training lately.

When I got home, I felt inspired, and hammered out 4000 words. A few of them were good words too. I figure that, for every page that gets published in a book, I need to write 20 pages of crap. It’s a 20: 1 ratio; like maple syrup. Therefore, a 200 page novel actually requires 4000 pages of writing.

Here’s a thought:

With running, success comes from mileage. That is to say, if you bank enough miles, you’ll run a fast race.

I think the same is true of writing. If you read enough good books, and write enough words, eventually you’ll compose something of value.

I’ve booked the week after next off work entirely. I’m going to run away to the cabin by myself and write for 9 days straight.

Hey, new Tove Lo song!


What a Year You’ve Had!

College and Bathurst, at night

You woke up so early, no one else in the world had been born. You ran so fast they put up new speed limit signs in your honour. You climbed so high, you were blinded by the bald spot on God’s head. You loved so well, France grew ashamed and fell into the sea.

Suddenly, it grew dark – so dark, the stars got lost. You cried so bitterly that your furniture floated away. You slept so deeply, owlings nestled close to you for warmth. When you awoke, you were so beautiful, you were asked to play Beyonce in a movie.

You ran some more. So fast, Einstein’s theories came into question. So fast, the large Hadron collider was deemed obsolete. You worked so hard, Mr. Barack Obama wrote you a doctor’s note and insisted you to take the next day off. You wrote so well, Alice Munro asked for your advice on a new short story.

Morning at the lake

You Don’t Have to be Great to Start…

I’ve been spending so much time lately going BLAH BLAH BLAH about running, I thought I should say a word about writing. After all, if there’s one thing I do more than run, it’s write. True story: after spending 8 hours writing for work, and another two or three hours on my novel, how do you suppose I like to relax in the evenings?

No, I do not yarnbomb neighbourhood stop signs with leg warmers. Instead, I chill out by writing in my journal.

I caught the writing bug early. When I was nine, I started cranking out a weekly newspaper. It had a circulation of 5: my mom, my dad, my two brothers and me.  It looked like this:

weekend household paper 1

It was called The Weekend Household Paper. I wrote it because I was bored. And it’s a good thing too. If I hadn’t been bored enough to write that newspaper, I might never have started keeping a journal.

journals stacked

Just a few of the hundreds of journals I’ve filled over the years. Here are more, stuffed into a steamer trunk:

journals in trunk

I didn’t write anything brilliant in those journals.  Usually I just wrote about the weather, or what me and my friends were getting up to on our bikes. From time to time, I’d write a short story. And it’s a good thing I did. If I hadn’t written those short stories I wouldn’t have had anything to send out to highbrow literary magazines.

rejection letter 3

I have hundreds of rejection letters like that one. Each one of them stung, but they also taught me something important. They taught me that if I really wanted to get published, I’d have to work harder. Much harder.

So I bought a high-tech laptop computer –

Tandy computer

And set about writing 3 mediocre novels.

my 3 bad novels

There they are. They all got rejected too. And it’s a good thing they did. If they hadn’t, I never would have gotten depressed and applied to the CBC for a real job – a job writing comedy shows and game shows and dressing up in funny outfits.

Me in headset

I wasn’t a great writer when I started at CBC, but a half million people were tuning in to the show I was working on, so I had no choice – I had to get better. And it’s a good thing I did, because (A) I got to keep my job, and (B) when a good idea for a novel finally occurred to me, I had enough writing experience to write it half decently…

writing floating island story

That’s me, working on my second book, which I’m hoping will get published in another year or two. Some days I’m not so sure, though. Even though I’ve been writing for years, my first drafts always look like crap. Here’s a page I worked on last night:

Copy of rewrite - floating island

I rewrote my first novel 11 times. I expect my second will take at least as much work, if not more.

Happily, with every rewrite, the story gets better. And it’s always worth it when you cross the finish line. (YESSSSS! Managed to sneak in a running reference after all!)

first copy of Ultra

Remember: You don’t have to be great to start.  But you have to start to be great.

Re-writing is your Friend


People often ask me how many times I re-wrote my first novel, Ultra.  Trust me when I say, YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW.


I wrote the first version waaaaaay back, in the summer of 2008.  It was 20,000 words long, and it swallowed two months of my life.  Back then, it was titled “Quinn and the 100 Mile Race.”

I finished the second draft a month later.  By Christmas I’d rewritten it a third time, and then I sent it out.

I sent it to an agent and also a publisher.  The publisher said some nice things about it.  She said the narration was lovely and warm; perhaps too lovely and warm.  She explained that the warm tone made it hard to believe that the central character was living on top of a calamity.  Which was why she was going to take a pass.

The agent didn’t reply.

I wasn’t too upset about it.  I’ve written lots of stuff over the years that never got published.   That’s the writer’s life.  I stuffed the manuscript in a drawer and forgot about it.

Two years later, I picked it up again.  I re-wrote it for…let’s see…the fourth time.

After 5 months of work, I pitched it 50 agents.  49 of them said, “Thanks but no thanks.”

The fiftieth agent (the brilliant Scott Waxman who represents some of the finest sports writers, including the legendary John L. Parker) called me on the phone.  When I saw the 212 area code on the display, I knew something was up.  Scott told me that he liked my story.  He said, however, that he wasn’t quite ready to offer representation just yet.  There were a few things I ought to think about – if, that is, I was “willing to re-write the manuscript.”   

I thought about the improvements that Scott suggested.  I thought about them for all of ten seconds.

Once again, I started re-writing.  When I finished that re-write I did another.

And then another.

And then another.


After six months of re-writing, Scott Waxman accepted my novel.  I received an “Offer to Represent” in the mail.

Cue the champagne corks!  Cue the s’mores!

A couple of months later, the novel sold to Scholastic Canada.

MORE champagne!  MORE s’mores!

In the year or so since I signed with Scholastic, I’ve done three more rewrites.  The first took 3 months, the second took one month, the third took a week.

That makes eleven re-writes in all.

I know that sounds like a lot of work, but listen: with every single re-write the book got better!

Lesson learned:

Writing a book, and running 100 miles, are similar in two distinct ways.

(1) Both involve a TON of pain.

and (2) The finish line is incredibly sweet.

Gifts from our Journals

Write in a journal long enough, and you’ll eventually earn some interest on your deposits.

I’ve been scribbling in journals since 1994.  And seeing as I burn through a 200-page notebook in the same time it takes me to sand down a pair of running shoes (every two months or so), I must have close to 120 old ones lying around.

From time to time, I’ll pick one up and read it.  Just to remind myself what I was thinking at a particular time.

Every now and again I’ll come across a nice turn of phrase, maybe even something I can use in a future story.  For instance, I just found the line “she had sunburned cheeks, the colour of squashed plums.”  It’s a bit florid, but you never know, I may use it someday.

Occasionally I’ll come across something that I’m not 100% certain that I wrote.  For instance:

“Family is like a staple in your heart.  It hurts like hell.  But it holds us together.”

Usually when I steal a line from someone else, I’ll attribute the source.  But in that case, I didn’t credit anyone.  Does that mean I wrote those great lines myself?

Possible, but not likely.  I was sorely tempted to use those lines in my soon-to-be-published book, but in the end, I didn’t trust that it was mine, so I left it out.

Sometimes, while sniffing through old journals, I’ll come across  an unexpected surprise.  I have no idea why I was thinking about fables in 2009, but here’s what I wrote in September of that year:

One day Cricket was tired.  Turtle was passing by, and so she let Cricket climb onto her back.  Turtle swam through the water, which made Cricket very excited.  The waves!  The sunshine!  The sense of adventure! 

In gratitude, Cricket bent his legs, and sang a song for Turtle.  Turtle pulled up onto the shore, and sat there awhile, listening to the beautiful music.  Turtle fell in love with Cricket’s song, and the pair stayed together for many years.  They were very happy, what with Cricket singing songs, and Turtle ferrying the two of them back and forth across the river.

One day, Turtle dug a hole and lay an egg.  When the egg hatched, a funny-looking creature popped out.  It sang songs like a cricket, and had long legs which it used to jump.  But it loved to swim through the water with webbed hands and feet.

And that is how Frog came into the world.

Again, I didn’t attribute it to anyone.  Does that mean I actually wrote it myself?  Or did I hear it told aloud at a storytelling event, or from a child, and rush home to share it with my journal?

I can’t be sure.  I don’t remember.  So if anyone recognizes this story, please let me know.

The Re-write Blues

Rewriting a novel is like arriving at your new apartment right after the movers have dropped off all your stuff. Everything you need is in that huge mountain of boxes, only you have no idea where.

packing boxes


Making matters worse, your apartment is full of odd-shaped rooms. Where will the sectional look best? What about the treadmill?

You want to move the credenza into the living room, but you sense it’s too wide, and you’ll just end up dragging it back to the bedroom.

And that’s only one of a hundred items. It’s very easy to feel defeated.

There’s only one way to get started: grab a box and start unpacking. What that box is finished, grab another. And then another. And then another.

Eventually, you’ll figure out where everything belongs. And your rooms will fill up and begin looking like home.

Trust the process.  Trust yourself.

The Man Who Forgot He Wrote a Book

Crazy story – about my talented friend Tim. A warning, though: Tim is successful at, like, everything. He’s an award-winning journalist. Plays violin like Nigel Kennedy. Bakes the most mouth-catering cakes.


These days, Tim spends most of his time writing children’s books.  But it’s a career that almost never happened.

childrens books

Here’s how it came about. A few years ago, Tim’s niece came up for a visit from Colorado. During her stay, she reminded Tim of a poem that he’d written many years before.

“What poem?” said Tim.

She reminded her Uncle of the poem he’d written for her as a gift, back when she was a little girl. A poem about a frog who is appalled to learn that that not all animals share his love of spiders and bugs.

Tim’s niece took the poem to school. Her elementary teacher loved it and read it aloud for the class.

The class, predictably, LOVED the poem. And so, for years, that teacher went on performing it.  An entire generation of Colorado kids grew up on Tim’s poem about the frog – and Tim didn’t even know!

Not long after the niece went back home to Colorado, Tim was telling a group of us about this story. We were at a friend’s book launch, and a literary editor happened to be standing nearby.  It’s a good thing Tim has a loud speaking voice because the editor overheard the story, and asked to see the poem. And presto! That poem got turned into a book.

The book sold a lot of copies. So Tim was asked to write a sequel. That one sold well too, so a third book was requested. It’s coming out in November, with a fourth book already in production.

And it all began from a poem that Tim forgot that he’d written!

What writer doesn’t have dreams like this? That at some point in our scribbly past, we wrote a brilliant poem, or short story, or novel, and forgot all about it? Lord knows we’ve got enough journals and floppy discs and thumb drives full of forgotten writing lying around… Surely, somewhere among all those literary droppings there’s gotta be something  worth publishing, right?

Quite possibly.

As this wonderful story also attests.

Writing is my AEIOU and Sometimes Y

Note to self: kids are really smart.

Case in point.  The other day I got interviewed by a grade 10 student.  He needed to dissect a living writer for a class project, and somehow, poor guy, he got saddled with me.  We went for a coffee, and then I dragged him into a radio studio  (the same studio, I should add, where the fabled literary broadcaster, Eleanor Wachtel, conducts all of her interviews).  The student pulled out his iPhone, pressed record, and placed it on the desk between us. He asked me some very good questions – about writing, working in the field of journalism, how much education is needed to get a job in broadcasting, and how to build a career as a fiction writer.

He gave me a real grilling.  And then, near the end of our discussion, he asked me this: “Knowing what you know now, if you had to go back and do it all over again, would you still set out to be a fiction writer?”

OMG.  He had me.  I froze.

As a seasoned interviewer, I usually love moments like this.  The moment when a question hits the bulls-eye, and you can see your guest squirming, because he or she has secretly been asking him or herself the exact same question – possibly for years.

What to do, what to do... (1)

If I had to go back and do it again, would I still set out to become a fiction writer?  I had to hand it to the student – his random drilling had hit a geyser.

“Do you want me to be completely honest?” I asked.

The student grinned from ear to ear.  “Of course,” he said.

No way, I thought to myself, I’d avoid writing like the plague.  It’s nothing but an endless road of pain!  

Want proof?  I wrote my first novella more than 2 decades ago.  It never got published.  Neither did the two novels I wrote after that.   And of the 100+ short stories I composed after that, only a handful made it to print.

NO, DAVE.  BE HONEST.  3 GOT PUBLISHED.  ONLY 3.  And the money I earned from them didn’t even cover the cost of the printer ink and stamps!

If someone had sat me down back in 1990 and done the calculus; if they’d explained how hard I’d have to work, how many hours of sleep I’d lose, how much my arteries would harden, how awkward I’d feel each time a friend asked how my book was coming along…  If someone had told me all that two decades ago, would I still have gone into writing?  No, probably not.  You’d have to be crazy to embrace a career like that.

It’s one of the great mercies of the universe that I didn’t know the odds I was facing when I started out.  This isn’t limited to writing.  If any of us truly knew how much heartache was in store for us, we’d never do anything.  If we knew how hard it would be to maintain relationships, we’d never allow ourselves to fall in love.  If my parents had warned me about the skinned knees I’d get while learning to ride a bike, I never would’ve let them take my training wheels off.

Signs of spring

I still hadn’t answered the student’s  question.  Sensing my difficulty, he shifted gears.  “How about this,” he said at last,  “what has writing given you?”

The question was a relief, and I was flooded with good memories.  I started rhyming off the list: writing gave me a purpose in life, it gave me the career I now enjoy, it helps pay my mortgage, it stills my mind during stressful times.

Writing is my sun and my moon.  It is my breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It is my AEIOU and sometimes Y.

And in spite of all those rejections I mentioned earlier, writing eventually did make my dream come true.

Ultra cover

Why Writing is Harder than Running

Writing a novel is a form of madness.

No.  Trying to get a novel published is a form of madness.


I won’t bore you with the manifold heartbreaks that befell me in the months before I finally got the call from my agent-to-be.  But I will share one example of the profound self-doubt I experienced as I rewrote my novel for the umpteenth time.

It was the spring of 2011.  I’d spent two years writing and re-writing my pretty-skimpy looking 40,000 word book, and then three months pitching it to prospective agents.

I sent out 50 queries, and got 49 rejections.  Then, one day – THANK YOU LORD!!! – I got a phone call from the 212 area code.

New York, I thought.  This is it – the call.

And it was the call.  But the literary agent was quite clear with me: he wanted a few changes before he could offer me representation.

His suggestions were excellent, and I had no doubt that every single one of them would improve the book.   The only problem was, I actually had to write those changes in.  Which meant yet another rewrite – under a strict two-month deadline.

It was, to say the least, a difficult 8 weeks.  Here’s what I wrote in my journal on the 21st of May, 2011:

This novel is stupid, awful, I hate it, I can’t write, I’m a terrible writer.  I hate myself.  I’m the most boring person on the face of the planet! Every day I get up at 5 a.m., write until 8, run to work, run back home, then write from 7 p.m until midnight.  Weekends I do nothing but write.  This has been going on for six weeks now.

Am I close to being finished?  I HAVE NO FREAKING CLUE!  Is the thing any good?  I HAVE NO FREAKING IDEA!

Am I happy?  NO I’M NOT HAPPY!  I’m pretty freaking UNHAPPY!  I hate this.  It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  The opportunities for rejection seem endless.  And yet I toil on, annoying everyone who loves me (and that ain’t many!)

“This is your 100 mile race, Dave,” Shawna told me.  “This is the tornado that Quinn faces at the end of your book.  Everything is telling him to quit, but he doesn’t.”

That’s right, I thought – Quinn doesn’t quit.  He beats the odds and crosses the finish line. 

But here’s the difference between a fictional character running an ultra-marathon and an all-too-real human being writing a novel: in a running race, all you need to do is cross the finish line.  Do that, and you’re a success.  You get a cheer and a finisher’s medal.

Write a novel, on the other hand, and you still have many races left to run.  You still have to find an agent.  You still have to get published.  And then you have to pray that you’ll actually sell some books.

If you fail to do any one of those things, then YOU FAIL!  There are no finishers’ medals for novelists.  Maybe there should be.

A few weeks after I wrote those piteous words, I finished the rewrite of the book, and sent it back to the literary agent.  A couple of weeks dragged by, and I didn’t hear anything back.  Then, on June 17th, I wrote this:

The agent acknowledged receipt of my manuscript today.  He wrote: “We have it.  Thanks David.”

I read and re-read that e-mail over, trying to glean some information from it.  “We have it.  Thanks David.”   Hmmm.  What did that mean?  

First I thought – he hasn’t read the manuscript yet.  Or if he has, he hasn’t yet gathered the opinions of his trusted advisers.  Or, maybe something worse is going on, I thought.  Maybe his marriage is failing and he’s folding his agency and he doesn’t have the heart to tell me how distraught he is. 

Or more likely, I thought, he’s read my manuscript and he hates it, and now he wants to punish me for wasting his valuable time with my lame writing.

“We have it.  Thanks David.”

What does that mean?

Writing is suffering, just as running is suffering.  But in both instances, the pain is quickly forgotten, and plans are soon hatched for the next enterprise.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  The finish line is out there.  Don’t give up.