Prompt: Action. When it comes to aspirations, its not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?
Aspirations. I don’t know what I think about that word. It sounds a lot like inspirations, which has at its etymological root nothing more than a lot of hot air. Hm. Best look this up.
1530s, “action of breathing into,” from L. aspirationem (nom. aspiratio), noun of action from pp. stem of aspirare (see aspire). Meaning “steadfast longing for a higher goal, earnest desire for something above one” is recorded from c.1600 (sometimes collectively, as aspirations).
The last thing anyone wants to think is that their hopes or plans are full of nothing but blown breath. Or worse, that they’re “something above one.” And yet. Today, my bus driver asked me if it was my day off.
“Oh, no, I’m not working right now. I mean, I am. I’m writing a book.”
“Is it your first book?”
Then there’s that sound effect, like a rock falling off the canyons only to land on Wile E. Coyote.
“It is, yes.”
“Are you finished yet?”
How to say, well, I am doing this Reverb10 thing and it’s taking a lot of time, and I have been sick since last Thursday and barely coherent, but yes, I am putting in those words every day and yes, the draft will be done by the end of the year and yes, then I will still have to fix the draft and then
And then the bus brought me back to my stop and I stopped babbling about yes, yes, yes. I hoisted my groceries on my shoulders and tried not to kill myself on the ice as I walked home. And I thought about the writing of this prompt, and trying to make sense of it. In a way, it feels like justifying myself to anyone who might come by and read this, and I hate to feel that way—it feels a little desperate, a proof that I really have thought this plan through, this plan that makes senior bus drivers politely avoid calling bullshit on me.
I already know my next steps. However, you may not be well-versed in the ways of publishing, so here is what I have to do.
First, I have to polish the draft. Some parts of it are very good; some parts of it are not so good. Some parts of it actually have the words FIX THIS AWFUL MESS BEFORE MOVING TO THE DINING HALL SCENE in it. I hope I catch those. Some parts of it actually say AND THEN SOMEHOW THERE IS A RUSH TO THE SECOND FLOOR WHERE THAT ONE GIRL IS SCREAMING, THE ONE WITH THE DOUBLE BREAKFASTS, WHAT’S HER NAME. I really hope I catch those. The draft has to be in the best shape I can get it. Everything has to make sense. Every scene must advance the plot and enrich the theme. Every character has to be true to herself. Every word has to count. Every one, of the many many many thousands.
Then, I will query agents. Querying agents is like writing a note that says, “Do you like me? Check Yes or No.” But you write a note like that to a dozen boys in your class, and another dozen boys in the next older class, and a few of the boys in the younger class, any of them who give you the impression like they might in fact like you. They may have liked a girl just like you. They may have liked a girl with curly hair who was funnier. They may have liked a girl with a big nose who was quieter. You cannot send the note to boys who only like boys, or boys who only like girls who are nothing like you at all; you have to be selective. And you can only send out the notes a few at a time. You send to your favorite boy first, the one you really, really hope will check Yes. And a few other boys, too, just in case he doesn’t answer you back. He might have a lot of notes from random girls backing up in his locker.
Some agents want to see a bit of your work with the query, and some just want to see a letter where you tell the story of your book in a paragraph or two. Some agents will never write you back. Some will write back with form-letter rejections, and others will tell you more in-depth why they are checking No. Some will say that they liked you last year, and where were you then? This year, they want a different kind of girl, someone interesting and new that will make all their friends jealous. Some agents, you hope, will check Yes. If one of your favorite agents checks Yes, you move forward. You ask the agent questions about what they think of the book, your career, which publishers they think might be interested in your book, your potential second book. Sometimes the agent will say that he likes your book, but he thinks you should change parts of it, or that he wants to see some more work done on it before he tries to sell it. Some writers will take offense to that kind of thing.
What would I do? I can’t say. That won’t happen for months yet. I can’t get ahead of myself. Right now, I have to worry about the next step, the finishing. I have got to be one step at a time with this thing, although I have done work to get me to future steps—I have some great critique partners and I did make the drastic step of writing publicly this year under my real name, which is a hard step to take when you have ten years of being internet-private to overcome. None of that really compensates for writing the book, though, and making it the best I can. It’s not an interesting process to watch, but I’m doing it, and that’s a step in itself.