I’m all for trying out new things on this blog and not sticking to a format, so today I’m going to do something new, and that new thing is to cut right into a story to help me illustrate a point.
The story in question comes from the long-running serialized comic One Piece and contains light spoilers. If you have never heard of One Piece before, it’s about a young pirate captain who gathers a small crew and brings them on his fun-filled quest to circle the globe and claim the ultimate treasure, the One Piece. He runs into all sorts of challenges en route, but overcomes them in his own way, and has a blast while doing it.
(Just look at the latest cover! Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this much fun?)
So here goes. About 30 or so volumes into this story (yes, One Piece is freaking LONG) the crew realizes that their pirate ship, the Going Merry, needs to be repaired, and as luck would have it, they have docked in a city that features the greatest shipwrights in the entire world.
Wonderful, right? Except not really. The damage to the ship is assessed, and the captain is told flat-out that the ship cannot be repaired no matter how skilled the shipwright is. This is because the foundation of the ship, its keel, is damaged, and replacing that is no different from building an entirely different boat from scratch.
(<<<<<<<<<<<<Read from right to left / Top to Bottom<<<<<<<<<<<)
(“Now if you’ll excuse me I must transform into a giraffe.”)
In short, the crew must buy a new ship if they want to continue their adventuring. On the surface, this is not a problem because they have a TON of cash from a recent trip to a long lost city of gold, but in reality this is a source of great conflict due to the ship’s sentimental value to the crew. Furthermore, its owner (who is not the captain) does not have a say in the matter.
And so begins a long series of conflicts that divide the crew and endanger their lives, all because they can’t bear to part with the ship that has meant so much to them and has carried them so far. But in the end, no amount of stubbornness or money can save the ship. Many chapters later, the ship is patched up and pushed past her limit for one final rescue only to fall apart in the middle of the sea. The president of the ship-building company is present to witness this, and the captain begs him to fix the Going Merry, but he refuses, instead softly doling out the harsh truth. He tells the captain that if he truly loves the ship, he will do the right thing. He will let her rest.
(<<<<<<<<<Read from right to left / Top to Bottom<<<<<<<<<<<)
(Even with the president’s world-class skills, the most he could do was buy a little time.)
And they do. The ship had gone past its limits and had outworn its use, and although it’s painful, they say goodbye and give it a Viking funeral. Only then is the crew able to reunite, find a new ship, and continue their journey, stronger than ever before.
Why do I bring this up? Because it’s a wonderful story about the good and bad that comes with trying to hold onto something for too long. And that unwillingness to not let go can cause a lot of pain, but when you finally do let go, because there is no other option, you’ll soon find a rush of relief, often emerging stronger than before.
(Like Katy Perry in the Roar video. Note: obedient tiger and servant monkey not guaranteed.)
And this circles around to a recent breakthrough I had in my own life. Ever since I was in high school, it’s been my dream to publish a book series, and that desire came with a lot of benefits: it gave me a sense of purpose that got me through many hard times (you guys know I’m from Staten Island, right?), helped me pick my major in college, and in my quest to get published I got to meet and work with people I wouldn’t have otherwise.
But for me, the desire to write a series is my damaged ship that needs to be put to rest. Not to be a writer, not to get a book published, or even just use my creativity. Again, I want to be clear: it’s the very specific desire to write a series that I’ve held onto for most of my adult life that has caused a great deal of pain, despite its benefits.
(“Wow, If I didn’t have my potential books series to distract me I might just realize I’m forced to boat to my day job like some sort of employed refugee. Oh well!”)
But I’ve come to the point where I must lay this desire to rest. It has run its course and no longer serves me. Allow me to be more specific. Currently, I am submitting a book that I would very much like to be the first book in a series. Not a long series, like Harry Potter (7 books) or Game of Thrones (7 or 8; who knows at this point) and certainly not Wheel of Time (12 books) but more like…four? Maybe five if I can’t wrap everything up?
Regardless, I’ve worked on it for 2 years on my own then spent another 2 years working closely with an editor to create an amazing piece of work, one that we’re both proud of. So now it’s under submission, and let me tell you, it’s quite a grind. In case it wasn’t clear from my post “Nobody Likes Rejection” this process has really taxed me mentally and emotionally, but it shouldn’t cause as much stress as it does.
(To be accurate, it’s more “overwhelming existential pain” than stress. Moving on…)
This is because most writers submit stand-alone novels. And while THAT stand-alone novel is on submission, they work on ANOTHER stand-alone novel. My mistake, for years, was I would write a book and would (wait for it) write a sequel to that book, a sequel whose future was up in the air.
Am I starting to make sense? How about this: In the past when I’ve gotten rejections, they would sting twice as hard, because that agent is effectively denying both the book I submitted AND the sequel I’m writing on to pass the agonizing months it takes to hear back on the submission.
But no longer. My pain levels had reached a breaking point, and the pressure had built so much that I popped, deciding to set aside the sequel I’m working on, and instead have been breaking ground on a new, stand-alone novel.
(Even so, my editor was on me about not forgetting the book we worked on and to keep on top of the submissions process in this email and others.)
It’s hard to pinpoint what caused this shift. Was it the never-ending slog of submission? Was it all the skill and experience I’d gained over nine years of writing fiction? After all, with the level I’m at now with my skills and connections (I have an editor and know agents) writing a stand-alone is extremely doable. Anyone will tell you it’s writing a series that’s the hard part!
But regardless of the reason, I’ve come to a big turning point, and realized that my desire to write a series no matter what had cost me time, energy, and a lot of unnecessary pain. So I have put it to rest, and let me tell you, I have never felt better.
(<<<<<<<<<Read from right to left / Top to Bottom<<<<<<<<<<<)
(Yes, the boat can speak. But only to deliver the most gut-wrenching lines in the series.)
I’m only a week of writing into the stand-alone (the details of its plot and title I’ll keep secret for now) but it has been a great experience and the book is turning out well so far. At the rate I’m going, I can see the rough draft done by Thanksgiving, and the second draft ready for my editor in very early March, so if the book that’s on submission now fizzles out (which doesn’t seem likely; submitting is just a long process) then around this same time next year I’ll have this stand-alone primed and ready to go. And let me tell you, it’s an excellent feeling. A huge relief.
I’m going to end this longer blog post here, but I really want to drive home how tremendous this is before I do. For almost a decade I’ve felt married to writing a series but now that I’ve switched to my first stand-alone, it opens up so many possibilities. And I just feel, well…freer. I no longer feel that I’m placing all my eggs in one basket (hate that expression, but it applies here) and instead feel my options opening up. If I want to try a different genre, I can. If I want to try a different age demographic, I can. My horizons have never expanded so much in such a short amount of time!
(The possibilities are endless! Endless, like the forms mystique can assume. #relevant)
I’ll stop now. I want to thank you for stopping by, and also invite you to leave a COMMENT if you feel like contributing a similar experience, or if you just feel like saying hello. As always be sure to SUBSCRIBE by email so you don’t miss a post. (Looks like I’m on a monthly posting schedule. Oh well.) And also, if you know someone that can benefit from this info and doesn’t mind long blog posts, feel free to SHARE this with them.
See you next time,
J. F. Seegitz
P.S. I totally didn’t cry at any point while writing this.