Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Click

"It's a reactive thing, like a Geiger counter; you click whenever you come close to whatever you were built to do." ~Stephen King

Today as I was reading over the wide spectrum of writing histories in the First Sales column of the Romance Writer's Report, I pictured the shape and form of my own in, hopefully, the not-to-distant future. How will the words wrap around the hopeful masses and will they read into it the same as I do now? How is it possible some sell on their first manuscript, having written for no longer than the gestation period of an elephant, while some labor ten, fifteen, even twenty years before the elusive "publication"? I've heard the average apprenticeship for writing is nine years. Does this, my ninth year, mean I'm pushing against the grain? Becoming more experienced, or merely slipping past something honest I can no longer ignore?

From the moment I found my college professor's flowery memo sheet clipped to my essay, the words "Let me know when your book comes out" scrawled in blue, I made writing my path. I wrote my first book, a young adult novel set aboard the Titanic, and heard the Geiger's "click." I absorbed myself in author biographies and plunged into a dark romance set during the turbulent times of Colonial Massachusetts and in the emotional density of the piece, the Geiger clicked again. I tried my voice at a historical, a humorous ensemble cast of women traveling across the American West and heard nothing. To this day, I can't recall anything redeeming about that book aside from the fact it redirected me to where I am today as a writer.

And now, with my first "time thriller" firmly in my pocket and its sequel dwelling in my head, I hear the click. Faster and louder with each word, each page, every plot milestone, I know without a doubt I've found the writing I was built to do. It doesn't come as a lightning strike, but the mounting whisper of a collective body of work. For some, it came swiftly. For me, I hear the steady, creative pulse nine years later.

So what will my First Sale entry read? Whatever the magic number becomes, it will ring honest. No pretense of some God-given talent stumbled upon in a flash of brilliance. The number will represent dead-end detours and a life that sometimes cannot be ignored. Disappointments and a rising slope of awards, each more meaningful than the last.

And the static click will be deafening.

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