Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The second book

I've been keeping this blog for nearly five years, and every so often, I create a post that I come precariously close to deleting before I publish it — whether it's too intimate, too "off subject" or too personal. The previous post was one of those. I "wrote" most of it in my head while driving home from Salt Lake City, sleep-deprived and trying to process a swirl of emotions. I tapped it all out after work on Monday, late at night. Then I read it over and decided that I didn't want to publish it. I thought it straddled the barrier of comfortable and uncomfortable for both my family members — all of whom read my blog — and strangers who might happen across it. But a few years back, a woman writer who I greatly admire told me, "Whenever you're convinced you should throw a piece of writing away, that's the stuff you really need to keep." So that's how I treat my blog. Generally, I keep it pretty and bikey, but every once in a while, I venture out.

I'm going through similar thoughts right now with my "Great Divide Book." I've talked about this book on this blog before, and recently have received several questions about it from both family members and a few blog commenters, so I thought I'd update. I started the project last August, completed a couple of chapters, and put it down for most of the fall. I picked it back up in December and dove into the writing full-bore. I was riding less and generally just trying to cope at my place of employment and my personal life in Juneau. I was trying to make some hard decisions, and the project was very cathartic for me. It helped me through a tough period, and I was genuinely sad when I finished the initial draft in March. I went through a couple of self-edits and decided to start pursuing publication in May. I was "funemployed" in Anchorage at the time, and although a overwhelmingly large block of my time was dedicated to the fun side of things, I did spend quite a bit of time researching options and sending out proposals to agents. I caught the initial interest of three agents, one of whom seemed poised to pick it up. However, everything came to a head during a period of monumentally bad timing, the very same week I had been offered a job in Missoula and was faced with uprooting my entire life. I dropped the ball in an embarrassing way, and the agent rightly decided to end discussions with me. So now I'm back to square one, except for I'm employed full-time, and have other training aspirations brewing that will cut into my free time even more.

I could start over, but I find myself asking why I should bother. It does seem a bit futile as a writer to aspire to traditional print publication when the entire industry is struggling. So many jobs are being cut and profits are being slashed that there's almost no money in it for writers, except for a small fraction of the most successful, and niche publications by little-know bloggers about little-known bike races aren't likely to find their way into this upper tier. I could follow a growing trend that I tapped two years ago with a fair amount of success — self publication — and I am considering it. However, before I went forward, I would need to fund a professional edit that I'm not sure I could afford right now, and then there is the time investment that I found to be surprisingly large when I experimented with the format two years ago. Plus, for all of its advantages is the modern market, self-publication of books still carries a huge stigma that I admit does bother me a little. It is still considered preferable to be "legitimately" published, so much so that all serious writers pursue it even when all of the evidence suggests the payout is laughably small for all of the time they have to invest.

My first book, "Ghost Trails," I wrote because I felt I had to. It was something I sincerely believed I had no choice but too create. It really wasn't intended for public consumption until the 11th hour, when I cobbled together a "book," zoomed over to a self-publishing site, and hit "send." I learned a lot from that experience, and now have better ideas for a possible second go. At the same time, I also created the Great Divide Book for personal and admittedly cathartic reasons, so I often wonder if it wasn't just meant to be bound and placed in a drawer, the way so many memoirs have for so many years.

But that's what I'm considering right now. It may be a while yet before I make any solid decisions. In the meantime, I need to somehow find a third project to begin. I can try to improve my Great Divide Book as much as I want, but I miss the intimacy and excitement of its initial creation.