Monday, May 9, 2011

Making a Decision to Write

I’ve made three crucial decisions to write.  One was leaving Kinko’s to move to Malaysia to write full time (or until my money ran out).  Another was deciding to go to Maui Writers Conference at a time when I was in between teaching positions and my wife was pregnant (had been planning this for over a year).  And a third was to leave teaching at Unimas last year, without a net, to write full time.

To be successful they say, all you have to do is make a decision and then to back that up with consistent action that will take you in the direction of your goal.  Publishing novels was one of my goals, one of the reasons I decided to move to this tropical island.  But you can’t write in a vacuum; you need to get out in the world to see what the real world is really like, and I thought by going to Maui (I know, hardly the real world) I would get a huge dose of some writing reality--the good news (it’s possible) and the bad (there’s a lot of talented competition).  It was at Maui where I met Graham Brown, who at the time, was just like the rest of us, had a dream to write and publish his books.  Unlike many of us, he kept attending other writing conferences where he eventually met an agent who believed in his talent and then last year his first two novels were published, Black Rain and Black Sun.

Prior to going to Maui, I worked with a pair of novelists in Penang, one of whom this year found an agent and her book went to auction.  (Until the book comes out, for privacy reasons, she wants to maintain a low profile.) So I blogged about another writer, that a friend of mine had met, Amanda Hockings, who the week before had broken out in a huge way.  As I wrote about before, when you meet writers who break out, it expands your own belief system.  Instead of buying into all of the naysayers (even the ones residing inside your head) that the publishing industry is impossible, especially now that it’s in such a state of flux (upheaval by some accounts), so it’s best to avoid altogether until things settle down.  Obviously that’s not true for the people I just mentioned and a whole lot of others.

Then a year ago, I made the decision to walk away from renewing my contract to teach creative writing (and general English) because I felt, in more ways than one, that even though it was paying the bills, it was holding me back from ever achieving my dream to publish my novels.  Or maybe I was just using that teaching position (and marking all those papers) as a handy excuse.  Either way, I knew it was time to leave if I’m ever going to achieve my original dream.  I decided to just go for it.

Two weeks ago, I got a flash of insight to change the title of a third novel (the third novel title I changed this year—one for each of my three novels), and everything seemed to click.  The title change, as with the other two books, made me think of the novel in a whole new light and gave it a new focus.  Suddenly for this 23rd draft, I thought, this could work, and the title also doubles as a cool metaphor.  (**The Resurrection of Jonathan Brady.  The previous title was The Lonely Affair of Jonathan Brady.)  

I hadn’t worked on this novel in over a year, and I had been holding back from it in favor of the other two novels, each requiring massive rewriting for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. But when the new title idea struck, I knew it was time to act on it that very day.

So once I made the decision to rewrite this third novel for the Faulkner-Wisdom Novel Contest, where it was an almost-finalist for their 2008 contest, I wasn’t sure if I had enough time, other than line-editing it and making those corrections.  Then I got the news that the deadline, which had already been pushed back from 1 April to 1 May, just got pushed back to 15 May! (Is this an example how providence moves for you once you make a decison?)  Thus now I got plenty of time to complete it, so long as I remain focused and cut out all distractions, like the Internet TimeThief.

It all began with a decision.  In this case, it’s a culmination of decisions that I’ve been making draft after draft going back far too many years, but I like to think, that each decision I made with this novel has been a natural progression that will ultimately lead to the goal I set back in the US when I made that first decision to leave a safe, secure position for the life of an expatriate writer, now living in Borneo.
                      --Robert Raymer, Borneo Expat Writer

* By the way, shutting down that Internet when you don't need it has been a life saver this past week.  I was able to crank!  Here's an updated link to the revamped first five pages.

**update The Resurrection of Jonathan Brady is short listed for 2011 Faulkner-Wisdom Novel Contest


***Update: The Resurrection of Jonathan Brady just advanced to the Quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012!


***Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.
 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on making those decisions, Robert...and I must say your article has come in such a timely manner that it affirms my resolve to make the decision and move on....really like your comment on Facebook...about just making the decision..even if they are wrong ones as we learn faster from them anyway...the point is just make the decision...which is the hardest bit...but well worth all the time and effort put into making it...thanks Robert.

Borneo Expat Writer said...

Thanks. It's true, making the decision and moving on is often the hardest part. But what many people do not realize is when you don't make that decision that you know you need to make, that non-decision becomes your decision and you have to live with the consequences of not making that decision! I've been burned by this a couple of times...