I hope I’m never not a student.
Which makes my two classes today part of “studenting.”
Having finished the first draft of my new novel, ‘The Lemon Drop Didn’t Melt,” I thought I should listen to a master fiction novel teacher, James Patterson. I’m enrolled in his “Master Class,” along with probably tons of thousands of others. In fact, it’s rare to look at something on the internet and not see the promotion. Clever.
I know, not a good idea to listen to him AFTER the novel’s finished. Well, it isn’t finished yet. The novel’s in the careful view of three editors, each of whom chooses a machete over a scissors. And certainly more than a glance.
This idea of doing things backwards…or at least not in the recommended order. A confession, but don’t tell the seminary faculty, is I wrote my Doctor of Ministry Essay [caps for stating the importance] and then read a faculty committee request, “had to approve the outline of the essay before submitting it.” Gulp. So, the outline was created from the essay. Was submitted. Ah. The degree paper is somewhere…not on a wall, but somewhere.
The two classes today struck home. Patterson says the first thing to writing is to “HAVE A PASSION.” He makes it clear: to write is more than a good idea or a possibility you might consider. It has to be YOU, part of you, never to be vacated.
Next he says, ENDURE REJECTION. Oh can I ever identify with that! A story that happens to be non-fiction. Had finished my first novel, the final t crossed. That very night Sue Grafton spoke on a new novel. Was at an Austin book store. My scheming mind was not quiet. Wrote a personal letter to Grafton, sealed it neatly in the envelope. With the letter was the synopsis of the novel.
Went to the seminar in which she said her first novel was rejected by over forty publishers. [Well, after doing what I could to even get publishers to consider my “brilliant” novel about salmon fishing and murder on Tillamook Bay, I can more than double her rejection list. ]
Back to the seminar. She finished and said, “I’ll be happy to sign my novel for you.” The line was long, each one holding Grafton’s hard cover novel. I hadn’t purchased same. Some call me cheap. I prefer parsimonious. Plus, not against moving quickly, I stepped in front of the first person and laid my Grafton letter on the table. Not even the routine and often-shallow, “How are you?” And left.
The next morning. Not a day later. Not never. The very next morning my cellular phone jingles, “Hello, this is Mark Miller.”
I didn’t recognize the voice, “Dr. Miller? This is Sue Grafton calling. I’m at the Austin Airport about to get a plane back to my home in Santa Barbara. I read your letter and your synopsis. Let me give you my post office box number. Please send me your first fifty pages. I’d like to review it.”
I almost hung up. I almost did my best to figure out which friend was adept at impersonating. I didn’t, “Oh, Ms. Grafton. Thanks for your interest. I have a pencil and pad…”
So then I waited. And waited. To the point I almost named Sue Grafton a female actress named Godot.
Three months later I get a surface-mail letter with the return address, SUE GRAFTON.
Oh boy, this is it. A publisher! Oh boy, movie directors waiting. Oh boy, do I get a choice? How about Tricia Gleason being played by Gayle Foster and Creighton Yale by Morgan Freeman???
Hey, don’t ever consider I’ve had an imagination by-pass.
“Dear Dr. Miller, Good luck with your writing. Sue Grafton.”
I don’t still have the letter.
But I’m going to learn more from James Patterson. And it happened today…his first four points—oh, forgot number three is “learn about a lot of things” and the fourth, “get ideas from lots of places.” For me? All points are Velcro and not Teflon.
With the first classes I thought how they resonate with me. So, I am taking his class…all twenty sessions. And then. Yes, a HUGE “and then.” As a student of the seminar, I’m invited to submit my new novel synopsis and the first chapter.
I only hope he and Sue Graton aren’t friend.
But do lean on his points…for, and this is where I hope connection with each of you happens. Not so much as a writer. Although if that’s your experience and hope, Carpe Diem.
The connection…at least for me…and maybe for you…is what he says applies to writing novels. But. Even more.
TO LIVING LIFE.