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Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him to the public.

– WINSTON CHURCHILL

On the forked road of life, there’s a sign pointing down a desolate track that will take you on an adventure so lonely and treacherous, that the screeching vultures overhead will begin to seem like a welcome means for escape. Writerville, the ominous sign says, and it shouldn’t be mistaken for a relaxing getaway destination.

I’ve always tried to avoid that path. I know how rough it can be. I’ve been warned … many times. Yet, here I am, a long way down that dusty road, clutching my book manuscript in hand, as I watch tumbleweed roll by and wonder: How the hell did I get here?

I began obliviously skipping towards Writerville just over two years ago. Late nights were spent tapping at my keyboard for pleasure and entertainment, as I built up a document called Untitled.txt. I had no idea what I was truly beginning until I renamed the document Book Draft 1.doc.

Writing at night turned to writing by day too, at which point my freelance job started to become an interference. I’d be in the middle of writing the best sentence ever and then –

RING! RING!

“Hi, Torre, I’ve got a job here ready to send over. Are you available?”

My rational brain screamed: TAKE THE WORK! while my blinking cursor hung on the page part-way through an interrupted sentence, demanding: NO! NO! NO!

“Thanks,” I told my clients one after the other, “but I’m not accepting work right now.” I’d click down the phone, grinning at the sheer indulgence of it. I’m writing a book! I admitted to myself with glee. I’d scan over a paragraph of Book Draft 1.doc, and with a newfound sense of reality, my gut would sink with a thought: I’ve completely lost my mind!

No longer on the speed-dial of  … well … anyone, my office was screaming with silence. I was lying to almost every person I knew about what I was doing with my life, afraid that if I exposed my vulnerable plan, it might get strangled by pessimism or broken by a careless handler. Since lying to people made socialising awkward, I pretty much stopped doing that too.

This meant that there was nothing else to do except focus my full attention on Book Draft 1.doc, which I did every day of the week. I’d plot out story arcs in my robe, slash up wordy paragraphs at noon, and giggle hysterically at my own jokes into the wee hours. Book Draft 1.doc got more attention than a new lover.

Which my real-life lover was tolerant of. He took on a new role of his own, doing everything he could to help. He offered encouragement when I’d had a bad day: “Hey, 12 words is more than you had yesterday, right?” He soothed me to sleep with gentle pats after I’d overdosed on caffeine and had grown uncontrollably giddy from a lucrative day. Best of all, he stood by my side so that together, we could swing baseball bats to fight off the swooping vultures.

My vultures came in all shapes and sizes. There was a four-foot-tall chunk of a woman with bristly chin hair and an upturned pig nose. “What do you think you’re doing, you self-indulgent girl?” she’d say. “You can’t be a writer – you went to a public school!”

There was a serious-looking man with eyes that strained to see through his inch-thick spectacles. “Where’s the tension in your story?” he’d ask. “What’s driving the reader to keep turning pages? You’ve just used another adverb, Torre – tsk tsk. And you’re mixing your metaphors.” His advice, though helpful, was overwhelming, and would sometimes confuse me for weeks.

The worst of all the vultures was an emancipated, anemic freak who rocked on the spot – hands clamped over ears – mumbling quietly at first but then eventually shouting: “You’re going to fail. You’re going to make an idiot of yourself. You’re going to fail! YOU’RE GOING TO MAKE AN IDIOT OF YOURSELF!

There’s a term for what was happening to me. It is called: Going crazy.

Still, I pushed on. I hit the 50,000 word mark, which meant I was half way there. To celebrate, I fondled a beloved novel from my bookshelf, squeezing its bulky mass and inhaling the delicious smell of book paper. Half a book, I told myself. You’ve written half a book!

It was on this home stretch that I suffered a devastating setback. Reviewing my work, I could sense that something was off. Intuition told me my story needed two major changes: 1. Rework my memoir to read just like fiction (show, don’t tell) and; 2. Rework 150 pages of past tense narrative into present tense action and dialogue (to enhance the vicarious experience).

In other words: start from scratch.

So I did exactly that. I went back to page one and started typing, simultaneously swinging at vultures with my baseball bat to try and eradicate the neurotic self-doubt. Lucky for me, my furious determination to see this thing through to its end was winning out over the vultures.

After a year of part-time writing, one year of full-time writing and several full rewrites, I felt ready reveal to share my secret. I bought a laser printer, loaded it up with paper and bawled my eyes out, as I stacked the piles of pages. I distributed copies to family, friends and trustworthy strangers, eager to collect feedback. Then I rewrote it two more times.

Now, my manuscript feels ready for the world, but I have to patiently wait for the world to be ready for it. I’ve heard advice from enough veteran writers to know the hard work is just getting started. My trek along the lonely road to Writerville is far from over and I know that – even if I survive the hunger, the loneliness, and the vultures – there’s no guarantee of ever arriving anywhere on this dusty path.

But if I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s this: you’ll never arrive at an extraordinary new world unless you’re willing to leave safety behind and go on a daring adventure.

Are you on your own adventure? I’d love to hear some stories – please comment below.

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43 Response Comments

  • Kim  March 7, 2011 at 5:50 am

    Wow, you are on one hell of an adventure. I dream of taking that road to Writerville someday. Your story is inspiring and I know all of your hard work will pay off. Can’t wait to read it.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 7, 2011 at 9:42 am

      Thanks, Kim. Nice words.

      Reply
  • Tucker Bradford  March 7, 2011 at 5:51 am

    I’m right on the edge of my seat here. I want to read it RIGHT NOW. When do you publish?

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 7, 2011 at 9:48 am

      No date as yet. Thanks for your encouragement! Can’t wait to share it with you two.

      Reply
  • Katja  March 7, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Exciting times, Torre! I look forward to reading it when (and that *is* a ‘when’, not an ‘if’) it’s published.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 7, 2011 at 9:50 am

      Thanks, Katja, your “when” is music to my ears 🙂

      Reply
  • Monica  March 7, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Best of look when your book is published! It sounds like a long hard time in Writersville but I’m sure its going to be worth it! I hope to join you there one day….

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 7, 2011 at 9:52 am

      Thanks, Monica. It is a long and hard road, but it’s incredibly fulfilling too – like a chronic itch is finally being scratched. AHHH

      Reply
  • TammyB  March 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    So exciting and so inspiring. I’ve been saying that I’m going to join Writerville for several years now (there’s a few rough pages of a manuscript buried in my computer), but haven’t been brave enough to take the full leap. Instead, I’ve just been dipping my toes in here and there. You’ve motivated me to jump in… maybe. 🙂

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 7, 2011 at 11:18 pm

      Thanks. Read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. That book will get you jumping in.

      Reply
  • James  March 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    A great post, Torre. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      No problemo.

      Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      Nope – I’ll check it out. Thanks for sharing the link.

      Reply
  • Akila  March 7, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Torre, I am on the same adventure. I am at the 75% mark of my novel and am working on it, trying to get it in shape for Writerville. It is a tough, tough road and every now again, I want to hit myself upside the head for putting myself through this.

    But, this is what I want to do with my life. I want to write novels. I want to make a living writing novels. I am taking the first steps across the diving board and hope that when I land, there will be no belly flops.

    Congratulations on finishing it, on the trailer, and good luck with getting it published. If you would ever like some constructive criticism or just another traveling writer to read it (or any of your future books), let me know.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 7, 2011 at 11:39 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story, Akila. Congratulations on getting to 75%, you’re well over the hump!

      It sounds like you’ve got incredible determination – you’ve declared that this is what you want to do with your life – so I think it’s just a matter of sticking with it even if the worst should happen: the belly flop.

      Thanks for your offer for constructive criticism too – I appreciate it!

      Reply
  • Carol J. Garvin  March 7, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    “The man of her dreams. The voyage of her nightmares.” I love that! Your story and the writing of it sound like quite an adventure. 🙂

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 7, 2011 at 11:43 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Carol. I’m glad you like my hook.

      Reply
  • Dina Santorelli  March 8, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Torre, I’m not sure you’re seeing things clearly. Take a good, hard look at that lonely, treacherous, desolate track you’re traveling. There’s hundreds — if not thousands — of writers right there with you. 🙂 Keep on truckin’!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 8, 2011 at 12:04 am

      You’re right, Dina. And your blog has given me a lot of reassuring words.

      Reply
  • Monica  March 8, 2011 at 3:06 am

    HI my dear Torre, all of us are waiting to have in hand the book already published…..Hope this happen soon….your book story is Amazing like Amazing Grace…..the boat that took both of trough the ocean.
    Very soon it will be published, good an positive thinking keeps the Vultures away.
    Proud of you . Love

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm

      You’re too sweet, Moni.

      Reply
  • Jonathan  March 11, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Yes I am on that road myself Torre. I am 25 and you know, we are just whippersnappers in this capricious world. So much is changing right before our eyes. As you know, there’s a publishing revolution going on that couldn’t have happened until now. E readers are becoming as common as I-pods; so, it will just take a different kind of ingenuity for us writers living in a world going paperless.

    Of course everyone says that they love paperback books, but studies show that more and more people are actually getting rid of paper. Borders Books & Music has declared bankruptcy; so, if that is not a strong indication of what is really going on, i’m not quite sure what is.

    Anyway, I wish the very best adventures for you, and on the most unbearable days, may you find solace in sleeping; for, to awake after slumber is to be born again in a new day with a new set of circumstances.

    Oh boy this is getting long, but I want to mention one last thing. I currently live in DC; however, I’ve been aching to move to Melbourne ever since I found out about it’s “City of Literature” title. Would you say that Melbourne is an especially good place for a writer to be? DC is certainly not. About one-third of the people living here are illiterate; so, it’s not the very best place to be if you’re a writer…

    Anyway, cheers to you for finishing! I can’t wait to read your novel! In fact the above passage is just what I needed to read at this moment. I was feeling defeated, but it definitely gave me some strength. So, you’ve got chops Torre.

    Peace

    _Jonathan

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 15, 2011 at 11:16 pm

      Hey Jonathan. Thanks for your comment. Melbourne is a very arty city, so yes: lots of readers and writers and visual artists. If you’re looking to move somewhere with a concentration of artistic intellects, go to San Francisco!

      Reply
  • Nomadic Chick  March 15, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Not to fangirl here, but I absolutely adore your writing. I can only fathom the book, but I envision wit, honesty and a gift for showing, not just telling. Will be signing up to for the book release!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 15, 2011 at 11:12 pm

      What a lovely compliment. Thank you.

      Reply
  • Peggy  March 15, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Torre, thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to visit your witty, gorgeous page!

    Love your posts and good luck with navigating Writerville. Keep fending off those nasty vultures!

    Pegs.x

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  March 15, 2011 at 11:12 pm

      Thanks Peggy, I’ll keep swinging the baseball bats.

      Reply
  • Kim Kircher  March 16, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Nice work! As one who has also written a memoir (to be released later this year) I hear you. I thought I was finished writing after my first query letter. Then, when I didn’t get scooped up by the very first agent I queried (gasp!) I figured it would come soon enough. Then, 50 rejections later, I started another round of rewrites. I also reworked my book proposal, which helped tremendously. I thought that when I finally got an agent and a book contract from an editor, my work would be complete. Ha! I still needed two more rounds of revision and of course all the necessary promotion (which I’m just starting to get my head around). It’s a long road for sure, and wish you all the smoothness of a pristine snow slope without any mishaps.

    Reply
  • Lauren  March 18, 2011 at 11:33 am

    You’re so brave Torre, I really admire what you’ve done. It takes guts and you’ve done it. I wish you all the best!

    Reply
  • Amanda  March 30, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Hi Torre,

    I stumbled across this blog post early this am and just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing, and good luck with your book! The Road to Writerville is indeed a long, lonely, and potentially crazy-inducing place. Winston Churchill knew what he was saying when he talked about that monster.

    I’m in the midst of submitting my second novel to publishers now, and every time you go back to the computer to start another project it all feels the same way. (At least, it does for me.) I thought, silly me, that at two novels in one might have a better grasp of the process, but it’s like a new and different road with every book!

    Ah, well. If nothing else the journey makes for good articles and funny stories to tell one’s friends, doesn’t it? (Provided one is still socializing, which is, as you say, sometimes too much to handle simultaneously with a book.) And somehow the writing is still always delicious even in the midst of frustration and those pesky vultures. Man. We writers are strange creatures indeed, wouldn’t you say?

    Thanks so much, again, for sharing. Can’t wait to read your book!

    Reply
  • Dyanne@TravelnLass  March 30, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    If the book is even HALF as good as the “trailer”, it’s bound to be HUGE!

    Reply
  • Lois  May 19, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I think it’s amazing that you did what you did. Although Writerville does seem like a daunting place, you’ve faced your fears and finished -gasp! your book! Congratulations. I’m now a follower. Love how you write. Love your sense of humor!

    Reply
  • donna morang  June 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Hi Torre,
    You are too funny. I have spent way too much time this morning reading your blog. You definitely filled my morning with laughter.
    I just spent the last two years writing a book, and daily asking myself WHY? Once you see that little gem in your hand you will know WHY you did it.
    You have an amazing way with words, and a killer sense of humor.
    Please let the world read your book.
    Donna

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  June 14, 2011 at 1:49 am

      Thank you so much, Donna. What a wonderful comment to read at the start of a new week.

      Reply
  • Sasha  August 11, 2011 at 12:44 am

    Great post Torre! I’ll admit I’m fearful of writerville. I’ve just started some rather large projects but struggling, to find the time to dedicate to them as I would like. I keep battling with myself, do I give up some work so I have the time? But how will I eat, what if my books not successful and I don’t make a cent and then as I would have given up work how can I afford to travel. But I’m trying to block those negative thoughts out of my head and think about it from this perspective: maybe it would only take me a couple of years to write it if I dedicated all my time to it but I’m still young enough for it to take 5 years and not worry. So I’m going to try not to stress, let the process happen organically and hopefully (after I’m sure many rewrites) I’ll have something I’m proud of that at least 5 people might want to read!

    Reply
  • Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot  October 12, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Hi Torre,

    You stuck with it. You did it. My dream of writing a book is pending:)

    I have one manuscript I only showed one person who was a big meanie and another book which is just an outline and a few notes really.

    What I have learned is that I’m really better at writing blog posts. I have the attention span of a flea and all the rewrites and editing of a book kill the joy of writing.

    That doesn’t mean I won’t write a book. It just showed me that at some point I need to get an editor involved to keep me on track and give me feedback.

    Writing is a scary journey – much worse than travel – I’d prefer to hitchhike alone any day than show someone a piece of writing I’ve been working on.

    But love that we’re facing our fears here and I am certainly proof that doing that day in and day out does diminish them:) Yay!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  October 12, 2011 at 11:51 pm

      Hi Annabel,

      Unfortunately, that is a fatal error for many people. Showing your precious baby to only one person is the riskiest thing you could do. You probably realize that now, though.

      I showed my first draft to no fewer than 20 people. I made sure they all received it at exactly the same time, and I asked them to answer specific questions about the story and characters. I was clear with them that I wanted brutal honesty! I received a great balance of positive and negative feedback. Weighing up opinions, I could see common problems in the book and ascertain which opinions were spot on, and which ones were simply a matter of personal taste. I copied and pasted all of the positive remarks and used them to fuel me to keep going. Giving the book to 20 people was the best thing for me and for the book.

      We’re all better at writing bite-sized blog posts. Writing a book is seriously hard. Throughout the writing process, I thought that I must be the only person in the world who’d ever spent that amount of time writing a book. I gave endless weekends and evenings, and I became a complete recluse. Each time the book needed to be edited AGAIN, I’d have to dig deep for more energy. But that’s just what it takes. You need to find a good reason to get it done, and put the pressure on yourself.

      Then, after all that work is done, you may or may not succeed. In fact, the odds are stacked against you and you probably *won’t* succeed. However, there’s a deep personal fulfillment that is yours to keep forever, and for me, that has made this undertaking something I’ll never regret.

      Reply
      • Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot  October 12, 2011 at 11:56 pm

        Hi Torre, great advice here.

        I did show it to others who were more positive but my inner critic really loved that negative feedback and my inner slouch loved the chance to move on to fresh pastures.

        I’m going to make 2012 the year of the book:)

        I’m not leaving this planet with regrets!

        PS. You didn’t say how you put the pressure on yourself?!

        Reply

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