It’s the Story, Stupid

I am starting to panic. My final day of editing is tomorrow. After that, I’ve promised myself I am going to give up trying to improve Ages of Aenya and start on something new. After all, there is only so much editing a writer can do before he goes bananas. At some point, you just have to let it go, trusting that the thousands of hours you’ve put into the book will pay off. Problem is, I suffer from extreme anxiety. After my first draft was finished two years ago, I felt the same anxiety, followed by weeks of what I can only describe as desperation. Few people outside of writing can imagine this feeling. How often in any profession does someone wait fourteen years for a payoff? Yes. Fourteen years. Since 1999. That is when the first iteration of City by the Sea, the first story to feature Xandr and company, was written. It eventually became part of The Dark Age of Enya in 2004 and was later transformed into Ages of Aenya. I suppose I could have written other books during this time, but I was busy with work and kids; I have also been fighting my personal literary demons, which have set me back many a time. But more importantly, I love the characters and the story, and I believe they are worth sharing.

There are reasons for hope far from rationalizing. If I could talk to an agent or a publisher, face to face, I would tell them this: People have loved my stories since I was a six years old. I was always the favorite of the class in every creative writing course I’ve ever taken. When I wrote fan-fiction for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, people always raved. Ages of Aenya is worthy of publication because the story is good, the characters are engaging, and it is well written (after my BA at USF and almost 30 years of practice, I think I’ve got the semi-colon down). More importantly, the book has a point of view, a thing sorely lacking with many of today’s bestsellers.

OK, click the Next Blog above and more than likely, you will find another poor sap’s blog professing the same things. But if I could tie an agent to a chair, I am confident he would find Ages of Aenya not merely as good as most books, but better than most books. Look, I hate to toot my own horn here; I know it’s bad form . . . but most books are a chore to finish. Finding a great read in a random stack is like finding a diamond in a pile of coal. Why else do so few people read these days? It’s not that their X-Box games or Blu-Ray discs are so much more interesting, but that games and movies waste less time. Even today’s bestsellers fall into the read-and-forget category. More than anything, I am frustrated when a book with obvious flaws makes it the top of the charts. The success of Harry Potter, on the other hand, was no fluke. J.K. Rowling made billions because her story was good.

Not everyone can grow up to be a writer, but I don’t think the bar should be lowered to include the struggling masses. All books should cater to the reader. Whether I fail as a writer or not, the reader should decide. I don’t know whether my book gets buried by other submissions, or whether agents or publishers cannot find the time to understand something different, or if they think they cannot sell a book with naturist or philosophical concepts by a non-celebrity, but none of that should matter. Only the story matters. If Ages of Aenya is poorly written, poorly executed or just plain boring, it deserves to fail. While not every book can succeed, every book deserves to be judged by its merits. I continue to write, maintaining the belief that a good story with engaging characters will always find a place on the bookstore shelf.    

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