I love it when the first page of a book (after the title page and all that) is a quote, sitting very importantly all by itself in the middle of a blank page. It’s especially nice when it’s short and poignant and when it gives an instant feel for what you can look forward to thematically.
With my current WIP, spun off from the mythology of Peter Pan, I’m thinking of using this quote from the play. Again, picture it sitting importantly in the center of an otherwise blank page, before you’ve entered the chapters or met a single character:
“Say quick that you believe!”
~J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan
Don’t you love it? Okay, maybe it’s just me getting all hopeful about the potential of my WIP, but I have absolutely fallen in love with this theme of the exigency of belief.
(Exigency, p.s., is one of those words I didn’t know I knew until this phrase popped into my head one day and I looked it up in the dictionary and I thought, “Yeah! That’s exactly how to describe it.” Because exigency is what’s required in a particular situation, it’s an urgent demand, and my novel is about believing before it’s too late. And the nerd in me is geeking out about the coolness of that word.)
But what’s extra cool is how much else it applies to. Maggie Stiefvater has a recent post about the exigency of New Year’s resolutions, which also has to do with believing. You have to set goals and believe you can achieve them and then work toward them in order to, you know, actually make something of your life.
I’ve thought about that a lot. After all, when it comes to doing something like this, spending months and years writing novels, you have to believe in yourself. A lot. You have to believe that with enough study and hard work, you can write a book good enough to be published, and then with additional research and hard work and luck, you can find a publisher for it.
The belief is essential for the doing.
For me, role models have made a huge difference. I know people around me who have started their own successful businesses, who have gotten grants for amazing projects in the public school system, who have become artists with work displayed in real galleries, who have written books and become New York Times bestsellers, who have gone through PhD programs despite having to relocate with a husband and kids. It’s one of those if-they-can-do-it-I-can-do-it sort of things.
I also think a lot of the trick to believing in your own success is picturing it. For example, here I am blogging before I’ve published. It seemed silly to me at first; I always thought I’d start blogging once I landed a publisher. But one of the biggest bonuses about it is that it helps me feel legit. I feel like a writer.
Similarly, I picture my query letter even though the manuscript’s not quite ready to shop yet. Little phrases with great query-letter voice will pop into my head, and I’ll write them down to save for later.
Today, I wrote a potential author bio for the back flap of my book jacket. Yep, definitely getting ahead of myself, but again, it helps me picture the success, which helps me believe in it. Tell me what you think. It ties into obvious themes from Peter Pan as well:
Nikki Mantyla found, freaked out about, and plucked her first gray hair at age 23, which is when it hit her that youth sneaks away too, too fast. Writing novels was her childhood dream, so making good on it seemed appropriate retaliation for being forced to age.
However, growing up does have its perks: playing house with the cutest, funniest, sweetest hubby and two adorably silly little boys; getting a masters degree, which was so fun she wants a PhD now; and teaching writing at the community college, where she has yet to encounter a concept that can’t be portrayed with a movie clip.
She’s currently nearing 30 but cool with it.
(The nearing-30 part happens in two years, so I’m picturing a 2011/12 debut.) 😉
And so, appropriately, here are my goals for 2010. I’ve had them in mind for a while now, but New Year’s is a good time to make goals official:
- Finish next draft by February 15 to exchange with other writers for March 15 critique.
- Revise again and start querying agents by summer. Work on another manuscript while I wait.
- Read at least 50 novels. (I would up this number, but goals should be realistic.)
- Read Image Grammar and Schuster’s Breaking the Rules (grammar textbooks) and revamp grammar website to be more effective and more student friendly.
- Study for and retake the GRE, prefaced by pep talks that sound like this: “If you don’t get a better score than you did before your master’s degree, I’m going to be very disappointed in you, self. It’s nice that you know what exigency means, but there are a few thousand more vocab words you need to brush up on to look like a good doctoral candidate. Get cracking!”
(By the way, last year’s goal was to finish the rough draft of my WIP by May or June, which I did, and to read 50 novels by the end of the year, which I got very close to doing. I’ve read about 45 as of today, but I’m in the middle of four more, so maybe . . .)
What are your goals and ambitions, for 2010 and beyond? What do you think about the exigency of belief? Any great vocab words you’ve run across lately?