I used Alan Watt's wonderful book The Ninety-Day Novel (http://www.amazon.com/The-90-Day-Novel-Unlock-within-ebook/dp/B0046LV9AO) to make my goal happen. I can't say enough good things about his book. It sounds like a formulaic write from an outline kind of book, but it's nothing like that. For the first 30 days Watt guides you through a series of questions from the points of view of your protagonist(s) and antagonist(s). You begin the rough draft on day 60, and you write every day without looking back or editing. His daily entries coach you expertly through the doubts and difficulties you face as you go.
I couldn't believe how well it worked. I couldn't believe how deeply I delved into the characters and their motives, how little miracles of plot and structure happened along the way as I raced through the first draft. It was my method, the one I have always used, but it was my method distilled to a fine and efficient liquor.
The longish short story that came out of this method came out almost perfectly. I took it to Weymouth Center with the goal of editing and after the first day's read through, asked my fellow writers-in-residence if I could read it out loud during our critique time. When they gave me their feedback it was unanimous: they all felt it was not only ready to go, they encouraged me to send it to literary journals as soon as possible.
The next week I sent it to Paris Review. After about a month, they sent this:
I sent the story on to Granta, who just yesterday said it wasn't right for their publication. So off it has gone to AGNI Magazine.
My point here is that in life as in writing we have to put ourselves out there over and over again, in little ways, in bigger ways, in order to get results. It's so easy to remain safe and still and maybe stagnant and stuck. It's nice when things work out and we get the result we want, but even when rejection comes, it's a testament to the fact that we put ourselves, our work, our wishes, OUT THERE in the first place.
I was wondering as I started this post how it would wind its way around to horses. Not that it needs to, but most things here usually do.
This one winds back to a frustrated night searching for a first pony, when I threw my hands up and typed in all the criteria for my ideal horse - and found him. And called the next day and made the appointment to go meet him, even though we weren't looking for a horse for me. And instead of letting reason take over, instead of canceling the appointment, I went, and I met Keil Bay.
There was a moment when I nearly stopped myself from putting my dream first that day. After I watched him being put through his amazing paces, when it was my turn to get on and ride, I said, no, I'm not a good enough rider for this horse. But his trainer said, come on, you'll be fine, and I got on. What if I hadn't? The idea that I might never have had Keil Bay as my riding teacher, life coach, beloved friend, and handsome companion brings tears to my eyes.
Many of you know the ending to the story. I did get on and I had the best ride of my adult life. And Keil Bay came to live with us and every good riding day I've had since is because of him.
Whether it's books or stories or horses or anything, put yourself out there. Take a chance. The end result is always going to be better than if you didn't.