Thursday, July 14, 2011

Books vs. Boyfriends: Finding the One

Have you guys ever had a revelation while working out? I had one today.  I went running by the lake, and about five miles in, I finally saw the connection between the books I've written and the boyfriends I've dated.

Here's the context: I've been ridiculously depressed because my thriller manuscript isn't getting any love. I put my heart into it and I love this book with an unhealthy passion. But it's just not working out in terms of getting an agent.  This is what's put me in such a terrible mood.  But today, I can finally see a bit of light.  Writing books and submitting them is no different than dating. Here's the proof:

Boyfriend, A.: We had nothing in common other than being in the same college. He was on the rebound and I'd never dated anyone in my life.  I fell hard and ended up chasing after him for years, allowing myself to fall into an on-again, off-again pattern that was emotionally destructive and no good whatsoever for my self-esteem.

Book, vampire historical: Everyone else was writing about vampires, so why shouldn't I? I thought it would catapult me into some sort of Stephenie Meyer afterglow.  I wrote and rewrote and rewrote for years, in the same kind of on-again, off-again pattern that was so destructive with A. Instead of realizing I could (and should) move on, I stuck with what was familiar instead of branching out into something new.

Boyfriend, R.: A guy who was fun to be with, actually liked me, and had no problem expressing emotion. He was everything A. wasn't and provided the validation I never got in that first relationship.  Of course, this was a mistake, too. You can't date someone just because they're the opposite of someone who hurt you.

Book, lighthearted mystery:  After the historical vampire epic, I went for a lighthearted romp:  fast dialogue, lots of wisecracks, absolutely no historical research required. It was what I needed to convince myself I could write another book without sucking up years of my life.  This book was better than the first one because of what I'd learned writing the first. Still, it didn't quite fit my style--much like R.

Boyfriend, J.: Smart, funny, British, made a good living, had a cat, turned me on to Kate many great things here.  I thought this man had everything and I fell hard, an elevator plunging from the the hundredth floor with no support cable.  We shopped together, we tried new restaurants, and had lovely times strolling through the Haight or the Mission. At one point, he mentioned getting some of his grandmother's jewelry out for me. True love, right? Wrong. He decided to try and go off his antidepressants on his own, bailed on meeting my parents, and decided he was not looking for commitment. He spent the next two years dating a number of girls, including me. I convinced myself that if I hung in there long enough, I'd be the winner. Not so.

Book, female-oriented thriller: This one is breaking my heart right now. Like J., it was supposed to be the one.  J. was supposed to give me a ring and this book was supposed to give me a contract.  I had such high hopes that agents and editors would love it as much as I do.  Everyone says you're supposed to write the book you want to read.  I did that, but it still didn't work.  Much like the British boyfriend, it can't be forced into generating that commitment. It seems unfair that no matter how much effort you put into a relationship or a book, you are unlikely to get the result you want.  But that's how fate works. You don't control it.  It controls you.  And sometimes you don't know realize any of this while you're living it. You have to get through it and get past it to see what was really happening.

Boyfriend, J.: Another J!  This time, it was a short relationship with a co-worker, someone uncomplicated and fun. We bonded over video games, but had little in common.  Still, he seemed blissfully normal after the emotional nuclear aftermath of the previous J.

Book, category romance:  This one didn't last long, much like J.  I wrote it in two weeks and revised it in one.  It's not literary.  It's not going to set the world on fire.  But it was fun, fast, and easy.  I wrote it as I was querying for the thriller. Of course, I didn't know at the time the thriller wouldn't be accepted, but at the same time, after writing a complicated thriller with a mentally ill heroine, it was refreshing to write something fast, fun, and dirty.

Boyfriend, N.: A college friend I reconnected with at a friend's party later in life. He was nice and very upstanding, the sort of person about whom you could say, "He makes me want to be a better person."  He liked some of the same books and some of the same music, but there wasn't enough of an overlap to sustain a real connection.  There was no spark, nothing deeper that would make me pine for him when he was away. The relationship lasted two years because it was comfortable.  But no one marries comfortable. He took a job across the country. I stayed in California and wondered why I'd let two years of my twenties slip away.

Book, literary mystery: I just started writing this one, actually. This is my first attempt at a literary novel. Now I'm wondering if it will end up like this boyfriend, serious and steady but boring...and also not the one.

Boyfriend, P.: We celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary on July 1st. It wasn’t a given that this was it, believe me.  I broke up with him a few weeks into the relationship, and he broke up with me six months in.  That break-up was on a Sunday. Friday night, he came back to my apartment and asked me to marry him, to run away to Las Vegas for the weekend.  I packed the only white dress I had in my closet and we hopped in my Mazda for a drive into the desert that lasted a whole day.  We went to a pawn shop where I fell in love with the first ring I saw.  He bought it for me and we went to Chapel of the Bells. That Saturday night, we got married.

Book:  I don't even know what this one will be, since I'm still writing book #5.  Does this mean the universe might smile on me this time?  I guess I won't know until I get there....

Realizing all of this has made me more accepting of the thriller's failure. At the time, I felt so bitter and angry when J. and I didn't end up together. I couldn't understand it. It wasn't fair!  But fairness has nothing to do with it. It's about being ready for something, about finding just the right fit.  I guess this book isn't the right fit, even though I want it to be so badly it hurts.  I wouldn't have been happy married to J.  It had to be P. So I guess I'll have to be patient with the books I write, the same way I was for all the men I dated.  They can't all have stories that end like this: