Guest Post: Resolved to Be Prolific

Today, I am happy to introduce a guest post by the marvelous Lyn Miller-Lachmann. (Check out her previous guest post here.) Stick around to the end and I’ll tell you about a giveaway of one of Lyn’s novels.

I don’t have a great record for achieving New Year’s Resolutions. The average attainment rate for those pledges to improve one’s fitness/relationships/life is around 20%, and mine may be even lower. But I have a standing resolution, one that I’ve dutifully kept since 2000. I’ve resolved to keep writing and revising my fiction no matter what.

My resolution grew out of my decision 10 years earlier to quit. When I graduated from college, I vowed to write the Great American Novel. Ten years later I’d written and extensively revised three entire book manuscripts—one adult and two young adult, after an agent who took me on thought the best characters in my adult manuscript were the teens. She and I parted ways after the next manuscript didn’t sell, and when I self-published it—a novelty at the time—I went through three revisions of a third YA manuscript with an editor at a major house before she backed out citing exasperation at our persistent miscommunication. Having come so close to selling a manuscript, I gave up in despair.

I wrote reference books and textbooks for those 10 years in the creative desert, but without creating stories I felt something missing from my life. After finding myself writing my middle school-age son’s creative writing assignments, I decided to try again and this time never to give up. I stripped the core of that first adult novel and turned it into a subplot of an eco-thriller that I wrote and rewrote multiple times until it became my debut novel, Dirt Cheap (Curbstone Press, 2006).

Apparently, I’m pretty average in that my fourth full-length novel manuscript became my first published novel. And I needed all those manuscripts, rewritten over and over, to develop my craft. Recently, I’ve read the accounts of debut novelists whose eighth, tenth, or twelfth full manuscript was the first to find a home. These are heartening stories because they show perseverance, dedication, and the truth that at a certain level of craft, publishing is a lottery of having the right book at the right moment, and the more lottery tickets one holds, the better the chance of winning a prize.

So when Bad Things happened to me—smaller publishers going out of business, a poor match with a large publisher, unsold manuscript after manuscript—I found myself taking their stories to heart. Rather than quit, I tried new things. I now have, finished and mostly finished and gone out on submission, two contemporary chapter-book proposals with sample chapters, a full YA contemporary novel, three YA historical novels, and seven picture books. I’ve approached two authors with ideas for collaborations and have just started an own voices picture book for one of those collaborations. In 2018, I completed two-thirds of a draft of my first novel in verse. Before I started it, I’d never realized how much I’d enjoy writing not only the verse novel but also poetry in general. Like my protagonist in the verse novel, I’ve joined a Poetry Club, a group of people who write a poem each week in response to a prompt.

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Rather than giving up, I’ve resolved to be prolific. The more things I have ready to go out, the more chances I have of hearing the word “yes.” I’ve also looked into self-publishing again.

My plan right now is to write. Write the story that speaks to me, the one only I can tell, and tell it with passion and skill.

Then worry about what to do with it.

* * *
As a treat for all of you who’ve read this far, I offer one of the poems I wrote for my Poetry Club in response to a picture prompt that I chose, a photo my daughter, a teacher, took on a family heritage trip to Berlin and Prague. The photo is from an exhibit at the Museum of Communism in Prague, Czech Republic, of the last day of primary school in the 1960s.

CHILDREN RUNNING OUT OF SCHOOL FOR THE SUMMER


When the final bell rings
children burst from the door
running
screaming
throwing ragged, used-up notebooks
backward
over their shoulders.

The best student in the class
waves his report card
boasting to his friends
of the present
his parents
will buy him.

The inseparable blond girls
make plans for the summer
the letters they’ll write
when one goes to camp
and the other stays home.

Behind the open door
the quiet, dark-haired boy
unwraps the chain
from his bicycle.

He had hoped to make a friend
this year.

He will go home to the line of books
he’d arranged
in alphabetical order
on his shelf.
Tales of heroes in magical worlds
where they can dream and hope
and their dreams and hopes
come true.
Tales of real heroes
of the times of his father
and his father’s father
who struggled and triumphed
when everything
seemed lost.

The quiet, dark-haired boy
will read these books
and they will save him.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the author of the eco-thriller Dirt Cheap and three novels for teens—Gringolandia, Surviving Santiago, and Rogue—and a translator from Portuguese and Spanish to English of children’s books, screenplays, poetry, and academic articles. Gringolandia—the story of a refugee teenager from Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship and his relationship with his father, a just-released political prisoner—was an Américas Award Honor Book and selected for the ALA/YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list in 2010. She reviews for The Pirate Tree and blogs on travel, politics, and writing at www.lynmillerlachmann.com.

* * *
Hi! Me again! (L. Marie, in case you’re wondering.) I’m giving away a copy of Lyn’s adult novel, Dirt Cheap. So it will be dirt cheap for you, since it’s free. Ha ha! I crack myself up. 😀 😁 Anyway, comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced on January 14.

Click here to find a synopsis of Dirt Cheap.

Photos courtesy of Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Author photo by Joan Heffler. Book image from somewhere online.

37 thoughts on “Guest Post: Resolved to Be Prolific

    • Thank you, Jill! I did give up once, and because it was for so long, I basically had to start at the beginning and relearn to write fiction. But maybe that was a good thing in a small way, if I’d also picked up bad habits that the long hiatus wiped out.

  1. Lyn, always a pleasure to read your interviews on L.Marie’s blog. This one reminded me of my desire to read your former YA offerings and has potentially (not committed yet!) inspired my intent to bite the bullet and buy several of yours and other INDIE books this year that I’ve had bookmarked over the past few years!
    But, more importantly, the detailing of your ‘working author/writer’ journey towards publication and the realization that it’s best to just write, edit, prep, keep on keepin’ on with your (he)art is a great boost for those of us entering into this New Year as creative (he)artists.
    All the best!

    L.Marie, great article to insert here during your own craziness of meeting ‘working author/writer’ deadlines and such…
    ps- Yes! Please count me in on this give away this time around!
    😉

    • You’re on the list, Laura! 😄 And I’m grateful that this post has sparked your desire to support authors like Lyn. That was the whole point behind this guest post! I love to see others rallying around this cause!

      Hope you’re doing well! 😁

    • Thank you, Laura! These three books were all from small presses, and my latest publishing commitment, for the new edition of Rogue (which was my only novel published by a Big 5 publisher) is with an authors’ collective/co-op press that I describe in my latest blog post. I think indie and small press books are getting better and better all the time, as the ones from the corporate publishers become more formulaic and less risky due to their need to turn a profit.

  2. Thank you, Marie, for introducing us to Lyn. This line brought a smile: “After finding myself writing my middle school-age son’s creative writing assignments. . . ..” And I LOVE your persistence: Rather than quit, I tried new things. Brava! You are a died-in-the-wool storyteller!

  3. How I loved reading this and especially reading your poem, Lyn, and particularly the stanzas about the dark haired boy. Good for you and your perseverance – and a big thank you, L. Marie, for the introduction and guest post.

  4. Lyn, Thank you so much for your post. I love to hear people’s writing journeys and especially how they return to writing after giving up. But I think what I found most inspiring about your post was your conviction to be prolific. I LOVE that! I struggle to be as productive as I’d like with my writing. The idea that by producing a lot, I’ll have something available for the mercurial, capricious publishing industry makes me feel as though I have some small amount of control in an industry where authors have much less than I’d realized. Thank you, also, for sharing that beautiful poem.

    • I love Lyn’s resolve too, Laura. I think we both have the same struggle. Yet, I know we both have several books in us. We’ve talked about a number of them. The issue, at least speaking for myself, is wanting someone to believe in my writing too. I often stop writing when I think that no one cares about it. But now I realize, I need to keep being the “someone” who believes in y writing. That’s why I love the resolve to be prolific. I need that resolve.

    • Thank you, Laura! Yes, the capricious publishing industry. One of the parts of the piece that got cut for length talked about the increasingly viable alternative of self-publishing, and how having a lot of books helps to sell each one. To some extent, I see my blog as a self-publishing platform, and since I can monitor my traffic, I know people believe in my writing, at the very least my ability to advise them on their trip to Portugal.

  5. Hi, I am the blank “like” that shows up when I push the button. Not my fault. WordPress, thank you so much! I am helping another friend with her website as she is a paraplegic and victim of the Camp Fire in Paradise, CA. She lost everything, so I am trying to help her rebuild her life, starting with a web site in her name showing photos of some of her art. So when you see this, you will know it is me.

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