Necessary Cuts

I have one goal in life: to publish a book before I die. 

OK, that’s not true.  There are actually many things I’d love to accomplish, though I refuse to write them all up in bullet form and call them a bucket list.  But getting that book published is at the top of the heap.

The first step in the process – writing the book – is actually, for me, the easy part.  I’ve been writing for years.  Have completed several novels, most of which are gathering dust in my bedroom closet.  Am I disappointed that they have failed to see the light of day?  Not in the least.   Let’s say you want to run a marathon.  You’re not going to hop out of bed one day and cover 26 miles in three and a half hours on your first attempt.  Instead, you’ll work up to the feat.  You might jog a mile the first day.  After a month, you may be comfortable with five or six miles.  Eventually, you’ll have the strength and stamina to go the distance, but you have to put in many hours of training first.

And that is how I view my first few attempts at writing a novel: as training.  When I began my first book, Y2K paranoia was gripping the country, the Clinton years were winding down, and I knew that I had stories inside me wanting to be told.  I just didn’t know how to go about doing it, so I plunged right in.  There’s nothing wrong with that; I actually think it was the smart thing to do.  Don’t think about it, just write.  That first book was a legal thriller, because I was reading lots of John Grisham at the time, never mind the fact that I didn’t know a tort from a torte (hint: one’s a civil wrong, one’s a cake).  Even though the feedback from friends and family was positive, I personally don’t think it’s all that great, and yet it served its purpose by teaching me the rules of the game: making time to write, never being content with the first draft, marketing the book through a literary agent.  A year later, when I sat down again to write, the process ran more smoothly.  The end result?  A little less shaky.  And so it went.

A couple of months ago, I finished what I consider my strongest book ever, and the first one with a real shot at publication.  This is the one, I tell myself, and it’s more than wishful thinking: I really do believe that. 

Yet, my work is far from over.  And that’s where this blog comes in. 

As I said, writing is the easy part.  Marketing, especially if you don’t have any publishing experience, is a lot tougher.  It’s hard to get your foot in the door.  There’s a business side to the business, and if you’re not savvy enough to tackle that head on, your odds of being successful are greatly diminished.  Random House isn’t going to come knocking on your door, after all.

I’m reading an excellent book called How To Become A Famous Writer Before You’re Dead.  It’s chock full of fantastic advice, and written in a breezy, conversational style by an author whom I feel would be perfectly at home perched on a bar stool beside me, tipping back a drink.  Her name’s Ariel Gore, and she’s actually local, living in Portland, as a matter of fact.  Anyway, one thing she stresses is, get your work out there!  One very simple way to do that is to start a blog.  So, here I am.  Hello, you.  And you and you and you. 

This is actually my second attempt at a blog.  A little while ago, I trashed all my previous entries and renamed the whole thing.  A writer shouldn’t be afraid of making necessary cuts.  I had envisioned the previous blog as a “writing blog,” but that was too limiting – and also, boring.  I don’t want to read about conjugating verbs and dangling participles, much less write about ’em.  To fill the gaps, I began writing as if this were a diary, but I didn’t want to do that, either.  I keep an online journal elsewhere.  I was struggling to find my balance here, to figure out what, exactly, I should cover in these electronic pages.  I thought of doing a hiking blog.  A blog about Portland.  A food blog.  A blog that would cover current events.  And then, I had an epiphany.  It seems so obvious now.

I can cover all of that in my blog.  There’s no need to focus on just one topic; I can move around from subject to subject on a whim.  Whatever I feel like writing about on any particular day, I’ll write about.

What a novel concept.

So, welcome aboard!  Again, if you’ve been here before.  Thank you for following along as I dish up my innermost thoughts on a wide variety of topics.  Feel free to comment, to offer suggestions, feedback, whatever.  I won’t write here every day, but I promise not to let weeks go by between posts, either.

The only other promise I’ll make?  I will be a published author someday.

Mark my words.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

2 thoughts on “Necessary Cuts

  1. Hey Mark,

    Even though I’m not on FB anymore, I still have this bookmarked and just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy reading your blog and I will continue to do so. Best of Luck to you and Happy Holidays!!


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