In this second installment of All Things Left Wild, our guest Blogger author James Wade continues to tell us about his debut book, All Things Left Wild. Catch up on part 1 of the blog post if you missed it. All Things Left Wild is about how a botched robbery sets two men on conflicting journeys across the untamed landscape of the American West.
How long did it take to evolve the book from idea to completed manuscript?
Things moved relatively quickly. I began writing the manuscript on March 1, 2018. I submitted to my agent on July 12 of the same year. My second novel took much longer. There’s no set timetable or formula, because every story is different. I tell folks not to get discouraged if their writing isn’t coming together as fast as they’d like. Likewise, just because someone writes quickly, it doesn’t mean they did anything wrong
What were the easiest and hardest parts of the writing/completing the book?
There’s not much that’s easy about writing, for me. It’s the difficulty of the craft that I’m drawn to. But completing the book was by far the hardest part, primarily because I’d never done it before. Short stories are one thing, but writing 80K words and trying to maintain pacing, tone, theme, etc. was something I’d never tackled. Again, it goes back to forcing yourself to do the work, making yourself write when you’d rather do just about anything else.
What did you do right? What do you wish you did differently?
I wrote my first novel in bits and pieces, which were all out of order, and I spent several days trying to puzzle it all together in the end. I swore to myself that my second novel would be written chronological. A few days into working on the second novel, I found myself writing a scene that I knew what be toward the back of the book. Then I wrote something that went in the middle-- then I wrote something with no idea where it might fit into the story. This was a teaching moment for me, because I had to accept that this was just the way I write. I bounce around, which is tough at the end, but at least it gets me to the end.
If I sit down and I’m chronologically supposed to write a heavy funeral scene, but I’d rather write a comical conversation, then I just write the light stuff, no matter how out of order it is.
There will always be things I wish I did differently. I’ve never written anything-- not a single sentence or story or manuscript-- that I didn’t think could be better. But that’s the whole point. I think your writing should always be improving, because you should always be working on your craft.
Can you identify a “big break” moment or did things fall into place naturally?
There are several “big” moments along the way, and they all feel so enormous when they happen; but then somehow you forget how important they are/were, because you’re always going after that next big moment.
When I first started writing, I thought, “man, if I can just hold a finished book in my hands, even if I have to self-publish, I’ll be so happy.” Then it turned into, “if I can just get an agent,” then “if I could just get a book deal,” and then “if my book can just earn-out the advance.” It’s natural, and I think necessary, to continue to create bigger goals; but it’s also crucial to celebrate when you reach a goal, and to remain grateful for how far you’ve come.
I identify finding my agent, Mark Gottlieb, as my biggest break. Mark has been ranked number one on numerous Publishers Weekly lists, as has the agency he’s a part of, Trident Media Group. He had offers in on the book within 8 days of my agreeing to work with him. And in under two weeks we had a deal in principle with Blackstone Publishing, who has treated me like family, and showed such care with-- and belief in-- my book. It was important to me that I felt comfortable with Blackstone, since they bought the rights to my first three books. Fortunately, I have loved every interaction with every member of their team. They’ve made this process so much fun.
Advice you’d give aspiring, as yet unpublished authors?
Here’s some rapid-fire advice: Write every day. Cut yourself some slack. Bad writing is better than no writing. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection hold you back. Learn to write a decent query letter. Listen to your agent-- they don’t get paid until you do, so they aren’t out to get you.
Most importantly, be kind. Be kind to everyone you meet in this industry, from the old guy who still reads at every open mic night, to the super-successful author whose book you may not have liked. Books are such a beautiful part of our world, and they wouldn’t exist without writers, editors, cover designers, booksellers, readers, teachers, librarians, and the list goes on. So many people contribute to this amazing branch of the arts, be kind to all of them.