Writer’s conferences are a double-edged sword. On one hand, you expose yourself to other writers’ sagacity and experiences that you would not otherwise encounter, expanding your horizons and possibly giving you a fresh perspective.

On the other hand, you also open yourself up to the sob stories, tales of woe, and harsh realities of the writing and publishing industry, which can snatch the wind from your sails faster than a slaughtered albatross.

The conference at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop was of the first kind.

The one this past spring in Badgerland was of the latter.

So many of its speakers and attendees were quick to relay the “truths” and statistics that serve only to muddy the waters of creative process: the unlikelihood of finding an agent, the slim chances of getting published, the even slimmer chances of your first book selling well (and the likelihood it will be your last), and of course, the absolute impossibility of ever making a living writing fiction.

One of those painful tidbits is looming large these days.

Just recently, I broke 60,000 words. Conventional wisdom and accepted standards in the publishing industry suggest that I should be at or approaching the ¾ mark of my story. 80,000 words is ideal length for a first novel. Break 100k and you might as well not bother.

Well guess what? My plot points and gut tell me I’m just about halfway.

Heart tells me to keep going. I know, at present, it’s wordy and unrefined, and I’m sure a second pass will help cut it down some.

Mind tells me to call in the dogs and piss on the fire. With 120,000 to 140,000 words likely by the last full stop, I doubt I’ll ever be able to cut enough out of it to make it “marketable,” at least not all by my lonesome.

I’m trying not to think about it, to not let it stifle the steam. But here and there, when that word count glares at me from the bottom of the screen, I hear a piercing, daunting voice reminding me of all the things I already have working against me and how my prattling is the death knell, the final nail in the coffin (there’s your Halloween reference for the day).

Fortunately, today I’m not listening.
To hell with conventional wisdom, I’m telling a story here.

Write on.

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