If writing is pain then reading is pleasure … and a dash of good red wine makes both far more palatable. I invite you to join me as I explore the fickle, fascinating and (sometimes) frustrating journey towards the publication of my first novel (and beyond?).
So first – the good news: I finally finished* my first manuscript! Yea!
*Quick caveat: I’m not sure “finished” is ever possible. But the story is complete, and I’m looking for an agent, so we are using it!
I’m trying not to downplay this first bit. As all first-time (or 20th-time) novelists know, it’s quite a personal achievement. For years I had bits and pieces of stories written. Several chapters here, an outline there, a story I couldn’t stop thinking about.
But I wasn’t getting it done. Heck – it’s EASY to come up with excuses not to write. Kids need attention. Work needs attention. That recipe I’ve been wanting to try needs attention. Frankly – it’s a lot easier to do just about ANYTHING rather than sit down in front of that blank screen and give yourself permission to write.
And the self doubt. Paralyzing. I found it to be a radically bi-polar experience (forgive me for using that term somewhat lightly). One day I’d sit and the words would flow and I would believe in myself. Man! I was SO FREAKIN’ good!
Then, inevitably, what seemed like just moments later, the self doubt would inevitably come crashing down.
“WHO ARE YOU?” it said in a scathing voice, “to think that you have ANY writing talent whatsoever??”
(Self-doubt’s best friend procrastination often joined the party, accompanied by good-old-fashioned laziness.)
So for a long time, I was “someone who wanted to be a writer.” And I have met a LOT of people stuck in that stage.
So here’s how I got the words flowing out of my fingers onto the page: I read. A lot. I read authors in my genre. I read authors outside of my genre. I re-read some of my favorite authors (Diana Gabaldon, J.K. Rowling, Kathryn Stockett, Cheryl Strayed, Stephanie Meyer), trying to pick apart what it was that worked so well with their books. I even read some authors I truly dislike – because if they got published, I wanted to know why!
I joined the local Redwood chapter of the California Writers Club. I took writing seminars. And, I read a lot of books and articles and blog posts about creativity and the writing process. It was comforting to realize that almost everyone else has this strange love-hate relationship with writing as well. It’s compelling. It’s exhausting.
(For those of you still stuck in that place where you doubt the value of your creativity, I humbly recommend the brilliant Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic.” No matter where you are in your internal struggle, this book may offer you the nugget of wisdom (or, more accurately, the permission) to go for it.)
I also tried to get out of my weird-little-YA-world by exploring other modes writing. I took a songwriting class (not so great). I took a screenwriting class from the fabulous Anne Jordan (A-MAZ-ING). I took part in the 2015 NaNoWriMo writing challenge.
So here I am, sitting proudly with my shiny new 67,200-word manuscript for Shift.
AND NOW WHAT?
Turns out this is just the first hill to climb. And there are many hills, so dig in people. While the publishing world has busted wide open – turns out it’s just as confusing and crazy as it was before self-publishing. I’ve spent the last few months on a self-guided boot camp learning about an industry in flux, and I’m still a raw newbie getting my bearings.
So that’s what this blog will primarily be about. This discovery of a new field, learning how to query an agent, how to perform a five-minute pitch, working with an editor. I am sure there are many like me out there – and I look forward to hearing from you.