Once upon a time, my teen daughters complained about the required reading their English teachers assigned them in class. We spent a lot of time talking about what we loved to read, what made a good story, and what made one dry or boring.
This went on for months.
The more we talked, the more original story ideas our discussions produced. I’ve always been dramatic, always had a big imagination, and loved storytelling. If you write, you might be nodding right now, I don’t know. Anyway, after messing around a while, I decided to write my own story. And I did. Seventy thousand words of awesome premise and absolutely hideous writing. With no background in creative writing and a poor formal education, multiple learning disabilities remained a challenge. I had no clue what I was doing.
BUT PEOPLE, I LOVED DOING IT! The writing part. I just had to figure out how to do it well.
I used to dream some writer, who was further along than I was, would magically show up at my local Barnes and Noble and give me sage advice. I really did. That never happened. Then some gentle soul said, “Idiot! You need some help. You’re not allowed to write like Jane Austen anymore, with hundreds of pages of flowery description. Not if you want to get published. You need feedback from other writers, so you can learn. Your. Craft!”
Good advice. An though I would continue to write if I never published a thing, I hoped to someday see my stories in print. So, I persevered. I ended up joining some online critique sites and ultimately found an amazing group of women writers that form the bulk of my critique partners today. Thank you, Sisters of the Traveling Pens. You all rock baby kittens.
They explained the definitions of common writing problems like, back-story, purple prose, superfluous descriptions, POV, slow pacing, flat characters, plot holes, conflict, and over use of the dreaded adverb.
Armed with new information, I wrote another book, a better one. My pen sisters shredded it. I rewrote and so on. Of course, in my ignorance, I continued to do everything wrong. I went to a writers conference and pitched my story to an agent. A really well known, super ninja agent. Oy. She may have requested the partial out of sheer pity. I was visibly sweating and shaking, I was so nervous. She rejected the manuscript. She should have. It wasn’t ready. Did that stop me? Heck no, I edited my story (still wasn’t ready, people) and queried sixty agents at once. *sigh* Multiple rejections and non answers followed.
Back to the drawing board with another story that became my YA urban fantasy CRUX. After months of writing and rewriting, I queried J Taylor Publishing who accepted my story for publication. Yea! Thank you, J Taylor!
Yeah, that was beyond cool, but I still didn’t have an agent and my writing wasn’t as strong as I wanted it to be. I started several novels that I didn’t finish. I wrote another urban fantasy that I loved, but it had some issues. I grew weary of what always needed fixing. People kept saying, don’t write what you think will sell, write what you love.
What do I love … what do I love …?
I love young adult. I love southern gothic romances, alpha males, magic, and adventure. I love courageous heroes with attitude and feisty heroines that won’t quit. Fairy tales and their retellings are a favorite, too. That was enough to inspire a brand new story. I wrote the sucker. Sent it to a few trusted beta readers who, again, gave me amazing advice. One of those betas suggested I query the lovely, amazing and talented Brittany Booker of the The Booker Albert Literary Agency. She asked for the full, read it, and a few days later offered me a contract. (Did I mention Brittany Booker is lovely, amazing and talented?) I did? Good. She is.
Wow. My eyes are still dilated from my talk on the phone … with my agent!
So, that’s how I got to this point—with a long way yet to go …
I’m sure I’m not saying anything new, but maybe that’s okay. Maybe it bears repeating that the overnight success stories we hear about are rarely that. Reading about other writers who are pursuing their dreams challenges me to work harder. I love reading about their ideas, triumphs, and yeah, even their failures—because mistakes say nothing more than that they had the guts to try. These writers remind me to take heart, keep going, that it can take a long time, and that each new goal met really is worth the struggle. I guess that’s what inspired this post. The idea of hope. And while much of writing is a solitary effort, it’s nice to remember we’re not alone. We wordsmiths are in this together.
Keep writing, people.
I’m cheering for us all.