Another Step on the Journey

Letters to my Unpublished Self Part 4

As I take another step towards becoming a published author I’m careful to stop and reflect on the journey. I’ve found it therapeutic to step away from the edited, re-worked and re-edited page and examine the process. At my day job my mantra is training is an event, learning is a process. The same holds true for my dream job. Writing is an event becoming a published author is quite the process.

Now that I’ve completed the first book I’ll share seven things that I’ve learned.

There are three categories.

1.) Those who want to write a book.
2.) Those who have written a book and
3.) Published authors

The only way you get into category three is to move out of category one.

2. Fear of finishing is real.  Thousands languish between categories one and two because they are afraid to finish. I spent some time in that space and it takes effort and encouragement to push past the fear of finishing.

3. Positive agreement is a powerful tool. I finished because I set myself in agreement with another person. Find someone with a goal, writing related or not, and use the shared energy to motivate you. There is power in positive agreement.

4. Commas are controversial. The rules of English are universal but the application of these rules is subject to interpretation. I’ve also discovered that comma usage is regional and generational. And by the way you’ll notice I’m not a comma queen. Personally, I think commas are over used.

5. Writers are willing to share. Romance Writers are some of the most generous people you’ll ever encounter.

6. Many writers are so willing to share that they will try to write your story for you.

7. Only you can write your story. Stick with it. It’s the only way to get out of category 1

One day I’m going to look back in wonder.

A Shame and A Sin

Letters to My Unpublished Self Part 2

This is a shame and a sin.

It’s a shame four-and a-half years later, and I’ve not completed my first work in progress. My husband will think it’s a sin when he comes home, and I haven’t washed the
breakfast dishes.

About that WIP—I’m making progress and I won’t quit. And in my defense, and I’m not sure why I’m trying to defend myself. But, I do have two kids, a job and a long list of social and civic obligations.

One of the stops on my journey to becoming a published author is contest land. RWA contests are great proving ground. So much can be learned from twenty-five dollars and twenty-five pages. Lessons that go beyond the mechanics of writing.

My recent contest feedback really crystallized the indefinable spark theory. One judge liked my work, gave glowing encouraging comments and honest constructive feedback. For a second judge my writing didn’t hold that ‘spark,’ she didn’t like my story and couldn’t find anything nice to say. I’ll take the advice offered, focus on the positive and keep trying.

Judging contests also helps a writer understand the position of an editor. It’s possible to read nine entries that don’t strike you. It’s not the mechanics, the plot or the setting. It’s an indefinable spark, like meeting a person that you just click with.

As I’ve reflected on judging contests, I am reminded
of an experience from grad school. One of my professors evaluated my work just before she went in to defend her dissertation. She got beat up pretty bad. When she returned to her task as evaluator, she re-worded her responses to her students. The content of her evaluation did not change but the words she used altered, dramatically. I’m trying to apply this lesson as I take my turn in the judge’s seat. When holding another person’s dream in my hand, I hope to tread lightly, and offer an honest, helpful, compassionate critique.

And about that WIP, my goal is to start the query
process in June. Thanks to my participation in contests,
I already have a synopsis and query letter written. I’m ready to roll. I’m also ready to wash the breakfast dishes.

One day I’m going to look back in wonder.

Published Spring 2009
Blowing Kisses
Windy City Romance Writers Newsletters

Fear and Finishing

Letters to My UnPublished Self Part 3 

I was prepared to face all the things I thought would scare me in my writing journey.   Fear of a being able to fill up that first page.  The abject terror- fear of sharing my work for the first time.  The inevitable fear of receiving a rejection letter from a publisher.  But one fear that I hadn’t considered, overtook me by surprise.  The fear of finishing. 

 My nephew with whom I have a pact; he finishes college I write a book, shared with me last summer that he’d decided to delay his graduation until December.  Because he’s afraid.

 Finishing college means something’s going to chance.  

 I told him I supported his decisions and encouraged him to have one hell of a good time that fall.  What I couldn’t admit to him; because he thinks I’m fearless, is that I’m crippled with the same fear. 

 Finishing my first novel means something’s going to change. 

 I worked so hard to finish my WIP by the end of 2008.   I made significant progress at the end of the year but I didn’t finish.  I let distractions prevent me from finishing on my next deadline date Valentines Day 2009.  Then came Easter, still not done.  

 There is a difference between writing a book and being  published.  But the bigger chasm is between saying you are going to write a book and getting it done.  And what about the new set of challenges I would face.  What if I can’t secure an agent and publishing contract?  I slowed down and set a new deadline. 

 The fear of finishing is more insidious than a fear of failing.  When we dwell in the fear of failing we don’t have to look back at our efforts.  With a fear of finishing you have a constant reminder that there is this body of work –something you’ve produced, creative  energy spent that’s undone.  Time invested when you finish, time wasted if it’s left undone. 

So to further procrastinate I asked a few friends of mine, writers and artist, if the fear of finishing is an actual phenomenon.  It’s more common than you might think. 

After my detour into inquiry.  I went back at work.   I finished my first draft by my May deadline.  I completed self editing, rewrites (which I found more difficult that writing in the first place).  I pressed on and accomplished the goal.  I actually wrote a book.  I’m ready for the change, to start the query process.  Wait.  I’m afraid.  I’ll need to process this one before I move on.  But move on I will. 

 One day I’m going to look back in wonder.

 By the way on December 12, 2009 my nephew graduated from Albany State University.  He handed me his diploma and I will give him a copy of my finished book.

He Finished!

Letters to My UnPublished Self

A wise published author recently gave me a good dose of wisdom and encouragement. She said that no matter where you are in this process there will always be someone in front of you and someone behind you, the trick it to work from where you are. So here I am an aspiring romance writer.

It’s an interesting place to be. Three quarters of the way through my first WIP, light years away from understanding the publishing business and wonderfully associated with the Windy City RWA writers group.

I’m inspired from this space to establish a record, sort of a diary to document the journey. It’s been three years of imagining, taking notes and one year of seriously learning the craft. This is a craft and it’s going to take some years of working at it. For me one of the biggest hurdles to cross has been the willing and ability to share my writing with others. Penning this article for the newsletter is a huge step.

So how does it feel this stage in the journey? When I’m writing I feel excited, encouraged, creative. I’m an inventor and I’ve found courage. It was about a year ago when I shared my work with a published author. It was the best thing I could have done. It helps to have kind writer friends to read your work and encourage you. Then teach you about POV. My next small step was to join a critique group. It was like launching a child into a supportive world. I’ve endured some very constructive criticism of my work. The lumps hurt but overall what a helpful learning experience.

I am grateful for my friends at Windy City who encourage me and my critique group that challenges me. Affirmation and encouragement go a long way when you are sitting at your computer screen looking at a pile of dirty dishes and the clock. If I can finish this page, then I can do the dishes and pick up the kids and my family will never know I’ve spent all day working on one page.

I’m in a good place. There are people behind me and many in front of me and I know that they all wish me well. The next challenge contest and query. It’s time to take another step. I’ll let you know how it’s goes.

One day I’m going to look back in wonder.

Published Fall 2008
Blowing Kisses
Windy City Romance Writers Newsletter