I’ve been on a journey for the last several years; one that takes lots of twists and turns, and ups and downs, and sometimes leaves me nauseous and exhausted. However it has been the most exhilarating and wonderful time of my life and as inspiration for new writers and pros alike to keep going when the road gets bumpy, I thought I’d shared.
On my birthday, when I was eight or nine, my mom gave me a journal. I pulled the book, filled with empty pages, from the wrapping and stared at it. Her instructions were simple; write. She said I could fill those pages with anything; my thoughts; poems; or even stories. From that day forward, the Hallmark shop was pillaged, many times, for pretty ledgers and sparkly pens.
I was fortunate enough to come from a long line of story tellers. As far as I know, none of them ever put pen to paper, but they could captivate a room with stories, both serious and silly. My Granddad and Mother were gifted with the ability to turn a five-minute incident, into a spellbinding account of their daily lives, and apparently, my mom saw the same talent hidden, in her grade school daughter.
In high school, my writings turned to poems, which were dark and filled with teenaged angst. My mom and dad read them and never once ridiculed their content. A friend told
me years later, she’d turned in one of my poems for a grade, and although she
made an A, the teacher suggested to her parents, perhaps, she need counseling.
Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993, I was 19. For the next five years, she battled, ultimately losing the fight. There are no words to describe what I went through attempting to live without her. For several years, I couldn’t write. I’d sit down with a pen and paper, or at my computer and become distracted with thoughts of her. The gift she’d given me could have helped, from the beginning, but I firmly believe everything happens for a reason.
In 2006 I started a MySpace page and began to blog; nothing serious, just antidotes from my daily existence. Right away, I felt the bliss of expression, but I still couldn’t wrap my brain around anything more than goofy stories. In November of 2008, I sat at my laptop and willed my fingers to peck away at the keyboard.
In roughly forty-five days, I wrote a raw, unpolished, manuscript which I called “The Fallen.” The manuscript was about a young woman who’d lost her mother to breast cancer and resented God; and an angel who’d been banished from Heaven and despised humans. I put the story aside and in the next two years, wrote seven additional manuscripts.
Writers have no idea when they start their journey what is involved in sharing a story with the masses. I sat on the fence, for a long time. Should I set up a website and post them for free? Should I try to get them published? Why in the world do I think anyone wants to read them?
It was a comment made by my son, who was then twelve, which urged me to take the plunge. He said, “Oh, she’ll never get them published.” HUH! I was challenged! Not only would having them published prove him wrong, but more importantly, both my children would see anything is possible, if you want it bad enough.
I found a website called Authonomy.com, and posted one of my stories. I made several friends on the site, and got invaluable feedback. Meanwhile, with no concept of query letters and synopsis’, I sent a couple of the MS’ out to “brick and mortar” publishers.
The stories were unedited for the most part, and my skin was thin. The first form letter rejection almost ended my writing career, for good. Looking back, it was great practice and everyone needs to experience it. Soon after, I found another website,
Textnovel.com. Several of my stories were semi-finalist and received honorable
mentions in their 2010 contest. Although my self-esteem was boosted, for an artist it’s never enough.
Somehow, through Facebook, Textnovel, and word of mouth, I’d collected a wonderful network of writer friends. They supported me, guided me, and sometimes gave me tough love, by way of honest critiques. This is something you can’t get from your best friend, or family members, who think everything you do is phenomenal. It takes courage to truly teach someone a new way to see their work.
I’ve always been a rebel, always raged against the guidelines and rules. Truly, the only thing it got me was more frustrated. I started reading the plethora of articles and websites aimed at wannabe writers, and noted all the things I’d been ignoring. It didn’t stop me from despising the guidance, but for the first time, I paid attention.
In November of 2010, I participated in Nanowrimo, as a newbie, and completed a 56,000 word story in 18 days. When I sent it to a critique partner, she sent it back with praise, and the earnest comment that it had taken a hard right mid-story swinging from paranormal romance to women’s fiction. It was honest, and it made me think about my other stories and changes they would need to appease a passionate reader.
At the beginning of 2011, I made myself a promise. I had at least six manuscripts which had wonderful stories, engaging characters, and beautiful plots, but they were in need of
mechanical help. The promise was to get a couple published, before I started on a new one. I spent the first two months of this year editing the story I’d written first. A writer friend critiqued the first sixteen chapters, and opened my eyes to the smallest things I could change to make it more engaging.
March was spent going through the MS once again, and making those changes. After all the editing, I sent the MS to two publishers and on March 28, 2011, I got my first contract on the story which is now called “The Keepers”, from Astraea Press.
The moral of my story? Keep going. Rejections can’t hurt you, changing your attitude won’t kill you, and learning from others is paramount. My son, the one who said I’d never get published; he wrapped his arms around me and cried. “Momma, I’m so proud of you”, whispered in your ear by a fourteen year old, boy is the best congratulations one could get.
Here’s to everyone seeing their words in print. Good Luck and Never Give Up!