Nine years ago, I had the realization that I, despite previously believing otherwise, had the capacity to write a book. A novel, a fantasy story that would span tens of thousands of words. On April 2nd, 2011, I wrote the first lines and pages of what would become my first completed novel. (I just went and reread those first lines and it made me so happy.) That story is trunked, but I have fond memories of some of the elements from it. I hope to some day resurrect those elements in other stories. Since that day, I’ve drafted six novels, revised and queried two, and started multiple others that paused or broke off at various wordcounts.
Back then when I was learning about writing and publishing, I learned an important lesson: most writers don’t see publication in their first ten years of writing. So, I decided I would give myself ten years. Ten years to learn, ten years to be bad at this, ten years to improve, and–hopefully–ten years to get published. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself in the past nine years, it’s how much creating stories is a part of me. Of course I’d love to someday announce that I have an agent and I’m getting published and all my dreams are coming true, but even if that day never comes, I will keep writing.
Which is surprising to me, in a way. I got into this gig not only because it was a great way to spend my time as a new stay-at-home-mom, not only because it gave me a way to express my creativity that didn’t require me to leave the house, but also because I did want to be published. I remember drawing a picture of a trilogy on a shelf, with a cover to match the book I was working on, as motivation to keep writing. Honestly, maybe I should do that again lol. And beyond that, I wanted to earn money doing this.
I see authors with 30+ books released and more on the way, who have readers and change lives and it just makes me want it more. And the one piece of advice I’ve heard more than any other over the years is that you only fail if you stop.
Now, I’ve thought about this too: I’ve had to take significant breaks from writing in the past nine years. There were three years in there where I didn’t produce any new work, and coming back after that has been really difficult. I finished a draft, but it wasn’t good. I’m working on something else because I wanted to get away from that project. Though I didn’t want to say it out loud at the time, I considered that a failure.
That writing break happened in 2016-2018. It’s now 2020 and I’m honestly not sure what I have to show for the last couple of years. A bunch of query rejections and a really *really* bad first draft? I feel like I’m back in year four or five of my “ten years” I gave myself, and if that’s the case, maybe I need to extend my “finish line” so to speak.
This way of thinking has always kept me motivated. It was like it gave me a light at the end of a very dark tunnel, and now that I’m coming up on the timeline end I’m not sure how to feel or what to think. My apologies for the ramblings, but it’s how I’m feeling, and this is my blog so I do what I want 😉 I love my stories, though. That’s one thing I know for certain. And I know that I am willing to put in the work required to get to where I want to be. Whether it takes one more year or five, or twenty, I will keep pushing, keep learning, and keep writing.
All that said, I’d like to start treating this day as a kind of check-in point for me. A review of the past year and a list of what’s to come. I don’t know what to call this, but I’m sure I’ll think of something eventually.
So 2019 was a real whirlwind for me and my family, and in retrospect it makes a lot of sense why I didn’t get anything new written that I was happy with. At the very end of 2018, we were given six weeks notice that we needed to be out of the apartment we’d lived in for six years. We were devastated, and I definitely could not write or focus during that time.
We finally moved and were lucky to find a home to buy, and I spent the next few months drafting a new project and revising an old one. I sent out some queries in May of that year for TARGET, which I’d queried in 2014. These were to agents who, to be honest, hadn’t been agents back then. I got some requests and rejections as I’d kind of expected, and then sent out more queries in October for a different story–SUMMON. Same results, and I actually just got a rejection on a full request this past week, so that was rough.
All the while, I was playing with a half-draft of a new story, OF TOPAZ AND STARLIGHT. I ended up drafting it for NaNoWriMo, but this is the story that I feel is a fail. It’s broken, and I’m not sure why. I need to take some diagnostic story tools to it and see if I can pinpoint what the major issues are and maybe fix them. It’s entirely possible that this, like my first book, just needs to be trunked. But I love the characters and hope to use them in something someday. We’ll see.
I took December off intentionally, and since January I’ve been slowly drafting a YA Fantasy monster-hunter story that I am absolutely in love with. For the first time, I’m getting feedback from alpha readers as I write, and it’s making a significant difference in my process. I feel–I hope–I come out of this with a cleaner rough draft than I normally do.
Side note: this has always been a struggle for me, because my “Zero Draft” is always a huge mess, which makes revising VERY daunting. I would love it if I come out of this process with more confidence and hope than dread as I have in the past.
I’m also playing with the idea of self-publishing some adult stuff under a pen name, but if I do I won’t be talking about that much here, except to say that it’s taking up writing time. We’ll see how that goes.
And then, of course, covid-19 happened, and my kids are schooling from home for the rest of the year, which takes up all of my daytime “get stuff done” time and a significant amount of mental and emotional energy. As with everyone else, I don’t know what the coming months hold. All I can do is take things one day at a time and hope for the best.
In the meantime, stay home, wash your hands, and be awesome.
Thanks for reading, guys ❤