Thursday, May 08, 2014

I have written forever---but only really written in the last year

I have been writing since I was 6 or 7 years old.  I have a rubber maid container under my bed at my parents' house full of foolscap paper of long-hand stories. I have computer files full.   I have read thousands of books (hundreds and hundreds of those Inspirational fiction, the marketplace I would most like to publish in ) and I have written thousands and thousands of pages.

I have only ever completed two novels. The second just went out on submission and it is a terrifying thing.

It is gut-wrenchingly terrifying. In fact, I cannot express how terrifying it is. Near the completion of the book I gave myself stress hives, hyperventilated and developed an eye-twitch. On the one hand, it is nice to be so invested in my art, on the other ---crazy much?

If you don't have to write, don't do it.  Honestly, don't.  If you think it is fun to rip out your heart and put it on a platter and serve it with a side of your vulnerability to the world at large, then I guess...go for it.  But if you don't have to, don't.

If you, like, can't NOT write, then you have to. I can't NOT write. I have been scribbling forever.  It was only last year that I took the first steps toward pursuing publication and landing an agent.  Writing is such a necessity to me that I wrote stories and novels and ideas long before I even wrapped my head around what would happen if someone else read it.  Which makes me believe that I am doing this for the right reason. I am rational to the point of knowing that even if I am published someday, it is a good thing I have a day job and it is a good thing I have enjoyment of the craft without needing immediate validation.  For most of my life, NO ONE read my writing and I have spent many many many wonderful hours playing and puppeteering  and fostering and perfecting.

Once you jump that first hurdle: two wonderful things happen. 1.) if you keep your writing to yourself you never receive feedback--be it criticism or encouragement. The BEST criticism helped me shape my second novel ( much of it gleaned from the time editors took to comment on what made them pass on my first manuscript--- INVALUABLE) and the encouragement ( often found in the same emails, or from my agent, or from friends who I FINALLY let see the light into my Word World ) is wonderful. It propels you first.
2. ) You want to keep writing more and you want to keep writing better. The addiction is now manic and you are obsessed with crafting and creating and testing and travailing.

Yes, you will be passed on ( I changed the wording of this because I internalize the word 'rejection.'  The editors who passed on my project were kind enough to shroud it in polite and professional manners. Not ONE was a "NO RACHEL IS A TERRIBLE WRITER, BE GONE WITH YOU. NEVER COME BACK *Slams Door*" I can't think of those emails as rejections, merely a puzzle piece that isn't fitting. Because of  a first round of passes from several places, I have ripped off the band-aid, and while I am sure there are days of red wine and chocolate ahead of me, I know what to expect because I have felt it.

Yes, you will have to be resilient.  When my first manuscript was not contracted, I didn't sit and weep over it. Instead, I used my online connections, my agent's savvy wisdom and ACFW conference appointments to brainstorm where my passion might filter next.  Thus, I have written two completely different historical novels in the course of year.  One was written in just over two drafts, the second 13 ! 13 drafts! *baffling*

I was able to find an agent very quickly ( the first one I queried and my first choice----writers hate me for this, mea culpa ) but the waiting for everything else is a look-up-and-a-year-has-passed situation. And yet I didn't sit around for any part of that. And if it takes another one year or two years or five years, I will keep writing until the right puzzle piece matches the changing market.

I am willing to do that because I am that invested.

All of this being said, it is still a nerve-wracking process and if I had undertaken it any earlier than the past year and a bit, I would not have been emotionally or confidently ready.  The years of my mom (#1 fan) and high school teachers and friends and colleagues and authors who read my blog who told me to finally show someone my stuff would have been wasted. I wouldn't have been able to handle the tenuous nature of the adventure I am still uphill climbing.

Alpine Path, y'all.

I have grown more as a writer and a person since the moment I sent a query letter ( nervously and with a major mistake on it ) and I cannot look back at the first bit of this journey and not be grateful.

Most wonderfully, I have met so many new friends---yes, flesh and blood friends---but also book friends.  Lovely fictional people whose voices I hear in my head and whose lives I want to paint on page .It's fun. They're my little doll-house people and I spring them to breathing life, move and position them and make them talk in an unending Barbie-doll-like scenario not unlike my playtime as a kid.

I love reading people's writing stories and I hope you like reading mine :-)

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