The past few days have been very exciting. Last night, my editor, C.L. Dyck, sent me a short email saying she immediately fell in love with my novel. Whether it was the fact that I was on hour seventeen of a crazy work day, or that I’ve been worried that she was going to tell me it sucked, this came as a complete surprise. I stopped listening to my audiobook and put on some tunes for the drive home. Then I daydreamed about finally making it in writing.
What would it be like to be on the other end of author interviews? To be checking sales instead of blog stats (oh how pathetic I feel checking page views…). To have the freedom to write in silence instead of at the front desk where hundreds of people tell me about the weather or ask how I’m doing. Along with these fantasies is the fantasy about winning the Writers of the Future award. I just sent my story in today, and am very excited to see how it does.
I’ve always been a daydreamer. One of my Sunday School kids (1st grade) recently told me I stare a lot. Granted it was at the end of class while waiting for their parents, which can mentally feel like falling out of the top of a tornado. I like being a daydreamer though, especially when I have confidence that those dreams can come to fruition.
Today marks the last day of my 9 month Team PYP (Port Yonder Press) Mentorship Program. Every three months I submitted a story my mentor, C.L. Dyck, and two other aspiring writers (Jennifer Fromke and R.E. Mills) helped critique. The first two stories I wrote were flash fiction–partly because I needed help with economy of words, but also because I had to edit and rewrite so much that this was the most reasonable size to work with. The first story, after twelve rewrites, was returned by the head of the program, Chila Woychik, with instructions to try again… from the top.
That was a low point for me. I worked hard from there to create what I feel is a much better story, but there was definitely a feeling at that point that I wasn’t good enough. I’m sure there will be more times when I feel that way, so I guess it is good that in my current state of confidence, that I look back and see how hard work helped lift me from that state.
In my third story, I took a stab at first person. Both C.L. and Chila came back thrilled at my progress. “You’ve found your voice,” they said. “This is ten times better,” they said. “Why don’t you suck anymore…” oh, wait, they didn’t say that, but I’m sure they were thinking it. C.L. likened it to a time in her singing training when her teacher said she saw something click. So, I guess I just kept pressing until finally hard work and perseverance paid off.
That was three months ago. I still had a lot of work to do on that story, like not letting the editing passes strip my character’s raw voice; and then finding a way to end it that was showing versus telling, as well as not so moralistic. In dealing with an unretired hitman, I had to be careful not to have him change too much, too quickly. Well, that story is done, for now, and I am thrilled at how it represents another leap in my writing. I also edited my novel at this time, so I hope some of my skill rubbed off there, though it is 25x the work still to do.
I recently wrote a blog post for the New Authors Fellowship “Benefits of Writing for Anthologies.” In that post, I talk about The Lost: A Kingdom of Nothing Anthology and the fun I’m having writing a story for it. What I don’t really get to in that post is how much more fun this story is to write than my last PYP story. I’ve taken the first person point of view one step further and made it present tense. I’m seeing the carry over from the last story in terms of voice, clarity, motivation-response pairings, and I’m even putting in some fragments. You know how they say you can’t break the rules until you understand them? I’m close enough to the tip of understanding that I’m able to start breaking the rules.
The result is I’m not straining so much to write; I’m letting the character experience the story. Over the past nine months, I’ve worked very hard on clarity–either mixing pronouns and pov, or simply lacking skill in description and action. The gains that I’ve made in these areas means that they come natural, which then means that I am more focused on the character’s voice then on if what I just wrote makes any sense or obeys this or that rule. As I said already, my last story’s voice suffered a little bit in the editing stage because I was rewriting key dialogue parts and fixing setting. I may have that in this story too, but I now understand many of the things that I had to fix in the last one.
You know how some authors talk about editing; usually that first book takes a year to edit, and then subsequent books are edited much quicker? I’m starting to see how that works. In the early stages, you are fixing story and style, but as style becomes more natural, you only have to worry about story. And, as you understand elements of story better, you will also hopefully need less story fixing in your edits. All of these steps build confidence. The only way you can reach the next step, however, is by persevering through the step you’re on. Let your dreams push you through the process, and enjoy it. You are doing what all the other successful writers had to do to get where they are; they just had a head start.
Thankfully, I had some amazing mentors to help me along the way (can’t forget Lane Diamond of Evolved Publishing, as he also worked with me on the first 5k of my novel). Without your help, my beloved mentors, it would no doubt have taken me years to achieve this level of confidence. Thank you for helping me make my dreams come true. Lord willing, it’s only a matter of time now.
It’s a good thing I love what I do.
I also love to praise my friends when they succeed. The teammates I mentioned, Jennifer Fromke, and R.E. Mills both had/now have work published. Jennifer Fromke’s first novel, A Familiar Shore, is now available in print & digital formats, and is published by Write Integrity Press. R.E. Mills will have two short stories coming out with Port Yonder Press. I’m not jealous or anything One of R.E. Mills’ stories will be published in the upcoming anthology, The Book of Sylvari: An Anthology of Elves.