Green means GO!

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I have been keeping myself busy with ideas for a new book while I have been anxiously awaiting my first book review from my nephew.  I had to keep reminding myself that it IS summer and he IS a 14-year old boy with other interests besides reading so I have cut him, and my nervous mind, some slack.

It is difficult to quiet a cacophony in a mind that is continually feeding on its negative thoughts.  Like an inferno that is started with one tiny spark, my mind became the spark and my stress was the oxygen that fueled the fire of my doubt.  The longer I went without any sort of feedback, the more I convinced myself that the book was terrible and my nephew didn’t know how to tell me that it was a flop.  Self-doubt is a vicious thing.

I silenced my doubts this morning as I prepared my meals for this week based on my new plant-based diet.  Being in the kitchen always allows me some escape from my reality.  After creating my meals, I ran into town and stopped at The Apothecary Shop for a few things.  I decided to use the blood pressure cuff to see if my change in diet had made a significant difference to my blood pressure.  While I was in mid-check, my nephew had seen my car and come into the Apothecary to find me.  The sight of him must have unnerved me because my blood pressure reading was ridiculous!

I couldn’t imagine what was going to come out of his mouth but I began to tug my arm out of the cuff before it had finished deflating.  He stood beside me with an apologetic smile.  He promised to finish the book before the weekend and that was all he said.  I said one word that seemed to hover in the small space between us….

“And………..”, I asked.

“It’s REALLY good”, he replied.

So now I sit, comfortably ensconced in my living room with words churning in my brain for my second book.   I have always loved the phrase ‘green means go’ and I feel like I have just been given the green light to continue my writing journey.  I’m already excited about this next book and can’t wait to dive in!  See you on the flip side.

 

 

And just like that, it was out of my hands…..

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I saw the corners of his mouth turn into a smile as I handed it over.   One hundred and eighty-two pages of eight and a half by eleven paper covered by eighty-two thousand, six hundred and fifty words of a story I crafted were turned over to my fourteen year old nephew so he could be the first person, besides myself, to read the book in its entirety.

My nephew, like me, loves to read and even though his calendar age may prove that he is only fourteen, he reads far beyond his age.   I could think of nobody more suited for the role of first reader than him and I was happy to hand the pages over to him.

My dad was a voracious reader as well.  Although the premise of my story may not have been something my dad would have eagerly pulled from the book shelf, he would have been my biggest fan.  It is bitter-sweet knowing how proud he would have been of my accomplishment but knowing that I can never hear those words come from him.  I know he is up there somewhere giving me a thumbs up and doing his best to encourage a literary agent to take a chance on me.

As much as I sit here, nervously awaiting the outcome of the first read-through, I anxiously anticipate feedback on the story.  I’m sure Dean Koontz or Stephen King never batted a thousand on their first at-bats so I’m expecting to take many more swings before I knock it out of the park.  I just want to make sure I stay in the game!

You can’t win if you don’t play

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While this subject line generally makes me think of the lottery pool, it has taken on a much bigger meaning for me today.  I’m sure I have made you all painfully aware of the fact that I finally finished writing my first novel.  Book number two is in the works and the idea for number three is a shimmering light in the distance.

I thought that the actual writing of the book was going to be the hardest part.  And while it was a painstaking process, never having attempted to write a book before, the writing itself was a reward.  The hardest part is convincing yourself that someone else may find your words exciting enough to take you on as a client and help to get you published.

I spent my day off today, a beautiful, sunny day, bound to my couch to finish editing my book for grammatical oversights and story continuity.  I was just as excited to read the ending as if I were a first time reader and that got me even more excited.  I was excited enough to send my first two query emails to potential agents…..and now I feel nauseous.

But like that lottery pool, you can’t win if you don’t play.  I will never get published if I don’t try, and according to Yoda, there is no try, only do.  So I did.

Now I can only hope that some unsuspecting agent finds an email from a small town Canadian girl with big ideas and gets just as excited to read it as I was to write it.

The feeling came rushing back

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Last year, I made the courageous decision to let two of the guests at the lodge read the first three chapters of my novel.  It was a large hurdle for me to jump, to trust my writing enough let them read it and, as I sat waiting to hear back from them, I was concerned that their critique may destroy the hope I had for my book.  I was dead wrong and I wrote about it here.

That same couple checked back into the lodge yesterday for their annual “Shammy” vacation.  I was delighted to see them again and we embraced like we have known each other for decades.  We had been corresponding by email over the winter and they were two of the people at the top of my list to share my news once I had finished writing the book.

As she began to leaf through the 8 1/2 by 11 pages, I watched her brow furrow.  She agreed with the changes that I had made in red ink but I sensed there was an underlying urge in her to be wielding the same red pen she had used last year.  Instead, she set the pages down on her lap and seemed so overjoyed that I had finished my work in progress.  She was thrilled and her joy seeped into me.  I was elated.  The excitement I had felt after finishing the writing now came flooding back and the two of us acted like we had just won the lottery.

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I have been dutifully editing my novel for egregious grammatical oversights as well as making the story flow as well as it should so the reader is not lost at the beginning of any of the chapters.  I plan to spend all of my free time over the next week finishing the revisions and beginning the hunt for an agent.  Game on!

A wish to build a dream on

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After successfully losing hours of sleep, multiple strands of hair and a decent portion of my sanity, I have completely read through my novel for the first time.  This first run-through was to catch any glaring grammatical issues that I would have been humiliated by had someone else seen them before I had.  Along the way, I did make some notes about slight plot restructuring and that is what the second reading will accomplish.

The romantic portion of writing a book seems to be a tiny pinpoint of light in my not-so-distant past.  The business of writing a book has taken center stage and the formidable task of marketing a book is waiting in the wings, making faces at me and sticking out its tongue.

I have been told many times and in many ways that for every one author who has the good fortune of being published, there are at least 10,000 writers whose novels will never be seen in print unless they choose to self-publish.  I want to exhaust every effort in traditional publishing before I entertain the thought of self-publishing.  Call me a bleeding heart, a romantic, a crazy…..whatever adjective you choose, my wish is to follow the path of the many authors I have read and followed for decades.  Their sacrifice, their blood, their sweat and their toil have carved a path that I want to follow.

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I want the criticism (I think), I want the rewrites (I hope), I want to inhabit my space on the arc of the learning curve and I want to have my book published in the way in which I have always dreamed.  Perhaps my dream is lofty but I am willing to follow the bread crumbs to their inevitable conclusion, whether that outcome favors me or not.

At the end of this journey, at least I can say I followed the culmination of my devotion to writing and gave it everything I had.  In no way have I conceded my efforts to appease the writing Gods.  I can only hope that, after my constant effort, the writing world has something it would like to give back to me.  Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

 

 

The stages of writing a book

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I am writing a book.  There, I’ve said it.  I’m out.   Although the book is not quite finished, I have stopped to reflect on the different stages of writing a fiction novel.

The first stage, for me,  was definitely the romantic stage.  Writing a book has an allure about it.  There is something truly whimsical about imagining yourself dancing in a meadow with a plethora of phrases spilling from your brain.  Each of those phrases floats through the air and settles onto fluffy white clouds until you are able to collect them all and put them to paper.

The second stage is certainly more realistic than the first.  This stage for me was jotting down the plot twists that I wanted in my story but not knowing where they would be presented.  I also had to decide whether I wanted to write a full outline and follow it or if I simply wanted the characters to tell their story as they saw fit.  There are many places in my life where structure and organization are crucial but creating a story is not one of those places so the characters were able to share their voices without my framework.

The third stage was fantastic.  Once I had the basic premise in my head, I just sat down and wrote.  Some days were better than others but I spent a significant amount of time each day seeing how much further I could delve into the story and where it would lead me.  The best part about the third stage was getting excited when I came up with a new plot twist and  having those ideas create even more scenarios that I had never thought of before.  This stage was the ‘perpetual high’ stage.

I am now in the fourth stage, which is the panic stage.  I am so close to finishing the book and now I am second guessing everything I have written.  Are my characters deficient in some way?  Does the story line flow properly?  Is there enough meat in the story to keep readers interested?  Am I even going to have readers?   The list goes on….

I am hoping that there is a bright light at the end of this arduous tunnel when I gain back a little more self-confidence and I can just pat myself on the back and say, ‘you finished your book’.  That in itself will be a monumental occasion.

I already have the sequel planned and seemingly I am willing to put myself through these phases all over again.  They must make some sort of pill for this……

Oh, the places I’ll go

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I am in the middle of a steep learning curve.  I have never written anything longer than a 3,500 word short story so I should have expected a few pitfalls when I decided to pursue my dream of writing a book, or two or three.   But I was committed to give it one hundred percent and see where the journey led me.  I am well on my way to achieving 82,000 (ish) words for a novel-length book and only have 17,000 more to go!

I have been amazed by the process.  I have a journal I keep at my side to remind me of what has happened in each paragraph so the story will not seem disjointed or confusing.  I have done my best, pre-editing, to make sure the plot line flows well and ties in all the loose ends.  I’m sure I have missed a few small details throughout the process but I’m new at this so I’m giving myself ample opportunities to go back and alter the things that don’t work.  I have noticed that my characters have taken on a life of their own, causing me to go back and change a few details of their past but so far I feel blessed to have made it this far.

My writing has mainly been directed by the characters.  I had a simple outline of where I wanted the book to go but their personalities have taken control of the wheel and taken me in a few directions I hadn’t thought of.  On Friday, I wrote a paragraph and then I couldn’t write any more.  Something was off.  I didn’t know it was wrong when I wrote it, but that one paragraph derailed my train of thought.  I stared at that page as the characters sat idly by waiting for me to send them in a direction, any direction, but I was stuck.

I read that last paragraph many times and it eventually dawned on me to remove the last sentence.  As soon as that freeway in my brain cleared of the congestion, the traffic of words started to flow and sped off down the road.  I now understand how writer’s can figuratively paint themselves into a corner.  That one line was the difference between writing and staring at my walls.

Persistence is the key.  I have many lines and paragraphs that I have omitted from the book.  They are not gone but merely stored on a different page until I know those ideas are not meant for this book.  I have no idea where I will end up, but, oh, the places I’ll go on my journey to get there.