Writing the first novel
It has been about a year since I sat down to write my first novel and I finally feel like it may be finished. How do I know? I don’t. And a year from now, I might be saying “and I think it may be finished.”
The reason I’m saying it may be finished now is that I feel proud of it. I no longer feel embarrassed like I did before. I’d probably share it with anyone who wanted to read it at this point. So what made the difference? What got me to this point? Well, lots of things, but there are three main things. I consider them my sunshine, my water, and my soil.
First, my sunshine. This is my husband, Aaron. He has read my novel over and over. He wrote down notes for me when I yelled for him during a moment of clarity in the shower. He has taken care of the kids so I could write. He puts up with my scribbling in the middle of the night when a dream has given me solutions to my plot problems. He has dried my tears and given me warm hugs. Most of all, he believes in me and is my number one fan. I wouldn’t have the courage to keep going without him.
Next, my water. This was the moment I read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Up until this point, I felt like I had been doing everything wrong. I kept reading advice and articles insisting you should write using an outline or plot your story out first, etc. Every time I tried, I didn’t finish the story. It was too hard for me. It’s just not the way I write. I start with an idea for a story, and it tells itself to me. I feel more like I am a transcriptionist (which I actually was in my 20’s, only now I write what imaginary people say). Besides all the practical toolbox advice offered in the book, another big takeaway for me was that I am the only one who can write like me. I spent so much time worrying that I wasn’t like everyone else, I failed to see that I didn’t need to be. Trying to force techniques that didn’t work for me was snuffing out all the magic. When I write, how I write, I enjoy it. In his book, he says,“Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”
Last, but not least, my soil (not dirt. I mean nutrient dense, nothing grows without it, soil). One of the most difficult aspects of the whole writing process is finding help.
Here I was, I had finished my story, but it wasn’t done, and I was stuck. I just didn’t know what to do to improve anything. On a whim, I entered a pitch contest on Twitter (WAY out of my comfort zone). I had been thinking about hiring an editor for a while, and I figured it was a great way to find a reputable one and to see who I might want to work with. I contacted her and sent her my novel. When I got her feedback, I felt like shouting like Oprah Winfrey (when she had one of her liiiiiiiiightbuuuuuuulb moooooomennnnts). I had found THE person to help me grow, to take my novel to the next level. She was so knowledgeable about the plot, pacing, punctuation, grammar, voice, and well EVERYTHING. She asked questions of me that got me thinking about how I could make my story better. She didn’t erase my voice, she taught me how to make it shine brighter. I have taken classes, attended conference presentations, attended webinars, read, read, and read some more. But learning from my own mistakes, learning from my own writing, was an invaluable leap in my growth. I still have a lot to learn, but now I have someone who I know is going to push me to higher heights. She is also funny, friendly, and accessible. It makes such a difference when you can ask for clarification without feeling like you are a pest. To me, she is my editor, my mentor, and my friend. Anyone who is thinking of hiring an editor, one who will help you improve not only your manuscript but your skills, you need to contact Stephanie Eding, editor extraordinaire! You will be more than pleased, I promise. You can find her website here.
So now that little seed of a story I planted a year ago has grown into something beautiful. I am convinced it wouldn’t have happened without these three elements.
And while an agent or publisher might never want to pick (like that?) my manuscript, I couldn’t be prouder of the end result. It is lovely and fills me with joy.
And you just never know, if I keep planting seeds and nurturing them, one day…