Because I find comfort in reading others writing journeys with all their trials and tribulations, I decided to share a monster moment of my own. I can laugh about it now, but seven years ago when I started this journey, not so much.
Always with me it seems I go big or go home. This memory is no exception to that. Seven years ago after having the courage to break open a notebook again and listen to those voices in my head, something I hadn’t done since high school, I wrote out my first rough draft of what would later become my first novel, Shifting Gears.
Mind you working full time, a Mom to two kids and a wife, I had my hands full. I would spend my lunch hours huddled in the corner of our lunch room at work with my ear buds in scribbling away like a mad woman to the story that unfolded between my main characters Holt and Niki. I would stay up after everyone else had gone to bed in those coffee induced “magic” midnight hours nightly.
Six weeks later I had the roughest rough draft ever but I was proud. Oh so proud. I was certain I’d just written a best selling novel and as soon as any publishing house got their hands on it I’d be offered a deal of a lifetime, being able to quit my job and go on a world book tour.
Well I think you might have already surmised that this didn’t happen based on the fact that I’ve already led you to believe that this is a funny story. Sigh. In my pursuits of getting my work seen but not having a clue as to how and where and when and who even to send my manuscript to, I began searching online.
Ultimately I was geared off in another direction (this always seems to happen when I’m researching while I’m writing too…eeek). I discovered a writing group that was only a couple hours driving distance from my home that happened to be hosting a guest editor. You could not only pitch your story but they would also proof your manuscript if you were brave enough to send it in before the group session. Of COURSE I jumped on the opportunity because I just knew I was sitting on a diamond mine just waiting to explode.
Fast forward to the day of the session which I’ll add now this writing group was a chapter of Romance Writers Of America which I later became a member of. Walking in that day however I was clueless. I’d never heard of the organization before, nor had I ever heard of the guest editor.
Oh Jenny…you skimmer you….
So because I was so excited at the opportunity to let my diamond in the rough out of its bag, I stopped reading after “send your manuscript” “established editor will proof.” I missed the most valuable piece of information that this particular editor was not only from an extremely successful publishing house but also was well known for her hard core no filter give it to them straight mentality.
When she was introduced that day I can remember feeling my heart not only stop but that it quite literally jumped out of my body and went to hide in the janitor’s closet. Here I sat having NEVER let anyone read my stories, outside of family over the years and obviously teachers. I found myself now surrounded by other hopeful writers, none seemingly having that same just kill me now look on their faces as they gawked at Ms. Cutthroat.
It was totally too late to back out and mind you I seriously was contemplating that day just casually going to the bathroom and not returning. Like ever.
While I’ll not reveal her name, I will reveal the publishing house. Harlequin.
Gasp. Gasp. Gasp.
For those of you that write in the romance genre you know this house is the mansion lined in gold with timed doves flying in the courtyard daily. So much has changed with genres and what is acceptable and quite frankly what’s sought after, but they remain, at least in my opinion, the foundation and backbone to the romance genre.
In case you haven’t already guessed, I literally wanted to die. Yet still I somehow held on with a sliver of hope that I was right, that my story line would blow even her away. Yeah, well, it didn’t. Oh boy did it not.
This is where I will add that I was thankful that she had no clue whose words she was slaying when she stabbed manuscript after manuscript. Only the writer knew. Sigh. I wish I had a poker face. At least I didn’t cry.
I learned two very valuable lessons that day and they might not be what you expect. Firstly, don’t ever be afraid to share your work. It was scary and truly I was mortified walking away that day and drove the whole way home saying to myself you suck. Did you really think you could write? It was bad. Two months would pass before I would even consider opening up my laptop to look at my now dusty diamond. But you know what? I did.
Her words to me that day were extremely blunt but after pushing aside my hurt, my complete feeling of failure and that very brief moment of wanting to find out where she lived (lets just leave that at that), I realized her words were critical but precisely what I needed to hear as a writer.
The second lesson I learned is do your research! Did you think my horror from that day was over? Oh no. So after being told your manuscript basically could kick rocks, what would be the odds of someone in the room being in the same profession as your main character? Me. Hello. Me. Go big or go home Jenny over here.
So Niki, my main character is a veterinarian. It would seem I did not do my research effectively enough in determining the required time of education in order to get your license to practice. What are the odds of a vet being in the room?
Just another blow to my world tour that had already taken off in a hot air balloon before it checked to make sure it had enough gas.
I am so guilty even now with being such a pantster but I still stand firmly behind that it’s not a bad thing. To a degree. To get your reader into your world, it can’t just be about the descriptive words you use, your story has to actually be fairly believable too. I say fairly because obviously if you are writing fantasy it’s a free for all as long as you remember all the facts of your fictitious world.
I look back and cringe at some of the dialogue I’ve written of an alpha male character that totally doesn’t sell with his demeanor as I’ve written him. We must as writers do our research when building a world. Those tiny little details trust me, readers hone in on. I learned my lesson the hard way but learned it I did.
Being a writer is hard work. It’s filled with hours and hours of writing and rewriting followed by the fear of letting someone actually read your words followed by potentially someone slicing and dicing all your hard work, all your “little darlings” leaving you with a sense of failure.
It didn’t take me long to realize I knew I was destined to self publish and if I had it to do over again, I would not change my decision. The purpose of this write however is not to promote self publishing because I recognize some writers feel a traditional publishing house is the right fit for them and I support that wholeheartedly.
I simply wanted to share this memory with you to make you laugh and to remind you that you aren’t alone in this journey wherever it takes you and that we all get our dreams pooped on. It’s making that decision to wipe the poop off after examining it of course and to keep going. If that keep going is a year later, fine. If that keep going has you writing simply for medicinal purposes and in private, fine.
Everyone has an opinion, an agenda and most importantly a voice. When you find yours if you haven’t already, hold on to it. I’m always struggling with my own because doubt is a huge monster. But if you can, embrace it. Ask yourself why you write and say to yourself if you write it, they’ll come. (Yeah that was cheesy..but it’s true)
Thanks for reading AND if you are a romance reader I’m offering my first novel Shifting Gears for .99 on Amazon right now. Click on the book cover below to get your copy.
Thanks for visiting and may we all continue to find joy in writing and reading and to remember the importance of uplifting those other writers among us.