A Storyteller’s Tale

Like many of my fellow writers, I have quite a few manuscripts boxed up, novels that failed to find a home. And it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part. I sent them off to literary agents and publishing houses, hoping they would be taken in, nurtured, edited, sent to the press and released into the world to soar above the clouds. But the simple fact was they weren’t good enough. (There, I’ve admitted it.)

Looking back, I see now the first one was terrible, the second a little less so, and so on and so on, until now, the sixth one I have completed is undergoing an intensive reworking. Incorporating the advice of two beta readers, a professional–but very affordable–editor, and my own ideas for improvement, I am now about three-fourths through yet another draft. It won’t be the last, but future sweeps through my WIP should take considerable less time.

I first started writing seriously some years ago when my eldest sister made the comment at one of our Sunday family get-togethers that when I was in school, I had written some nice little stories–or something to that effect. I’d been married for quite a few years at the time, and since the day I’d said “I do,” had not written another single story or poem. My sister’s offhand comment started the wheels turning in my head, and within a week I was writing again, flat on my back (I’d herniated a disc and couldn’t sit for any length of time.) using pencil and paper. And lots of erasers.

I wrote and I wrote, and the more I wrote, the better I got. I became proficient enough that a literary agent took on my fourth novel. And though she queried quite a few publishing houses, she was unable to sell it.

Then my first husband died. And something in me died too, the something in my head that could tune into all the imaginary people living out their lives inside my brain. I couldn’t write; my mind was wiped clean of all the colorful characters residing there, or so it seemed at the time. And for some years, an uncompleted manuscript, along with all the old ones, traveled with me when I remarried and moved a couple of times.

Then the itch hit me again, and I reread my unfinished manuscript and skimmed through the older ones. That’s when I realized I needed a little help honing my writing skills. So I took a course on writing short stories, a form I hadn’t delved into since my teenage years, and a few months later, sold my first short story, “Birds of a Feather,” under a pseudonym.

Then fate intervened again, and writing was once more placed on the back burner. My mother became ill, and my siblings and I cared for her for four months before she passed away. My dad left us a little over a year later. Once again, I couldn’t write; my mind was like a blank slate bereft of even a single chalk mark.

After a time had passed when every waking moment wasn’t filled with memories of my parents, I wrote more short stories. And more were published. But my thoughts kept returning to that unfinished manuscript. My characters were muttering in my head, wondering how long and possibly, if ever, their story would be finished. They gave me no peace.

Before taking up the threads of Lee and Ty’s lives. I wanted to tell their story the best I could, so I took another course, this one on novel writing. I’m so glad I did; the knowledge I gained helped me weave the threads of my story stronger and tighter.

Before the end of 2016, Quoth The Raven (working title) will be making the rounds to literary agents and publishers. I have read it can take one hundred or more submissions to find a literary agent–Lord help me survive. I know I can go the self-publishing route, and that many authors have been discovered by well-known publishing houses in this manner; but at the present time, I don’t want to go that way. I’m in no big hurry to publish a novel. I’ll just start working on another. After all, those among us who are storytellers don’t do it for fame and fortune–though it would be nice. No, we don’t do it for others, but for ourselves.

I can’t imagine a life that doesn’t include writing. I think in a way it’s my therapy, that it keeps me sane in an insane world.

It’s a funny/strange thing, but after I have written a novel, when some time has passed, I can look back on it and see pieces of me scattered throughout the pages, pieces both good and bad. I see my fears, longings, hopes, and dreams mirrored in my characters. I see pieces of people I know. And sometimes I see myself getting what I can’t have in the real world. I don’t know how I fail to see these things as I write them–it sure is plain as day to me after the fact.

Life isn’t always fair. Life doesn’t always deal us the hand we want. But when I write, I am free to be any person, in any place, and in any time I wish to be.

I can dream it onto paper.

And it gets me through.

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58 thoughts on “A Storyteller’s Tale

  1. A very interesting post. A very truthful feeling and telling of your character post. And a very inspirational post, Cathy. Thank you for sharing that, my friend. And I am so proud to call you my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A great post, Cathy.

    You seem to have what it takes and just keep going.

    I wrote a book some years ago. It was rejected by all those publishers I sent it to. It did not stop the writing. We, Helvi and I, went through a rough couple of years since, having first lost our dear daughter and the year after our lovely son. This did not stop the writing either. (nor does the pain)
    I have just received the first edited version of my manuscripts from our mutual editor, D.. I am so pleased.

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  3. I’m so sorry you and Helvi lost your daughter and son. I think losing a child would be the hardest loss to take. And it has hit you twice. Peace be with you and your wife.
    I’m glad you’re happy with Dave’s work. I was, AND with his fee. I will be using him again in the future

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  4. I loved reading this, Cathy. You have amazing perseverance, and that is about 90% of what it takes to be a published writer. Don’t always fault getting your manuscript not getting picked up by a traditional publisher as it’s not good enough. The competition is fierce as well as we are down to about five major pub houses. I believe your work is more than good enough. I’ve of a personal mind that a whole lot of it is luck, and it getting read by the right person. So, fingers crossed for you, Cathy. Your work should be read by the masses 😀 You know I write non-fiction, but I’m a firm believer than a whole lot of fiction comes from the author’s life–whether they are always aware of it or not–and as you stated, your experience. I can’t wait to hear you announce your latest novel is being published!

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      • You turned me on to a new genre–what I call “scary fiction, sci-fi” and now southern gothic! You know I’ve always considered you Stephen King’s counterpart. I’ve been reading your Sins of the Father blog-a-book posts. Everything about your writing is impeccable-the story-telling amazing. I’m one of your biggest fans! 😀

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  5. Writing is your passion and heart’s desire – that’s clear from reading this post. But it’s also clear to me from every word of yours I’ve ever read. Wishing you every well-deserved success as Quoth the Raven takes flight.

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  6. I call you Mary, but everyone else calls you Cathy. Do you prefer Cathy? The web and blogging is a great way to get writing out that the publishers don’t think is good enough, but that people can enjoy reading all the same. What may not be good enough for the publishers, not block buster material, not great literature in the traditional sense, can be fun, entertaining, enlightening, educational, etc. for all kinds of readers. I really enjoy the books and writings from various bloggers, and your “Sins of the Fathers” has been most enjoyable and fun to read. There’s a whole world of imagination, ideas, and stories available that used to have little chance of having an audience much beyond the authors, and I think it’s wonderful.

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  7. Mary Cathleen Clark is my pen name, Tim. Some here have known me from a previous blog, and I was known there as Cathy, which is what my friends and family call me. I prefer Cathy, but I answer to either. Sometimes it’s less confusing to let people call me what they wish to. lol
    I agree that blogging is a great platform for sharing one’s passion. And I have been enjoying your “Letters From Madrid.” Besides your narration being entertaining, I’ve been learning about a different culture. And I gotta tell you–you know your way around a camera. 😊

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  8. Best of luck with the publishing aspect, you’re taking all the right steps. From what I understand patience is pretty key. I’ll be in the same boat very soon and need to remind myself that there’s no immediate rush to get an agent/ find a publisher (obviously there’s some urgency). It’ll happen. Whats the book about?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very encouraging and relatable post. I have some novels I wrote in high school that I looked into publishing and realized just weren’t good enough. It can be very disheartening. Having that terrible shadow of writer’s block hanging over you can make you doubt yourself. I haven’t had another idea for a novel since freshman year of college (though I have been writing short stories), and I worried for a while I wouldn’t ever have another, but this post has reassured me of what I already know deep down. These things take time, and once a writer, always a writer.
    I plan to discuss publishing on my blog in the future, to help writer’s figure out those first baby steps that are so daunting, and you seem like much more of an expert than me (as I have only just started looking into such things). I would love to possibly collaborate with you on those sorts of posts, if you are interested.

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  10. I would be happy to collaborate, but have never worked with someone before, so you’d have to show me the ropes. 🙂 Since I’m knee deep in editing my manuscript, I can’t devote a big block of time to it, but I can some.
    You say all that’s flowing from you right now are short stories–I wouldn’t worry about it. When a novel is ready, it will come to you. I’ve read that writing short stories makes one a better novelist. In short fiction, one has to make every scene count, every WORD count. Learning to tighten one’s writing, throwing out everything except what moves the story forward, is a skill needed just as much in long fiction as in short.
    Just keep on keeping on. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I absolutely agree with the therapy writing provides. It’s the only reason I began to write again, after nearly 15 years. And it helps me with my job which is all about weaving together a good story (fact based), but a story to get projects funded.

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    • My son is a project engineer, and being able to write well is a must in his profession. Like you, he has to do write-ups to get projects funded. But he doesn’t enjoy the creative side of writing like his mama does. Thanks, M. 🙂

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