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.