On Writing, What I'm Writing! :D

Honesty Corner: Getting Serious About Writing

I’m going to be completely up front. The past 9 months have been excruciating. I’ve done more things for my development as a writer over this time period than I ever have. Growing up, I said I wanted to be a published writer, but I never did much to progress towards it outside of writing stories I never finished or edited. In adulthood, I got my degree in Creative Writing, started attending writing conferences, got a job working for a magazine, but I still hadn’t finished a full manuscript or worked towards fiction publication. I got really good at talking the talk, but never took the steps to walk the walk.

At the end of 2017, I was tired of falling short and felt like I would never publish my fiction. I decided it was time to change. 

First Steps

I started submitting to and applying for things. That December, I won a “first chapter” manuscript critique from author Michaelbrent Collings. Winning this critique service from Michaelbrent was one of the best things that happened for my writing. I submitted the first chapter to my work in progress The Wielder’s Assassin and saw a huge jump in my craft as I applied his feedback. I carried his redline packet with me for months so that every time I sat down to write, I could reference it and practice what I learned. 

After that, I tinkered with a few more things. I threw a flash fiction story at Young Writers of the Future the following summer. I didn’t get anywhere near winning, but it felt good to take a leap and actually submit something. I continued work on The Wielder’s Assassin before getting distracted by a shiny new project for National Novel Writing Month 2018. 

My Current Work In Progress

I actually failed at completing National Novel Writing Month in 2018. But, I wasn’t trying super hard to make the word counts either. I was newly wed and super excited to be married to my best friend. 

I was left with a good start, though. I had an awesome beginning and an incredible idea. I also wanted to be better at writing after NaNo, so I committed myself to continuing to work on my story through the coming months. 

Turning Points

Storymakers First Chapter Contest

I saw an advertisement online for the Storymakers first chapter contest happening in May the next year. I researched it and learned everyone, winner or not, received feedback on their entry from the contest judges, who were editors from some of the publishing houses attending the conference. Remembering my experience with Michaelbrent, I decided I wanted that for this manuscript, too.

I got brave and decided to get feedback from some trusted friends on my first chapter. I worked hard revising and incorporating their feedback. I learned a lot about what my first chapter was conveying and the promises I was making to the audience. Ultimately, I didn’t win anything in the contest, but having a taste of the beta reader experience was enlightening. I also got really encouraging feedback from the judges overall and it helped me feel confident and excited to finish my story and get publishing. 

The Storymakers Writing Conference

In order to enter the First Chapter Contest, I needed to attend the Storymakers Conference for at least one day. I signed up for a bunch of panels the final day so that I could be at the awards luncheon the conference put on.

The panels were great. I had a critical aha! moment in a class taught by author Jeff Wheeler, a prolific writer who puts out multiple books a year. In his panel, he compared writing to laying tile in a kitchen. When laying tile, you need to work on it a little bit every day, or you’ll never get done. A lot of days, it is a drag, repetitive, a pain, and you don’t have motivation to do it, but if you don’t put in consistent work, the kitchen never gets finished. 

This hit me hard. One of my main problems with writing had been developing that oh-so-critical writing habit. I would write sporadically when I could fit it in and never made time for it outside NaNoWriMo. I committed to myself I would stop that. It was time for me to finish a novel, and by guppity, I was going to do it! 

NaNo Prep 2019

It took me a little while to get my gears moving on the writing habit, but by August that year, I had made significant progress. I had written most every day and I felt like I was making progress on my manuscript. I knew I was really close to finishing part one of my story and I needed a little push to take me to the next level.

So, I took my first stab at outlining.

It was scary. It was a mess. But I slapped some spaghetti on the wall and prayed it would stick. Afterword, it was a lot easier to see how close I was to finishing part one. I made a goal to finish part one by October 31st so I could draft part two during National Novel Writing Month. 

Trying to finish part one in that amount of time was awful. It felt like the universe was thinking of new ways it could prevent me from reaching my goal. Regardless, I managed to do it. I finished the narrative for the rest of part one and left myself open to write part two. 

The Actual NaNo

I’ve already posted about my experience during NaNo this past year, but I wanted to drive home the biggest lesson I learned: I am capable of more than I realize. I never thought I could do a NaNo where all 50,000 of my words were narrative. I had really crappy moments through all that, but somehow the plot progressed. The end of NaNo brought significant progress towards the ending of my story and I was left thinking, I might actually finish my first manuscript next year.

The Now

This journey has not been easy. It has been fraught with self-doubt, tears, anxiety, writer’s block, and occasionally depression. I have to fight to keep all this at bay. 

But I’m actually doing the thing. The thing I’ve been talking about for years and years and YEARS. I’m going to do it. So, here is my commitment to you. My goal is to have my manuscript done by the end of March and be able to share with you more details about what I’ve been so secretly working on for 18 months.

Stay tuned!

 

What is a dream you have wanted to pursue, but just haven’t been able to bring yourself to do it? Let me know in the comments below!

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