As the years roll along, and my writing experience increases, I become more and more aware of the errors I’ve made. On the bright side, I jumped right in after deciding to write a novel, and did it. That removed me from the mass of people who say one day I’m going to write a book but never do, and placed me in a teeny-tiny group of people who actually write one. I went from page one all the way through to the end. It was hard and the task seemed never ending, but I plodded along and finished that book. I based the novel structure on what I’d learned through osmosis from my lifelong love of reading fiction. The story had a beginning, a middle—though it definitely sagged at times, and an ending. It had a protagonist and an antagonist. So far so good.
Here’s where things got a little wonky. The story spanned twenty-five years. A saga you say? Well, kind of. A historical, you might ask? Hmm, not exactly. Was it a slice of life book? Uh, not really. If you walked into a book store, where would you find it? On a shelf?
I didn’t have a clue what genre I was writing in, or to which market the book would fit. As it turned out it was a love story, and it had a happy ending, so I leaned toward the romance market. In many ways, though, now that I look back, the book would have worked better in Women’s Fiction. My inexperience had me forcing one style of book into another genre, and that proved to be a disaster. I re-wrote the story as a romance and dropped major portions of the plot, and revised the timeline. I whipped the beloved book of my heart into submission, and, here’s where I made my next mistake.
On the technical side of things my motto could have been – content be damned! The thought of editing the book had never entered my mind. The fact that I’d never paid enough attention in English classes in school and college had a great deal to do with it. More importantly, I’d never studied writing and I had no idea about POV and plot structure and oh so much more.
You mean I have to study my craft? Well, yes, little butterfly, you do. So off I went to learn the skill of writing novels. But in the midst of doing that, I made my next batch of errors: I submitted the first chapter into contests; I sent out query letters to agents; I acted as if the book was a finished product, when all I had was a rough and messy first draft.
I got slaughtered in the RWA writing contests, and with the exception of one or two agents willing to take pity and see something else from me, the rejections were quick and dirty, as in rapid-fire postcard Rs.
Do any of these errors resonate with you?
So, what’s the moral of this rambling blog? Be patient. Don’t rush things. Study the craft of writing, especially the specific genre you intend to write in, and take the time to write a good book. It still doesn’t mean you’ll avoid those boomerang Rs, or low contest scores, but it is a step in the right direction on your journey to getting published.
I can’t guarantee everyone will get published if they keep pursuing their goal, but I can make one important promise: The more we write, the more we realize how little we know, and the more we learn. We should never stop learning.
A word to the wise: Don’t be impatient. Learn the craft.
I’m still taking classes and studying this wonderful craft of writing. Are you?
If you are an aspiring author and have any questions, please feel free to ask. I’ll check in every day this week and answer to the best of my ability.
Next week: MY BAD II. I’ll talk about bad writing habits, because some of those humdingers might ring a bell with you, too.