NaNoWriMo certainly has inspired me to write. I hit my 50,000 word mark on the 13th, I believe, but am only two-thirds of the way through the story. I’ve been jotting down ideas for other stories, too, and have uncorked a lot of “I’ll write that blog post later” thoughts.
Today, I wanted to talk about how much I want to write, and write well. It’s been one of my strongest desires for my whole life, but I’ve been too insecure to do much of anything about it.
This will demonstrate how easily I can be deterred from endeavors that might make me vulnerable. I think I’ve written about this before, somewhere, but if I have, my apologies.
When I was in grammar school and my family was on a car trip somewhere, I was sitting in the back seat writing a story. It was probably a very typical, child-authored story, in that the themes were simple and probably cliche. Being an only child driven to excel by her crazy mother, however, I didn’t realize it was ok to have written something cliche and probably awful. I read the story aloud to my parents, and I finished with what I thought was the sad, ironic ending; the captain of a sinking ship had planned to go down with his vessel, but found himself too afraid to do so, and at the last minute jumped overboard to save himself. As he swam away, the sinking ship sucked him down, and his final thoughts were, “well, I guess I’m going down with you, after all.”
At that, my mother snorted derisively, said that would never happen, and generally implied it was not a worthwhile story at all. I felt so humiliated. I had been enjoying writing the story, but immediately stopped, because clearly, I was no good at it. I felt like this:
Most of you will do your own snorting here and say, “you’ve let that one incident deter you for what, more than three decades? You, dear lady, are a wuss.” I know. I am. I totally, totally am. My relationship with my mother aside, I should have just kept plowing forward.
I did keep writing, of course, but I was fiercely protective and seldom let anyone read a story I’d written that wasn’t for an assignment. I never joined a writer’s group for fear being so harshly judged. Even in the face of people encouraging me wholeheartedly, I still go back to that moment, and the deep shame I felt over what I’d written.
But ok; this time in my life is about courage, stepping up, making changes. It’s time to cast off the invisible emotional shackles my mother still somehow seems to have latched onto me.
Thanks to really supportive feedback lately, I’m going to give it the time and effort it deserves. An old friend from Seattle today wrote to tell me, “Please quit your day job and write full time.” That made me happy down to my toes.
I know I have a lot of work to do to make myself saleable and enjoyable, but I am willing to do that. Right now, my primary audience is comprised of: People who are my boyfriend, people who are my boyfriend’s mom, and a couple of friends. That will not make me a career in writing.
Honestly, I don’t know how I can pretend to have a chance at breaking into the real publishing world – the markets are continually flooded with these fantastic authors with compelling storylines and unique ideas… and then here I am. Writing about a girl who gets tortured in a root cellar, then chucks it and moves to Alaska. Why aren’t the agents beating down my door, ha ha.
The Nano novel will likely never see the light of day – but I have two other stories brewing I’m pretty excited about. One is science fiction-oriented, one is kind of fantasy-oriented. I think both have good potential. The Nano book, not so much, but it is at least getting me through the process of Writing My First Book to get that out of the way.
One thing that gives me hope is the new ability to publish one’s own ebooks on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. No agent need to secured to make an entrance into the market. Now granted, a book will do better if represented by an agent, and here’s a great article as to why. Yes yes, the agent will take a (well-deserved) chunk of any earnings, and yes yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to find a good one, but I will need any ally I can find if I am to market this tripe I am calling “books.”
Those (twenty) of you reading this are probably biased, but I’m curious what you look for in a book. I know what I look for, so naturally I try to write in that direction.
Anyone feel like answering a few questions?
When you read, are you more drawn to strong plots or strong characters? Is it more important for you to get a strong visual picture of the scenes, or to know what the characters are thinking and feeling? Do you care about the back story, or do you hate exposition? Do chronological back-and-forths nauseate you? Do you appreciate foreshadowing, or would you rather have few obvious clues to your mysteries?
Thanks for any help, folks. Ideally, I would have a strong plot and strong characters, rich external and internal detail… but I know my words need editing, and this might help me select the best ones to hack out.