Friday, September 9, 2011

You're Only Ready When You're READY

I figured it was time to get back to talking about writing. Can I tell you how happy I am with how my MS is turning out? The conflicts and plot are more believable than my first attempt and the scenes are overall “fuller.” What does fuller mean? There’s more depth, emotion, internal thought, description – everything I’ve lacked in the past. And I owe this to many aspects and people in my life. Writers (including myself) come out of the gate thinking they’re ready to churn out a masterpiece. They’ve read more books than taken showers, they’ve aced all their creative writing classes, and their imagination is so full it’s on the verge of spilling out their ears. To quote Spongebob: “I’m ready! I’m ready! I’m ready!” (A quick aside, punbop was my youngest son’s first word. *rolls eyes*) Well, guess what? They may think they’re ready, but they’re not. By my layman’s calculations, it takes about three years before a writer is truly ready to publish their first novel. Give or take a couple days, of course. ;)

For me, my three years is almost up and in my heart, I know I’ve reached Spongebob status. I’m ready. I’m finally ready. I have an amazing story with great characters, twists and turns, mystery, and conflict up the ying-yang. I can’t WAIT to share it with the world. And that is what’s driving me to keep going; to improve my writing skills and output level. I want people to know my characters and the world I’ve created. And I have a good feeling this time.

So who do I have to thank for this newfound confidence? Geez, where to start. Well, I guess at the beginning. The Absolute Write forum and Karen Junker, in particular. She helped me understand the secret to making first chapters pop and have the reader begging for more. Then there’s Claire Gillian, who forged through my manuscript with a weedwacker, and showed me how to cut non-essential drizzle, which had nothing to do with my plot, and she also kept things logically sound (How can she talk to her neighbor through a closed window?). And the agent, Scott Eagan, who took the time in his rejection to point out my issue with telling instead of showing. Next came my old writing partner, Lindsay Currie, who showed me how much beauty a scene could contain if you took your time with it. And Sarah Fine, who after many strikethroughs, finally drilled it into my head when to italicize internal thought and when not to. And as of late, I have a trio of wonderful betas, who not only encourage me every step of the way, but have taught me about true friendship.

Michelle Davidson Argyle has walked the same path I’m currently traveling and is a fountain of advice and experience. She’s caring, humble, and a huge supporter of my writing. Her first full-length novel, Monarch, came out last month, and my fingers are itching to get a copy of it. Any day now I’ll be holding the beautiful butterfly-covered thriller in my hands. (By the way, I have never seen such gorgeous covers come out of a small publishing house. Kudos to Rhemalda!)

Michelle Louis is my current writing partner and in the same boat as me. Together, we’re navigating the waters of cleaning up our first manuscript and a day doesn’t pass when we’re not IM’ing each other. To have that every day contact with another writer is so important I can’t even stress it enough. It’s like that little voice in the back of your head, saying, “Get that chapter done yet?” except it’s in your face with an added, “Come on! I need to see what happens next! Hurry up!” Michelle certainly keeps me on task! And her talent for description constantly challenges me to create scenes a reader could step in to like she so effortlessly does herself.

Carmen Fox is my cliché buster and ego builder. She seeks out any clichés in my writing and destroys them on sight. Imagine a Brit holding an oozi. And as you can see from my blog, I, uh, tend to use clichés quite often. Hee hee. But Carmen also pinpoints my strengths and her observations fill me with pride and confidence. Coming from her, it means a lot. Of course, she’ll tell you she has to write in a linear fashion, approaching her MS quite mathematically, but I think that’s a bunch of hooey. She’s a natural writer and a natural beta reader. I’m sure it took her years to get to the point she’s at right now, perhaps starting in an “insert slot A into slot B” type of style, but not anymore. She's another Spongebob. She's ready. And next week she’s querying so fingers crossed!

There have been so many other people who have helped get me to the point I’m at now and I can’t possibly list them all so I apologize if you were missed. Just know I’m thankful and your input was much appreciated. Wow, this is sounding like I just won a Grammy...not exactly how I'd initially intended it to go. But you can see how thankful I am!

Also, my writing skills didn't improve just from people telling me what I was doing wrong, but from beta reading for others.

Here's a handy line graph that shows my personal progress, but I think it could be applied to any writer. I think as readers and literary people in general, we start out as pretty good betas. Yes, some people have very distinct pet peeves and can be opinionated, but I’d like to think we all have talent when it comes to editing other people’s work. In my case, my beta skills were better than my writing skills when I first started. Obviously, as I started to understand and implement “show don’t tell” and non-essential dialogue, and backstory dumps, not only did my writing improve, but also my beta reading. But what the graph shows most is how much my writing improved as a result of beta reading. It quadrupled! (okay, that might not be the right word as math is not my specialty) But basically, it went up a heck of a lot!

If I could give any advice to a new writer just starting out, it’s this: Don’t rush your path to publication. Get dirty in the trenches for a couple of years; really hone your craft. Three years in a lifetime of writing is a drop in the bucket (cliché alert!) and the experience and friends you’ll gain is unmatched. If you put in the time and effort, publication will happen for you...but only when you’re truly ready.


  1. This is so interesting! And sweet! Thank you for mentioning me. I feel so awful about not reading your chapters yet, but you just caught me at like the worst time ever with Monarch coming out. But I love your work and I think you're getting to a really good point, too. I'm not sure I could say every author would be ready after 3 years because everyone is so different. I know I wrote for 3 years in high school and was nowhere near ready. However, after college and all of that jazz, when I did start writing novels again I was definitely ready by the 3 year mark after a lot of hard work.

    You know I'm always here for you! I think I'll go read your chapters this lovely Sunday morning. :)

  2. Thanks for the mention, Julie, and for the compliment! Finding a writing buddy was definitely a great thing. :)

  3. Thanks for the mention, Julie. Gosh that now seems so long ago, doesn't it? I we've both grown so much since then. :)

  4. It does seem like forever! And I just noticed The PURE is being published. That's wonderful you found a home for it at last. Congratulations!