Writing your story: Trust the Process

Recently hubby and I traveled 40 miles west of the city to a farm that specializes in producing grass-fed beef. We checked the website and perused bright colorful pictures of animals grazing green pastures and we were ready to roll.

I remember the farm as a kid; I visited one in elementary school; the horses ate from our palms and the sheep bleeped rhythmically in the background.  And I’ve seen farms on television—peaceful, beautiful.

 

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Miles into our little road trip civilization gave way to lonely roads and stretches of open fields with a home here and there. Finally, we gazed upon a worn sign announcing the name of the farm. Ah…we weren’t lost. We turned down the one-lane dirt road. On both sides of us there was climbing brush and hillsides—not a house a car or the sound of anything from the industrialized world indicating we were nearing one of those cool farms from elementary school. Nothing. But the sign indicated that we were on the right road. Onward and upward.

When we type the words, “The End” after a long stretch of toiling over our masterpiece we feel ready to take on the world.  We imagine grueling negotiations with our agent, lucrative publishing deals and an awaiting public. It’s a one-of-a-kind tale and soon the whole world will know it. But the reality is the process can be long and trying and often there are more ebbs than flows and that is even before we get a deal at all.

Yes, there is so much joy in that great feat—finishing the story because many never do. But you did. And as you seek to get your story out into the world know that each grueling step is part of the process. Take the time to develop the perfect query letter. Research agents or publishing houses to make sure you find a good fit. If you are self-publishing ensure you are a part of a deal that you feel comfortable with. Those are the right things to do. Take your time and trust the process no matter how tedious it may seem.

There is no magic in getting published. It requires putting in the work—sometime reworking or tweaking the story or revising your query or attending some writers’ workshops or conferences to understand the industry. These things are all a part of the process.

As we traveled the road that afternoon, my visions of what a farm should be diminished and were replaced by real farm life. Not the ones made a certain way for the public consumption of 8-year-olds but a real farm where the cows meet you at the gate and  the hills rise high into the sunset and the farmhouse is worn and well lived in. But it is a true farm. And although the road appeared destitute and deserted at the end was exactly what we were looking for. All we needed to do was keep driving. And by the way—the meat was delicious.

Keep at it. The process is tried and proven.  And the end result is amazing.

 

Live the moment; it’s all you really have

Live the moment; it’s all you really have

Living-in-the-momentWhen I first started writing my book back in 2007 it seemed like a process with no end. I was working fulltime as a night auditor; days were for sleeping and nights, after my work was done, were for writing. Perfect. A couple pages a night was all I could manage. I remember thinking how happy I would be once it was done and ready to send to a publisher.

A year later I was finished yah! Now on to a publisher. I would finally feel happy once I found a publisher or agent (I was seeking both). I knew the process would take time, additionally, my novel although one of inspiration was quite edgy. I was delving into places that were kind of taboo in Christendom. But I was determined not to change it. But no one was biting. In fact I couldn’t keep up with the rejection letters. One agent who accepted queries via email sent me a flat ‘no’, the morning after I submitted my query online; it seemed as if she couldn’t reject it fast enough. Sigh.

If only they would request to read it all they would see how good it was and then I could rest easy and finally be at peace that this portion of the process was over. I could finally proclaim that I was a legitimate writer.

Meanwhile I was generally unhappy and restless and prayed to God to just get me published…geez. I walked around with my proverbial head hung, feeling kinda forgotten.

And then, finally, a response from a small independent publisher who liked the three chapters I’d sent and wanted to read the entire manuscript. I was thrilled. This was it. And then it seemed to me that she was taking her own sweet time getting back to me. So what she had other clients? I was the most important one (tears)! I thought; once I hear from her I’ll rest easy.

Months later they made me an offer. They wanted to publish the book. Yah! Now I know you’re thinking this is the part where I was thrilled out of my mind singing and dancing in the rain, putting Fred Astaire to shame. Well, this isn’t that part. I honestly waited to feel it– that peace that would settle upon me like warm rays of sunlight. It didn’t come. Instead there was this kind of melancholy, a sadness of which I couldn’t find the source. And then the fretting kicked in as I worried about, how long it would take to publish, book sales, whether or not it good was enough and on and on.

It wasn’t until months later that I took time to reflect on how far I had come. I realized I hadn’t lived any of those moments; the peace that comes from putting it on paper, the joy of having a couple of close friends read my work and getting great feedback, the thrill that someone wanted to publish it. I had pushed those moments aside each time, seeking future satisfaction.

Most of our lives are spent seeking and searching; it seems what surrounds us at the moment is trivial, brings no peace to our lives because something bigger, more significant is not too far away. We live for tomorrow because surely it has to be better than this. We will be happy when…

I realized often we fail to enjoy the moments that make life so great and that peace isn’t suddenly brought on by an event, a place or even a person. It’s internal. We already possess it. Everything you truly need or desire is in you, now. Today. Find it and be happy now. Love the one you’re with just as they are. Kiss and hug your babies before they start behaving. Live the moment. It’s really all you have.

Should Others Read our Work Before Publication?

One of the first poems I wrote was in fourth grade. Our church was having some kind of youth event and I stood proudly in front of the grinning crowd and belted out my own work. I got a standing ovation and an overwhelming feeling that heaven was smiling and the angels were rejoicing confirming my greatness. No one analyzed my prose and asked was the use of the word ‘sun’ metaphoric for something? They didn’t scoff because there wasn’t any rhythmic variation. It was a great poem…well it was good…O.K., it was a poem and I was nine. Most of the crowd had known me since I was a pup and they were there to give me what I needed—pure encouragement.

Yet even as we get older we want the people to read our work who will get it, but most importantly we want them to love it and tell us we’re smart and gifted and we would be crazy to do anything else with our life besides write.

As much as our ego loves to be stroked and tickled there comes a point when, we seek a more discerning eye before submitting it to the Wizard…uh…editor. So the question is, should we fiercely write trusting only our instincts that this is the masterpiece which we are after or should we seek out others to take a look?

Some say nope. Don’t do it; others will taint your inspiration and cause you to second guess the greatest work since Moby Dick. Others say you absolutely must, otherwise how will you know for sure that it is the greatest work…ever?

Well, I agree with the latter. It is good to allow what Stephen King calls the Ideal Readers a go at your work. Now I’m not suggesting that your mother or Auntie Em do it, pinching your cheeks and smiling over the rim of their bifocals telling you that everything you write is perfect and this is no different. Your Ideal Readers will not need to point out every grammar faux pas or tell you that there are too many spaces between ‘he’ and ‘said’. If they do catch them, great. But they should read just as Steve suggests (yep, first name basis), as the one most likely to peruse through your section of the local bookstore seeking that one book to delve into. They should read for pleasure, flow of story, sections that sound off and to ensure it hits the mark as a romance or mystery or whatever your genre might be. I’m talking about the IR who will read with a critical eye, pointing out the two-page description of the meadow that you just absolutely could not part with. Your IR will tell you that the name Jerome just doesn’t fit the tall, Italian hero. They’ll be honest, forthright and kind.

Face it, you’ve spent months inside of the story and even after walking away from it and allowing it to settle you’re going to miss things. You, like most everyone, love the sound your own voice. You need an objective look on things from someone who hasn’t lived and breathed it for the past six months.

Let them at it! Once it’s published don’t forget to send a copy to Momma and Auntie Em.