I guess the answer to that would be when you fail to post an entry in over two months. And I call myself a writer. Shame on me.
But wait. There’s more.
It’s not as though I haven’t been writing. I have. A lot actually. Just not here.
On a whim, I signed myself up for an actual writers’ conference, you know the kind where actual people who have actual books go to learn more, schmooze and have some cocktails among like-minded people.
It was a birthday present to myself, and I figured all that good money I earned writing articles in the past year should actually go towards fostering my actual career in writing.
So, I filled out all the stuff, chose three editors I’d like to meet, hit submit and then looked up whether or not book writers who haven’t actually gotten one published should go to a real live writer’s conference. (see a pattern of doing things backwards here?) Anyway, as it turns out, going to a writer’s conference when you haven’t a published book under your belt is actually a REALLY good thing. It said so on the internet so it must be true.
So, did you catch that part about me choosing three editors I’d like to meet? Yeah, I tried to sneak that one in there. Part of this conference was a writing critique where an agent or an editor would read your stuff and tell you what a wonderful writer you are, buy your manuscript on the spot and before you know it, you’d be the next Stephenie Meyer or EL James. Okay, not really, but the writing critique part was true. I must have been so excited about being a big girl and going to a conference by myself that I overlooked what I needed to do.
A day or two after I hit submit on the on-line registration thingy, I received a very polite email from someone in charge of editor/agent meetings telling me that the first ten pages I wanted an editor/agent to read must be in her hands in two weeks. Hold on a minute! TEN Pages??
Holy Unpreparedness Batman!!
I know I’ve said before that I have the stops and starts of a zillion or so romance novels I’ve attempted in my Word files. Key word being STOP. I haven’t gotten very far on any of them. And then I go to commit to getting the first ten pages of manuscript I haven’t even written to an editor in less than 14 days.
As a former journalist who worked daily on deadlines, I knew I had it in me to write ten pages in two weeks. I just didn’t have a manuscript. Actually I didn’t have much of anything. I must have been on some crazed hormone induced birthday bender to think I could do it.
Well guess what? I did do it. I began writing that book and before I knew what happened, I had more than thirty pages written. I took the first ten, tweaked, revised and reviewed them, even showed them to some friends for their opinions, and was ready to send them off to the conference organizer by the deadline.
I wrote a quick synopsis, a query letter and kissed the overnight envelope with the ten pages of that story that, when done, I knew would knock the socks off an editor somewhere. Yay me.
And then reality hit. What the hell have I just done?
Want to try to ruin a career before it even starts? Do things ass backwards, not well and not even completely. And then, on the weekend you are going to the conference, leave your computer and a copy of the 10 pages you sent at home just in case that, by some chance you are unable to fathom, the editor you are meeting with for a critique doesn’t have anything from you at all.
Have I piqued your interest as to what happened yet?
In a word, or two — A lot.
No, not like a book deal or anything. Not even remotely close.
My foray into the world of writers’ conferences was one of the best experiences in my life. Not only did I have the chance to meet some very talented romance novelists, a lot of those beginning their careers and many more like me who were greener than a pasture in Ireland, as well as a man who makes a living out of steering novelists and screenwriters to very successful careers, I learned more on the art of creating a novel in one and half-days of sitting through workshops and hearing people talk than I could have imagined.
While my meeting with an editor that had made me a nervous wreck for weeks didn’t go well and I didn’t actually get her to critique my writing, she didn’t hate my verbal pitch. So that was good. She thought my idea was pretty good and said I need to see it through to the end.
I came home and realized that it was a good thing that my 10 pages never made it to her. They never would have survived an editor’s critique. They pretty much sucked. And you know what? That’s okay.
Because when I came back home and began to really think my project through, created an outline of sorts and had a better idea of where the story was supposed to go, I started over. And then before I knew it, dialogue was flying onto the page, new characters were being born and I was on my way to writing a better story.
And then came the other thing I learned at the conference. How to tell when you just might be forcing something.
Last week, I was proud to have created more than 200 pages of a story that was but an idea in March. I was proud, but also stuck. I was putting my characters into contrived situations to get them together. I was writing two parallel stories for a project that was supposed to be a romance novel where characters are together. It was as if I were driving in Maine only to realize that I should be in Florida. My story didn’t have a point, no direction and the characters weren’t right for each other.
I sat at my son’s soccer practice in the pouring rain one day last week thinking about my book, wondering if I could actually ever write one. I didn’t want to lose all that good writing I had done, all those characters I love and all that work!
And then I had an epiphany of sorts.
All of a sudden, just by changing one character in the story, I had a plot, a map, a reason for them to be together. I sat in the car, in the rain and wrote the entire idea for the story, with each character’s goals and motivations, conflicts and reasons. And I realized this is more like it.
Now I just have to begin. Again. And it’s been trying. I know what I want to say, but I am having a harder time this time trying to say it.
I have realized that writing a novel is a journey. One that could take a while. And I also realize that this book may not be the one I try to get published. But I have to finish it, if it is finishable. And I think it is.
What the writers’ conference taught me is that I need to write for me. Not to sell a book, see my name in lights (thought that would be nice) or make money. It should be for me, for the love of writing and because I enjoy seeing my words on paper (or in this case, on my computer screen.)
I ran into a friend yesterday who has a great blog about wine and other stuff. We commiserated on the fact that we haven’t blogged in a long time and I thought that it was kind of like that overdue library book — the one where you know you have to return it and the more time that goes by that you don’t, you know you are a delinquent borrower and don’t want to face the scorn of your angry librarian. (Sorry, dramatic, I know.) She was saying she had so much she wanted to write about and I thought to myself, I wish I did.
Then I realized, I do. I have a blog, I can write about anything I want. And why not write about writing?
So there you have it. In the last two months, a lot has happened. And I do want to write and realize that when I am stuck on something I can’t get out in the novel I want to write, I can just mosey on over here and spill. Spew. Do whatever.
And that is a pretty wonderful thing.
See you around.