If you’ve followed my journey as a writer, you know where my roots are. You know I began my novel from a chance meeting followed by a NaNoWriMo personal challenge. After the bones of the story were developed, you may have read about the experience I had with two amazing editors, a toxic writing group, money spent on seminars and last year I was accepted into Writers Relief. Which I thought was going to hand me a golden ticket. It didn’t. There are no golden tickets in the traditional publication industry.
Yet I learned a lot about how NOT to write a query letter and that even if you pay top dollar for an editor, there are still mistakes you need to address. Everyone keeps telling me you have to have a polished copy of your manuscript before you send your first query. Well, that’s what I thought I had. Honestly. I did. After at least four drafts, and following line by line critiques. Reading the book out loud countless times and reconsidering the life of a hermit as a possibility. It began to dawn on me that I did not know if I was polishing my novel. Or just smudging it with a dirty cloth.
I’ve walked away from two writing groups. One as I mentioned was toxic, but I learned that I knew a lot more than I thought I did and I know the kind of writer I do not want to be. The second was a great group of men and women. All kinds of people writing different genres with different styles and of different cultures that made it a rich, rip-roaring time in conversation and personalities. But I didn’t get a lot done. There were so many of us, by the time my turn came to submit, my last submission was forgotten.
When they say everything happens for a reason, it’s true. The group was expanding and the facilitator changed, so were the dates, which did not fit into my calendar. So although the group is continuing and thriving, I walked away. At first, I worked by myself. Although the creation of the story is solitary, having it finished requires others. So along with a friend who donated her home twice a month, we formed a much smaller group of eight in the beginning and now we are six. This seems to be working perfectly. We are productive. Everyone’s work is heard, reflected upon and critiqued. We have interesting discussions and can finish a statement without having someone watch the clock because the library is closing.
For me, it was the best thing that could have had happened. This funky little group is reading my entire book three chapters at a time. I take notes, listen to their ideas, views, and opinions and decide if I need, want or should make changes. Grammar, punctuation, and flow are pointed out, corrected or removed. Discussions about the characters, the time, the nuances that make a story believable are addressed. I can see SO much more through six pairs of eyes! And now that they are at the halfway point. I find myself working harder than ever.
The manuscript beginning to shine. The elbow grease is paying off!
So I wanted to share with you – readers – writers of any and all genre – new writers, seasoned writers, would be writers, I think I’d like to write writers – go write! And enjoy the process of creating a story. And after you’ve read it a dozen times and have cleaned it up as much as you think you are able. Find a group, create a group, ask a group if they will read your work and really help you to polish what you have.
NOTE: I’m not talking about Beta readers! In my personal experience, I asked a group of people of various ages and backgrounds to read my book after the first draft. Yes, it was raw. It had faults. Although I cannot speak for anyone else, it made sense to me to ask people to read at that point, because if it wasn’t a good story, why should keep going? If they didn’t like what they read, how it flowed, how it ended, did they want more, what was the point of continuing? Because the work it takes to shape it into a novel is much, much harder than writing a story on a notepad. There are very different rules than you learned in high school, how to write a dialog without ending with, “she said, he said” after every line. What format to use, what font size etc.
The polish comes after all the creative and technical work is done. The polished novel is what agents and hopefully publishers want to see, expect to see and honestly deserve to see after receiving truckloads of dull! So although my journey is taking much, much longer than I thought it would and having my query letter written for me was the biggest mistake I’ve made so far (it was SO bad) and that having an agent accept my work has not happened yet. YET. I am not giving up!
Breathe Deep, Think Peace