Monday, 13 June 2011

The story behind my story

(Continued from Biography page of main website.)

So who was this new author that gave me the inspiration to put pen to paper?

Stephanie Meyer with the Twilight Saga.  Now hear me out.  I've read the countless blogs and forums out there chastising Ms. Meyer's writing, I've heard the groans and complaints of Edward and Bella.  I've also read dozens upon dozens of books over the years and am well versed in the difference between literary genius and entertainment.  I will concede that Ms. Meyer's writing is not that of the ageless classics such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, J.R. Tolkien..... oh how the list goes on.   However, I will also openly commend Ms. Meyer for what she was able to achieve - that dozens of classic literature have been unsuccessful in doing - reviving a love of reading once again in young people.  Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowling are other authors who have also accomplished this.  But the thing that inspired me the most by Ms. Meyer was her previous lack of notoriety.  She was simply a normal mom living a normal life.  When you read the likes of Austen, Brontë, Dickens, Twain or Tolkien, you are often left with a feeling of awe, at least I always was.  "How on earth did they do it?"  But it was the very fact that Ms. Meyer wasn't the author of a classic novel carried through generations of study and analysis that caused me to pause and wonder if maybe, just maybe.... if she could do it, well, perhaps I could too.

I started discussing possible ideas with my kids, my intention was to engage them, plan out a full outline together and pick away at a project chapter by chapter over the weekends.  The reality?  The kids planted a few seeds, definitely offered some inspiration, then as the planning turned into work.... "Oh look a cat!" ....  kids will be kids.  But for me, it was too late.  The wheels had started turning.  What surprised me the most is that typically I am a "planner", I often plan to the point of no action if I'm not careful.  But one day I was just itching to simply take a stab at putting together the words of my idea, so I sat down at my laptop and started... yes, it was a lot harder than I expected.  Determined, I grabbed a notebook, sat down and started out the old fashion way - with a pencil and paper.

What happened over the next 45 days stills boggles my mind.  While continuing to work full time running a newspaper, commuting 45 minutes twice a day between my office and home and still finding a few minutes for family time here and there, I created from scratch an 88,000 word, YA novel that has set the stage for at least two sequels.  Am I a literary genius? HIGHLY unlikely!  However, I did it.  I actually wrote my first book. 

Both excited and nervous I managed to talk a small handful of people into reading my MS.  Much to my relief, they didn't hate it - but to my surprise, they liked it!  My next challenge was to talk my 12 year old son into reading it.  This took a bit longer.  Not being an avid reader, books are not the top of his priority list - with the exception of Rick Riordan's work, which he loves to the point of numerous re-reads - he really wasn't enthusiastic about reading my book.  But he was in many ways the audience I was writing for.  So with a bit of pleading and coercion, and the help of a digital e-reader, I managed to talk him into at least checking out the first chapter.  I was on pins and needles.  "What was taking him so long to read one chapter?"  Well, as it turned out, it was several chapters that were taking him so long - 17 in fact.  Chapter one had apparently passed his scrutiny and I had one of those very rare "loss of words" moments when he finished the book and said:

"I hate the ending."

"Seriously?! But why?!"

"Because you haven't even started the second book yet and now I have to wait!"

I would imagine that it will take years for my son to realize how instrumental he was in giving me the courage and confidence to truly pursue the idea of publishing a book.

I wish at this point I had some ultimate, climatic ending to share like "within a few weeks I had an agent...... etc" - unfortunately, that is not the case.   To this day I am stunned that while I managed to write an 88,000 word first draft in 45 days (which meant an average of over 1,000 words per hour) - yet over a year later I am still struggling to create a Query Letter that I am even remotely happy with.

To the credit of my Mom, she encouraged me to just start submitting my QL regardless - at least I'd be taking some action!  At this point I should probably mention that I'm a bit quirky, really not much like the other kids on the block. Through all my research of writing and publishing I've read countless entries pep-talking writers to not be discouraged at receiving rejection letters, to keep their chin up, to keep at it, persevere and so on.  So I guess it kinda makes sense when my entire staff was somewhat dumbfounded at my squeals of delight when I received my very first rejection email.  But you know what that rejection email, and every one after it, has done for me?  It's made the whole process real.  Me - just an average, ordinary gal - has actually written a book and took the plunge to submit a Query Letter to some of the most prestigious and well known Agencies around the world.

However, now that the buzz has worn off a little bit,  I'm back down to business as now I have a new challenge.  To actually get the attention of a real live literary agent.  Wish me luck!

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