A Love-Letter to my Readers

Dear Ever-Faithful Readers,

I think of you all every day, I really mean that. I know I don’t say that often enough, but it’s true. Some of you have been with me since the very beginning, back when getting published was just a crazy dream. Some of you I’ve met later in my journey; you took a chance on a writer with only one book and nothing but frantic promises to keep you with me.

I won’t let you down.

I still mean that. I am working so hard, you guys, and it is paying off in a big way. I could whisper sweet nothings here every day and never have another book to show for it. Once upon a time I spent all my creative energy writing about writing and engaging with other writers. Some writers are great at this. They have an endless capacity for communicating with their readers, fellow writers, and their friends and family.

I am not that writer, y’all. Trying to keep up with social media exhausts me, even though I’m only half-assed active here and on Instagram. It’s time I made my peace with that. I need to save my energy for the most important stuff. My books!

Okay, maybe my family, too.

Blog posts aside, I have been writing a lot! I did the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction (made it to round three) and the Micro-Flash Fiction (never made it past round one) Challenges this fall. I made the difficult decision not to attempt the Short Story Challenge this month, despite placing oh-so-close (12th overall!) in the 2019 competition. I wish everyone who is in the midst of the excitement right now the absolute best of luck. I will miss it.

But I have something more important on my plate right now.

I’m more than half way through the revisions to Book Two in The Timekeepers’ Trilogy. You can check out book one HERE. I’m hoping to have Book Two with my publisher by the end of the month.

There, I said it out loud. Now it has to happen.

I have suffered for this book. Nothing has challenged my skills as a writer and my ability to pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again. Not even the hundreds of rejections I received for the first book can compare to the crushing self-doubt I have worked through to finish the second.

This is the third time I have written this book. The first time, I got 70K words into it (for those of you who don’t speak “publishing” that’s only a couple of chapters from the end) and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. A developmental editor finally pointed out that my protagonist had no agency; she was just floating around reacting to the things happening around her, so when she was forced to act in the end… she couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t do it.

I cried after that edit. Out of frustration, and also out of relief that now I knew what I needed to do to fix my story and finish the damn book. At least, that’s what I thought.

The second time I wrote this book, I reworked my protagonist and gave her all kinds of agency. I wrote a long, detailed, chapter by chapter outline that would take me right to the end of the book. The writing went smoothly, I had more direction. But it was lacking something. I knew it was, but I didn’t know what. I felt distanced from my own story, stuck in endless spirals of backstory that didn’t leave room for my characters to move. When I realized what I had done, I cried again.

I was writing the wrong book, folks.

I had gotten so far ahead of myself that I didn’t realize I needed to write a whole ‘nother book before I got into any of the ish my characters were trying to slog through now. No wonder I was stuck!

At this point I wanted to give up. I didn’t feel like I had it in me to start all over again, to write a completely new book. I wanted to quit. But instead, I went back to the basics. I wrote short stories and I studied my craft. I read books about novel structure and about outlining. I promised myself that, at the very least, I would write an outline before I decided to move on.

I wrote the outline. I even started the draft. My writing was so much tighter than in Book One that I faced a whole new wave of self doubt. I felt like I needed to rewrite the first book before I could write the second one. Somewhere along the way, I felt I had lost my voice. After writing about 25 pages I set it aside.

I didn’t want to think about it anymore.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Last November I participated in National Novel Writing Month, where writers can challenge themselves to complete a 50K word novel draft in 30 days. I attempted this feat in 2017 and even shared my attempt here! It was a lot of fun, but I only managed 22K before I lost the thread. This year, though, I had a plan. I had an outline, I had a story that wouldn’t let me be, and I had a great team of friends, family, and super-fans cheering me on.

So I committed to finishing my second book. Even if it was ugly, even if I hated every word of it, I was going to get through my outline and type THE END just so I could finally put it to rest. And you know what? I won.

That’s right. I wrote an entire freaking book in one month!

Can you believe that?

I’m still in shock.

But I did it and it felt incredible. (Many thanks to Simon Farnell over at Beyond the Infinite for being my accountability buddy. Hi Simon!)

This experience taught me a couple of things.

  1. Outlines are my friend.
  2. It’s totally possible to write a book on borrowed time. 15 min here and half an hour there… I averaged about 1.5 hrs a day to complete 50K in one month.
  3. Turn off spell check when writing the first draft. My internal editor still tried to bite every once in a while, but it no longer drew blood.
  4. Writing every day makes me a better wife and mother. When I’m happy, everyone is happy(-ier).
  5. When the first draft is actually completed, revisions are a joy.
  6. Persistence pays off.
  7. Ugly drafts are not nearly as ugly as I thought they would be.
  8. I love my book.

I love this book!!!!

I’m so glad I stuck with it. I’m so glad I made myself get up again and again after each of these setbacks. I absolutely cannot wait to share this book with you all. Thank you for being here, for listening, for believing in me.

Writing Resolutions: 2020

I’m committing to 2 hours a day to get these revisions done and off to my editor. Once this book is done, I’ll start outlining Book Three. You know, the one I’ve already written a couple of times… it might need a few tweaks here and there, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got this. Maybe I’ll commit to finishing my first (third) draft for Camp NaNoWriMo this spring? Anyone care to join me?

7 thoughts on “A Love-Letter to my Readers

    1. I keep giving my revisions to Phil 25 pages at a time and he bugs me about it every day. What happens next?!?

  1. I can’t wait to read the second book. And the third one after. I do came to some realizations about my writing and managing my projects and made some conclusions that I needed to structure my time a little bit. So I signed up with Monday.com to set up a kanban board and filled out my outlines for my first novel rewrite and for my second novel and for a third one I’ve already done some initial work in.

    I’m also giving 12 short stories and 12 poems and 12 months another try to as you say further hone my craft. I think I’m a much stronger poet than I am a prose writer but that’s not going to stop me from finishing my stories. I am fully determined to make writing a career for the rest of my life. I turn 60 this year come August and I want to be able to have something to fall back on when I retire from Wells Fargo.

    Let me know when your next one comes out and I’ll be one of the first to buy it!

    1. That sounds awesome, Harvey! Structure has been so helpful to me, too. I love the 12 Short Stories challenge, and I hope to come back to it one day. Writing short stories has made a world of difference to my style. If you’ve read The Timekeepers’ War you can probably see it yourself. I’m trying to find a balance between the more Baroque descriptions of TKW and the leaner, plainsong style of my shorts.

      I like to do my outlining in long hand and then type it up into a word document. I then print it and make notes as I do the first draft. Depending on how many things I change during the draft I either rewrite the outline before revisions or just dive in. So far I haven’t needed my outline again for revisions (which means I didn’t have to restructure anything, woohoo!)

      Your plan is exactly our plan! The sooner we have a steady income coming in from my books, the sooner a Phil can retire. I am giving myself until the kids graduate, since I don’t think I can support a family of 5 on my own, haha. But that gives us time to build up our investments too.

      Congrats on 60 years! I’m excited to read your novels, too. As soon as you’re ready, I’ll make time to read it! You will find your voice the more you write prose. Your skill with poetry will be a great balance to your high-action prose (if your novel is like your short stories).

      Someone once told me when I was fretting over rewriting my first book that readers expect writers to get better the more they write and they adapt to your style as they read. I still want to fix a few things about book one, but I’ll wait until the trilogy is done before I let myself even consider it.

      Best of luck! Stay warm in the cabin! It’s been -40 here the last few days, so I’m not even feeling guilty about writing all day!

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