When I was young, maybe 7 or 8 years old, we had a family friend, who I absolutely idolized. She was older, about 13, with long, dark, curly hair and full lips. Even though I was beautifully innocent at that age, I thought this girl was it. She wrote love stories on her typewriter and because of that fact alone, she was the most amazing person ever I’d ever met. She was a writer! More incredibly, when she was done, she would let me read her stories. I thought they were the most wonderful things I’d ever read.
To this day, I could not tell you her name. She shattered the bubble one day when I showed her a story I had written. Remember, I was still just a baby. My stories were sweet and simple. I was so proud of my story. This girl’s feedback horrified me. She ripped the paper in long strips, my heart feeling every tear, as she cackled at how lame it was. This girl was a bitch. A nasty piece of work who was clearly in the category of ‘mean girl’. Her words scared me while her disregard haunted me. It’s no wonder I don’t remember her name.
The idea of being a writer at that point was my dream. Something I thought I would someday do. I didn’t let the mean girl get in my way. I persevered. My parents eventually gave me a typewriter for Christmas and, now that I’ve been a parent to a writer, I know I probably drove them bat-shit crazy with the tap-a-tap-tap as I cranked out those stories.
The bitch was right in a way. My writing was not good as a kid. It’s a good thing I had to cull stuff moving around a lot as we did. But, no matter how bad I was, the idea stuck in my head that one day, someday, I was going to be a writer.
It may have taken 50 years, but here I am. I’m finally doing it. I can finally say I’m a writer.
Being a writer is not what I imagined it to be. Not in the way that little girl dreamed anyway. The process is not as simple as sitting down and writing a nice little story. It’s damned hard. I’ve taken course after course, banging my head against the wall, trying to piece the together the elements of writing once again. (It’s possible that bitchy teenager hit me in the head with her typewriter to accentuate her point.)
Things like point of view, dialogue, setting etc eventually stuck. Now I’m the writer who, when reading a book for pleasure, will notice slip ups the author has made. Stuff their editor didn’t catch. It’s annoying as hell once that pandora’s box is open, let me tell you. I’m sure I’m even driving my husband insane with the comments I make when television shows leave obvious clues (to me) in mysteries or the timelines aren’t correct.
But getting back to my writing, as I do have a point here.
I have written a book.
The first draft is currently sitting at 82k words and I’ve had it professionally edited. Not a cheap thing to do, but necessary. My editor told me it’s “An impressive coming-of-age novel (with)… Great location details, terrifically relatable characters…The mystery at the heart of who she is compelling, and the twist is heart-stopping. You should be very proud of this.”
And I am proud of it.
I’m also scared shitless of finishing it.
I am in rewrite/edit mode now. I feel like I’m on the final draft now. I’m at least five drafts, including at least two rewrites, in.
When I’m done with this draft, I will scout for a literary agent. Maybe I’ll go straight to a publisher? I don’t know yet. I’m scared of that next step. What if I fail? What if the book really is shit? What if this editor was just being nice to me because she has seen how far I’ve come, since I took her writing class eons ago? What if that bitch was right?!
What if I do get it published and no books sell? Wouldn’t that be disappointing!
The story of my writing this first book is an interesting one. It began as a dream. I woke up thinking ‘wow, that would make a great scene for a book. I should write that one down.’ And I did. I was still writing 18 hours later. My husband saw the drive and kept bringing me food and drinks. He’s a supportive one. A good egg.
That was in 2014.
I have taken myself on self-writing retreats to get the book finished. One time I went to an old stomping ground, because it got me back in touch with the girl within, so I could finish it. I rented a cabin at the beach and, in the morning when I was due to check out, I went to the office to ask if I could extend the stay one more night. I explained I was so damn close to finishing the draft of my book, I thought I could do it with just one more day. They told me they would give me the cabin for free for the night, if I finished the book. And I did!
Now the book is sitting in front of me, staring me down. It’s telling me, screaming at me really, to JUST FINISH IT! I have to get over my fear of failure first.
The fear of failure is real.
Not everyone is a Nora Roberts or Kristen Hannah who can just pound out a manuscript. I keep telling myself that they, too, originally felt this. That’s not to say I think I’m as good as either of them. I wish! It’s that damn fear of failure.
But it would be nice to have my name on a book, sitting in a bookshop one day. Especially if I saw someone pick up that book, read the cover, smile, walk to the checkout counter and buy it!
I will finish it. (I will keep telling myself that.)