A Newbie Author Selfie by C.C. Koen
A strange thing happened while…driving to work one day. A lusty fantasy seized my brain, taking over as co-pilot. Before I knew it, a parking lot and my intended destination appeared. Scary, right? Imagine how I felt? My common sense had just taken an unannounced vacation. I thanked the high heavens no one had been hurt and I’d arrived safe and somewhat sound.
After three days of manic preoccupation, I surrendered to the surging ideas, picked up my laptop and typed, and typed, and typed. The frantic-forming romance story continued steadily for three months. At that point, feedback became a necessity and the great race for an editor began.
Connections made, feedback gathered—multiple times, and mega-money spent, I entered a zone often termed as, “hitting a wall.” As a newbie writer, the “wall” related to: 1) my writing style and 2) the genre. I discovered, being an avid romance reader did not equate to writing it. Almost simultaneously, I did two things: enrolled in writing workshops and joined an online writing group.
A tortoise and hare race to the finish
I started out the hare, but ended up the tortoise. At first the ideas were so rampant I felt compelled to write fast. One year and three months later, being the tortoise was much better. Writing was an emotional process; my mood impacted what I wrote. When I went back days, weeks, or months later and reread, I didn’t like a large portion. The tortoise approach gave me ample time to gain perspective, develop clear character viewpoints, and add depth, emotion, and conflict to the max. The biggest benefit—my writing style improved each and every time.
The beginning is the end and the end is the beginning
Oh, what a twisted, tangled web…confused? Right answer. Writing is a convoluted, passive-aggressive process that can send an author on a wild goose chase. Each interaction with the characters, plot, and conflict took me on a unique journey. When I began writing, the middle and end wasn’t quite clear. When I thought the story was finished, it wasn’t. The editing and revising seemed to go on forever, leading me to hire an editor way too soon. A costly error, doing damage to my bank account and my ego. If not for my persistent, strong personality I might not have continued. Finishing the story became a personal challenge.
Writing my first novel beat me down, ate me up, and spit me into an overflowing cesspool of competing ideas.
But, it did not best me.
Note to ego: shut up!
Imagine standing in a stadium filled to capacity—bare and fully exposed. Sharing my writing felt exactly like that. The good news, the more others read, critiqued, and provided feedback the easier it became. The bad news, my ego could only take so much. Everyone had an opinion and it became difficult to determine which advice to follow. I’m still working on that, but the individuals that stuck with my story from the beginning and had a good sense of the plot and characters were the ones I focused on. In the end, turning off my ego and turning on all my senses helped the most.
Seeing: The big and little picture. Look at all aspects, most importantly the genre characteristics.
Hearing: Listen to critiques and apply feedback that makes a positive impact on the story.
Speaking: Ask other writers and learn from experience. Writing can be a solitary process but it doesn’t have to be. Online writing workshops and writer blogs are free resources. I began with Romance Writers of America. Contests, conferences, and online workshops provided access to writing professionals and became an excellent source for additional feedback. Identify genre specific organizations and select meaningful methods that benefit current needs. For instance, having trouble with character development? Seek workshops or blog articles focusing on that element. Professional resources can also motivate and patch up a bruised ego.
Touching: Pick up a favorite book in the same genre. Now switch perspectives, from reader to writer. Analyze word choice, descriptions, sentence structure, pace, etc. Compare your writing style to the authors and ask the following questions.
a. How did the author bring the story to life?
b. What did I like about the storytelling technique (i.e., writing style, plot,
c. What didn’t I like?
d. What techniques will make what I’ve written so far better?
Through the revision process, I ended up beating my head against the wall. When that happened, I picked up my favorite romance novel and reread it, either in entirety or excerpts. It cushioned the blow and pulled me out of a difficult situation more than once. The mental clarity improved my productivity and preserved the well-being of the story.
The dosage and prescription is…three times a day
How often should I write? I didn’t set a schedule or get upset if something else came up. Without a self-imposed deadline I enjoyed the process much more. Granted, if writing for a living is the goal, a schedule would be needed. Determine personal or professional goals and a time frame to accomplish them.
Wish upon a star, then make it come true
The big finish—publishing. Many in the industry debate the best or most professional method: self-publishing or traditional. Reexamine initial goals and select an avenue that makes the wish come true. How to determine that? Hmm…that is the million dollar question. In my professional and personal life I prevailed mostly on instinct. I view publishing the same—50/50 chance. Whichever you choose, remember success doesn’t come from a lack of effort. The challenge isn’t over when the novel is written, it’s just beginning.
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