Life is all about extending your comfort zones right? Well in December I plonked myself bang in the middle of a new comfort zone and it made me edgy and excited all at the same time! In July I published my debut novel High-Heels And Slippers, first as an ebook and then in paperback too. That in itself was a huge learning curve but then in December I took part in a book blog tour during which my book was reviewed by fifteen people. I had no idea what they would think of my book but whatever they thought was made public in blogosphere for all to see – eek! I must have been crazy, I mean no one made me do it; I signed up for it voluntarily!
But that’s the thing about writing: it makes me want to push my personal boundaries.
I began to write consistently about five years ago when I had some ideas for children’s books. I joined the SBCWI, attended a regular critique group and went to a children’s writing conference inNew York.
A couple of members of my writing group were writing YA novels. They had reams and reams of work and I was completely in awe of their ability to produce such large amounts. How did they do that? How did they have so much to say? Their word counts were in the thousands and it was completely daunting to me.
I kept on revising my five hundred word picture book manuscripts, trying to perfect each line and all the time wondering what it must be like to write a full length novel. I was tempted but lacked the confidence to give it a go.
Then one evening, I decided to try it. I sat down with a blank Microsoft document and began to type. That’s when Josie Jenkins, the heroine of my novel, first came alive. For the next few months her story just poured out of me. I would stay up until three in the morning pounding away on the keys of my laptop. Before I knew it I had written several chapters.
I wanted to bring this new work to my critique group, after all I relied on their good sense and perceptive critiques, but I lacked the courage. Meeting after meeting, I chickened out, and kept the printed sheets hidden in my bag.
But although it’s tempting to hide away and succumb to one’s hermit tendencies, a writer cannot afford to be reclusive for long, because receiving and being receptive to feedback is essential for a writer’s growth and eventual success. Or at least that’s what I’ve come to believe. For it seems to me, that all feedback, even the negative, hard-to-take stuff, is valuable.
Most people have a fear of rejection, and I’m certainly no exception, but the thing about writing is that makes me confront my fears. So I drew a deep breath and finally took the papers out of my bag. Before I began to read, I apologized: “This is probably going to be useless…” I muttered as I passed out copies to everyone. “It’s just something I’m working on…so you know…it’s pretty rough…” The group smiled knowingly back at me. They knew the feeling of course, the feeling of putting your creative self on the line.
When I began to read my palms went clammy and my voice stuck in my dry mouth. I was utterly nervous; it felt pretty much as if I had just stripped naked in the middle of Barnes & Noble.
Yes it was nerve-wracking but it was also exhilarating. And I have come to the conclusion that it was also addictive. Because that was over three years ago and I have continued write and to learn so much since then. It has been a series of highs and lows which have been taken me to depths of despair one minute and soaring on a crest of a confidence-wave the next. And I’m still learning and I’m still trying to navigate through the ups and downs. The thing about writing is that it’s fluid; I never know where it’s going to take me and let’s face it, that’s part of the buzz!
In the beginning, I have to admit, I rejected the idea of self-publishing. And when aNew Yorkagent showed an interest in my work I thought I was on the road to finding a publisher (and a guest spot on the Oprah show; well we writers do like to dream!) But after six months I still had no contract and I was struggling with an overwhelming sense of failure. For a while I couldn’t bear to go near my manuscript, I couldn’t handle the thought of sending out more query letters and waiting again for another six months, time after time, only to find that years may pass and I could still be in the same situation. Life’s too short to wait around, twiddling your thumbs.
There’s a latin proverb which goes something like this: “If the wind fails, take to the oars.” And that’s exactly what I decided to do. There had been an explosion in epublishing, more and more authors were choosing to publish their work this way. I decided to have a rethink about self-publishing and give it a try because by doing that I could get Josie’s story out there, I could get the feedback I needed from the people that really mattered: the reading public. I knew nothing about epublishing world and so I embarked on a massive fact finding mission. And even though it was perplexing at times, I was happy to do it because the thing about writing is that it makes me want to take on a challenge.
Part of that challenge, for me, is accepting that High-Heels And Slippers isn’t perfect and not berating myself to bits for that. I have tried and tried to make sure it was typo-free and well-edited but there’s always room for improvement. And the thing about writing is that I want to get better and better.
So I will take everything I have learned from this and feed it into my next book. And while I’m working on that, I’m sure I will learn a whole bunch more because that’s the thing about writing: no matter how much you write and how long you do it for, there’s always more to learn.
I would love to learn from your writing experiences! What are the things about writing that give you a buzz? What challenges you?