I have been spending an awful lot of time alone lately. I wake at 6:45 AM; I’m working by 7 and I am often typing until dinner. Each day is different depending on the other things that need to get done on a given day. But every day, I am writing for at least some part of the day. Last week, I actually had a day where I was so completely absorbed in my work that I only got up once to go to the bathroom, and forgot all about breakfast and lunch. Not really healthy, for sure, but man did I feel gooood!
The history: Six years ago I wrote a novel. It took me about three months start to finish and I believed it was done. I let two people read the whole thing and got good feedback, so I also figured that the only thing left to do was send it to publishers and wait for the rejection letters. I may have been passionate, but I am also very realistic and the chances of getting a book published are very, very slim. In today’s book market those chances just get slimmer all the time. So while I wrote it, I didn’t have high expectations for seeing it published. That said, that is of course my goal: seeing the book published. I have avoided self-publishing from the start.
However my book didn’t sit on my desk for six years because of publishers, it sat there because I was too afraid to follow through. I found a million excuses, and as the mother of kids who were 15, 13 and 9, at the time, the excuses weren’t hard to find. I was very busy doing PTSA stuff; I was busy driving kids to soccer/dances/school things/all the places that so many of us drive to. I was making wonderful meals and trying to be Martha. I was in book group, reading other people’s books. I was busy… and I was scared. Unconsciously, I think I just didn’t want to face the reality that the novel wouldn’t go anywhere and I’d be really disappointed. And so, the manuscript sat on my desk and went nowhere. That manuscript ^^sat for six years… often buried under lots of other stuff.
Middle Man used it as a battering ram. When he wanted to push my buttons, it always worked to say “So Mom, when are you going to do something with your book?” There was also “So Mom, when are you going to buy that scooter?” Or any one of the other things I said I wanted but didn’t go after. (Of note, he never asked: Mom, why haven’t you run away with Johnny Depp yet?) Perhaps I had him all wrong and he was really pushing me outside my own prison walls, encouraging me to do something he thought I could, but I doubted? In fairness, that is possible. Of course, I read his comments as challenges and thought he was taunting me for not following through. Pointing out that I wasn’t really doing the things I might, outside our home. He would have been right, either way perhaps.
So, two years ago I took a writing class with author Laura Kalpakian, a very successful Bellingham author. It was a Memoir class (not what I was writing) but I figured it would be someplace to start. I met some really talented other writers and when the class ended I suggested a writing group. The idea being that we would submit whatever we were working on to each other and then edit each other’s work. The agreement up front was total honesty. In the nearly three years we’ve been meeting, I have gotten that and so much more. I’ve gotten friendship, encouragement, total honesty about and commitment to me and my journey, and the support of four other passionate women who are excited about writing too. I’ve gotten my butt kicked and had a fire lit under me; I am eternally grateful.
At first it was hard. I was lazy and just submitted chapters as is. I figured it was done, right? I got some nice feedback, but I also got a reality check: Hey Dawn, please check for typos, do some editing before you waste our time. Oops. Ok, so I did spell check. The story was done already, right? Next they started pointing out consistent evidence that suggested that my story was in fact not done. It was a really good outline. It was bones. But it was not done. Ouch. In fact, my first thoughts were: they just don’t get it. They’re missing the point. However, after a few more go rounds, I finally got it and everything fell into place. I got what they were saying all along and I started really writing my book. I fleshed out the story; I gave my characters dialogue and wider dimension; wrote a real story. And once I found that groove, I dug in and have been working on it since, with the idea that maybe in 2012 I’d find an agent and finally do something with this manuscript.
Recently I found out about an opportunity to submit the novel to a publisher with no agent, the deadline being December 31st. This is a very rare thing in the book industry and I decided to make it my personal challenge to do this. Let me be clear here: this is a huge effort. It involves editing thirty chapters (or implementing the feedback and edits that group has given me); I’m writing new chapters; I need to restructure the original storyline to make things flow better; and I find the editing process to be the clichéd process that it always has been: endless. There is always something I read and want to rewrite.
The book is deeply personal, including things from my own life and much that is out of my realm. The characters live in my head and some nights as the story writes itself, I cant sleep and I have to fight the urge to get up and write some more. I spend much of my time working on the book or taking care of my mom. When I’m doing one, I feel like I’m neglecting the other. When I’m not writing, I feel edgy and anxious to get back to it. I spend long hours in silence and I like that. I’m in the groove and I don’t want to leave it. It’s electric; it’s fulfilling; it’s a huge personal challenge. As fall come sot a close and I watch the leaves fall, I can feel that deadline looming. And I plan to meet it. Middle Man will not be asking me what I’m doing; it will be done. There is light at the end of this tunnel… sink or swim, I will be done with this in seven weeks. Or, this part. Shine little light, shine.
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