The quote, “You are your own worst enemy,” sums up my writing journey and affects many artists. Heck, I think everyone struggles with this to one point or another.
As far back as I remember, I loved writing. My favorite part was looking at the finished product and saying, “Hey, I created that OUT OF NOTHING!” Each story always brought me some emotional satisfaction. The characters, their struggle, or just the way the plot was crafted. Not that I’m brilliant…far from it.
I think nearly anyone can write. It’s just a matter of how much work you’re willing to put into the story. It wasn’t until a little over a year ago I had this revelation.
Back to my writing journey. Since I always loved writing, I considered it as a choice when heading off to college. My issue? I didn’t think I had that kind of talent. (Looking back, that was ridiculous. I had numerous poems published in local papers, been selected to attend writing conferences, and even was accused of plagiarism on a history paper I turned into a time travel story.) Instead, I took the path I knew I could achieve with hard work and studying—following the math/science field and becoming a pharmacist.
In my final year of pharmacy school, in class, we all talked about what was next for us. Many were doing residencies, some had jobs lined up. Me? I wanted something else. I wanted to write. “I’m going back to school for journalism,” was my confession.
Well, life got in the way. A husband and two kids later, I found myself settled and in need of a hobby. Ten years ago, I wrote my first novel and submitted it to an online critique forum where it got shredded to teeny, tiny pieces. I really didn’t know how to write back then. I figured you needed talent—talent I didn’t have. Shoving that novel in a drawer (along with another novel I had been working on), I picked up a new hobby—running and biking.
Now, ten years later, after an injury that made me unable to run, I picked up the pen…um...clicked on the keyboard again. Somewhere, I got the idea that anyone could be an author if they had the drive and the passion. Start with an idea, write the best story you can, send it off to beta readers and let them tear you apart. Rebuild and try again.
Well, I took a class about story structure and then wrote a short story. I submitted it to the same critique forum that made me quit writing and guess what? They liked it! (The power of learning about story structure.) I cleaned it up and submitted it for publication, having the first site I sent it to accept me. Wow. I was high on life. I wrote more and more.
One of my short stories I submitted for a critique, someone said I should turn into a novel. Hmm. A novel? I had given up on that, but what the heck? Why not try?
Six weeks later, I had a rough draft of my first published novel, Love, Lies & Clones. I sent it to beta readers and got ripped apart again…but do you know what? I said, who cares. Spending so much time on it already, I figured if I could fix the problems they identified, perhaps I’d have something.
After fixing all the issues, I sent it off to another round of beta readers, receiving better feedback, but not great. Another round of edits and more beta readers.
Finally, the feedback wasn’t terrible, and I didn’t know how to fix the rest of the problems without completely rewriting the book. A complete rewrite would be like a new story. I said, "Screw it," and pushed forward and publish it, anyway.
Love, Lies & Clones isn’t perfect, but I have 23 reviews on Amazon so far and average a 4.7 stars. Not bad for a newly published author who had completely given up on writing. I know writers who rewrite and rewrite…and finish nothing. I didn’t want to fall into this since I had so many more stories to tell.
Remember that partial novel I wrote over 10 years ago? I picked it up and finished it. Why? Because the characters wouldn’t leave me alone. This novel, Blood & Holy Water, will be published April 4th. That’s another key. You need to be driven. Determined to finish something all the way to the end.
So…my secret? Don’t give up. I wish I hadn’t 10 years ago…or 20 years ago when I was choosing majors in college. I teach my children to follow their passion. Life’s too short to do something you don’t love.
I had been my own worst enemy. Not believing in myself. I learned that beating yourself up is not worth it. With hard work and determination, nearly anyone can write a novel. With being open to other’s input and learning as much as possible as you go, you can polish a manuscript into something worth reading. It may not be the best book in the world, but it’s the best you can do at that moment. And that’s something to be proud of.
I still struggle with believing my writing is good enough. When I read other stories, I’m in awe at the author’s brilliance, telling myself I could never do that in my writing. I still take critiques and reviews a little too personal, but have to remind myself many people love what I’ve written too.
Well, want to know another secret? You don’t have to the most brilliant author. You don’t have to have all the skills. Everyone has their own style. Find yours and embrace it.
If you want to learn more, I’ve blogged about my entire journey here: http://www.joynellschultz.wordpress.com
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