Becoming A Writer – From Idea To Reality:
Three years ago an idea for a short story hit me. I was not a writer at the time. Sure, I wrote words. I texted, Facebooked, and emailed. But I had never really spent time forming stories.
At that time I had no inhibitions. I didn’t know there were rules, so I sat down at my computer and let the words fall onto the screen. The story was clunky at best. I put it away for a while and moved on.
A few months later a larger story came to mind. I let that simmer for a while, jotting notes and adding to the plot idea. I started to research. I didn’t research for the story. I researched how to write. I read hundreds of articles. Some of the articles had good advice, some of them…had advice.
My next step was crucial. I read. I devoured copious amounts of novels in the genre I wanted to write in. I found two in particular that grabbed me. Those two series pulled me in, swept me away, painted pictures in my mind and left me empty when they were done. Not empty because they didn’t impact my life. But empty because they were finished, and what in the heck am I going to do now that I’m back in the real world?
I asked myself why. What was it about those two series that moved me? I didn’t know enough about writing to answer that so I began a quest. I read them again, paying closer attention to how the story was crafted. Was it told in first person or third, limited or omniscient? Was the story action or character driven?
Side note: The books that you love will not necessarily be the books that I love. That is why I’m not naming my favorites. Only you know the type of writing that moves you. Knowing the kind of writing that speaks to you is key. Why? Because you should only ever write the story you want to read. Don’t write for the latest trend. Write something that is different, that inspires you, that makes you excited to click away at the keyboard.
I joined several writing groups as I fumbled along with my studies. I found people I could relate to, that showed me tips. Weird people just like me! I did more research and began to write more frequently.
I was invited to write a short story for an anthology by some good folks in a writers group. I dusted off the first short story, bent it to fit the theme, and sent it in for critique. After tweaks and edits it was ready for publishing. <- That sentence makes it sound easy. It wasn’t. Plenty of hair pulling, scoffing at the screen and rolling of eyes happened within that timeframe. But I didn’t give up. Did you read that? I didn’t give up.
Getting published in the anthology gave me hope that I could write “the big one”. So I buckled down and finished the first draft of my novel. It rang in at 70k words. I put it away for a short time and lived life. I continued to read books. I continued to learn.
When I came back to my first draft I wondered who had let the drunken monkey type all of the words. It was bad. But I was assured that a first draft is allowed to be bad, expected to be in fact. So I revised. When I say that I revised, it does not capture the amount of work that went into the process. I spent more than a year tearing it apart and putting it back together. Seriously! Who wrote this? My final draft rang in at 82K words. This was good for a YA fantasy. I held hope that I could find an agent or publisher as a new author with a book that fit that word count pocket. Some of you read that last sentence and snickered at my wide-eyed innocence. I’m right there with you my friend.
I set off to find an agent, a small publisher, anyone who would give me a nod that I wasn’t doing this for not. Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? That process had a learning curve all of its own. How to draft a query letter, write a synopsis, grab attention from the slush pile, were all questions that begged research. Months of reading how tos, finding the right people to query, and banging my head on the table resulted in twenty+ rejections and twenty-something ignores. Ouch! I didn’t query everyone all at once. I sent out five to seven queries at a time, tweaking my letter, my pitch, my synopsis. With each revision of the process hope remained that I would eventually get it right. I’m going to say this again so please listen. I didn’t give up. Did the rejection sting? Yes, but the ignores were worse. Not so wide-eyed and innocent now are you old girl?
Months went by and I kept trying, kept revising, kept learning. And then it happened. I got a request for a full manuscript submission. I was beside myself. I spent the weekend reading back through my entire manuscript and doing a fine-toothed comb line edit. My heart pounded and head spun as my finger hovered above the send button. I pushed send and waited. Sixty days…sixty days was the amount of time they estimated to read and get back with me on my full submission. Do you know how long sixty days feels when you are waiting for someone to tell you if you’re worthy? Welcome to “hurry up and wait” Beth. Settle in for a ride on the writer’s limbo train.
During that sixty-day purgatory I sent out one more query to a small press who asked for the full manuscript with the query. They had an online submission process and I thought what the heck. That company emailed me within three days to set up a phone meeting. Are you kidding? I was still waiting to hear back from the slightly larger publishing company, so when the smaller one offered me a contract, I sent a polite nudge to the former indicating I had interest. See someone else wants me? They emailed a courteous congratulation and indicated they were going to pass. Get bent Beth. I was so over the moon about the offer from the smaller company that the sting of rejection was slightly less painful.
I am two weeks from my first novel release. The point of my post? Never give up. Keep trying, learning, and honing your skills. The difference between a successful writer and one who fails is that the successful one never quits. If you quit after the first forty rejections you will never see the one yes that makes the difference.
Beth Hammond, is an author/illustrator who writes anything from YA fantasy to children’s picture books. She is a wife, mother, and lover of life. Her early years were spent serving in the military. Her middle years spent raising babies and figuring out her place in the world. She created stories for her book loving children and recently released “Do Your Toes Stink Good?”, “The Blond Korean and the Blue-Eyed frog”, and “Puppy Waits”. Her YA fantasy novel “The Sound Of The Stones” will be released September of 2015 through eLectio publishing. Her later years are yet to come, and filled with hopes and endless dreams. She spends her days creating worlds through words and illustration. You can find her on: