The place where my stumbles have come to rest.
Someday, my friend. Someday.
A Writer’s Journey
Three nights in a row, I woke frantically from the same dream: I was in an out of control car, careening down a cliff with two dream people as passengers. They were both freaking out, and at the time, I was an eighteen-year-old girl who didn’t even have her driver’s license. But in the dream, I knew I could stop the car. If I just closed my eyes and focused. And willed it to stop. So I did.
When I woke on the third night, I couldn’t calm down enough to fall back to sleep. So I climbed down from my lofted bed, sat on the floor in the dark while my roommate slept, and scrawled the dream into three pages of my diary. In the morning, I transferred those chicken scratches to a word document and then promptly forgot about it for a year and a half.
Late in May, when I was twenty years old, I attended my first stadium concert (I’ve always been a few steps behind most people). Not only do I remember every lyric of the songs performed, but also the signs, screams, and costumes of those who felt personally connected to the artist. Never before had I witnessed such a visceral reminder of the power words have to unite strangers. I went home that night and dug up those dream pages I had written so many months before.
Over the next three years, I dug through the bowels of Google in search of every agent blog and publishing article in existence, and then collected nearly a dozen books on the process of writing and selling a novel. I told no one what I was doing.
My First Novel sat completed before me. It was a heap of unnecessary scenes and a total lack of character development. And I loved it like a first born. To me, it shone the glittery gold of success. I carefully crafted a query letter, sent it to the first twenty agents I could find, and sat around picturing myself on Letterman. As I’m sure you know, nothing happened. Until: I got a personalized rejection.
Or what I thought was personalized since the agent had used my name instead of Dear Author. But he’d written that he didn’t connect to the voice. I sat up from my computer, rubbed the fantasies from my eyes, and thought, “Dear God. There is no voice.”
It dawned on me that this was the dullest story ever to grace an electronic page. It was so boring, even I had never read it all the way through. So I scrapped it and began again. Starting completely over at word one, I rewrote the novel. It was better, but not sellable.
In April, I was window shopping in a trendy part of Columbus, Ohio when I saw a particularly gorgeous human being outside a clothing store. He had on a knit hat and flannel despite the relentless sun. Little strands of no-way-can-that-be-natural caramel hair stuck out on his forehead. So, being the wildly creepy and introverted writer that I am, I went into the store with the soul purpose of observing said human.
I never even spoke to him (or saw him again) but he sparked all kinds of synapses in my brain and I thought: this human must be written into a story. (I’m so creepy I even scare myself sometimes). I went home that evening, blew off my friends’ invitation to see a movie, and wrote the first 20 thousand words of what would be my second novel. (Yes, 20,000 words in a day and a half. He’d sparked that many brain cells).
At the time, I didn’t feel confident enough to realistically carry a male perspective for the length of a novel, so I carved a little window into his world with a female POV character. And so it was born: a coming-of-age novel whose male protagonist worked at a clothing store and drew people in like a human magnet. The female protagonist got her legs and ran away with the story. I’m still in love with this novel.
I titled it: Baby Teeth.
I enrolled in creative writing classes and gobbled up every moment. They were my sanctuary. (If I could have gotten a job as a ‘Creative Writing Class Taker,’ I would be employed until the day I die). When I queried agents for Baby Teeth, I got a much more positive response than I had before (as in, I got a response). Through feedback from agents, I revised the manuscript from start to finish five different times. I’ve got it to a place where I thoroughly enjoy it as a story. Even if no agent wants it, I’m proud of it and it know now that someday, I’ll write a novel that sells.
This Moment –
I moved to Boston (thus this blog). I’m writing a new novel now and it’s going splendidly. I’m about 40,000 words into the first draft so I still have a long road ahead. But while writing most scenes, I get that delicious feeling of where is this coming from? That rare, glorious notion that the story already exists and I’m just capturing it. The words fly onto the page before my brain fully registers what’s happening.
I’m not fighting it.
See? That wasn’t so bad. All failures are just steps towards success. These are all the little failures that make up my life. Now tell me yours.