I’ve been “officially” writing since 2007. And holy hell does that feel like a long time. When I was first starting out, I thought I just need an editor to tell me what this story is and help me fix it.
The problem is, once I got an editor, we couldn’t agree on what the story was that I was trying to tell. I didn’t trust myself enough to know that this isn’t my story and I kept trying to write the story that she wanted.
It didn’t work. I damn near quit writing over that book and when I say I almost quit, I’m not talking about oh poor me. I’m talking about a year of back and forth revisions, missed deadlines and a whole lot of emotional angst because clearly, I had no idea what I was doing. Obviously, I had no business writing if I couldn’t figure out what my editor wanted, right?
It took me sending out an SOS to a very close friend of mine who happens to be a tremendously talented editor. She gave me a week of one on one time and we fixed the book. To this day, I am grateful to her for not only helping me fix that particular book but for showing me that yes, I actually do know how to tell a story.
When I started working with my next traditional editor, I nearly wept when I received her revision letter because she understood the story I was trying to tell. The key difference in the three editorial relationships is that in one, I didn’t know what story I was trying to tell. I was trying to write what I thought an editor wanted. In the other two, I wrote the story I wanted to tell and they helped me make it shine.
So my point there is not to bash the editor but to say that because I didn’t know the story I wanted to tell, I invariably complicated the problem – for over a year.
When new writers are starting out, I feel like there comes a point when you find that story that has your voice. You know it because it clicks and it feels right.
I’ve gone through a very similar and emotionally traumatizing experience in grad school. Not only have I had zero confidence in the paper I’ve been trying to write but I’ve let every feedback I’ve received change the paper up completely. I haven’t figured out the vision for that paper and thus, the writing of it has become an unmitigated disaster.
But at least now I can recognize that’s what’s going on. It’s not that I can’t write – though there can be some argument to be made that my academic writing is definitely not where it should be. It’s that I haven’t figured out what story I’m trying to tell in that paper. Once I do that, the rest of it will follow. Of that, I am confident.
I’m finishing up a book this week that I literally started writing last week. Of course, it needs a good edit but I can honestly say that this book is one where I have found my voice. The story and the characters have come to me in a pretty heavy flood of words and I couldn’t be happier with the way this story is turning out.
I consistently go through bouts where I’m sure I’m done, that I’ve got no more stories to tell. I’m coming off one of those waves right now where I haven’t had a new idea in months. And then this book happens.
More to follow as I get it prepped and ready to go. It’s a little different than what I’ve written in the past but I really, really love this story. I think it’s true to my voice and at the end of the day, it’s all I as an author can really do.
Have a wonderful New Year!