You’d think I would have heeded the voice that repeatedly echoed those words in my head. But I’m writing this blog post, so I’m sure you’ve already guessed that I did not. Instead, I sat down one day during the Covid months in 2020 and just started to write.
This wasn’t the first time I’d put hypothetical pen to paper. I’ve tinkered with it in the past,
always getting stuck somewhere around twenty or thirty pages. The creative well would run dry because I wasn’t able to see the end of the story in my head. In my ignorance of the writing process, I had no idea that there was this concept called “pantsing.” Writing requires an outline and a plan and a beginning and a middle and an end, right? It’s in the writer’s rule book, isn’t it?
I wish I could tell you what it was that made me throw away the rules. I guess it was just a burst of creative energy that fueled my “make it up as you go along” writing frenzy. About fifty pages in, I started to recognize that each word was like a breadcrumb trail, leading me to the next word, and then the next. I suddenly realized that the words themselves hadn’t revealed the ending to me yet. They hadn’t even revealed the next chapter yet. But that was okay. I watched it all unfold in my head like a movie, so I just wrote it all down as each scene revealed itself. Before I knew it, I had over a hundred pages written, something I’d never even come close to doing in all my previous writing attempts. I started to get excited, like maybe I’d finally figured out the secret to my writing style.
Once I had the first hundred pages down, I sent them to an author friend of mine and asked “Is it any good?” I was pretty proud of it, so I expected her to say, “It’s great! Fantastic! Go forth and write the rest.” But that’s not what happened. I think her exact words were something like “Not bad, but...,” followed by a list of things I thought I knew about writing but didn’t. Humbling, for sure, but necessary because it forced me to do some research into the technical craft of writing as opposed to just the storyline.
I learned a few other things along the way. Like, when you write a novel that you love as the
words are flowing out of you, you will eventually grow to hate it and question your very existence as a writer after you’ve read your own story about 8,350 times. I can recall thinking “if I have to read this chapter one more time, I’m going to print it, bring it out into my driveway and set fire to it."
Once the manuscript was finished, it was time to learn the next lesson from this journey—
rejection. Once again, my misplaced bravado made me think that I would just submit it to a
publisher, they’d love it and I’d be on my way. Yeah, that’s not how this works. I had to accept a healthy dose of “Thanks, but no” responses before I finally got my Yes from Desert Palm Press.
That was just about a year ago. There’ve been a million lessons learned since then, so many of which have forced me to question my ability to do this for real. Starting a new creative adventure in the second half of one’s life is a daunting task, especially for someone like me who is not extroverted at all. You mean I have to put myself out there? Really? Can’t I just sit behind my keyboard and do my thing?
Well, I could, but that doesn’t sell any books. And selling books is harder than writing them, at least for me. I’ve had two books published in less than a year. I’m pretty proud of that, but pride doesn’t get people to read them. And that’s the part that I’m still working on. More lessons will follow, I’m sure.
So, becoming a writer in my fifties is crazy, right? Yeah, kind of. But I think I’m going to keep at it and see where this thing goes. It may be crazy, but it sure is fun.
Oh, I should probably mention my books, right? My debut is called “Two Lives, One Heart.”
And my second novel is “When It’s True.” I’d love it if you gave them a chance.
Thank you, Barbara, for writing this article.
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