I spent about 4 years between finishing the first draft of my debut novel and the time I first sent the query letter to an agent. Edits and re-writes and switching over to my memoirs to finish writing so I could edit and re-write them too! The memoirs have been published for over a year and a half now, and the focus in all that time has really been the editing of that one book.
I find myself tormented by just wanting to write and just wanting the novel done. One always takes away from the other, and don’t mention just wanting to read something I don’t know all the history behind…
I’ve found a website that I think will help me find that balance, or so I hope. Reedsy.com hosts weekly contests with a grand prize for the winner. Each new week they give 5 writing prompts centered around a common theme. You pick one, write your short story of only 1k-3k words, and submit! You can pay $5 to be in the contest, or just post them to your site for free.
I stumbled onto the website this month, and just entered my first contest. I don’t care if I win or not, though it would be fun to (not to mention the prize money). I’m happy to have a place to help me focus on a scheduled prompted writing opportunity… I’ve missed creating new stories more than I can convey, and working on this first prompt was a breath of fresh air. I have linked the page with my social media links, but will also link it at the end of this post.
I know I’m not the only one who feels stuck in perfecting things at their later stages. Sometimes it can make us wonder if we really want to be doing what we chose so long ago. We tire, we lose interest in moving forward (or trying to move forward anyway), imposter syndrome kicks in, and uncertainty surrounds us. But I encourage you to take a moment and remember why you chose it so long ago. Or even so recently. What did you fall in love with?
I fell in love with storytelling without knowing that I had long before I put pen to paper to give it a try. I understand that editing and re-writing and learning everything you need to learn is necessary for the path I’ve chosen, and I’m not upset about it. But balance is required in every part of your life. I will continue to work hard to give this novel and future novels their best chance, but in the meantime, I have to remember to visit my first love periodically- and write away!
I often forget how long I’ve been writing. The truth is, the answer actually varies. I have memories in elementary school of drawing comic strip stories of my favorite game characters. I spent years (and several rotating members) in a ‘band’ during high school in which the only thing that ever got accomplished was the piles of potential songs I wrote. A few years later, I had a short obsession with the website poetry.com and spent a pretty penny buying the books my poems were published in– yeah, they got me.
Sometime in 2009, a novel-writing bug bit me and held on. Ever since then I’ve started but not completed countless stories, some I’ve scrapped and others I’m still holding onto. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll know that I have self-published four memoirs as gifts for my family and I did actually complete writing one ENTIRE NOVEL! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve re-read and edited that novel. Next, I had a few beta readers look over it for me and used their feedback for polishing.
Now is the next step, assuming I’m taking my writing seriously, which I was– last time I checked… ask again next week 😉 Time to PITCH AGENTS! That literally is the next step in the process. That’s it. Gotta do it to move forward. But it feels like a giant leap rather than a step. I always imagine a chasm maybe half the size of the Grand Canyon sitting between me and the agents I’m pitching. Nothing baby about that step!
I’ve already spent years prepping myself to receive a thousand ‘no’s and as of this moment already received my first two without much pain thanks to my prepping. I keep fighting the fear of “it’s not ready” as I continue to research which agents feel like a good match for me. Sometimes the silence seems like an eternity, waiting paitiently for either a responce or the given time to lapse so I can nudge.
This step is not just “pitching agents” it’s researching them, following them, crafting a new query letter to match the new agent, documenting, waiting, checking emails, repeat! That’s a lot of steps mixed together in this next step. But be it baby steps or giant steps, I’m all in, doing my best to leap across the chasm.
The fundamentals of growth, in any form, is pushing outside of your comfort zone. We’ve all heard it, we’ve all tried it, we all need to do more of it. But not just anything that scares you, something that also has meaning. Something that will add to the person you are. Something that will steer you towards the person you want to be. Productive fear still gives you that bit of adrenaline rush that we all love so much.
So what did I do? Well, I’ve finished my round of edits and now have released my first novel to a group of beta readers to critique my hard work, my labor of love, my baby creation– and have asked them to give it to me honest!
You may be thinking, “How is that scary? You’ve already self-published four books.” Yeah, I did. But a lot of things were different that round. For starters, they were initially intended souly as gifts to those they were written about. The feedback and sales that followed warms my heart, but I never intended to push any marketing for them. Also, I never used beta readers for those books. I probably should have, but I had a deadline, and again they weren’t meant for the masses. Lastly, I self-published those books, and to be honest, you can throw anything out there and self-publish.
This time, the novel is intended to hopefully kickstart my career as a writer. It is the one that I plan to pitch to countless agents, and pray that my piece catches their eyes. I’ve opened up my hard work to other’s prying eyes to hear the bold truth. There is a chance that they could hate it. There is a chance that they could love it. I’m scared to find that it’s not good enough to move forward, and equally scared to hear that it is. But all of these emotions jumbled inside also fill me with excitement!
Either way, the next step is in motion. One way or another, this will make me grow into the person I aspire to be. ❤
Over the course of the last 3 years, I’ve written 5 books and self-published 4 of them. The ones I published I did so because they were nonfiction works on my family made to be gifts to my family. I have left them available for purchase as others have enjoyed reading them as well.
The last remaining of those 5 books is a work of fiction. It is the first novel I have completed, and am currently in the final edit stages. The book is out for beta reading as I work to perfect my pitches, queries, and everything in between. I hope to start pitching my novel to agencies as early as March, kickstarted with #pitmad event happening on twitter.
I have written half of my next novel, the first in a series, and I plan to finish the first draft while I begin my pitching for my first novel. My goals for 2021 include finishing the first 3 or 4 drafts of the new novel, sending queries to 100 agencies, and add a few more short stories to my collection on commaful.com @laurastephens , while I study through all of the writers on Master Class.