Something happened today that hasn’t happened before. I came home from my local writers’ meeting discouraged rather than charged up.
Our topic for the day was helpful, and our discussions lively—but I had scarcely a word to say. The problem? Simply that I got a renewed view, not only of what it takes to get published but how far I am from arriving. Our leader was I’m one who knows personally about how long it takes to build up your craft. She mentioned two years—and I didn’t have the courage to correct her that it’s been closer to five.
Those five years had already been on my mind, and I think they are probably the bottom line of my current state of mind. In another two months it will be five years since I attended my first writers’ conference. That’s when I learned something so basic as having to have a main character rather than a nice ensemble cast, and the main character was to be someone with a problem that needed solution, someone who learned and grew as a person in the course of the story.
Fine. I settled on Sharon as the obvious one, and I think I’ve done well in giving a depth to her problem that wasn’t there before.
At the end of 2006, I connected to the American Christian Fiction Writers and Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, and I began to learn the craft of fiction writing big time. I’ve worked hard to apply what I’ve learned, and I’ve felt all along that I was getting somewhere.
Then at the big ACFW conference in September of 2008, it became clear that I needed to cut off the first six months of my story, including the reams of back story that had been plaguing me forever, and start the story when Sharon came back rather than when she left. I told everyone it would take me a couple of months. But here I am sixteen months later, still hanging on by a thread to one agent’s invitation to send him something—and I know that I’m still not fully ready. Last evening I was looking over my three sample chapters and was dismayed to find how many unresolved issues they still have.
This morning I debated whether to ask if I should still go ahead and submit to that agent, or if it is entirely too late, but I decided not to ask. I have nothing to lose by sending to him. All he can do is say no. Yes, it will be an opportunity lost, and I hate that, but I’ve tried hard, yet I haven’t arrived at where I need to be.
In the days ahead, I will share some specifics of what is troubling me today. Some of it has been troubling me for a long time. I’ll finish up with just one of those for tonight.
The feelings and reactions of others
I do not at all blame friends and family who don’t understand what is taking me so long. I don’t understand it myself, but I understand it better than they do. Yes, I can respond to hubby that “I have another life!” but it is more than that. It isn’t just time. Even when I have time, I often find it hard to focus and accomplish.
Another reason for the five years is that some of the things I’ve learned have been a challenge to master and apply, and time has relentlessly rolled along. I’ve written about some of those lessons in this blog.
Meanwhile, family members and my prayer partners watch from the sidelines, wondering and puzzling over what all this is about. Some of them, I know, wonder if I’m not ruining my story by trying to “improve” it. I’m positive I’m not, but until and unless I ever get a publisher, I can’t explain that to anyone else.