Saturday, January 2, 2010

Re-visiting a novel’s journey to prepare for the year ahead

I started my writing “career” with a homemade diary in fourth grade. In the years since, I chronicled my crushes, school adventures, joys and disappointments in diaries of one form or another. As a teen, I resorted to plain old three subject notebooks (sans dividers) because there was just too much life to pack into a tiny store-bought diary.

In college and the immediate years afterward, I began using journals; hand-selected with much thought and care to their covers more so than the inside pages. I guess at some point I realized that if the journal was short on pages, I could simply continue in another one. The artwork of their front reflected a specific space in time for me, a mood, a life phase. Occasionally, I go back and re-read them. There are others I avoid. The covers remind me of difficult life passages I don’t care to re-visit.

I journaled with each of my three children’s pregnancies. Those memories are precious. While there was awe, fear, hope and joy with each, the emotions varied with the circumstances surrounding each; first baby, breech baby, the girl. Those I do go back and re-live those beloved beginnings through ultrasound photos, prayers I crafted that were miraculously answered, and due dates (all missed of course).

With my first book being one of those major events in my life, it made perfect sense to chronicle my writing in much the same way I did so many other happenings. The first writing journal is just a 3x5 lined notebook; something I’d buy for my daughter to scribble in. New Year’s seemed a perfect time to step back and enjoy how far I’ve come.

The journey was both insightful and sentimental. I know the pertinent dates to the book’s publication: that I submitted to Dorchester on February6, 2006, the offer came on Oct. 10th and the book was released in August 2007.

What I tend to forget are the hills and valleys in between, like submissions to about 40 agents between October 2005 and January 2006. I decided pretty early on that I would go agent free if I had to because my goal was to get published. It worked for me, but not without all that prior angst.

I forget about the daily word count tally I kept. It’s a practice I still maintain. It’s so cool (or a good kick in the butt when you need it) to look back and watch the pages grow. You can’t always feel that sense of accomplishment when you’re mired in making it happen.

I started my web site in 2005, with Where Souls Collide not only unagented and unpublished, but unfinished as well. Immediately afterward, there’s an entry reminding me to “limit promo to one hour per day. Write!” Is that not the ongoing struggle I continue to face?

There are scribbles of new story ideas, lists of character names, and most importantly, every month there are goals. The to-do’s range from page counts and future submissions to thank you notes and social networking. But the cumulative message of those 120 journal pages is to keep moving forward. Keep trying, keep believing, and one day you’ll get there. And it happened. Not by luck or magic, but hard work on several levels, day after day after sometimes unrewarding day.

I’ll mark this year in the same monthly fashion with goals and entries that note my progress. I look forward to diving into 2010 with the confidence of small and big successes behind me. It’ll be fun a year from now to revisit, remember and re-energize again.

What are your writing goals for the first year of this new decade?

Happy New Year!


Farrah Rochon said...

I love this post, Stefanie. I am always interested in another writer's journey, and how they mark that journey.

I was never a big journal writer. I quickly found out that in real life I'm a bit boring, that's why I lived in make-believe. :)

I do, however, believe in each of my books having it's own special notebook where I capture story ideas, character backgrounds, and sometimes full scenes. I take it everywhere because I never know when I'll see something, or think of something I can use for my story.

My goals for this year? To sell more books. :)

Happy New Year!

Phyllis Bourne said...

I'm also not a big journal writer for the same reason as Farrah. I'm snoozy in real life. I just write, read romance novels and play in my make-up box.

Happy New Year!!!!

Jewel Amethyst said...

I am not a journal writer either. I'm afraid it may get into the wrong hands (lol).

I've been in such a writing rut lately, my goal for the new year is just to get motivated to put the words on the page again.

Happy New Year!

Liane Spicer said...

When I find a journal with a great cover I have to have it, even if I don't write in it much. The current one has been around for years and there's still lots of room left. It looks almost exactly like the one to the extreme right in your photo, Stefanie.

I've been giving my bedroom cum writing nook a going over as I'm on leave from the day job, and right now I have a pile of ancient diaries on the floor. I want to throw them out as my space is limited, but I'm finding it very hard. I have to read through each one, and each reminds me of other, forgotten people that I used to be at different times in my life. I also rediscover forgotten acquaintances and events.

Sigh. Writing this helped me make up my mind. I can't throw them out.

(My first (and only) baby was a breech too. That was a night to remember. O_O)

My goals? I started writing them here and then realized that my comment was way too long - so I'll make that my next article!