“I could write a book.”
How many times have you heard someone say that? Remember the first time you thought the same thing, back when it was just an idea, before you realized what all it entailed?
I spent over a year writing the first draft of my manuscript. I was a panter in those days, and when I’d get stuck, I’d wait for the solution to come to me. Sometimes it took days. Sometimes weeks. Eventually I completed the manuscript. Instead of reading it immediately, I set it aside for a few weeks to let my brain clear.
Then the day came, and I pulled out the paper copy, removed the rubber band, and settled in to read my masterpiece. The one that agents would race to sign. The one that would trigger bidding wars.
I began to read. Somewhere around chapter two or three, I realized this was not the page-turner I’d envisioned. It was BORING. Painfully dull. What had happened to my best seller? All the funny characters were present. They were still funny. Yet the story was flat. I’d never read anything so awful. How could I have not realized this while I was typing?
I registered for a fiction class at the university where a group of twenty students exchanged work to be critiqued. I brought chapter one of my manuscript for them to admire. The manuscript may have been a dud, but chapter one was a winner. It really was good. Really.
As it turned out, it wasn’t so good. They told me the internalization was strong, but there was no story. It was more of a character study of a woman in a single moment.
This is when I realized you need to be masochistic to be a writer.
From there, I joined the local chapter of Romance Writers of America, took another class at BSU, periodically participated in workshops, joined a critique group, and read countless books on the craft.
Here’s what I learned along the way:
- Thou shalt only include scenes that push the story forward. I was convinced the person who told me this was wrong, or just didn’t understand, because the scene she wanted me to cut was so fun.
- Thou shalt not head hop…which begged the question “what is a head hop, exactly?”
- Thou shalt have a plot. Apparently I didn’t have one.
- Thou shalt write tension and conflict into every page. “Every page? Are you kidding me?”
The first time we tell ourselves or others that we could write a book, we don’t know all the things we don’t know. In my case, it was a lot, but I learned. So, when I hear someone else make that claim, I know that with several years of studying the craft, writing and re-writing followed by editing and more editing, they might be right.