An Anniversary

This is a brief post. Today marks the sixth anniversary of the day I first sat down at the computer and began writing a novel.

This seems a great photo for a writing prompt. Any takers?

This seems a great photo for a writing prompt. Any takers?

Six years later, the story hasn’t been published. Neither has the second novel I drafted. Some might view that as failure, but I don’t. I continue to learn about the craft of writing. The stories are getting better. Whether they’re ever good enough to publish remains unknown. But the fact that I’ve stuck with the writing this long tells me I’m serious about doing it as well as I can.

Maybe “as well as I can” will never be good enough to find a sizable audience. But I’m learning again to simply enjoy the act of writing and bringing the stories to life. If publication follows, that will simply be the frosting on the cake.

There are still periods that frustrate me—such as when I can’t figure out what scene is needed in a particular spot or how a character should be acting in a certain situation. The important thing is that I keep going. I haven’t quit. The current WIP is slowly but surely heading for a completed rough draft. Once it’s done, I may ask a couple of betas to see if they think the story holds promise for a wider audience. Or maybe I’ll wait until a true first draft is completed. I haven’t decided yet.

But I’m hoping that day isn’t too far off. . . .

One office wall is fully set up so far

So far, one office wall is fully set up

61 thoughts on “An Anniversary

    • Thanks, EE. 🙂 It’s the rare writer who “makes it” on the first few tries. And even when that happens, the book was usually years or even decades in the writing. I think as my expectations become more realistic, I’m enjoying the writing more. And that’s the most important thing. 🙂

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  1. I’m glad you’re still writing. I love reading the stories you share on your blog.
    That first photo has piqued my curiosity. Did you take it when you were on holiday? It looks as though, once upon a time, it was a fairly large stone arch and the smaller gate with the lower wall was added later.

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    • Sharp eyes, Clowie! That photo is indeed from the Hadrian’s Wall trip. And you’re exactly right. It was originally part of a Roman milecastle. Who knows how many centuries later a farmer added his own entrance/gate for, I would guess, sheep? 🙂 I just loved the effect of centuries of use and re-use. To me, it looks like a lost portal to another world. 🙂

      If all continues to get back on track with the writing, I might really have a novel to share after all this time….

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  2. I wrote and published my first book over a span of ten years, so you’re four years ahead of me! Plus, you’ve got a second one going as well. Congrats on sticking with it. Some days it may not seem like a lot gets done, but a few words here, a little planning in the shower there, and eventually the word ‘finished’ will appear. And you’ve already got built in readers in the form of your blogging buds, so that’s the cherry on top!

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    • Well, unless this one’s published before 4/14/2019, I may not be ahead of you! 😉 I have written some this month, but these last few days have been more of the “reading over” variety. I have a handful of scenes that still need major fleshing out for me to consider them “rough draft complete.” But I’d reached the point where I needed to work from a current hard copy again. So that was printed yesterday. It would really, really be nice if I could complete this initial draft by sometime next month.

      Then, I know it needs objective eyes, even as a rough draft, to see if the story holds together (and promise), if I’ve gone off-track in areas, if the characters are working…. You know the drill! Of course, introvert me also feels like she shouldn’t bother busy blog buddies with a rough draft. But in reality, I know it needs objective eyes. 🙂

      I hope I will have to cross that bridge soon,,,,

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      • Well, if you find other writers who would also like a beta reader, then it’s a reciprocal thing, so you shouldn’t worry about bothering someone. I went through a few read-throughs with my second novel before giving it to beta readers. That way I felt it was tuned enough to read, but I hadn’t invested too much time on scenes I might have to take out. Because, as you know, killing your darlings is never fun. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Lori. 🙂 Letting myself again enjoy the writing first seems to be helping with the word count. As does reminding myself that there’s no set deadline for publishing. Of course, sooner would be nicer than later. But the story needs to reach that level first. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Charissa! And it’s becoming so much more enjoyable again now that I’m focusing on writing for the pleasure of it first. Someday, I still want to publish this one—and more. But getting the story right and having fun in the process is most important. 🙂

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  3. Good job on sticking with it, JM. I think we can all tell you’re in it for the long haul. There are gloomy days behind you and plenty ahead, but it’s the person that slogs through it all that makes it to the finish line!

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    • Getting these last few scenes drafted has brought some of that gloominess from time to time. 😉 But there were a lot more of them in that state at the beginning of the year. Now I’m 25,000+ words closer to wrapping up that draft. And that’s a good place to be. Then we’ll see how many more gloomy days the beta results bring before I reach that finish line. 😉

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  4. Congratulations on the milestone! Sometimes writing is an exercise in frustration but mostly it is an opportunity to be free and express oneself. We all have something to say but the real writers take the time to say it right. Good job!

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    • Thanks, Robin! Sometimes those frustrations are overwhelming, but I’m trying to be better about keeping them in check. 🙂 Even with a goal of publication, writing should be enjoyable—not something we turn into a painful chore. So we’ll see what happens with this draft, which is a massive rewrite of the original story….

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  5. This is all sounding good to me! I’d be very happy to beta read for you if that is of any interest (don’t feel obliged though if you don’t think I’m up to the job!). I keep feeling the urge to write a novel, and have a few ideas but can’t quite decide which one to try and build.

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    • Vanessa, I think you would be an awesome beta reader! And I would love some “fresh” eyes to see this revised novel. So don’t be surprised if you see an email from me when the draft is done. 🙂

      Those novel ideas can be sneaky. You never know when one of them will grab you by the collar and say, “Enough thinking—start writing!” And you obey. You sit down at the computer, and the wild ride begins. 🙂

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  6. You’ve heard of the 10,000 hour rule, right? From Malcom Gladwell’s book “Outliers.” He says the key to mastery is practicing any given skill for 10,000 hours. Your persistence and perseverance are adding up those hours. Publication is not necessarily the best indicator of writing skill nowadays. Sadly, many books published meet the publishing company’s marketing criteria first, quality second.

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    • Oh, yes, the 10,000 hours. If I had written 40 hours a week beginning on 4/14/2009, it would have taken nearly 5 years to have reached 10,000 hours. Given that my totals have never been anywhere near that number, it should not surprise me that the writing hasn’t yet reached the level I would like!

      It is discouraging at times to read books and think I could have done a better job even now. But that’s not the level of writing I would want to publish. I want that to be something that’s both entertaining and well-written.

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  7. It’s all about the journey, JM. 🙂 Mathair and I worked for years before we ever published a novel. We immersed ourselves in the literary world and we continue to learn everyday. Whether or not you’re published, the very art of writing is a personal one that is tailor-made for that individual. You should never have to excuse yourself or your art because it’s what it is to you and you only. Mathair and I congratulate you on your sixth anniversary and know there will be many more years to come of dedication, hard work and artistic freedom. 😉

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    • You are so right, Inion. 🙂 The best writers never stop learning and always work to make their next works even better. Of course, in this day and age, that’s not necessarily the route to great market success where the demand is for a new book at least once a year. Not a schedule that I could handle easily, if at all!

      And that’s one reason why I’m reminding myself to be happy with my pace and to possibly go indie if I decide the book is good. There are so many authors where I continue to read their series, but I really notice the decline in overall quality.

      Of course, I’m not so sure I’d have 5 or 10 or 30 full-length novels in me, no matter how much time I had to write them! 😉

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  8. Congratulations JM! That is quite an achievement and the fact that you have a second novel, as well, is pretty successful in my eyes! I’m so glad to hear you are enjoying your writing again – makes it all worthwhile, no matter the end result. Though of course, I hope you have your cake and frosting too! 😉

    I’d love to beta read for you. I too have been wanting to ask but hesitant, so perhaps one day you can return the favor for me. Of course, I only have the experience of reading many novels, having total interest in your themes, and struggling to write my own stories (oh, and I’m not busy blogging right now). I’ve never been a beta-reader before, but if you’re interested I’d be willing. No pressure, though.

    Either way, congrats and keep on writing!!! 🙂

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    • Arlene, I’d be delighted to have you as a beta reader, and I would gladly return the favor. As I said to Vanessa above, I want some “fresh eyes” on this version of the manuscript in addition to someone who’s seen the versions that came before. So when the time comes, you can expect to hear from me to see if you’re still interested. 🙂

      Should I be honest and say that, to me, the best part of a cake is the frosting? 🙂 Especially if it’s a delicious handmade buttercream version that’s half-an-inch thick all around. 🙂 Heaven!

      April insists on being busy, and wrenching my back last weekend has not helped anything. But I’m determined to get back onto a good track and stay there as much as possible. 🙂

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  9. Each and every time you sit down to write on your novel, you are honing your craft. It matters! If you’re like me, there are times when you can’t wait to get to it. Feeling inspired and the words come. Other times, it’s exhausting, straining as if you’re birthing something! But be proud, JM–this writing thing is daunting. A novel is a beast and even after you’re finished, there’s still a ways to go. Your office looks bright and inviting and the perfect place to evoke some serious creativity.

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    • I’d love to have more of the “can’t wait to get to it moments” again. April, alas, hasn’t been as filled with free time or as free from complications as i would like. Did I really need to wrench my back while vacuuming on Saturday? Slowly, the tightness is easing, but the emphasis is on slowly. Sitting, standing, or lying down for any length of time is really difficult. I have to mix it up, or I feel like I’m back to square one.

      I think the office will be a good one for creativity if I can ever finish putting it fully together. 🙂 Some artwork still needs to go up, and some things feel “out of place” for now. It’s all a matter of fine-tuning what should be where. And, of course, there are the simple distractions of exploring a new house and city. Although, this city actually dates back before the Revolutionary War…!

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    • Doing it right trumps getting published for me. 🙂 But sometimes I’ve forgotten that very simple fact, and it’s led to great disappointment and struggles that were harder than they should have been. We’ll see if I can keep myself on track this time so that when the story is ready, it will be an enjoyable one for you to read.

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  10. Lately I have been wondering about my blogging buddies and their WIPs and hoping no one is giving up. I also hope you know I’m always available to beta read for you, so please don’t hesitate to ask.

    You’ve had a lot going on the past few months, and yet you’re still moving in a forward direction with your work. I think you definitely have proven you have the chops to see this to completion. There is an audience for every well-written book, so I know you have nothing to worry about.

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    • Thanks, Kate. 🙂 I’m seeing glimpses that at least some of our blog buddies have been making progress on their WIPs while they’ve been away. And that’s so good to see. I’d hate for any of us to give up completely. I honestly believe that many of us tried to take on the so-called social media “musts” too soon, or at least too seriously for where we were with our writing. The support and encouragement of fellow writers, of course, is an immense help. But I think we tried to do too much, and that negatively impacted our novel writing. I’m glad some of us are finding a course that’s more sustainable—and enjoyable. And lets us work on the WIPs!

      And you can bet that when I do finish this draft, you will be hearing from me. 🙂

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  11. Congratulations JM — I love that you’ve observed this anniversary. Things that are meaningful to us in our lives need milestones to celebrate the journey, especially when it’s a long journey, as writing surely is. Congratulations, and keep writing! You have a lot to share, and beside that, it’s good for the soul!

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    • Thanks, Silk! Of course, when I started this journey, I was convinced I’d have two published novels (or more!) by this time…. Well, there’s the naivete of inexperience for you. 😉 I take it as a good sign, though, that painful jolts of reality didn’t stop me from writing. Maybe they drove me to pause for more time than I’d like, but I never quit. And now that I’m more accepting again of the idea that enjoying the writing is the most important thing, I have made more “progress” than I have in seemingly ages. Funny how that works, isn’t it? 🙂

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  12. YEA writer! (and what was the first word you typed in that first sit down? Do you remember? just curious…odd stuff interests me…wonder what other writers’ first word was….sound like a research grant to me, snort)
    You have an office window – can see light brightening up things there.
    Great opening picture…all I can think is “The proud arched rainbow left when the men closed the passage – what other choice was there?”
    Do you have tons of pictures from your trip around you when you write? Those places whisper….
    Congrats on such a productive year and strong will to write on no matter what!

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    • Thanks so much, Mouse. Early blog buddies like you are a big part of the support network that keeps me going, even on the dark days. 🙂

      There are lots of trip photos that will get up on the walls soon—both in my office and around the house. We love putting together montages as reminders. 🙂

      And the first words I wrote are still the opening words for that story. My archaeologist, who’s working in Guatemala, calls out: “Cuidado, Vicente. Cuidado, por favor.”

      We immediately switch to English after that brief opening!

      And that’s a cool response to the prompt. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Andrea! I think I’m in a much better place with writing than I was a year ago. And even with everything that’s happened over the past few months, I’m feeling more energized in general. And that’s a good feeling. Now, if it would just translate into making my wrenched back heal up sooner rather than later! 🙂

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  13. My first book took nine years from first draft to getting published. I had a really ambitious story with the time travel and two points of view. I don’t think I had the chops to write it in the beginning, but I stuck with it and as I look at this ARC I think wow, I got there. 🙂

    You want to do justice to your characters and your story–you’re a great writer who cares about delivering the best story you can. Hugs JM! Love that wall too.

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    • Thanks, Kourtney! 🙂 This was my first serious idea for a novel, even though I didn’t begin writing it until I was already working on another one. And even though the first version wasn’t the right one, I’ve always thought the basic premise of the story is really good. So this near-complete rewrite is me trying to do justice to that idea and to get the story right. “Time” will well if this time travel novel will see the light of day. 🙂

      In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to reading yours! Hugs!

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      • Every line you write and rewrite is making you a better writer. It’s a long process but we eventually get to that point where we’ve done all we can for the story. I think it will find its way into the light of day. As long as you stick with it, the book will eventually find the right home. 🙂 Aw thank you! It’s so cool that we both have a time travel novel. 🙂 Hugs!

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  14. Congrats, JM. You and I are following a similar writing curve, for I had my six-year anniversary in January (although I don’t remember the exact date; it was somewhere around the MLK holiday). I’m with you — I don’t know if my novel attempts will ever be of publication-worthy quality, but I wouldn’t trade this journey, or what I’ve learned, for anything! For me, the joy is in the writing itself.

    If you need another beta, let me know 🙂

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    • Thanks, Gwen. When we set out on a new adventure or try our hands at something new, there’s no telling where we might end up, is there.

      I spent too much of the last two years convinced that I would never be published. And I let that get in the way of simply enjoying the act of writing. Since the last part of last year, I’ve been working to get all the aspects of writing back in the right order. And that’s finally coming to fruition, I think. I’m finally reaching your space where the joy is in the writing itself:)

      I’d love to have you as a beta reader—I know how highly Kourtney thinks of your talents! I’m still deciding how many readers to go with for the rough draft, so I will let you know. Even if I go with fewer for the rough draft, I always like to have fresh eyes for following drafts, too. Don’t be surprised if you see an email from me when the time comes. 🙂

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  15. Congrats for your staying power! Without it, no matter how much talent we might be endowed with, we would never have a completed manuscript. You are doing well!

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    • Thanks, Helga! I forget the percentages, but I know there’s a famous quote out there that writing is mostly hard work and “stick-to-it-iveness” rather than inborn talent. Of course, the talent is important, but the willingness to work at the craft and improve one’s skills are vital. I would still love to be published someday, but even if not, writing the best stories that I can is good in itself. 🙂

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    • Thanks! 🙂 I can’t deny the fact that I would love to be published someday (and sooner rather than later). And I hope this new house and office help me create a manuscript that’s up to snuff. I just have to remember that the enjoyment should come first. 🙂

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        • Definitely! For me, it was a real kick in the gut when my excellent beta readers’ comments made me realize that the original versions of the two novels just weren’t going to cut it. The fact that I’m rewriting them rather than just quitting still amazes me!

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          • Way to go. I’ve had beta readers asking for some overhauls that hurt, too. Of course, they’re right, but it’s hard to admit it wasn’t perfect the first time! 🙂 Rewriting is hard. I look forward to not being new at this and therefore much better. Practice makes perfect and all that. But you’re right, if not for the joy of writing….

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  16. I like your attitude towards your writing. Writing a book takes a lot of time and patience. And with each chapter we do, each scene we write we learn more about what works for us and we learn to get in touch with our unique voice. I have four or five novels stacked away in a drawer and when I look at them now I wouldn’t want them published – at least not as they are.I would be too embarrassed. But with each book I got to develop my style of writing a little bit more.
    I live your wall! 🙂
    All the best in figuring out what scene is needed in a particular spot or how a character should be acting in a certain situation. I’m sure you’ll find a solution soon enough. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Carol! Sometimes just writing something that ends up being tossed is what’s needed to figure out what really should be in that spot. That’s what I’m trying to do with the last few scenes that are needed to bridge some gaps in the story. Just get some ideas down, which, if they don’t work, could lead to better ones.

      It was depressing to shelve the original version of this story, but even then I knew the basic idea of it was good. Taking time away from it helped me figure out a better way to express that idea and develop it more fully. Of course, my fingers are crossed that this is, indeed, an improved story! 🙂

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  17. Merci beaucoup! This is exactly what I needed to read today. Nearly two weeks after beginning that first novel, I injured not one but both hands and was unable to write, read a book, hold a pen, type… Today I am trying to get back into the story. At least now I can cross my fingers. 😉

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    • I keep reminding myself there is no set timetable for writing a novel. Some people can write a draft in 3 months. Others need 3 years. And 30 years is not unheard of. If Life intervenes—as it did with your injury—there’s no telling how long the process might be delayed. But I firmly believe that if the story is one we believe in and feel compelled to set down, then we will do it when the time is right for us. Many factors can influence the “right” time—how strong is the desire to publish, how serious is the effort to write the story well, and so forth. And those factors are as individual as the writer.

      I hope you soon find yourself happily back in the story. And thank you for joining in the conversation! 🙂

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