It's the end of the year and like everyone else I'm reflecting on all of the things that I've done to move forward on this path to becoming a published author...and all of the things that have tripped me up. I'm heading into year three, a relative writing newbie still, but I'm feeling less disconcerted and more grounded as a writer. When I began this year, I was querying my first novel. I was a bundle of nerves and as unsteady on my writer legs as a newborn colt. I gave my first agent pitch at a conference near my house with my eyes bulging out of my head and my mouth spewing out more words per minute than any sane person could digest. My novel was nowhere near marketable, well-written according to the agents kind enough to give me feedback, but too quiet. I had no idea how to work social media and only a cursory understanding of the whole publishing process. But I was hungry to learn and eager to do better. As the year rolled along a few key things happened to get me solidly on the right path.
1. An agent that I'd been introduced to the year before and had kept in touch with, accepted my repeated (but not pushy-I made sure of this) offer to use me as a crit. partner for her own manuscripts. Turns out it's tough for agent/authors to get good feedback because other writer's are loathe to upset them and won't always tell them what needs work. I swallowed my fear and went for it, gambling that she would want to hear it and she did. In return, she was a sounding board for my next novel idea and gave me invaluable pointers on how to attack it.
2. I put myself up on crit match ups through Maggie Stiefvater's blog and through Writeoncon. I took on as many crit potential partners as possible and grew exponentially by critiquing their work as well as taking their suggestions on mine. Not all of them have stuck around, some were one time swaps, but the act of swapping taught me lots of things about what others were doing well and not so well and where I was lacking and where I was already succeeding. Now I have several online buddies who are wonderful, honest, and caring partners in my latest WIP. If it manages to get published it will be because of them.
3. I put away my first novel when my agent buddy told me it wasn't ready and started something new.
The act of starting a new project gave me new hope and a new mountain to climb so I didn't wallow.
4. I jumped into social media and although I have nowhere near mastered it (twitter still freaks me out a bit and blogging is proving challenging to do regularly, especially when I'm in the throws of draftin), I have a better grasp of what it is exactly and how I can use it to stay connected to the industry and other writers like myself. Honestly, how did writers do it before? Social media makes finding help and support infinitely easier.
5. The single most important thing that I did all year was to make sure that I never gave up an opportunity to learn more about the craft. I read a lot, I wrote a lot, and I critiqued a lot.
6. I volunteered at my local school's library for the second straight year and as a consequence, gained a great beta reader in the librarian for my manuscripts and was even asked to speak to children about writing...twice...an experience that cemented for me that this is indeed what I want to be doing, what I NEED to be doing for the rest of my life-whether I have to work another job in tandem or not, whether I'm published or not.
My writing is getting stronger everyday and now I am past the newborn colt stage and ready to gallop. I may not get published this year. Heck, I may not even get very close, but I know without a doubt now that I am a writer and that I am slowly getting better. My hope for this year coming up is that my education will continue and that I'll be able to continue to find time for this, my greatest love...telling stories.