A Kind Word

I’m going to start with a quick introduction (i.e. excuse). It’s been nearly a year since I’ve written anything on here. Last fall, I accepted a part-time job with the local school district. So between two part-time jobs, two full-time kids, a minimum of three novels being balanced at any given time, and trying to find some time for my own mental health, blogging kind of fell by the wayside. But I realized recently that I have something to say, so I’m hopping behind the keyboard again. Hope you enjoy!

We live in a day and age that many people seem to have forgotten the impact that a simple word of kindness can have on a person. It’s so easy to be mean online. To not think twice about what you say. To let your emotions run the keyboard and never think twice about it. Cyber bullying runs rampant, partially because it’s easier to be cruel and hurtful when you don’t have to see the pain your words have caused.

As a result, I think people have started to underestimate the power of words. Yes, they’re just words. A strand of sounds put together that amazingly make sense in our human brains. Even so, words can hurt. But they can also help. It really is amazing how much an off-the-cuff compliment given at the right time can affect a person’s life. In my case, a rejection email I received years ago is part of the reason I haven’t given up on writing.

I started writing long, long ago. Like a million years in dog years. Okay, so maybe I’m not quite that old. But some days it feels like it. My first “querying” experience came when I was a sophomore in college. I had written a novel. Looking back, it was a hot mess of everything that could have been wrong with a novel. It was full of cliches, purple prose, and the plot had more holes in it than a piece of moldy swiss cheese. (Don’t ask why it has to be moldy. I’m the one in charge here.) But I was proud of what I’d accomplished. I had completed a novel. (I didn’t realize at the time that completed also meant revising the ever loving…whatever out of it.)

So with the cursor flashing at THE END, I threw myself into the world of querying. A world that I now realize I knew NOTHING about. Full of naive excitement, I attended a small romance writers conference that was held about an hour from my house. Prior to the conference, I sent an email to the editor of the small press I was going to be pitching to, asking him if he’d be willing to take a look at the manuscript and give me some feedback on it. (This is a no-no, by the way. Like I said, I didn’t know better.)

To my surprise, he agreed, and had me send over a partial manuscript. When I met with him at the conference, he had a lot of really nice things to say, and actually asked me to send the full. I was convinced my moment had arrived. I was going to be published. And my life was going to be full of fancy book tours and chocolates and…Then came the rejection.

It landed in my email a few months later. He let me down gently, saying I needed to concentrate more on my setting (which was probably his way of toning down “What in the actual f*** did I just read?”) It stung, but it was the end of the email that truly stuck with me. He said that even though it hadn’t worked out, he strongly believed he would see my name on the bookshelf some day.

At the time, it didn’t mean that much to me. I was licking my wounds from my first real rejection. But over the years, those words have burned themselves into my brain. There have been many other projects. More rejections than I care to count. And plenty of times that it would have been easy to give up writing and walk away. After all, it’s a big mountain to climb, and just like Mount Everest, not everyone makes it to the top. But every time I considered calling it quits, I thought of those words. And they were enough to push me to hit send on the next query, or jump into the next set of revisions, or start on a new project because the last one just wasn’t quite right.

I don’t remember his name, or even the name of the press he was acquiring for. And I’m sure he doesn’t remember me or that email. It’s possible he said that in all of his rejections. But for me, it was the push that I needed to keep going.

Is it possible I would have pushed on anyway? Of course it is. I’m a Taurus. We’re known for being stubborn. But I’ll never forget those words, and one of these days, I will prove him right.

Moral of the story: Don’t lose faith in words. They have power. But like superheroes, with great power, comes great responsibility. Be kind with your words. Use them to inspire. To encourage. To lift up. Not to tear people down. Because we can all use to hear some kind words every now and then.

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The Rough Draft

I’ve done it. I’ve finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, when I got there, I found out it was more like a suggestion of a light. The burning ember on the tip of a match stick. Because, let’s face it, as an author, your work is never really done. But that’s not the point. The point is, I’ve finally reached a point with my previous manuscript where I can’t do much but sit back and wait. Yes, I’ll continue to send out query letters, but my work on the piece itself is at a standstill. I could probably continue revising, changing, fixing and rearranging, but I’m honestly afraid I’d never stop. So I’m moving onto the next project.

Whatever you do, DON’T TELL MY HUSBAND! He thinks I spend too much time writing. And I probably do. This blog post is a perfect example. I should be packing, getting things ready to go camping, but I’m sitting here writing instead. Anyway, back on track. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been working on the first draft of my newest work in progress. If you’ve read my last blog post, you will remember her fondly as Phoebe. Phoebe and I have had a rough couple of weeks. I keep deleting and rewriting. I’m not 100% happy with what I’ve written, so I change it, which results in not enough time to move the story forward. And it’s frustrating.

It shouldn’t be. A first draft is a ROUGH draft for a reason. I think part of my problem is the fact that my last first draft was written during NANOWRIMO. For those of you unfamiliar with Nano, it’s a contest held in November in honor of National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It forces you to ignore your inner editor and just get words on the page. Oh, how I miss that. Apparently I need that to help me get my ideas down.

I’ve only managed about 5,000 words of my current draft, and it’s rough. It’s rougher than washboard on a county road at 50 miles per hour. Rougher than sandpaper on bare feet. Rougher than . . . Well, you get my point. It’s not very good. But I need to get over it and get the story down. Because as I write, I learn my characters. I learn to write in their voice, what they would do, say. How they’d react. And until I really learn who they are, it’s not going to be very good. That’s what the next draft is for.

So wish me luck. Phoebe and I will be out of contact for the next few days. I won’t have a computer. (My husband would be suspicious.) But I am taking a good ol’ fashioned pen and paper. Maybe then I can make some progress and learn who Phoebe really is.