As you may remember, last month I completed the first draft of my literary fiction novel, Beast—actual title to come soon. Writing this book has taught me many things (see 5 of them here), but it’s not done taking me to school. It turns out reading my novel has been just as enlightening.
Let your tea steep a little stronger, pour yourself a cuppa and then settle in as I share with you all about it.
1. I make stupid mistakes—but that’s okay.
You may or may not know that I’ve been an editor as well as a writer for many years and in various capacities. So, when I make a glaring grammatical error or a ridiculous typo, I cringe. Not inwardly, either. Nope. I cringe outwardly without a drop of subtleness.
Sidebar: Yes, subtleness is a real word. I looked it up, though I’d already decided to Shakespeare it if it weren’t. Also, Shakespeare as a verb? That’s all me.
- The act of creating new words and using them as though they are already accepted vocabulary in such a way that the current and all future generations eagerly accept them as such without question but with great praise
- Rocking this writing-with-words thing
Back to the topic …
So, though I cringe and don’t want anyone to see them, mistakes occur often in my writing. All. The. Time. I would venture to guess I’ve made more than one error in this post. (Yes, you can point it out. No, I won’t be upset. Yes, I will correct it immediately.)
As you can imagine, reading through the first draft of a BOOK has shown me many mistakes. As I did my initial read-through, I did not allow myself to mark or edit it. I did semi-cheat and made notes, complete with page numbers, paragraph numbers and line numbers—but that’s beside the point.
Instead of freaking out and beating myself over the head with the Chicago Manual of Style or an equally large and in charge tome, I saw each error as an opportunity. An opportunity to improve. To grow. And, to laugh.
Yes, I did actually laugh out loud at one of my incredibly ridiculous mess-ups; so, of course, I have to share it with you.
I was reading along, enjoying a particularly moving and emotional scene, when I stopped in my tracks at an unusual sentence.
Jack buried his laugh in the warmth of her neck as he breathed her in deeply, finding himself eye on her intoxicating scent.
What on earth did I mean to write? “Eye” on her scent?
After a bit more head-scratching, I finally realized it should read:
Jack buried his laugh in the warmth of her neck as he breathed her in deeply, finding himself high on her intoxicating scent.
In all honesty, I’m surprised I didn’t find more weird mistakes like that one. I woke up still typing on more than one occasion. I suppose I was eye on my muse!
2. I can’t do this alone.
You’ve heard it takes a village to raise a kid? Well, it takes a community to build a book. I have been blown away by the willingness of so many of my friends and family to help me with various aspects of this story. So many have eagerly provided their expert guidance and answers to technical questions for everything from military procedure to car types to medical injuries severe enough to render a limb useless without killing a person to how to build a house and so much more. Others have encouraged me by asking how the writing was coming, shown their interest in the story and congratulated me for following through on this crazy dream of mine. Still others—specifically my family—have given me time and space in which to write and read and, now, edit.
But, that’s not all.
The writing communities I’ve become part of over the past year have walked alongside me on this journey already. Many have cheered with me as I hit each milestone—big or small. They’ve reminded me I’m not alone—especially at 2 a.m. when I’m not the only one tapping away at the keyboard. They’ve definitely encouraged me. And, they’ve offered their help—because I can’t do this alone. I need advice. I need encouragement. I need guidance, and I need other eyes on my words.
I am blessed with some absolutely incredible critique partners. They are not only kind and giving, they are incredibly talented ladies. I cannot wait to hand my manuscript over to them next month after I’ve completed my first edit. I know my book baby will be in the best hands ever, and I also know their advice and critiques will take this from being a decent story to being an amazing one.
3. It’s a story worthy of readers.
I am proud of this book.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying this in an arrogant way. It still requires much polishing to make it really shine, but the seed of the story itself is good. Oh so good. And that’s not something I can take credit for. This story came to me more than a year ago and it told itself to me in pieces then and in more detail as it used my fingers as its instrument.
Beast is life with all its soul battles. It’s seeking for hope in an often hope-less world. It’s love and peace and joy rising up together to battle the Beasts of life. And, it’s the uncertainty of the outcome.
This is a story worthy of the best readers.
It’s my goal now to polish it for them. For you.
4. How have I ever done anything else?
Going through this process to write an entire novel has left me with this question. Sure, I’ve always been a writer. This summer will be my 19th anniversary as a professional writer. However, until this past year, I had not passionately pursued my lifelong dream to be an author in such a public and determined way.
Writing a news article or a feature article or a business blog post is completely different from writing a story that will one day sit on the shelves of bookstores, libraries and readers around the world.
This is all I’ve ever really and truly wanted to do, and this is all I ever want to do from this moment forward.
5. I am thankful for this gift and the opportunity to use it.
Stories are a gift. Writing is a gift. The ability to write stories is one of the most humbling gifts a person could ever receive. I never want to take this gift for granted or forget that it isn’t something I’ve developed within myself. It is a gift from the Creator of words and stories.
Every tale I get to tell, every chance I get to share them—these are opportunities. As I shared with you a few weeks back, I’m humbled and thankful that I get to write. That’s something I don’t ever want to take for granted.
What about you? Maybe you’re a writer and you’ve been reflecting on the first time you read something you wrote. Perhaps you’re a reader who remembers the first time you read a friend’s work or the words of an especially influential writer in your life. I would love to hear all about it! What lessons did you learn or what stood out to you the most? What made those words stick with you? Was there something in them that changed you somehow?