Writing a book is hard. Getting published is hard. Most writers (myself included) have several manuscripts that will never see the light of day, and enough rejection letters to wallpaper the entire house. And so when Martina and Lisa asked me to join them for the Compulsion for Writing Party, I immediately said yes. I love the idea of encouraging and supporting other writers. And like Martina and Lisa, I have thought about throwing in the towel on this whole writing business, and am very glad that I didn’t!
Why did I keep writing? Because I am a writer. I am not a writer because I am published. Being published was a dream come true, but even if someone could tell me for certain that I would never be published again (and I hope that’s not true!), I would still keep writing. Publication is the goal of many writers, but it isn’t why we write.
Publishing is a business. Writing is not a business. It is a passion. It is a compulsion.
We write because we can’t not write.
How do you know if you’re a writer? Writers wake up in the middle of the night when a story hits them – or they finally know how to resolve a dilemma or a plot twist. Writers listen to the voices inside of their head – characters shouting at us tell my story! Writers talk to their family and friends about an idea or a character until those people’s eyes literally glaze over. And writers write. They sit down with a notebook, pen perched in hand, or at the computer and bang away at the keyboard, staying up late into the night or getting up in the wee hours of the morning, skipping gatherings and favorite shows because they just need to finish that scene.
About a year and a half ago, I had an idea for a novel. As I walked the dog, these two characters kept talking to each other in my mind – arguing, no less. When I closed my eyes at night I saw images of a fog-covered lake and a dark impenetrable forest. I dreamt about it. I talked about it. I drew (well, scribbled) it. I simply had to write it.
I discussed it with my agent, and she told me that a fantasy novel would be hard to sell. She wanted me to write a different kind of book in a different genre which was highly in demand. I put aside the fantasy, and tried to write that book. But my heart wasn’t in it. It was a chore. Usually when I work on a manuscript I can’t wait to find time to write. I go through my day, eager to finish work and whatever else I need to do and eek out time at my laptop. Instead I was folding laundry and vacuuming, because I didn’t want to work on that book. I hate laundry and vacuuming.
Months went by. My house had never been cleaner, but I had written very few pages. I started to wonder – am I really a writer? Wouldn’t a real writer be able to write in any genre? I went back to my WIP and took another look at it. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. It wasn’t. It was worse. If I wasn’t excited about my manuscript, how could I expect a reader to be? How could I finish it?
And then I had an epiphany. I needed that love of writing, that passion, to spend the hours upon hours required to finish and revise a novel. If I didn’t have it, I couldn’t do it. I sat down and started working on the book that I wanted to write. The story that filled my head. I talked to my agent, who was kind and supportive, but again told me she didn’t think she could sell it, but she would try. I realized that if she wasn’t excited about my book, she couldn’t possibly sell it.
Terrified, I thanked my wonderful agent for all she had done for me and terminated my contract. I went from being agented back to square one, even knowing how long it had taken me to find an agent the first time around.
But I kept working on that fantasy novel. I sent it to my fabulous critique partner and wonderful writing group. I revised, and revised, and revised. Was it hard? YES! Did I love it? YES! (Well, mostly yes. I could not whip one pesky character into shape until draft 7 or 8.) I wrote it knowing it might never be published or maybe even agented. But I was okay with that. I’ve grown as a writer through the writing, and as Madeleine L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time once said, “You have to write the book that wants to be written.”
I finished revising Uncharted and sent out a dozen queries. Within a couple of weeks I had an offer of representation from Amaryah Orenstein, who recently left the Laura Gross Agency to establish her own boutique firm, GO Literary. We talked on the phone for over an hour, and she loved the manuscript. She “got” my writing. We talked about genres and trends and my current fantasy WIP. I felt confident that she would be my toughest critic and my fiercest champion. (And, if that wasn’t enough, she’s a very lovely person!) I am thrilled to announce that I accepted her offer, and look forward to going out on submission soon.
But, no matter what my future holds, I will keep writing, because I am a writer.
If you’re a writer, and you need some encouragement, or you want to give some, please join us at our There will be fabulous prizes, including agent and author critiques, but more importantly it’s a really nice place to share an inspirational quote or thought or story. My prize package will be yummy chocolate and tea, gourmet treats, a big mug, a pretty journal, a gift card and I will read and comment on 3 chapters of a manuscript. In addition, my lovely agent, Amaryah Orenstein, will read and comment on a query and the first 10 pages on a manuscript.
Thanks for reading my compulsion for writing story. What’s yours? Put it up on the Facebook event page anytime between now and October 22nd to be entered to win!