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Evolution of a Writer: Part 3

Humbled by my lack of education, direction, and connections, I should have given up on writing. But I am one of those stubborn people who will travel through raging rapids of obstacles to see that goal to completion. And, to be honest, I didn’t start with a gentle trickle of effort. I went barreling forward. Within a year of meeting with Kathy Stinson, I had written half of my first YA novel. And yes, that is barreling for me.

Slight problem: I still had no clue what I was doing.

Let’s recap: none of my education relates to writing, I’d read one craft book on writing, picked up at a garage sale (Ann Lamont’s Bird by Bird), and then I attended one free writer’s workshop at my local library, where the presenter basically poo-poo’d on the possibility of anyone in the room ever getting published. For some, this last experience, would have shut'em down, but it only added velocity and trajectory to my efforts.

And then that backfired. I kept writing without a clear goal, and only when I went back to re-read my masterpiece did it hit me. I sucked. What was a doing? I couldn't go on. I got stuck. And froze.

I had no clear theme, undefined conflicts and no foreseeable climax. There were more problems than solutions and no vision for how to fix them. I was disorganized and my mental block became an ice cube around all my attempts at rational thought. But, remember that velocity? I would not let the library's not-so-inspirational-presenter decide my future. I would get out of my pile of...snow, and figure this out.

It had been a long time since my undergraduate degree, but I forced myself back to socks and Birkenstock, hospital pants with words the butt and textbooks with theories already proved wrong. I did this because there was one brainwashed line from my faculty that managed to make it through: We are teaching you the skills to be life-long-learners (not with ice cubes on your head). If this was true, I needed to apply my four years of problem-based learning to work through my mental Alaska.

I started by writing down my four biggest identifiable problems:

  1. I knew zilch about writing fiction

  2. My network of professionals and experts on the subject was basically non-existent .

  3. My background fiction reading was sizable, but not focused to YA or attentive to what made a book incredible.

  4. I had minimal time and finances to accomplish this daunting task.

With the problems laid out, I tackled them, a little bit at a time with to-do lists i could check off. Here is how I started:

I read five new clean YA books. I asked for help from three writers. I read three books on the craft of writing fiction. I built writing relationships through two writer's groups. I read the same things again. And again. And then finally I wrote.

There was a good three month hiatus before my ice cube melted and filled my river with enough water to move me forward. But it was a necessary break. With books and people- two things I love. Thanks to these masterful books and inspired relationships, I clarified my vision, found themes that drove my entire novel, and fell in love with my characters.

I still have a lot to learn. And given that I am a life-long learner, that will always be the case. But now I have the drive to keep journeying forward.

There is a famous quote by a motivational speaker named Charlie Jones. “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

This, to me, speaks truth. I want to honor those who have and are still changing me as a writer and a person filled with evermore hope. Look for posts in the months to come that will highlight some of the books and people who have inspired me at the beginning of this journey, as well as today.

It took me three years before I was comfortable enough to pitch my book to the world of publishing. And there were many more creative droughts and icy patches along the way but, man have I grown.

Who has helped you grow over the past five years? What books have changed who you are? Please, let me know. Just think: others could change as a result of you sharing!