Baby Steps

Here I am, a few years into my journey to being a professional writer. I write almost every day, submit stories, participate in a critique group, and attend local writer’s club meetings. I seek out conferences to attend. I read everything. I am giving my writing craft the time and energy it needs to grow.

At this point, I need a finished product–a book. I need to prove to myself that I can finish a book length project. I need that foundation upon which I can sell my writing to an agent or publisher, but most of all to readers. I need to be able to believe that I am not just a crafter of exceptional sentences and scenes.

Over the past few years, I have developed some good stories and two great concepts that I hope will become novels. I began work and have made progress on each. And by progress, I mean 75-100 pages of character development, setting descriptions plus actual writing. I love these two stories. I long to write them. I am bonded to  the strong but vulnerable characters and the people they meet along their journeys. I want to inhabit the worlds I have built, and invite readers to join me there. I keep staring at the notebooks I created for each novel. I have struggled with my stunning lack of progress as I continued to move forward in other areas of my writing life. I poke at the work, and delve deeper down the rabbit hole of research and write scenes to fill in the spaces between the buildings of the narrative (Thanks Tom Borcazk for this image). Are these fledgeling novels my adult author version of building castles out of sand? Or are they the works upon which I will build my career?

Recently, I wrote a new story. Right away, I knew that this was another book length project. I felt that buzz when I write something good and true. I knew that the characters had more to tell me than a short story length allows. Then, I attended the May meeting of Oklahoma City Writer’s Inc. and heard JB Hogan speak. (If you haven’t read his work, you should.)

Mr. Hogan told us a little about his writer’s journey. To paraphrase the part of his presentation that made an impact on me: He has been a writer since 1970. He finally found his own author voice in 1985. About that time, he put his work away in a box in the closet, and stopped writing. But he resumed work on his projects again with renewed passion. Eventually, he rewrote all of his early works.

I interpreted his act of packing the old work away in the closet as a huge leap of development he experienced as a writer. Maybe he got to the point where his skills and perspective had changed. Maybe he had grown into a more mature writer. As I listened to his words, I accepted that my two novels-in-progress need to be rewritten. Perhaps one day, I will find the right time to rewrite them and finish the stories that are close to my heart. This is not their time. For now, it is more important to finish a book length project.

I accept that I am at a point of growth in my work. I am only a few years into my journey as an author.  I gave myself permission to honor the baby steps of growth that I have taken as a writer. With a great deal of peace, I placed the two novels-in-progress carefully on a shelf. I will have to wait, along with potential readers, to inhabit those worlds.

There is a new work in progress, now.

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