“If you don’t plan to make a career of this, don’t even bother.”
That’s what a fellow writer said to me two years ago when I was given their contact just to ask for advice. I was sitting on the first 13,000 words of my first manuscript. No, it wasn’t complete. I wasn’t anywhere near ready to do anything with it, but I just wanted advice from those who had been where I was. I wanted information to help me navigate what steps I would take.
When I set out to write We All Fall Down, I had more questions than answers. I knew I wanted to finish it. I wanted to hold myself accountable because I don’t believe in starting a project and not see it through. But, the question remained… What would come next?
That’s the question I ask myself each time I hit a personal milestone.
At first, I told myself that I wouldn’t put too much pressure on this. It’s really easy for me to do that and I wanted to enjoy this new journey I was about to embark on so, when the first words I hear from this new world were… of discouragement… it set a nasty tone. It make me think right then and there “Don’t ask questions… just google and figure it out. Rely only on yourself and DO NOT ask for help.”
Now, in their defense, I’m sure there are SO many people who think they want to do something different but don’t want to actually put in the work. So, it may seem insulting to those who do, when they see people out there just randomly deciding “I think I’ll write a book today!”
I was not one of those people. Yes, I am aware that my measly 13,000 words at the time didn’t seem much… but they didn’t know that just a couple of months later I’d have another 50,000. They didn’t know that I stayed up late at night and hustled during my kid’s nap times to do it. They didn’t know that I would have five of my friends reading sections of it along with me to strengthen it… that I would reach out to many many many agents and publishing companies… only to make more changes just so that I had the best possible product that I could. They had no idea how many times I second guessed myself and shed tears and celebrated tiny triumphs along the way. And they certainly didn’t know that I wouldn’t give up.
Maybe I kept pushing in spite on those unkind words.
I couldn’t expect them to assume that I would badass the fuck out of myself – but they not only lit a fire within me by basically saying “You can’t” but it also told me that when anyone, ever, reached out for advice from me… I would be extremely forthcoming. I would share EVERYTHING – from my process, to what research I’d done, to why and when I decided to do things and HOW I decided to do them.
This process is HARD. My writing style may not be for everyone but it’s mine. However, I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to do this. I had a few professors bring it up to me as I turned in assignments but the whole idea of becoming a writer as a career was intimidating and overwhelming and just didn’t seem realistic.
Now, I know I can ask for help. I know that I’m a good storyteller, but I am not great at the technical aspect of writing. This doesn’t make me less talented, it just means I totally spaced on this portion of my education… that or the massive amount of cheap beer blurred them out. Nevertheless, despite any criticisms, I have twice as many people who have been endlessly supportive and encouraging when they didn’t really have to be. And through them and my own confidence in what I do, I now have a second completed manuscript.
It is 71,000+ words that I have poured out over the last 10 months and THIS time around I have a true proofreader who I am about to hand it over to. After she marks it up and I spend some time making my changes, it goes to an editor. Because this time around I can afford one. This time around I get to do what I tried to do the first time but just didn’t have the resources. I was SO green and had virtually no help in a professional way. This industry is incredibly expensive and takes a LOT of time and energy… I only had 2 of those and sometimes only 1.
I think it’s important to keep goals realistic. It helps you to manage yourself and your projects. So, to the woman who tried to tell me that I probably shouldn’t bother… I’m bothering.
I’m going to keep pushing because now I have more information than I did then. I have help and I have knowledge despite you. I still have questions and I still second guess myself, but that’s just how life goes! If you aren’t asking questions, you aren’t growing.
We All Fall Down was my first completed novel, but it’s not the first thing I ever wrote… I pursued it because of people in the professional world encouraging me to build on my talent and make it better. I believe I’m doing that. I believe in myself and my words and I believe that, one day, I will be on the shelves of major bookstores. It’s a big goal, but now I know it’s a goal I can say, without a doubt, is mine.