Monday, August 11, 2008

Writer Duldrums and Your Starting-outs

I'm having a bit of the writer doldrums. My writing buddy is away in the middle of the woods somewhere with no cell service or computer service. And good for her, she deserves it! She's been away before and I've still done my list of writing goals and gone on without her with no problem. But today is different.

Maybe because it's a chilly Monday for the middle of August and I've been up late and woke early to read The Half Blood Prince - my favorite Harry Potter of all, so far.

But I feel down right down.

Maybe because I was sick over the weekend and my lingering mood is left-over virus, but still... I can't seem to shake my low spirits.

Like I said, I was reading Half Blood Prince this morning and marveling at how JK just keeps turning and twisting her stories and how she never ceases to amaze and surprise me. And then I started thinking about Stephenie Meyer and The Twilight series, and then I started reading all of your lovely blogs - most of you are already contracted and have second and third books on the way, have agents, and editors, and line edits to do, etc. And well, I guess I am having a pity party.

So, I need to turn that around right now... Enough of that! And you can all help me...

See, all of you, including JK and Stephenie, at one time in your career paths, had only a rough idea of your stories. You had a first draft or maybe even a second or third draft and not much more. You didn't have an agent yet, or interest from an editor. We all start out at the same place -- the beginning -- the time before a polished, clean 6th draft, the time before an agent, the time before a contract... I want to know about that time to help lift my spirits and give me hope, remind me that we all begin at the beginning.

So, if you will humor me, remember back, way back, to when this was all just a huge, fantastic dream and you were writing your first novel. Maybe you had never even written one before. It was sometimes a dark and murky experience with flashes of light and inspiration. Can you remember that time?

What did it feel like when you finally finished that first draft of your first novel? What was your big moment like when you knew, after many revisions, that your novel was as good as it was going to get without an agent's notes? When did you know it was ready to send off to an agent? How did you meet your agents? Did they love your story right away, or at first say no? What was the turning point for you when being a children's author became a reality and not just a dream?

If you don't mind sharing, please stroll down memory lane with me and tell me about your starting-outs as writers. I would love to hear about it and know that each of you were once where I stand now, with your nose pressed against the glass peaking in on contracted writer's lives, hoping, dreaming, and praying -- a lot of praying...


PJ Hoover said...

Ok, I rarely put out my negatives, so I'll share a story I read on Rick Riordan's blog. Someone asked him how it felt to be an overnight success. He wrote about how far he was from that. He remembered signing where no one showed up. Anyway, can't remember all the specifics.
When I finished the first draft of The Emerald Tablet, I thought it was perfect and someone would knock on my door and offer to buy it. Yeah, not nearly the case. Not by a long shot.
Um, email me if you're still feeling down later :)

beth said... first novel? That was over 8 years ago when I was a sophomore in college--I wrote a rip-off of Narnia sans talking animals. I dashed it off, and I can still remember the giddy feeling I got as the page numbers grew...I'd never written anything that long before! I wrote a sequel before I thought about publishing it...because I figured, I could just get it published whenever I wanted, just mail it in to Random House or whatever and they'd snatch it up! HA!!

My biggest problem is revisions. I never had enough faith in those two novels to revise them, so I stashed 'em under the bed. Then I wrote another book, and had so much fun writing it that I wrote all five sequels. And while I have revised the first one, and while I have gotten *achingly* close to publication with the first one, it hasn't happened.

So then I wrote another book--and in the midst of revising it, I got an idea for a whole other book and wrote it. (Can you tell how much I hate revising.) Now I'm revising them and rewriting them...and if I get any success with them, trust me, you'll hear me shouting joy from wherever you are.

Sheri said...

PJ - I emialed you! People are over night sensations only to those who don't know them!

Beth - so what? is that like 9 novels you've written so far! Shish!

keri mikulski :) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
keri mikulski :) said...

I'm such a newbie, Sheri. I can't really post a wonderful story of success. But, I will tell you that persistence and patience is paying off everyday. And my deal for SCREWBALL arrived after a ton of hard work, which meant sometimes working for free to get my foot in the magazine publishing door for clips.

I never really thought as myself as a writer. I never felt smart enough. I thought I just had crazy ideas.

The turning point? The day I received an email from the publisher of the magazine I was working for to turn my fictional series into a book.

BTW, I think we live near each other. It's pretty cool here, too. Keep writing! And have a great day! :)

Sheri said...

Keri, thanks for sharing your story. So magazine writing really helped you get your start. I live very near NJ Life and have often thought about freelancing for them, but I can't think of an article to write... Where did you get your article ideas from?

keri mikulski :) said...

Hi, Sheri! My crazy brain. Life experience. Sometimes, from things I'm going through. You should go for it. :) You never know where it's going to lead. :)

Sheri said...

Hmmm. make money off my crazy brain... What a genius concept Keri!

Lapillus said...


Thank you for the kind comment on my blog. As you know, I've been in a writing funk myself and our situations seem a tad similar. All around me are writers who seem so much more driven. They are finishing projects right and left. Some have agents, some have contracts and publishing deals, etc. I guess I'm feeling just a tad inferior and infantile in the industry.

Another thing I found amusing is that I am presently re-reading the Harry Potter series. Maybe JK's genius is what is dragging us down, hehe. I know it makes me boggle in awe!

And my first novel? It was a 150k word monster that I wrote in five months. The biggest problem at the time was that I couldn't bring myself to edit it. I much preferred to start something new, so I did. Unfortunately that trend has remained constant. I continually start new projects and never finish anything. *Sigh* The positive in the story, however, is that I look back at that first novel and shudder. It's terrible. And because I can recognize that, I know I'm growing as a writer and I cling to that knowledge.

Thanks again and best wishes!! We can kick this!

Sheri said...

Lapillus, yay! Welcome. That was quick! I agree... it IS JK who is dragging us down! LOL Sometimes it's hard seeing everyone around you making it, but then I have to remind myself that this is a good thing and to use this as inspiration and proof - if they are making it, then so will we in our own time!

Angela said...

My first novel was a dark fairytale MG novel. It started as a story I told to my dtr as we walked to the bus stop each morning. It finally got to a point that I had to write it down (and figure out an ending). When my daughter found out there was a written version, she demanded a chapter every Wednesday. I worked on it every day. Sometimes I'd turn in a chapter on Monday or Tuesday --- she still demanded a Wednesday chapter.
When I finished the first draft I called her to the keyboard to type THE END.

Amy Tate said...

Hmmm. I must have had the same weird virus. But today I met with my SCBWI critique group and felt much better after a good pep talk! Now if we could just talk the library where we meet into letting us munch on some dark chocolate while we're there - we may just write that best seller! Hang in there, this WILL all be worth it someday.

Rebecca said...


You know that I haven't snagged that big publishing contract yet. But, I have had success as a writer, and I'm not just talking about actually WRITING A WHOLE NOVEL (didn't see THAT coming), but other, smaller successes that are still big to me.

Like my first poetry sale to Highlights. A member of my critique group told me how much of a long-shot it is to get published in Highlights, like she was trying to discourage me (or, from her POV, maybe helping me not get my hopes up--aren't you supposed to tell people to keep trying? but anyway...).

Of course I kept trying. I submitted nearly 30 poems to Highlights before getting my first sale (Grand Slam, August 07 issue). It was a life-long dream come true.

I'm certain that my dream of having a book (or a dozen books) published will come true too, as long as I stick to it. And I will, as long as I love writing.

BTW, did you have an adventure with your kids yesterday? ;-)

Sheri said...

Welcome Angela! And thanks for sharing. I loved your story about your daughter setting your deadlines! Cool idea. One of my picture books came the same way... my daughter refused to change out of her pajamas and I said, well you know about the pajama princess don’t you? And it became her favorite story for me to tell at bedtime until I thought, Duh! Write it down! That was maybe my second or third PB and then I switched to MG novels. I'm too wordy for PBs... can you tell? ;)

Hey Amy, thanks for visiting. Be careful! That virus is very catchy. You weren't reading Harry Potter when you became ill were you? I've heard from some other writers that they were stricken just after reading JK also... Which chapter of SCBWI do you belong? I'm a NJ chapter member. It's amazing how different each state is.

You're right Rebecca, And I think I remember your big event for Highlights... could that be? I remember you posting about it. A fellow writer-friend of mine in my group was also published there as her first paid gig. She was elated! We did have an adventure on Thursday. I have been so busy I didn't get to post about it. But I will this weekend. So stay tuned for more Rebecca inspired Adventure Thursdays...

K. M. Walton said...

Hey - I am sooo with you Sheri. This whole deal is hard, from start to finish. But, I figure, if it can happen for other writers, why not me...why not you? Right?

I have a stack of rejection letters for my 5 PB's, dating all the way back to 1994! I just finished writing my very first YA novel - it is in the hands of an agent and I am in limbo - which really does stink.

This process is hard and at times, disappointing. But you know what? It will make ALL of our successes that much sweeter.

Keep on moving forward...
p.s. I love blogging - I just started my blog this past July. Quite addicting.

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous