This time last year, I started writing a short story… that turned into a novella. It’s about a woman in an established relationship with a man, who falls in love with another woman. Nothing original in that, but something I thought a lot of people could relate to. It was something I could relate to; a story I knew I could tell.
My lofty goal was to finish the story, and to write a syopsis and a blurb. I had no idea what to do with it after that.
I’ve been reading gay romance for some time (much published by presses who only publish m/m romance). But there’s so little novella-length lesbian romance around, I wasn’t sure it had a market anywhere. Then a friend told me about Less Than Three Press. They publish every permutation of LGBTQ romance, with a 10k minimum word count. In April of this year, I submitted. In May I had a contract!
But before I talk about my year after April, I want to rewind a few months. I started 2014 with aspirations of novel writing, of putting myself out there and doing all the things authors have to do these days that aren’t writing. Scary things like networking, having a public interface, blogging etc.
I think it’s safe to say I didn’t do very well on that score, and in truth I shouldn’t have and it doesn’t matter. Not yet. Because I did a lot of other stuff that was much more valuable and pertinent for me, and where I am right now.
For a start, I did a lot of reading: good books, mediocre ones and some that were plain dreadful. Sometimes I read like a reader, and just enjoyed the experience. Other times, I read like a writer, picking out sentences I liked, making note of what made characters interesting (or not), analysing story structure and plots (or lack thereof). I read books on writing, magazines on writing, blog posts and online articles. I went to conferences, workshops and a writers’ group. I beta read for other writers. I used all that to look at my own writing with a critical eye.
In short, I did a lot of work and learned a lot. I think I learned more in 2014 than I have in any year since I left full-time education (barring perhaps the first year of motherhood).
Foolishly, I thought once I’d written a novella, a novel would only be a little bit harder. (Laugh all you like. I deserve it.) I started in May on the high of my new novella contract. I stalled in July (school hols, general burn out and lack of confidence) but got back in the saddle in September, and finally finished in December. By which time I realised this 70k novel, which had taken seven months to write, wouldn’t be complete without a sequel. That is currently at 20k (though roughly written to completion) and is stuck there until January when the holiday chaos ends.
So, the blog pages, Facebook posts and Tweets might look sparse; like there was nothing much going on in this neck of the woods. But I worked out that if I added together all the hours I’ve spent doing writerly things, I’ve been working full-time plus overtime on being a writer almost every week of 2014. Plus being a parent and ‘homemaker’.
Of course, I want to have my work published. But one of the things I learned in 2014 is that I underestimated how long it would take me to write something ‘tight’. Time and again this year, I read stories that were meandering, or bogged down with exposition, or full of unrealistic or superfluous dialogue. Many were badly edited or just plain boring. I don’t want to write stories like that.
I’m sure my own writing has improved, and a couple of publishing contracts are great acknowledgement that it has, but the questions still hang over me: Has my writing improved enough? Is is good enough to ask people to part with cash to read it?
In 2015, I’ll still be working my socks off but I’ll definitely be more patient than I was in 2014. Except when it comes to the dawdlers at traffic lights. They can still expect the full blast of my horn. 🙂