Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Journey

As a writer, my journey to publication has been long and winding, with several rest stops along the way. When I first started writing, I wrote mainly at night while my kids slept. I’d crank out pages during the two hours between the time I put them to bed and me to bed. It was a secretive time, with no one allowed to know about it, much less read what I wrote. Kind of like driving aimlessly on a winding, dark country road, where the only thing you see is what’s illuminated by your headlights.

Once I’d written my first draft, I realized how much I didn’t know about writing. I joined RWA, took on-line classes and entered a few contests. I still didn’t want anyone to see what I’d written, but I knew I needed feedback other than my own. My journey had moved off the single-lane country roads and onto slightly wider, more-trafficked back roads. The visibility was better, but there were more cars to avoid and I needed to have a destination; otherwise, frustrated drivers would honk their horns as they hurried past me.

I got a little braver and attended conferences, where I actually identified myself as a romance writer. I met with agents and editors and pitched my story. I submitted queries and partials to them and waited eagerly for their feedback. Publication was a distant dream; I was in it more for the experience and kernels of wisdom that a few friendly industry experts might wish to give me. I’d graduated to city driving. My reflexes were faster and I could avoid the slower drivers by changing lanes.

I continued submitting my first story to other editors and agents. Positive feedback coupled with eventual rejections encouraged and discouraged me, but I kept at it. There were potholes and construction delays on the highway ramp; I screamed uselessly from the privacy of my own car, but refrained from leaning on the horn. I began writing my second story.

I was wiser and braver now. I found a critique partner for my second story and actually let her see my writing, cringing every time she sent back her response via email, and then smacking my head over all the things she saw—good and bad—that I could not. I creeped out onto the highway, staying in the right lane the whole time

My critique partner alternately boosts me up and smacks me back into reality, depending on what I needed that day. I was braver about submitting, taking chances. I still don’t talk about it, but I was making progress. I’d moved out of the right lane into the center, with an occasional foray into the passing lane (shutting one eye and screaming the whole way).

The day I received my first contract, I announced to everyone what I’d spent the past six years doing. I saw that talking about it didn’t have to destroy my dream and that encouragement and pride from others made me feel good about myself. I could pass even the semi-trucks and as long as I left them plenty of room, I didn’t get run over. I was still on the journey, but had a lot more confidence. And somewhere along the way, I found that it was fun!


  1. I love this analogy, Jen! Creative, vivid, accurate.
    Wow. It's given me a boost today.

  2. Oh good, I'm glad. Wasn't sure it worked as I wrote it.

  3. Fantastic post, Jen - LOVE the analogy! In contrast, I jumped straight onto the highway in the 1960's, but then stopped off at a motel (for several years!) and it took me some time to find the highway again. Now I'm starting to think the highway I'm on isn't the correct route, so I'm looking out for some road signs to point me in the right direction!

  4. Thanks, Paula. Writing careers and children should come with directions.
    But I think you've done a pretty good job, and that motel might have been a good stop for you!

  5. Oh I loved the analogy!! Great post!! I think I'm stuck in the ditch!! LOLOL!! Cheers, Jenn

  6. Jenn, you make me laugh! You're not stuck. You write all the time, and you write for others to read it. You're way ahead of me on that one.

  7. Jennifer,

    Awesome post! I love this analogy...

    Well thought out and well said. No wonder you're now a successful published author!

  8. Thank you, Debra, you're very nice to say that. :)

  9. Oh wait!! I was referring to writing my novel--sorry I wasn't quite clear!! Cheers, Jenn.