Looking Back; Looking Forward

Sorry for my lengthy silence—I have been somewhat overwhelmed with health issues and with revising my first novel manuscript, which is what prompted today’s post.

I have now completed six full-length novels (and one memoir). Along the way I have attended over a dozen writers’ conferences and learned a great deal about writing and publishing. Soon after my first writers’ conference, back in 2009, I gave up on trying to sell my first novel and focused on revising my second one and writing more. Although I felt that first book had a very compelling story, I was told that there would be no market for it because it doesn’t fit into any of the pigeon holes (specific genres) that publishers use to sell books.

At the end of January this year, flush with my success in finishing my sixth novel, I had the bright idea of pulling out that first manuscript to see what kind of revisions it might need after lying neglected for eight years.

The experience was both dismaying and encouraging. You see, when I was working on that book and trying to pitch it, people kept giving me advice about how to improve my writing and I thought I was already doing all those things. It was so frustrating. Despite my English degree, I didn’t know enough to know how to make things better.

This time, as I read through, it was as though the scales had fallen from my eyes. I found that I often slipped into omniscient POV, which is mostly frowned on these days. There were hundreds of unnecessary dialog tags and adverbs. The story, I was relieved to see, is still a powerful one (at least in my humble opinion), but it was not ready for the big leagues back in 2009.

I will no doubt go through it several more times using my “triple sifter” approach, but I don’t think I’ll be pitching it any time soon. It is indeed hard to categorize, and my vague plan is to be famous first and then self-publish this book once I already have legions of adoring fans.

So that was the looking back part. The huge benefit for me was the realization that I have indeed improved as a writer in the last eight years, which means that looking forward, I might have a real chance at finally finding an agent and a publisher.

What I’m trying to say is that relentless self-education does pay off. I’ve learned from writers’ conferences, books, and from my wonderful critique partners. I had three short stories published last year and this year I hope to do better. I now feel somewhat confident that I finally have the skills to pull it off.

WIPjoy #31

Okay, I forgot to post this yesterday. Sorry!

Sharing day! Share your premise again so others can remember it.

This is a story about a girl, Sohalie, who tries to eliminate her sister from the competition when she realizes they both love the same man, and he prefers the younger sister. Her temporary action becomes dangerously permanent thanks to circumstances beyond her control, and she must embark on a lengthy and dangerous journey to make things right. Along the way she learns to let go and struggles to forgive herself. She also meets someone new who becomes very important to her.

I recently had fun looking for photos online that are a good representation of my characters. Here is what I imagine Sohalie looking like, although her skin is a little darker–more of a golden brown.

sohalie

WIPjoy #30

What do you hope touches readers most in this story?

This is a story about betrayal and guilt and forgiveness. I hope that readers internalize the fact that no deed is so terrible that it can’t be forgiven, and that even while you accept forgiveness from others and offer it in return, sometimes you must also forgive yourself. And also, that if it is possible for you to make things right after really messing up, you should attempt to do so.

WIPjoy #29

How long do you expect to be working on this WIP?

Ha ha! I finished it on Tuesday! However, there are still plenty of revisions to do. I will let the manuscript sit for a month or two and then start revisions. I hope to be done sometime in May.

WIPjoy #28

Protagonist Takeover Week: all answers must be in your protagonist’s words

What are you self-conscious about?

Sohalie: I used to be very self-conscious about my image. I wanted everyone to see me at my best. However, once you’ve messed up your life as royally as I have, that particular worry kind of goes away. Now I suppose the thing I’m most self-conscious about it whether or not I’m living up to my husband’s expectations, because I’m still learning about his culture.

WIPjoy #27

Protagonist Takeover Week: all answers must be in your protagonist’s words

Do you sympathize with (or relate to) the antagonist?

Sohalie: It’s pretty hard to sympathize with someone who steals all your possessions, then kidnaps you and throws you in prison, with plans to demand ransom from your family that will ruin them financially. If he wants sympathy, that’s not the way to get it.

Completion Report

I am continuing do the rest of the WIPjoy posts, even though technically I have finished my novel, tentatively titled Sohalie’s Search. This has been a long journey for me. Sohalie’s Search is my sixth completed novel. All the others were written in a much shorter timespan–usually within a couple of months.

This one started in a class I attended during the Realm Makers conference of 2015. I had the kernel of an idea, and I wrote it down. Over the next few weeks, I kept thinking of ways to make it more awesome, including setting it in a story world I created for two of my other novels, though on a different part of the continent.

I started writing in November of 2015 for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November, and somehow I managed it. However, I knew I was only about halfway into the story and there was no time to keep writing in December.

The story languished until summer of last year, when I managed to squeeze out a couple of chapters. I thought maybe I could finish it during 2016 NaNo, but I simply did not have time to write. So when some of my fellow writers suggested having a “JaNoWriMo,” (January Novel Writing Month) I figured this was my big chance. It has been hard to put in the necessary hours and brain work, but I did finally finish on Tuesday morning.

Of course, there are many revisions that will need to be done, but as I’ve recently been reminded, my manuscript at the moment is the worst it’s ever going to be! I love the story and it was a bit of a departure for me as it’s my first story written in the first person. The main character, Sohalie (pronounced SO-hah-lee) narrates most of the story, but I have two other first-person narrators who have their own side of things to tell.

Now I will work on revising one of my other novels while letting this one sit for a month or two. I also have a great idea for a short story, so I may give into the temptation to work on that also.

But really, my first priority ought to be trying again to find an agent now that I have six completed novels. It’s just so intimidating . . .

WIPjoy #26

Protagonist Takeover Week: all answers must be in your protagonist’s words

Tell us about where you live.

Sohalie: I grew up on my father’s very large estate in the southern region of our country of Archbeck. It was very fertile, with many crops and orchards and a beautiful lake. Now I live in the far north, in the city of Ursindor, where there is lots of snow for at least half of every year. I ride bears and have to dress very warmly when I go outside. Hot springs help heat the buildings and keep walkways free of ice.

WIPjoy #25

Protagonist Takeover Week: all answers must be in your protagonist’s words

A line you were proud to say

Sohalie: He opened his mouth as if to speak, but no words came out. In that moment I loved him more than I ever had before. I saw him in all his tenderhearted goodness, his willingness to deny himself for Sitara’s sake, and his deep joy at learning it would not be necessary. I knew I had made the right choice, but the pain at that moment was difficult to bear.

WIPjoy #24

Protagonist Takeover Week: all answers must be in your protagonist’s words

Favorite way to relax?

Sohalie: I love to do embroidery and beading to make my things more beautiful. I also play the harp and find music very soothing. But if I really need to work the kinks out of my brain, there’s nothing like an exhilarating bear ride through the snow!