Sunday, April 29, 2012

It's Not Just a Dream Anymore

I met Jennifer Oliver while working at The Daily Advance, a newspaper here in Elizabeth City. She interviewed me recently on her blog site and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Jennifer is a wonderful human being and an aspiring novelist with a story to tell. Though she hasn't been officially "published" as a novelist, she has years of experience with the written word and I am glad to be able to give her a forum. Besides, her blog has a heck of a lot more followers than mine!

I have always dreamed of being a published author, but that's all it was – just a dream.  It never occurred to me that it could really happen. I mean, how many people daydream about being an actress, or astronaut, or a billionaire, or whatever else they want to be when they grow up?  Just about everyone, right? And how many of them actually get off their tushes and do something about it? Yeah, that number just decreased dramatically.

Yet it wasn't until I contributed in writing a novel a year or so ago, that something in my wee brain clicked in place. I could do this. Little old me could be an author, I really could. It would take some long hours and hard work, but it was possible.

So, after some over-analyzing, a few moments of panic, and my husband talking me out from underneath the bed, I decided what the heck – I'm going to follow my dream. I'm going to be a real writer, not some chick who dawdles and stashes tons of snippets in a folder somewhere in the desk. Nope, I'm going to a published author.

Oh yeah, I could see it all happening right before my eyes. I would do interviews and book-signings, deal with movie rights and promote international best-sellers. I'd eat lunch with James Patterson and text back and forth with Stephen King. I'd even do those Nook commercials!

Then reality smacked me around a bit bringing my lovely imagination to a screeching halt. My vision cleared and there I was sitting at my computer staring at a blank page, the cursor taunting me with its consistent blinks. How was I going to make lunch reservations with Bentley Little if I don't write a book? I had to find the proper way to write a novel, and I had to find it now.

So I did what most people do when they need information, I hit the internet. There were loads upon loads of blogs, articles, books, videos, and even vlogs on how to write a novel and how to get published. I read until my eyes crossed and my brain trembled from information overload. It wasn't a pretty sight.

Once I was able to function again, I saw that mostly everything said the same thing - there is no one true path to getting published, nor is there a “one size fits all” formula to writing a good novel. You have to do what works for you. You have to find your own groove, your own magic pace, and your own voice.

ACK! How do I do that? What is “voice?” What about structure and scenes? What if I use the wrong words? How will I know if its ready to submit? All these questions and more came swooping into my brain. I was no closer to writing a novel than when I first sat down in front of a blank document. But I didn't give up. I kept researching and reading everything I could find.

The turning point for me was when I started reading best-selling author Kristen Lamb's blog.  And then I took the online course that she taught, “How to Build an Author Platform.” Through her, I was introduced to the WANA (We Are Not Alone) concept. Kristen didn't just put this out as a theory,  she made it come alive. She started the WANA network, an amazing community of pre-published and published authors in all stages of the process, who not only support and encourage each other but share their knowledge and advice. I felt like I had hit the jackpot.

 Now, I feel like I'm truly on my way to becoming an author. I'm learning everything I possibly can about the craft of writing. I'm reading books like Plot and Structure and Hooked. I'm taking online classes and workshops that totally fit my budget through Lawson Writer's Academy and Who Dares Wins Publishing. I'm networking through social media platforms and blogging regularly. I'm half way through a first draft of a work-in-progress and along with a fantastic critique partner, I have an entire group of people who are cheering me on every day. 

The best thing though is I'm learning to believe in myself. Don't get me wrong, I still battle with that evil monster, doubt. Most writers do. This gig is tough. You are putting yourself and the work you have slaved over, on a figurative stage for all the world to see and judge. It can be scary, and downright heart-breaking if you let it.

But that's okay because I know that as a writer I'm still learning and growing. I know that I'm in the beginning stages of a journey that will most likely last my whole life. And that excites me.

I may not text Stephen King or exchange emails with Bentley anytime soon, but I will follow my dream through to fruition. I will be a published author one day. And to me, that means the world.

I'd love to hear your experiences, as well. Have you ever followed your dreams? Are you struggling as a new writer, trying to find direction? Or maybe you're a seasoned author and want to offer advice to us newbies out there? Feel free to leave your questions and comments! 

Thanks Jennifer! Check out Jennifer's awesome blog featuring interviews with authors (like me!) and others at Jennifer L. Oliver's Blog.