So I've Been Writing This Book...

Photo Courtesy of Tom Murphy VII, Wikimedia Commons
"So I've been writing this book..." A phrase I've been saying to a few select people--with more than a little trepidation--for the past year and a half.

It's not that writing is a new development for me... I've been piddling away on projects since elementary school, and before that, I drew rambling, complicated picture books--ridiculous, imaginative stories I recited verbatim to anyone and everyone who would listen.

Starting in fourth grade, I also slaved away in journals, sometimes staying up hours past my bedtime to painstakingly record every detail of my day. Dialogue, blocking, scenery-building... It wasn't enough for me to simply recount events; I had to recreate them with enough description and depth that an amnesia-inflicted me could later pick them up and build my memories from scratch if I needed to.

(The amnesia thing... A real, very terrifying fear of mine as a child. Spurred on by one too many TV movies--especially the ones where someone gets thrown off a boat and ends up washed ashore and devoid of their memories--I truly believed it wasn't a question of if I would get my memory wiped... It was simply a question of when.)

As a child, I always knew instinctively that my "thing you are supposed to do before you die" was to get a novel published. I dabbled in animal stories first--park rangers befriending eagles and coyotes, girls befriending horses, girls befriending bears, a very obvious rip-off of the movie Homeward Bound... Then I moved on to the world of fantasy... Mermaids and sea pixies, Lord of the Rings-inspired troupes of motley characters heading off into the great unknown to conquer an unfathomable evil... I switched my attention to visual arts in high school, became embarrassed by my quirky need to write in college, and graduated with a very practical minor in Magazine Journalism, thinking I should probably just grow up and forget about that whole fiction thing.

At some point in my early twenties, I came back to my roots and decided I needed to follow-through with my original plan of getting a novel published. I gave myself the deadline of my 25th birthday, but stagnancy and a preoccupation with other things--primarily booze and boys, and then the very real romance of finally finding my husband--made this goal unobtainable. I gave myself a concession: I would write a book and get it published by the time I turned 30.

But what do you say after so many years of not saying anything? My first attempt at a novel was a "returning to your roots" story set in my hometown of Panama City, FL, but I quickly learned that beautiful characters and beautiful settings will only take you so far before you realize you have no plot and no idea how to build a plot.

My second attempt was pretty hilarious. Encouraged by Bridget Jones' Diary, I thought I could simply turn my dialogue and scenery-filled journals into a memoir, so I actually spent three or four months transcribing every entry into a Word document. I ignored all practical advice--i.e., nobody wants to read your diary unless you're famous--and I actually sent off two query letters to big agencies in NYC when I was finished. Query letters that were met by immediate rejections, and query letters that no doubt ended up somewhere under the, "Can you believe some idiot actually pitched this to me?" file. (When I get pissed off at folks for cluttering up the path to literary agents nowadays, I always have to remind myself that I definitely was one of those folks during this project.)

During the summer of 2009, I finally got my big idea. And this time, I paid attention to the how-to books. I built a real story around real characters and a real plot, and I actually wrote a legitimate novel. For real this time. (A 99,000 word YA urban fantasy set in and starring all the things I love.)

So, you might be wondering why I've been saying "So I've been writing this book..." with more than a little trepidation lately. It's a solid book and a solid idea; why haven't I been telling everyone I know?

Well, it's pretty simple. Like most grounded, practical folks I know, I've always viewed the phrase, "I'm going to become an author," in the same category as the phrases "I'm going to become an actor," and "I'm going to become a rock star." Only crazy people chase those dreams, right?

Plus, there's always that ever-present, "Am I even good at this?" question. Sure, I've been writing my whole life, but my little school awards and the prizes I've won for essays seem meager and pathetic compared to the accolades many published writers have received. What if this whole thing never works out?

My other hesitation... I'm a pragmatist, and I hate talk. I can't stand those folks who stand around twirling their mustaches, patting themselves on the backs and saying, "Hmmm, yes. I'm going to write this amazing book and get it published someday..."

So, for the most part, I've been pretty silent about this latest writing endeavor. Even some of my closest friends don't realize I've been working on a novel for the past year and a half; they would be even more surprised to learn that I've finished it.

I'm finally posting all this online because I feel like I'm really in this now. I've done my research, I have lots of back-up plans, and I'm ready to finally do this. For real this time. :)