As I approach my query deadline, July 11th, the lessons I’ve learned throughout my journey of writing DREAMWEAVER have been on the forefront of my mind.
I learned that churning out a book in a month and then polishing it up does not mean it’s done. It was a newbie mistake. I totally made it. But I was excited, so what? I learned, I grew. The real work began when I learned my next point.
I learned that if I wanted the book to become the story that I wanted, I needed to dig in deep and revise the hell out of it. So I did. I went through several rounds of revisions to find that things just weren’t working. I got to the 14th fully revised draft, said, “eff it” and chucked the whole thing in the trash. Not the concept, because I was still in love with the story, but I realized the words on the page were no longer working.
I learned that there is nothing wrong with starting over. Starting over isn’t the same as giving up. I learned that if I really wanted this story to work, I had to be willing to let go of all of that work from before, and just hold onto the characters, their stories, their lives. I just had to carry the essentials that I had built start over from the ground up. So that’s what I did. Failing with the first conception of this book taught me something very important. That I could always start over . I also learned that I would not actually die in that process, no matter how painful it would be.
I learned how to revise. I started paying attention to the books that dealt with similar themes as Dreamweaver. I also really analyzed characters who shared traits as my own cast. I paid particular attention to how published works used adverbs, their lack of filler and filter words. I studied dialogue and most importantly I studied voice. Of all the things that interest me most as a reader, voice was the first on the list. I became a better writer through analysis and careful study of the books that I admired and genuinely loved. Not because others told me that I should study them, but because I said they were worthy. I determined that. Because to me, those books were endgame and I wanted to reach that level of awesomeness.
I learned to ask for right kind of help. I sought out critique partners. I found writers who gelled with me and who totally got me. I learned that when you find your people, you’ll just click. I know that’s not really helpful to the people desperately seeking critique partners, but it’s true. Keep at it. Over the course of several months, I sent chapters to my critique partners for their unfiltered honest opinions on where I could improve the manuscript. After more work, tweaks (ok, overhauls) and a few rounds of revisions, I polished, and sought help again from bloggers that I highly admire and respect. I’ve seen other writers struggle with beta reader feedback before, whether they should listen to one beta reader’s opinion over another, especially if it changes the story, etc. I knew that regardless of the positive or negative critique that I received, I wanted to be prepared for the spectrum of opinions, positive and negative. I love all my beta readers. Ultimately, I found pretty much all of their opinions to be valid. I think that’s in large part due to the fact that I can take a very negotiated read out of anything. As in I see both sides. So when it came to it, at the end of the day, I had to make the decision on whether or not implementing feedback/changing things and threading those suggestions in would improve the story or not. Only I could know how that would play out so really, no matter the feedback, the decision was up to me.
I learned that non-writers don’t really understand all the head banging against walls that writers do. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say that non-writers don’t love the writerly creatures in their lives. In fact, I have no doubt that all non-writers out there have a writer creature friend in their life that they don’t understand 100% but that’s okay because they love that person and will support them because, well, reasons. I’m much the same way. My family loves my crazy and supports me. But they also don’t really understand all this time I’ve put into this book. They’re proud of it. Oh yes! But they don’t know what it means to revise so much cry about something that I’ve created. So as comforting as it was to have their arms to run into when I needed to ugly cry into someone’s shirt for the 100th time, I learned that I needed writer friends who understood what writing highs and lows felt like. Because only someone who has revised the crap out of their own words over 50 times can understand the pain of throwing that same chapter in the trash and starting from scratch. Writer friends, they save lives.
I learned to be patient with myself as much as everyone around me was being patient and loving with me. I was struggling. I felt like I was drowning. Even when the book felt like it was going in the right direction I still felt overwhelmed. Like it was taking too long. But then I realized that I would get nowhere if I kept pressuring myself the way I was. No one was pressuring me. Just myself. My family certainly wasn’t putting any heat on me. They’d ask for updates to see how I was doing. Making sure I wasn’t riding the crazy train, checking to see if there was any way they could help in case some miraculous way had cropped up. (Bless them.) So I had to give myself a break. I learned that I had to tone down the perfectionist inside of myself who sets unrealistic deadlines and then subsequently doles out punishment for not meeting said goals. Because not only was doing this unhealthy, but it was driving me into the ground. I learned to set a realistic writing schedule, outlined clear objectives for the book, set a timeline and a deadline that was attainable and moved towards that instead. Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint.
I learned to set the bar for my book and my writing. I realized that I wanted Dreamweaver to be a certain kind of book. I wanted it to mean something. I wanted it to reach into the hearts of my readers and stir something in them. So I set that bar and aspired to reach it. I realized that if at any point I lowered that bar, then not only would I be selling myself short, but I’d also be selling my message short. When I first started writing I wasn’t about anything bigger than selling lots of books and becoming uber famous. While a part of me still wants that, it’s not because of the fame. I’m not in it for the money. For me, it’s about sharing a story. It’s about the message that my books have to share because I believe it is an important one. I believe that the characters I’ve created are dynamic. I believe a diverse set of people can relate to them. And regardless of my genre being fantasy, their problems are real. They are a reflection of everyday struggles teens and young adults face in the real world today. So while I’m not in it for the fame. I believe Dreamweaver has what it takes. I have faith in it. I love this story and the people in it.
Ultimately, at the end of it all. Throughout my journey from start to end, I’ve learned this one very important thing. I’ve learned that I have to love my story so much, believe in it so much, be willing to fight so hard for it, that regardless of how many times people tell me ‘no’, regardless of how many times even I tell myself ‘no’, that I have to keep on fighting. That perseverance will win. And I do. I love my story so much and am so thrilled to share it will you one day.