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Friday, October 20, 2006


Most people who knew me had no clue that I wrote until after I sold my first book. You see, not only was this something intensely personal to me, if it turned out I sucked at it and was going to fail miserably, I preferred that no one be aware of the death of my dream except me.

It started to change a little bit in 1999 when I first admitted to an online friend that I wrote. In fact, she's the only one who's ever seen the first draft version of Ravyn's Flight because I never sent it to anyone else. And I did admit what I was doing, what I wanted to do to a few really close friends, but that was about it.

I ended up getting a little more exposed with another group of online friends. At this point, I was working on my first round of revisions to RF, and during a chat, they coerced me into sending them the first chapter. I believe there were five of them. I still remember how nauseous I was after I hit send. I paced the house from one end to the other, certain they were going to critique the hell out of the chapter, that I'd see a sea of red pixels on return emails, that while no one would say anything, the message of pity would be clear. (The poor dear thinks she can write.) And I was hugely relieved when the first email came back and she liked the chapter. Yet I still went through the tortures of the damned every week for five or six weeks before I became accustomed to these women reading my story.

After that, though, I routinely and regularly sent out my chapters to this group because something became clear over the course of RF--they spotted things I didn't. I didn't always agree with their comments, but it made me think about why I was doing something and it strengthened the story immeasurably.

But I still didn't tell my parents, family, acquaintances or coworkers until after I had an offer for RF.

Last night, I had a conversation with one of my writing buddies about the WIP. I had this list of questions I felt had to be answered and we discussed back and forth for more than an hour. She raised some problems I hadn't thought of and helped me brainstorm solutions. These types of discussions really help me get a handle on my stories.

And that's what had me remembering when I didn't have a critique group and why I'm so glad I have trusted friends now.

I don't think it's all bad that I was completely on my own at first because I had time to develop confidence in my decisions and in myself. I think some beginning writers get in critique groups too early and end up gutting their stories to please their peers because they don't have that faith in themselves. And I think keeping myself isolated helped develop some skills I otherwise wouldn't have acquired until later.

On the other hand, I also think it's a shame I didn't come clean a little earlier. I wonder if I would have sold one of my earlier books (maybe the one the editor had gone through for me and post it noted all up with suggestions?) if I'd had people making me think about the story more. I probably did wait too long.

But everything happens for a reason and we're where we're supposed to be when we're supposed to be there. So obviously I wasn't ready to be published before RF came out. And I think that's what some writers lose sight of in their desperate pursuit of their dream--sometimes you're just not ready no matter what you believe. Looking back, I'm grateful I didn't sell one of my earlier stories. I've grown so much as a writer and as a human being and what I'm writing now has more depth.

Even looking back at my unpublished book, the one I wrote after RF, I'm sooo thankful that I ended up withdrawing it. Obviously, it was a story and characters I felt I needed to do, but it makes me cringe to look at it now. Maybe someday, I'll rewrite the whole thing, but more likely, I'll just move on and keep moving. Because since then, I have continued to change and grow. That's what a writer should be doing on each and every book.