I hope you’ll excuse a long post. I especially hope you read through it, and that you will take encouragement from it.
If you read a certain author a lot, you might pick up on the fact that he or she has themes that run through their books. They’re big, expansive themes like “love conquers all”. It took me a couple books before I realized I had a theme in my books. It wasn’t something I consciously chose to portray…it just happened. (Writing is funny that way). My theme was “there is a “PLAN for your life (God’s Plan)”. I do believe this. But when you’re in the midst of a struggle, it’s hard to see the PLAN. Sometimes it takes YEARS to see it.
I got to see a glimpse of THE PLAN for me recently.
I was about 25 when I had the great epiphany that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Specifically…novel writing. I don’t know why this notion didn’t occur to me earlier. I’d always been a voracious reader (which I blame entirely on my mother). Laura Ingalls Wilder, C.S. Lewis, Nancy Drew Mysteries, Sweet Valley High…I devoured them. I was also highly imaginative. I didn’t just play Barbie’s…those dolls endured soap opera-like sagas. I’d actually started writing stories as far back as high school. But I never connected that with an actual career. I didn’t major in something useful like English or Journalism in college. No, I was a theatre major (which is an immensely useful career for actually finding a job after school).
After college I drifted for a long time, unsure what I wanted to do. Then this bolt of lightening struck and told me to be a writer. For the next few years I wrote and submitted….and I got absolutely nowhere. At the same time, I was still no closer to finding a career that would let me do important things…like buy food and pay rent. I needed something where I could write and be creative, but actually get paid.
So, I stumbled on another career that I’d never considered…advertising. I knew about TV commercials and ads in magazine, but it had never occurred to me that this was something people did for a living. That “someone” had to write that stuff. So, I put the writing dream aside and went to the Miami Ad School to study copywriting for the next 2 years. Then I worked – first in an ad agency and then doing freelance writing, and the back to an agency. I can’t claim that working in advertising is my dream career. There have been days when I was sure it was the absolutely wrong choice. I still wanted to sit in my room and write stories. And at some point that’s what I started to do again. That’s when I had another “great epiphany”. One afternoon I was sitting at my computer working on an outline for a new book and I stopped – literally stopped with my hands on the keyboard –and said to myself. “You’ve been doing this writing thing for 10 years and it hasn’t gone away…that has to mean something.”
I knew I had to try again. Only this time – being a little older and hopefully wiser – I did things differently. I joined a national writers’ organization called Romance Writers of America. And don’t think because it has “romance” in the title that it’s some fluffy organization. These people are serious about helping writers develop careers. I also joined the local chapter, Florida Romance Writers, and started going to regular meetings in Ft. Lauderdale.
I quickly discovered that I knew absolutely nothing about actual writing. They spoke a language I didn’t even understand. I started to learn, though. One thing I learned is that the selling a book to an agent or editor starts with a pitch. You have to be able to describe your 300+ page book in one paragraph or less. Sometimes it’s just one line. Imagine my surprise when I realized that wrestling large, complicated subjects into a line and a paragraph of copy was exactly what I did every day for my day job. When it came to writing query letters, I was a master. I also got into the game at a time when publishing was undergoing a radical change. Traditional publishers weren’t doing as much to promote unknown writers, so authors were doing more and more marketing for themselves. Then the advent of epublishers and self-publishing exploded. Both of those avenues are all about directing readers to your book because they’re not going to find it browsing on a shelf. So, it couldn’t possibly be a coincidence that my career is centered around branding & advertising. That I’d spent the last decade+ of my life learning how to sell things. Someone (God?) had set it up so that someday I’d be able to use those skills to sell…me and my books.
Of course, the awaited book contract still didn’t come right away. It took 6 more years (you can add up the math; I’m not declaring my age) and more “no’s” than I can count. But FINALLY…on May 10, 2013…I got a yes and sold my first book to Astraea Press. My book, MARRY ME, will hopefully be out late this year. There’s no guarantee I’ll ever sell more than 10 copies of this book, but it’s a start. And I guess it’s where God meant for me to be even when I was devouring all those Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a kid.
NOTE: The history of MARRY ME, and its sale, is a whole other story about THE PLAN coming together. I’ll tell you that story in the next post.