Almost a month has passed since I participated in my third unofficial 3 Day Novel Contest. This is rather late, most of my other friends have already written their 3DNC reflections, but the delay has given me time to think not only about my experience from this year but what I’ve learned about myself over the past three years.
First a brief recap: My weekend got disrupted with the passing of a dear friend and a wedding reception for another dear friend. Instead of having seventy-two hours to dedicate to writing the first draft of my play and start writing my next novel I ended up with about thirty-six hours. Considering the lack of time and the deep emotions that were stirred by attending my third funeral in a year’s time I accomplished a great deal. I got the first draft of my play written, and I was able to finish going through K.M. Weiland’s Strutcing Your Novel book and workbook. I highly recommend it. Hopefully I’ll be writing a review about the book next week.
I’m thankful that God gave me the clarity of thought to be able to work and the grace to accept the revised writing schedule. It’s still amazing, but God gave me a peace about not accomplishing my ambitious plans. When you struggle with a superwoman complex, that is nothing short of a miracle.
As I’ve continued to plug away at outlining and preparing my next novel I’ve thought about the things I’ve learned from focusing on writing. One lesson that I’ve discussed before is that I can find healing in writing. That has been a huge blessing for me, and if I ever get my novels published or plays performed I hope it will be a blessing for others too.
The best thing that working on writing has done for me has been growing my endurance. I am a mixture of arrogant presumption of my abilities and talents while at the same time being very self-conscious and concerned about people’s acceptance of my work. Writing was no different for me. The first novel that I wrote, Chrysalis, was a story that had lived inside of me for years. It exposed the struggle of my bitterness and anger in a way that satisfied my soul’s need to express it. I was the first one in our group to finish my first draft (if you can call it a first draft at 63,000 words). With my deep connection to my work, the relative ease of getting it onto the page, and the encouragement of my friends I was certain that I had produced a work of brilliance.
After a major revision of my first draft I began to query literary agents. Those early queries are embarrassing. I should post one sometime so you can all laugh with me at how presumptuous and horrific they are! At first I got lots of form rejections, or no answer at all, but as I polished my query I got slightly more encouraging responses, not requests but responses that were personalized. I thought I had finally gotten all my literary ducks in a row, which was good, because I was beginning to peter out. My endurance meter is only so high.
I found an agent who I adored from a fabulous agency and sent him a query. With confident anticipation I waited for his response. It came within a two week window. The positive rejection shocked me. My writing had many charms but he wasn’t connecting enough. I was crushed. I didn’t know what to do. My writing was wonderful, but no one could see it.
Desperate, I contacted an old professor from Northampton Community College (who has just released his debut novel! Read about it here. Go purchase it here.) who had pity on me and read my query material. He helped me realize the weaknesses of my manuscript and encouraged me with its potential. With another round of revisions ahead of me I began to question whether I should continue or not. Keep in mind that I had done a total of two drafts at this point, and I was already ready to throw in the towel.
My fabulous husband told me again and again that I should press on. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to have to work for success. I wanted it handed to me on a silver platter. There were also a legitimate considerations mixed in with the bruised ego. Should I dedicate the amount of time needed to make strengthen this manuscript? I prayed about it and decided that the answer was yes.
God has been very gracious to me in giving me a very successful theater that I didn’t have to work very hard at until this summer when we began the process of becoming a non-profit. For the majority of my six years of directing at Players of the Stage, growth and accomplishments have just happened. I did recognize God’s hand behind the success of Players of the Stage, but I also formed a belief that everything my life should come easily and would require little fight from me.
As I prayed over pursing publication for Chrysalis or not, God impressed upon me the need to learn how to work hard for something that isn’t easy, that has lots of challenges, and that might not make me look good. Since then I’ve pressed on with reading several different books that have really helped me grow as a writer, and I have completed my seventh draft of Chrysalis. The rejections of my revised query materials have become more and more positive, and I have a few queries that I am still waiting to hear back from.
My current plan for Chrysalis is to take a break from it until I get my first draft of Mercy and Justice on Scrivener (hopefully by the end of the year) unless of the agents unexpectedly asks for more material. Once I’ve gotten my first draft completed for my second novel, I think I need to do a draft eight of my first novel. Preparing for Mercy and Justice with K.M. Weiland’s workbook made me want to go through that process with Chrysalis to work out some of structural issues that are present.
I don’t know if anything will happen with Chrysalis. It may get published. There’s a good chance it won’t. I’ve read of many authors who don’t get published until they’ve written the third or fourth book. I am prepared for that reality and not afraid of it. Regardless of what happens with Chrysalis I’m very thankful that I’ve worked so hard on it. The hours poured into my novel have taught me a lot about endurance which I think is beginning to translate into other areas of my life as well. (For example, enduring through a business plan for our theater….) Even though I’ve never participated in the official 3DNC, I’m glad that it has created the opportunity to experience the unofficial 3DNC weekend, because that was where all this endurance building started.