This is the story about how a little book I wrote turned into three.
Really, it's more the story about how I learned (it'd probably be more accurate to say began to learn) to digest constructive criticism.
The first words I put to paper in an effort to write a book were penned the summer of 2009. I don't know when I decided to write, exactly. I do remember being in the car with the hubs, saying to him, "I think I'm going to write a book." I'm sure he wrote it off at the time as another one of my harebrained ideas that I was sure to outgrow. I tend to have those. Do the words worm farming mean anything to you? Yeah, not proud of that one.
He may have written it off (justifiably so), but I didn't. The idea in my brain just wouldn't shut up; it had to be let out. My memories of writing that summer are a blur: I remember scribbling on a legal pad in my car at Sonic after grocery shopping. Staying up until three in the morning, alternating between wine and coffee, writing. Mumbling something incoherent to Thomas (on several occasions) when he'd ask what was for dinner. I'd found a new addiction, and thankfully, my sweet family was very tolerant of it. Seriously, I couldn't ask for a more supportive family.
I disappeared that summer, and by the time autumn rolled around, I had a finished (I thought) book in my hands. (What I had a was a second draft. And those of you who write know that a second draft is just a couple shades away from the pure junk that is a first draft. But I didn't know that. I was a total newbie, and in my mind, I'd finished a freaking book, people. I was ready to go.)
So I decided to put it out for a little test run. I asked a few friends to read it and give me their thoughts. Some read it, some didn't. The ones who did were incredibly supportive. I mean, really supportive. Way more supportive than what I think a second draft deserved.
But one tiny little suggestion ate at me like rust eats metal. I can't even call it criticism, because it was so gently given. The suggestion was that I rewrite the book (that was written from a first person perspective) in third person.
Rewrite the book from third person? Are you kidding me? Rewrite the whole darn thing??
I ran two miles that night. This detail is significant because I haven't run two miles (or one mile, or a half-mile) since I was 19. (I'm a shade older than that now.) And I haven't run two miles since. I was just bowled over by the suggestion. Didn't this person know how much work I'd already put into it? On that side of the looking glass, the few months that I'd spent writing seemed like an eternity (on this side, it's a laughable amount of time). I think at the time I justified ignoring this person's suggestion by telling her and myself that I was going to write another book in the voice from another character in the story to fill in the parts she found dissatisfying. Lame-o.
Anyway, I put the book away entirely for a few months. It was the holidays, we were busy, and I didn't want to think about it. Because in the back of my head, a little thought was nagging at me: Maybe it would be better from third person.
I fought that thought tooth and nail. I did not want to rewrite the whole stinking book. I didn't want to do it! No!
And then, on a wintery day in 2010, I turned on the computer, and got to work.
Oh. My. Gosh.
My friend was right. The book exploded (in a good way). Things that were left unseen came to life, characters that were one dimensional grew in depth and understanding. The plot thickened, relationships grew. The two worlds I'd created - the fictional version of our own, and a brand new one - seemed to come alive.
And somehow, in that time, one book became three. A little more than a year later, they're finished. And I'm so proud of them - and proud of me. Finishing this project has definitely been a defining time of personal growth for me. Reaching a long-term goal has a way of shaping a person. That stubborn I'm-sticking-with-it-no-matter-what attitude is something I've had to work for, to earn. It doesn't come naturally to me.
And now I'm in a whole new process of waiting/persistence - the haunting chore of querying literary agents. Will my stomach ever not be in knots when I go to check my email? Will I ever be absolutely satisfied with my query letter to the point that sending it doesn't have me breaking out in sweat? I don't know. But I want to embrace this part of the journey, and let it take me where it may.