October is a month of anniversaries for me. The first week of October my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary, and this upcoming week I will celebrate another important milestone. It’s the first anniversary of my first blog post, my first query, and my first rejection.
After ten rejections, I decided to pull back and reassess. I had great beta reader response to the characters and story, so what might I be doing wrong at the query step? What else might I be doing wrong? I knew I needed a professional to steer me in the right direction. Just as I did when I started my decorative finishing business over a decade ago, I needed to find a great teacher to guide me. The last thing I wanted to do was waste time. If I’m going to invest this kind of time in something, then I want to do it well.
Just as in fine art and decorative arts, there’s a big difference between the professional and the amateur that the untrained eye might not perceive. As I told one of my fellow decorative artists after I began to learn more about the craft of writing, “I had lap lines all over the place.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term ‘lap line,’ it is the ‘veining’ that you sometimes see in glaze work. If the artist can finesse them, they look like veins; if they can’t, they appear as darker lines and areas that ruin the look. Either way, they are something that marks an amateur. To the untrained eye, they might be interesting; but to the trained eye, they are a major mistake that make professionals cringe.
Fortunately, I found Barbara Rogan who taught me how to avoid those ‘lap lines.’ Barbara is a former literary agent, current teacher and editor, as well as author of eight novels. With her critique of my first twenty pages came an invitation to participate in her Revising Fiction Workshop, a once a year, invitation-only boot camp she offers to a select few with completed manuscripts. Boot camp is my name for it because that’s what it felt like. It was rigorous and intense for the eight participants who completed the course. We began in mid-June and finished a couple of weeks ago. I learned more in those four months than I did in all my college writing and literature classes. I may still commit some of those ‘lap lines,’ but now I know how to recognize them and correct them. I’ve also gained a circle of friends who are amazingly talented writers willing to share their time and wonderful stories. I look forward to seeing our collective progress over the next year. We all seem to be similarly obsessed with the craft of writing.
I love writing—much to my surprise, more than I love painting. It’s a very similar process for me, the under painting equivalent to my first draft, the subsequent detail and layering of light and shadow my fleshing out of the setting and characters. The last year was time well spent doing something I love. How can that ever be a waste of time?