The cook who doesn’t eat, the dog trainer who’s never owned a dog, the marriage counselor who has yet to be married. I mean honestly, how effective can one be? Yet for a number of years I fell into the aforementioned category. I was a writer who didn’t read. I could list my litany of excuses but that’s not the point. What matters is my apathy was rewarded quite painfully. I spent years writing a novel. Then I had some people read it and realized I had made an excessive amount of mistakes and needed to rewrite it. So I did, then I tried to find an agent and my manuscript garnered absolutely no interest. So I rewrote it again and joined a writer’s group. Within a few months I realized the mistakes my beta readers had pointed out were the mere tip of the iceberg peeking through the surface. The foundation of my book was a hulking mess. I had made a disastrous point-of-view mistake, what’s considered a fundamental flaw in the structure of a novel that usually requires a(nother) rewrite to fix.
In my defense I read voraciously in my younger years and literature had evolved quite a bit since then. Not that I would’ve known, seeing as I didn’t read. Which is why I was staring at the prospect of writing the same book for the fourth time. A notion which made me vomit a little bit every time I thought of it. Nevertheless, I persisted. I think it was upon presenting my fourth chapter to my writer’s group that another major issue resurfaced. I had so many characters and storylines going on that I wasn’t effectively representing any of them. Why was I trying to pursue a career I had absolutely no education in?
Taking a bite out of my original idea and chewing on it for a while, I devised a way to split my book in two. My initial objective had been to write a story about a girl who gets fibro and it rips her life apart. In order to accurately represent the experience, I gave her a full year of normal living to prove she wasn’t “crazy,” just damaged like everyone else, followed by a series of physical catastrophes (what we call trigger events) to highlight the fallacy of the “fibro’s a psychological problem” conspiracy. Redrafting, I decided to make her sidekick the protagonist during that year of normalcy and basically write the prequel.
At this point it was painfully clear I needed to become acquainted with my contemporaries. I read a few books but didn’t really know what I should be reading. So I joined a book club. It was 2019, around the time I was trying to pull myself from the isolation of my last relapse and rejoin life. Ohhh I felt like an alien. Luckily this book club was of the “bring a bottle of wine and some pot luck” variety. The liquid lubricant helped ease my social anxiety and eventually book club became the highlight of my month. So I joined another and was forced to discover audiobooks. Because who on Earth has enough time to lie around reading two books a month? Certainly not me. I was trying to write one, remember?
In 2020 I read 86 books. Audiobooks became my lifesaver back in March when lockdown was mandated and my husband started working from home. I could slip on my headphones while doing housework and not have to listen to him shouting into the phone all day. What joy! Not only that, my writing has improved exponentially. I have since moved on to a more professional writer’s group and am happy to say I just submitted chapter 23 for review. Not that my manuscript doesn’t need polish, but it seems the nuts and bolts of writing fiction no longer elude me.
If you’re so inclined, drop me a comment to let me know about your reading or writing journey!
Thanks for joining,
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