Ever think you’ve made it to the end of something only to find that you’ve really only made it to the beginning?
That happened to me this week. I published my first book of fiction.
It all began in November 2013 when I tackled National Novel Writing Month and succeeded in writing 50,000 words toward a novel in 30 days – 53,000 actually. It felt good! So good I just kept writing. I had come to care for my characters, none of whom I had known on the First of November. By Valentine’s Day 2014, I had reached both 116,000 words and “The End.”
From that day to the Ides of March, I worked to get Murder by Any Other Name ready for publication. Now that it’s live on Amazon, I only hope I succeeded in telling a worthy tale.
But am I free now to throw myself into my next book? Not quite. Now it’s on to marketing, book signings, various appearances, publicity. Hopefully positive.
I had some readers along the way who steered me down different paths than I was on at first. I had a few readers who promised they were “so excited” to read my draft, only to disappear from the face of the Earth and nevermore return my calls. I had some who told me there were “numerous mistakes” in my first chapters but refused to tell me what those were.
So… I chose some more readers and asked them to look specifically at those chapters. They found no problems and told me I was being overly sensitive. I guess I was. I want people to like me, and thus I want them to like my work.
But you know what? Most of all, I want to like my work. And I do. I’m no Lisa Jackson, no Greg Iles, no Michael Connelly. But I’m me. And I bring myself and my experiences to my writing like none of those people could do for me.
I love this sentiment, popular among writers: You have a story to tell that only you can tell.
When I wrote the scene with Becca and her four-year-old nephew where she had just finished reading him “The Velveteen Rabbit,” I was back reading it to my own children decades ago. Now, neither of them lost a parent, so I didn’t have that exact experience to draw on. But I have known several young children who lost a mother or a daddy, and I could draw on those experiences. And I’ve known plenty of children who have struggled with the introduction of new possible stepmoms or stepdads into their family. I know how painful that can be for them.
I did have a porch swing when I was young, and like Becca, I thought of it as one of my favorite places to be.
One of the things I hope to bring into my writing more in the sequel to Murder by Any Other Name is the devastating effects hurricanes have on the psyches of people living along the Gulf Coast, and the resilience with which they have overcome catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 event that almost wiped out a number of communities on the Mississippi and Louisiana coast. There is a hurricane threat in this book, but it’s more run-of-the-mill, as hurricanes go. Sort of like my one hurricane experience, when we stayed with Willa in Ocean Springs during Hurricane Isaac in 2012.
That’s one item crossed off my Bucket List: To be in a hurricane where nobody was killed. I was there for the aftermath of Katrina, and I never want to see anyplace look like that again.
But I do want to write about it. Someday.