10 Jul BREAKING RULES PUBLISHING Guest Blog Post
TIME TO MOVE THE FURNITURE
Most journeys begin with a single step. Mine didn’t.
It started with a bookcase.
My mother loved rearranging the furniture in our house. Several times a year, every room would take on a new look. The summer before my fifth-grade year, her bookcase found a new home in my bedroom. I loved it – I had been a voracious reader since the age of two, and had long since abandoned he children’s section of the library. I scanned every title repeatedly, from the classics, to her books of poetry, and down to two titles that fascinated me more than any of the others. I loved the way the titles sounded and my childhood curiosity pushed me to read them both.
The books were Stephen King’s “Firestarter” and “The Dead Zone.” As Fate would have it, Mom caught me with “Firestarter” and decided I wasn’t too young to read it. I devoured both books, and on every subsequent trip to the library that summer, I picked up one or two more. I’d already read all the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew mysteries; I had to do something.
Flash forward to the school year, where The Human Dragon of Teachers (name withheld because she still scares me) taught a class on descriptive writing. The assignment was simple; a story of no more than two pages, using the techniques she’d shown us to make the story more visual. I can’t remember the title mine, but I can remember it was about a man watching a building burn. In a twist I’d hoped would make Stephen King happy, I waited until the last sentence to show the man throwing the gas can in a dumpster and sliding his lighter back in his pocket. The Dragon Lady was so unnerved that I was called to her desk to see if we “needed to talk.” Scaring the already-scary was enough to show me writing could be fun.
In the two years encompassing sixth and seventh grade, I hand wrote a short story collection (awful, awful stuff) and one “full-length” vampire novel that topped out at 42 pages. This is also the time I first wrote the name “Kerry Sheridan” in one of my notebooks. More on her in a minute.
During high school, I stuck to writing assignments and worked part time. I had support from several of my teachers until my senior year, when one vicious note from my English teacher shut down my writing completely – for over 20 years.
I played with writing during that time, sure. I had to – it was a need I couldn’t shake. But in my mind, I knew it was awful and there was no point in doing more than keeping a journal. Rejections from several magazines the rare times I gathered courage reminded me I was a hack. The depression that followed opened the door for alcohol, and I forgot I had a dream.
In 2005, I stopped drinking. It took a long time for me to pick up the pen again, but I did. Kerry Sheridan (remember her?) returned with a vengeance – angry, sober, and she needed to be heard. Between 2013 and 2015, I finished the first draft of “KLS-9” while I was at work (don’t tell my ex-boss). After decades of despair and depression, I finally held a story in my hands that wasn’t half bad.
2016 brought the loss of my mother. Before she crossed over, she told me to promise I would finish the book. I promised.
Then 2017 happened.
First, I won a contest to have a paperback and Kindle cover designed for “KLS-9,” which wasn’t even finished at the time. The designer was so patient; he worked with me and held the cover until I could give him a page count, and treated me like I was a VIP customer even though he didn’t make a dime. To add blessings on blessings, he also asked the all-important question:
“Do you have an editor?”
I did not. He recommended someone and she and I clicked instantly. She walked me through the release of “KLS-9” that August and the sequel “SABRE-6” in February of this year. Right now, I can hear her clicking her red pen from states away. I should wrap this up and get back to work on the third book of the series.
Where am I going with all this? I guess I’m trying to tell any aspiring writer, or any writer who’s fighting doubt and fear – don’t do what I did. Don’t let months, years, decades pass while you deny the passion that fuels your soul. Don’t listen to the people who want to drag you down. If it makes you happy, regardless if you become the next best-seller or not – for the love of all that’s holy, don’t quit.
So many will tell you, “Write every day.” If you can, great. But many of us have day jobs. Families. Cats who like to lie on keyboards. Every day isn’t feasible, but when you can, do it.
Support is vital. I used to believe it wasn’t, and I freely admit I was wrong. The friends and family who cheer you on are treasures, but – and don’t get offended, friends and family – you should find other writers to provide that added boost. We “get it,” and we know how frustrating and wonderful the process can be. Writer’s groups are a wonderful way to make connections and learn from others. If you’re like me and can’t find a local group, use social media. Set yourself up on Twitter and find the hashtag #writingcommunity. You’ll meet some amazing individuals and maybe make a friend or ten. Trust me – I did. I’m out there, and I promise I’ll behave while you meet the neighbors. Really.
If the words won’t come, then read. Read everything. Read great books. Read crappy books about overblown sex scenes or sparkling vampires. You’ll learn more than you realize from the great books, and you’ll feel better about your own work when you read the ones that suck. Soon, the words will come back.
My writing journey took a long time, but I feel I’m right where I need to be – in the first draft of my third novel, and learning how to write a screenplay for “KLS-9.” Now that I’ve started, I’m not stopping. And you shouldn’t either.