Jamie is back for more fun here at A New Look On Books!
Meet Jamie Stewart.
Jamie names nail polish colors for a living. She has a pet cat named Schrodinger and a Galapagos Finch named Darwin. She dreams of being a tightrope walker in her local circus. Until then she will continue to write things and carve celebrity-inspired nutcracker statues for her friends and family. You can find her on her website: www.xojamiestewart.wordpress.com, on Twitter: @xoJamieStewart, and on Instagram: xoJamieStewart
Guest Post – ‘The End’ Is Only The Beginning
In November of 2014 I started writing what would be my very first finished novel. I worked on it like a woodland creature prepares its den for winter: diligently and passionately. When I typed those seminal words at ‘the end’ of the final paragraph I immediately opened up an internet page and started researching the next steps to becoming a published author. I was prepared to pitch my story, get signed to a literary agency, and publish my first novel before I graduated college. (Oh, sweet, naive Jamie.) I thought the long and difficult journey was behind me. I thought it wouldn’t be long before I held my precious hardback in my hands. I thought it would be smooth sailing.
I thought wrong.
Two and a half years later my trusty winter den of a book remains tucked away in a folder on my hard drive. I have graduated college. I do not have a literary agent. I do not have a book deal. What I do have, however, is something much more valuable. I have a perspective on writing that I could have only gained from relentless (and sometimes discouraging) first hand experience.
After a year of conducting research, attending conferences, and sending out personalized query letters I had enough rejection letters to furnish my winter den with half a dozen beds of shredded paper. Sometimes the rejections were helpful. I was advised to reevaluate everything from the protagonist’s primary motivation to the arc of each individual chapter. At the same time some rejections gave me nothing more than pleasantries and best wishes going forward. Both styles of rejection reminded me that my beautiful, amazing, flawless gem of a book was not universally adored. I slowly realized that there is much more to writing books than churning out word counts.
What I have learned is that writing a book can happen in stages. Interacting with your story for the first time is like falling in love. When you finish the project you feel like singing everything you say and kissing the man behind the counter when he gives you your coffee. You want to skip down the street, handing out first printings of your manuscript and blessing others with your brilliance. You want to introduce your lover to the world and print up enough Save The Date cards to put the greeting card industry out of business. But what your love-struck daze may prevent you from seeing is the fact that your beloved darling of a book has flaws. Quite a few of them, in fact.
What is important to see is that the romance between you and your book doesn’t have to end when you realize your manuscript isn’t perfect. Like any other strong relationship it only gets better through hardship and challenges. Revision presents those challenges. Feedback is the most crucial part of writing a good book because it allows you to go back into a story you think is great and make its greatness accessible to the masses. I am still as much in love with my first book as I was the day that I typed ‘the end,’ but today I have added thousands of revisions to my manuscript to make it as good to others as it is to myself.
Today I still stand beside my trusty little winter den of a first book. It looks very different than it did back in the winter of 2014. The roof is patched and the sides have been reinforced to make it stronger for the future. Maybe it is destined to remain on my hard drive for the rest of my life. Maybe the changes I’ve made still are not good enough to make my story worthy of being shared with the masses. That’s okay. The best part about learning how to build something for the first time is that it allows you to pick up hints along the way of how to do things better the next time around.
Right now I am in no rush to get my first novel out there. For the moment I am content to practice the craft of writing and use all the feedback I can to improve myself as a writer. Maybe one day I will have you over for tea in my trusty little patchwork den, but until then you’ll just have to wait and see what happens! One thing is for sure: this is certainly not ‘the end.’