Story inspired by a Mark Twain quote
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do
than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
-- Mark Twain
After checking out the contest prompt, my first thought was to pass this month. It didn't really apply to me. I read it again and it hit me. It's not what I might do from here on, but the one point in my life I threw off caution and discouragement to attempt something new. I decided to write a novel. THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL no less. What a daunting task.
I'd written stories for years, passing them to my sisters and mother to read. They seemed to like them. I never did anything outside of that. In the year 1985 my husband and our little family had been visiting my folks in Portland, Oregon. I came across a full page news article about a family whose car had gone over the 205 bridge and into the Columbia River. The Reporter talked about another family who had gone into the river in 1958. "Why don't you write about it?" My mother prompted. I grabbed my notebook and started to write. I had no expectations, only what I thought was a witness protection hit.
When my time in Portland ended I went home with my mother's encouragement in my ears. "Write the story. It's going to be good." I continued to put words on the paper. Fascinated by the story I began to do research on it.
I met with a lot of set backs. I had no idea how to write something longer than a short story. I had no idea how to plot a novel. I had no idea how long a novel needed to be.
I added more words to the pages. I'd like to insert that at this time in our history, IBM compatible computers were just becoming a household item. My bother-in-law sold us one he put together. I found a cheap word processing program and off I went transcribing the words from notebook to a computer floppy disk.
Months passed. I finally had what I thought to be a great novel. I had one person, my friend the Detective who worked the case, to read it. I printed the long story and sent it off. He loved it and told me the basics were true to what happened and the story fit him in some places.
Years went by and I'd begun writing more seriously. Our family moved to Portland, Oregon in 2006. Now I had the time to seriously look at that old story and do a rewrite. I needed help.
The internet had been born. Microsoft blew-up the world with Windows and WORD. Over the years, I had to transfer the story from floppy disk to a 3.5 disk and then to CD. From an old word processing program to WORD. Which added all kinds of different characters inside and to the ends of words. I had to clean the whole thing up over and over. Frustrated with the story, I did a complete rewrite.
Was it worth it? Was I a good enough writer to even continue? I felt playing with writing stories was good enough. My family didn't let me sit there and wallow in self-doubt. "Write the story!!" came the litany for the last thirty-three years.
Twenty-two years later I sat surfing the net to find writing sites that might help me to hone my craft. After joining a few and getting no where, I happened on to writing.com. I felt I was led here because the site wasn't easy for me to navigate. I didn't post much, but after posting to a contest, I was gifted a three month membership. That encouragement helped push me to become active. It still took awhile, but I persevered.
I honestly don't think I would be where I am right now as an author without the encouragement, classes offered and reviews given on this site.
Over these last years I've written many stories, bought shelves full of writing-how-to books and joined writers groups. I wrote and published my first short story which validated me as an author. It had a nice ring to it. "I'm an author." That shored up my low self-esteem a bit more.
I had stories I'd written for contests published and included in Writing.com anthologies. Then I came across a story that wouldn't let me go. Not since that first missing family article had I been so driven to write a novel. Now I had the tools.
I wrote the first fifty thousand words for the NANOWRIMO and the next fifty thousand the following January. The following months I wrote and rewrote and finally had a book club do a beta read and they loved it. I went on to get it published January 22, 2014.
What I'm trying to say in this meandering way, is that at one point in my life I took on a challenge. I wrote a book. When I recognized my writing deficiencies I sought help. It wasn't an easy task, but I kept at it and it's paid off.
I'm doing a re-edit on that old story again and will pitch it to agents this August at a writer's conference. Life is good once you choose to reach for the brass ring. No one here on this site will let you hang if you just wiggle to show life. You will be supported!
NOTE: I'm blogging about the writing process of that first book with all the research I did and the amazing contacts made, even through our site. You can follow my blog at www.christinamweaver.wordpress.com