Last month, I attended the Oregon Christian Writer’s (OCW) Summer Conference. It is currently the only conference I go to, as it is relatively close to where I live—if five hours counts as close!
The conference is three and a half days of workshops, keynotes, coaching classes, appointments with industry professionals, and the Cascade Awards ceremony, which is always fun. It is a busy week and one I enjoy.
My favorite part of the OCW conference is the morning coaching classes. We get three days of instruction from authors, speakers, editors, or agents on a single topic. My class was Melanie Dobson’s class on writing historical fiction. This class was simply delightful. Ms. Dobson clearly presented her information in a helpful, inspiring, and humorous manner. I learned so many new ideas to incorporate into my writing life to see if they work for my writing process.
Having the same instructor every day brings cohesion to what we’re learning and that is more helpful than you’d think! Getting to know the other people in my coaching class is also a great experience. And when the classes are over, I only want to stay and learn even more!
Leaving the conference is sad and an emotional high. I am pumped and inspired and ready to settle in and get to work.
But reality comes back quickly. I get to my “real” writer’s life, and don’t know what to do with all this information I’ve learned.
And now most of the energy and hope from the conference is gone after I settled in real life.
And how can I get it back?
If only there was a process where all this information could immediately settle in my brain and tell me which tools and ideas work for me. Instead, I am left with trial and error to see what will make my writing life more efficient, rewarding, and productive.
I’m sure if I turn to Google, that wonder of the internet, I will find moderately helpful listicles with advice, all of which I’ve heard before. The difficult part of “how to” listicles isn’t the reading—it’s the doing. If I don’t apply the tips, then reading them is a waste of my time. And I don’t need help with that!
I can go over my notes from the workshops, coaching classes, and the excellent keynote presentations. There’s so much to sort through! But again, this information is only useful if I apply it.
And that is where the trouble begins.
I’ve never been that great at figuring out how to apply new ideas. I absorb knowledge quickly and can easily recall facts and information, but applying it and figuring out how it can work for me is always the problem.
So can I use what I’ve learned? Is it even possible? Or am I destined only to be an information gatherer forever, hoarding knowledge until my brain is so full it explodes?
I know that’s not how the brain works. Let’s allow a little hyperbole here, shall we?
Now that the conference high is ebbing, I need to be more disciplined than ever. And sometimes—okay, pretty much all the time—discipline is something I struggle with.
How can I apply what I learned? How can I stay on track and get my work done? I could use some tips.
Maybe I’ll read another listicle.
What comes after “The End” of the book?
I finished my first draft in December, determined to have it completed by the end of last year. I started writing it in July and was about 10,000 words from my goal for two months. I didn’t want to finish it, too scared to learn what happens next.
See, this is my first ever completed novel length manuscript first draft. I can admit as much as I want to write books, it is very nerve-wracking to be at the end. Is the writing any good? Did I tell enough story? Are my characters believable? Is the plot outrageous? I had a million questions.
Now, as most writers know, of course it’s terrible.
It’s a first draft!
As I started reading through it in the middle of January, as I started marking errors and phrases and plot points that needed to be changed (my MC’s parents died at four different ages in the first 50 pages—not a spoiler, by the way), I realized it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. It needs a lot of work, and I definitely have a few more plot points to work out, but there are some nice quality scenes in there, too.
I finished reading through the draft this week, and am letting it percolate for another week or two. I have some more research and finetuning of my story’s timeline to do and will tackle that first, then I’ll move into reworking it to get my second draft. I can’t believe I can even say the words “my second draft” now.
When I quit working last May to write, I never expected to be here. I thought I would give up at the first hurdle, or the last 10,000 words. So actually writing “The End” was amazing. This story has been itching to get out since I was in high school (but I’m not telling you how long ago that is). And now that it’s out, I feel incredible. I can’t wait until the written story matches the vision I have for it in my head. Right now, it’s the bare bones of what I’m imagining. But I think they’re good bones.
I think I know what happens now. I’ll rewrite and edit, and rewrite, research, and edit, and rewrite until I have a book that I feel is the best book it can be. And at some point I’ll let another person read it. It may never be published. It may sit in a drawer for years. It may get picked up immediately (though that’s highly unlikely). Maybe no one will ever read it (except my first reader, who was thrilled to be chosen).
But for now, I’ll celebrate the first milestone in my professional writing life: completing a first draft. Come celebrate with me? I have coffee.
In May, I quit my full-time job to focus solely on my writing and editing career, and moved back to the town where I grew up. I'd been away for a year and a half and realized I missed them.
Of course, that wasn't the only reason. The company I worked for was great, but the job was neither challenging or fulfilling. I needed a change. When my sister called and asked if I could move back and help with watching the kids and the bakery she and my mom started (in exchange for free rent), I said yes. It was time for a change, and I don't regret it.
So I'm living with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece and nephew. I've been living alone for awhile so it's quite an adjustment for me. It'd just been me and my cat before I moved back, and the noise level is certainly something I've had to adjust to!
And now that I'm focused on writing full-time, I realize that it actually is something I want. The hunger for writing hasn't abated-I started writing short stories in 2003 and never stopped, but I considered writing full-time an impossible dream.
Now, that dream has become a reality and it's harder than I ever imagined. I had been in the workforce full-time for over thirteen years when I left in May, and finding the discipline to sit down and write, to edit, to actually do the job, has been difficult. Especially when all I want is to play with my niece and nephew or spend time at my parents' house, now that I am close again.
But I am determined to do this. On days when it's hard, I simply try to remember that I have a gift for words and I want to use it. And so I try, and keep trying, and keep writing, and eventually my first book is going to be finished.
What happens after that? I guess we'll see.
Writer/Editor. Voracious Book Reader. World Traveler. Veteran. Bakery Owner.